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An elf is a member of one of the longest lived species on Azeroth known for keen perception, grace, and great spellwork. Elves were once believed to be the first race to awaken on Azeroth, but some ancient histories believe that elves were originally trolls that were transformed by the Well of Eternity.
Kaldorei, the night elves
"...a primitive tribe of nocturnal humanoids cautiously made their way to the edges of the mesmerizing, enchanted lake. The feral, nomadic humanoids, drawn by the Well 's strange energies, built crude homes upon its tranquil shores.
Over time, the Well's cosmic power affected the strange tribe, making them strong, wise, and virtually immortal. The tribe adopted the name Kaldorei, which meant "children of the stars" in their native tongue."
Quel'dorei, the Highborne
The magocratic society that the night elves developed split into two castes: a body of the majority of the Kaldorei and the elite caste, the Highborne, known as the quel'dorei ("noble children", "highborne", or "high elves"). These were the favorites of and most loyal to the beautiful Queen Azshara, queen of the elves. They sought to understand the energies of the Well of Eternity, gaining exhilarating power from the arcane energy siphoned from the Well's depths.
The night elves (and in particular the quel'dorei) would go on to expand across ancient Kalimdor, shattering the empires of the Gurubashi and Amani trolls in the process and inspiring awe in those who witnessed their might. However, the arrogance and carelessness of the quel'dorei would spell doom for their civilization, attracting the attentions of the Burning Legion. Azshara and some of her Highborne opened a portal from the Well of Eternity into the Twisting Nether, enabling the demons to enter into Azeroth and wreak havoc upon Kalimdor. Some of the Highborne grew terrified of Queen Azshara's undying loyalty to Sargeras and the demons of the Burning Legion. Quickly, they escaped to aid the rest of the night elven civilization in banishing the demons back into the Twisting Nether in a catastrophic war now called the War of the Ancients, ending in the implosion of the Well of Eternity and the Sundering of Kalimdor.
Quel'dorei, the high elves
The Highborne were never fully trusted by the rest of the night elves who had abandoned magic to pursue druidism. The surviving night elves would end up banishing the Quel'dorei for the acts leading to the Sundering as well as more wanton waving of arcana. The quel'dorei were forced into exile and eventually settled in Quel'Thalas. Becoming known as "high elves," they took up a diurnal cycle instead of nocturnal and over time, their skin became a pale color instead of their former blue-green hues.
Sin'dorei, the blood elves
After the destruction of Quel'Thalas, the majority of the quel'dorei changed their nation to the sin'dorei, or "blood elves", in memorium of those who had fallen in the siege.
Some, believing that their culture was eroding and were horrified at the new extreme measures taken by their prince, Kael'Thas, chose to continue calling themselves quel'dorei (high elves) and remained loyal to the Alliance.
A notable difference between the high elves and blood elves is that, while the high elves combat their addiction to magic, the blood elves sucumb to it. The high elves spend at least one hour a day meditating, trying to restrain their addiction, while the blood elves drain the mana out of many creatures, including demons. This addiction sommetimes has grave consequences.
Anatomy and physiology
The Well of Eternity's arcane energies are the primary reason for the existence of the elves, so it makes sense that they would be magical in nature. All elves are exceptionally long lived and, at one point, were immortal, though the main races of elves have lost their immortality. Further, all elves possess glowing eyes, a sign of the use of great spells — a being of any race can exhibit glowing eyes while focusing or casting a particularly powerful spell, but the trait is innate in only a few races, most of which are demons or undead.
Elves have several characteristics in common. All have unusually acute senses and are able to see clearly even in low-light conditions. As a general rule, elves are also slim, athletic, and graceful. Furthermore, they all have large pointed ears that tend to be greeted with admiration or mockery by other races. From the Official Encyclopedia Typically, night elves have longer ears than high/blood elves, whereas the latter's point upward rather than backward.
A characteristic of elves on Azeroth are their unusual eyebrows, which extend beyond their faces, resembling either whiskers or antennae. There has been no official coverage of this anatomical oddity, despite it being present in all official artwork. Though it may be speculated that this is due to the elves extreme longevity; the brow's continuing growth over the life of the individual to its extreme length.
It has been hinted that there are four or five races of elves (dark elves, night elves, Highborne elves, (caste) high elves, and blood elves), but to date only four have debuted in the games. Those four are the night elves, Highborne elves, high elves, and blood elves. Hybrids between elves and humans such as half-elves, half-night elves, and half-blood elves are also mentioned in lore. Of these, only one known half-elf has appeared in-game, Arator.
The blood elves are the survivors of Quel'Thalas who, in mourning for their slain brethren and without the energies of their Sunwell, went to desperate lengths to satisfy their hunger for vengeance and magic. Through their experiments, they have developed the vampiric ability to siphon energy off of others, particularly demons, and physically changed to include glowing green eyes, and pale or ruddy skin. Those who have succumbed to this hunger have degenerated further, becoming violent addicts known as the wretched. It has been suggested many times that the blood elves are on their way to becoming an entirely separate race, perhaps even becoming demons. Although now the Sunwell has been restored, which now also providing Light energy to the Blood Elves, this is unlikely.
Such a claim is not new — some of the quel'dorei, prior to the War of the Ancients, aligned themselves with the Burning Legion. They became the demonic, caprine satyrs, mockeries of the elven form who feast upon magical energies to sustain their otherwise immortal lives.
Other perversions of the elven species include the naga and harpies. The naga are the remnants of those Highborne who were trapped in the implosion of the Well of Eternity but who survived by mutating into horrific beasts. They retained their immortality and dwelt beneath the great Maelstrom, though they were reawakened by Illidan Stormrage in the wake of the Third War and are now bent upon reclaiming the land, attacking any night elves they find. Similarly, the feral harpies attack anyone they see, being brutal cannibals. These bird women are descended from the night elves, though their origins are not clear: some say that they were cursed by Azshara while others say that they "gave themselves over" to Aviana, the bird demigoddess, suggesting that their violence is derived from their lost "mother."
Other potential cases of night elves giving themselves over to demideities include the Children of Cenarius, who could just as easily be the literal children of the demigod Cenarius. These "children" are the keepers of the grove and dryads, who bear the upper bodies of night elven men and women (respectively). The related centaurs are the bastard offspring of Cenarius' eldest son and the earth elemental princess , but they do not bear much resemblance to the night elves and look closer to humans.
Another race of elves has arisen on the face of Azeroth: the half-elves, the hybrid descendants of humans and high elves. Reports of half-night elves exist, but most of these would be in their infancy, given the recent rediscovery of Kalimdor. There is one half-kaldorei — — but her parentage is unknown. It is not certain if there are any half-blood elves, as the high elves (and their blood elven survivors) were prejudiced against half-elves, so there wouldn't be any initiated into blood-elvendom and the chances of a blood elf mating with a human, especially after their removal from the Alliance and joining the Horde, are slim to none.
While they cannot be said to be separate races, the undead and spectral remnants of the elves — members of the Forsaken undead as well as numerous ghosts, wraiths, and banshees — haunt those lands that they once occupied in life.
- The elves of Warcraft, like almost all elves in modern fantasy, are inspired in some regard by the elves of Tolkien's books, who were known as the Eldar or the Quendi. In Warcraft, like in JRRT's works, the elves are one of the oldest races, and became divided into subraces over time. As a quieter connection, "eldar" means starpeople, and kal'dorei means "children of the stars".
- Though the vast majority of night elf lore is original on the part of Blizzard, they draw parallels to the Sidhe ("SHEE") of Irish mythology and other beings of Celtic myth (except for the chimaera and the hippogryph, who are Greek). Night elven architecture has also been said to draw upon Nordic and Japanese designs. Blizzard has also said that night elves were based on traditional fantasy dark elves but with a twist.
- Originally, the race now known as high elves were simply called "elves", and conformed to the stereotypical fantasy elves. Though there were several hints of the night elves in various Warcraft media, the original elves were not referred to as "high elves" until The Last Guardian.
- Half-elves originate from Norse mythology, and were borrowed by Tolkien, which he called the Peredhil. The most famous half-elf in Tolkien's legendarium, is perhaps Elrond Halfelven. (Unlike in some other fantasy genres, the Half-elven are not a distinct race from Elves and Men, and before they die must ultimately choose which race to belong to.)
A number of elves have played a significant role in the lore of Warcraft.
- - Powerful night elf sorcerer; often called "the Betrayer" due to his role in the War of the Ancients; currently the ruler of Outland.
- - The first and most powerful druid ever to walk Azeroth.
- - High priestess of Elune and current leader of the night elven people.
- - Tyrande's protege, current general of the Sentinel army.
- - Warden of Illidan's prison for ten millennia, now imprisoned in Outland.
- - Leader of the night elves after the Sundering.
- - Heroic noble and general during the War of the Ancients.
- - Current Archdruid of the night elves.
- - A powerful highborne that was turned into a satyr by the dark titan .
- - Infamous Queen of the night elves ten thousand years ago, currently the Empress of the naga; one of the most powerful sorceresses ever to exist.
- - Once a highborne servitor of Azshara, now a powerful naga in service to .
- - The first leader of the high elves
- - Heroine of the Second War
- - Liberator of Grim Batol and Ranger-General of the Silver Covenant
- - King of Quel'Thalas during its height
- - Co-founder of Allerian Stronghold, lieutenant of Alleria and the Sons of Lothar.
- - Originally part of the Alliance Expedition, he leads the high elves in the Allerian Stronghold while Alleria is away.
- - The dark prince of the blood elves
- - Regent Lord of Silvermoon
- - Ranger General of the blood elves
- - The first Blood Knight
- - The leader of the magisters of Silvermoon
- - The leader of the Scryers in Outland
- - Creator of the Blood Knights
- - Blood Elf companion of .
- (daughter of and )
- , The half-elven son of and , has been added to the game with the Burning Crusade expansion. He is currently the only known half-elf in World of Warcraft. Arator uses a high elf model.
- , Magistrate of Valgarde in Northrend.
- - A half-elf in legend.
- - A half-elf in legend.
- - He is a half-elf wraith.
- - She is a half-elf banshee.
- - Twin brother of , son of and Vereesa Windrunner.
- - Twin brother of , son of Rhonin and .
- - Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, formerly Ranger-General of Quel'Thalas
- - Betrayer of Quel'Thalas.
- - She is a Forsaken half-elf and second in command of the Royal Apothecary Society.
- - referred to as half-kaldorei (which is most likely intended to mean the same thing).
- Dark elf
- Night elf
- High elf
- Blood elf
- Felblood elf
- Half-night elf
- Half-blood elf
- Highborne - Arcanely gifted caste of night elves.
- Wretched - Blood elves who have succumbed to their addiction to magic.
- Darkfallen - Undead blood elves
- Banshee - A particular type of undead, often formed from elven spirits.
- Dark ranger - Another undead elf, this one corporeal and a class.
- Shen'dralar - A faction of surviving Highborne living in Dire Maul.
- Troll and elven lineage - A theory about the origins of the elves.
- Naga - Highborne warped into serpentine creatures by the powers of the Old Gods.
- Satyr - Highborne corrupted into fel creatures by the Burning Legion.
- Harpy - Former elves cursed by the power of Azshara.
- Blood Maiden and Dark Womb - Variation of highborne that were described in the Appendix Three of Manual of Monsters, however the validity of the source is disputed.