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There are certain races in Speculative Fiction that appear to occupy an equivalent niche that elves do in a fantasy setting; the idealized, Closer to Earth culture reaching toward utopian ideals, or the inscrutable, ominous Fair Folk for whom We Are as Mayflies. Or both at once, of course.
When they are not behaving as a standard fantasy elf or, as is often the case, an enlightened mystic race such as Vulcans or Na'vi, they are off beaming up humans, cattle, and children just like their Fair Folk ancestors.
Sometimes the elf-like race is implied to be Ancient Astronauts themselves, misremembered or otherwise. Sometimes they are literal Elves In Space or at the very least have elf-like characteristics such as longevity and Pointy Ears.
Some anthropologists have speculated that the tendency to imagine any foriegn intruders who are different from us as Elves Versus Dwarves is hard-wired, like the theory that humans are hard-wired to imagine dragons because of our bad experience with snakes. By this logic, we have an innate tendency to classify "powerful" cultures as inscrutable, slender (tall and/or diminutive) beings who were here before us, have better tools and are not to be messed with, versus swarthy, hairy fellows who are industrious, engage in untouchable occupations such as mining, and are migrants. Space Elves would thus occupy an extreme niche in the spectrum.
There are three types of Space Elves:
Type I is a category of Our Elves Are Better -- actual elves in a non-standard fantasy setting; Compare Urban Fantasy, Mundane Fantastic. Type II is a category of Proud Scholar Race -- archetypal mystical, philosophical beings that fill the same role as elves in a non-fantasy setting; Compare Proud Warrior Race or Proud Merchant Race for the Elves vs. Dwarves equivalent. Type III is a category of The Fair Folk -- beings which are definitely alien but behave almost exactly like the Fair Folk and sometimes fill the same function (compare Ancient Astronauts, The Greys, Little Green Men).
Standard fantasy elves or equivalent beings with Serial Numbers Filed Off... In Spaaaace! These are surprisingly common in science fiction and Tabletop Games (compare Urban Fantasy and Science Fantasy). Ancient Astronauts may count as Type I if they are not merely mistaken for elves, but actually are elves who turn out to be an alien race.
Type II: Enlightened Mystic Race (main article: Proud Scholar Race Guy (Type II)
Personality-wise, they may be aloof and detached, or (in the case of empathic types) quite gregarious. Either way, they have a tendency to be more mystical or philosophical than most of the other species in the setting. These are almost by definition a Proud Scholar Race, and they are typically pitted against Proud Warrior Race Guy in a straight application of Elves Versus Dwarves. For more information on Type II, see Proud Scholar Race.
Like other Proud Scholar Race Guys, Type II are the most likely characters to have Psychic Powers (possibly confined to a single gender) and the most likely characters in the setting to be Technical or Actual Perfect Pacifist People, in contrast to the warlike Proud Warrior Race Guy, who are ironically more likely to be literal Elves in Space.
Type III: Mystic Alien Intruders (compare: The Fair Folk)
These are beings that fill the same function as The Fair Folk in the story or in popular consciousness, except that they (usually) Descended From Outer Space. This is very commonly associated with The Greys, although not always. Little Green Men can replace Leprechauns. Alien Abduction may take the place of a Changeling Tale. When they aren't snatching up our children, unnaturally extending our lifespans, or performing mystic rites on us for shits and giggles and impregnating our virginal (swear to god!) women-folk, thus leading to Half Human Hybrids. They may be Sufficiently Advanced, or older than the hills. See also Time Abyss. One thing Type 3's share in common is they are invariably Inscrutable. See also Telepathic Spacemen.
Psychic Green Space Babe Variety (usually Type 1 or 2)
An oddly specific and not-so-recent phenomenon. For some reason, certain Space Elves tend to manifest as an Always Female Green-Skinned Space Babe with Psychic Powers. Sometimes known as "blue hotties", they're more likely to be blue than green. Sometimes they are part of a Sexy Matriarchy. Examples of "Type B" need not be listed separately, but are worth noting where found: e.g. Type 1-B here or Type 2-B here. It is a reoccurring theme in several works and universes that all seem to be referencing each other.
Compare the Three Types of Proud Race Guy: Proud Scholar Race Guy (usually Space Elves), Proud Warrior Race Guy (posssibly Space Dwarves) and Proud Merchant Race Guy, Space Amish or Space Romans who may in fact be standard ordinary people in a diaspora situation, thus occupying a middle position.
Note: Type II Space Elves are also Type II examples of Proud Scholar Race.
This is a Super-Trope discussing references to Space Elves in various tropes, including: Our Elves Are Better, Proud Scholar Race Guy (Type II), The Fair Folk and/or The Greys. Examples of each type would also fall under such other tropes.
- The Elves in Elf Quest.
- There are some elven beings in Star Wars comics, including the Jedi Master Fay. Fay was unfortunately a one-issue wonder.
- The Marvel Star Wars comics had a major story arc dealing with Space Dark Elves: the Nagai are a race of tall, slender, pale, androgonously beautiful aliens with angular features and pointed ears who try and conquer and enslave the galaxy.
- And the New Jedi Order's Yuuzhan Vong are what happens when the mindset of Space Dark Elves meets the appearance and brutality of Space Orcs.
- The Taredhel of (Feists Demonwar Saga) were the first amongst slaves; magic users, lovers and diplomats of the Valheru. They eventually left to the stars conquering an empire of planets. Not nice.
- The fairies (including elves) of the Artemis Fowl series are traditional, native-to-Earth fairies, with magic that does some things, but they're also very high-tech and in a distinctly sci-fi setting. A fairy space probe plays a part in "Atlantis Complex," among other things.
- The Silfen in Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga are Type I (they're almost physically identical to traditional elves and were the inspiration for elf legends, and are arguably Type III as well (those legends were specifically of The Fair Folk and their morality proves to be alien in a somewhat similar fashion).
- Dragaera mixes fantasy and science fiction, and the series is implied to take place on some other planet, to which humans had been brought. Some of these humans were subject to genetic manipulation, producing the "Dragaerans", who are elves. Humans in the setting sometimes call them faerie or elves, and on one occasion, a Dragaeran refers to humans as dwarves.
- The Darhel in John Ringo's Posleen War series resemble a cross between elves and japanese kitsune and are the basis for both in earth folklore. They are a Proud Merchant Race and complete bastards.
- Unaging. Physically beautiful. Able to read minds and control the emotions of others. Pure evil. Homo drakensis is possibly the only literary example of Space Drow.
- the wess'harin Karen Traviss' Wess'har Wars series. Tall, slender, ancient and dedicated to , often agressively to the point of genocide, depending on the faction, preserving the ecological balance.
- The Liaden from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe novels. Although to call them this is as much as an oversimplification as it is in most other cases, it does merit special mention for being lampshaded in the second book.
He glanced up, smiling. "It's my Uncle Richard's fancy that Liadens are the 'little people' of Old Terra's legends. Thus, Arthur Galen, Johnny, Nora, and Annie Galen. And their foster brother, the king of Elfland."
- The Eldar in Warhammer 40000, naturally.
- Also, their "Dark Kin", the Dark Eldar are Space Dark Elves, a particularly terrifying example of Dark Elves no less.
- Hell, the planet bound Exodites live off the land, have a harmonious relationship with their planets, don't really get involved in fights unless the place they live is threatened...sounds like text book Wood Elves to me.
- If textbook Wood Elves rode dinosaurs, at any rate...
- The Three Galaxies sub-setting of the Rifts RPG has the Type I version even imaginatively named Star Elves. They are one of the leading races of the United Worlds of Warlock, a spacefaring, magic-using civilization. The High King of the Star Elves has even served as the leader of the U.W.W. parliament for thousands of years.
- The Elves of Golarion are literally from a foreign planet in the same solar system.
- Jak's race is another example - Jak strikes one as Link In Space, and Link was constantly mistaken for an elf.
- The Loroi from the webcomic Outsider are Type I-B, blue space elves. Aside from being mostly-female and psychic, they've got an explicit "warrior elf" thing going.
Jardin: Ah, the old "good elf, bad elf" routine. About fifty impertinent things to say raced through my mind...
- In the spanish webcomic Eager Scout, Carl is a space prince elf...who travels along the sister of the most feared Space Pirates in the universe.
Examples of Type II (Enlightened Mystic Race)
- See Proud Scholar Race (Type II) for more examples.
- The Abh in Crest of the Stars are blatant type 2's, with a good helping of Can't Argue with Elves--they're world conquerors and we're supposed to sympathize with them.
- The Guardians of the Universe from Green Lantern. Not tall at all, but immortal? Check. Has incredible powers? Check (the Green Light that empowers the Corps). Aloof and distant? Check. Can't Argue With 'Em? They'd like to think so...
- Also, an all-female offshoot of the Guardians called the Zamarons falls well enough into the Blue Skinned Space Babe variety.
- The chieri from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series. Space Elves bordering on Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, they possess lifespans reaching into thousands of years and extraordinary psionic abilities. They were once a spacefaring people, but have since gone into "retirement" on the titular planet. Can get somewhat pedantic when dealing with humans. The chieri are the ulimate in hermaphrodites with each individual able to physically shift from male to female (or remaining somewhere in the middle) depending on what is going on in their sex lives. However, this overly-complicated reproductive model (completing a gender switch in perfect sync with one's partner can be tricky in the heat of the moment) has resulted in a dwindling population problem that neither their powers nor their technology seemed able to fix. They have a noticeably easier time procreating with humans, and indeed the offspring of these unions often have some of their chieri parent's traits, notably atypically powerful (for humans) psionics and exceptional longevity. However, they may also manifest the chieri's gender-swapping trait, which has led to some families with chieri blood warning against homosexual relations because "If you lie down with a man, you may rise up as a woman!"
- In addition to the many live action TV examples from Star Trek (see below), the Star Trek Novel Verse portrays the Deltans as this - spiritual, emotionally controlled, older than humans and with a near-mystical sense of peace that comes with their "evolved" philosophies and sexualities.
- The Vedala, as portrayed in the novel Forgotten History, fit the bill perfectly. They're generally benevolent, older than other spacefaring races, very advanced and isolationist, and seem ever-so-slightly smug about their status in relation to younger "child" races. Behind their reasonable manner is the clear belief that Vedala are better than you.
- The Minbari of Babylon 5 like to see themselves as High Elves or Grey Elves. However when they think no one else is looking, they are not only highly arrogant and racist, but also extremely violent and brutal and start a Roaring Rampage of Revenge for almost any offense. And their supposedly sacred rule of Minbari Shall Never Kill Minbari gets ignored all the time. Think of Klingons that look like Vulcans.
- They are slightly better than that. They did manage to keep the No Killing-rule in effect for thousand years, after all. Their claim about never lying is a total bull, though. But excluding the Soldier Caste they aren't too bad if the condesending attitude isn't a problem.
- Spock and his Vulcan ilk are scholarly, long-lived, pointy-eared, phlegmatic, and psychic.
- Vulcans are also vegetarian, and consider their way of life superior to humans'. There are already Vulcan examples in Can't Argue with Elves... because you can't.
- Not only that, Vulcans are High Elves, Romulans are Dark Elves.
- And it doesn't stop there. Klingons are Space Orks and Ferengi are Space Goblins. In fact both are so similar to the World of Warcraft Orcs and Goblins one is tempted to think that they inspired them.
- The Metrons are also pictured as being elven: A tall, powerful but aloof race, with grey skin, white hair, shimmering silver clothing and gladiator-style shoes.
- Betazoids are a race of Closer to Earth telepaths. Like Spock, Troi was a Half-Human Hybrid, but rather than promoting detached logic, her entire job was to help everyone be more in touch with their emotions. If Ambassador Lwaxana Troi was any indication, Betazoids saw themselves as the Federations's own planet of planet of Manic Pixie Dream Elves.
- The Bajorans are a Proud Scholar Race who have been living as La Résistance for the past few decades, and seem rather fond of reminding everyone. They do not have any mystical abilities themselves, but their "Prophets" do.
- Star Trek: Voyager deconstructed this trope with the, naive, sheltered, short-lived Ocampa. They went further to turn this trope on this ear with Lon Suder, an Ax Crazy Betazoid, Seska, a rather unpleasant Bajoran who turned out to be an even less pleasant Cardassian agent , and, of course Tuvok, the Vulcan security officer who was more like a Grumpy Bear, who took on Sergeant Rock traits later in the series.
- The Fraal from Alternity explicitly are The Grays, so they look like the stereotypical Type III, but their culture is actually Type II.
- There's also the asari from Mass Effect. They also fit the scheme of Type II-B. Female, Blue, Space, Psychic, somewhat elfish.
- The quarians might also qualify as far as looks and personality go, but they're not quite as mystical as the asari.
- The Syreen from the Star Control series of games are Type II-B.
- The Protoss from Starcraft fall under Type II and, except for the babe part, Type II-B.
- The Elerians from the second and third Master of Orion games are Type II-B, or possibly Type I-B given their explicitly elfish appearance.
- The Numans/Newmans of the Phantasy Star series are often sardonically referred to as "space elves" due to their Flanderization as a race. Their role in Phantasy Star Universe most closely fits the Space Elf Type II archetype, despite the fact they were still genetically-engineered by humans.
- The Cotyorites from The Lydian Option are a philosopher race who are "not dangerous to anything but your time."
- Not from a matriarchy or a female-dominated race, but other than that, Mira Nova from Buzz Lightyear of Star Command fits the bill of Type II-B perfectly.
Examples of Type III (Mystic Alien Intruders)
- See also The Greys for similar species.
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind, given their habits toward humans.
- E.T. and his people start out as this, but are revealed to be Type II and a Friend to All Living Things in the supplemental fiction.
- The Water Beings from The Abyss.
- Mr. Grey and his enemy, from Dream Catcher by Stephen King, masquerade as this to deceive impressionable humans from their true intentions... which means they fit the bill of Type III quite nicely, come to think of it.
- The Asgard from Stargate SG-1. At least physically; their culture and aesthetics are more reminiscent of Type II.
- The Streibs from Babylon 5 are The Greys.
- Changeling: The Lost explicitly notes the similarity of Alien Abduction to changeling tales. There are quite a few True Fae that imitate aliens, especially The Greys, but only because they've been reading humanity's subconscious. Even they don't know if aliens are real.
- The Ariloulaleelay from Star Control 2 would qualify as a Type III. They live in another dimension, are as old as dirt, and imply that performed experiments on humans in the past.
- ↑ A Loroi from Outsider, a Vulcan from Star Trek, an Elerian from Master of Orion, a Na'vi from Avatar, A Minbari from Babylon 5, an Asgard from Stargate SG-1.
- ↑ (i.e. us. All of which traits were once attributed to pygmies and other neolithic tribes by their Iron Age neighbors)
- ↑ Possibly because of the "Little Green Men" stigma about science fiction, and the fact that green skin is more likely than blue to look like you have a horrible fungal infection.