Elves are a strange category to cover, when you think about how much difference there is between the term. Some people just see the pointy ears and immediately call them an elf. Other people believe there must be some innate magical property in order for them to be elves. Whatever you believe, today we’re going to look at our Top 10 Elves in film, literature, video games and more.
10) Adoring Fan & Fargoth – The Elder Scrolls 3 & 4
Oh, how nice it is to have your fate turn so quickly. You’re a freed prisoner fresh off the boat in a small port in Morrowind, and already making friends. The bosmer Fargoth immediately greets you in Seyda Neen with a curious attitude and a warm smile, a mission, and a deal with the local trader (also an elf, but that’s incidental) to make sure you always get decent prices. And if that’s all he had to offer he’d have never made it into the list. He’s also got a secret stash in the pond by his house, and it might be one of the more interesting short-quests in the Elder Scrolls. You have to watch the little trickster sneak over to his hidey hole from the lighthouse so you can rob him blind and help Hrisskar Flat-Foot with his money woes.
Out of all of the elves on this list though, none are quite as annoying as this blond-haired Bosmer. The Adoring Fan is someone who will follow you around at your beck and whim, once you become the Grand Champion of the Arena in the Imperial City. After defeating Agronak gro-Malog, either deciding to help him uncover the secrets of his ungodly powers or not, you become the Grand Champion. As such, you get yourself an Adoring Fan, which many fans of the game series like to call the Annoying Fan. Nevertheless, he’s fun to ragdoll across Cyrodiil.
9) Edda the Barbarian – Standard Action
The least typical elf on our list, Edda never really got to grips with magic, or art, or grace and dignity, and while she’s had a couple of centuries to try and master the finer things in life, she’s got a real affinity for swinging a big axe at things that need axing and axing hard. Despite her incredible life to date, she’s still outwardly pretty dimwitted, lacks some basic social and hygiene skills, or possibly just lacks the motivation to use them.
But to call her a fool is hubris, and possibly fatal. The wilderness is her stomping grounds, and she’s no fool to people and their true intentions, humans are easier to read than books… books have all the little squiggles. She’s also apparently responsible for some seriously messed up stuff in elven homelands, and her exile has driven her from home, family, sons and daughters, a sorrow that haunts her, and can only be glimpsed in moments of vulnerability. Kudos to Joanna Gaskell for her performance in a pretty low-budget fan film series.
8) Albert – Discworld
Quite literally Death’s manservant, Albert is a bit of an idiot. During his years in the Unseen University, Albert decided to use the Rite of AshkEnte… Backwards. He deemed that using the rite backwards, a spell that brings death to you, would grant him immortality. He was completely wrong, of course. Instead, performing the Rite of AshkEnte backwards just brought him to Death.
Albert’s untimely demise led him to a whole new way of living. In The Hogfather, Albert was brought back to life, but this time he was entirely in the made-up reality that was made for the Hogfather himself. Naturally, this meant that the grumpy old man was no longer just a grumpy old man, but rather he was a grumpy old elf. This guy really didn’t get a good run in life, now did he?
7) Rayla – The Dragon Prince
The new fantasy series from the creators of Avatar (some of them anyway) has been fairly successful so far, and is already laying down a complex world filled with a fairly hard magic system, complex political situations that balance human nations against a delicate peace between elves and dragons, and the ever mounting tensions that threaten to spill into a war, a war that begins when moonshadow elves cross the border into human lands and assassinate their leaders. Only one elf fails to follow through with her oath to slay her target and his heirs.
Rayla is not the stone-cold killer she was trained to be, demonstrating her strength of will in other ways, almost willing to lose her own hand to her conviction, and proving that there are a thousand things she’d give her life for that do not result in war, and indeed look likely to end one before it starts in earnest. Having slowly come to earn the trust of her human companions, she now works with them to return the egg of the Dragon Prince to his mother, with a fairly predictable story arc to follow, but the characters make the story worth watching, with Rayla being perhaps the most interesting.
6) Vaarsuvius – Order of the Stick
As spellcaster in chief for the adventurous party, the Order of the Stick, Vaarsuvius has come to embody a lot of wizard and elf stereotypes. Obnoxiously intelligent and wielding their unnecessarily expansive vocabulary and verbosity as if it were a blade, and routinely forgetting the existence of their familiar, Vaarsuvius is ambiguous of gender, and of motivation, and while they now respect their companions substantially more, there was definitely a racial arrogance to begin with.
Being incredibly long-lived makes it fairly easy for ‘Suvius to go wandering for a decade or so, leaving a family at home to go on a world-saving mission or two, learning to permanently hover along the way, as well as losing a few hours worth of his soul in exchange for a powerful spell of complete and utter revenge that also… accidentally accelerates the whole end of the world thing. Lesson learned kids, if a devil offers you a spell called “Familicide” don’t accept the offer, it’s cool as hell but talk about your collateral damage.
5) Prince Nuada – Hellboy
I loved what Hellboy did with elves, taking the grace and nobility of a people who were once gods and kings and reducing them to the faux splendour of humanity’s shadow, all while humanity reaped and destroyed all of nature above their heads. Who could blame Nuada for his anguish, and his rage? In the mind of an immortal the horrors wrought by mankind must stay fresh, and become more raw with the passing of each generation and the fading of memories into legend and lore. While ultimately self-destructive, raising the indestructible Golden Army can only be a smart move against the horrid weapons modern humanity could bring against the fantastic underground races.
Throw in the mortal union of brother and sister that would prove his greatest weakness, Nuala having some sympathy for humans and the kinder side of her father ultimately sacrifices herself to save countless lives, and to an extent to spare her brother some shame as he attempts to win a duel by underhanded methods. She stabs herself, and in so doing kills them both, leaving Hellboy to take up the crown that returns the Golden Army to their rest.
4) Nissa Revane – Magic: the Gathering
Reappearing from our druid list of not-so-long ago, Nissa is a channel for powerful green mana spells, capable of awakening mountains to do her bidding, but it’s easy to forget that amidst all the epic-level heroism of the Gatewatch and the romantic tension from Chandra, that she’s still an elf. Early versions of her planeswalker card could pull every elf from your deck and put it onto the battlefield! So yeah, she’s got some twisted elf-tribal shenanigans going on.
While her heritage sees less emphasis since the revisions that made her more attuned with the land than her kin, her ears are no less pointy, and her life on Zendikar sees little change. Her chosen warriors may now be sticks and stones (trust me, she’s better with them than you are) instead of immortalised warriors of the Joraga, but she’s easily Magic’s most legendary elf.
3) Dobby – Harry Potter
Give him sock and he’s free, just like his position on this week’s list – Three.
Yes, the third place spot had to go to arguably one of the best stretches of the term “Elf”. As a House Elf, Dobby had long floppy ears and an even soppier personality. However, when little Dobby had to stand up for himself, he did. When he had to stand up for his master, he did. More importantly, when he had to stand up for Harry Potter, he absolutely did in the best way possible.
Dobby was a tragic character, wearing just rags. He served Lucius Malfoy, in what must have been an unenviable task. However, the moment he was freed from the servantry of the Malfoys, Dobby showed some of his true power, able to stop the powerful wizard with a single, simple spell. The truth is, House Elves are exceptional magical beings, they’re not just for Christmas either.
Just don’t give them socks for Christmas, okay?
2) Drizzt Do’Urden – D&D
Oh how this place should have been for Corellon Larethion, hells I was halfway through writing some excellent reasons for him to be here instead of the god-king of grimdark D&D characters. The drow ranger, the most famous protagonist in the history of the game, Drizzt was exiled, and now walks a world that hates and fears him, even as he saves them over and over again. It’s now difficult to quantify his appearances, having thirteen trilogies to himself, several short stories, supporting roles in published campaigns, and even a starring role alongside Demogorgon in one of the first cinematic trailers for a campaign.
R.A. Salvatore originally created Drizzt as a backup character, in the Icewind Dale trilogy, but since then the angsty ranger and his panther Guenhwyvar have come to a kind of cultural dominance, being a go-to joke for anyone seeking to parody the game or its characters, be it lovingly or mockingly. It seems Do’Urden started some kind of exodus, because game tables for years after were haunted by drow exiles seeking to overcome their evil nature. In my experience, put a dice in someone’s hand, their evil nature becomes all too clear.
1) Elrond – The Lord of the Rings
The archetypical elf, arguably one of the most influential, but I bet you probably instinctively went towards Legolas. Go on, you can be honest with us, you probably expected Legolas. After all, the Lord of the Rings trilogy had more than enough moments with Orlando bloom with pointy ears. But the truth is, he’s just a really standard caricature of an elf. Tall, blonde, exceptional marksmen. But a true elf…
Elrond is unique in this list, in that he’s actually half-elven. This makes it uncanny for him to get the top spot, but when you look through this list, you can argue that Elrond commanded the most power of any of the other Elves. Hugely diplomatic, Elrond was one of the elf-rulers from the first age until the fourth age. He also was the father to Arwen Undomiel, who was destined to become the lover of Aragorn.
To say that Elrond was only half an elf is a bit of an insult; he lived and breathed for his people. Occasionally he ruled detrimentally, but at least he ruled consistently.
This week, we decided to look further into the term elf and think “who is an elf, but mostly only by name?” Well, that’s why we have two elves here, one of whom isn’t even an elf and the other is only an elf when the developers remember he’s an elf. Trust me, it’s a bit silly.
Relegated down to the honourable list, simply because this elf is actually a human the whole time. On Christmas Eve, a baby boy crawls into Santa’s sack. This is how the human is taken all the way back to the North Pole. Once at his soon to be new home, Papa Elf realises what has happened and so adopts the boy. Unlike the rest of the elves, Buddy is still very much a human.
From being too big for normal elvish activities, to having to go on a massive adventure, Buddy is arguably one of the biggest names you could think of when you say “Elf”. Trust me, you can walk outside and ask someone “What Elf films do you know?” and no doubt someone will say “Well, Elf of course.”
Trust me, if you’re going to run an orphanage, don’t leave the door open so kids can be taken away by strange men, okay?
Link – The Legend of Zelda
The Hero of Hyrule had to make this list, when we thought about the technicality of putting him here. He’s only an elf insofar as he has long ears. Other than that, Link is pretty darn human. This is why Link has been pushed all the way down into the honourable mentions, as much as this pains us as gamers. However, it’s not just because of the fact he’s just a human with pointy ears…
… You see, even the games lack a consistency in telling Link’s past (hah, geddit? Like A Link To The Past? No? Okay.) Link is – and indeed all Hyleans are – sometimes referred to as human, depending on the game. Quite often, it’s more convenient to just call them human, because functionally it makes no difference if Link is an elf or a human.
So there you have it, one of video game’s most popular figures’ is often uncertain of what he actually is. I’m still not sure.
Much like the faithful elves, we are standing strong in our beliefs. Whether or not you believe having pointy ears constitutes whether something is an elf, they are definitely a race we should see more of. But wait, we need to also see more of these Top 10 lists, so next month we’re going to make it Christmas-y just for you festive geeks, so get voting!
Another week and another month is over, gosh these days are flying by. These elves are all going back to their homes and their high societies, but I wonder if we captured all of the best of them? Did we forget a particularly important elf to you, or did we get them all? Is our order good, or were we way off the mark? As always, thanks for reading, share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.