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Thread: Egalitarian Elves?

  1. #1
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    Default Egalitarian Elves?

    The 'History of High Elves' book says: "Individually, however, High Elves come across as a cultured, refined, and achingly beautiful people. Their society is egalitarian by nature, and largely invisible."

    Egalitarianism generally means that all people are equal in social status. Yet, I can't help but notice that the Elven society is represented with ranks that include Prince (Prince Hylas), and Duke (Duke Letarus), and has a mention of a 'High Elven Royal House'.

    What part of the society is/was egalitarian if they have/had a monarchy as a ruling body? With the term 'royal' meaning 'ruling by hereditary right', can the two societies (monarchy and egalitarianism) exist in the same culture?

    The idea of nobility wouldn't have a place in an egalitarian society, since there wouldn't be the idea of 'better bloodline' or 'better social status' or 'born better'.

    If there's a Prince, where's the King and Queen?

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    Telaran chant's Avatar
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    Perhaps the writers were just trying to convey that the Elves held a belief in common rights, opportunities, and a respect for all living things. However, there was still a court to service and protect it's people; a family who upheld a devotion to Tavril ...?

    There is also this brief history on the 'royal house':
    "There has always been a cult of Greenscale, though it was not always called House Aelfwar. Once, the name Aelfwar stood for the eternal devotion and untarnished honor of the High Elven royal house. But when Shyla Starhearth led the Elven people to fight in the Mathosian Civil War, Prince Hylas of Aelfwar stayed behind with his court, refusing to meddle in the affairs of men.

    Shyla died in Mathosia and returned as an Ascended to find House Aelfwar… changed. Their devotion to the wild had grown fanatical, making enemies of the Mathosians and Dwarves. That the Ascended were blessed by Tavril meant nothing to the Aelfwar, whose new god represented Life at its fiercest and most uncompromising—Greenscale.

    Today, House Aelfwar is an army of heretical thugs and seditionists who hate civilization where once they loved nature. They embrace unbridled strength and savagery, and with every move they work to spread the primeval forest and free their overlord."
    Last edited by chant; 03-19-2012 at 09:41 PM.

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    Plane Touched Akamhara's Avatar
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    Well, I think in this sense "Prince" is honorific - when Shyla did take her faction off to die gloriously and rise again, no one called it a civil war for disobeying Hylas' desire to stay in Silverwood and count beans.

    It's probably something to do with lineage, for which they can honor him, and Shyla, well loved as she is for being Tavril's favorite moppet for a while, and now Pentarch of the Vigil - but as a people they rule themselves, and are free to choose.

    If you look at some of the conversations the High Elves have, they make their choice on Hylas out of their love/respect for him, not because he ordered them to as a Prince.

    That's my take on it anyway. *trundles off*

  4. #4
    Plane Walker
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    what I feel would have driven the High Elfs a little crazy is in trying to decide what is life and what is not, as they were Wardens of all Life. To be a warden of All Life how is it possible to destroy anything at all, for everything is a form of life. Maybe this is Egalitarian?

  5. #5
    Ascendant Galibier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myuriel View Post
    The 'History of High Elves' book says: "Individually, however, High Elves come across as a cultured, refined, and achingly beautiful people. Their society is egalitarian by nature, and largely invisible."

    Egalitarianism generally means that all people are equal in social status. Yet, I can't help but notice that the Elven society is represented with ranks that include Prince (Prince Hylas), and Duke (Duke Letarus), and has a mention of a 'High Elven Royal House'.

    What part of the society is/was egalitarian if they have/had a monarchy as a ruling body? With the term 'royal' meaning 'ruling by hereditary right', can the two societies (monarchy and egalitarianism) exist in the same culture?

    The idea of nobility wouldn't have a place in an egalitarian society, since there wouldn't be the idea of 'better bloodline' or 'better social status' or 'born better'.

    If there's a Prince, where's the King and Queen?
    There is also the issue of how in one of the books the 'High elves' call themselves this because they see themselves as better than the 'regular elves' that moved to live within human civilization. The idea being that the 'High Elves' still remain true to the goddess and their charge.

    You are correct in that a hereditary monarchy and egalitarianism are incompatible but not QUITE the way you think. In the John Locke style of egalitarinism, people are not "equal". People have instead "equal opportunity". As such you can still have the "haves" and the "have nots" but the "haves" got to be that way through personal achievement and hard work. So you would still have a Leader but in theory they are a leader by proven merit.

    It is clear that the title prince is more than an honorific. He is a member of the "royal" house of Aelfwar. I think they simply misused the word and were trying to convey that the society is one where there is not a SOCIETAL wide pecking order, You have the "Leader" and then everyone else BUT that leader appears to be chosen in a VERY unegalitarian way.
    Last edited by Galibier; 03-20-2012 at 01:13 PM.
    Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

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    Ascendant Inixia's Avatar
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    Maybe the term egalitarian is somewhat euphemized? Lore also points out they have ruling councils, and a prince as noted. Similarly to how democracy is oftentimes euphemized when there is clear ruling bodies, and a lack of direct and equal representation by the avg person?
    Last edited by Inixia; 03-21-2012 at 07:02 AM.

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    Ascendant Galibier's Avatar
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    This is probably how they are referring to it. As an example people call western democracies just that because we have elections BUT the actual workings of government are handled by a republican form of gov't (with the exception of States where referendums are legal.)

    So the "society" in day to day operations probably acts as an egalitarian one while their is a ruling class for the big decisions. The only thing I have issues with is the whole "high elf" thing. It really seems they are, to an extent just as elitist as the Kelari, it's just a velvet elitism justified by maintaining duty rather the blatant elitism of the Kelari who see themselves as spiritually equal to "the gods."
    Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

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    Rift Disciple GothWulfe's Avatar
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    It's also possible that the titles are simply left over references to that particular bloodline. Prince Hylas and Duke Letarus would be related, though probably distantly, but part of the same ruling, or founding, family, where the other members of House Aelfwar, while members of the House, simply aren't. Kind of like the old scottish clans....you could be a member of "Clan whatever" and not actually be related by blood.

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    I thought Id just throw into the discussion the point that High Elf culture was built around the duty and role the High Elves had as servants of Tarvil. Perhaps the nobility, rather than holding a role as 'superiors' were rather groups born with set responsiblities in the task of serving their god.

    We know that many High Elves wondered alot. Perhaps the duty of the nobility was to create a govermental structure that allowed for the overseeing and protection of sacred places to fasilitate other High Elves in performing their duties. Again, less about superiority and more about forfilling a function.

    Do remember one of the things that drove Hylas to consider Greenscale was his duty to protect Silverwood from incursions of Goblins. Its why he refused to join Zareph's army too.

  10. #10
    Ascendant Galibier's Avatar
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    Maybe I am misunderstanding but to my mind if someone is born with responsibilities that gives them authority over others then they are superior. What you describe here is very close to how the old school "divine right of kings" was described. It wasn't that the King was an over lord it was that god had chosen his blood line to bare the frave responsibility of protecting his people.
    Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

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    From the way the Elven and Tavril relationship is presented, I just don't see how there is a Royal house in any traditional sense. I mean, elves wander the land seeking and heeding the word of Tavril, so the Royals have no closer connection to her than the elf who makes a bow. I think it must be a very nontraditional arrangement that uses the word 'Royal' for ease of clarity, but there's few details to draw from.

    I know it is minor, but I like to play my Elven character as close to provided lore as I can. There seems to be this huge disconnect between how Elves are presented in books and quests and in website lore, and then House Aelfwar itself. I'm sure this is intentional in some ways, because they are mobs to be pew-pewed, but it makes them hard to fit into how Elven society was, pre-Shade War.

    Another example of House Aelfwar outside the bounds of presented lore, would be how the books say that Elves are largely nomadic and we have no cities/structures of our own. Except, err, the Aelfwar Citadel. I've had that one thrown up ICly and OOCly a couple times:

    "We are do not harm the land. We wander, and heed the Goddess' words and will."
    "Oh? What about that big stone building over there?"
    "Uhhhh... ..errr.. House Aelfwar is 'different'."
    "How so?"
    "THEY JUST ARE, OKAY!"

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