Niche Study: Elven Fantasy

Within each genre, e.g. fantasy, there are sub-genres called niches. Today’s topic is Elven Fantasy! It’s one of my favorite fantasy niches, as it is for a fellow blogger who follows this blog.

Elven Mythology

Growing up, I was enthralled with the lore from books like LoTR and games like the Elder Scrolls. Elves, in particular, caught my eye.

Tall and slim, elves boasted grace, strength, and wisdom that surpassed humans. In Norse mythology, elven culture was said to be morally ambivalent, its people androynous, and their lifespans enormous. They inhabited the realm of Alfheim, under the rule of the God Freyr.

Other authors had portrayed elves as tricksters or devils, as seen in Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Then there are the small, workshop elves. For the sake of this article, I’ll focus on the Norse variety.

Although the idea of elves existed long before Tolkien, his work popularized it, beginning a new age of elven storytelling. Indeed, years later, I noticed a new genre of fantasy flooding the shelves—and Amazon pages coincidentally.

Enter Elven Fantasy

Popularized further by big-name titles like Dungeons & Dragons, this niche presented elves in a more humble light. It heavily examined their culture, inner struggles, and flaws. Elves were no longer this divine, perfect force. They had weaknesses, moments of vanity, and limitations. Some series examine other races, like dragons or dwarves, from an anthropomorphic perspective.

The Philosophy Behind Modern Elves

The modern elf is more human than supernatural. Why is this? Readers view elves with wonder and admiration—an example of what humanity could—or might still—be.

To read about elves is inspiring, and gives hope to a reader. That the future of humanity may one day reach this state. The flaws explored in Elven Fantasy bridge the gap between the reader and the fictional elf. This bonding ritual is crucial in storytelling.

The same is done in science fiction. Even the Vulcans from Star Trek may be viewed with high regard due to their intelligence. Vulcans have pointed ears too.

Humanity’s Search for the Divine

Humans have looked to spiritual totems for millennia. Research suggests our brains are hardwired, or even crave, the supernatural. That said, it’s no surprise that Elven Fantasy has tremendous potential with how much lore sits behind it.

With my germanic roots, I expect to adore this niche for many decades to come. How about you, dear reader? What are your thoughts on Elven Fantasy?


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2 responses to “Niche Study: Elven Fantasy”

  1. As you’ve mentioned, this is one of my favorite topics. But, to me, focusing on elves in a story also presents unique challenges. Their longevity (or outright immortality) disrupts our usual perception of aging and generations – maybe not an issue in “one-off” stories but when a larger backstory is involved, “generation” is used to specify a much longer time period. The lifespan difference between them and other creatures may be a major plot point – which gets even stranger and more challenging when half-bloods are considered. Their longevity will affect their approach to many aspects in life as “lifelong relationship” has quite a different meaning if it means 500, 5000, or even more years rather than our human perception of something around 50 years.
    Then, the typical elven mastery of magic allows authors to go wild with what is possible, creating blends between magic and science – but this may be a thorough test of the writers own rules and point out the weaknesses in their magical system…
    …that’s just a couple of things that come to my mind.
    Anyway, thanks for mentioning me. I guess this long comment confirms my interest in the topic quite a lot…

    Liked by 1 person

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