A long-running graphic novel series about a quest, by elves, for elves, which was started in 1978 and continues to this day with the launch of 'Final Quest' in October 2013.Wendy and Richard Pini, founders of WaRP Graphics (now just Warp Graphics) created a world of short, pointy-eared humanoids who face the consequences of constant wars on their planet. The norm for comic books during that time was mostly super heroes, fistfights and explosions. ElfQuest, however, surprised the market with its strong focus on character drama and pathos, discussing topics such as polyamory, racism and genocide right from the start.The series quickly gained fans, because there was nothing else that came close to its gorgeous graphics, elegant characterizations and explosion-less storyline. The full story spans thousands of years, and includes very mature themes (war, sex, torture and Mind Rape, to name a few), handled with grace and featuring incredibly beautiful artwork.Cutter leads the Wolfriders, a small tribe of elves (17 total) who bond to wolves as friends and mounts. Cutter is young, but he's led the tribe since the death of his chieftain father six years before. They're a simple folk, who hunt what food they need and dwell in relative harmony with the forest and with each other. They have a small amount of magic among them, which includes certain rare talents (such as healing, plant manipulation, etc.) and the ability to use sending, or telepathy.The Wolfriders are unaware that the elves are the descendants of immortal alien explorers, who crash landed on the planet ten thousand years before. After being attacked by primitive humans, they lost their ship to one of their own group, and remained stuck on the planet forever. The ancestors of these aliens formed different tribes and found ways to survive: some by travelling across the desert to become farmers, some by choosing a life deep in the ocean, and one — Timmain — by transforming herself into a wolf and living with the animals. The Wolfriders and their pack of wolves are her mortal descendants, proud of their part wolf, part elf heritage, but unaware where Timmain came from originally or why she chose a life as a wolf. During the journey through space, other critters who were taken along on the space ship had slowly evolved into trolls and fairies (called "Preservers" by the elves), making the setting closely resemble a basic fantasy world. The planet's human tribes — crude, superstitious and hostile — are still hunting the elves in the present day.After being cast out from their forest by a nearby group of humans, the Wolfriders find the Sun Folk, a peaceful tribe of dark-skinned elves who live in the desert. The Wolfriders initially settle in the village, and Cutter becomes the lifemate of the healer Leetah. They soon have two children: future chieftess Ember and magic prodigy Suntop. Several years later, Cutter decides to search for other tribes, and the Wolfriders end up encountering the Gliders (an ancient mountain tribe), the Go-Backs (magicless snow elves) and many adversaries of all races. Their strongest opponent by far is Winnowill, an ancient elf who has become mad over the centuries, as well as Winnowill's son Two-Edge, a tragic half-elf-half-troll Anti-Villain. After the elves' quest leads them to finally discover the origins of the tribes, Leetah's former lover, Rayek, becomes fascinated by Winnowill to the point of seeing himself as her lifemate — and becomes a Well-Intentioned Extremist adversary for much of the following arcs. Eventually, following roughly twenty thousand years of storylines, the tribes disperse and the series largely turns to individual Character Focus.After many years of successful publication, the creators decided to let other authors and artists step in, with varying levels of success. Some of these are considered Canon Discontinuity even by the authors, but for the most part, the canon was continued by "new blood" and took off into some unexpected directions. Wendy Pini eventually returned to the series, but the quality of her recent stories is also controversial among fans. Regardless, the series is loved by fans all over the world, and ElfQuest is considered a groundbreaking, epic series that changed many of the comic industry's conventions.The full series has been re-published many times over, although the original hand-drawn pencils and organic colors were never redone. For computer-colored versions of the entire series, go here: It's all online. (Beware Death By Archive.)A new series is currently ongoing.
Skywise: Um, you don't seem to be carrying much water.
Cutter: I'll explain later, on higher ground.
Aborted Arc - Future Quest to avoid spoilers for things planned for earlier in the timeline; the first Wavedancers series (because of a dispute with the artist and writer hired by Warp for the story), Mender's Tale (at least completely available in script form now), and Recognition for business reasons.
The Ageless: The Elves ( except for the Wolfriders) do not die of old age.
Air Hugging: in the first novel. A bit strange because Cutter and Redlance are implied to have sex with each other elsewhere, but all in all quite justified when one considers that Redlance was very badly injured.
Alien Sky - Obviously, since this is the World Of Two Moons (later "Abode"), not Earth.
Ape Shall Never Kill Ape - The "first" time this happens ("in the collective memory of the tribes" at least, and after several failed attempts), when Strongbow kills Kureel, he falls into a deep depression for over a full issue.
Before Cutter and Strongbow had to kill humans to rescue Redlance at the beginning of the series, Cutter hadn't even been sure it was possible to do so; this implies that this trope had previously extended to Ape Shall Never Kill Other Species Of Ape.
Arms And Armor Theme Naming: Strongbow's son is named Dart, and Dart's son is Bowki (combining his father's name with his erstwhile friend Geoki). The line can be extended to four generations if you use "archery" rather than "weapons" as theme: Strongbow's mother was named Trueflight.
As You Know: ALL OVER Discovery. It's also what makes the catch-up scene near the beginning of the very second story, Siege at Blue Mountain, somewhat clunky. The Pinis managed to avoid it, mostly, in the third story, Kings of the Broken Wheel.
Nonna and Adar, and later their adopted kids (who are other WaRP creators named after various WaRP projects).
In addition to this, Wendy has stated that while Nonna and Adar are the human counterparts of her and Richard, Cutter and Skywise are their elven counterparts. Wendy's initial plot included killing off Skywise early on, in the ninth issue, but when she mentioned it, Richard reportedly said "you can't do that, he's my elf."
What tipped the scales was the fact that Skywise was the nearest thing his tribe had to an astronomer, since that was also Richard's hobby.
Babies Ever After: Practically every story arc ends with one elf pregnant: Rainsong starts out pregnant in the very first issue, Leetah is pregnant at the end of the first arc, Dewshine and Kahvi at the end of the first Palace war, Nightfall after the elves move to the new continent, Tyleet (Nightfall's daughter) at the end of the arc before the second Palace war, Krim at the end of the second Palace war, Behtia after the little Palace war, Dodia after the Forevergreen quest, Moonshade after The Searcher And The Sword, and Brill after Discovery.
Except maybe Skywise, whose initial reaction to seeing his daughter Yun is somewhat of an "Oh Crap". He's visibly relieved when Yun immediately says she doesn't expect him to act like a daddy. They still quickly become friends.
Also somewhat subverted with Pike, being the child of Rain and Rain's first lifemate. As a wolfrider, he should technically have been born as a result of Recognition, it being the only way for wolfriders to have children within the tribe. However, Rain was a healer, and managed to use his powers to force conception, resulting in Pike. All sides agree that the experiment should be considered "tampering with nature too much", and although it's never really revealed whether or not Pike has anything wrong with him, Leetah expresses (carefully worded) concern over his ability to ever Recognize someone himself. However, the process is repeated by Leetah on purpose when she helps Nightfall and Redlance conceive, using the Palace's magic amplification to complete the experiment and to force both conception and Recognition. Apparently that worked much better, since Tyleet ends up with a soul name and ability to Recognize.
Justified by the elves' tiny population and slow rate of reproduction (two year pregnancies).
The Go-Backs, who don't do any of that magic stuff. They just fight bears. With spears. They die often, but they make a lot of babies without even needing to Recognize. When a young Go-Back does turn out to have telekinetic powers, Kahvi tells him in very clear terms to cut that shit out.
Lehrigen: He's human. And he learns enough tracking and woodlore to put him on an equal footing with the elves.
Better as Friends: Shuna thinks she and Kimo would have been a couple if they'd been of the same species. It's unclear whether or not Kimo agrees, but regardless, they end up being best friends. (She also seems to be in denial about the fact that Kimo is Dart's lovemate.)
Cutter and Nightfall. As the youngest children in the tribe, it seemed like they would end up together, but Nightfall soon became Redlance's lifemate. After Leetah is kidnapped, Redlance and Nightfall invite Cutter to become their mate for as long as it takes, but their love for him never becomes romantic.
At least once prior to Leetah's kidnapping, Redlance and Nightfall invited both Cutter and Leetah to share their bed; they stated that they thought of Leetah as a part of their family after she used her healing magic to help them conceive.
Bond Creatures: The wolves and giant birds. Justified with the wolves, who have a trace of elf-blood just as the elves have a trace of wolf-blood. Some of the more "mixed" wolves (like Blackfell) have rudimentary telepathic abilities.
Brats with Slingshots: Ember, when she's younger. She's still using a slingshot when she's 16, but moves on to a sword. Still hunts mice with it, though, saving her half of the tribe from starvation.
The Rebels/Jink/FutureQuest, especially the first, might be this way due to Ahdri still resting in wrapstuff in the cave on the Bridge of Destiny in The Rebels, but being rescued from the Troll caves below the Holt in The Searcher and the Sword. Of course, many fans don't believe those three future stories ever existed, so it might not be a problem after all.
Also, the first Wavedancers series.
In Wolfrider, Wendy prefaces a chapter with the statement that other versions of the events have been written before — and that a legend can be told in many ways. The version of events in Wolfrider is generally considered the only one that's canon, because it was written and drawn by Wendy.
Cannot Spit It Out: One rare example: Zhantee keeps his love for Leetah a secret, likely because Leetah is lifemated to their chief, Cutter. He's open about his respect and admiration for her, but never says that his feelings are romantic. When Cutter finds out, he tells Zhantee that they could have been a threesome centuries ago if Zhantee had only told him. Too bad this is moments before Zhantee dies.
Can't Argue with Elves: Played utterly and completely straight... until the main tribe meets another race of elves who are taller, purer, older and more magical. And arrogant to boot.
Cast of Snowflakes: Done with exquisite care and attention to such details as Ember strongly resembling Leetah — not merely in coloring, but in facial features — but with Cutter's nose; or Dart having his father's features, but his mother's eyes.
Character Development: Many elves, most notably Rayek. He always stays arrogant and self-absorbed, but does come to realize just how much pain he's caused Cutter and the tribes. After he decides to save the world, rather than "improve" it according to his own design, he lets Cutter take his revenge on him and becomes a full-on ally in the second Palace war. And then, when Big Bad Winnowill unleashes her full power, he traps her soul inside his own mind without hesitation - knowing full well that as her "jailor", he will have to live in agony, solitude and constant vigilance for all eternity.
The Chief's Daughter: Ember goes through a classic trope-fulfilling phase once she reaches puberty. She starts dressing in a leather bikini, wants to meet boys from outside the tribe, and spends most of her time sulking and talking to her wolf-friend. Some years later, though, she becomes chief of her own tribe, and turns out to actually have leadership qualities.
Also fitting the trope: Rahnee (who spends a lot of time rebelling against her father) Goodtree (who goes on a Vision Quest before she can properly become chief), Shuna (chief Cutter's adopted human daughter, who tries really hard to be exotic and elfin when she starts meeting human men), Vaya (who dies in battle, but not before she finds a boyfriend outside the tribe and defies chief Kahvi's wishes), Kahvi herself (who didn't get along at all with her chief father Two-Spear and left the tribe in a huff), and Venka (Kahvi's second daughter, who... actually gracefully evades the trope).
And don't forget Leetah herself. She's the exotic daughter of one of her tribe's two spiritual leaders, she starts her role in the plot being kidnapped by (and falling in love with) the white main character, and the entire first story arc is about two men fighting over her: the white hero 400 years younger than her, and the proud dark-skinned hunter she grew up with that she was about to get "engaged" to. Guess who wins.
Chekhov's Skill: Did you remember that Rayek could seal the spirits of the dead in his own mind and body? Neither did Winnowill.
Childhood Friend Romance: Mender and Ember, when Ember is desparate to lose her virginity. It doesn't last. (Cutter, who isn't keen on Ember getting intimate with some stranger, actually asks Skywise to take care of it — but Skywise refuses, because he knows Ember is looking for someone outside the tribe.)
Debt Detester: This is ostensibly Rayek's reason for helping Leetah to save Cutter's life after the disastrous battle with the snow trolls. In reality he probably did it out of compassion, though he'd never admit it.
Did You Die?: In a Barry Blair story featuring an Indiana Jones style adventure. At the beginning of Part 2 one of the people the hero is telling his adventure to says something like, "So what happened next? I want to find out if you got killed or not."
Different as Night and Day: A community version of the trope showed up early. The Wolfriders are a tribe of fair skinned hunters who preferred the night in their original homeland, while the Sun Folk were a dark skinned community of peaceful desert farmers who preferred the day. However, once some misunderstandings were resolved, both tribes find that they compliment each other well and merge surprisingly easily.
Easily Forgiven: Rayek collapsed the Go-Backs' lodge on top of their Chief, Kahvi, and banished the rest, calling them magic-less degenerates, as Disproportionate Retribution for not protecting his mentor Ekuar and his daughter's "death" (whether or not the Go-Backs were to blame for these things is another matter); Treestump and Clearbrook watch him do it, and don't give him any more than a mild scolding.
Emotionless Girl: Venka can appear to be this, as can Moonshade. Both are a lot deeper than they seem. Venka is simply intensely calm and responsible, and Moonshade is entirely devoted to her lifemate, the two of them living together in emotional isolation from the rest of the tribe.
Everyone Is Bi: According to Word Of God, all elves are bisexual. Although some of them seem to have a strong preference: Dart is mostly gay, Skywise is mostly straight, etc.
Face Your Fears: Cutter and Rayek have to do this during the "Trial of the heart".
Fairy Companion: Petalwing, right down to annoying the hell out of the elves it's "helping."
Fantastic Racism: Winnowill is very prejudiced against the Wolfriders, due to them having a trace of wolf blood (and their wolves having a trace of elf blood, for that matter). She's unwilling to accept that Timmain's life as a wolf, bearing the elf-wolf children that would become the Wolfrider's ancestors, was her way of adapting to the new planet.
Averted when it comes to "traditional" racism: no one on the entire planet cares about skin color.
A Fate Worse Than Death: When Winnowill decides she would be stronger as a spirit, Rayek interrupts her suicide by trapping her soul inside his own. He dooms himself to live in solitude forever, never sleeping, with the woman he loves trapped inside him, ready to kill him (or worse) if he ever so much as nods off. He immediately leaves for a life of solitude, realizing his fate is too horrible for anyone else to have to look at. (His mentor/father figure Ekuar follows him, though.)
The Fettered: Venka. Calm to a fault, extremely dedicated to her task of cleansing the world of harmful magic, and always with grace and Heroic Resolve. Her dream sequence even depicts her holding a knight's shield. When the Go-Backs see her for the first time, they instantly ask her to become chief (justified - she's their old chief's daughter). And still, she never once becomes a Mary Sue.
According to this site there are some scattered around in other places too.
Final Solution: Siege at Blue Mountain - part of Winnowill's plan involves killing the Wolfriders' immortal souls'' as well as their bodies. (Admittedly there are less than twenty Wolfriders, but they're still an entire race of elf-wolf hybrids.) She fails, naturally.
Flight of Romance: Skywise is falling for Aroree anyway, but their romance is strengthened when Aroree takes him for a ride on her giant bird.
Four-Fingered Hands (Not out of laziness. Elves and trolls really do have four fingers. It took the authors at least a year to figure out that they should therefore count in base-eight, and by Retcon they do. Cutter is the "blood of eight-and-two chiefs" now.)
Freudian Excuse: To say that Two-Edge has "mommy issues" would be a towering understatement.
Genki Girl: Shen-Shen is the series' earliest example. Her niece Ember quickly catches up. Dewshine and Aroree also counted as Genki Girl archtypes at the start of the series, although both become traumatized over the course of the story: Dewshine simply matures into a calm, happy woman, but Aroree's spirit is permanently broken after witnessing her tribe's chief die.
A God Am I - Winnowill, Rayek in his middle phase, and the Djuns (warlord Grohmul and his son, Angrif) all have some disturbingly unhealthy megalomaniac traits. Subverted in Grohmul Djun's case, as he proclaims himself to be divinely omnipotent to the populace, yet is himself well aware it's not true though he hopes the palace shards will change that.
Going Native: Many, many examples. Leetah becoming a Wolfrider to be with Cutter is the most prominent one. Any of the Sunfolk or Gliders that join the Wolfriders, the Jackwolfriders or the Forevergreen group count; Suntop taking on a Wavedancer appearance to be with Brill; Shuna (a medieval human) being adopted by Wolfriders; Little Patch, Winnowill and later Mender exploring human society (since the elves consider humans savages, and vice versa); Lehrigen becoming a woodland stalker to hunt elves; Rayek living as a Go-Back for a while; and last but not least, the Jackwolves living around Sorrow's End mating with the Wolfriders' wolves.
Gonk: All but a handful of human women. Might be interpreted as how they look to elven eyes.
Bone Woman: GAAAH!! Begone, I command you, beast-eared demons! Turn your evil eyes away from us!
Skywise (sending): I - Is it a troll?
Cutter (Sending): Can't be! Trolls aren't THAT ugly!
Gratuitous German: Joellyn Auklandus likes to use German words as (basis of) Character names, e.g. "Tier" means "animal".
A lot of the "archaic" English terms the series is sprinkled with (holt, fell..) are old/basic enough that they are the same in German.
Happily Married: Many, many couples. Cutter and Leetah are the most prominent example. Moonshade and Strongbow are interesting as well, as the only couple who are exclusive in their intimacy with each other, and none of the other elves really understand their relationship — but they're completely happy.
It makes perfect sense when you consider that Moonshade and Strongbow are arguably the most wolf-like of the Wolfriders, and wolves mate for life.
Healing Hands: Healers in this series have the lay-on-hands ability to heal. With amplification, they don't even need to touch their patients, and they can heal multiple patients at once. The power has been expanded to include flesh-shaping (a painful process at times); DNA-altering; pain-inducing; inducement of child conception; and some other applications.
One wonders if they regard Christ's healing of the sick as one of the dirty parts of The Bible.
On the contrary. They might have seen a fictional character aping Christ's style, as it were, as blasphemy.
Heel Face Turn: Rayek, Two-Edge, Chot, Yun (who was never much of a Heel anyway), and Kahvi (to the Sunfolk). Gibra hoped that Haken would make a Heel Face Turn as well — although we don't find out what happened to them, it's implied that Winnowill is their daughter.
Heel Realization: Rayek suffers a massive and acute Heel Realization just as he's about to kill all of the Wolfriders (for the greater good, he thinks). It's triggered when he meets his daughter Venka for the first time, who was trained her whole life to stop him. She refuses to, telling him that it has to be his own choice. It should be noted that the grief he felt when he was told Venka died at birth was his impetus to begin the sequence of actions that culminated in in his Heel Realization. The connection is brought home when she calls him "father" for the first time and he half collapses against a wall.
Held Gaze: This comic book sage has a specific name for this trope: Recognition (which is practically a Lampshade Hanging of sorts for the supernatural version of the trope). "Soul meets soul when eyes meet eyes"; which is a powerful biological urge to mate that pretty much guarantees healthy, gifted children. Recognized Wolfriders instantly know each other's soul name/psychological "password".
The original, immortal space travelers had almost forgotten childbirth entirely until they crashed on the new, dangerous planet. Even then they weren't very prolific. Recognition unconsciously uses their telepathy to "scan" for the best biological match, and compels those two to bear a child with their best traits. It's not love, although the soul-link that's created makes that easier if they choose. This plays havoc with elves who aren't fond of their Recognised partner at all, and gets Played for Drama with Dewshine and Tyldak, who are horrified by each other. In many other cases, the elves and their existing romantic partner(s) welcome their new soulmate, either in a temporary arrangement to raise the child or as a permanent relationship.
Strongbow has one after he kills Kureel and only recovers after he begs Kureel's soul for forgiveness.
He also has one when he realizes that his conservative way of life was entirely based on nothing — there was no original "Way" to preserve, because the elves were alien explorers who crash-landed on the planet. Their entire culture was simply a temporary way to survive. Strongbow... doesn't cope very well with the information, and tells the elves to just let him die right there.
Cutter after Rayek rips his family away from him. He practically starves himself and, as he later admits to Rayek during their fight, the way he tried to cope with the grief made him think like a human - irreversibly.
Moonshade after Crescent dies.
As well as Eyes High when they kill Shale
He Who Fights Monsters: The Go-Backs taking up some of the nastier habits of Frozen Mountain Trolls, particularly eating the flesh of their enemies.
Hijacked by Ganon: It's Winnowill. It's always Winnowill. Or her son, or her father, or her lovemates, but she's always connected to it somehow.
Horse of a Different Color - Wolves for the Wolfriders (duh), "zwoots" (a sort of pseudo-camel) for the Sun Folk, giant hawks for the Gliders, and elk for the Go-Backs.
Humans Are Bastards - These humans are everything you don't want to be: cruel, Too Dumb to Live, ugly, superstititious and xenophobic. Later nuanced when the Elves meet good humans and very, very bad elves and trolls.
Howl Of Sorrow: The Wolfrider elves and their wolves share communal howls when one of their number dies, or when the elves are commemorating the dead.
I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Leetah has never seen death before when her friend Thiro suddenly dies from an animal attack. She realizes that because of her healer magic, the villagers had grown careless; but also that because she was so confident of her abilities, she was never prepared to deal with serious injury. To understand death, she ends up stabbing herself on purpose and healing her own mortal wounds, and becomes a stronger and more responsible healer by doing so.
Improvised Zipline - In an early storyline Cutter undergoes a trial during which he has to find his way down a steep cliff in a cave. He makes a rope by unlacing the legs of his breeches, but still has to make a bruising jump down the last several feet. And then trips over his unlaced breeches.
The trope's most famous Tear Jerker moment in the series was when Pike sensed his lifemate Skot had died in the war. The scene is meaningful especially because Pike and Skot couldn't Recognize: they were both males, Skot's tribe doesn't usually have Recognition, and Pike is thought to be incapable of Recognition, because he was born out of a magic experiment. The fact that Pike was able to sense Skot's death regardless of any of that means they were as close as Recognized lifemates.
I Take Offense to That Last One: An ongoing sore spot. Rayek lost all three of the trials (head, hand, heart) to Cutter. Cutter won the trial of wits with a bit of Applied Phlebotinum, and Rayek won't let it go. "Strength and Courage you may have, wolfrider. But wits? Never."
The Jailer: Rayek, in a heroic version of the trope.
Jerk Ass: Scouter doesn't start out like this, but he becomes one over time. He gets some character development very late in the series when he Recognizes Tyleet, shares his soulname with Dewshine and becomes a father. It almost redeems him as a character... and then he challenges Ember for her chief's lock. His jerk-level is reduced pretty much back to normal once he and Ember talk things through, hug it out, and he returns to his old self.
Kissing Cousins: Scouter and Tyleet. (Scouter and Nightfall (Tyleet's mother) are cousins; Scouter's father One-Eye and Nightfall's father Longbranch were brothers. This makes Scouter and Tyleet first cousins, once removed.)
Klingon Promotion: You can win the chiefs' lock by challenging the current chief. The fight can be declared to be to the death.
Cutter. Leetah was quite a bit older than him; at the start of the series he's 23, while she's around 600. However, when Leetah and her twin children are sucked away in the Palace and separated from Cutter, he and the other left-behind elves age 500 years, so when the elves are reunited, the age difference between Cutter and Leetah becomes insignificant.
Rayek and Winnowill. Winnowill is heavily implied to be firstborn (as the daughter of Haken and Gibra), making her close to 10,000 years old, whereas Rayek is about 700 or 800 years old when they first meet.
A milder example, often mentioned by the characters themselves is Nightfall and Redlance, which also counts as Wife Husbandry.
Long Lost Relative: Rayek and his daughter Venka, Skywise and his daughter Yun, Timmain and everyone (being the wolfriders' ur-ancestor).
Long Runner: Started in 1978, and still getting material produced. At this point it's one of the longest-running comics produced outside of the "big two" houses (DC and Marvel) in the history of the industry.
Matriarchy: In the future stories, of the Patriarchy Flip variety.
Mayfly-December Romance: Discussed. The Wolfriders are mortal (and like it that way), but the other elf tribes are not. Rayek very explicitly states that he considers Leetah and Cutter to be in a Mayfly-December Romance. Leetah doesn't agree.
Just about all the Wolfriders and most of the Trolls (Word Of God is that Picknose is named for his nose's shape, not for any unsavory habits that he probably has too). Justified in that elves pick their own names based on meaningful events on character traits.
Did the creators really expect readers to encounter "Picknose" as a character name and not mentally respond, "Does he have a brother named Scratchass?"
Names in the series are often meaningful in more than one way (Cutter is a swordsman, but also very direct; Treestump is resolute...and built like a fireplug). Those trolls are pretty damn crude.
Interestingly, if you look at the You Are the Translated Foreign Word and Theme Naming entries on this page, you come to realize that it's probable that all elves have meaningful names; it's simply that only the Wolfriders (and later the Wavedancers) who translate their names in-text. "Tyleet", for example, means "Healer's Gift" and was named after Leetah, whose name means "Healing Light". Something to do with the fact that they're the groups historically most endangered by humans, and thus with the greatest need for using Sending (and thus, to have a need for Soulnames), perhaps? Or, possibly, it's simply the fact that Wolfriders are quite open to changing their names to reflect life experience.
Even soul-names appear to attempt a meaning in their sound related to a succinct description of the characters essence. Strongbow (Wyl/Will), Moonshade (Eyrn/Iron), Redlance (Ulm/Elm...he is a tree-shaper), Joyleaf (Dehl/dale), Cutter (Tam, the sound a drum makes and fitting as the chief/heartbeat of the tribe). In past generations you have a chilly, reserved healer of the Wolfriders with the soul-name "Aiyse" (ice). This tendency doesn't always ring true with soul names, but it happens often enough.
Milholland Relationship Moment: Several. Notably Leetah accidentally yelling out Cutter's soul name in front of Skywise (he already knew), and Winnowill revealing Cutter's animal ancestry to Leetah (she already knew and doesn't mind, Cutter knew she knew and is actually proud of it).
Never Be Hurt Again: In the Siege at Blue Mountain arc, this seems to be Winnowill's motivation for wanting to take all of the pure-blooded elves somewhere they can never be hurt again. For many of them it doesn't end well.
The rock-shaper Ahdri's "death" by arrows in the New Blood series.
Two-Edge, buried in the collapse of Blue Mountain. He got... worse, arguably, but not dead. At the least, he gained a measure of semi-sanity after his recovery, enough to stop speaking almost entirely in rhymes and riddles.
Now I Know What To Name Him: Elf mothers communicate telepathically with their fetuses as seen with: Eyes High (who named her son Skywise), Toorah (who named her daughter Leetah, "healing light", after sensing her healing powers), and Rainsong (who named her son "Mender" for the same reasons).
Nude Nature Dance: Leetah and Nightfall's forest dance in Siege at Blue Mountain probably qualifies, aside from its obvious sexual implications. (It's actually foreshadowed by a mention in one of the novelizations, of couples doing that sort of thing.)
Odd Friendship: Bearclaw and the trolls, Mantricker and Demontricker, Kimo and Shuna, Kahvi and Tyldak (who end up lovemates for a considerable period of time).
Off the Wagon: Bearclaw coped with a lot of things by getting drunk off his face in the troll caverns.
One Million BC: This comic is basically an fantasy version of this trope.
Open Minded Parent: Most characters, because the elves have Eternal Sexual Freedom. A nice example is when main character Cutter realizes that his virgin daughter Ember (aged 16-ish) is sexually frustrated, and asks his best friend Skywise to take care of it. (Skywise refuses, but mostly because he knows he's not really Ember's type.)
The human characters are not particularly open-minded, though.
Our Elves Are Better: Played dead straight 90% of the time, but when elves go bad, they go really bad.
Papa Wolf: Cutter in spades, Strongbow all of the time, Bearclaw when he feels like it, Scouter for his adopted son Windkin, and very unexpectedly, Woodlock. Recently, Sunstream as well.
Perfect Pacifist People: The Sun Folk had lived in peace in their desert home for so long that Leetah's reaction to seeing Redlance's torture wounds was a terrible shock. However, she comes to realize that she herself made the naivete of her people worse by reflexively healing the slightest injury, inadvertently making a village full of wimps. To their credit when the situation changes, the Sun Folk accept the need to train to become tougher. As it is, they have no choice since Leetah and most of the Wolfriders have to leave and find Cutter and Skywise on their quest, but at least one of the remaining Wolfriders, Rainsong, has yet another child on the way and she knows he, who would be called Mender, will become a healer himself in due time.
The Plan: Two Edge manufactures a war between Elf and Troll over a period of centuries just to figure out his identity
Suntop and Ember. She's the tomboy future leader of the tribe, he's a sensitive spiritual boy who prefers to live on the astral plane. She ends up with a tough spear-wielding warrior, whereas his lifemate is a sensitive sea maiden.
According to the original ElfQuestGatherum, that's one reason why the series never made it as a Saturday-morning cartoon: the network insisted that Suntop, being a boy, had to be the tough one and Ember the gentle one.
Grey-Wolf and Owl.
Polyamory: Almost all elves are happily polyamorous, and jealousy is considered an exception to the rule. In the first story arc, Leetah Recognising Cutter isn't a problem because she's already seeing Rayek; it's a problem because Rayek doesn't want to be part of a triad with Cutter. After the Palace was found, Pike, Krim and Skot become a lifemate triad without Recognition. Cutter comes to live with Nightfall and Redlance during The Slow Path when Leetah is gone. Dart has two lifemates for a while when he Recognises a Sorrow's End elf while in wrapsleep. Dewshine, Scouter and Tyleet eventually become lifemates as well and choose to share soulnames. And Cutter and Skywise consider themselves Recognised lifemates as much as is possible for two elves of the same sex.
And aside from steady relationships, almost all elves freely switch sexual partners when they want to — Moonshade and Strongbow being the only known exceptions.
Power Perversion Potential: The healers. In the novelization Journey to Sorrow's End, it's explained that Leetah can compensate herself for the sometimes dangerous work of healing by learning "secrets" about her patients that she can unlock as a gift later, if she chooses. Winnowill probably also used this to manipulate Voll, Rayek, Two-Edge's dad, and maybe even Tyldak.
In one storyline, Leetah once joined Nightfall and Redlance while they made love (or was at least in the same room, it's left intentionally vague), using her healing powers to allow them to conceive (as they weren't Recognized, Nightfall and Redlance could not conceive without Leetah's assistance). By the time she's finished, she's so horny she can barely speak — she just gives Cutter this smoldering look that says "We are leaving the party right now."
In a later story (though speaking to an earlier time) Leetah is shown to have the ability to "encourage" Recognition in others and has sessions as an "Initiator" that involve lots of group sex or petting sessions. Rayek asks her to show him something she's never shown another and a later panel shows him having his mind fairly well blown. In later times, Cutter implies Rayek is not the only one to experience special "gifts" from Leetah's powers. Skywise states he has heard rumor Leetah can (whisperwhisper) and Cutter replies "I'd be nutmash if she did that all the time. Couldn't walk straight, let alone be chief." It seems Mender has this ability from his healing gifts in some measure as well. When Mender joins the Wolfriders and he and Leetah are hanging out at the swimming hole with the tribe, it is noted yet again how Leetah and Mender's combined healer's auras are making everyone incredibly horny and as pages previous there were complaints of no recent Recognitions or pregnancies, it appears to be another example of "Initiation" to raise and encourage fertility.
Psychic Powers: Including one character (Strongbow) who rarely if ever talks, relying on telepathy instead.
Puny Earthlings, though in a subtle way: Humans always seem to lack one quality to really make a character whom you would want to identify with: If a human is morally a good guy, they usually meekly admire the elves (Nonna, the Woodcutter). If they're proud, they're megalomaniacal (Grohmul and Angrif Djun, Aramak). If they're intelligent and skillful, they're also morally questionable (Lehrigen the bounty hunter) or duplicitous (Gifa, Pei-Lar). Human families never seem to be truly complete either. Either they're abusive, or the couple are not truly in love with each other, or they're implied to be barren (Nonna and Adar), or they cannot depend on each other (old Little Patch being abandoned). Those humans who have a good relationship with the elves, seem to reject their own species (Khorbasi and, to a lesser degree, Shuna).
Exceptions to this trope in Elfquest are rare but not quite nonexistent. Adar (Nonna's husband and Richard Pini's literary stand-in) and Bolli (the Woodcutter's wife) stand out as skeptical and practical-minded folk who nonetheless are ready to work with the elves. The naval explorer Cam Triompe sees the elves with an advanced, almost anthropologist's eye, and in later stories is openly allied with two elves helping to fight off a local human despot.
Railroading: The courtship trial for Leetah. There was pretty much no way Cutter was going to lose. Rayek points out that Cutter cheated at the test of wits, but no one cares. Savah rules Cutter the winner because he supposedly didn't know the lodestone was anything but lucky, but he believed in its 'magical' properties from the get-go.
Ultimately, though, it was the test of courage that decided the issue - the moment Rayek lost face he knew he'd lost the trial.
More importantly, Recognition means that Cutter and Leetah were forced by nature to have a child, no matter what her choice of lifemate would have been. Rayek would not have been willing to raise Cutter's child, no matter what.
Raised by Natives: Little Patch, Khorbasi, and to some extent Shuna (though she was almost full-grown when adopted by Cutter and Leetah).
Raised by Wolves: Ironically, this only applies to Teir. Well, and Timmorn Yellow-Eyes, first chief of the Wolfriders.
Rape as Drama: During the first story arc with Cutter and Leetah dealing with recognition, there is some discussion with some of the more conservative Wolfriders note that as far as satisfying recognition's biological demands are concerned, consent is irrelevant. However, Cutter is far too much of a gentleman to ever considering taking that option, preferring to reason with her with more patience than his father would have ever displayed. Leetah realizes that choice on his part despite the great discomfort the urge imposes on anyone resisting the urge says a lot about how much a considerate and civilized man he is.
Redshirt Army - The Go-Backs in the last war arc. Lose something like 20 warriors out of just over forty, though their high-for-elves birthrate would have restored their ranks in time. On the plus side they took a lot of trolls with them.
Rhymes on a Dime: Two-Edge, half elf and half troll, loves to rhyme, that's how he roll!
Right Place, Right Time, Wrong Reason: Rayek is able to guard the spirits of all the elves who die in the destruction of Blue Mountain. The reason he is at Blue Mountain at the time, though? Hot sex with the Big Bad. Didn't start out that way, to be fair, but she was too much for him to resist.
Romancing The Widow: Treestump offers emotional support to Clearbrook after their friend One-Eye, Cleabrook's lifemate, is killed left in limbo. They quietly and sweetly move on to romance in the following years, with One-Eye's posthumous blessing.
When Cutter believes he may have lost Leetah and his children forever, he's invited by Nightfall and Redlance to "tree" (live) with them for as long as he wants. The rest of the tribe have sex with him occasionally as well during this time, to show their love for him and to comfort him.
Screw Destiny - Denial of Recognition can be this trope, if the Recognized elves separate (Tyldak and Dewshine) or end up hating each other (Dodia and Door). Leetah attempts this with Cutter by demanding she be allowed to choose when and with whom she lifemates (Wolfrider's take it as a given that if you Recognize, you lifemate. Dewshine is a famous example of throwing this aside). She insists Cutter and Rayek go through the Trial of Hand, Head and Heart because both are pushing for her hand and she doesn't want to be railroaded by either, or by Recognition and hopes these trials will scare both off. She comes to respect, like and eventually love Cutter so she narrowly avoids this trope.
Screw You, Elves!: This seems to be the default attitude of trolls towards elves, even the ones who ally with them.
Sex by Proxy: Cutter sharing his memories of Leetah with Zhantee as a gift, including their romantic life.
Sex Is Good: If you're an elf, fornicating like crazy has no negative consequences. Consciously averted with humans in a later story, when the Pinis got worried it was sending the wrong message about safe sex practices to teenagers.
Sexy Man, Instant Harem: Oh, Skywise. Has at least a few girls from every tribe: his three Sunfolk girls (Ruffel, Vurdah and Maleen), his Glider lovemate (Aroree), his main wolfrider squeeze (Foxfur at the beginning, at least one fling with Newstar when she was older and he revisited the Sun Village) and his confirmed occasional lovemate Cutter (Lovemate might be too strong a word. Cutter admits male wolves sometimes "mount each other for sport". It doesn't appear as passionate in their case as Cutter's devoted lust for Leetah or Skywise's devoted lust for any other interested female). Oh, and Yun's mom, whoever she is. It is implied he will someday mate with Timmain - the series' equivalent of a goddess.
Skot is a close second: One very sweet scene shows him randomly asking elves if they're up for some celebratory sex, and walking off carrying a giggling Shen-Shen over his shoulder. He's also one of the few elves to have two lifemates simultaneously.
And then there's Cutter, who during Leetah's absence was comforted by practically the entire tribe. Although that's more of a Broken Man Instant Harem.
Shapeshifting: Generally all elves with Healing Hands can change the look of their bodies if they're powerful enough, since they're basically shapeshifting to heal anyways. The most powerful can even shape other people. ** On the extreme end of the shapeshifting: Haken making himself look like a bone monster from a horror movie, Tyldak getting pterodactyl-like wings, and Sunstream getting changed temporarily into a beautiful fish-man. No, not merely a mer-man; a fish-man, giant fins all over and everything. In the space age-era series, Jink routinely switches from her elfin self to a more human-like visage, with ten fingers and no ear-points (Winnowill keeps up a similar alteration during Shards).
ElfQuest has flesh-shaping and shapeshifting. Winnowill (and Jink) exhibit flesh-shaping. Cosmetic changes only. Tyldak is the best example of flesh-shaping vs. shapeshifting. Winnowill pulled the flesh from his own body to create his wings. His wings are grossly misshapen fingers and skin-flaps in between. Timmain is a true shapeshifter. When she took on wolf form to learn to hunt and provide for her people, she said the form started changing how she thought until she was forgetting herself and even her fellow High One's could not lure her back to her old form. Timmain births Timmorn before giving herself over fully, finally, to her wolf form and lives in that form not even being aware she was once an elf until the Palace forces her elf form back onto her 10,000 years later.
It could be that true self-shifting, and flesh-shaping that the flesh-shaper just happens to do to themselves, are distinctly different abilities.
She Is the King: Winnowill becomes "Lord Winnowill" after Lord Voll's death.
Shirtless Scene - Lots of 'em, featuring almost every male elf, and a lot of male humans too. In particular, upon his arrival in the forest after a long desert trek, Cutter immediately rips off his shirt, tosses it up in the air and pins it to a tree branch with an arrow - all apparently without removing his vest.
The Slow Path: The immortal elf Rayek kidnaps the family of Cutter, chief of the mortal Wolfriders, and takes them roughly ten thousand years into the future. His plan is to save the ancestors of all the elves during their initial time travel mishap (which sent them back into the past). However, this would prevent the Wolfriders from ever existing. Cutter has no idea when his (immortal) lifemate Leetah and their (mortal) children will ever appear again, and he knows that he will die after roughly six thousand years. The first five centuries are torment for him and his tribe, and they eventually decide to have themselves wrapped in a time-freezing cocoon. The immortal characters (including the troll king, whose daughter was also kidnapped) live the years out, as do a select few Wolfriders who dislike tampering with nature and who simply choose to life a normal life. The plot resumes ten thousand years later, when Cutter's lifemate and children finally see him again — after what, for them, has only been a few hours. Later chapters show that Cutter's time without his family severely traumatized him — he could simply not stop counting.
Tyleet, in turn, spoils her adopted human son Little Patch absolutely rotten. They both turn out very well, though: Tyleet growns up to be the gentle lifemate of Scouter and Dewshine, and Little Patch eventually becomes the leader of the human tribe who abandoned him when he was little.
Stalker with a Crush: Rayek to Winnowill. By his own admission, he still deeply loves her even when she's been torturing him from within his own mind, for four hundred years.
Status Quo Is God: Invoked in-universe by Strongbow. When he learns that the elves are the descendents of alien explorers, and that his conservative way of life was based on false assumptions, he goes into a Heroic BSOD:
Strongbow: If clinging to "The Way" was a kind of blindness — then I wish I had never been made to see.
Inverted. When a Wolfrider has to be left behind to guard the kids, it's going to be Papa Wolf Redlance.
Played straight toward the beginning of the series, when Leetah expressed surprise that Dewshine was going to join in the zwoot hunt.
Leetah: But - but it is not a maiden's place to -
Dewshine: What? Why not?!
The Wolfriders, too, have this attitude in the beginning, when only the males take part in the fight with the humans, or the raid of the Sun Folk. However, it's a rational decision, since they have about twice as many male elves, and think they're the last elves in the world. Once they discover the Sun Folk, they go back to normal. What's interesting is that the Sun Folk presumably have the same "we must protect the females" mentality from when THEY had a severe shortage of females (they're all descended from Savah and one other) and have just kept that attitude long after numbers had evened out.
It's also the attitude of most of the humans, but since they're stone-aged tribes, that's not odd.
Talking Is a Free Action: Especially combined with the extremely heavy captioning, can be very disconcerting to a younger reader. Looks like a manga (Kamui no Ken mostly), reads like 1970s super hero comics.
Time Abyss: several candidates, including (in no particular order) Two-Edge, Winnowill, Timmain, Ekuar, Lord Voll, Door...
Treasure Is Bigger in Fiction: When the elves first travel through the troll's cave system, it's got buckets of glittering fist-sized gems just lying around. And apparently the gold veins in that area are rich enough to use it as pavement. This could be a case of Early Installment Weirdness, though — troll caves in later stories are never shown so ridiculously wealthy.
Victorious Childhood Friend: Ruthlessly subverted with Ember and Mender. They played together as kids for a while, and Mender eventually ends up taking Ember's virginity. She leaves him as soon as he goes off to fight in the war, although they get back together for a while after he returns - but she ends up with Teir instead anyway. The implication seems to be that she considered him her "first step" towards being a sexually active grownup.
doesn't that make this Unlucky Childhood Friend? Or is it still Victorious because he had her for a while before he lost her?
Weakness Turns Her On: It's stated in the novel that Nightfall and Redlance first got together partly because she felt protective of him.
Strongbow: I do, you're wasting your time with these shivering fawns. But it's your choice.
Strongbow only communicates using telepathy, and only speaks (whispers, rather) to Dart when he's truly proud of him. Then he unexpectedly has a third child who hates Sending... and loves talking.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: If this is the right trope, it's deconstructed in Rayek. The darker side of Rayek's nature shares with Winnowill this alarming idea that "I really do know what's best for my people" coupled with "they can't make the right choice so I'll make it for them." Effectively, one of the greatest sins an EQ villain can commit is choosing to deny the free will of those around him, especially loved ones.
What Could Have Been - At one point in the 1980s the original series was optioned as a Saturday-morning cartoon: only after signing the agreement did the Pinis learn that the network would demand to change Leetah's color (because an "interracial marriage" was unacceptable) and her healing powers (it was feared the Religious Right would object to her healing by "laying on of hands"), and to make gentle, psychically-gifted Suntop the tough macho little warrior-type and his sister Ember a secondary fighter at best. The series never happened.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Initially, this applies to the elves from the perspective of the humans, who consider them evil spirits to be hunted down and killed in the name of their own great spirit Gotara. However, we see more variety as new tribes both human and elf show up, and though the protagonists' relationship to humans remains cautious out of necessity, they in turn are generally not overly comfortable killing even humans. Meanwhile, trolls do seem to rate somewhat lower than either elves or humans — they're uncomfortable allies at best, outright enemies of the elves at worst, and they're rarely if ever viewpoint characters despite having arrived with the elves' ancestors and thus presumably about the same amount of background history.
Wife Husbandry: Most prominently Rayek and Leetah. Redlance and Nightfall also count, as do Scouter and Tyleet. Justified as elves can live for thousands of years and become sexually active as soon as they hit puberty.
Woman in Black: Winnowill, and all of the Gliders. Aroree accessorizes with tufts of white fur.
Wrong Genre Savvy: Rayek thinks he's the story's dashing hero, first battling against the filthy savages who come to steal his destined lifemate, then saving the elven race by travelling through time, to Set Right What Once Went Wrong and be with aforementioned destined lifemate in perfect harmony forever. Everyone else disagrees.
Yaoi Guys: Many. Dart is the trope's poster boy for the series, having had three male lifemates and only one female one (who he Recognized and shared with her male lifemate).
You Are Worth Hell: When Rayek makes himself into a living prison for Winnowill's soul, Savah immediately follows him so that they can Walk the Earth together for all eternity. Rayek is moved, but tells her she has no place in his new life. His mentor Ekuar follows him instead. It's also somewhat implied that Rayek trapping Winnowill inside him is not just to save the world, but also because he doesn't want to live without her — even as her living prison, he loves her, and would rather suffer a living hell for all eternity than be without her.
You Are the Translated Foreign Word: Done only once, with Tyleet's introduction. In all other instances, we only see either the Elvish word or the translation. Tyleet, said to mean "healer's gift", was the first real key the readers got to the Elven language (Tyl = gift, Leet = heal-, from which could then be concluded: Leetah = Healing Light, Tyldak = Gift Of Wings). A minor example later on in the series is when Rayek refers to himself as the "Child Of The Rocks". It's a literal translation of his own name (Ray = child, Ek = rock). (Rock-shapers like Ekuar and his late friends Osek and Mekda also have the "rock" element in their names. Averted with Ahdri as her talent isn't discovered until later in life.)
Word Of God says it took the Pinis a while to come up with the name Tyleet, by combining elements of Tyldak and Leetah's names and then RetConning the derivation of Tyldak as "Gift of Flight".