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Why there are no elf-human hybrids in Elfquest.

The question comes up, from time to time, about whether or not there can be elf-human cross-breeds in the world of Elfquest. The short answer is no.

Here’s the longer answer, with amplification (maybe even up to 11):

We (Wendy and Richard) decided long ago, at the very beginning, that there would be no elf-human hybrids in the world of Elfquest. Mostly, we did this for one very good reason: many other fantasy worlds allow them. To us, the elf-human mix has become, well, kind of tired and a bit boring. We don’t know where the first elf-human cross-breed appeared in fantastic literature, but it’s a stone fact that you don’t have to look far on the shelves in the fantasy section of the local Barnes & Noble to find some thick tome (or trilogy) that includes them. We always wanted Elfquest to be different.

For Elfquest specifically, and tales in general, we have a storytelling rule that we stick to just as much as possible. In symbols, it is:

0 1 ∞

In words, it is this: A thing is either impossible (meaning it has a 0 chance of happening), unique (meaning there is truly only 1 example of it, ever) or it is common (thus, potentially, infinite). For example: We allowed Timmain, who was very magically powerful in the beginning of EQ history, to shape-change down to the genetic level and mate with a wolf to create the Wolfriders. So such a feat was not impossible, but we decided that it would be a unique thing. It could happen only once in the world of Elfquest, to avoid having a million elf-animal creatures running around. (And, knowing something about how fanfic works, there would indeed be many elf-cat, elf-hawk, elf-platypus hybrids out there eventually.) We’ve also decided that the same applies to elf-troll crosses. As you all know, Winnowill mated with a troll to produce Two-Edge. But she also manipulated herself down to the cellular-genetic level to do this, because that’s the kind of perversely curious creature Winnowill had become. But once again, we’re going to keep that a unique occurrence.

Odd as it may seem, Recognition must fall into the “common” category, because it can happen more than once, even to the same elf couple. But here’s where craft plays its role. Even though it’s allowed, a good storyteller will not overuse a concept such as Recognition, lest it lose its power. For the Wolfriders, a small tribe often in danger, it is rare but frequent enough to allow the group to survive. And it is always welcomed. The Go-Backs have found a way to dispense with it altogether, and simply make more Go-Back babies as they need them. Leetah looked upon it as an unwelcome invasion of her personal integrity, until she let herself understand more fully. Recognition may potentially be common, but it should never be used in such a way that it feels common.

However, some things will stay impossible – and elf-human mating will be one of those. (We should note, that doesn’t exclude the possibility of elf-human sex. Remember, Little Patch – youthfully wanting so much to be like an elf – attempted to join with Aroree. That experience freaked him out, but it’s not impossible that another encounter might have different results. But again, a good storyteller will be sparing with such ideas, to avoid having them become humdrum and/or smarmy.)

Now, we must admit, we did allow a “what-if” tale to go into print, King’s Cross, that explored what the history of the Wolfriders might have been had Cutter been the son of an elf-human joining. Even that story, however, remains a one-of-a-kind thread in the entire Elfquest tapestry.


15 Comments

  1. Interesting post given the change in Shenshen of late. I immediately wondered if you were heading to the elf-human hybrid.

  2. We have Shen Shen who has been shapeshifted, presumably down to a genetic level, as well as Jink, who can shift herself, were either of them to try mating with a human–not for procreation, just for enjoyment–would the results be the same as Little Patch and Aroree?

  3. Seems to me like if you apply the rule “either impossible, or unique, or common”, elves changing themselves on the genetic level so they are able to crossbreed with other species must be common, because when it happened twice it’s not unique. 😉

  4. I doubt that Shenshen is shaped into a human as deeply as Timmain shaped herself into a wolf. Timmain was so skilled she shaped herself to the point of being able to reproduce with the native wildlife (but not so fully that the offspring wasn’t still part elf). I don’t think Shenshen would be able to do that–or Kimo or Mender or Jink for that matter.

  5. I agree with you Thornbrake! ShenShen isn’t changed at a genetic level, only her appearance is changed, like Sunstream when he is a “fish” or Kimo when he is a wolf. Although he is closer to a wolf, because of his wolfblood, making it easier to change into one. 😉

  6. That’s a good point about Kimo already being part wolf, Eyeshigh! :wolf:

  7. This is the kind of information I hope will continue to be posted here. The promotional material is necessary, of course– but these sorts of answers to fan questions are a gift. Thank you.

  8. Wonderrabbit

    Wonderrabbit on March 31, 2015

    In Rogue’s curse, Rayek mated with a human, and Ekura made the comment he was too much for the human girls. Apparently it didn’t go that well, but it happened.

    http://elfquest.com/gallery/OnlineComics/index.php?s=RC&p=32

    http://elfquest.com/gallery/OnlineComics/index.php?s=RC&p=33

    • Richard Pini

      Richard Pini on July 13, 2015

      Keep in mind some crucial differences in terminology. “Joining” means only the physical act of sex. We have a ton of euphemisms available for that, such as “making love,” “getting it on,” or the ever-popular F-bomb. “Mating” is a bit more complicated because (in English parlance) it can mean both “breeding” and “copulating,” the first of which implies genetics, and the second of which simply means what we just defined as joining. In Elfquest, we strive to reserve “mating” to mean “joining.” So when Rayek mated with the human girl, what was too much was his ardor, his energy, his “bloodsong” (remember Little Patch and Aroree) – not that there was a genetic incompatibility.

    • Richard Pini

      Richard Pini on July 13, 2015

      Of course, now that I’ve read my original essay above more carefully, I see I used the word “mating” pretty clearly to mean “breeding.” Oops. That still doesn’t negate the importance to keep clear the idea that an elf can have sex with anyone – or anything – he or she desires. There’s no rule (other than good taste) preventing that. Lots of different characters can mate (join); they just can’t mate (cross-breed).

  9. Since Two-Edge is indeed HALF elf, would it, In theory, be possible for him to join with either elf or troll? Or, is it like with some breeds of animals, when crossed their offspring are sterile? Or perhaps with a little help from say a healer **cough, cough,** Leetah **cough, cough** he could accomplish a breeding similar to Nightfall and Redlance?

  10. Don’t forget, when Sunstream is transformed into his Wavedancer form, he produces venom, just as a Lionfish does. Between the venom and gills, I’d have to say he’s changed down to the genetic level.

    • Richard Pini

      Richard Pini on July 13, 2015

      You don’t need to change genetically to make gills or venom. These are simply flesh-shaping, albeit on a microscopic, perhaps even cellular level. Taking your first example, all he needs do is “tell” certain organs or cells to mix certain chemicals already present in himself or seawater, in certain ways and – voila! – venom.

  11. So in my fanfics where the Wolfriders and their allies encounter a bunch of non-canon tribes and pretty much everyone Recognises…

    Oops.

    😛

    • Richard Pini

      Richard Pini on July 13, 2015

      Hopefully, the smiley you closed with implies a certain tongue-in-cheek attitude. Otherwise, I’d have to ask why on Abode would you ever want “pretty much everyone” to Recognize??

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