The Origin of Elves in Dungeons & Dragons

Todd Kenreck: Most playable races in the D&D multiverse have often a very typical origin story when it comes to their god, but the elves in the D&D multiverse are utterly unique.

Mike Mearls: So, the elves occupy a very interesting position in the D&D multiverse. Other folk, dwarves, and orcs, and gnomes, and a lot of other, of the humanoid folk, were purposefully created by deities, who wanted to essentially create their mirrors and send them out into the world to spread their influence. Or, if someone like Moradin, he crafted the dwarves almost as a challenge to himself, could he make a folk?

That didn't happen with the elves. What people forget about the elves is while Corellon Larethian is their forbearer, he was not their creator. The elves arose when Gruumsh stabbed Corellon in battle, and Corellon bled, and where he bled, the elves arose. In some ways, the elves were created by accident. Corellon did not intend to make the elves. The elves arose. And so they have this very interesting place, that they're incredibly powerful because they are directly the children of a god, rather than the creation of a god, and that's an important thing.

Moradin is the father of the dwarves metaphorically. He created them. They say, "You are our creator. You are our father." Corellon is the forbearer of the elves. They sprang from his blood, and he's also, gender to him is just a whatever, right? It's just a label other people use depending on what form he's taking that day, or she, or him, or them, or whatever. So, to Corellon, this idea of parenthood and shepherding the elves is a little strange. That's why he's chaotic. He's chaotic but he's good. It's as if he loves the universe, he wants it to thrive because he finds it interesting, but he's also chaotic. He's not like Moradin who took his creation and then gave them, "Here's how to live, and I will help you, and I will create other deities to teach you things." Corellon just sort of set an example to them almost by accident.

And so this gives the elves a very distinct position cosmologically, that they're very powerful, very long-lived. They can master incredible magics but they've never had a D&D figure who is a parent to them, the way Moradin is to the dwarves, except for Lolth. Lolth, in some ways, you can think of Lolth as almost like the evil stepmother who ... She's evil and horrible but she, at least, gave us structure. She paid all the bills and told us what to do, and that's, to me, mythologically and cosmologically, is the root of the divide between Lolth and Corellon.

Corellon telling the elves, "Go forth and do whatever you want, can come back and tell me about it, I guess if you feel like it, and I feel like listening," and Lolth saying, "No, there is a way, like, this is what you do. This is the order." Lolth being chaotic but still imposing this brutal order, horrible order on them. And in the ancient days, many elves wanting that because if you're an elf, and you saw the dwarves, and they had Moradin teaching them the way of the forge, and Clanggedin teaching them the way of war, and there was a right and a wrong, and there was a pattern to it, the elves didn't have that. The elves have to make up everything on their own. And so, Lolth spinning her web, provides structure and provides purpose. And to some elves, that was very appealing.

So, Lolth being a very powerful entity amongst the elves, being elf, very early on, you know, it's hard to say exactly why she's now a demon queen but the suspicion is that she thought that frankly, Corellon was a terrible forbearer. He's a terrible parent. He abandoned his people. The elves, in her mind, are the most powerful of all the folk. They lived along us. They command the most powerful magic if they set their mind to it and become the best warriors. Why do they let humans run around and dominate? Why are the dwarves allowed to mine all the riches of the world and make them their own? The elves should rule because the elves are the best. They're the greatest, the mightiest, the longest-lived, the most blessed. They're the literal children of gods. So, why not weave a web that entraps all the other folk and puts the elves on top? Why be so passive? Why hide in your forest and while your time away writing poetry and crafting items from wood and worrying so much about these forests when you could rule the cosmos? And to her, Corellon was just a weakling, you know? He was the one holding the elves back and Lolth had a path forward. And so they fought.

The elves would tell you that Lolth and the drow tried to kill Corellon. And if they had killed Corellon, that would have been awful. It would have been the end of the elves. That Lolth is a traitor and she has only the doom of the elves in her own power in mind. The drow though would tell you a different story. They might tell you that Corellon was the one who struck first. That Corellon seeing Lolth, and seeing her power, and seeing what she could become, was afraid. That was the first time he felt fear as an entity, and that he struck her first, and that the drow struck back only to defend themselves and to save their queen.

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