Illumine – Elven Armor
The Warrior Lord’s Greatest Defence: Elven Armor
One of the most iconic pieces of fantasy armor has to be the Elven armor. Whether you’re into Cosplay, fantasy LARPing, or you simply want an attractive and cool fantasy display piece, fantasy Elven armor is where it’s at.
So, if you’re dressing as an Elven character or a character who is affiliated with Elves in some way, you’d do well with this Elven plate armor piece. This particular piece protects the torso and the back and can be paired with other Elven plate armor pieces for a complete set.
When buying armor like this, it’s often best to get pieces that are part of the same set, as they’re designed to fit nicely together and complement one another. This is especially important for pieces that directly connect to the body armor itself.
So, onto the Elven armor itself. The design is largely inspired by Lord of the Rings (LotR) Elven armor, particularly the Galadhrim armor worn in the Peter Jackson film series. For context, the Galadhrim warriors were the ones who were seen in the second film (The Two Towers) when they helped to defend Helms Deep.
If you’re not familiar with the LotR films, then you could also refer to typical fantasy High Elven Armor, which has a similar design. The design in question is a classical and graceful one, which perfectly matches the elegant fantasy Elves who would typically wear such fine armor.
The armor itself is largely constructed from two separate sections, one of which protects the back, while the other protects the front. Both of these sections feature steel plates, all of which have a brassy finish, which corresponds with the typical bronze appearance of most fantasy Elven armor.
These plates are connected via rivets to a vibrant red suede lining, which serves to both hold the plates in place and to make the Elven armor more comfortable to wear. The red lining also holds some straps, which allow you to adjust the size to better fit to your body.
The front section is made up of three plates. This allows for a greater range of motion for the wearer, and more flexibility. Each of these plates are riveted together. The central and largest plate has five rivets on each side which connect to the side plates. This plate also has multiple ridges which follow these rivets, curving and angling to a central point.
The back section consists of a single plate, with a curved top and bottom edge and is shaped to allow for greater mobility. The design of the rivets follows that of the front section, with the five rivets on each side corresponding to where the front central plate connects with the side plates. The back plate is also ridged, but with curved designs that follow the shape of the plate itself, and an inset pointed arch at the centre of the back.
The design of Elven armor, whether it’s made up of metal plates or leather, usually focuses on mobility and elegance above all else. We can see these principles with this fine example of Elven plate armor, which has both the incredible protection of typical plate armor and the ease of motion that any Elf would appreciate.
Elves in Fantasy: Their Place and Purpose
It doesn’t take a die-hard fantasy fan to notice that Elves tend to crop up in fantasy quite a lot. But after a while, you might wonder why Elves are used so often in fantasy. The obvious answer is that “Tolkien did it” and, while J.R.R. Tolkien was undeniably one of the masters of fantasy, there must be more to it than that.
The Origins of Fantasy Elves
Now, we’re obviously going to be talking about the works of Tolkien here, as he essentially codified the typical fantasy Elf as we know it. Many modern fantasy elves have the shadow of Grandaddy Tolkien looming over them, whether they follow the tropes laid out by Tolkien, or try to subvert them.
However, the origin of Elves doesn’t lie with Tolkien. Yes, he is responsible for our popular image of Elves, but Tolkien himself had several inspirations for these beings. These inspirations can be found both in Norse mythology and English folklore.
First, we’ll look at English folklore, because that’s where Tolkien seemed to start. The word “elf” is an English one, although at the time of Tolkien, it was often conflated with the more French “fairy”. Elves and fairies, while now very different, had the same roots.
They are both inspired by tales of the Fair Folk, or the Fae, which were beautiful but enigmatic creatures that could be both malicious and benevolent towards humans. If someone was mysteriously sick, it was often blamed on the Fair Folk.
Children who died very young, or who grew up with a sickness or a developmental disorder, were often attributed to the child being a “changeling”. This was a belief that the true child had been stolen away by the Fae and replaced with a copy, which either died quickly or grew up to be different to their peers.
However, other stories spoke of the Fae granting boons to some humans, seemingly at random. Even today, in rural parts of the British Isles, people are known to have a level of respect for the Fair Folk.
As time went on, Elves and Fairies alike were depicted as beings that were smaller than humans, sometimes with wings and always with a sense of trickery and whimsy. However, when Tolkien named his human-sized beings “Elves”, he created a clear differentiation between the two that still lingers today.
Fairies are usually tiny, winged, humanoid creatures who are somewhat childlike, much like pixies. Elves are more like humans and are beautiful and generally good. The Fae, who also sometimes appear in fantasy, are more like their original depictions of magical, mysterious, and dangerous beings with magical power. All of these beings are depicted with pointy ears, for some reason.
Although, as a quick aside, Tolkien never explicitly described Elves as having pointy ears in his published stories. He did, however, mention that Hobbits had slightly pointy and elvish ears, which, when put alongside some of his etymologies (think of them as planning documents) which describe Elven ears as being “more pointed and leaf-shape”, suggests that Tolkien pictured Elves with pointy ears.
So, we can see that the name and part of the appearance of the typical fantasy Elf can be found in English folklore. But what about Norse Mythology?
Well, Tolkien drew a lot of inspiration from Norse Mythology, as is evidenced by the Dwarves, another species popularised in fantasy by Tolkien. But the fantasy Elves that he used in his stories have many similarities to beings known as the Ljósálfar, otherwise known as “Light Elves”.
The Light Elves were human-sized (unlike fairies) and fair of skin. They were incredibly powerful, much like the Gods, and beautiful in appearance. They were also always “good spirits”, who resided in a beautiful place called Álfheimr, or “Elf World”.
So, let’s compare them with Tolkien’s Elves. His Elves are human-sized, and beautiful while being imbued with incredible power. They were always on the side of good, and many live in the realm known as the Undying Lands of Valinor, home of Godlike beings.
As we can see, some of the differences between the Fair Folk and fantasy Elves can be attributed in part of the influence of the Norse Light Elves. Of course, we also need to bear in mind Tolkien’s own incredible imagination.
So, we can see where the fantasy Elf that we all know so well originated, but it would do well to delve deeper into the relationship that the fantasy setting has with Elves as a whole.
The Ubiquity of Elves in Fantasy: Their Basic Characterisation and Popularity
Obviously, not every fantasy story features elves, but many do. Even the ones that don’t have a species explicitly called “Elves”, there may be another creature that has a similar role.
But what exactly is the role of Elves in fantasy? Well, it probably wouldn’t be fair to slap a huge generalisation on such an extensive setting, but we can make a few sweeping statements that work for most Elves, especially those which are inspired by the Tolkien world.
At their most basic level, Elves are like humans, but better. Occasionally, this leads to Elves being pigeon-holed into some kind of Deus ex Machina (literally “god from the machine”). This term refers to the ancient Greek practice where, during a play, an actor playing a god would be lowered onto the stage via a crane in order to solve the unsolvable, so the plot can continue.
This means that if the story has a problem that can’t be solved, the author can just stick an Elf in there to sort everything else through either magic or simply by being better than everyone else. Technically, this can be an issue for any work of fiction, but it’s often an accusation level at fantasy (and Elves) in particular.
Now, while this Deus ex Machina is often seen as a bad thing, it can be used very well. Generally, it’s only really poorly received when it comes out of nowhere, but it can lead to some awesome moments. It seems that the best way to use the typical Elven superiority is to make sure that it’s well established, that there are limits, and that it isn’t used to solve every major plot point. This way, it doesn’t seem as though the author is cheating, nor will it ruin the build-up of tension.
However, that isn’t the way that Tolkien used Elves, or many other Elf-focused fantasy works. Another common trait of Elves is that they’re incredibly ancient. Sometimes they’re immortal, sometimes they’re just incredibly long-lived. Often, Elves have been part of a fantasy world for far longer than humans.
This means that Elves (or similar ancient races) can actually help to ground and legitimise the world, providing a readymade rich history. Often, the golden age of the Elves has long past, and sometimes the Elves are actually fading into obscurity (again, we can thank Tolkien) by the time of the story.
Finally, Elves are often used to show something that’s alien. Most fantasy humans, for better or worse, bear some similarities to European Medieval humans. But when we have Elves, or some other humanoid creature, we can get creative and introduce the reader to something truly different.
Now, we’ve mentioned other creatures that can play similar roles to Elves. Sometimes, these are unique to the story and are basically Elves with another name. But we see other, more established creatures used in this way.
Dragons, for example, sometimes play a similar part to Elves. While dragons can be characterised in many different ways, it isn’t unusual to see them depicted as an ancient, intelligent species that is slowly dying out, much like fantasy Elves. Dryads are another ancient Elf-like species, who also hang around near forests, like the more nature-inclined Wood Elves.
Now, you may have noticed that we haven’t mentioned morality. Elves, typically, are basically good. Whether they’re protagonists or side characters, they’re usually on the side of good. However, it’s not unusual for Elves to take a back foot and to be somewhat more neutral, on the side of nature rather than humanity. Occasionally, Elves are the bad guys.
The Different Varieties of Elves in Fantasy: High Elves, Dark Elves, and Wood Elves
So far, we’ve mostly talked about Tolkienesque Elves, which are often otherwise known as “High Elves”. But fantasy is full of different types of Elves, who all play different roles. This was actually a concept found in, you guessed it, Tolkien’s works.
Tolkien’s Elves were separated into several different groups, but these groups were in turn combined into three sections, known as the Elves of Light, the Elves of Darkness and the Grey Elves. The inspiration behind the Elves of Light and Darkness clearly lines up with Norse Mythology, which featured Light and Dark Elves.
The separation of Tolkien Elves tied into whether the Elves decided to travel to Valinor or to remain on Middle Earth shortly after their creation. Simply put, the Light Elves went to Valinor, while the Dark Elves remained on Middle Earth. The Grey Elves, or the Sindar, were the ones who got halfway there.
All in all, Tolkien’s Elves could be broken up into all kinds of different groups, mostly depending on their histories and where they settled down. This allowed him to create different languages and dialects, because Tolkien was primarily interested in linguistics.
However, Tolkien’s intricate groupings of Elves isn’t what has stuck into popular fantasy culture. Rather, authors and creators find different ways to break up their Elves. The three most common types of Elf are generally the High Elves, the Dark Elves, and the Wood Elves.
These varieties are found in both the Elder Scrolls universe and the Warhammer fantasy universe, so we’ll compare how they are depicted in both, along with Tolkien’s work. These are both primarily video game franchises.
First of all, we have the High Elves. These are most similar to some of the more famous Elves found in Tolkien’s works, such as Elrond or Galadriel. High Elves are often rather haughty and tend to have more magical powers. These Elves are also, more often than not, fair in hair and skin.
Some more famous High Elves are those found in the Elder Scrolls Universe. These have golden skin and are very tall and slender, which have the most scope for magical power. They are also, however, physically more frail than other species.
The High Elves of the Warhammer Universe bear some similarities to Tolkien’s Elves, as they are very ancient and powerful and reside on their own island continent. They are great warriors and magic users, whose greatest flaw is their hubris. These High Elves have their Golden Age behind them, but still fight against the forces of evil.
Next up, we have the Dark Elves. Here, we see a great deal of variety. Tolkien’s Dark Elves look fairly similar to the rest of his Elves, and the primary difference is that they had never travelled to Valinor. This means that they speak a different language and have spread through Middle Earth. They still generally serve the forces of good.
However, Dark Elves in other fantasy works are very different to other Elves. Often, they have dark greyish skin, much like the Dark Elves of Norse Mythology. They are also either neutral, or explicitly evil in their dealings.
The Dark Elves of the Elder Scrolls have grey skin, white hair, and red eyes. They are one of the few races to worship the Daedra, but they aren’t explicitly more evil than the other races. Dark Elves have an affinity to fire magic, and are more balanced than High Elves, being capable in stealth and physical abilities as well as having a measure of magical skill.
The Dark Elves of Warhammer are pretty much chaotic evil. Physically, they look similar to the other types of Elves, being basically the same species. They are also ancient and powerful, but their hubris has taken a more sinister turn. These Dark Elves are sadistic slavers, acting both as pirates and a mighty empire that seeks to bring down their greatest rivals, the High Elves.
Finally, we’ll talk about the Wood Elves. In Tolkien’s works, the Wood Elves are specifically the Elves who dwell in Mirkwood and are ruled over by Legolas’s father, Thranduil. Technically, as they never travelled to Valinor, these Wood Elves are also considered to be Dark Elves, because Tolkien liked to be confusing.
Generally, Wood Elves are your nature loving Elves. Legolas, while technically a Sindarin Grey Elf (who could be considered a type of High Elf), is in some ways similar to your typical Wood Elf. They stick to the forests, love all things nature, and are brilliant with the bow. Sometimes, Wood Elves can be neutral, being on the side of nature rather than good or evil as a whole.
In the Elder Scrolls, Wood Elves are smaller than other species and arguably fiercer. Some of them are known to eat the bodies of their enemies, and they live a simple life that is closely linked with the trees and wild animals. As well as being small, Wood Elves are very nimble and excel at archery, making them fantastic assassins.
When we look at the world of Warhammer, the Wood Elves are a very isolationist people, hiding away from the rest of the world and focusing on protecting their forest realms. Unlike the High Elves, who seek to protect the world, or the Dark Elves, who seek to subjugate it, the Wood Elves would rather hide from it. They are also excellent archers and work along with the forest spirits, and they are willing to take on any who threaten their home.
Other Famous Depictions of Elves
While we’ve looked at the most common Elven people in fantasy, there is yet more variation to be found. The wonderful thing about fantasy is that the only limit is your imagination, so Elves can be whatever or whoever you want them to be.
Potentially the most common type of Elf (outside of ‘Elf’) is the Half-Elf. In Tolkien’s works, Half Elves have the ability to choose between living as an Elf or a mortal man, and even Half-Elves with only a drop of human blood (such as Arwen) are counted as Half Elves.
However, most of the time, Half-Elves are a hybrid of Elf and Man, and have traits of both species. In a way, they’re like an “Elf-lite”, with slightly pointed ears and a propensity towards magic, but without the full Elf experience.
In games, Half-Elves can be very popular, because they are balanced to be good all-rounders. Examples of these are Bretons from the Elder Scrolls (who are mostly human but with a hint of elf giving them enhanced magic) and the Half-Elves of Dungeons and Dragons who are very versatile.
Orcs are, interestingly, sometimes depicted as being a type of Elf, usually corrupted in some way. In Tolkien’s world, Orcs are hinted to have been created from corrupted Elves, who were tortured and twisted into the Orcish form. However, even Tolkien wasn’t completely sure about his Orcs at times.
If we have yet another look at the Elder Scrolls, we learn that these Orcs are related to the more graceful Elves. A group of Aldmeri (the original ancestor of all the Elven races) were corrupted by a Daedric Prince. This resulted in the birth of another Daedric Prince called Malacath and the Orcish people as a whole. Unlike the other Elves, the Orcs are primarily physical, having limited magical ability but incredible strength. They also aren’t necessarily “evil”.
However, there are yet more, more niche Elves in fantasy. We have Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies, who are Elves that act like the Fae Folk. In some different fantasy settings, we have Harry Potter’s House Elves, who are small creatures that are treated as slaves.
An argument could be made that even Sci Fi can include Elf-like beings. Star Trek has the Vulcans, who are pointy eared, long-lived, arrogant people who have incredible physical and mental abilities.
The Elves in Battle: Ancient Warriors of Fantasy
So, now that we’ve talked about the Elves as a whole, let’s look at something a bit more pertinent to our Elven armor on offer. Specifically, we’ll talk about the idea of the Elven warrior and what kind of weapons and armor that he will bring to bear.
First of all, Elven warriors can vary from one fantasy world to the next, much like every other aspect to Elves. A common pattern that’s found is that many fantasy games will ramp up the magical abilities of Elves, while lessening their physical abilities. This can be attributed to balancing the gameplay, so a character can focus on one skill while being weaker in others.
However, outside of games that have to consider such things as “gameplay balance” and “character creation”, many works of fiction depict Elves as being skilled and powerful physical warriors, often sporting powerful Elven armor and weapons.
When it comes to our good old warrior Elf, armor and weaponry can be used to both add to an aesthetic and to characterise the Elves as a whole. Despite being tools of war, Elven armor and weapons are normally aesthetically pleasing.
A good design for fantasy Elven armor and weaponry usually finds a middle ground between artful and practical. Both might feature long, curved lines, and take inspiration from nature. Leaf designs are commonly found in armor pieces and in weaponry, both in the shape of the metal and in engravings.
This highlights the beauty that is often found in all things Elven. If even their weapons and armor are pleasant to look upon, then the artwork and architecture of the Elves must surely be stunning. Sometimes it seems as though the Elves are physically incapable of creating anything ugly.
As well as being beautiful, Elven crafts are usually considered to be somehow superior to more mundane human works. Sometimes, this is attributed to skill and careful design, as the Elves have the benefit of their long years of experience to learn how to create incredibly effective weapons.
Often, the explanation is less mundane. Elves may use different materials, which can create a weapon or armor piece with enhanced qualities. Sometimes, they are the keepers of a special forging technique, which can be made possible by their magical nature. Sometimes, the Elven works are explicitly magical. Enchanted weapons and armor crop up in fiction, and some can only be created by Elves.
If we look at Tolkien’s Elvish swords, we can see some of these principles in action. The ancient swords of the First Age, such as Bilbo and Frodo’s Sting or Gandalf’s Glamdring, are said to be of incredible quality and can even glow in the presence of orcs. However, these swords don’t set enemies on fire or anything too flashy, as Tolkien’s magic can be surprisingly subtle.
But what about Elven armor specifically? Well, this armor is most commonly either made of metal or leather. Leather armor fits very well with the Wood Elf aesthetic, as it is entirely natural and suits the hunter type of character, being light and easy to move in.
However, plate armor is somewhat more impressive. Even so, Elven plate armor is rarely bulky and often has a bronze colour, often to make it stand out from the more mundane human armor. This armor still needs to be easy to move in, as the Elves are characterised more by their speed and skill than their physical strength.
After all, even the Elven warrior will likely prefer to fight with a bow than at melee. Their great skill and long years of experience give them an edge in melee combat, but almost every depiction of the Elves grants them a greater advantage with the bow.
The technical specifications for the Elven armor for sale are as follows:
- Material: Made from steel, suede, and leather.
- Finish: Brass finish.
- Care Instructions: Keep the metal pieces away from water and oiled, to prevent rusting. Clean with metal polish occasionally, and re-oil regularly. Use leather care products to maintain the leather fittings.
The Elven armor is available in two sizes, the measurements for which are:
- Small/Medium: Front length, 10 inches or 25.4 cm. Back length, 10.5 inches or 26.7 cm. Torso width, 33.5-43.5 inches or 85.1-109.2 cm.
- Large/X-Large: Front length, 11 inches or 27.9 cm. Back length, 11.5 inches or 29.2 cm. Torso width, 38-49 inches or 96.5-124.5 cm.