On the surface, Elves are of modest height with agile bodies, big eyes, and elongated ears. Underneath, they struggle with a long and tireless history, smothered by ages of warfare. While the first to walk Thedas, the Elves have lost what place they have in the world.
Ages ago, the Elves ruled Thedas. Under the empire of Elvenhan, with Arlathan as its capital, the immortal Elves reigned across the span of today’s Orlais and Ferelden. Its culture was great and inspired, embedding itself gloriously in the fruits of magic and knowledge.
But long time ago, Humans migrated into the continent from the northern islands. The new tribes met the Elves with hostility, and in their interactions, the Quickening came. Elves reportedly lost their immortality, and quickly distanced themselves from the invaders. But as they fled, the Humans overtook their deserted lands and conquered the Elves. If not slaughtered, they were made slaves, and as humans learned to wield the arcane force of magic, the Elves were their first blood sacrifices. As the Elves’ time was lost, so was their pride, culture, and way of life.
Only during the time of Andraste, the prophet who openly condemned the tyranny of magic, did the Elven people gain a glimmer of hope in reclaiming a part of their old lands: the Dales. Shartan, an Elven disciple of the prophet, rallied slaves under Andraste’s banner. Although they were successful, winning the Dales was a momentary victory, as years later the Chantry sanctioned an Exalted March, a religious war against the Elves that caused irreparable horrors which would echo between Elven and Human relations for ages to come.
In the Dragon Age, little has changed since war scattered the Elves across the lands. On one side, the Dalish grasp at what knowledge they can discover about the old Elven Empire lost so many years ago, in hopes of restoring their culture back to its glorious roots. On the other, the city Elves struggle to make ends meet by dwindling in poverty. What was once a proud people now languishes in obscurity.
The Dalish clans are overtly proud Elves who continue to hold the old days of Arlathan dear to their hearts. In recovering what was lost, through artifacts and knowledge, the Dalish seek to recover what was of the old Elvhenan Empire. While united in cause, the numerous Dalish clans are separated from each other, traversing the land in an individually nomadic lifestyle. The Keeper, who heads and safeguards the clan, uses their leadership and magical capability to keep the clan organized and alive. The clan members protect themselves and each other, through whatever means necessary. While skilled in survival, often this leads clans to be antagonistic and hostile towards outsiders… and even other Dalish clans. In continuing their isolation, they stand indifferent to the plights of the Elves who reside in the cities. While the Dalish are revered by the city Elves, they hold very little in common with their cousins. Unless a greater threat beckons a fight, The Dalish tend to their own and exist for themselves.
Beyond the Dalish lie all other Elves, wasting away commonly in cities and the slums called alienages. Generally, Elven are perceived as second-class citizens; while some take up jobs as merchants and craftsmen, most struggle and subsist in poverty. Most are at the whims of the humans, in both society and government. The city Elves have acclimated to human culture, adapting the roles and religions while inadvertently forgetting their own past.
The Elves of the Tevinter Imperium, the longest existing country in Thedas, are allowed freedom and given a higher status in the social strata for their magical prowess; however, they still cannot escape the ties that bind from racial scrutiny. As an Elf on Thedas, one never truly escapes racial prejudice.
Looking into the future, the Elves are once again caught in the fire. In Halamshiral, the Elven rebellion was crushed by Orlesian forces and later dragged about in the heat of the Civil War. The Elves in Ferelden are still trapped in complacency for their country that was nearly burned by the Darkspawn. While key players may break the chains that bind the Elves into a subset class, others may pave the way for the Elves reclaiming their own place in society. Heroes may stand at the precipice of change, and tear at reality to build a new world. Until then, the humans will continue to be authors of past and present. Thedas is theirs now, and they command its future, for better or worse. But that- is a story for another day…