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Old 06-10-2020, 01:44 AM   #1
(E)
 
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Default Assumptions about Elves

My next write up for the agricultural example thread is going to be how elves handle that foundation of society, basic food production. At this early stage it does look like the different versions of elves that exist will require more than one write up.

The first part of the process is to figure out what the core assumptions are.
For example;
- Elves are long lived or immortal, one consequence of this is that Elves must therefore have good or even miraculously good teeth.

My own (currently flexible) assumptions at this stage are,
- Elves have a greater understanding of genetic inheritance allowing more advanced selective breeding. This might be further developed should it become necessary to counter the inefficiencies that could be caused by other assumptions.
- Elves are at a somewhat lower TL in some areas compared to the norm, but somewhat paradoxically they routinely use items of higher quality than other races.
- Elves are omnivorous but eat less meat that the human norm.
- Elves are semi-nomadic with some permanently settled communities. This assumption might be replaced for a later write ups (if they happen).
- Elves are excellent at living in their preferred environment. This is something that is exemplified when dealing with elven sub-races.
In the maybe list
- An inherent (low?) level of magic may have some effect.
- Elves themselves may not follow genetic inheritance.

Does anyone else have any ideas along these or similar lines to throw into the pot?
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Last edited by (E); 06-10-2020 at 01:50 AM.
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Old 06-10-2020, 02:07 AM   #2
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Default Re: Assumptions about Elves

Elves are thought to be derived from the Old German/Old Norse nature spirits (making them similar to the Fair Folk of Celtic myth and the nymphs of Ancient Greece). Because of their immortality, they tend to be portrayed as possessing a high sex drive and a low fertility. A birth rate of one child every 44 years would give them a fertility of around ~0.25% normal human and would explain their low population growth.

If elves are more fertile with humans than with other elves, then there exists a potential conflict. For example, let us say that elves have 5% human fertility with humans, meaning that they would produce 20 half-elf children at the same time that they produce one elf child. While female elves probably would not be interested in bearing a child every other year, male elves might be interested in siring a child every other year. If male elves are attractive and magical, and half-elves are also attractive and magical, many human women may be willing to have a tumble with a male elf, especially since any resulting children would be superior to a pure human child.
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Old 06-10-2020, 07:42 AM   #3
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Default Re: Assumptions about Elves

As long lived to effective I mortality would put a strong emphasis sunstanability land husbandry.
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Old 06-10-2020, 07:55 AM   #4
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Default Re: Assumptions about Elves

I should start by saying my mental conception of Elves is rather Tolkienesque.

My interpretation of Elves is that they're not so much at a lower tech level, but at a divergent tech level; where humans are TL 3, Elves might be TL 0+3, or 1+2. If you assume magic is rare in humans and more common in Elves (which depends very much on your setting), humans presumably prioritise technological solutions over magical ones as that's easier. Elves may be the other way around, they'll go for magical solutions over technological ones as that's less trouble for them, as magic is more readily available.

You could tune that for different areas of technology, maybe humans are at TL 3, but Elven weapons are TL 2 because they've not fought a war in hundreds of years, but Elven communications technology is 2+3 due to magical assistance. Wood Elves presumably either have a very low population density and nomadism, or some very high TL agriculture (or magical assistance) to support themselves in the woods; other sorts of Elves such as High Elves might have more human-like agriculture which supports them living in cities with breathtaking architecture.

I'd maybe add "Elves can control their own fertility" (either as an innate ability or with magic or drugs) to explain why a long-lived race hasn't overpopulated their area of control yet.
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Old 06-10-2020, 08:27 AM   #5
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Default Re: Assumptions about Elves

Quote:
Originally Posted by (E) View Post
- Elves are long lived or immortal, one consequence of this is that Elves must therefore have good or even miraculously good teeth.
Or good dentists. I lean toward them being only slightly long-lived- two or three centuries at most, for the purposes of this kind of exercise at least. If they live for millenia then their psychology and society become too alien to reasonably consider.
Quote:
- Elves have a greater understanding of genetic inheritance allowing more advanced selective breeding. This might be further developed should it become necessary to counter the inefficiencies that could be caused by other assumptions.
This could go either way. If they have longevity and low fertility, they may not ever get enough "data points" to discern patterns of inheritance. On the other hand, long lived botanists and animal breeders will be able to observe many more generations of selective breeding trials in plant and animal species than shorter-lived experimenters.

Quote:
- Elves themselves may not follow genetic inheritance.
Okay, but what effect would this have on your calculations? Is it something that you considered for the dwarves or orcs?

However, depending on the particular method of inheritance chosen, this could lead to huge ramifications for their society. Having summer elves and winter elves be different races determined by the season of their birth would have a very different effect than having elves who determine their child's phenotype by singing to it in the womb, for two possible examples.


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Originally Posted by Crystalline_Entity View Post
I'd maybe add "Elves can control their own fertility" (either as an innate ability or with magic or drugs) to explain why a long-lived race hasn't overpopulated their area of control yet.
Maybe it's their fertility that needs to be turned on- by seeking blessings from the Goddess of Fertility or only by mating in the Sacred Grove.
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Old 06-10-2020, 08:39 AM   #6
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Default Re: Assumptions about Elves

Quote:
Originally Posted by (E) View Post
The first part of the process is to figure out what the core assumptions are.
For example;
- Elves are long lived or immortal, one consequence of this is that Elves must therefore have good or even miraculously good teeth.
They grow new ones, like sharks or crocodiles.

Quote:
- Elves are omnivorous but eat less meat that the human norm.
Which human norm? Modern westerners? Early medieval peasants? Japanese peasants?

Quote:
- Elves are semi-nomadic with some permanently settled communities. This assumption might be replaced for a later write ups (if they happen).
My 'standard fantasy' worlds usually have one group of elves like this. Others are more settled (and many of those are simply the elite, living on the fruits of others' labour).

Given that elves live a long, long time, after the first few horrible mistakes they are probably better about sustainable land management. Their forests will have the right mix of species to thrive, and they'll slowly move as farmland is allowed to return to woodlands, and forests are cleared for new farmland, and so on.

There may be complete dustbowls where they originally came from, if their first attempts didn't turn out well, possibly also mana-dead, or with strange distortions in the mana-field from overuse of magic to boost production and keep water flowing after natural source had been used up.
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Old 06-10-2020, 08:43 AM   #7
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Default Re: Assumptions about Elves

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Originally Posted by Daigoro View Post
Or good dentists. I lean toward them being only slightly long-lived- two or three centuries at most, for the purposes of this kind of exercise at least. If they live for millenia then their psychology and society become too alien to reasonably consider.
Realistically, unless their medical technology or magic is rather better than ours they could be Unaging and still only live a few centuries anyway, especially if they're living a robust outdoorsy lifestyle. Accidents and misadventure will see to that.
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Old 06-10-2020, 09:05 AM   #8
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Default Re: Assumptions about Elves

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rupert View Post
They grow new {teeth}
Or have teeth that can heal, whether that means a mechanism for healing bone or just not using protruding bone for teeth in the first place. No harder of a problem than keeping the rest of their body in good condition for a thousand years or more. Maybe "dentist" is a word you can't translate into Elvish. You can say "tooth doctor", and the Elves just look at you, wondering why you'd bother to make the distinction from other specialties for the healers.
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Old 06-10-2020, 09:11 AM   #9
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Default Re: Assumptions about Elves

Quote:
Originally Posted by (E) View Post
In the maybe list
- An inherent (low?) level of magic may have some effect.
I think, for most popular conceptions of Elves, magic plays a greater role in agriculture than this statement suggests. While their homelands often appear natural and rustic, they are so heavily enchanted that it is possible for the Elves to live "post-scarcity" lifestyles akin to hunter-gatherers without needing to farm at all. When they need to eat, they just walk to a nearby magical tree and pluck its magically nutritious fruit that is produced in magical abundance in all seasons. Water comes from magical springs. For meat, they engage in sustainable hunts (with magic weapons).
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Old 06-10-2020, 10:12 AM   #10
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Default Re: Assumptions about Elves

Just being able to control fertility by will, magic, or herbalism would on its drastically reduce population growth. Some modern societies are below replacements rates after all.
Unaging would remove one reason for needing big families in the first place, that of retirement insurance.
(Oddly, just looking around a bit... it seems that the average family size in medieval Europe may have been much smaller than is popularly stated and I assumed.)
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