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Night elves, high elves, blood elves, felblood elves, undead elves, the wretched.

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 Brann Bronzebeard confirmed that the first elves were originally dark trolls that were transformed by the Well of Eternity.

Elves come in many flavors in Azeroth, the two most dominant of which are playable races in World of Warcraft: night elves for the Alliance, and blood elves for the Horde.


Racial history

There are several groups of elves in the Warcraft universe, but all are derived from one group: the Kaldorei, also known as night elves and its upper caste the Highborne.

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."

The night elves are a powerful and mystical race whose origin extends back to ancient times. The founders of a magical and advanced civilization which at its peak spanned the breadth of ancient Kalimdor, the night elves came into a horrific conflict with the Burning Legion and achieved a pyrrhic victory that sundered Kalimdor's landmass into the continents of the present age. The devastation wrought by their conceit caused the kaldorei to abandon the ways of arcane magic entirely, and craft a radically different society centered around the worship of Elune, harmony with the natural world and its denizens and Druidism.

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.

Shal'dorei, the nightborne

The Nightborne were once night elves of Suramar. The Great Sundering blasted most of Suramar to the bottom of the Great Sea, although some of it remained above shore in the Broken Isles due to the efforts of the resident Highborne, who crafted a magical shield that kept the center of their city together. This shield would stay up for 10,000 years, as the Highborne believed the world outside of Suramar had been destroyed. Under their shield they would evolve into the Nightborne, addicted to and reliant on their source of power, the Nightwell.

Anatomy and physiology

Night elves and high elves tolerate each other, but just barely.

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.


Night and Blood.

There are six races of elves: night elves, Highborne elves, high elves, blood elves, nightborne and an undead variant, the darkfallen elves. Hybrids between elves and humans, such as half-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.

Another perversion of the elven species are the naga. 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.

Another race of elves has arisen on the face of Azeroth: the half-elves, the hybrid descendants of humans and high elves. 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. Considering that high elves and humans can have viable children, there is always the possibility of half-night elves being born in the future.

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.[2]
  • 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.)

Notable elves

A number of elves have played a significant role in the lore of Warcraft.

Night elves

High elves

Blood elves

Darkfallen elves

  • IconSmall Darkfallen Female.gif Blood-Queen Lana'thel - Leader of the San'layn, former wielder of Quel'Delar
  • IconSmall Darkfallen Male.gif 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
  • IconSmall Darkfallen Male.gif 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
  • IconSmall Darkfallen Male.gif 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


See also