01 December 2008

Creature Feature: Drow - Dark Elves

Some of you may know I do a regular feature on my blog called "Wallpaper Wednesdays." I like to dabble in graphic art and turn some of my creations into wallpapers you can use on your computer. Just about every Wednesday (I miss some when I have other events going on), I give away a new one for free on my blog. Most of the time, they're images depicting scenes or characters from my books, but not always. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I featured a composition I did just for fun - a drow warrior maiden. It got me thinking, "what exactly is a drow and where did they come from?"

See, I don't remember seeing drows in my childhood fairy tales. So I did a little research to figure out why they're so popular now. Here's what I found:

According to Wikipedia, the drow "is a mythical elf-like creature in Scottish folklore which lived in caves and forged magical metal work." Further, "Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1970) states: "Drow, n., [scot.]." The word is a variant of the Scots term "trow", which itself derives from the Scandinavian word "troll". The race itself seems based on another dark elf, specifically the Dökkálfar of Norse mythology." If you look up "dark elves" you find that they were traditionally thought to live underground and look sort of like dwarves.

Interesting. So the term has been around a long time. But where do we get these sexy, black-skinned, white-haired creatures that are so popular now from? A little more digging reveals that a lot of that probably comes from Dungeons and Dragons. I've never been much of a gamer, but I do recally my brother playing D&D for a little while back in the day, when it first became popular. Again looking to Wikipedia, they describe drows the following way:

Within the context of the Dungeons & Dragons game, the drow were forced
underground in what is now known as the Underdark after the great war amongst
the elves, a vast system of caverns and tunnels spanning much of the continent.
The drow live in city-states in the Underdark, becoming one of the most powerful
races therein.

The drow are well adapted to seeing in the dark, and they loathe the light of the surface. Some magic weapons, armor, and various other items of the drow disintegrate on contact with sunlight.
Drow characters are extremely intelligent, charismatic and dexterous, but share
surface elves' comparative frailty and slight frames. Females tend to be bigger and stronger than males. Drow are characterized by white or silver hair and obsidian black skin. Their eyes are red (or rarely gray, violet, or yellow) in darkness and green in normal light. Drow have several kinds of innate spell powers and spell resistance. This is balanced by their weakness in daylight. Also, drow weapons and armor (usually made of adamantite or another metal unique to the Underdark) slowly lose their magical properties if exposed to the sun.

In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition, adamantite disintegrates upon exposure to sunlight unless specifically treated. Drow also employ the unusual hand crossbow, firing small, though very lethal, darts. Half-drow are the result of crossbreeding between another race and a drow, and share characteristics of both. (The term "half-drow" usually refers to one who is half drow and half human.) Half-drow are also generally evil; however, half-drow of differing alignments are more common than non-evil full drow.

Drow males are commonly wizards or fighters. Females are almost always clerics and almost never wizards.
As a race, drow are usually evil.

Artists and writers of fantasy have expanded from there, it seems. I haven't written about any drow characters yet, but the idea is intriguing, isn't it?

The image at the top of this post is one of the many free desktop wallpapers I offer on my blog. It started out as an art project and turned into a research project. I hope you've enjoyed this little walk through drow history as much as I. If you're interested in my art, check out my blog on Wednesdays! If you're interested in the image above, check out this post in particular. There you'll find a number of different sizes you can right click and save to your desktop. Enjoy!

Bianca D'Arc
Come over to The D'Arc Side... http://www.biancadarc.com/
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