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Elfeminate

Gabe: It's not gay if it's an elf.
Tycho: I'd love to know why you have a rule for that.

With the rest of Five Races set this may vary, but there's a distinctive trend to portray all elves (male and female) as particularly feminine, males in particular being rather androgynous, in range from Pretty Boy or Bishounen to Ambiguously Gay. Often used to cause dumbfounded confusion on reveal.

"No facial hair" clause helps, but it's only a little part of the image — other beardless peoples are immune to this even while wearing braids and beads and being one of the prototypes for elves. One of probable reasons why feminine qualities of elves are played up is the intentional contrast between Elves and their traditional opposites, dwarves, who are basically hypermasculine: stout, muscular, hairy, axe-swinging drunks (which depending on the portrayal may apply to female dwarves as well).

Remember that elves and dwarves contrast along several lines: Slobs Versus Snobs, Harmony Versus Discipline, Romanticism Versus Enlightenment, and especially nature versus technology. Thus it makes sense that races that fit so well into the Mother Nature, Father Science trope would even match the trope's gender implications: elves are feminine because nature is feminine, and all dwarves masculine because technology is masculine. This dichotomy also helps the both of them contrast against the mundane humans, who fit quite neatly between the two on all of these spectrums, including gender expression.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Card Games  

    Literature 

  • In Wyrd Sisters an actor who plays a girl too well was asked whether he by chance has some elf up in the bloodline.
  • Parodied in John Brosnan's Have Demon, Will Travel where elves are an entire race of Camp Gays.
  • The two principle characters of the Nightrunner books are Aurenfaie. Both are repeatedly described as pretty, and Seregil disguises himself as a woman without much difficulty.
  • Elves in Quantum Gravity tend to be thin and delicate-looking. Do not mistake this for weak. Elves are still fulfilling the archer archetype fairly often, and the author does recognize how much strength it takes to pull a decent-to-large-sized bow back.
  • In A.R.R.R. Roberts' parody of The Hobbit, The Soddit, Wood Elves and High Elves become Wild Elves and Coward Elves. The accompanying illustration makes it clear that the Wild Elves are based on Oscar Wilde, and the Coward Elves on Noël Coward.
  • Averted by J. R. R. Tolkien. While his elven women are quite feminine, his elven men are manly. They are handsome but they are also mighty warriors and kings. This leads into Our Elves Are Better.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Elven deities in Dungeons & Dragons are often noted to be "androgynous" in looks; the artist responsible for the picture of chief elf god Corellon Larethian from the Deities and Demigods sourcebook took this to its logical conclusion with a totally FABULOUS rendition (two words: rainbow eyeliner).
  • The Elves in Small World are depicted as overly thin, androgynous types carrying baskets of flowers.

    Theatre 

     Video Games  

  • Blood elves and high elves (but not night elves) in World of Warcraft. If a player-character blood elf jumps, there's a chance he will do a pirouette in mid-jump, regardless of gender. Joked about at length, including the blood elf male flirt, "don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?", and Johnny Awesome being mistaken for a girl and called "Jenny" by a character in Hillsbrad.
    • Male night elves are somewhat more masculine, but even they will occasionally do a somersault when they jump.
    • To be fair, though, they are only effeminate in comparison to the other males in the game, especially when compared to their allies the Horde. And they were even more so in the beta for Burning Crusade.
  • Bisexual elf Zevran from Dragon Age: Origins mentions this as the reason he and other elves were chosen as assassins. Most humans found them pleasing to look at, which increased the chances they'd be successful in their jobs. Zevran himself is a prime example of this trope at work - drunken dwarf Oghren even comments that Zevran's got "small breasts for a gal".
    • Similarly, Fenris of Dragon Age II. He's more masculine than some examples, but between the lean elven body model and pretty face, he hits the Pretty Boy mark. It's even lampshaded by Hawke's uncle Gamlen if a male Hawke romances Fenris.
      "So, you're into elves, huh? I guess I don't have to ask which one of you's the girl."
  • Elves in Majesty are androgynous-looking, tend to have Gender Blender Names, and have voices somewhere between tenor and contralto.
  • Lieutenant Yaha of Drakengard 2 is a Camp Gay Depraved Homosexual who is obsessed with party member Urick to the point that he gave up his ability to feel pleasure for the ability of charm. He spends his boss battle making creepy remarks towards both Urick and Nowe.
  • More-or-less averted in Rift: Although smooth-faced and clearly intended to be attractive (even if Kelari are a bit eerie-looking), elven men are too sinewy and rawboned to be called Pretty Boys.
  • Mostly averted in Dwarf Fortress by virtue of elves being nothing but a lowercase 'e' on the screen. However, their leadership positions are titled "queen" and "princess"... even when the elves in those positions are male.
  • Tera: High Elf males are Bishounen to the point of looking girly, just without breasts.

     Web Comics  

  • The Order of the Stick uses the Ambiguous Gender of the Elves as a Running Gag, to the extent that, in the subtitles, the Elvish children refer to their parental units as "parent" and "other parent" rather than "mother" and "father".
    • Worth mentioning is that the Ambiguous Gender of Vaarsuvius (one of the aforementioned parents) has been a running joke for a long time (even if it wasn't meant to be ambiguous at first). Also, the children are adopted, so any of the four gender combinations for two people is possible for V and his/her spouse.
  • El Goonish Shive poked fun at this too:
    • Subverted later when Justin admits he likes his men manly.
  • In DM of the Rings, Aragorn in particular seems to look at any Elf and think it's a woman, even when they're male. For the most part however he just plays it up to annoy Legolas' (AKA Leggo Lass) player.
    • Even invoked when he's trying to get laid with Éowyn, but the DM doesn't want to because he's having to play her:
      Éowyn: This [Aragorn hitting on the DM as her] is just too weird.
      Aragorn: Oh, come on, you said she was hot! "Tall, slim, and graceful, with golden hair", you said.
      Éowyn: That's the same description I gave you for Legolas.
      Aragorn: Like I said: hot!
  • Played with in Drowtales where it's averted and seemingly exaggerated at once. The male Drow are masculine, larger than humans, and typically fairly attractive. They seem somewhat effeminate when compared to the Drow ladies, however, who are typically larger and stronger than the males, although still blatantly feminine.
  • In Mindflayed a barman called an elf "missy". That's when we get to know the elf wasn't. Later an idiot paladin made the same mistake three times — the first time another member of the party held Lomylith back, but on the third, this guy had to leave a high tower via the window.
  • Used to point up the gender stereotypes in Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic: male high elves (who come from a gender-equal race) are swishy, while male drow (who come from a matriachal society) are masculine. However, male high elves are still manly enough to be jealous as all hell of a drow who "slept [his] way to this position".
  • d20monkey has "the description of that elf NPC". Discovering that the elf is male rather... surprised Brett.
  • Averted in Dubious Company, the sex of the elves in the series are easily distinguishable, except for Elly. He is mistaken as a girl at least once by everyone, and consistently by Marty. Tiren cursing him didn't help matters either.
  • Done very specifically with Cale, but, in an aversion, not with elves as a whole. Note, that this is barely apparent to the readers, if at all.
  • Elon and Rolan of Ears for Elves are both somewhat femenine, in particular in hairstyle. The former has girlish bangs and ponytail, whilst Rolan has narrow braids in his long hair and multiple earrings. Tanna (actually female) also queries whether someone calling "princess" is referring to Elon, much to his annoyance.

     Web Original  

    Western Animation 


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alternative title(s): Ambiguously Fey; Androgynous Elves
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