There are certain races in Speculative Fiction
that appear to occupy an equivalent niche that elves do in a fantasy setting: the idealized, Closer to Earth
culture reaching toward utopian ideals, or the inscrutable, ominous Fair Folk
for whom We Are as Mayflies
. Or both at once, of course.
When they are not behaving as a standard fantasy elf
or, as is often the case, an enlightened mystic race
such as Vulcans
, they are off beaming up humans
, and children
just like their Fair Folk ancestors.
Sometimes the elf-like race are implied to be Ancient Astronauts
themselves, misremembered or otherwise. Sometimes they are literal Elves IN SPACE!
or at the very least have elf-like characteristics such as longevity and Pointy Ears
Some anthropologists have speculated
that the tendency to imagine any foreign intruders who are different from us as Elves Versus Dwarves
is hard-wired, like the theory that humans are hard-wired to imagine dragons
because of our bad experience
with snakes. By this logic, we have an innate tendency to classify "powerful" cultures as inscrutable, slender (tall
) beings who were here before us
, have better tools and are not to be messed with
, versus swarthy, hairy fellows
who are industrious, engage in untouchable occupations such as mining, and are migrants. Space Elves would thus occupy an extreme niche in the spectrum.
Your Space Elves may be:
Elves In Space (main article: Our Elves Are Better)
Standard fantasy elves or equivalent beings
with Serial Numbers Filed Off
... In Spaaaace!
These are surprisingly common in science fiction and Tabletop Games
(compare Urban Fantasy
and Science Fantasy
). Ancient Astronauts
may count if they are not merely mistaken
for elves, but actually are
elves who turn out to be an alien race
Enlightened Mystic Race (main article: Proud Scholar Race Guy)
Personality-wise, they may be aloof and detached, or (in the case of empathic types) quite gregarious. Either way, they have a tendency to be more mystical or philosophical than most of the other species in the setting. These are almost by definition a Proud Scholar Race
, and they are typically pitted against Proud Warrior Race Guy
in a straight application of Elves Versus Dwarves
Like other Proud Scholar Race Guys
, theye guys are the most likely characters to have Psychic Powers
(possibly confined to a single gender
) and the most likely characters in the setting to be Technical
or Actual Perfect Pacifist People
, in contrast to the warlike Proud Warrior Race Guy
, who are ironically more likely to be literal Elves In Space.
Mystic Alien Intruders (compare: The Fair Folk)
These are beings that fill the same function as The Fair Folk
in the story or in popular consciousness, except that they (usually) Descended From Outer Space
. This is very commonly
associated with The Greys
, although not always. Little Green Men
can replace Leprechauns
. Alien Abduction
may take the place of a Changeling Tale
. When they aren't snatching up our children, unnaturally extending our lifespans
, or performing mystic rites on us for shits and giggles and impregnating our virginal (swear to god!)
women-folk, thus leading to Half-Human Hybrids
. They may be Sufficiently Advanced
, or older than the hills
. See also Time Abyss
. One thing they share in common is they are invariably Inscrutable
. See also Telepathic Spacemen
Psychic Green Space Babe Variety
An oddly specific and not-so-recent
phenomenon. For some reason, certain Space Elves tend to manifest as an Always Female Green-Skinned Space Babe
with Psychic Powers
. Sometimes known as "blue hotties", they're more likely to be blue than green
Sometimes they are part of a Sexy Matriarchy
This is a supertrope discussing references to Space Elves in various tropes, including: Our Elves Are Better, Proud Scholar Race Guy, The Fair Folk and/or The Greys. Examples of each type would also fall under such other tropes.
Examples of Traditional Elves In Space
Anime and Manga
- The Abh in Crest of the Stars, who are genetically-engineered humans originally bred to be a slave race. Interestingly, the pointy ears bit is a physical trait restricted to the Imperial Family, all other Abh have normal looking ears.
- The Raalgons of Irresponsible Captain Tylor.
- In terms of appearance, the pointy-eared Drule from the fifteen-vehicle version of Voltron would certainly count, although their culture is more like the Soviet Union In Space.
- The beautiful, willowy cloned denizens of The Robotech Masters' city ships fit the bill pretty well. Zor Prime and Musica could scarcely look more elfin.
- The Elves in ElfQuest. They ironically didn't take on elf form until after they were stranded on Planet Abode, and didn't get back into space for about 20,000 years.
- There are some elven beings in Star Wars comics, including the Jedi Master Fay. Fay was unfortunately a one-issue wonder.
- The Marvel Star Wars comics had a major story arc dealing with Space Dark Elves: the Nagai are a race of tall, slender, pale, androgynously beautiful aliens with angular features and pointed ears who try and conquer and enslave the galaxy.
- And the New Jedi Order's Yuuzhan Vong are what happens when the mindset of Space Dark Elves meets the appearance and brutality of Space Orcs. Their backstory revealed in the last book makes it plain that they were once more traditional examples before being attacked and nearly destroyed by a race of vicious cyborgs. The Vong succeeded in fighting them off, but in the process became even worse then their enemy. This is also, not incidentally, where their extreme technophobia comes from.
- On the subject of the Star Wars EU, the Chiss have elements of this trope. They're xenophobes who consider themselves superior to the other species in the galaxy and rarely leave Chiss space, going so far as to capture and imprison trespassers. They're taller than humans and are all in great shape due to their efficient metabolism. They have their own independently-developed technology, which is as good as, if not better than, the stuff everyone else is using, including their rather nasty signature weapon, the charric. They never strike first, but merrily crush anyone who tries to attack them. What does their (Obviously Just Better) society call itself? The Chiss Ascendancy. Anything you can do, they can do better, indeed. Worthy of note is the fact that Chiss Force-users are exceptionally rare, neatly avoiding the magic-user aspect of the trope.
- The species that most resembles elves physically are the Sephi. They are intelligent, refined, and have a tendency toward haughtiness, though some can be just as ugly as baseline humans. Their lifespan is typically between 200-450 years. They do not dwell in their homeworld's few forests and force-sensitives are no more common than most races. Fay's species is never stated, but it is widely accepted that she is a Sephi.
- Thor: The Dark World has actual Dark Elves in space. They somehow existed before light in the universe and the Asgardians/Aesir fought a war with them 5,000 years ago to prevent their dark lord Malekith from destroying the universe. Now the realms have aligned right for him to try again and the few Svartalfar have awoken from stasis. Also Thor mentioned Aelfheim (the realm of the Light Elves in Norse mythology) was one of the inhabited realms in the first movie a few times.
- The Alteriens in Adam R. Brown's Alterien are actual space elves that have the capacity for limited shapeshifting. In their true form, they have the elven ears, slightly larger than normal eyes, and no eyebrows. They tend to be exceptionally attractive in either their concealed (human) forms or in their true forms. Alteriens are capable of 4th dimensional movement (teleportation and time travel). They have a host of other abilities and actually inspired an ancient legend that lead to the mythologies of elves, fairies and the Fair Folk.
- The Taredhel of (Feists Demonwar Saga) were the first amongst slaves; magic users, lovers and diplomats of the Valheru. They eventually left to the stars conquering an empire of planets. Not nice.
- The fairies (including elves) of the Artemis Fowl series are traditional, native-to-Earth fairies, with magic that does some things, but they're also very high-tech and in a distinctly sci-fi setting. A fairy space probe plays a part in "Atlantis Complex," among other things.
- The Silfen in Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga are almost physically identical to traditional elves and were the inspiration for elf legends (those legends were specifically of The Fair Folk and their morality proves to be alien in a somewhat similar fashion).
- Dragaera mixes fantasy and science fiction, and the series is implied to take place on some other planet, to which humans had been brought. Some of these humans were subject to genetic manipulation, producing the "Dragaerans", who are elves. Humans in the setting sometimes call them faerie or elves, and on one occasion, a Dragaeran refers to humans as dwarves.
- The Darhel in John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata series resemble a cross between elves and japanese kitsune and are the basis for both in earth folklore. They are a Proud Merchant Race and complete bastards.
- Unaging. Physically beautiful. Able to read minds and control the emotions of others. Pure evil. Homo drakensis is possibly the only literary example of Space Drow.
- The wess'har in Karen Traviss' Wess'har Wars series. Tall, slender, ancient and dedicated to , often aggressively to the point of genocide, depending on the faction, preserving the ecological balance.
- The Liaden from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe novels. Although to call them this is as much as an oversimplification as it is in most other cases, it does merit special mention for being lampshaded in the second book.
He glanced up, smiling. "It's my Uncle Richard's fancy that Liadens are the 'little people' of Old Terra's legends. Thus, Arthur Galen, Johnny, Nora, and Annie Galen. And their foster brother, the king of Elfland."
- The Taykan from the Confederation of Valor series are the Green-Skinned Space Babe variety. They're an elf-shaped race with pastel "hair" (it's actually a sensory organ), superior senses to humans, and the ability to produce pheromones that can get virtually any mammal in the mood. Because their di'Taykan life stage is sexually mature but infertile, Ethical Slut has become their racial hat. Thanks to Popcultural Osmosis from humans the Taykan are well aware of their physical similarity to classical elves and apparently find the comparison amusing: Torin Kerr once met a di'Taykan named Celeborn.
- As yet, The Honerverse doesn't have Space Elves but Graysons, a short, stocky, stubborn race of humans whose dome cities make an acceptable substitute for underground kingdoms, who, once they opened up showed a considerable talent for the tech side of things and who sequester their women, make for more than plausible Space Dwarves. Likewise the Skrat, genetically engineered by the Mesans into their thugs are acceptable Space Orcs.
- In the Five Galaxies of the Uplift series, most oxygen-breathing species are humorless, psychologically inhuman, and at most only roughly humanoid. Not so the Tymbrimi, one of the few Galactic clans to ally with Earthclan; they're telepathic tricksters with nearly maladaptively compulsive senses of humor, lactating mammals almost exactly like those on Earth, and so humanoid they can be mistaken for Humans in bad lighting, especially when they use their almost-but-not-really shapeshifting ability. Nobody in-universe has any explanation for why they're so Human-like, since there's no genetic resemblance. In short, telepathic marsupial Space Elves.
- The Eldritch of M.C.A. Hogarth's Paradox universe are humanoid, graceful, psychic, very long-lived, and isolationist. They're also a Human Subspecies that left earth millennia ago like the Pelted, and are dying out from genetic engineering related infertility and inbreeding.
- Eubian Aristos are Space Dark Elves. Universally attractive with pale skin, glittery black hair, red eyes with an Always Lawful Evil culture and with Mind Rape as their hat.
- The Ythrian Bird People in Technic History have traits of Tolkienite elves, being honorable and aesthetically inclined and In Harmony with Nature(especially the air of course). However they are very much a downplayed version.
- Castithans in Defiance. The Tarr family at least has the Machivallian tendencies and hedonism of Dark Elves, whether this applies to the race in general is uncertain. Their son at least seems to be a bit better. Meanwhile the Liberata are Space Dwarves who used to be more typical of the race (they still are physically) but are now a Servant Race.
- The Nox from Stargate SG-1 are an Actual Pacifist race who also happen to be Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with the power to turn invisible, bring back the recently deceased, and even teleport people and objects over short distances in addition to having floating cities. They also happen to come off as condescending toward "younger", more primitive races, even when what they're trying to teach falls flat due to technological differences allowing them to do their things that the younger races cannot. The Asgard are an example as well, but they legitimately respect the humans and give them technology little by little, teaching them how to use it responsibly and build it as they go, and ultimately pass on their legacy to them when they finally meet their end.
- The Eldar in Warhammer 40,000, naturally.
- Also, their "Dark Kin", the Dark Eldar are Space Dark Elves, a particularly terrifying example of Dark Elves no less.
- The planet-bound Exodites are essentially Wood Elves; they live off the land, have a harmonious relationship with their planets, don't really get involved in fights unless the place they live in is threatened. They aren't as prominent as their fantasy counterparts, probably because they can't really get involved in the galactic struggle. So, they stay in the background, until the galactic struggle comes looking to involve them.
- The Three Galaxies sub-setting of the Rifts RPG has the imaginatively named Star Elves. They are one of the leading races of the United Worlds of Warlock, a spacefaring, magic-using civilization. The High King of the Star Elves has even served as the leader of the U.W.W. parliament for thousands of years.
- The Elves of Golarion are literally from a foreign planet in the same solar system.
- Spelljammer's elves are, by definition, elves in space in a non-standard fantasy setting (that links multiple fantasy settings). Of course, Spelljammer is D&D IN SPACE, so the elves are hardly the only fantasy race to have settled the Spheres.
- The Reigar could be considered the Space Elf concept taken Up to Eleven — being a tall, slim, androgynously beautiful, unguessably ancient race possessed of vast powers and operating on a Blue and Orange Morality that even Elves find maddeningly bizarre.
- Traveller has several subversions usually Human Aliens with elegant customs and a few unusual traits but which behave like humans or even worse. The Zhodani are humans dominated by a curious psiocracy and the Darrians are humans for whom everything is For Science! The Vilani when first encountered seemed a little like this but when you got to know them it turns out they were just humans with an extreme taste for Good Old Ways.
- The Droyne, despite their rather ugly appearance, are probably Traveller's closest proximity.
- The dominant species of the Jak and Daxter games resemble elves that live on an alien planet (even if they refer to themselves as humans in-game).
- The Phantasy Star Online series features space elves, the most prominent being Newmans, the superior humanoid aliens with Pointy Ears and an overall inclination towards Techniques over physical combat.
- The original RPG series also featured the natives of the planet Dezoris, green-skinned magic users, Newmans, meanwhile, were depicted as space Cat Girls.
- The Pork Elves in Kingdom of Loathing fled to the moons to get away from rude and smelly adventurers. Unfortunately, their living space is confined within the shield generator, because all that cosmic radiation can cause some serious mutations.
- The non-canon side comic featured on the Drowtales website, called "Space Age", is a NSFW comic that paid subscribers can read for a small fee. It features an alternate universe from the main comic, where the titular "drow" have advanced into the age of space travel and skin tight Latex Space Suits.
- The Loroi from Outsider are blue space elves. Aside from being mostly-female and psychic, they've got an explicit "warrior elf" thing going.
Ah, the old "good elf, bad elf"
routine. About fifty
impertinent things to say raced through my mind...
- In the Spanish webcomic Eager Scout, Carl is a space prince elf...who travels along the sister of the most feared Space Pirate in the universe.
- The Nourasians from Ōban Star-Racers come complete with magical arrows.
- The Mayincatec-themed tall, slender, pointy-eared aliens from The Transformers G1 episode "Sea Change" — complete with being close to nature and having supernatural abilities.
- The Japanese-themed aliens in "Mask Of the Nijika" don't look as elfin as the above-mentioned example, but they're still a spiritual people with pointed ears and psychic powers.
Examples of the Enlightened Mystic Race
Anime and Manga
- See Proud Scholar Race Guy for more examples.
- The Guardians of the Universe from Green Lantern. Not tall at all, but immortal? Check. Has incredible powers? Check (the Green Light that empowers the Corps). Aloof and distant? Check. ''Can't Argue With 'Em? They'd like to think so...
- Also, an all-female offshoot of the Guardians called the Zamarons falls well enough into the Blue-Skinned Space Babe variety.
- The Kymellians from Power Pack fit the bill. Their powers are even often described as magic. Of course, they don't look like Elves — they're a race of pretty white horse people, which of course brings to mind unicorns and pegasi and other such Elf-Friend critters.
- The Silver Surfer's utopian homeworld of Zenn-La.
- The Watchers from Marvel Comics are a race of tall, pale, vastly wise and powerful immortals who wear drapery all the time.
- The chieri from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series. Space Elves bordering on Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, they possess lifespans reaching into thousands of years and extraordinary psionic abilities. They were once a spacefaring people, but have since gone into "retirement" on the titular planet. Can get somewhat pedantic when dealing with humans. The chieri are the ultimate in hermaphrodites with each individual able to physically shift from male to female (or remaining somewhere in the middle) depending on what is going on in their sex lives. However, this overly-complicated reproductive model (completing a gender switch in perfect sync with one's partner can be tricky in the heat of the moment) has resulted in a dwindling population problem that neither their powers nor their technology seemed able to fix. They have a noticeably easier time procreating with humans, and indeed the offspring of these unions often have some of their chieri parent's traits, notably atypically powerful (for humans) psionics and exceptional longevity. However, they may also manifest the chieri's gender-swapping trait, which has led to some families with chieri blood warning against homosexual relations because "If you lie down with a man, you may rise up as a woman!"
- The Taysans in the Spaceforce novels are the oldest of the three galactic superpowers, with a stable culture stretching back many thousands of years. They consider themselves enlightened and civilised compared to the 'barbarians' in the rest of the galaxy. Slightly taller and definitely stronger than humans, they have silver or, more rarely, golden skin.
- In addition to the many live action TV examples from Star Trek (see below), the Star Trek Novel Verse portrays the Deltans as this - spiritual, emotionally controlled, older than humans and with a near-mystical sense of peace that comes with their "evolved" philosophies and sexualities.
- The Vedala, as portrayed in the novel ''Forgotten History'', fit the bill perfectly. They're generally benevolent, older than other spacefaring races, very advanced and isolationist, and seem ever-so-slightly smug about their status in relation to younger "child" races. Behind their reasonable manner is the clear belief that Vedala are better than you.
- The Caeliar in Star Trek: Destiny: isolationist, peaceful, convinced of their own superiority and not afraid to express it, as well as dedicated to scientific and philosophical pursuits while ignoring the wider galaxy.
- The Color Of Distance has the Tendu. They are admittedly small monkey-frog creatures without advanced technology, not as physically strong as humans, but they have allu which can do basically anything, they take care of their environment, they don't have war, they can potentially live forever... With time this characterization is deepened and made more complex, though, and there are times when they can be argued with.
- The Minbari of Babylon 5 like to see themselves as High Elves or Grey Elves, especially the scholarly Religious Caste. However, when they think no one else is looking, they are highly arrogant and racist. The Warrior Caste are also extremely violent and brutal whether or not anybody's looking, and start a Roaring Rampage of Revenge for almost any offense. Their claim that Minbari Never Lie gets ignored all the time, when they think they can get away with it, and for "honor." They did manage to keep the supposedly sacred Minbari Shall Never Kill Minbari rule in effect for a thousand years, but eventually that goes out the airlock too. Nonetheless, many of them are entirely decent folk. Think of Klingons that look like hairless Vulcans with bony skull-crests. They're also one of the oldest, most advanced spacefaring species aside from the Precursors themselves.
- Spock and his Vulcan ilk are scholarly, long-lived, pointy-eared, phlegmatic, and psychic.
- Vulcans are also vegetarian, and consider their way of life superior to humans'. There are already Vulcan examples in Can't Argue with Elves... because you can't.
- Not only that, Vulcans are High Elves, Romulans are Dark Elves. And it doesn't stop there. Klingons are Space Orks and Ferengi are Space Goblins. Then there are the Tellarites, who are Space Dwarves, complete with a rivalry with the local elves in the Vulcans.
- It could be argued that the Mintakans of TNG episode 'Who Watches The Watchers' are the equivalent of Wood Elves.
- The Metrons are also pictured as being elven: A tall, powerful but aloof race, with grey skin, white hair, shimmering silver clothing and gladiator-style shoes.
- Betazoids are a race of Closer to Earth telepaths. Like Spock, Troi was a Half-Human Hybrid, but rather than promoting detached logic, her entire job was to help everyone be more in touch with their emotions. If Ambassador Lwaxana Troi was any indication, Betazoids saw themselves as the Federations's own planet of Manic Pixie Dream Elves.
- The Bajorans are a Proud Scholar Race who have been living as La Résistance for the past few decades, and seem rather fond of reminding everyone. They do not have any mystical abilities themselves, but their "Prophets" do.
- Star Trek: Voyager deconstructed this trope with the naive, sheltered, short-lived Ocampa. They went further to turn this trope on this ear with Lon Suder, an Ax-Crazy Betazoid, Seska, a rather unpleasant Bajoran who turned out to be an even less pleasant Cardassian agent , and, of course Tuvok, the Vulcan security officer who was more like a Grumpy Bear, who took on Sergeant Rock traits later in the series.
- The Time Lords from Doctor Who were a deconstruction, as their society had atrophied and became, depending on the era, either stagnant and decadent or rigid and stuffy, while still retaining their controlling attitude and sense of entitlement and mental superiority. The Doctor was a Defector from Decadence and on numerous occasions made disparaging remarks about his species, particularly about how boring they were.
- The Ship of Lights from the original Battlestar Galactica.
- The Ur-Obun in Fading Suns are a deeply philosophical and spiritual species with innate psionic abilities and a connection to the Precursors. But unlike most examples they had barely begun to explore their own system when humanity contacted them and they're now a subject race of House Hawkwood, though they're better treated than every other alien race in the Known Worlds. They also have a "dark" counterpart in their savage cousins the Ur-Ukar.
- There's also the asari from Mass Effect. Monogendered blue-skinned women with incredible lifespans, low-level telepathy and high-level gravity manipulation. Other races need to be exposed to element zero in utero to develop those gravity powers, but asari have them inherently thanks to some prothean genetic engineering. They've been in space the longest of any sentient species in this cycle, and the ones who rub this in are often the targets of "Screw You, Elves!".
- The Syreen from the Star Control series of games.
- The Protoss from StarCraft.
- The Elerians from the second and third Master of Orion games.
- The Numans/Newmans of the Phantasy Star series are often sardonically referred to as "space elves" due to their flanderization as a race. Their role in Phantasy Star Universe most closely fits the archetype, despite the fact they were still genetically-engineered by humans.
- The Lunarians from Touhou, who as their name indicates hail from the moon. They're originally from Earth, but left thousands of years ago to escape the Shinto concept of impurity, which they claim is the source of all death. Apparently it worked, but they're kind of jerks about it anyway.
- Star Ocean
- The Nedians from Star Ocean: The Second Story are this along with being literal elves in space. They're extremely intelligent, possess technology far more advanced than anyone else in the galaxy, and can use symbology without having to tattoo themselves like most other species because the prerequisite symbols are already written on their DNA. They once ruled the entire galaxy and claim to have completely isolated themselves for the good of the universe. Turns out they were tyrants who isolated themselves because they ended up destroying their homeworld in a civil war after the bioweapons they created to put down a series of colonial rebellions left them severely weakened and ripe for the rebels to tear apart.
- The Morphus from Star Ocean The Last Hope are very similar to the Nedians. "Morphus" is not actually the true name of their species, but means "Enlightened One" in their original language. Instead of complete isolation, they live on an enormous and very well hidden space station and act as secret guardians of galactic peace. It is very heavily implied that they are Nedians who violently split off because they disagreed with the policy of complete isolation.
- The Cotyorites from The Lydian Option are a philosopher race who are "not dangerous to anything but your time."
Examples of Mystic Alien Intruders
- See also The Greys for similar species.
- Changeling: The Lost explicitly notes the similarity of Alien Abduction to changeling tales. There are quite a few True Fae that imitate aliens, especially The Greys, but only because they've been reading humanity's subconscious. Even they don't know if aliens are real.
- The Ariloulaleelay from Star Control 2 live in another dimension, are as old as dirt, and imply that they performed experiments on humans in the past.