Wild elves or green elves, also known as sy-tel-quessir or grugach, were a feral, stealthy subrace of elves that became more and more reclusive over the years. As of the 1370s DR, they were an extremely insular race who remained close to nature and were rarely seen by other races. They had a heavier build and darker skin than other elf subraces despite having a similar average height.
Wild elves had darker skin than other elven subraces, in a range of light brown to dark brown. Males were usually larger than females, sometimes by as much as 5 inches or 20 pounds, but wild elves differed little in size from other elves. An average male was 5 feet 8 inches (173 centimeters) in height and weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms), while an average female was 5 feet 3 inches (160 centimeters) and 130 pounds (60 kilograms). Their hair could be anything from black to light brown, and it grayed and turned to white with old age. Wild elves, like other elves, were nimble and agile in body, but they were commonly thought of as less intelligent than their elven brethren, due in part to their aversion to civilization.
They preferred to wear as little clothing as possible and chose instead to adorn themselves with other decorations like tattoos, feathers, or body paint. They could make and wear complicated and intricate beadwork.
Wild elves were a quiet, withdrawn people who neither liked outsiders nor tolerated any offense to their person. In some ways, wild elves were very savage and were quick to violence if provoked. Few things were more dangerous in the wilderness than a vengeful band of wild elves with ill intent. However, wild elves were not wholly uncouth and most would rather let trespassers go freely than harm them, so long as they learned nothing that could be used against the tribe; those who did were usually wiped of their memories rather than killed. Wild elves were also trustworthy and loyal friends who, though so slow to trust that short-lived races such as humans were often put off the attempt, would happily reward those who earned their respect and admiration in any way they could.
Wild elves lived in a tribal society without many of the advances available to other elves. They rarely crafted their own magical weapons and had lost the ability to use powerful magic. Wild elves did retain the ceremonies and feasts often found among other Tel-quessir, which were occasions of joy with singing and dancing. Hunts were occasions where each member of the tribe had his or her own particular place. Sometimes these were held on their own, and sometimes they were held as part of a larger event. Although it was common for wild elves to speak a number of languages, it was rare to find one who was literate.
Wild elves who left their remote homelands to become adventurers were often drawn to careers that required physical strength, much more so than was the case with other Tel-quessir. Rangers and barbarians were particularly common among warrior wild elves, though fighters were not unheard of. Although wild elves worshiped the elven gods, they were only very rarely clerics or other divine spellcasters, feeling a closer affinity to the ways of the druid or shaman. Similarly, owing to a lack of literacy or magical tradition, very few wild elves became wizards, though the path of a sorcerer was well-respected among the wild elves. More experienced wild elven adventurers commonly become arcane archers or druidic hierophants.
Art and Leisure
Wild elves strongly preferred art such as music and poetry to physical works of art like painting or sculpture. To a wild elf, the joy of art came from its spontaneous creation, rather than later appreciation. Because wild elves saw the world as ever-changing and the things within it as impermanent, wild elves felt it was distasteful to write down musical scores or oral tradition, believing that it unnaturally locked art into a sterile state. Wild elves carried this ideology into their architecture, which was weaved into the tangled limbs of living trees in a complex web that would baffle many "civilized" architects.
Wild elves were excellent craftsmen, but they preferred tools that could be assembled or deconstructed at a moment's notice, often resulting in a primitive or even crude aesthetic, though wild elven tools were no less effective in overall use. Weapons in wild elf society tended to be those than could be created without need for metal, a resource that was not naturally available without refinement. Bows and spears or halfspears were common weapons, as were clubs, daggers, and knives made from bone. Some preferred to wear hide armor but most were content to use their innate agility or various forms of camouflage as their primary defense.
Like other elves, wild elves were fond of wild animals and tried to live in harmony with their animal neighbors. Many wild elves kept animals like wolves, birds of prey, or wolverines in their tribes as guardians. Wild elves were not even averse to keeping larger, more dangerous dire animals, who were kept as companions only slightly less often.
Magic and Religion
Magic did not play as large a part in wild elf society as it once did. During the age of the long-fallen elf empires, the ancestors of the wild elves were as open to the study of arcane magic as any but after their fall, wild elves abandoned its study, along with many other trappings of civilization. For these reasons, and others, wizards were uncommon. However, in contrast with their wood elven cousins, wild elves did not have a particular aversion to the arcane arts and though they lacked any strong traditions of the Art, they were generally welcoming of its use by sorcerers, who came by their talent naturally. Wild elves were also common practitioners of nature magic and druids were common among the wild elves, who typically used more words, gestures, and material components in their spellcasting than was common among the druids of other races.
Wild elves had an approach to spirituality that was unusual among the Tel-quessir, even in comparison with the drow. While the wild elves honored and worshiped the Seldarine, they neither worshiped them exclusively nor did they do it as part of the hierarchical and organized traditions that other Tel-quessir generally espoused. Instead, wild elven religious practice was often very informal and rooted in animistic traditions that saw the fey gods as simply part of a greater pantheon of nature spirits as well as the gods Mielikki and Silvanus. Of all the Seldarine, the wild elves felt closest to Rillifane Rallathil.
As part of their unusual traditions, wild elves had several unique practices and beliefs. Tattoos were common among the wild elves, who often enchanted the markings with power. Wild elves also believed that each member of their race had a companion spirit animal. These animals were believed to provide spiritual guidance and protection. Young wild elves must discover their own spirit animal by attending a ritual involving spending hours in an enclosed area filled with burning herbs. During this time, he or she was expected to have a vision of the spirit animal that would accompany him or her for the rest of his or her life.
Wild elves were not a very openhearted race and were generally untrusting of outsiders, in part due to the harsh experiences of their history. Wild elves would commonly avoid or even outright attack intruders upon their lands, though not all wild elves were so extreme in their methods. Wild elves were known to help lost adventurers, though usually such "help" involved capturing intruders, magically altering their memories, and setting them free some distance away from their homelands. When wild elves themselves required help from outside, they would reluctantly seek it, sometimes even allowing visitors into their hidden sanctuaries. As a general rule, wild elves did not trust the N-Tel-Quess, but would reward those who earned their respect with lifelong friendship or even gifts such as ritual tattoos or a spirit companion.
When elves first arrived on Toril, the green elves (as wild elves were then known), the lythari and the avariels were the explorers. The green elves were by far the most successful at establishing themselves and exploring new areas, creating several territories that eventually became the nations of Eiellûr, Keltormir, Miyeritar, Syòpiir and Thearnytaar. All of these nations were consumed by the Crown Wars between around −12,000 DR and −9000 DR, and the green elves never created further nations or cities.
After the fall of their ancient realms, the green elves entered a period they called the "Wandering", moving from land to land over a period of many generations. It was during this time that the green elves separated further from their elven roots, becoming a distinct subrace. Forced to live as fugitives, slaves, or vagabonds, the green elves eventually withdrew into the deepest forests and mountains of Faerûn. By the time of Jhaamdath's rise c. −5800 DR the green elves had largely settled into their new homelands and intermittent contacts between them and other human empires did little to encourage the green elves to move elsewhere.
The majority of wild elves did not participate in the Retreat to Evermeet, instead using isolation as a survival technique, but forsaking many of their traditional elven skills of high magic. Losing touch with their ancient traditions and regressing more into primitivism, the green elves became clan-based and then tribe-based, eventually becoming the wild elves known in the 14th century DR.
In 1372 DR, a tribe of wild elves led by Kyleena Moonglow was forced out of their homes in Chult by the encroaching civilization and moved to the north. Eventually, they found a spot of forest in the Lonely Barrens of the Delimbiyr Vale. Feeling entitled to their land, the elves built dams to cut the local farmers off fresh water, hoping that the threat of famine was enough to force them to leave the farmlands. The city of Daggerford sent a negotiator who eventually managed to convince the tribe to release the springs. Feeling threatened by civilization once again, Kyleena moved her tribe to the Misty Forest of the Western Heartlands.
Wild elves almost exclusively inhabited forested areas. They could be found in the Forest of Amtar, Chessenta, the Chondalwood, Chult, and the Shaar. Some tribes lived in small villages of huts, and others lived a nomadic lifestyle. It was common to find wholly male-dominated and wholly female-dominated tribes. Some wild elf tribes constructed villages at the tops of trees, using considerable engineering skill.
Behind the Scenes
In 1st and 2nd editions, wild elves and wood elves were considered to be one subrace with different names. "Wild elf" was considered somewhat derogatory, much like calling a moon elf "grey elf." In the 2nd-edition accessory Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves (p. 19), the terms "sylvan elf", "forest elf", "green elf", and "Sy-tel-quessir" were all synonymous with "wild elf."
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Aquatic Elves: Aquatic elf • Marel
Dark Elves: Dark elf • Drow
Sylvan Elves: Wild elf • Wood elf
Miscellaneous: Avariel • Dusk elf • Lythari • Poscadar elf • Snow elf
Planetouched: Celadrin • Draegloth • Eladrin • Fey'ri • Shadar-kai
Humanblood: Crinti • Half-elf • Half-drow • Half-sea elf
Dragonblood: Drow-dragon (shadow) • Drow-dragon (deep) • Zekyl • Zar'ithra
Miscellaneous: Drider • Maraloi