Frost Elves: Northern Sylvan Elves Based on Finnic Tribes
Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to go full circle where the Aurora Borealis
dances across the sky.
JRR Tolkien, the inventor of the classic historically-based fantasy genre (that Warhammer Fantasy and the Ninth Age are both part of), was profoundly inspired
by Finnish folklore and language. The epic of Kalevala
(whose 1990s Don Rosa
comic adaptation is, by the way, warmly recommended) was an important basis for Tolkien's own tales in Middle Earth, and his Elven languages were in no small part inspired by his studies of Finnish. Let us as such be the first fantasy setting to complete the circle, and introduce northern Elves based on Finno-Ugrians
. The working name here will be Frost Elves to get the ball rolling, obviously to be changed for something better.
The basic concept is a plethora of different Elven tribes, sprinkled across the frigid lands north of Vetia and Augea. By the Ninth Age, these various peoples are the remnants from ancient days of much greater spread, but never great population density. They live sparsely, eking out semi-nomadic lives primarily as hunters, gatherers, fishers and herdsmen, moving like ghosts upon waterways and snow alike. They know these bleak forests and remote tundras and highlands better than anyone living, and they know well both how to avoid outsiders, and how to lay ambushes for intruders. To have the famous White Death (Simo Häyhä
) and ski-based Finnish winter warfare
during the Second World War (based upon a 16th Century Swedish captain's assault on a Russian marching column during winter) at the back of one's mind is for once not a modern burden for this particular brainstorming, but an aid. Think sisu
Tolkien's own tales
present us with two elements that may inspire this concept: First, his Avari Elves
, who remained in the east of Middle-Earth and expanded across these mortal lands, until humans emerged, grew and gradually displaced the Avari natives. Second, the dead-set exodus of Fingolfin with the majority of the exiled Noldor Elves across the Grinding Ice, or Helcaraxë
, in the north. Especially the latter has inspired numerous artists to depict Elves on the ice, see below.
I have no intention of turning this into a Homebrew army book, though anyone who wish to is of course welcome to do so.
Now imagine the vast expanses up in the cold north, where water and dark forests aplenty brood, home to hardy wildlife, savage tribes from various races, and not least bleak Elves, glimpsed through morning mist and snowstorms. These are the most silent and sullen Elves in all the wide world, yet they are also the living keepers of an oral culture of beautiful songs, cunning and crafty and handy with skis, boats, knives and sleds alike. They ken the ancient spirits of the harsh woods, and they share these spirits' deadly wish for solitude from a hostile world. Theirs is a cold and wind-blown life, wandering the sparse expanses, yet ancient legends tell of paths not chosen, of civilization rejected, of bonds to the Northern Dwarves broken, and of magical gold and smith's craft cast aside. The corruption of the Wasteland and the roaming followers of the Dark Gods have both taken a heavy toll on these Elves of the north, and likewise they are pressed upon by Orcs, Goblins and Trolls alike, and snorting Beast Herds can be heard stomping in the woods these wayward Sylvan Elves call home.
But these, the original tribes of the northlands, will never lay down their knives and bows, and they will never cease their fight, no matter come what may, for theirs is an unbending will, and theirs is a lethal determination to see their kin and songs live on, flushed with lifeblood, even if all the lakes and forests have to be carpeted thick with the corpses of foes. And as long as their grit and cunning win through, the magical songs of strange Elves will continue to sound among the mists and the snowfalls.
Such are the Sylvan Elves in the frozen north of the Ninth Age.
Avari Elves & Related Reference Images, by assorted artists, including SteameyFinnic & Related Reference Images, by assorted artists, including Tuomas KoiruvinnenHercalaxë Reference Images, by assorted artistsKalevala Reference Images, by assorted artists
Ideas, feedback and criticism are of course welcome!