They’re tall. They’re gorgeous. They’re immortal–unless you kill them–and they don’t get sick or deteriorate with age. They’re Elves, and they’re annoying.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I love them and appreciate them for what they are, but they are definitely difficult for the human “I-suffer-from-crow’s-feet-and occasional-distress-in-the-lower-tract” psyche to accommodate. No unsightly dandruff for them, brother! No festering boils, no runaway acne…they don’t even suffer the indignity of not being able to reach objects on tall shelves!
So, why does an author–who is 5’3” tall and definitely human in every respect–write about Elves? Hey. I’ll admit it–I find them interesting and fun to “play” with. I really, really enjoy looking at some of them (males in particular), and, well, it’s kinda fun to imagine being nearly perfect. But it’s definitely taxing to the self-esteem.
I decided that, for the benefit of my non-Elven characters and readers, I would compile a list of techniques I have developed over the years, methods to guard against (or at least delay the onset of) Mortal Inferiority Complex. Consider it well the next time you find yourself trapped in Tal-sithian. It might save you from snatching yourself bald.
Dealing with height issues:
If you are vertically challenged, this can be a real problem. Having Elves look down their perfect noses at you just seems to drive the point home, doesn’t it? They have the most infuriating habit of patting your head while reaching over you to grasp that just-out-of-reach object, which they then hand over with a patronizing, pitying smile. Now, you six-foot-plus guys can deal with your Elven friends by merely placing lifts in your seven-league boots (I always wondered where that expression came from…I mean, they should last a lot longer than THAT, surely?). But others, such as myself, are at a bigger disadvantage. Here’s one solution: never approach an Elf on your own feet.
If you train your horse to go anywhere your Elven friends do, you can always be taller than they are. You can also annoy them by leaving little (ahem!) “horse d’oeuvres” behind in their great halls and elegant audience-chambers. One problem: horses can’t usually climb trees very well, but you can always claim a fear of heights (be sure to think of a good story to explain it–something involving enormous courage against overwhelming odds). One of my favorite techniques for giving the pointy-eared ones new perspective is to make sure that one of them leads the group on mounted forays down woodland trails. He will catch every spider web in his white teeth and perfectly-coiffed hair. Trust me–it does a lot for your dignity.
Stairs are another convenient meeting-place, but do get there first to ensure that YOU occupy the top level. One of those handy velvet cords used in museums will keep the Elves at bay, since they are conveniently law-abiding. Might be tough to use this trick while mounted, though.
The “I’m a thousand years old and have forgotten more than you will ever know” problem:
Here’s a good method for really getting under their skin: Learn Icelandic (or some other human tongue they are unlikely to know). Teach it to your mortal friends, and use it often when the Elves are around. It will drive them crazy that you know something they don’t, all the more because they will be too humiliated to ask you what you’re talking about. If one of them commits the all-too-familiar transgression of pretending to know what you’re talking about, say something to your friend in Icelandic and then smile a knowing smile…even chuckle a little. Chances are, the Elf will smile and chuckle, too. You and your friend look at him with an expression of consternation, as though he has just done something incredibly gauche. Pretend to be offended. The Elf will back off, believe me, and he’ll spend the rest of the day wondering if he has just insulted your mother, or something. For such ancient, enlightened beings, they can be incredibly gullible.
Oh, come on, people! They deserve it. How many times have you walked in on a group of them speaking High-elven, and they just go right on as if you’re not there. Worse, they cast little glances in your direction (ot-nay in front of the yooman-hay).
The “I-don’t-have-to-stop-and-eat/drink/rest/sleep/pee/rub my bunions-because-I’m-so-perfect” problem:
This is a tough one, and may require that you a) include a traveling companion who is even more ‘needy’ than you are, and b) develop specialized gear. The former will ensure that the party is always stopping on someone else’s account. It would be best if you choose a non-human for the job, such as a kobold with a particularly weak bladder. Then you can shake your head right along with the Elves…poor, weak-bladdered kobold. If it weren’t for him, we’d make better time, but one must be charitable, mustn’t one?
As for the specialized gear, you might try a “camel-back” water pack under your jerkin, with the drinking tube cleverly hidden by your mustache. If one lacks a mustache, one can wear a cool bandana or something. Hey…what’s a few anachronisms between races? As for food, try “runner’s fuel”–they’ll never notice. Sleeping requires a ping-pong ball cut in half with eyes painted convincingly on the two hemispheres, which you then affix over your closed eyes. You will need a seat belt for your saddle and a well-trained horse, but it can be done. I know–I’ve done it! If you’re sitting around the campfire during the evening tale-telling and some Elf decides to bore you to death, catch a little shut-eye by employing your trusty ping-pong eyeballs. Then have your buddy tug the hair on the back of your head once in a while, so you appear to nod thoughtfully. The weak-bladdered kobold should take care of the other problem. As far as rubbing your bunions, you’re on your own.
The diarrhea-vomiting-body odor-horrible itchy rash-raving delirium from fever-problem:
Okay, so they have no idea what it takes to be human. Yeah, yeah, they might lose a leg or an arm in battle or have their eyes gouged out by some Dark Lord, but they will never understand the guts it takes to face a full-blown case of Montezuma’s revenge. So, here’s what you do: tell stories of the greatest heroes of your race: those who have faced the most terrible trials and yet prevailed. Speak of the Battle of Kao-pectate–the Siege of Serutan–the Trials of Tinactin the Tingly. Make them envious of your accomplishments. You can do it! Give them that “You just cannot understand real fortitude, you poor, sheltered being, you!” look. They hate that.
As far as smelling bad, that’s a problem. They don’t. We do. Perhaps you can convince them that humans really smell good–the Tale of Sir Fragnol the Fragrant, perhaps? And wall-paper-peeling aroma can be a powerful weapon! Sir Fragnol sacrificed greatly by forgoing bathing so that his deadly perfume, which made his enemies’ eyes water, helped to win the day? Perhaps if we quit bathing we’ll convince them that we’re proud of our…unique and piquant bouquet? Just don’t let them ever see you grimace at your fellow humans when the wind changes. Poker face, man. Poker face!
If that doesn’t work, find some way to…ummm…help them appreciate what you’re going through. You could always lure them into a patch of stinging nettles and offer to comfort them when their legs itch like mad. No Elf of my acquaintance is immune to scorpion stings, y’know what I mean? Scorpions just love dark places…like boots. Get it? Gooooood. Then my work here is done. You’re well on your way to maintaining your self esteem.