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Originally hailing from another realm far removed from Faerun in the distant past, the elves have proved to be one of the most successful and diverse races to appear on Abeir-Toril. They have taken to the lands, the seas, and even the skies of Faerun, colonizing and expanding through the ages. Today, the great elven realms may have retreated from the encroachment of humans and humanoids, but the elven influence in the world is unmistakable and pervasive.
Elves adapt and change dramatically to meld with their surroundings, so through the generations the various tribes of elves have become quite divergent in appearance and outlook. Despite this, all elves retain certain characteristics that set them apart from the other races of the world. Collectively, the elves know themselves as the Tel'Quessir (translated into the common tongue means, “The People”). They refer to all other beings as the N'Tel'Quess, a less-than-diplomatic elven expression meaning, “not people.”
Elves are graceful, lithe, and beautiful. Regardless of their particular heritage, they are viewed by other races as a highly magical and wondrous people. This awe and respect has an unexpected corollary – many people view elves as haughty and shamelessly introverted as a race. The reasons for this are numerous, including jealousy, envy, and religious hatred. It is the nature of the elf to elicit such reactions from others, for it seems impossible upon first encountering the elves to react with anything resembling disinterest or apathy.
The Origin of the Elves
The true origin of the elves on Abeir-Toril is lost in the mists of time, a time far back enough for even such a long lived race to have only the most vague of information. Most of this is legend, speculation of hear-say. However, most subscribe to one or more of three prevailing theories.
And so Corellon and Gruumsh battled across the heavens and the lands below, and they warred upon each other most mightily. Strong were the blows which fell upon them both and mighty was their struggle. Corellon worked sorcery and fought with skill which outclassed his brutish foe, but Gruumsh was sly and cunning and strong in his crude way and their blood was spilled and fell to the earth. As day passed to night, Sehanine rose into the sky and looked down on the battle with sorrow for her lover and lord. Her tears fell from the skies and mingled with fallen blood of Corellon and so the first elves were born of the blood of the Protector, the tears of the Lady of Dreams and the land in which they fell.
- - Taken from Legends of Seldarine
This legend shows how the elves are a blend of magic, flesh and nature. It is the most popular and well known of the three theories and is often held to be gospel by more devout followers of the Seldarine and most priests. This legend also highlights the strong link between elves as physical, magical and natural beings.
Other versions of this legend also speak of the blood and tears of Corellon and Sehanine being woven with sunbeams, moonbeams, forests, clouds, seas and shadows. These less orthodox tales are explanations of the differences between the various elven sub-races. Followings for these other myths are less popular or more eratic. For one thing, the inclusion of clouds seems to be an allegorical inclusion to explain the inclusion of the Avariel, the legendary winged elves, in some of the older myths and legends of the times before the First Flowering. For another, the mention of shadows would seem to indicate the drow, or the Ssri'Tel'Quessir, were once an entirely seperate sub-race of elves. This leads to some inconsistances with some of myths relating to the betrayal of the drow.