Children of God’s Joy
Part Two: Elves and Humans
Elves and humans evolved from two branches of a small arboreal mammal that thrived in the southern jungle of Bhaskara. Of the four hominid races, the elves appeared first and were well on the way to developing sentience when the dwarves first appeared. Humans are the late-comers.
Elves and humans both retain many traits from their arboreal ancestors. They have lithe, nimble bodies and dexterous fingers. They have excellent color vision, though humans don’t see as well in low light as any of the other races. They prefer homes that are above ground, though humans will build cave-like houses and most elves live in the open, with temporary or portable shelters.
Though both races are highly adaptive, they have adopted very different strategies. Humans will assess any new area for strengths, weaknesses, and resources, then change the area to suit their needs and desires. Elves, on the other hand, change to accommodate their surroundings. Where humans will cut down trees to provide land for agriculture and wood for building, elves will promote the growth of food-bearing trees and weave saplings together to *grow* their shelter. Humans may adapt to an area over many millennia, becoming lighter or darker, taller or shorter, thinner or fatter, as the environment dictates. Elves, however, make these changes in only a few generations. One of the most extraordinary things about elvish physiology is their ability to develop adaptive skin coloring: sand-colored skin and hair in the desert; dappled skin and bark-colored hair in the forest; white skin and hair in the far north.
Humans and elves both have strong kin bonds. Humans have degrees of kinship: close family, extended family, distant relations, close friends, and acquaintances. Elves have no such distinctions. Family is family. Friends are family. If you’re not family, you’re an outsider and not to be trusted. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an enemy. You’re just Not-Family.
Elves typically form small communities. Some, like the Lanikamali’i of Jarayu, are nomadic. They have no typical government form. Each community chooses a leader, or leaders, according to the needs of that community. They have no formal marriages. Partnerships just form. Most partnerships are between two elves. Some partnerships have three or four partners. Sometimes partnerships will reform but rarely do they dissolve.
Humans, on the other hand, build communities of all sizes, from tiny villages to sprawling cities. They govern themselves in a wide variety of ways, though most societies are male dominated. Most human societies have formal marriages. Some impose pairings: one man, one woman. Others have adopted gnomish harems. A few rare communities in the eastern islands have matriarchal societies with all-male harems.
There are visible differences between males and females of the other four races but Elves have almost no distinction between the sexes. Dragon females are larger and stronger than males. Dwarvish, gnomish, and human males tend to be larger and stronger than the females. Elvish men and women, however, have the same delicate features and the same delicate-looking bodies. Where the other races may have gender-based social roles for their people, the elves do not. Men and women share all tasks equally, according to the individual’s ability and personal preference.
If dwarves are like stone, and gnomes are like earth, elves are like wind and water. They move, change, and grow according to what is around them. They adapt to their environment, becoming an integral part of their world. And humans? Well, humans are like fire. They burn brightly, try everything, will spread wherever there is fuel to sustain them, and will consume everything in their path in their effort to be ever greater.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.