I am answering random questions today about world building, over on Reddit and decided to take my answers from there and expand upon them even further over here. So that's what this page is. Me rambling on about various aspects of world building techniques I use when writing the Quaraun series. The questions I am answering are embedded here. Clicking the link in the embedded question will take you to the original Reddit page where you can see the original answer along with other people's answers. If you wish to comment, you can do so on the Reddit page where a place to do so is provided.
If you look up actual folklore (Elves before the invention of the Fantasy novel), the traditional Elf society was thought to be a type of "fallen angel", not quite as evil as demons. They actually originate from the Bible (Elves are Hebrew mythology, and known as a type of 6 winged Seraphim that had it's wings cut off to brand it as a sinner for having had sex with humans) and were originally called "The Watchers" or "Grigori Angels" Elves were considered a type of Faerie, but were seen as less evil, less blood thirsty then Faeries.
Most Elf mythology tells of their society being cast out of heaven and their wings cut off (an Elf being an archangel who's wings were cut off). They had their wings cut off because it was forbidden for Angels to have sex with Humans, and a wingless Angel, known as an Alfar (Elf) or Grigori (Watcher) was how one could identify an Angel that had fathered Nephilum (half-Elves)
The original story of Elves comes from the Bible. It's the story of Noah. (You'll need a Bible from BEFORE 1611 to find the full story, as King James removed 77 books from the Bible and more then 700 chapters from the books not removed. You will want to read the Books of Enoch, Macabees, Tobias, Nag Hamid, and others from that set.)
In the original Bible story of Noah (the one King James removed) the Angels road on Unicorns and battled Dragons, then some celebrated by kidnapping & raping Human women. Angels began taking hoards of women hostage, and their half breed children became viscous warlords who were slaughtering Humans. To save the Human race and stop the Angels from eating Humans and breeding with Humans, he sent the flood and had Noah build the ark, etc. The Genesis version of the story cuts out the Battle of Heaven and the Fall of One Third of the angels.
In Medieval Times (800 to 1400), it was believed that the Alfar (Elves) had survived the flood by hiding in caves beneath mountains, and that they continued to come down out of the mountains to kidnap and rape women.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elf says: "Elves are prominently associated with sexual threats, seducing people and causing them harm."
In Bible times they were called Angels, in Medieval times they were called Alfar (Elves), in Renaissance Times they were called Faeries, in modern times they are called Pleiadians aliens (aka The Nordics) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_aliens
Because they were "The Sons of God" they had the ability to control the weather and could kill people with lightening bolts or tornadoes (read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah - the see what a transvestite ArchAngel/Elf did to 2 cities when the men tried to rape him - he went on a rampage and murdered 300,000 humans by causing brim stone and fire to fall on the men of the city to punish them for raping him.)
They are also attributed with invention of swords, knives, bow/arrows, embroidery, beads, make-up, jewelry, and prostitution. (See Ecclesiaticus, Maccabees, and the Books of Enoch - note none of those books are in the KJV you need a bible printed before 1611)
It is because of their god-like abilities to control the weather, that in Medieval times they were described as wizards and wielders of magic.
Tolkien based the Elves in Lord of the Rings off of this mythology.
Gary Gygax, based his Elves (Dungeons and Dragons) off Tolkien's Elves.
Most Fantasy novels today base their Elves off a combination of Tolkien and Gygax and never once look at the original folklore or try to base Elves off the original stories about them in the Bible and Medieval texts.
In the original folklore, they were always males, and there was no such thing as a female Elf, thus why they had sex with humans to create half-Elves (the half Elves were called Nephillum) and they were seen by humans as sex crazed monsters who raped women and ate men.
The actual history of ancient Elf folklore is fascinating. They were serious bad asses, with viscous tempers and quick to off any human that pissed them off with nothing more then the wave of a hand. I'd actually like to see more people use old pre-Tolkien Medieval style Elves in their novels more often, because I think they are way more interesting and complex then the way over used and extremely watered down Tolkien versions.
You know, I've never really stopped and sat down to think about this.
Quaraun started out as a character I played in AD&D SpellJammer. That said, he's a Moon Elf from Outer Space (an Alien Elf or a Space Elf) who'd been attacked by Illithids (Mind Flayers) and is slowly going insane as the Illithid larvae eats his brain and becomes him.
However, long before that I was writing a fanfiction series called "The Bride of Sesshomaru" on FanFiction.net. Sesshomaru being a Yoaki, which is a type of Elf-like Demon in Japanese folklore.
And even longer ago before that I wrote The Twighlight Manor series about a family of human-eating Elf-like quasi-vampires from out of space trapped on Earth, and bemoaning the loss of their planet that burned up when the sun super nova, and the loss of their leader "The Grand High Emperor of The Triple Planets".
In 2012 FanFiction.net had a ToS change and deleted the stories of some 11,000 members, including The Bride of Sesshomaru series.
That same year, my game group changed campaigns.
At this same time period, fans of the TMseries were asking me to write about the Emperor who was often mentioned but had never made an appearance in the series.
The Quaraun series, came about as a result of me talking the Bride of Sesshomaru series (a set of 130 short stories), removing all the copyrighted characters, replacing them with the TMseries characters, and then taking Lord Sesshomaru and replacing him with Quaraun.
The end result of which is Quaraun is the Grand High Emperor of the TMseries and The Quaraun series is the prequel to the TMseries, which tells the life of the emperor often mentioned, but never seen in the TMseries.
In the TMseries the people are called Flamites aka The People From The Flaming Planet.
All of the Elves in the Quaraun series are Space Elves. There are no Elves who are native to Earth.
Three groups/races/tribes escaped the Planet of Flame before it's demise:
The Trailkites were divided into two groups: The Red Trailkites and The Blond Trailkites. Each of whom divided off into small clans.
The Trailkites were viscous, wild, savage, and blood thirsty. They set out to slaughtering all the rest, and once they arrived on Earth, found Humans to be tasty.
In the TMseries, it is said the the Human race created the vampire mythology to explain these viscous alien men who hunted them at night.
While they are not "true" vampires (an undead person who feasts on the blood and flesh of the living), the Trailkites are often refereed to by Humans as being Vampires or Vampire Aliens From Outer Space.
In the Quaraun series they are known as "The Wild Elves" or "Blood Elves".
While prominent in the Twighlight Manor series, particular note is primary character General Tavey, the Trailkites/Wild Elves/Blood elves are rarely mentioned in the Quaraun series.
They feature prominently in Zebulon's Captive and are seen infrequently in random other novels, but for the most part they are not often used in the Quaraun series, due to their living mostly in warmer regions, while Quaraun himself, is a native of Quebec and rarely travels outside of Canada or New England.
The Parytheans are known as "The Wood Elves" in the Quaraun series, and are red/brown skinned with black eyes and black hair. They resemble Native Americans and based off Maritime Native American tribes.
They are what most people think of when one thinks Forest Elf or Nature Elf.
The Common Elves rarely have an interest in magic, book learning, or technology and are hunter gathers. The Common Elves are "less refined" not caring about building cities. They live in small tribes or clans and move seasonally, following herds.
The Common Elves and Wild Elves frequently intermarry, resulting in many sub-types, mixed races, and cultures with in the two groups.
While prominent in the Twighlight Manor series, particular note is primary character Colonel Faunte', the Parytheans/Wood Elves/Common Elves are rarely featured as primary characters in the Quaraun series. Though they do appear in most every novel in the series, however, any Wood Elf to walk into the story will often quickly be killed and eaten by King Gwallmaiic/Unicorn/The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley (Quaraun's Lich lover)
Both primary Elves of the Quaraun series (Quaraun and his half-Elf lover GhoulSpawn) are Ecrodons/High Elves.
The Ecrodons are an albino race whose history I wrote in more detail HERE. They are racist radicals, similar to Nazis and Ku Klux Klan, believing in purity of blood and the eradication of all life that is not them. Centuries of inbreeding and incest drove them mad.
The Ecrodons eventually broke off into 2 tribes, one moving south and mixing with others, resulting in their skin becoming darker and their hair yellow, while the more radical ones moved north and inbreed themselves into a race off all albinos. The dark tribe became the Sun Elves while the Albino tribe became the Moon Elves.
The Sun Elves are Lutinos and have neon yellow hair, pale skin, and glowing yellow eyes.
The Moon Elves are Albinos and are white skinned, white haired, and have ice blue eyes with pink pupils.
The Ecrodons inter-married another race of aliens known as The Crystonites. The half-breed children of these unions were called The Ratzins.
All Ratzins resulted from one union, when The Grand High Emperor of the Triple Planets, murdered all the Chrystonites, save Empress Glacious, whom he kept alive, forcing her to watch the deaths of her husband and children, after she murdered his wife and children, before he then raped murderess, resulting in the birth of the first Ratzin: Dr. Gwanneesh Vangoneese Swanzen. (This event is what is known throughout the series as "The Battle of Ongadada"). All Ratzins are descendants of Dr. Vangoneese. Dr. Vangoneese is Quaraun's youngest son.
Technically, only the Ecrodons are actually Elves, thus the term "True" Elves is often applied to them.
They did not originate on the Burning Planet and instead came from a completely different solar system.
They are a seperate species, not related to either the Trailkites or the Parytheans.
Because they are a different species, the High Elves are not capable of sexually reproducing with the Common Elves or the Wild Elves.
Earth is their 3rd home.
While the High Elves call themselves "High" Elves because they crowned themselves as rulers of the planets, other races, call them "High" Elves because of their excessive drug use.
Physically Ecrodons are smaller then Humans and have hollow bird-like bones that break easily.
Basically, the Elves of the Quaraun series, are a race of very savage, often blood-thirsty, frequently cannibalistic, and very incestuous, Human-like aliens who are the last survivors of a dead planet, and are fighting to survive on Earth, a planet they do not belong on and are invaders of.
While they have "magical abilities", they are not truly magical beings. They possess the ability to communicate with each other in a quasi-telepathic method via a hive mind. They possess slight psyonic powers and are able to levitate briefly, and can levitate objects.
Only the priests/wizards are truly magical and spend two or three centuries training and learning to manipulate the world around them. Wizards are feared for their ability to control the weather, cast illusions, and call up the dead. All magic is done by mind control and requires intense focus. Wizards meditate for hours, sometimes days on end to absorb the mental energy of those around them and harness the life force of those around them to control anything and everything that is their will to control.
The rigors of training are detrimental to the mind and most wizards of any great skill, have gained that skill at the expense of their sanity. The more powerful the wizard, the more deeply insane they are.
While Humans are able to learn some of the skills of wizards, the life span of a Human is too short to allow them to learn any advanced magic skills. Elves live about 500 years and have much more time to study magic. Also, Elves have the inborn psychic powers that allow them to learn magic faster. Thus why Elves are proficient in magic.
Many of the High Elves use drugs as a way to enhance their magic.
Some (like Quaraun) using opium to mellow out and aid in lengthy meditations, while other Elves (like GhoulSpawn) use psychedelics (often LSD) to help them see "gateways" or "portals" to other realms that can not be seen without said drugs.
The Trailkites and Paryetheans are the "Common Elves" while the Ecrodons and Ratzins are the "High Elves".
The High Elves are extremely arrogant, obsessed with purity, and believe themselves to be directly descended from the gods/creators of the universe. They obsessively learn magic, mostly out of a desire to become more god-like.
A few High Elves (like Quaraun and GhoulSpawn) are not driven by power, but rather are more "tree hugging, nature loving hippies".
GhoulSpawn (a time travelling teenager/half-Elf from the 1970s) is a roving animal rights activist, a member of PETA, and a boycotter of Proctor & Gamble. He wears a coat, with dozens of pockets, each pocket being a bag of holding, and he spends much of his days rescuing animals, hiding them in his pockets and finding them homes.
While Quaraun (a full blooded Elf wizard from the 1400s) is obsessed with protecting plants, tress, flowers, and especially roses from the decimation of the "Earth's parasites" (Quaraun refers to Humans as parasites and does not see them as sentient-thinking beings. He often refers to police officers as "the blue monsters".)
The High Elves tend to prance around in sparkly elegant robes, like something you'd expect to see Liberace or Barbara Cartland be wearing.
For those wondering...
Quaraun's pink wardrobe is based of Liberace's pink feather capes:
GhoulSpawn's green coat is based off the green coat Liberace is seen wearing here:
>I'm having a little trouble coming up with a justification for elves, and possibly other races, to have pointy ears, what would you use? What advantage would such a trait have that would allow it to be retained? My best idea right now is that it makes them more sensitive to air current shifts, which would be especially useful for races that live underground, like dwarves, allowing them to find their ways to exits, for one thing.
In my novels most Elves have only slightly pointed ears, which is not noticeable as they have long hair that covers them. These Elves are referred to as "Common Elves". This group includes the more Tolkien-isk Wood Elves, Forest Elves, Nature Elves, etc. They are plentiful, divided into hundreds of races/clans/groups and several million are spread out across the Earth.
However, a few races of Elves, have what others (Elves, Humans, etc.) refer to as "rabbit ears".
"Rabbit ears" are long thin, pointed ears that are 8 to 12 inches long, extremely exaggerated, and very "animated". Animated meaning - they can move their ears the same way a rabbit can. Usually the long ears are held low and relaxed, down their back, blending in with their hair and not noticeable. When frightened their ears shoot straight up, tense, twitching, facing forward, and high over their heads. When angry their ears face to the back, and are held back behind their heads. One can tell a High Elf's emotions by their ears, in how stiff, erect, limp, and at what level of height they are holding them at.
Because of the height and shape of their ears, High Elves have super, sensitive, keen sense of hearing - like the way an eagle can see tiny mice from high in the air, High Elves can hear danger from very far away.
These Elves are known as "High Elves" or "Space Elves" and have a completely different DNA make up then then Common Elves, because they originated on a different planet in a different solar system of a different galaxy. This group includes Moon Elves, Sun Elves, Blood Elves, Dark Elves, Silver Elves, Frost Elves, etc. and are relatively rare, with fewer than 10,000 known to exist all races/clans combined. They are not actually Elves, but rather are aliens, but Humans mistook them for Elves, so took to calling them "High Elves" to differentiate from the Common Elves.
High Elves can be identified immediately because of their long pointed ears, whereas Common Elves are often mistaken for Humans.
The novels actually do make several mentions throughout the series of various reasons (actual reasons as well as hypothetical reasons Humans speculate to) as to why the High Elves have these super long ears.
In the novels "Quaraun and the Beanstalk", "The Golden Palace", "The Kats of Planet Ptarmagin", and "Into The Mushroom Forest", the actual reason is explained as being this:
On the planet the High Elves came from they were tiny Lilliputian-like beings in a world of Giants. In the very Jack and the Beanstalk like setting, the planet had castles in the clouds, and Giants would come down at night to hunt the creatures of the surface forest. The people of the surface, not being able to fight the massive 20 foot tall Giants, would grab their families and run.
The story explains that over time the Elves' ears evolved to these tall, thin, points to help the Elf to hear the Giants climbing their vine ladders down from the clouds. The animated nature of their ears, acts as a single to other Elves that danger is near by, thus allowing the whole clan to flee quickly and silently, without having to yell out to one another that danger is coming and to run.
Also, the stories say that the High Elves have hollow bones like birds, which makes their bodies very lightweight and able to run much faster than other beings of their size, as well as allowing them to move near silently.
It also states that their faces are narrow and eyes large, round, and wide, stating that this allows them to see a wider range around them - seeing to the sides more easily without needing to turn their head as far.
Also, their personalities and temperaments are described as "timid and nervous like deer, quick to run and never fighting, they did not develop a concept of war or weapons".
Overall these things (long animated ears, hollow bones, extra large eyes, and nervous/flighty temperament) are all explained as having been a result of being very low on the food chain, being vastly hunted by large predators, and having a constant need to run quickly from life threatening danger.
So, in my own novels, Elves having pointy ears (and other features) was a result of survival of the fittest evolution. The theory being that these traits became dominant because any without them was captured and eaten and thus the ones with these features survived and procreated making these features the norm of their species.
I mean, I'm honestly of the opinion that if you're using Elves, you don't need to justify this sort of thing on the grounds that people already understanding elves is the whole point of using elves.
"Classic" Fantasy Races are Tropes, and tropes that serve the purpose of adding a kind of diversity of cultures and ethnic groups to the world in a way that makes the setting feel more fantastical and magical without actually needing to take up that many brain cells from your audience to understand everything that's going on.
Using Fantasy Races that your audience takes one look at and thinks they already understand has specific effects and meanings on your work, and embracing that and using it to your advantage is key, and frankly I'm not convinced that you want to justify details about those races because if you don't, nobody is going to question it, it's already covered by willing suspension of disbelief. Explaining the answers to questions nobody asked in the first place isn't really necessary in fiction, and just kinda clogs things up with exposition we didn't need.
Ah! But the thing of it is Classic Elves bear no physical resemblance to Tolkien style Fantasy Elves at all. Tolkien basically created a totally new creature, then slapped a 10,000 year old name on it.
So it then begs the question, what TYPE of Elf are you using?
The tall thin, Human like supernaturals of Tolkien?
Or the short, 4 foot tall, chubby, bloodthirsty, Human murdering, baby eating, women raping monsters of classic medieval folklore?
Or the even shorter, cookie baking, reindeer riding, child murdering little Krampus Elves of Victorian Santa mythology?
Or the sword wielding, lightning bolt shooting, unicorn riding, human raping, dragon slayers of the Bible/Old Testament/Books of Enoch?
Or what about the Norics of today (aka the Pleiadians)?
How about the shape-shifting aliens of ElfQuest?
The Memequasi and Wendigo and Tricksters of the Native Americans?
The Di'Jinn of Persia?
The Yaoki of Japan?
The FarDarrig of Wales?
The Phooka of Scotland?
The Tolkien style Elf is only one of the MANY types of Elves out there, and it actually bears little to no resemblance to any of the Elf types that existed for centuries.
Classic Elves have always been short, under 5 feet tall, usually under 4 feet tall, were demonic, evil, feasted on Humans, had insatuable sex apitites, and in in no way resembled the tall thin super humans Tolkien called elves at all.
If readers automatically hear Elf and think "Fantasy Race Trope" then they don't know a thing about history, folklore, or real world mythology regarding Elves, because no one who knew real world Elf folklore would think of the Fantasy Elf Trope as being what Elves are.
Just because 1 modern day author thought his Elves should be tall, pointy eared arrogant gits, doesn't erase 10,000 years of Elf folklore anymore then another author saying Vampires glitter, erases 10,000 years of vampire folklore. Just because one author made a trope popular, doesn't make it accurate to the history of he being in question.
I for one would like to see actual classic pre-Tolkien Elves being used for a change. I think they are much more fascinating and far less cookie-cutter-mary-sue then the Tolkien Elves are.
For some unknown reason that I have never made an attempt to explain, either in the novels themselves or in the worldbuilding process... Elves are about 90% male and 10% female, with the females dying very young (rarely living past 200) and the males living very old (often more then 500) and very few females being born to replace the ones dying off.
Basically the only explanation the books ever say is: "The Elves were fast becoming extinct. It used to be folks said they were surprised to see a Moon Elf alive, now they said they were surprised to see any Elves at all. Elves were becoming rare, but no one knew why."
Throughout the series there are hints to the fact that males lose interest in sexual activity and simply cease to make any attempt to reproduce after about 300 years of age.
Mentions are made of the fact that Elves commonly give birth to male twins, but rarely give birth to any females at all, both facts resulting in the high male to low female ratio.
If you start to compare the Elves in the Quaraun series to Elves in other series, you start to see a heavy influence from the Graphic Novels "ElfQuest" of the 1980s.
Including the Persian characters like Quaraun, and black characters like Unicorn, both of which were influenced by the black and Persian Elves in the ElfQuest series.
One thing you see, that is duplicated almost identically from the ElfQuest series is the polyamorous relationships between Elves.
Often the Quaraun stories reference the fact that multiple males will live together and share a single female who is wife to all of them. (My main character has 2 male lovers and 1 female, the 4 of them all bedding together.)
All of them sleep together in a single bed, all of then snuggled up together. It is not uncommon for a family group to have 5 to 10 males and 2 to 4 females, all of them classifying each other as the husbands and wives of each.
There will usually be one male more dominate than the rest who takes to role of head/leader/protector of the family and looks out for the rest (this one dominant male may also refer to ALL of the others in his group as his wives - both the females and the males and this one male will likely have sex with the other males in addition to the females, though the other males will only have sex with the females.)
(My main character by the way, is NOT the dominate male in his family unit and is in fact the least dominate, most submissive of the group.)
When asked by Humans/etc how they know who the father of the children is, the Elves just shrug and say something to the effect of:
"No one really notices who is cuddled up with who, just as long as every one is together, it's all good." (Quaraun himself, says this frequently.)
If forced to have to declare a father, they'll all point to the dominate/leader male of their group, wither he is the biological father of the children or not.
Humans in the series, tend to look at Elves and see them as "earthy" or "overly sexual" because of the multi-partner family units they live in.
The Elves look at Humans and point out that it is the Humans who have trouble being faithful to their spouses, and Elves point out that the whore houses are filled with prostitutes precisely because Humans are strange by only having 1 wife. They also point out that there is no such thing as a prostitute in Elf culture.
Though the polyamorus relationships of the Elves often results in Human characters saying the Elves are perverted or immoral, in actuality adultery, cheating, or sexual relationships outside of the family unit is rare to the point of being almost unheard of, with the Elves of each family group forming strong bonds with each other.
The Elves in turn, find the Human practice of 1 male with 1 female to be odd and the Elves are often troubled by this. Many Elves comment on it and use it as "proof" that Humans are very isolated and selfish creatures incapable of true compassion, prone to jealously, and over all too much ruled by petty emotions.
The Elves tend to be very "Spock-like" thinking logically and suppressing emotions.
Also, Elves have the ability to form a "hive mind" method of sharing their emotions with each other, so that when one Elf in the family unit feels happy, all the others immediately feel happy with him.
If one member of the family becomes sick or wounded, all of the members of the family unit feel it as well and suffer with him. If any member of the family unit dies, the others mourn deeply and may together die from grief at the lose of a part of themselves.
In essence, each family unit becomes like the Man Of War Jellyfish which is actually thousands of tiny jellyfish that all stuck together to create one giant jellyfish. (In fact, the Man of War Jellyfish is where I got the idea to create this type of family unit for my Elves.)
Also, I remember reading ElfQuest years ago, back when it was new, and I remember the Elves living in these large families with multiple spouses all curled up together in bird-like nests at night... there was one calendar picture the artists did that has forever stuck in my mind - it was of all the Elves - about 7 of them, all curled up together asleep.
The title was something like "Safe and Happy Together". It just stuck in my head. I was like: "THIS is what all Elves should be like." I remember that polyamorus aspect of the ElfQuest Elves, really made the Elves stand out as not Human.
Something that has always bothered me about Elves in a lot of Fantasy is the fact that Elves seem to be just Humans with pointy ears. Nothing ever really sets them apart from Humans.
So when I was creating my Elves, I just kept thinking: What makes an Elf an Elf? How are Elves different then Humans? Why write Elves when I could write Humans? What makes an Elf different from a Human. And I just kept remembering that old ElfQuest picture of all the Elves happily sleeping together in a big pile of bodies all wrapped around each other, every one hugging every one else, and them all looking so happy and content together like that.
I ended up developing this whole theory that the Elf sex life, reproductive habits, and family unit was dramatically different from what we as Humans are used to, and ended up with my Elves based off that.
Also: The males are extremely feminine, while the females are far more masculine.
I love this. My own setting features a race that is primarily polyamorous. In my own setting, females are rare, so it's often 3 or 4 or more males, to 1 female, but each family may have as many as 10 or more males and 4 or more females, with all of them being a spouse to each of all of the others. The race is also bi-sexual in addition to being polyamorous, so it's not just all the males having sex with just the 1 female. Like yours, they take marriage very seriously and cheating/adultery is practically unheard of.
Usually you only see polyamorous relationships used in poorly written Erotica. It's not often used as a serious element in more mainstream genres. I like that you are using a family unit set up of this type. It's definitely something I'd like to see more of in Fantasy settings.
So I am writing a story series that uses creatures from mythology. This current book focus on a Ireland like country. So when I was doing research and categorizing the creatures a came across the Aos Si. So what I am wondering is what makes a creature labeled as an Elf?
In actual folklore, the Elves (Alfar) originated from Hebrew mythology and were a race of ArchAngel mentioned in the Bible. They were known as the Watchers and had mesmerising beauty, god-like powers, immortality, and six blue wings. They were very small, most only 4 to 5 feet tall, but their wings had a span of 10 feet each. God assigned them to protect His newly created Humans, but some of them, lead by one named Azazeal, raided the Human villages, kidnapped the women and raped them, creating the Alfar-Human hybrids (half-Elves) known as The Nephilim. Enraged, God cut the wings off the Watchers (now renamed The Alfar aka The Grigori Angels - a race of wingless angels that lived on Earth instead of in Heaven) and cast them down to Earth, to live in the valleys, then send a world wide flood (Noah's ark) to kill off all the Humans whom had sided with the Watchers and their half-breed children.
In Medieval times, it was believed that the Fallen Angels were divided into 3 base groups: The Elves, The Fates (Faeries), and The Demons. The Elves still looked like Angels, retaining their enthral beauty and god-like powers. They also retained their raging lusts for raping Human women, and thus many folktales rose up warning girls and women to stay away from forests "For Fear of Little Men" (Google William Arlington's poem "The Fairies" for the most well know one)
Here's part of it...
They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag-leaves,
Watching till she wake.
By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn-trees
For pleasure here and there.
If any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.
Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather!
Like the Elves, Faeries were also Fallen Angels. The Faeries were seen as different from Elves, in that unlike Elves who refused to kill, eat meat, or fight wars; the Faeries were often violent, committed murder, ate meat (especially Humans and Pigs - remember, this was a Medieval Jewish folklore and eating Pig was seen as a WORSE sin than murder, by Medieval era Mosaic law.)
The Demons were seen as the lowest form of Fallen Angel. Evil incarnate, because they worked one on one with Azazeal, Lucifer, Asmodeus, Beazelbub, and Sataunus (Satan), they goal being to possess Humans, stealing their souls, to build an army for Azazel (the ruler of Hell, according to the actual Jewish folklore - not Satan, as is often stated in modern Christian folklore, Satan is just one of Azazel's generals)
Most people I ask say they use Tolkien's definition of an Elf as example.
Or you could do what Tolkien did and research the same source material he did...
If you want to learn the origin stories of the Elves, you'll want to read the Books of Enoch, Genesis, Tobias, Maccabees, Ecclesiasticus, the 7 Books of Moses, The Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon, and Nag Hamid books of the Bible, as well as the Koran, as these are the original source materials which writers like Tolkien and Gary Gygax used in order to create the race typically thought of as the modern day Fantasy Elf.
In the Koran (Muslim folklore) the Fallen Angel story is slightly different in that the Elves are known as "The DiJinn", The Faeries are known as "The Ghul", and the Demons are known as "The Dev" (Devils, is a Muslim mythology, not a Christian mythology, contrary to popular urban myth)
You will also want to look into the Persian and Assyrian folklore about the "winged people" who fell to Earth, as the Persian who wrote these texts, were Hebrews who converted to the religion of Baal, and the "creation story" of Ea's Den is nearly identical to the one in the Bible and the Koran.
Would that be a good template or is there something else?
Most modern Fantasy writers take Tolkien's Elves and alter them in someway to make them "original" or "unique" to their story. Nothing wrong with this. It certainly works.
I've never read Tolkien and actually am not familiar with his Elves. I am myself Persian and was raised knowing the Persian folklore of the Elves as told from the Bible and Koran. So when I built my own Elves, I drew on those source materials.
Readers have pointed out that my Elves are dramatically different from standard "Fantasy Elves" and have a very distinctive Persian/Iranian/Asian feel to them that makes them stand out as VERY different from more traditional Fantasy Elves.
Do they have to be related to nature in some way?
I assume the nature connection comes from Tolkien? Elves have no connection to nature in the ancient Jewish and Muslim source material.
Do they have to be magical?
According to the Bible and the Koran, they had power to control the weather (could pelt people with lightening bolts, cause tornadoes and sandstorms... they are most famous for having rained brimstone and fire on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.) They were sometimes referred to as "Elemental Spirits" because of their ability to control the elements. They especially liked to cause mischief for Humans, such as withholding rain to cause famine and droughts or sending storms to cause typhoons or floods.
It was believed that they lived inside of mountains. An Alfar mountain could be identified by the quacking of the ground, the burning of bushes, and fire belching from the peak. These were of course volcanoes.
Is it just the ears?
As far as I know, the pointed ear thing was an invention of Tolkien. Biblical and Medieval era Elves did not have pointy ears.
Some links to articles/blog posts about how to build an Elf culture:
I wrote a blog post about this a few months ago. https://www.eelkat.com/definition-of-elf.html It's VERY long (about 7,000 words) and goes into a lot of detail of what makes an Elf an Elf in my own series, why they are different from Humans, etc. It also details the differences between the various races of Elves (in my world).
And then I made a character profile sheet for my main character Elf https://www.eelkat.com/creating-character-profiles-meet-the-characters-who-is-quaraun.html (even longer at 23,000 words) which goes into even more detail about Elf culture, society, personality, etc as is specific to one particular race of Elf.
Then I wrote up a page on marriage in Elf society https://www.eelkat.com/marriage-in-moon-elf-culture-writing-fantasy-books.html
and another one on jewelry traditions of Elf religion https://www.eelkat.com/jewelry-fashions-in-moon-elf-culture-writing-fantasy-books.html
and one on how Elves view Humans and what life would be like for a Human baby/child adopted by an Elf family. https://www.eelkat.com/what-would-happen-if-an-elf-adopted-a-human-baby-writing-fantasy-books.html
and one on how the High Elves came to be known as High Elves, along with the details on drug use and drug production in Elf society: https://www.eelkat.com/psychedelics-in-a-high-high-fantasy-world.html
and one on the magic traditions found in Elf culture: https://www.eelkat.com/wizards-vs-witches-vs-sorcerers-how-are-they-different-writing-fantasy-books.html
Like I said, these are very specific to the Elf societies in my own novels, and some stuff is "typical" or most Fantasy Elves, while other stuff is dramatically different and is unique to the Elves I created. But, it should give you a very in depth look at one author's take on Elf society and what makes an Elf an Elf, so hopefully it'll help you out and give you some ideas for creating your own Elves.
More pages you might like...