The Happy Little Elves

Date: Sat 01 Feb 1997 - 05:14:39 EET

G'day all,

Air is (not) the medium of Sound

Lewis Jardine suggests:
> Sonar = Darkness
> Taste = Water?
> Touch = Earth
> Sight = Ether/Light
> Sound = Air
> Smell = Chaos?
>Illusion = Moon!?!?

How's about:
    Balance = Moon?

A much underappreciated Gloranthan sense (but pretty bloody vital one),
which ties in well the Lunar Way of Things.

Perhaps one of the effects Lunes have on their victims is screw big time
with their sense of balance, making the whole room spin around. That'd
drive me loopy!

What is this digest for?

James Turner writes:
>I thought that this was a forum for anyone to ask questions about
>Glorantha not just for people who have been playing in or writing about
>it for years...[stuff deleted]...If G:tG ever comes out hopefully this will
>change and there will be a flood of 'ignorant' questions like,
>do ducks lay eggs? Do elves bleed sap? photosynthesise? need to breathe?
>Can you sail off the lozenge? Do Jack'o bears really have pumpkin

>heads? etc.

As I said the other day, there's enough quasi-academic wanking going here,
so I for one welcome off-the-wall questions like these!

>Do ducks lay eggs?
The ones in Genertela bear their young live, as a result of the curse
that blighted the race in ancient times. The Keets, whose interpretion
of these mythic events is the precisely the opposite of the Ducks, may
actually lay eggs.

>Do elves bleed sap? photosynthesise? need to breathe?
I can do no better than repost a fabulously whacko piece on elves that
appeared on the Digest 3 years ago (I saved it because it was one of the
most amusing things I've read here, and I for one think it's right on the
MGF money as far as the Aldryami go!) It's by Kiwi digester Mike Dickison,
who describes it as "a half-serious gonzo retake on the Aldryami by a
lapsed biologist." (Repost follows at the end of this message, replaces
"From the Notes from Nochet Files" today)

>Can you sail off the lozenge?
Watch out for a series of "From the Notes from Nochet files" that explores
this very theme, coming up real soon...

>Do Jack'o bears really have pumpkin heads? etc.
Strange, but true! The squeamish should avoid Ma Uzko's famous home-baked
"pumpkin" pie when dining at their local Thunderbreath Gobbleguts



PS I'm not sure if Mike is active here at the moment. In case anyone rises
in wrathful righteous indignation, note that I have no qualms about
reposting his excellent essay, as ordinarily it would have been available
on the archives anyway and I would have pointed those interested there.

The Happy Little Elves by Mike Dickison

One of the most interesting features of Glorantha is the depth and
originality of its nonhuman races. All seem to be a reaction against the
stereotypes of fantasy fiction. Trollpak transformed trolls from slavering
into a brutal but in its own way sophisticated alien race, and one that was
great fun to role-play. Dwarves were given a makeover in Elder Secrets, and
turned from little hairy men with axes into uptight machine-brains who would
be more at home in Paranoia! than Moria. Dragonewts have always been
totally, and intentionally, strange, a wild card that referees can use to
baffle players. But elves are still elves.

Despite some attempts to break the Tolkien and D&D mould of skinny
environmentalists with pointy ears, elves still lack personality and the
feeling of being an alien race. Which is strange, as trolls, dwarves, humans
and dragonewts are like first cousins compared with the aldryami, which
are not just a different species, but a different biological kingdom. Elves
are plants, and the implications of this are startling. I want to cover some
of these implications in this article, and look at ways elves might be made
anti-Tolkien and more fun to play.

An elf is a walking plant crammed into a human suit. To aldryami, it's them
vs the animals. We might talk of a mindless person as a vegetable; elves
call an overly independent and mobile aldryami an animal. The ecological
terms producer and consumer are useful here. Plants are producers, the only
things able to convert sunlight and raw materials into organic life.
Everything else is a consumer, either directly or indirectly an eater of
plants, a parasite on the Green Kingdom. No matter how devout a priestess of
Ernalda may be, an elf can never forget that she is meat and he is not.

Aldryami and other plants are the true creators; humans, trolls, dwarves and
other animals are both destructive and dependent on the largesse of a plant
kingdom that could do pretty well without them.

Elves are producers, just like the other plants, with chlorophyll in their
veins and skin, and leaves instead of hair. They breathe carbon dioxide and
produce oxygen (1). They can produce some nutrients in sunlight, but must
supplement this with organic matter, both to provide critical elements such
as nitrogen and phosphorus, and to ferment internally to raise their body
temperature, using digestive bacteria and fungi similar to those that
generate the internal heat of a compost heap. To kick-start their system,
elves will usually begin the day by basking in the sun for a couple of
hours, and will be grumpy and lethargic on cloudy days or in winter.

Because it must produce heat through bacterial activity, aldryami food
is best already partially decomposed. Fresh meat generally makes them
sick, but a few renegades like Saw-Tooth Korvan will eat it for strictly
political reasons. Fresh plant matter will give them indigestion if they
overindulge, but certain leaves and flowers are epicurean delights. Humus,
or rotted leaf litter, is the staple dish. Soil will do, if it is a rich
dark loam,
but sand contains insufficient nutrients and they will starve. Manure, though
not the dung of carnivorous animals, is a delicacy. Horse and cattle manure
is good, rabbit manure is a rare treat, while chicken manure is the rich,
unhealthy chocolate of the plant world. Elves rarely reveal these dietary
preferences to others, as they hate being mocked by mere animals, but when
travelling in human lands they will always volunteer to sleep in the
stables, and generally have terrible halitosis.

For more details of aldryami cuisine, see the section on compost preparation
in any good gardening guide. Elves will mince or pulverize their food before
eating, but will not cook it, as they cannot use fire. All the children of
Aldrya are terrified of fire, and with good reason. Because their bodies are
made of wood and leaves, they are treated as flammable objects, and don't
require MP vs MP rolls to be set alight with an Ignite spell. This is not a
useful combat tactic though, as every second elf knows Extinguish.

All aldryami are vegetarian cannibals, and see no qualitative distinction
between themselves and other plants. Dead elves are usually chopped up and
buried at the base of their favourite tree. Favoured individuals, such as
those slain or even badly wounded in battle, will be devoured (or "returned
to Aldrya"). Elves see nothing repugnant about this, pointing out that all
the other plants do exactly the same when a great tree falls, and that they
are hastening the journey of the fallen elf to Aldrya's bosom. The fallen
elf soon reappears through the eater's single nether orifice as a rich green
liquid manure, deposited around the base of nearby plants rather in the
manner of a dog lifting its leg.

Because they produce liquid feces, elves drink prodigiously, preferring
thick muddy broths of suspended humus and muck. They are able to absorb
moisture through their fingers and toes, and on a hot day enjoy paddling in
a shallow pond. Instead of sweating, they transpire mosture through their
leafy hair. This is not terribly efficient, wasting water and scarcely
cooling the elf down, so aldryami will tend to seek shelter from blazing sun
before they begin to wilt. Those few aldryami found in hot dry country have
spines instead of leaves for hair, to prevent excessive moisture loss.

One side-effect of leafy hair is that elves can take cuttings of themselves
which will grow into distinctive leafy shrubs. Every elf's leaves are
slightly different, and can be identified by another of the same area with
an Aldryami Lore roll, so a hairbush can act as a signature to a
copse-treaty (2), mark out a private grove, or for a wandering elf act as
graffiti (Kilroy was hair).

Aldryami are perhaps most interesting in the area of sexual reproduction.
Most elves have separate sexes, and like two-sexed plants are concerned with
transferring pollen from male to female. In flowering plants, pollen is
carried at the tips of the clump of tendril-like stamens. The female part of
a flower is a stalk-like sigma with a sticky tip for receiving pollen. Elves
have exactly these sexual organs (3). In aldryami intercourse, writhing male
stamens will attempt to brush their gametes onto the stout female stigma.
Elves are fecund and promiscuous, as befits their association with the
Grower. Female elves produce a small seed instead of a baby, and so are not
hampered with the burden of animal pregnancy. Some human scholars have heard
reports of large "pleasure bees" participating in aldryami sex, but this may
simply be the result of too much leafing through botany texts.


1) Bryanthemos of God Forgot experimented with elves and humans confined in
a metal box. She noted that the elf lost consciousness last, and that a
mixed pair lasted 30% longer than two humans in the same box. She attributed
this to the elf and human recycling each other's breathing, although in the
darkness the elf seemed to soon switch to breathing air like a human.
Bryanthemos' research was sponsored by Leonardo the Scientist, who was
designing an underwater boat. Sadly during the preparation of this
manuscript Bryanthemos passed away in a freak accident in which she was
struck 27 times by a falling tree.

2) The closest Aldryami equivalent to a written language is a form of
landscape gardening.

3) Clothed, male and female elves appear identical. Naked, they are always
mis-sexed by humans, for obvious reasons. Rumours of human-aldyami
intercourse are examples of this mistake taken to the extreme. See the play
M. Butterfly for details.



End of Glorantha Digest V4 #148

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