An elf is a member of one of the longest lived species on Azeroth known for keen perception, grace, and great spellwork. Elves were once believed to be the first race to awaken on Azeroth, but some ancient histories believe that elves were originally trolls that were transformed by the Well of Eternity.
- Dark troll
Kaldorei, the night elves
"...a primitive tribe of nocturnal humanoids cautiously made their way to the edges of the mesmerizing, enchanted lake. The feral, nomadic humanoids, drawn by the Well 's strange energies, built crude homes upon its tranquil shores.
Over time, the Well's cosmic power affected the strange tribe, making them strong, wise, and virtually immortal. The tribe adopted the name Kaldorei, which meant "children of the stars" in their native tongue."
Quel'dorei, the Highborne
The magocratic society that the night elves developed split into two castes: a body of the majority of the Kaldorei and the elite caste, the Highborne, known as the quel'dorei ("noble children", "highborne", or "high elves"). These were the favorites of and most loyal to the beautiful Queen Azshara, queen of the elves. They sought to understand the energies of the Well of Eternity, gaining exhilarating power from the arcane energy siphoned from the Well's depths.
The night elves (and in particular the quel'dorei) would go on to expand across ancient Kalimdor, shattering the empires of the Gurubashi and Amani trolls in the process and inspiring awe in those who witnessed their might. However, the arrogance and carelessness of the quel'dorei would spell doom for their civilization, attracting the attentions of the Burning Legion. Azshara and some of her Highborne opened a portal from the Well of Eternity into the Twisting Nether, enabling the demons to enter into Azeroth and wreak havoc upon Kalimdor. Some of the Highborne grew terrified of Queen Azshara's undying loyalty to Sargeras and the demons of the Burning Legion. Quickly, they escaped to aid the rest of the night elven civilization in banishing the demons back into the Twisting Nether in a catastrophic war now called the War of the Ancients, ending in the implosion of the Well of Eternity and the Sundering of Kalimdor.
Quel'dorei, the high elves
The Highborne were never fully trusted by the rest of the night elves who had abandoned magic to pursue druidism. The surviving night elves would end up banishing the Quel'dorei for the acts leading to the Sundering as well as more wanton waving of arcana. The quel'dorei were forced into exile and eventually settled in Quel'Thalas. Becoming known as "high elves," they took up a diurnal cycle instead of nocturnal and over time, their skin became a pale color instead of their former blue-green hues.
Sin'dorei, the blood elves
After the destruction of Quel'Thalas, the majority of the quel'dorei changed their nation to the sin'dorei, or "blood elves", in memorium of those who had fallen in the siege.
Under the leadership of their regent, Lor'themar Theron (in turn working under the directive of Prince Kael'thas, last of the royal bloodline), the blood elves retook much of Quel'Thalas from the Scourge and looked to reuniting with their prince on Outland. Fate had other ideas, however, and the prince -- twisted by demonic energies -- was killed after betraying his people to the Burning Legion.
Though biologically and physiologically high elves, blood elves have glowing emerald-green eyes, courtesy of their exposure to the fel magic in place around Outland and Quel'Thalas. Like the orcs, high elven physiology undergoes a visible reaction when exposed to fel magic, though evidently one not quite as all-encompassing.
San'layn, the darkfallen
The Darkfallen is a race of vampiric undead blood elves, under the command of the Blood-Queen Lana'thel. They are a recent addition to the Scourge army, introduced after Arthas' second visit to Northrend. They possess their own racial faction, the San'layn, which plays an important role in the Scourge army. The greatest concentrations of darkfallen are located in the Temple City of En'kilah in northeastern Borean Tundra, and in the Crimson Hall inside Icecrown Citadel; these are also the only places where unnamed darkfallen appear.
Anatomy and physiology
The Well of Eternity's arcane energies are the primary reason for the existence of the elves, so it makes sense that they would be magical in nature. All elves are exceptionally long lived and, at one point, were immortal, though the main races of elves have lost their immortality. Further, all elves possess glowing eyes, a sign of the use of great spells — a being of any race can exhibit glowing eyes while focusing or casting a particularly powerful spell, but the trait is innate in only a few races, most of which are demons or undead.
Elves have several characteristics in common. All have unusually acute senses and are able to see clearly even in low-light conditions. As a general rule, elves are also slim, athletic, and graceful. Furthermore, they all have large pointed ears that tend to be greeted with admiration or mockery by other races. From the Official Encyclopedia Typically, night elves have longer ears than high/blood elves, whereas the latter's point upward rather than backward.
A characteristic of elves on Azeroth are their unusual eyebrows, which extend beyond their faces, resembling either whiskers or antennae. There has been no official coverage of this anatomical oddity, despite it being present in all official artwork. Though it may be speculated that this is due to the elves extreme longevity; the brow's continuing growth over the life of the individual to its extreme length.
There are five races of elves: night elves, Highborne elves, high elves, blood elves, and an undead variant, the darkfallen elves. Hybrids between elves and humans such as half-elves, half-night elves, and half-blood elves are also mentioned in lore. Of these, only one known half-elf has appeared in-game, Arator.
The blood elves are the survivors of Quel'Thalas who, in mourning for their slain brethren and without the energies of their Sunwell, went to desperate lengths to satisfy their hunger for vengeance and magic. Through the demon Illidan Stormrage, Kael'thas Sunstrider gained the ability to siphon arcane magic from external sources, providing an aggressive (but nonetheless effective) counter to the pangs of arcane withdrawal. Through Grand Magister Rommath (who smoothly attributed these new "teachings" to the prince's doing), the blood elves of Azeroth were able to sate their magical addiction somewhat, though reckless overuse of this technique could result in dire consequences: the birth of the Wretched, and felblood elves -- Burning Legion-aligned elves with the ability to gorge themselves on unlimited fel power.
Similarly, prior to the War of the Ancients, some elves aligned themselves with the Burning Legion. They became the demonic, caprine satyrs, mockeries of the elven form who feast upon magical energies to sustain their otherwise immortal lives.
Other perversions of the elven species include the naga and harpies. The naga are the remnants of those Highborne who were trapped in the implosion of the Well of Eternity but who survived by mutating into horrific beasts. They retained their immortality and dwelt beneath the great Maelstrom, though they were reawakened by Illidan Stormrage in the wake of the Third War and are now bent upon reclaiming the land, attacking any night elves they find. Similarly, the feral harpies attack anyone they see, being brutal cannibals. These bird women are descended from the night elves, though their origins are not clear: some say that they were cursed by Azshara while others say that they "gave themselves over" to Aviana, the bird demigoddess, suggesting that their violence is derived from their lost "mother."
Other potential cases of night elves giving themselves over to demideities include the Children of Cenarius, who could just as easily be the literal children of the demigod Cenarius. These "children" are the keepers of the grove and dryads, who bear the upper bodies of night elven men and women (respectively). The related centaurs are the bastard offspring of Cenarius' eldest son and the earth elemental princess , but they do not bear much resemblance to the night elves and look closer to humans.
Another race of elves has arisen on the face of Azeroth: the half-elves, the hybrid descendants of humans and high elves. Reports of half-night elves exist, but most of these would be in their infancy, given the recent rediscovery of Kalimdor. There is one half-kaldorei — — but her parentage is unknown. It is not certain if there are any half-blood elves, as the high elves (and their blood elven survivors) were prejudiced against half-elves, so there wouldn't be any initiated into blood-elvendom and the chances of a blood elf mating with a human, especially after their removal from the Alliance and joining the Horde, are slim to none.
While they cannot be said to be separate races, the undead and spectral remnants of the elves — members of the Forsaken undead as well as numerous ghosts, wraiths, and banshees — haunt those lands that they once occupied in life.
- The elves of Warcraft, like almost all elves in modern fantasy, are inspired in some regard by the elves of Tolkien's books, who were known as the Eldar or the Quendi. In Warcraft, like in JRRT's works, the elves are one of the oldest races, and became divided into subraces over time. As a quieter connection, "eldar" means starpeople, and kaldorei means "children of the stars".
- Though the vast majority of night elf lore is original on the part of Blizzard, they draw parallels to the Sidhe ("SHEE") of Irish mythology and other beings of Celtic myth (except for the chimaera and the hippogryph, who are Greek). Night elven architecture has also been said to draw upon Nordic and Japanese designs. Blizzard has also said that night elves were based on traditional fantasy dark elves but with a twist.
- Originally, the race now known as high elves were simply called "elves", and conformed to the stereotypical fantasy elves. Though there were several hints of the night elves in various Warcraft media, the original elves were not referred to as "high elves" until The Last Guardian.
- Half-elves originate from Norse mythology, and were borrowed by Tolkien, which he called the Peredhil. The most famous half-elf in Tolkien's legendarium, is perhaps Elrond Halfelven. (Unlike in some other fantasy genres, the Half-elven are not a distinct race from Elves and Men, and before they die must ultimately choose which race to belong to.)
A number of elves have played a significant role in the lore of Warcraft.
- - Infamous Queen of the night elves ten thousand years ago, currently the Empress of the naga; one of the most powerful sorceresses ever to exist.
- - Powerful night elf sorcerer; often called "the Betrayer" due to his role in the War of the Ancients; currently the ruler of Outland.
- - The first and most powerful druid ever to walk Azeroth, current Archdruid of the night elves.
- - High priestess of Elune and current leader of the night elven people.
- - Tyrande's protege, current general of the Sentinel army.
- - Warden of Illidan's prison for ten millennia, later imprisoned in Outland and current location unknown.
- - Leader of the night elves after the Sundering.
- - Heroic noble and general during the War of the Ancients.
- - Former Archdruid of the night elves. Now Druid of the Flame and Majordomo of Ragnaros.
- - Once a highborne servitor of Azshara, now a powerful naga in service to .
- - A powerful highborne that was turned into a satyr by the dark titan .
- - Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, formerly Ranger-General of Quel'Thalas
- - Heroine of the Second War
- - Liberator of Grim Batol and Ranger-General of the Silver Covenant
- - The first leader of the high elves
- - King of Quel'Thalas during its height
- - Betrayer of Quel'Thalas.
- - Co-founder of Allerian Stronghold, lieutenant of Alleria and the Sons of Lothar.
- - Originally part of the Alliance Expedition, he leads the high elves in the Allerian Stronghold while Alleria is away.
- - The late prince of the blood elves, last scion of the Sunstrider dynasty
- - Regent Lord of Quel'Thalas
- - Ranger General of Silvermoon
- - Blood Knight Matriarch
- - Grand Magister of Quel'Thalas
- - Leader of the Sunreavers
- - High Examiner of the Reliquary
- - The leader of the Scryers in Outland
- - Creator of the Blood Knights
- Blood-Queen Lana'thel - Leader of the San'layn, former wielder of Quel'Delar
- Prince Keleseth - Overlord of Howling Fjord, ruler of the South-Eastern reaches of Northrend and ambassador to the vrykul; also took part in the assault upon the Scarlet Enclave and the ritual to raise Arugal. Raised in undeath to serve in Icecrown Citadel as a member of the Blood Prince Council. Prince Valanar's brother
- Prince Valanar - Overlord of Borean Tundra and master of Naxxanar; also took part in the assault upon the Scarlet Enclave and the ritual to raise Arugal. Raised in undeath to serve in Icecrown Citadel as a member of the Blood Prince Council. Prince Keleseth's brother
- Prince Taldaram - gent of the Scourge forces attempting to conquer Azjol-Nerub. Raised in undeath to serve in Icecrown Citadel as a member of the Blood Prince Council
- , The half-elven son of and , has been added to the game with the Burning Crusade expansion. He is currently the only known half-elf in World of Warcraft. Arator uses a high elf model.
- - Twin brother of , son of and Vereesa Windrunner.
- - Twin brother of , son of Rhonin and .
- Half-night elf
- Half-blood elf
- Banshee - A particular type of undead, often formed from elven spirits.
- Dark ranger - Another undead elf, this one corporeal and a class.
- Shen'dralar - A faction of surviving Highborne living in Dire Maul.
- Troll and elven lineage - A theory about the origins of the elves.
- Blood Maiden and Dark Womb - Variation of highborne that were described in the Appendix Three of Manual of Monsters, however the validity of the source is disputed.