There are many kinds of ElfQuest stories: epic quests, light-hearted one-shots, dark cautionary tales, and even silly Worldpool what-ifs. Among them are stories that perfectly capture the ultimate spirit of what makes ElfQuest touch our souls. The “Little Patch” tale told in Hidden Years #3 is one of them.
The story is told in flashback by Tyleet and recounts her tale of raising an orphaned human child rejected by his superstitious birth tribe because of the red-brown birthmark on his face. In contrast to the humans, the Wolfriders not only took pity on the abandoned infant, they adopted him and named him Little Patch after that very same birthmark. While Little Patch is the protagonist of the tale-within-the-tale, Tyleet is the heart of the story.
Here are five reason’s Tyleet’s Little Patch story is quintessential ElfQuest.
1. It’s the ultimate “Day in the Life” story. ElfQuest is an epic tale, but Wendy and Richard Pini also weave in tiny vignettes of normal, daily life for the Wolfriders that expertly counterbalance the world-and-time-spanning action and drama. It’s these kinds of vignettes that make the characters real and relatable. In this story, not only do we get to experience Tyleet’s parental joy, anxieties and even heartbreak, we get snapshots of the entire tribe helping with Little Patch’s upbringing, each revealing something about those individual Wolfriders. It’s this kind of character development that makes ElfQuest great.
2. It showcases the Wolfriders’ non-judgemental attitudes. Let’s face it, humanity is superstitious and often overreacts in horrible ways based on that superstition. For the humans, Little Patch’s birthmark was strange, and strange was bad. So they left him to die alone in the forest. The simple, earthy Wolfriders, however, didn’t bat an eye at the boy’s unique coloration. As a representation of the vision that Wendy and Richard hope that humanity might one day achieve, the Wolfriders don’t judge by the surface but rather operate from a place of life-affirming love, non-judgemental compassion and natural simplicity. The Wolfriders, exemplified by Tyleet, showcase this perfectly in this tale.
3. The art is GORGEOUS. The first five issues of Hidden Years stand out as some of the best of Wendy’s ElfQuest comics art. These were the very first issues of ElfQuest done in full color from the start (vs. done in black and white first and colored later). Painted in lush watercolor, it’s hard not to fall in love with every panel. While the level of work that went into each of these issues was never going to be realistic in the long term, and while Wendy is now able to create equally gorgeous full-color ElfQuest art in the Final Quest by painting with light and pixels instead of brushes, these five issues will always be one of the high points of ElfQuest comics art.
4. It crushes your heart–in a good way. You simply cannot read this story and not feel a deep pain in your heart. The story is filled with sadness, from Little Patch’s abandonment, to his inability to fit in with the elves, to his continued rejection by the human tribe and by his ultimate fate. Yet never does this sadness feel depressing or hopeless. In fact, it’s the opposite. The storytelling is so superb that despite the awful things that Little Patch faces in life, and at the end of life, you walk away from reading it feeling completely uplifted even as you sob at how the tale ends. No character is more responsible for this effect on readers than Tyleet.
5. It showcases Tyleet! When this story first appeared, Tyleet was a new and unknown character. She was first introduced in Kings of the Broken Wheel #7 and while we got some snapshots of her personality, we didn’t really know her. The Little Patch story established Tyleet as the best blend of her parents: brave and dedicated like her mother Nightfall, big-hearted and nurturing like her father Redlance. Tyleet was the first new Wolfrider born to the tribe and introduced into the story after Suntop and Ember. More-so even than the twins, she represented the post-Quest world in which the Wolfriders found themselves, where humans weren’t always enemies, where the old hatred and animosities didn’t have to exist. She is the first Wolfrider born for whom the existence of the Palace and its potential was a reality and a given, not an ancient legend, and her confidence and fearless worldview reflects that. It is all of this that makes Tyleet one of the most beloved ElfQuest characters. She is a true lightbringer and a perfect embodiment of what makes ElfQuest amazing.