loreology: dark elves

If you’ve got a memory like an elephant, the old saying goes, then your noggin’s in good shape. Mine, when challenged under the gun, tends to shoot blanks. I’m a research kind of guy, not a living, breathing almanac…. Each week “Loreology” will unravel the mysteries behind something in gaming that I may have known once and completely forgot, or something that I should probably know and cram up into my nearly full brain cavity.

This Week: In the Dark

Every time I mention Drizzt Do’Urden I have to look up how to spell his name. Of course I know who he is–most famous character in R.A. Salvatore’s “Dark Elf” books, butt-kicking Dungeons & Dragons character–but there are too many Zs and vowels in there for me to remember. As the most popular dark elf character in recent memory, you might have thought Drizzt single-handedly spawned an entire fantasy race of underground elves in all the books and games that came after. Not so, grasshopper.

Dark elves date back to Norse mythology. The Svartalfar, loosely translated as “black elves,” were subterranean creatures that worked the forges, and blacksmithing soot may have been the cause of their “black” skin color. The forges lined the lowest level of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. That’s pretty deep, and about as far removed from the popular concept of elves ruling above-ground forests. Actually, the original dark elves had more in common with dwarves.

When I think dark elves now, I tend to think vicious, cunning criminals. But maybe that’s just me and the fact that I’ve been skewered one too many times by drow in spider-infested dungeon corridors. Or maybe not. For those who are looking to explore the new Warhammer: Age of Reckoning online game (now in Beta and due out this fall), one of the game’s six major races, the dark elves, are master betrayers and slyer than corrupt politicians. They know how to manipulate magic and argue with a sword too.

About the only thing they don’t know how to do is spell “Do’Urden”…nor do they care.


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