Elves are one of the five main Races depicted in Terry Brooks' Shannara series. Unlike the other four Races which are descended from humans, Elves are descended from Faerie creatures. In the Age of Faerie, Elves were creatures of magic, but they have since evolved to become almost no different to mortal humans, apart from a residual natural affinity for the use of magic. Their natural home is the Westland, mainly in the forests and coastline.
Elves have pointed ears, deeply slanted eyebrows, high cheekbones, and thin, narrow facial features. Their build is generally slender, lithe, and graceful. They have far better eyesight and hearing than people of other Races.
Although they are almost completely unlike the Faerie creatures from which they are descended, Elves have retained some elements of their past, including a natural affinity for magic, a talent for camouflage and remaining unseen, a deep reverence for nature, and a commitment to the preservation of the land and its life.
Arborlon is the capital city of the Elves and has existed since the Age of Faerie. The Ellcrys, a magical tree created during the Age of Faerie to protect the world from Demons, is one of the Elves' most treasured symbols, a representation of the Elven commitment to the land. It is housed in Arborlon and taken care of by a select group of young adults, almost always men, known as the Chosen.
Perhaps because of their physical characteristics, Elves generally prefer to fight not with brute force or in hand-to-hand combat, but from a distance and with stealth. They are skilled archers and adept at sneak attacks, as well as at setting traps and obstacles to prevent the enemy from reaching them in the first place.
Intermarriage with the Race of Man
There have been many notable people from the Race of Man with partial Elven ancestry. The most notable is the half-Elf Shea Ohmsford, who during his time was the last descendant of the Elf King Jerle Shannara. All of Shea's descendants had some Elven blood in them, but as they had children with humans and not Elves, the Elven blood was diluted with each successive generation.
Centuries after Shea, three descendants of Jair Ohmsford moved to Arborlon and married Elves, infusing Elven blood back into the House of Shannara. Generations later, a woman descended from one of the three Ohmsfords who traveled to Arborlon married the King of the Elves, a man from the House of Elessedil. Their daughter Ellenroh Elessedil became Queen, meaning that since Ellenroh's time all Elessedils have been descendants of the House of Shannara, and all Elessedils have some degree of human ancestry.
Long ago a small minority of Elves in Arborlon and the surrounding communities did not agree with the Elves' use of magic, and they decided to leave Arborlon and live apart from the rest of the Elves. They established a community on the south coast of the Westland, where the sea cliffs were populated with giant birds called Rocs.
Over the years these Elves learned to tame and ride these Rocs: those who rode Rocs were called Wing Riders, and the Elven community was named Wing Hove. The Elves of Wing Hove soon saw themselves as a separate people and referred to themselves as the Sky Elves, differentiating themselves from the Land Elves of Arborlon who used magic and were not able to ride Rocs. (Although not every Sky Elf is a Wing Rider, the two terms are often used interchangeably.)
Relations between Sky Elves and other Elves have changed over time. In the time of the legendary Elf King Eventine Elessedil, no Wing Rider had come to Arborlon in the last hundred years. However, the failing of the Ellcrys and the knowledge that the Druid Allanon had joined the Elessedils to fight the oncoming horde of Demons motivated Herrol, a Sky Elf, to send five Wing Riders to Arborlon to assist Ander Elessedil.
Centuries later, Queen Wren Elessedil established a lasting alliance between Sky Elves and Land Elves, one that remains strong centuries later. Pursuant to a contract drawn up in the early years of Wren's rule, the Wing Riders serve the Land Elves as scouts and messengers all across the Westland in exchange for goods and money.
Age of Faerie
In the Age of Faerie, the Elves were created as servants and shepherds of the forests. They were one of the more common Faerie races and also one of the magical races that battled the Demons in the Faerie War. The war raged on without end until the Elves magically created the Ellcrys through the sacrifice of a life, which banished the Demons into the Forbidding and brought peace to the world. Following the war, the Elves drifted apart from the other Faerie creatures, retreating into their forest homelands.
Age of Man
Like all other Faerie creatures, the Elves had incredibly long lifespans and incredibly low birthrates, and for this reason they were all but overrun by the rise of human beings. But unlike other Faerie creatures, they managed to survive by retreating further and further into the forests, using their natural talent for hiding themselves away to avoid humans, and becoming merely myths in the imaginations of mortal people. When the Elves realized that the Great Wars were close at hand, they used what magic remained to them to seal themselves and a few treasures, like the Ellcrys, away from harm.
First Druid Council
After millenia, the Earth had more or less recovered from the cataclysm of the Great Wars. The population had been decimated, and except for the ruins of humankind's greatest cities and monuments, the world as everyone had known it had disappeared. Genetic mutation caused by radiation from the Great Wars brought about the appearance of new Races alongside the Race of Man. These mutant human races were named after the creatures from Man's ancient fairytales which they most closely resembled: Dwarves, Gnomes, and Trolls.
The surviving Elves also reemerged in the forests of the Westland, coming out from their magical concealment now that there was no longer a threat of being overrun by humanity or harmed by the Great Wars' aftereffects. However, they were greatly changed: No longer creatures of Faerie, they had evolved in the struggle to survive to become nearly identical to the other Races, with a shortened lifespan but an increased ability to give birth. As such, many believed that the Elves were merely another Race descended from humans.
Chaos ensued as the five Races each tried to declare their power over the other. Fearing that the mayhem would lead to the end for all living creatures, the Elf Galaphile brought together a group of learned and liked-minded men and women from all the Races to form the first Council of Druids, a body of peacekeepers, historians, and scholars.
Under the order of the Druids, the known lands were divided up into the Four Lands, with roughly one territory for each race: Westland for the Elves, the Northland for the Trolls, the Eastland for the Dwarves, and the Southland for the Race of Man, with Gnome tribes scattered across the Northland and Eastland.
Wars of the Races
For a time the Druids' efforts to bring lasting peace and order to the land worked well. However, several powerful members of the Druid Order became convinced that magic, not science, should be the guiding force of the new world, and that it was their destiny as Elves and magic-wielders to shape the future of the Four Lands. These Elves left the Druids to form their own group, consisting of all Races and led by a Druid named Brona, who took with him the Ildatch, a book of unparalleled evil power that originated in the Age of Faerie.
For reasons unknown, the Elves were always prosperous. Among the Races they had no equal, and they were often forced to do battle with great menaces:
Brona, who had become known as the Warlock Lord, orchestrated a rebellion against the Druids by recruiting people from the Race of Man to wage war against the Order. Attacking out of the Southland, the Warlock Lord and his forces began a conflict that soon widened into what became known as the First War of the Races, with the Race of Man pitted against all the races that were supported by the Druids—mainly the Elves and the Dwarves. Eventually, the combined power of the Druids and their allies crushed the Southland force and the Warlock Lord escaped to rebuild his legion, leaving the Race of Man to rebuild their shattered lives. The fallout of of this war was the beginning of a deep distrust between Men and the other Races, and indirectly, this war led to the isolationist policy of the Federation, the primary governing body of the Southland.
When the Warlock Lord returned in the Second War of the Races, the Elf King Courtann Ballindarroch and his House were assassinated by a Skull Bearer. This threw the Elves into chaos, rendering them initially incapable of lending aid to the Dwarves in the war. A cousin of the King, Jerle Shannara, was crowned King and ultimately led the Elves to victory at the Battle of Rhenn, and Jerle Shannara confronted the Warlock Lord on the Streleheim Plains, using the Sword of Shannara to force the villain to retreat.
Several hundred years later, the Warlock Lord returned and wiped out all of Jerle's descendants except for Shea Ohmsford before beginning the Third War of the Races. While Shea went on a quest to destroy the Warlock Lord, King Eventine Elessedil was captured and held hostage, keeping the Elves out of the war. But Eventine was eventually rescued, and the Elves came to the aid of the Borderlands to help defend them against the Warlock Lord. Luckily, Shea managed to destroy the Warlock Lord before the Borderlands fell.
Restoration of the Ellcrys
Fifty years after the Warlock Lord was vanquished, the Elves were forced to reenact their ancestral struggle with the Demons: the Ellcrys was dying and the Forbidding was failing, allowing the Demons to escape. The Elves and a number of allies had to battle the Demons while Amberle Elessedil went in search of the Bloodfire, the only thing that could restore the Ellcrys. The Elves just barely managed to hold the Demons off long enough for Amberle to succeed. Later, around the time of the death of the Druid Allanon, the Elves came to the aid of the Dwarves against the Mord Wraiths.
Conflict with the Federation
Centuries later, as the Federation left behind their isolationist stance and began expanding, the Elves were blamed for the rise of the Shadowen. Tired of the accusations and understanding that the Federation's rhetoric was a cover to justify eradication of their Race, the Elves left the Four Lands, transporting all of their people to the island paradise of Morrowindl, several days' flight off the coast of the Westland. Twenty years later, the Sky Elves left Wing Hove for the same reasons, and they settled on smaller islands closer to the coast.
In their attempts to recover the old magic on Morrowindl, the Elves created a new form of monster which threatened their peaceful life on the island. They called them demons, but they were in truth Shadowen. These demons attacked the Elves and forced them to live behind the walls of Arborlon, trapped in siege-like conditions.
Thanks to the coming of Wren Elessedil, the Elves were able to return to their rightful place in the Westland. But soon after their return, they were attacked by the Federation, which was at the time controlled by Shadowen like Rimmer Dall who had taken key leadership positions within the government. Under Wren's leadership, the Elves managed to hold out long enough for help from the Free-born resistance movement and Trolls to arrive and join the pivotal battle, which saw the defeat of the Federation forces. Soon after the Shadowen were destroyed by Par Ohmsford, forcing the Federation to give up the war against the Elves altogether.
Over a century later, the Elves joined the Free-born and Dwarves in another war against the Federation, which was reattempting to take control of the Borderlands. With the disappearance of their Prime Minister Sen Dunsidan, who had been sent into the Forbidding, the Federation agreed to end the war, and peace was restored.