Thursday, October 24, 2002

Elf Reproduction
These days I am going through old logs from role-playing in Dragon Realms as well as reading the interviews with my players. Like mud from the bottom of a lake, the memories stain my attempts at seeing through my thesis and to a clear conclusion. They are rushing back to me, the days of spending most of my day-dreaming time in the imaginary body of an elf who loved a - what was he? Human? Kind of - but not quite...

And then I read Mark's "another world" description, and see the word "elf" in conjunction with "love" and "human". One of the things I spent a lot of time discussing, both on Dragon Realms and Aarinfel was if an elf would really love a human. The general consensus was that the human had to be truly spectacularly special - or the elf would have to be pretty alienated from his or her own species. What is a human life to an elf? It's so brief, it hardly registers, it's even shorter than the life of dogs and cats in our lives. The Tolkien elves are immortal - to them humans are maggots, as many and as short-lived and undistinguishable. On Dragon Realms elves had a life-span of 30 - 40 000 years, while humans could expect to be 70. That's more the occasional cute, cuddly pet version, like guinea pigs. On Aarinfel elves would live 3-400 years, and humans 50-70: there they were more like dogs: capable of being useful, occasionally good allies and companions, but not really something you mated.

My Dragon Realms character did however live with and marry a human. My character was well and truly alienated from her family and her community, an outcast, and a young and inexperienced one at that. And the human was exceptional - not really a human, but transformed by magic from a neutered serpent-folk type of person into a human male, and a powerful cleric, immortal with the powers of the deity of trickery, illusion and madness at his disposal.

My Aarinfel character was an arrogant, wealthy, powerful and scheming prince of elves, the apple of his mother's eye and soon the shadow behind the throne, the voice that was listened to, the hand which never needed to touch the poisoned dagger. He would stay exquisitely polite in front of humans: he was well aware of their potential as allies in war, as labour and sources of exploitation. But he would definitely not have them anywhere near his silk carpets or his delicate china. Leashed, they were barely acceptable.

With these different views of the relationships elves/humans in the back of my mind, I don't know what Mark really means when he writes:
For example, Jules is a beautiful, and painfully young, elf who is desperately in love with a 13-year-old human farmgirl. She loves him -- or, at any rate, she lusts for him. None of their parents would think this a desirable situation, if they knew about it. But it's a small town....

Painfully young for an elf - 500 years? 2000? Or does elves live by human time in his universe? Are there other races in the little village? Dwarves? Orcs? Trolls? Pixies? Are humans and elves even able to reproduce together? Will their pheromones exite each others? Will the offspring be fertile? Are there ghettos of half-elves, and perhaps even generations of half-elves, interbred with elves and humans until the differences are cultural rather than physical? Does humans and elves interbreed with other races? Can there be orc/human/elf/dwarf mutts?

I know, I know, these questions shatter the romantic image of human/elf love, so thoroughly branded on our minds since Aragorn and Arwen, but to me the wonderful part of playing MUDs was to get into these discussions, constructing societies from the bottom, where such details created the depth and the logic of the roles we played. Yep, I miss a good role-playing MUD!

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