Elves DA2

A humanoid race, elves are typically shorter than humans (though this has been mitigated slightly since Dragon Age: Origins) and have a slender, lithe build, larger eyes, and pointed ears. Long ago, the elves were the dominant race on Thedas, and their advanced civilization was based on nature, the Fade and magic. After the fall of their great city of Arlathan and the empire of Elvhenan, plunder by the Tevinter Imperium and the subsequent generations of slavery, the elves lost most of their cultural heritage and identity. They attempted to rebuild their society in the Dales, but after three centuries the Dales fell to one of the Chantry's Exalted Marches.

Since then, the elves have separated into two distinct groups: the Dalish, who choose to lead nomadic lives and strive to keep elven culture alive rather than submit, and the city elves, who live alongside humans, usually as impoverished outcasts, and have adopted many human customs. Many elves are still held as slaves within Tevinter, and many others have joined the Qunari in hopes for better lives. Overall, the elves are now a people associated with poverty, crime and barbarism, and are often used as scapegoats for humanity's difficulties. In Ancient Tevinter elves were called "rattus".[1] Modern humans use the racial slurs "knife ears," "slant-eared"[2] or, less cruelly, "rabbit."[3] Though most of the elven language has been lost, they once referred to themselves as "elvhen," which means "the People".


In Dragon Age: Origins, elves are able to play all three classes, warrior, rogue and mage; an elven Warden can choose the Dalish elf, city elf or magi origin.

Racial benefits of elves: +2 Willpower, +2 magic

In Dragon Age: Inquisition, elves are able to take on the role of a Dalish Inquisitor.

Racial benefits of elves: +25% Ranged Defense against all ranged attacks, including magical projectiles[4]

History Edit

Once, my people walked this land as gods. We worked magic that would blind you with its beauty. Now, we lurk in the deep forests and prepare for the next time you shemlen do something that upsets the balance of this world.

Pre-historical times Edit

Main article: Elvhenan

This section contains spoilers for:

Elves were once a race of beautiful, ethereal immortals that originated from the Fade. They manifested into the material world and built their civilization on the earth. The Veil didn't exist and the Fade was considered to be the sky. Their civilization was unchallenged and had coexisted harmoniously with nature and spirits, and the elves have prospered for what looked to be an eternity.

However, this changed following the conclusion of an unknown war. The generals who fought in it gradually came to be revered as gods, becoming the Evanuris. The Evanuris were malevolent despots, they warred among themselves, enslaved their own kin and branded the slaves with the vallaslin, and committed unspeakable atrocities that overshadow even modern despots.

Solas (Fen'Harel) began a rebellion against the Evanuris after they had murdered Mythal (whom he was close to and considered the best of them) and began to threaten the world with their excesses. Unable to kill them and finding every alternative solution worse, Solas sealed the Evanuris away by creating the Veil, banishing the false-gods to suffer eternally for their sins, and sundering the physical world from the Fade.

However, though the elves and the world were effectively rid of the Evanuris, the creation of the Veil was catastrophic for Elvhenan and the People. The very foundation of their civilization had been tied to the presence of the Fade, including their immortality. When the Veil was created, their cities and structures crumbled, and the elves became mortal and began to age and die. By the time the Tevinter Imperium had conquered and enslaved them all centuries later, the elves were already severely diminished.


Arlathan Forest

Recorded history and legends Edit

DAI Crossroads

The "Crossroads": a wonder of the ancient elves

The elves of Thedas live no longer than humans, but elven legends state that this was not always the case. Once they were an immortal race and "magic came as easily to them as breathing" with some of their spells taking years to cast and echoing for decades in an unending symphony[6]. They lived in harmony with the natural world and worshipped a pantheon of their own gods. Their magic was able to accomplish seemingly impossible feats, such as the creation of the unique, Fade-like world of the "Crossroads" and the maintenance of the magical repository of Vir Dirthara.

Elven lore holds that the first shemlen (a term meaning "quick children" that was used by the ancient elves to describe the humans and denote their shorter lives[7]) they encountered were tribal people who came south from Par Vollen. The ancient elves grew friendly with humans, but soon discovered that breeding with humans produced only human babies, while exposure to the "quick children" caused the elves to quicken themselves. For the first time, elves began to age and die.[8]

Elven archer statue

An elven hunter carved by the ancients

In fear, the elves withdrew from human contact. Unfortunately, the human tribes gave way to the Tevinter Imperium, who, after the disappearance of many of their ambassadors and settlements, viewed the elves' isolation as hostility and declared war in -981 Ancient. Elvhenan, the elven homeland, was besieged for six years, but was invaded when the magisters used blood magic to sink the elves' capital city of Arlathan into the ground, never to be seen again. As a result, elven survivors were quickly enslaved and evidence of their culture was lost.[7] With the enslavement, all elves eventually quickened and their immortality was lost. The elven calendar, established with the formation of Arlathan, was banned by the Imperium. Although its existence is recognized by modern scholars outside of Tevinter, knowledge of how elves marked the passage of time beyond a few events is now forgotten.[9] The exact details of the war are lost to history, though artifacts found in Imperial ruins within the Brecilian Forest[10] suggest Elvhenan was looted or that some elves joined the Imperium bringing artifacts with them. The elves, however, believe Arlathan lost to the Imperium because their gods couldn't intervene, since they were sealed away by the seemingly treacherous Fen'Harel.

The elven hero Shartan

After generations of slavery, the elven slaves, under Shartan's leadership, were among the most fervent supporters of the prophetess Andraste's uprising against the Tevinter Imperium. Shartan and the elves fought alongside Andraste in her quest to depose the Tevinter magisters in 1020 TE,[9] and they were rewarded for their loyalty by being granted land in the Dales upon Andraste's victory. They called their journey to their new homeland the Long Walk. Many perished on the way, some even returned to Tevinter, but most continued the walk.[11]

Area-The Dales

Map of the Dales

In the Dales, the elves created a second elven homeland and began to restore the lost lore and culture of Elvhenan, including the worship of their elven gods. They built their first city, Halamshiral ("end of the journey"[11]), and isolated themselves from the humans. The borders were guarded by an order named the Emerald Knights.[12] For some years, humans loyal to Andraste's memory respected their elven allies. But over the generations, and as the Chant of Light and the religion of the Maker spread throughout the cities of their human neighbors as Drakon launched his Exalted Marches and established the Orlesian Empire[13], the diplomatic relationships between the Dales and humans soured, as the elves refused to convert and remained isolated. Human historians claim this hostility was compounded by the Dalish's inaction during the Second Blight. Humans claim the war with the elves began when a small elven raiding party attacked the nearby human town of Red Crossing in 2:9 Glory, leading to the Chantry eventually calling an Exalted March against the elves when they had captured Montsimmard and besieged Val Royeaux, claiming they had been attacked by the Dales.[9] The Dalish claim templars invaded the Dales after the elves kicked out Chantry missionaries from their sovereign territory because the elves refused to convert to the Andrastian faith.[14]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Written accounts from Din'an Hanin, the tomb of the Emerald Knights, suggest that there is some truth to both claims, that both sides were responsible for escalating hostilities between Orlais and the Dales.

As the Dales fell, the elves were forced to abandon their second homeland and have not had another since, and their culture was torn even further from them. Many elves accepted the terms of their human aggressors, going to live in alienages inside human cities and worshipping the Maker. Those elves who resisted became the nomadic Dalish, maintaining the worship of the elven gods and continuing their efforts to recover the lost culture of Elvhenan.[14]

As of 9:40 Dragon, any Chantry art in Orlais depicting elves has been destroyed save a single original mural of Shartan with his ears docked, and a faithful copy at the University of Orlais.[15] Some modern Orlesian scholars have been asked to author treatises (in part to weaken Empress Celene) on how elves are little more than prey animals based on their "rabbit" ears and bestial intelligence, and that establishing a relationship with one is an insult to the Maker akin to laying with an animal.[16]

In the centuries following the fall of the Dales, some elves have been able to rise above their circumstances: most notably the Grey Warden Garahel, who slew the Archdemon Andoral and ended the Fourth Blight, as well as Briala (who can become the first Elven Marquise).

However, there is still a lot of progress to be made. Even modern-day Ferelden, for example, city elves are not allowed to bear arms.[17] In Orlais, may only carry blades the length of one's palm.[18] Alienage purges still occur regularly.[19] Many elves are still enslaved in Tevinter, and many elves are often kidnapped, and are even voluntarily, sent to Tevinter to be sold into slavery, Fereldan elves were also considered chattel and bought and sold as property during the Orlesian occupation.[20] As a result, many elves that live in Qunari occupied lands have chosen to embrace the Qun in hopes for better lives, with many even being recruited to become Ben-Hassrath spies.

This section contains spoilers for:

After the events of the Exalted Council in 9:44 Dragon, elves begin to stream from the Inquisition, their positions as servants, and even Dalish clans throughout the land, apparently to join the rebel god Fen'Harel.[21]

Culture Edit

Elven art 1

Alienage elves Edit

Main article: City elves
We are a free people, but that was not always so. Andraste, the Maker's prophet, freed us from the bonds of slavery. As our community grows, remember that our strength lies in our commitment to tradition and to each other. ―Valendrian, Hahren of the Denerim Alienage[22]
Elven art 2

Alienages are closed communities of elves living in human cities, often walled off and found in the poorest, more crime-ridden parts of the city, while elves in villages lacking alienages make their home in barns or sheds. Their inhabitants are typically impoverished and survive by taking menial and unrewarding tasks or even begging. In the most desperate cases, they might leave the alienage and enter a life of crime, or sell themselves into slavery to support their families. They can join the Chantry, such as becoming a Templar, but this is rare and racial biases usually preclude it.[23]

Though overall treatment varies kingdom to kingdom, city elves are universally second-class citizens. Elves are, by law or prejudice, unable to join most organizations or hold decent jobs, and the law often turns a blind eye to their abuses. Slavery is still legal in the Tevinter Imperium and there's a lucrative demand for elven slaves along with servants for nobles. They are often seen as beautiful by humans despite their low status. In Ferelden, for example, the social position of elves as "Low Freemen" is comparable to that of prostitutes and criminals, though they may make a living as they can.[24]

Having been heavily discriminated by humans for so long, most city elves try to hold onto their remaining heritage. Artifacts from Arlathan like the vhenadahl (literally, "The Tree of the People") and an abiding deep pride in their close-knit communities bolster city elves trying to make ends meet in an otherwise hostile world. As such, elves that leave the alienage and try to enter human society are heavily looked down upon as "flat ears". Families that do try to leave alienages and live among humans will most likely be forced to return because of violence against them.[25]

Marriage is highly important for city elves; it is the rite of adulthood in elven communities and will often be prearranged in order for new blood to join an otherwise concentrated gene pool. The absolute worst thing an elf could do is marry or breed outside their race since only humans are born between elven and human unions; which is adverse for such limited communities that depends on each other and tradition for day-to-day survival.

Furthermore, their closer relationship can sometimes result in what are known as Elf-blooded children, of both human and elven parentage, though these children appear (and technically are) completely human.

Most city elves have adopted the faith of Andraste and the Maker, while some still pray to the Elven gods in secret due to the prohibition of the elven pantheon in Andrastian society[26].

Known alienages Edit

Dalish elves Edit

Main article: Dalish

Dalish elves seek to recover, inherit and preserve the knowledge and sacred treasures of the two fallen kingdoms. They lead nomadic lives as a means of survival, wandering throughout Thedas. Due to the numerous threats they face from Andrastian humans, the Dalish are known to be wary and apprehensive of outsiders. Their clans date back to the ruling clans of the Dales and the Dalish themselves are their descendants.

Known Dalish clans Edit

Redemption dalish camp

Yevven's clan was massacred by a Tal-Vashoth Saarebas.

Interaction between city and Dalish elves Edit

City elves larger

An elf's lot in Thedas and in Chantry culture[37]

The Dalish elves and city elves in particular have a strange and bitter relationship, dating from the splitting of the People after the fall of the Dales. Some Dalish view their city brethren suspiciously and with pity as "flat-ears,"[33] culturally human elves who are no different "than their shemlen masters."[38] To some, they are seen as having given up on and forgotten their culture, and the hope is to teach these elves their past when a new homeland is founded.[39] Not all Dalish share this view of the city elves, however. [40] Some Dalish also hope that the two can learn from one another once they gain an autonomous homeland. [41]

On the other hand, some city elves see the Dalish as near-myths: strange and savage "wood elves"[42] living far from humans and preying upon the unwary;[43] and yet somehow noble, as well.[44] To others, the Dalish are seen as "savages", primitive elves who refuse to see the promise of the alienage, and live off the land in ways the average city elf could not.[45] Indeed, city elves who choose to leave or live beyond the Alienage are labeled "flat-ears" as well by their city kin[33], ironically similar to how some Dalish view the Andrastian elves, and subject to violence or resentment from other city elves.

And yet, for all this uncertainty, city and Dalish elves still interact positively now and then. For Alienage elves who seek to leave their home due to desperation, poverty or abuse, wandering Dalish clans are often seen as a sort of "last resort" haven. They are normally willing to take in a refugee from the cities and to largely refrain from attacking a city elf on the road[46], despite their uncertainty, and train them in the ways of their Creators and culture.[47] Similarly, Alienages may take in a Dalish elf who has broken with their clan voluntarily or involuntarily.[48]

Elven mages tend to be grouped to the Dalish mindset along with city elves.[49] This is particularly the case as they have turned not only their lives but their magic over to the human Chantry and Maker, and the Circle of Magi, with the Circles being implied to have played a role in the fall of the Dales. [50]

Elven language Edit

Main article: Elven language

The elven language, or Elvish, was largely lost when Elvhenan fell to civil war and its people eventually defeated and enslaved. When the elves settled their second homeland, the Dales, they aimed to restore their lost language and lore, but the Dales fell to an Exalted March. The Elvish of the Dragon Age is thus a fragmented remnant, a few words that are thrown into conversation rather than a working language used to conduct everyday life. The Dalish Elves, self-appointed custodians of the elven language and lore, use more Elvish than their City Elf brethren. Living among humans, the City Elves now retain only a few old Elvish words whose origin is almost forgotten, such as shem — derived from shemlen, the old Elvish term for humans meaning "quickling" or "quick children," — and hahren — the leader of an Alienage, meaning "elder" in Elvish.

The Dalish have more of the language. They are more capable of forming whole phrases and sentences, but the language is still fragmented and largely incomplete despite their efforts. Da'len, which means "little child" and is typically used to address elves younger than oneself. Andaran atish'an, a phrase used for greeting to friends and fellow Dalish. Serannas is “thanks”, while ma serannas is "my thanks" or "many thanks". Aneth ara is an informal greeting often used among friends. Dareth shiral is a way of saying good-bye.

Notes Edit


Alienage elf

  • The children of elves and any other race are not elven.[51] Elves and humans produce a human child, elves and dwarves produce dwarves etc. Such children may be referred to as "half-elf" or "half-breed" in a slanderous fashion, while the term "elf-blooded" is a legal distinction. Children between elves and dwarves are extremely rare due to the small number of surface dwarves, the innate low fertility of dwarves, and the elves' reclusive mating practices, all attribute to the increased difficulty in mating between the two races.[52]
  • When female elves become broodmothers, they produce shrieks and Emissaries.
  • Elves see better in the dark than humans, and their eyes glint like those of a cat in the dark. This is likely the result of an ocular structure called tapetum lucidum.[53][54] This ability is also shared by the dwarves; however, as dwarven eyes are never described as shining, likely for different reasons.[55]
  • Elves tend to be more susceptible in following the Qun than other races, which is considered a particular danger in the Tevinter Imperium. As spies for the Qunari they may go so far as to sell themselves back into slavery in order to move undetected through non-Qunari lands.[56]
  • Banter between Fenris and Varric Tethras in Dragon Age II reveals that elves are unable to grow facial hair.
  • Despite historic hostilities and long-lived defamation towards the elves, humans often find them to be beautiful and physically attractive, as explained by both Zevran Arainai and Leliana in dialogue.[57]

Trivia Edit


Elves in Dragon Age: Inquisition

  • Unlike the elves of many other fantasy settings, the elves of the Dragon Age setting are not antagonistic towards the dwarves, though Zevran and Oghren's dialogue contains a joking reference to this fantasy trope.
  • The elves in Dragon Age II, as with other races, have been redesigned to create more space between the individual races.[58] The Dalish now feature Welsh and Irish accents (city elves retain the accent of whatever region they live in) and have been given tall, willowy frames and thin faces with large eyes, straight noses and small features, as opposed to being the "short, pointy-eared humans" in Dragon Age Origins. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, these changes have been reverted to a point, though elves still appear very distinct from humans, in particular in regards to ears, nose, eyes and body structure.
  • David Gaider stated that the Dalish elves were inspired by Northern Native Americans.[59] [60] He also revealed that the inspiration for Andrastian elves came from the Jewish people (i.e. lost homeland, ghettos, ect). [61]
  • It is unknown whether or not Dalish elves live longer than city elves, since David Gaider and Mary Kirby have given conflicting information regarding their longevity.[62][63]
  • Though elves are much diminished from what they once were, they nevertheless retain an unusual connection to the Fade that makes them unfortunately useful as subjects in magical rituals.[64]
  • To many of the nations of Thedas, but especially Orlais and the Tevinter Imperium, elves--of common blood and as a rule without titles--are generally little respected. Using them as messengers or emissaries may actually be considered an insult.[65]
  • City elves participated in the Fereldan Rebellion under the leadership of Loghain Mac Tir in his Night Elves unit.[66]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Inquisition.

  • Though seemingly impossible, ancient elves do exist in remote corners of Thedas by prolonging their lives via uthenera.[67]

  • Elven slaves were among the few who rallied to the fledgling order of Grey Wardens during the seemingly-endless First Blight. They offered ancient knowledge in the hopes of being freed by the Wardens after the defeat of Dumat, as well as being considered equals in the Order, and played a role in the creation of the Joining Ritual.[68]
  • Gallery Edit

    References Edit

    1. As told by Corypheus during the final battle with the elven Inquisitor, if the Inquisitor is aware of the nature of vallaslin. Otherwise, Corypheus imparts its true meaning on them here.
    2. According to Tevinter guards during quest Unrest in the Alienage.
    3. RACISM AND REACTIONS in Dragon Age: Inquisition
    4. Twitter icon Mike Laidlaw . Twitter.
    5. Dragon Age: The Masked Empire, pp. 201-202
    6. Dialogue with Solas in Haven
    7. 7.0 7.1 Dragon Age II: The Complete Official Guide, "Elves"
    8. Codex entry: Arlathan: Part One
    9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Dragon Age: Origins: Prima Official Game Guide, Collector's Edition
    10. During Dragon Age: Origins, Sten and Morrigan state the ruins are of Tevinter origin. A Dalish elf will find an elven statue and an Eluvian in a ruin during The Lost Mysteries of the Ancients.
    11. 11.0 11.1 Codex entry: The Long Walk
    12. Codex entry: The City Elves
    13. Codex entry: The History of the Chantry: Chapter 4
    14. 14.0 14.1 Codex entry: The Dales
    15. preview of The Masked Empire.
    16. Dragon Age: The Masked Empire, p. 112
    17. According to Pol.
    18. Dragon Age: The Masked Empire, p. 115
    19. Halamshiral was purged in 9:40, Denerim was purged at least twice in the Dragon Age
    20. Codex entry: History of Ferelden: Chapter 2
    21. Epilogue (Trespasser)
    22. Spoken as a wedding blessing during the City Elf Origin.
    23. Twitter icon Mike Laidlaw . Twitter.
    24. Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Blood in Ferelden, p. 14
    25. Codex entry: Alienage Culture
    26. The quests Flowers for Senna and Shallow Breaths feature city elves that pray to Falon'Din and Sylaise respectively.
    27. Mentioned in Dragon Age: Warden's Fall. The dwarf Bartholomew runs a brothel employing elves from the alienage.
    28. See Orsino.
    29. Dragon Age logo - new Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 2, p. 276
    30. Alienage Culture. BioWare wiki.
    31. Dragon Age: The Masked Empire, pp. 357-358, 375
    32. Mentioned by Alarith.
    33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Codex entry: Alienage Culture
    34. Codex entry: Eluvians.
    35. Codex entry: Vir Atish'an
    36. The Guide of Falon'Din
    37. Dragon Age logo - new Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 1, p. 27
    38. According to dialogue upon meeting Mithra at the Dalish Camp, when playing the City Elf Origin or elven Magi Origin.
    39. According to Gheyna, and conversation with Sarel in the Dalish Camp. See also Codex entry: The City Elves from the Dalish perspective.
    40. As evidenced by Dalish elves like Merrill.
    41. According to conversation with Paivel during the Dalish Origin.
    42. During conversation with Soris, he may mention that the City Elf's father, Cyrion Tabris, used to tell stories of "happy wood elves living far from humans"
    43. According to conversation with Soris and Taeodor during the City Elf Origin.
    44. In the introductory cutscene of the quest Night Terrors, elves of the Kirkwall Alienage bow and curtsy to Keeper Marethari.
    45. Alarith, who has had personal dealings with a Dalish clan, will tell the Warden during the City Elf Origin nonetheless that "everything worth fighting for" is in the alienage.
    46. Alarith was spared by the Dalish on his way to the Denerim Alienage.
    47. Pol is an example of a city elf-turned Dalish.
    48. Arianni and Merrill are examples of Dalish elf making a life in the cities.
    49. An elven Warden of the Magi Origin will initially be treated with the same suspicion as a Warden of the City Elf Origin by Zathrian's clan in Dragon Age: Origins.
    50. According to conversation with Ariane during Witch Hunt.
    51. Twitter icon Patrick Weekes . Twitter.
    52. BSN David Gaider (2009). "Where are the half-races?" . The BioWare Forum. Retrieved on August 25, 2013.
    53. Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne pp. 71, 149
    54. Dragon Age: The Masked Empire, p. 186
    55. Dragon Age logo - new Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 1, p. 34
    56. Codex entry: Qunari of Other Races
    57. Also revealed to non-Dalish origin Wardens in Codex entry: Aravels where halla and elves are both praised for their beauty.
    58. A Look At The Qunari, Evolved. Gameinformer
    59. BSN Gaider, David (November 14, 2009). "Thedas nations-real world historical insperations?" . The BioWare Forum. Retrieved on June 11, 2015.
    60. BioWare old forums David Gaider (May 20, 2009). "Dalish elves" (archive). BioWare Forums (offline). Retrieved on May 25, 2012.
    61. Tumblr icon David Gaider"I was wondering if the elves in Dragon Age" . Tumblr.
    62. David Gaider interview
    63. BSN Mary Kirby (2013). "Which race in Dragon Age lives the longest?" . The BioWare Forum.
    64. See Note: The Claws of Dumat. Additionally, Cole and Solas comment several times on Sera's sensitivity to the Fade and the Breach.
    65. Dragon Age: Last Flight, p. 81
    66. Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, p. 150
    67. See Abelas and the Sentinel elves of the Temple of Mythal.
    68. Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Game Master's Guide, set 2, p. 3
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