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Wood elf

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Wood elves, also known as copper elves,[1] or Or-tel-quessir are the most populous of the elven races. Wood elves see themselves as guardians of the Tel-quessir forest homes that were largely abandoned after the Crown Wars and before the Retreat, but unlike most Tel-quessir they do not view themselves as a people apart from the rest of Faerûn.[2]


Wood elves are easily identifiable by their coppery skin and green, brown, or hazel eyes. Wood elven hair is usually black or brown,[1] although hues such as blond or copper red have also been observed. Wood elves tend to dress in simple clothes, similar to those of the moon elves but with fewer bold colors and a greater number of earth tones that blend into their natural surroundings. Accustomed to a harsh, naturalistic lifestyle, wood elves love to wear leather armor, even when they are not under immediate threat. Wood elves are roughly identical to other elves in height and build, with males larger than females.[2]

Wood elves are often stronger than other Tel-quessir, including other elves, but are frequently less cerebral than the eladrin, who put a greater value on education.[1]



As a people wood elves are largely seen as calm and level-headed. Arousing strong emotions in wood elves is not something that is easily done, although many do have a strong aversion for large cities, having lost the passion for urbanization after the fall of Earlann. To wood elves, the trappings of civilization, including the mightiest of fortresses or tallest walls, are transient and impermanent things that will eventually be overcome by the long processes of nature. To many, this attitude seems condescending, weakening the bonds between wood elves and other races.[3] Additionally, wood elves can sometimes seem off-putting compared to other Tel-quessir, with a gruff manner that makes them less charismatic, in spite of their avowed compassion and humility.[1]



Copper elf archer

Wood elves consider themselves the heirs of the ancient eladrin empires established prior to the Crown Wars, but they share few of the cultural characteristics that marked such early realms as Aryvandaar and Ilythiir. Although a proud people, wood elves feel that compassion is a greater virtue than strength and wood elven realms are less concerned with expansion than they are with maintaining amiable relations with their neighbors.[4] Wood elves are not nomadic, however, as is common amongst the wild elves and instead are organized into scattered, carefully concealed villages united under a gerontocratic hierarchy composed of village councils consisting of the most distinguished families' eldest members. These councils are often advised by local druids, whose influence plays no small part in wood elven politics and who frequently serve as the webbing that bind any number of villages together as one realm.[3]

Compared with other Tel-quessir, wood elves have a notable disinterest in the arcane arts. To a wood elf, the wizard's spells are little different from the mason's castle walls or the tiller's plow - a means of controlling the natural world, which is contrary to the common ethic of living in harmony with nature rather than trying to dominate it that so many wood elves espouse. As such, wood elven adventurers are more likely to take on careers that do not require the use of arcane magic. In particular, many are drawn to the path of the fighter, the ranger, or the rogue, relying on their natural-born skill to overcome obstacles. Compared with other Tel-quessir very few wood elves go on to become spellsingers or bladesingers. The one major exception to the wood elven taboo on arcane magic are the arcane archers, who count among their number several wood elves. Other wood elves from more remote areas are drawn to the ways of the barbarian while many religious wood elves become druids with clerics often seen in much the same light as wizards. Those wood elves who do become clerics might eventually become hierophants. Many wood elven adventurers also became Harpers prior to the organization's decline in the Era of Upheaval.[3]

Art and leisureEdit

Wood elves commonly feel that they are in harmony with their natural surroundings and an examination of their art helps to justify this belief. While wood elves do not wander like wild animals as the wild elves do, wood elves do their best to make a minimal impact on their natural surroundings, a fact reflected in their architecture. Frequently, wood elven homes are made of natural fieldstone or carefully furnished wood but on occasion wood elves have been known to do without even these creature comforts, living in the limbs of mighty trees or sheltered caves, rejecting furniture or any possessions they cannot carry with them. So close do wood elven villages resemble their surroundings that humans have been known to wander through one without even noticing. Increased contact with other races since the end of the Retreat has caused some of these cultural practices to come into question but for the large part the wood elves of today live much the same as their ancestors did.[3]

In keeping with their naturalistic inclination, wood elves are not particularly fine metalworkers and have no interest in developing any such skills. However, wood elves are among some of the world's finest carpenters and stoneworkers, masters in the crafting of bows and arrows as well as in leather tanning. Wood elves have even developed a number of specialized arrows, including those that fly further than usual as well as some that are used as signal devices. So carefully guarded are wood elven crafting secrets that even experienced fletchers from other races have difficulty emulating wood elven designs. Wood elven leather armor also often doubles as camouflage, disguising a wood elven hunter from potential enemies. Compared with wild elven designs, wood elven crafting often looks surprisingly elegant, although they are often made of the same materials and use similar methods, reflecting some of the difference between the two elven subraces.[3]

While wood elves feel that is best to make a minimal impact on their surroundings, the race has no particular aversion to meat-eating and are passionate hunters. Many hours of the typical wood elf's life is spent on the hunt, which is both a practical activity and a pleasurable one. Most of the time that wood elves are not hunting they are enjoying themselves at ease within the highest branches of their forest homes. Wood elves do not, however, commonly keep pets, but instead form bonds with local wildlife in a manner similar to that of a ranger. Wood elves are particularly fond of mountain lions, pumas, and leopards.[4]

Magic and religionEdit

Wood elves are generally uncomfortable with most forms of magic, viewing wizards and other arcane spellcasters with no small amount of distrust. Clerics and other divine spellcasters fare little better in wood elven eyes, which see their prayers as a useless call to distant and alien gods. However, wood elves are largely at ease with the ways of the primal magic used by druids, barbarians, shamans, and wardens, which they feel is the truest expression of supernatural power - or rather, a reflection of nature itself, used to protect the wilderness. However, wood elves are not completely adverse to arcane magic and wood elven bards, sorcerers, and wizards are far from unknown, although wood elves as a whole have no particular tradition of the Art.[5]

Like other Tel-quessir, the wood elves largely worship the Seldarine, but unlike their kin, they do not do so exclusively. Many wood elves have a special place in their heart for the gods Silvanus and Mielikki, whose protection of the wilderness is something the wood elves themselves try to espouse. Among the elven gods, the wood elves most commonly worship Solonor Thelandira and Rillifane Rallathil, who like Silvanus and Mielikki, have particular connections to the untamed wilderness. Solonor, as the god of archery, is perhaps the most popular god amongst the wood elves, who will sometimes invoke him as their protector and patron deity just prior to a battle.[5]

Relations with other racesEdit

Although a proud people themselves, wood elves often feel that their Tel-quessir kindred, such as the Ar-Tel-Quessir, too often put on an air of superiority and xenophobia that is ultimately detrimental. Wood elves look to the examples of the ancient eladrin empires and, seeing failure after failure, feel that their aim should be compassion and humility, rather than political or military strength. Unlike many of their kin, wood elves feel that their fates are inextricably tied to that of Faerûn's other races and they make no effort to pull away or isolate themselves.[2] Ironically, so reclusive are wood elven settlements that in spite of their open nature, wood elves rarely actually see people from outside their race.[5]

Of all the humanoid races of Faerûn the ones most familiar with the wood elves are the humans and dwarves native to the North, who often live within the vicinity of the fey. Still, few humans or dwarves have ever actually met a wood elf and when they do it is often largely by chance. However, when meetings do occur they are largely friendly and like the moon elven eladrin, wood elves see themselves as allies and teachers of humanity, rather than as rivals. Wood elves also have a long tradition of friendship with the shield dwarves of Ammarindar dating back to the reign of Earlann, which has carried on into the present.[5] Wood elves also feel a kinship with the sapient giant owls, with whom they form a symbiotic relationship; in return for the elves acting as protectors for the owls, the birds of prey often act as advance scouts for wood elven warriors.[3]

Gnomes and halflings are less frequent guests among the wood elves, but they are generally seen favorably. Conversely, wood elves, like most Tel-quessir, have a strong contempt for orcs, as well as for gnolls, though their reasons are less about the ancient enmity between Corellon and Gruumsh and more out of the devastation that raiding parties often bring to the forests that wood elves hold dear.[5]


High Forest

Map of the High Forest

Wood elves are the last of the elven subraces to appear on Faerûn, though not through the same method as the other subraces. The wood elves are actually native to Faerûn, the descendants of wild elves, moon elves, and sun elves who decided to retreat to their deepest woodland sanctuaries after the last of the Crown Wars. Unlike the majority of the dispossessed survivors of the Crown Wars, who abandoned their homelands and went on to found new kingdoms elsewhere, the ancestors of the wood elves stuck to their ancestral holdings and swore to never wage war on their kin again. While not following the same path as the wild elves, they formed tightly-knit, networked communities, leaving behind high magic and becoming closer to nature. It was from the interbreeding between these peoples that the wood elves emerged.[2]

In the eastern High Forest the wood elves founded the realm of Earlann around -4700 DR. There, they befriended the dwarves of Delzoun and later taught the Netherese about magic, a decision they would later have reason to regret. Following the Netherese discovery of the Nether Scrolls, Netheril blossomed into a mighty empire that soon overshadowed the elves who had helped it find its feet. The elves of Earlann were worried about this sudden rise in power and attempted to subtly check the humans' pride and expansionism for centuries. Their efforts would be undone when Karsus attempted to gain godhood and failed, causing the death of Mystryl, the fall of Netheril,[3] and the eventual fall of the first empire of Illefarn.[6] Taking responsibility of Netheril's beleaguered people, the wood elves allowed many of the empire's refugees to settle in Ascalhorn.[3]

For a time, peace reigned in Earlann but once again the folly of the nation's human allies would bring disaster. In 882 DR, a mass summoning of devils by Ascalhorn's mages would backfire, resulting in the conquest of the city by the fiends. A year later, after a long struggle against the devils of Ascalhorn that severely weakened the nation, Earlann fell to a horde of conquering orcs.[3]

Earlann was the last of its kind so far and no new wood elven nations have arisen since its fall, though attempts have been made. Instead, wood elves have largely kept to the lands they already inhabit, fortifying their position rather than expanding into new territories. The wood elves ignored the call of the Retreat, staying on the mainland to look after their small villages and protect their forests but with the Retreat over, they have emerged once more as a people devoted to protecting their native forests. Although some wood elves still dream of restoring Earlann they feel that they have learned their lessons and so seek to avoid the empire-building of their kindred or of humans, instead maintaining a strong, but largely non-aggressive, role in regional geopolitics.[3]


FRCS wood elf

Armored male wood elf.

Wood elves are the most common of the elves in Faerûn[2] and can be found in many scattered groups across the continent. Many can be found in the Elven Court[7] (Semberholme, Tangled Trees, and the old Elven Court itself), the Great Dale, Tethyr, the Western Heartlands[1], the Forest of Lethyr, the High Forest, and the Wealdath.[7]

Behind the scenesEdit

Under 1st and 2nd Editions, wild elves and wood elves were considered to be one sub-race, the difference merely being one of naming, with wild elf being considered somewhat derogatory, much like calling a moon elf, grey elf. At this time, the entire race was often referred to as Sylvan elves, as well as Copper elves and Green elves. The elven name for themselves was Sy-Tel-Quessir[8] and it is not entirely clear whether this continues to apply to both of the new sub-divisions, or only one and if so, which one. Given the earlier materials' physical descriptions, it would seem that the originally described sub-race is what 3rd edition referred to as Wood elves.

In 4th edition, wood elves and wild elves were revised once again to become separate cultures of the single race known as "elves." Other elven subraces were categorized under other labels.

The Player's Handbook 5th edition appears to further consolidate wood elves and wild elves in its description of their xenophobia, "In Faerûn, wood elves (also called wild elves, green elves, or forest elves) are reclusive and distrusting of non-elves."[9] However, it only lists three elven subraces—dark elves (drow), high elves, and wood elves—and future books may further divide the elven subraces.




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 15. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Reynolds, Forbeck, Jacobs, Boyd (March 2003). Races of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 45. ISBN 0-7869-2875-1.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Reynolds, Forbeck, Jacobs, Boyd (March 2003). Races of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 46. ISBN 0-7869-2875-1.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Reynolds, Forbeck, Jacobs, Boyd (March 2003). Races of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 45–46. ISBN 0-7869-2875-1.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Reynolds, Forbeck, Jacobs, Boyd (March 2003). Races of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 47. ISBN 0-7869-2875-1.
  6. Obsidian Entertainment (2006). Chris AvelloneFerret Baudoin, J.E. Sawyer. Neverwinter Nights 2Atari.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 21. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
  8. Steven E. Schend and Kevin Melka (1998). Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves. (TSR, Inc), p. 19. ISBN 0-7069-0761-4.
  9. Jeremy Crawford (August 2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 24. ISBN 0-7869-6560-6.





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