Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

Usually elves are portrayed as either white, other European, Asian or Middle-eastern in movies, TV-series, games and in other art. I'm curious if it's written a place which human phenotype ("race") an elf are supposed to resemble mostly. E. g. the authors saying: "Elves are tall and have fair hair, eyes and skin" or something like that: "Elves have narrow noses, slim faces and big eyes".

I've noticed a lot of racial diversity among elves, but rarely seen any black elves. I'm just curious. No, I'm not accusing anyone for being racist. I'm just asking if there are any traditional or cultural reasons for it; if there's a meaning behind it or if it symbolizes something special. Same reason I'm curious on why witches are either portrayed as old, ugly and green hags wearing pointy black hats and having a big nose and why more human looking witches are portrayed as either redhead or blackhead. #Elf #Elves #Race #Black
Nordic elves
Nordic elves
Middle-eastern elf
Middle-eastern elf
Updates:
It's not only white elves I've seen. But also East-Asian (Chinese/Korean/Japanese looking), Arabs, Persians, Spaniard, other Europeans etc. It's rarely black though like West-, South- and Central-Africa and Australian aborigines. Beautiful people exists everywhere on earth. Did whites in the past see fewer blacks than other none-whites?
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Most Helpful Girls

  • I'd say it's mostly because elves are mythological creatures that originate from Germanic mythology and Norse mythology.

    "Elf, plural Elves, in Germanic folklore, originally, a spirit of any kind, later specialized into a diminutive creature, usually in tiny human form. In the Prose, or Younger, Edda, elves were classified as light elves (who were fair) and dark elves (who were darker than pitch); these classifications are roughly equivalent to the Scottish seelie court and unseelie court. The notable characteristics of elves were mischief and volatility. They were believed at various times and in various regions to cause diseases in humans and cattle, to sit upon the breast of a sleeper and give him bad dreams (the German word for nightmare is Alpdrücken, or “elf-pressure”), and to steal human children and substitute changelings (deformed or weak elf or fairy children" Source (https://www. britannica. com/topic/elf-mythology)

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    • I saw you mention the light elves from Alfhiem i dont know the german folklore however the Norse (from Norway) had two types the light elves and the dark elves it be intresting to compare informtion as i wonder did the germans belive in Ymir? Or is that a Norwegian myth?

  • Yes this is the mythos for the Origin of elves
    In old celtic norse the elves are from Elfhiem were two speices of elves exist one being feminine dessed in white they were tall faired haired and skined they were the "light elfves" they were cridited for the concept of spirit guides, garden Angeles to the nordic people at the time were the other was dark elfves they were masucline and of Chaos and miss deeds.
    Another comes from Irland ad like the light elfves were faired skinned and fair haired they were tall had beautiful features men and woman and the phrase "graceful" is used a lot however they were fickle meaning they would help you then turn on you their motives were "unknownable" or "unpredictable" they were caled the she folk. Iron is used as a ward however If you like i could share stories about both Elfhiem and the She folk your intreasted :).

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Most Helpful Guys

  • If you think about it this is actually quite simple, elves are originating from middle age European folklore and Norse mythology. The predominant skin colour (or simply set the only skin colour) known to these people was white back then, so the mythical beings known as elves also have been portrait white.
    Portraying elves as black could therefor be seen als cultural appropriation.

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    • It's not only white elves I've seen. But also East-Asian (Chinese/Korean/Japanese looking), Arabs, Persians, Spaniard, other Europeans etc. It's rarely black though like West-, South- and Central-Africa and Australian aborigines.

    • This is probably the case because of the established trade routes. In the middle ages there where almost no established trade routes to Africa, most trade routes where going over land and there for it was easier for the mythology to travel.
      You have to take into consideration that one of the goods a traveling merchant was bringing with him where also stories from far away countries so the stories and images of elves could easy have made there way into the Arabian/Persian area, even as far as China or even Japan, more easily then via the Via Maris or the King's Highway (ancient trad routes into Egypt).
      And other historical texts and sources shows, that humans easily take on and adapt some foreign concepts and customs into there own culture.

  • They are not real but are invented characters. Santa is a mythical person that was invented white. That is the legacy of the character. Other colors or races may stroke individuals but Santa was invented and Santa was white. Elves were not typical of the cultural invented as any other white of close white character. Making Mickey Mouse white would not be Mickey. He was invented as a mouse that are shades of grey and black. He has no human racial traits in its' original form.
    If the black race has a successful black character it should remain black. It was invented as black. Also commercially these things are used as in the way it will be the most commercially successful.

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    • The original Santa Claus wasn't supposed to look white. Santa Claus is inspired of the Greek-Turkish Catholic saint Nicholas. Why Santa Claus has a white beard is because of his age. Old people have white hair and beard regardless of "race". Santa Claus are also portrayed as a man with a narrow nose because not every none-whites have a broad nose. Many dark Greek and Turkish people have typically slim European facial features. Santa Claus usually have black eyes. Him having blue or green eyes is a newer thing.

      St. Nick:
      Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

      Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

    • Santa was created out off the concept off the Holly king ( god from pangan England) his colours were originally green and brown it was in fact coke-a-cola that change it to rd and white to suite the Company. However funny you should speak of not changing things AS Santa or saint Nick was change as i said above from pagan God to a Saint and from his colours green and brown too red and white. His elves were also created to be his helpers however Krampus also had elves that helpped him they were not seen as human or Even looking human they in fact were seen as more "lord of the Rings" goblin type that wore earth colours or Even seen as what today would call demionic.

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What Girls Said 17

  • Drow are dark skinned if that makes you feel better.

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    • Drows are usually portrayed as evil, but the other types aren't.

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    • Again I think it's just an innate fear of darkness. Most people point out how unfair things are like in movies and such but won't come up with there own version bc popularizing something new is so hard so the same old white elves roam around most fantasy worlds until someone flips the book on how its normally dn.

    • I'm not a history buff here. But there was a lot more interactions between Europe and Asia and the middle East well before anything really happened in Africa. Also the D&D movie had a black elf... Don't watch it, it was a shitty movie, but still had a black elf as a main character.

  • Interesting observation. It may have to do with where the legends of elves comes from. But by now, it seems we would have moved beyond that.

    I think POC are often whitewashed or erased in popular media, and it seems this is an example of that.

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  • Isn't Elves a Northern European things? So people would imagining them with lighter features I think.
    Too maybe Black people aren't interested in elves "culture" so they just portray elves as White, etc... but not Black.

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  • Because they are mostly Irish and green.

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  • Because all myths and saga about elves come from Asia and Europe as far as I know. And in most stories their description includes something about fair or pale skin.

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  • Elves became really popular and Tolkien wrote it after go to war in Europe so there. Not everybody has to be included in everything.

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  • Maybe because the origin of the elves are from Europe? I'm not entirely sure either

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    • I don't think many black people are into elves and it's mythology. So it's not a bug issue to us. Anyways we have our own mythological creatures in Africa. I'd like to see more films or shows about them

  • Because mythology comes from Ireland/Northern Ireland

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  • theyre made up creatures im sure they can be any colour they want, black white brown. its kinda sad they all stick to the fair shades tho.

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  • I don't know but I like how the idea of them looks and I don't exactly feel the need to change.

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  • Dunno.
    When playing dragon age or Skyrim I've seen a few on there.

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  • Because most of the time when there is a story about elves it is set in Europe.

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  • It due to the lore based around them. It originated in Europe.

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  • Good grief

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  • Because black people are a minority

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    • In Africa, white people are a minority. Of course, black people still manage to get called the K-word over there.

  • I guess because elves don't feature in African culture. How come African mythological creatures are not depicted as white skinned?

    https://youtu.be/s2F4ZWTjwTU

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    • For African mythological creatures to exist, there had to have NOT been a bunch of white people capturing, pillaging, colonizing, terrorizing, or just flat out dismissing their presence / existence as much as they could at one point in history, sadly. . . Such a period has not come yet.

      We are coming alone with stories like Fifth Season, Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther, but the world doesn't seem to like us very much.

    • @Wammu Africa has a long history before white colonisation, before it black African Moores were trying to conquer and colonise territory in Europe, you reap what you sow. Also the arab-african slave trade existed long before the Europeans came.

    • 2d

      Exactly, Anon. But they like to leave all that information out for their self-hating victimizing benefit.

  • In the Netherlands Santa has a close black assistant called Black Peter. :)

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    • That’s not an elf though

    • @janna_jcb Black Peter is a helper to Santa so who cares.

What Guys Said 51

  • The elven equivalent I believe would be "dark elves," which has a wide variety of implications depending on which game or series you're referencing. Usually they have grey or bluish skin rather than dark shades of brown, which contrasts the stereotype of fair or even ashen-white elves. Being exceptionally beautiful or perfect is also not always the case with elves, and perfect examples of that include the rather pathetic ones that are largely inferior to humans from the Dragon Age game series, and the variety of elves portrayed in the Elder Scrolls universe, which are often conniving and deceitful.

    As far as historical mythology is concerned, you could probably attribute it to the fact that "elves" originate from areas that were dominated by white or fair-skinned humans. You have to remember that long-distance travel was relatively rare until fairly recent history, and most Scandinavians never saw anything south of northern Europe until only a few hundred years ago, by which point very few mythical beings such as these were created for anything other than known to be fictional stories.

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    • "most Scandinavians never saw anything south of northern Europe until only a few hundred years ago"

      While yes that may be true for most but Scandinavians travelled wide and far from the Viking era onwards as far down as Constantinople serving in the Varangian Guard there and even seeing Africans at the slavemarkets there they refered to them as Blåmænd
      One of the historical sources for Viking ages is written by an Arab who met some the whole burning boat iconic Viking comes from that
      So while yes most didn't go south a fair bit did and brought back knowledge of the world

    • @Aynsof most Nordic mythology was developed long before the Vikings travelled that far south.

  • 1) Elves are part of the Western European mythology, why on Earth would they be black?
    2) In classical high fantasy (essentially every derivation of Tolkien's work) elves are not even "white" white. They are marble white, sort of like a dead body, or someone encased in matte white foundation makeup. They don't look caucasian in terms of skincolor, and that's obvious.
    And as such, the inversion of said super-white elves are elves with dark-grey-ish skin for example. So you wouldn't normally see brown elves, simply because that doesn't seem the be the natural pigmentation of their skin in fantasy settings.
    3) Obviously you haven't played The Elder Scrolls series I guess
    In TES there are several races of elves (mer):
    Altmer, or high elves (because they are tall) range from white to yellowish green, in canon it's described as "pale with a golden hue"
    Dunmer, or dark elves (because they have characteristically dark skin) range from light grey to light green to light blue (rare) to actual black.
    Bosmer, or wood elves (because they live in the woods, duh) usually have a skin color ranging from light brown to pale tan to light green.
    Orsimer, or orcs (well, they are just orcs) have green to dark brown skin color.

    As you can see, Dunmer are as close as you can get to actual black skintone. And just how black that is? See for yourself:
    Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

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  • It's like asking why theree isn't black vikings or black kings in european stories.
    Elves come from european folklore, back in a time where Europe was entirely white.

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    • True, but Europe has never been entirely white. Many people in Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Portugal etc. are dark.
      Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

      Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

      Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

      Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

  • uuhh.. what?
    Elves are regularly portrayed as black.. Maybe you don't read much fantasy? Even one of the most famous Fantasy characters that is an elf is black..

    1 example of probably thousands.
    Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

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  • There are whole race of black elves - they're called Drow, though they live underground. My favorite character of all time is Drizzt Do'Urden by my favorite author R. A. Salvatore. Fun unsolicited fact - R. A. is left-handed.

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  • Because i think most those stories came from European culture and the idea that it's in the past and i think blacks were confined to Africa pretty much in the past...

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    • I've seen many Middle-eastern and Asian elves too, so did the real Asians and Middle-eastern people have more contact with the Europeans than the black Africans in the past?

    • I think that's more within what storties you read and when they came from. I think Middle-Eastern and Asian elves are something new.

  • If I had to guess, it would probably be because elves are European in origin, as I'm sure you already know, and that Europe had much more contact with East Asia and the Middle East than it did sub-Saharan Africa. What this does not explain though, however, is why American authors did not portray black elves. Even though black people were rare in Europe, they were always pretty common in the United States.

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  • Not sure. Might have to do with the fact that elves are originally a European concept and in times of antiquity (prior to the 15th century) when European merchants and explorers traveled it was mostly to Asia and North Africa which is predominately Arab. Thus they would have interacted with very few if any black people.

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  • According to Tolkein books, they lived in a different region to the South West of there Lord of the Rings took place. They were in the Great War against Sauron long ago. They were too far away to travel and help this time.

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  • Elves come from pagan European mythology. Particularly Norse, Germanic and Celtic folklore. Therefore elves are mostly white.

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  • Because they aren't Dark Elves. You have multiple types of Elves in fiction. The darker skinned ones are Dark Elves. The ones depicted in many fiction are wood or high elves.

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  • Why would fictional creatures need to have the same racial background as humans? Give them blue skin for all care, in fact they have.
    Does this count as a black Elf?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1vF3-BsoxE

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  • First off, it's important to recognize the root word. The word "elf" is a modernization of several older Saxon/Teutonic/Nordic words. In other words, they are a white invention. This, alone, tends to imply that the fairy-like elvenfolk would probably look like a smarter and more recently bathed version of themselves (hehehe!).

    While I think it's cool that you are thinking about it, I don't think my people need to be elves. It just looks strange to me to have dark brown human skin embodying a Nordic myth - no matter how contrived. :)

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  • Well elves kinda stems from Tolkien and he described them as pale skinned I believe
    Tolkien drew upon nordic myths for them though and the dark elves are the dwarfs sort of...

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  • Because it's partically based off of a real race of northern European people who tended to be very tall, having lighter hair and skin, and traditionally as their culture at the time was very centered around hunting.

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  • Because they come from European folk lore and culture, where the black folk ain't. That's like wondering why Wakanda don't have any white people. It's in freakin' Africa. This is not rocket science.

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  • Elves have always been portrayed as having light skin because they're a European mythological creature. Mostly in Celtic and Nordic traditions. So it's more accurate to portray them as such

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  • The apparent origin is from the Norse, adopted by Germanic tribe, and brought to Great Britain. There were not a lot of African Norsemen in the Middle Ages.

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  • Fantasy has always had almost all "White" characters. But I did get to play an Asian monk once! He was the coldest character I ever played. The Asthetic Warrior Kit. He was a monk who also was a psionicist. He was an expert at psycho-metabolism. He could literally change the elemental structure of his body and in addition, he was proficient in the martial arts. So I would turn my body into adamantium and then whup guy's tails because I was basically invulnerable to physical attacks.

    Why are elves rarely portrayed as black?

    I am not insulted by it. When I wanted to do something with "Black" characters, I simply created them in video games or found a group where they allowed it.

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    • The Complete Psionics Handbook?

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    • 5th. I played until 3.5.
      I remember going through the 4th Edition's PH, and my first thought was that they've completely World-of-Warcraft-ed it. Never went back.

  • For the same reasons African and Asian mythological creatures look like the people of the cultures they belong to.

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  • As a fan of d&d themed fiction books. Read the storyline of Drizzt the drow. Maybe some of it comes from that. They are mostly evil in the forgotten realms.

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  • Maybe it was the look they were going for. just like how goblins are green and trolls are dark brown or grey and wizards are old dudes in hats.

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  • Make your own mythology, simple.

    *makes group of people with literally NO weakness, gives them intelligence far beyond realism, and no one is fat*

    Know what, nevermind. Thank you Stan Lee.

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  • It is because most people's ideas of Elves comes from how they are in Dungeons & Dragons which is the original table top RPG. They were a fair/pale skinned race in D&D until they introduced dark elves which are often blue or dark gray (still not black though).
    Most fantasy characters are White because most of them were originally created by European people or their descendants in the USA a long time ago.
    Eventually they started including monks and other stuff because some of them were fascinated with Asian culture too.
    Elves are more representative of German and similar people, just like Dwarves are typically representative of Irish/Scottish people.

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  • The geeks would lose their crap... just think how apeshit they went when a woman became the new Doctor and the new main hero of Star Wars movies.

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  • It was created by a white guy, and no one has really challenged it.

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  • HOW COME "DARK ELVES" ARE EVEN PALER THAN REGULAR ELVES?

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  • Dark elves exist, they come from Svartalheim in Norse mythology. They do however not look like Africans.

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  • Elder Scrolls has elves. Bosmer (Wood elves), Altmer (High elves), Dunmer (Dark Elves), Falmer (Snow elves), and Dwemer (Dwarves, Deep elves). They all don't look the same. According to a wiki some the Bosmer are the smallest in terms of stature for males and Breton in terms of stature for females. As far as witches go they vary. Ugly is subjective though. Hagravens though aren't the most attractive things to look at though.

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  • It's just how it is, there are no black dwarves either but you dwarvists don't see that.

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