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Male elves are often portrayed as feminine or androgynous, in range from Pretty Boy or Bishounen to Ambiguously Gay. This is often used to cause dumbfounded confusion on reveal.

Occasionally, elves of both genders will be portrayed as androgynous, but usually the male androgyny is part of a broader tendency to portray all elves as particularly feminine, making the female elves anything but androgynous.

"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 the 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).

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Remember that elves and dwarves contrast along several lines: Slobs vs. 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.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord: Upon being ambushed by elves, Takuma assumes that they're all flat-chested women until he notices that one of them has an adam's apple.
  • You wouldn't know that Oberon from The Ancient Magus' Bride was a man until you hear him referred to as the fairy king.
  • As a joke from his programmers, Mare Bello Fiore from Overlord dresses and looks like a girl, while his twin sister, Aura dresses like a boy.
  • Taken to parodic extremes in the ecchi manga Futanari no Elf, which doesn't even have a concept of male or female and the race is populated by hermphrodites. All of which present as buxom women with (mostly) huge penises.

    Arts 
  • Hungarian-British illustrator Victor Ambrus has averted this when he drew his version of the Middle-earth Elves of J. R. R. Tolkien. His male Elves are notably masculine, often with lined faces and distinct features, as opposed to the more known Elf-drawings of Allan Lee, who was chosen as codifier for the movie Elves. His version of Legolas should be noted. As a sidenote, his Elves even lack the traditional pointed ears. The "elvishness" is explained by drawing a kind of sparkles around them, and very bright eyes. His female Elves are distinctly delicate as opposed to the more masculine roughness.

     Card Games 

    Comedy 

    Literature 
  • The elven men of Herezar in The First Dwarf King look only slightly more masculine than their female counterparts.
  • 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 principal 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 still fulfill the archer archetype fairly often, and the author does recognize how much strength it takes to draw a decent-to-large-sized bow.
  • 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.
  • Played with by J. R. R. Tolkien. While his elven women are quite feminine, his elven men are stated to be manly. They are handsome but they are also mighty warriors and kings. This leads into Our Elves Are Better. (Orcs use the phrase "Flowers in the blood" when referring to elves.) The Film of the Book makes the male elves (particularly Legolas) look somewhat androgynous. This gets Lampshaded in the extended cut of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where Kíli mistakes a male elf for a maiden.
  • In the short story The Fairy Coney-Catcher, the male protagonist is given a boon by the Fey Queen and requests an elven "lass" who caught his eye for his wife. Upon attempting to consummate the marriage, he discovers that his wife is in fact a man. Unsettling Gender Reveal is promptly averted when he says that he'll love and honor his wife regardless.
  • Played With in Touch, where it's goblins who look like weirdly androgynous humans, to the point where the main characters can never figure their genders out. It's eventually revealed that they're an offshoot race of elves who have No Biological Sex, while the actual elves do. (In fact, the elvish Arc Villains are known simply as "the male" and "the female.")

    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). Which is justifiable, as original lore for Corellon is that they are literally gender-fluid, able to appear as masculine, feminine, androgynous, hermaphroditic or anything else they envision — a trait that other members of the Seldarine (the elfin gods) may share, depending on edition and setting.
    • Like most things D&D-related, this depends heavily on subrace, setting and edition. In 4th edition, a "design preview" book on races and classes from the developers stated that they wanted to deliberately avoid this trope, going for slender and graceful but still masculine elves. In 5th edition, a minority of elves have "Corellon's Blessing"; the ability to voluntarily shift genders at will.
  • The Elves in Small World are depicted as overly thin, androgynous types carrying baskets of flowers.
  • The fantasy spinoff for Grave Robbers from Outer Space has a character known as "The Way Too Pretty Elf." Technically the character is male, but is so effeminate that cards that can normally only be used on ladies can also be used on him.

    Video Games 
  • Blood elves and high elves (but not night elves) in World of Warcraft. 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. To be fair, though, male blood elves only look effeminate in comparison to the other mostly hypermasculine males in the game, especially their allies in the Horde. They were more so in the beta for Burning Crusade.
    • One of the quests from the Cataclysm expansion involves playing through a tale from an orc who describes how he supposedly chased Deathwing on his motorcycle while driving around with a "hot babe." You get to choose which one of those hot babes gets to hop into his sidecar for the chase and one of them happens to be a male blood elf.
    • The Legion expansion adds the Shal'Dorei, a faction of elves who hid from the sundering in a protective magical shield. Dark skinned and white haired like the Drow elves, the males can often be hard to tell apart from the females. Many players have argued whether the Nighthold raid boss Star Augur Etraeus is a male or female.
  • While not all Elezen in Final Fantasy XIV are feminine in appearance, Alphinaud deserves a special mention for the fact that he looks almost identical to his twin sister Alisae, not helped by the fact that they (Initially) wear virtually identical outfits, as well. This is lampshaded in the Flavor Text for the Wind-up Alisae minion, which states that they're simply Wind-up Alphinaud that were rebranded after changing the color of their hairbands and nothing else.
  • Dragon Age:
    • 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."
    • The character creator in Dragon Age: Inquisition takes this Up to Eleven. It is entirely possible to make a male elf with an extremely feminine face. Though due to the limited choice of two voice actors, the main difference of which is accents, your Elfeminate Male Inquisitor will still have a male-sounding voice.
    • Averted for male Ancient Elves like Abelas or Solas. They have much more definitive masculine facial, skeletal, and muscular characteristics. This is because it turns out they are ancient elves from before the Fall of Elvhanan and the entire race becoming a Slave Race.
  • Pillars of Eternity: Aloth the elven wizard fits this trope, having a slim build, smooth face, long hair, and refined tastes. This gets him teased by some more manly companions, especially Durance. Ironically, Aloth has a Literal Split Personality who is a woman. Double-ironically, she's even more manly than him.
    Durance: So, do you spend all your time hiding behind skirts? Or do you just like to wear one?
  • 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.
  • The two commentators Jim the Vampire and Bob the Ogre in the Cyanide adaption of Blood Bowl: Jim mocks Pro-Elf teams by pointing out that if he didn't know better he could have confused them for an Amazon team. Bob replies that this is silly since he's never heard of anyone fearing an elf.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick. The creator eventually realized that fans couldn't tell the gender of the team's elf character, Vaarsuvius, and thus made his/her Ambiguous Gender a Running Gag. We later learn that Vaarsuvius has a "mate" and children who are similarly androgynous—and, since the kids are adopted, we can't even say for sure if the two are opposite sexes. The Elvish subtitles even translate the dialogue to say "Parent" and "Other Parent" instead of "Mother" and "Father."
    • Most minor elf characters follow suit, though we know of one male half-elf, Pompey, and two female elves, Lirian and Veldrina.
  • 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' (a.k.a. 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.
  • Looking for Group: 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 feminine, in particular in hairstyle. One has girlish bangs and ponytail, while the other has narrow braids in his long hair and multiple earrings. Tanna also asks whether someone calling "princess" is referring to Elon, much to his annoyance.

    Web Original 
  • Fredrik K.T. Andersson (the author of Pawn) has a mostly-NSFW series of drawings about adventures of "the bard who knocks up every critter in creation" (though evidently was too drunk at the time to remember half of those... encounters). Elves are the only beings with whom he has some problems: he needs to be told that the beautiful elf he was flirting with is a he. Also, he didn't realize for a long time that the (rather Stripperific but also flat-chested) female elf in their party is a girl.
  • Dwarf Fortress Fan-Art: "A common mistake when dealing with elves."
  • Tales of MU subverts this in the case of half-elf Steff, who is genderqueer and dresses as a female. To humans and most other non-elves, she comes off as beautiful and feminine. To elves, she looks awkwardly masculine, like a bad drag queen.
  • Critical Role implies this is a case with Half-Identical Twins Half-Elf siblings Vax and Vex through official art and a bit where when asked what his sister looks like, Vax just pointed at himself.
  • In Acquisitions Incorporated, the group makes the occasional joke revolving around this trope mentioning how Aeofel is fey, how they have a "don't ask don't tell" policy, or how Aeofel is a pretty boy. Wil Wheaton (Aeofel's player) for his part embraces and defends the trope.
    Chris: Hey Wil, do you want the Elf [figurine] that looks like a girl, or the Eladrin that looks like a girl?
    Wheaton: I want the— Listen, here's the thing about elves: Elves are the Eladrin's hillbilly cousins. So I'll take the Eladrin that looks like a girl, thank you very much, because we deserve to look and feel pretty.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Ambiguously Fey, Androgynous Elves

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