A once-proud and glorious race has fallen. Now, they live in squalor and slavery with few traces of their ancient culture
remaining. The only ones that escaped this fate did so by dying or being killed. Perhaps they will rediscover their old pride and power, for better or for worse...
This trope only applies if there's some proof that the race used
to be a proud and noble
one, before their 'fall'. If a universe's elves (though not always elves, most are however) have always been nomadic tribes of pointy-eared barbarian bowmen, it doesn't count for this trope, no matter how badly they're oppressed and see the violence Inherent in the System
A subtrope of Screw You, Elves!
and could be considered meta-revenge against Can't Argue with Elves
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- In Dragon Ball the three remaining Saiyans (outside the films and excluding Goku)are the 'elves' enslaved to Frieza and the latter's Planet Trade Organization.
- That´s a central point of the original Planet of the Apes and even stronger in its remake. Somehow, in the third and fourth sequel of the original you can argue that this trope appears in some way too.
- In The Death Gate Cycle, the dwarves of the World of Air, Arianus, have devolved severely, losing their pride, and even their names. Calling themselves 'Gegs', they serve as peaceful factory-workers on the machine-filled island that is their home, worshiping visiting elves like Gods...
...that is, until one of the most peaceful and eccentric of their numbers inadvertently stumbles on the story's protagonist, Haplo, who had just entered their world. He ends up tagging along, seeing the rest of their world, and learning of the origin of the dwarves from Haplo. Later in the story, he returns to the Gegs, and leads them in casting off their elven lords. The twist from being an entire race of Plucky Comic Relief characters, to plunging their entire world into war and chaos (since the rest of the world is mostly reliant on the water produced by the Gegs' machine) is quite well-done.
- The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction ran a story, "An Elvish Sword of Great Antiquity" in which elves had been enslaved for a very long time, with obvious parallels with the enslavement of African-Americans and white attitudes towards them.
- In The Witcher (at least in the books), Elves were once a noble and proud race, before humans came. At the time of the books humans threaten them, with parallels to European oppression of Native Americans in Real Life. And in last book we can see a proud clan that escaped to another dimension to escape the fate of their fellow elves.
- That proud clan of elves who escaped to another dimension butchered and enslaved the native humans there, instead.
- In Michael Moorcock's Swords Trilogy, the Nhadragh race was once highly advanced in both magic and culture. By the time of the stories, they had declined to the point that they were conquered and used as slaves by the Mabden (humans).
- In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Munchkins were formerly slaves of the Witch of the East, and the Winkies and flying monkeys are slaves of the Witch of the West.
- The Sithi from the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series effectively ruled the entire continent of Osten Ard until the humans came and warred upon them. The few remaining Sithi have isolated themselves from the rest of the world, and though they are not slaves, their race is a shadow of its former glory. The Big Bad of the series is a former Sithi prince who died in a war with the humans and now wishes to return to life.
- The Nonmen from R. Scott Bakker's Second Apocalypse series.
- This is sort of zig-zagged with the house-elves in the Harry Potter franchise. They are naturally compelled to domestic service, and are literally incapable of disobeying their current master. As such, their lot in life is often to be disregarded or looked down upon by wizards, and those that belong to many wizarding families all but slaves in name only. And yet, house elves possess powers and abilities that wizards do not.
- Happens in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium to any Noldor (High Elves) captured by Orcs in the First Age, though it's barely touched upon in the 1977 The Silmarillion; The History of Middle-earth and The Children of Húrin give more details. The Noldor certainly fit the "proud" and "glorious" description; Orcs on the other hand are sadistic bastards who like torturing people for fun. The good news is that those who survived were eventually freed when the Valar pwned Morgoth.
- Gwindor was a Noldorin lord enslaved by the Dark Lord Morgoth and forced to work in the forges of Angband for 17 years before he escaped.
- One thing that is touched on in The Silmarillion, though it's stated to be an unproven legend: Morgoth took some of the firstborn Elves and tortured, mutated, and corrupted them for centuries until they became the first Orcs!
- Played with in The Riyria Revelations. The Elves are a beaten down, oppressed people treated like dirt almost everywhere in the humans kingdoms (dwarves are only marginally better off) where the dominant religion holds that humans are the Master Race. Except that these elves are only elf-blooded humans. Full-blooded elves can live for thousands of years and control a powerful empire, and the elf Big Bad has engineered the rise of the Corrupt Church and the oppression of the nonhuman races as part of a centuries-long plan to ultimately have the elves go to war with the humans as soon as a Binding Ancient Treaty is no longer in effect, conquer them,and then have himself placed on the elven throne, ruling most of the known world.
- Phagors in Helliconia. Helliconia Spring shows them in their glory days; the next book, Helliconia Summer, takes place centuries later, and by then phagors have been subjugated to slaves.
- In Star Trek, in the evil alternate universe the Vulcans are slaves of the Federation's evil counterpart the Terran Empire.
- According to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, this didn't last, with Spock becoming Emperor and all... Although that caused the entire Terran Empire to become slaves to the Cardassian-Klingon alliance (La Résistance rebuild the empire by 33 years after Deep Space 9, according to Star Trek Online.)
- The Bajorans were capable of stellar flight while humans were still learning to make fire, but are now an impoverished race that was sent back to almost an agrarian level by a brutal occupation.
- On Defiance, the dwarf-like Liberata were once a race of powerful and greedy bankers. When the Votan homeworlds fell apart and everyone was forced to migrate to Earth, the Liberata lost all their wealth and power, and most of them are now stuck as domestic workers.
- This is one of the hallmarks of the Dark Sun campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Overuse of magic has turned the world into a desert wasteland, leaving many of the races as pale shadows of their former selves. Dwarves no longer have their own lands and cities but do reasonably well among humans. Elves are nomads and raiders. Halflings are savage cannibals. Gnomes are extinct. (So are most of the savage races, like orcs, goblins, kobolds, ogres, lizard men, and trolls, all exterminated in the Cleansing Wars by the sorcerer king Rajaat.)
- In the updated adaptation of the original Dragonlance modules produced for TSR's 25th anniversary, the players can get some additional insight into what the evil green dragon Cyan Bloodbane really wants when he corrupts the elven kingdom of Silvanesti and turns it into a twisted nightmare. The heroes can meet a brood of illusionary green dragons who are being tended to by their elven slaves. The oldest dragon claims that Cyan is converting the forest back to the way it used to be when the green dragons ruled over it, before the elves rebelled and drove the dragons away. Now the dragons are returning things back to the "rightful" order of things.
- Exalted: Once, the Jadeborn were artificers without peer, every one "born" a genius inventor. When their creator Autochthon, the Great Maker, helped the Exalted and gods overthrow the other Primordials, the Jadeborn armed the Exalted with innumerable wonders and incredible artifact weapons. Then, shortly after being installed as the rulers of the world, the Solar Exalted decided to destroy the Jadeborn. They convinced Sol, the new king of Heaven, that the Jadeborn were somehow a threat to humanity. He gave Autochthon an ultimatum: Geas the Jadeborn into weakness and servitude, or the Exalted would exterminate them all.
Now the vast majority of Jadeborn are dull, unimaginative worker- or warrior-caste clods with little magic, imprisoned under the Pole of Earth, enslaved by the Exalted and forced to fight a Forever War against underground Eldritch Abominations. Their world-spanning civilization is gone, their ancient culture almost completely extinct. The few who can comprehend what has happened are understandably quite bitter about it.
- Warhammer subverted by the Dark Elves who have an entire culture based on enslaving everyone else and are still a fairly strong Empire. Played straight by the Giants, who were once "Sky-Titans" living in mansions on the highest mountains of the world until the migrating Ogres massacred and ate most of them. The few survivors fled and, their population dwindling, they became inbred, stunted and stupid (although they are still humongous) and are often enslaved by Ogres or Orcs and Goblins.
- Legend of the Five Rings has several examples:
- Trolls were one of the original five races who created the mortal world out of chaos. After the fall of the other original races, however, they declined and were conquered and enslaved by first the ogres, then the forces of Fu Lang. There are no more Trolls who remember what they used to be.
- The Ogres may also qualify, since their civilization eventually fell and almost all remaining ogres are slaves of Fu Lang.
- The Zokujin, another one of the original five races, may also qualify, given that a number of their people have been enslaved by the Lion Clan and forced to work the mines. There are many free Zokujin tribes, however, and even the enslaved ones could escape if they really wanted to.
- In Overlord, as well as its sequel, the elves are enslaved. In the first game, they had lost a war with the Dwarves, and most of them were killed, haunting the ruins of their old palaces as ghosts, while the survivors were forced to slave away in the dwarven mines. Depending on your choices, you could condemn the entire race to oblivion, by selling away the lives of the last remaining elf women, for a bit pile of gold...
- And yet, regardless of which choice you make, there are more elves appearing in the sequel - this time, they're enslaved by the anti-magic Imperium, forced to work in the empire's tourist-trap resorts. They've also got a hidden, underground city, but you'll take care of that minor problem during the course of the game, as well as crushing an uprising of the enslaved elves in the resort-city after you pillage and conquer it.
- In Dragon Age, the Elves were once an advanced culture, and possessed immortality... Then humans showed up, and everything went straight to hell. By the time the game takes place, a few of the remaining elves live in savage, nomadic tribes in the deep woods, trying to keep the last few shreds of their culture alive - while the majority of them live amongst humans, where they're considered second-class citizens, relegated to slum-like 'Alienages', and mostly restricted to menial jobs such as being servants and messengers. However depending on decisions you make in the game, you can improve the situation for them, if only by a bit.
- Though the facts of their cultural prior to their enslavement are left intentionally vague, as most of their records and history were lost in the process. In particular, no one is quite sure if the whole 'immortality' thing is a fact, an exaggeration, or an outright myth. The only long-lived elf you meet in the game is thought to have regained their ancient immortality, but is actually tied to a magical curse that is keeping him alive. Similarly, it's said that Dalish elves have longer lifespans than elves who live among humans, but considering your lot in life when you're an elf among humans, there could be several different reasons for that.
- In the backstory of Escape Velocity Nova, the Vell-os telepaths were at war for fifty years with the Colonial Council before the Vell-os surrendered to stop the bloodshed. The ensuing Carthaginian peace saw the Vell-os enslaved and their worlds blasted into space debris.
- The Vortigaunts from the Half-Life series are race of wise telepaths and are generally more highly evolved than humans. They are first encountered as group of slaves under the mind control of another alien. By Half-Life 2, when they are freed, they join forces with humanity and regain their old culture. Their telepathic abilities make them valuable allies.
- In The Elder Scrolls series, the once-proud Dunmer (Dark Elves) have been largely driven out of their homeland of Morrowind by the time period Skyrim takes place in, after a natural disaster and an invasion by the previously enslaved Argonians. The Dunmer now live in slums as second class citizens in Nordic cities such as Windhelm.
- In a case of Elves enslaving Elves, the Falmer (Snow Elves) were once slaves of the Dwemer (Dwarves that happen to be elves), until the Dwemer all mysteriously disappeared. As of Skyrim, they're a nonsentient species that inhabits Dwemer ruins and attack any humanoid that they find.
- Also on Elves enslaving Elves, allegedly, this is what's going on with the Aldmeri Dominion in Valenwood. The Bosmer (Wood Elves) are second-class citizens in the pre-dominantly Altmer (High Elf) empire. That said, the Thalmor aren't any nicer to Altmer who don't subscribe to their beliefs.
- In Star Trek Elite Force 2, the Idryl are essentially this to the Atraxxians.
- In this Sluggy Freelance strip we see that the "Neebler" cookie elves have been slaves to the "Babisco" corporation since the company bought the tree they lived in with some shiny beads.
- In Linburger, the Cyll used to be a highly advanced race with immortality and magic. Then something happened. Nobody in-universe is quite sure what went wrong. But now the Cyll are second class citizens, reduced to poverty and slums. They're no longer immortal, and so far they haven't shown an ability to do magic. The current generation doesn't even care about their past.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the Sarquil use dark-skinned desert elves, whom they have conquered in various wars, as slaves. The desert elves long for the freedom which the other elven cultures in the world have but are unable to do anything because even the Grand Alliance isn't willing to risk angering their much needed Sarquil allies by demanding the desert elves' freedom.
- ThunderCats (2011): The home of the cat race, Thundera, is destroyed in the second episode, and towards the end of the first season we see that the surviving cats have been enslaved by the rats to work in the mines.
- After the fall of the Roman Empire at the start of the Dark Ages, the destitute Roman citizens who hadn't already left the empire and assimilated into the local cultures tended to get rounded up and locked in chains by the local warlords who now were taking revenge on the people who had ruled their folk with an iron fist for centuries. The sacking of Rome by wasn't the only time that Rome was sacked by vengeful former-vassals, it was simply the most famous.