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So in most fantasies elves and men are very similar in their physical appearance to where they look mostly the same, the only way they tend to be physically differentiated is by their ears and clear skin. The truth is that in most fantasies differentiating between these two just isn't a problem. I mean the two species are almost always segregated from each-other. The elves tend to have special magical powers (and and a degree of divinity), plus, they're usually immortal.

But here's my problem: all species intermingle with no racial segregation, all peoples are equivalent in their potential magical abilities and are all equivalently made in the image of God, (and as a Christian I have to say that I believe since we are made in the image of God we were divine (but when we were corrupted, by sin, our divinity was removed)) and most of all, there is no serious difference in life span between either men or elves. So how do I differentiate between men and elves biologically to the point where you can tell them apart at a glance?

Just for some information on what I am looking for: I am going for something possibly similar to a level of differentiation between wolves and foxes, room for breeding and cultural manipulation of the body in both elves and humans. Also, major differences in average height is not something I'm going for.

Just to give a bit more guidance it would be something like how humans have rounded ears and elves have pointed ones; a common distinction I will probably use, but applied to more areas of the body separate recommendations for Male and female elves may be required. Any difference in the average physical ability of elves and men is allowed but not what I am looking for.

Edit: When it comes to me talking about them being made "in the image of God" I wasn't talking about how their body looks, I was talking about the nonphysical attributes like emotions, reason and many others. What I was trying to say is that they're equal in magical potential and in their worth to God (though if I was to speak in reality the characters are worth the words on the page they take up) which (in universe) is priceless.

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    $\begingroup$ Does God (in the image of whom everyone is created) have round or pointy ears? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Mar 15 '18 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ I'm asking just because you seem to include this (image of God) stipulation. This may limit how diverse elves can be from men. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Mar 15 '18 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ The Image of God is not a physical body, the Image of God simply means that your spirit, emotions and reasoning capability were made by God to be like his, this was of course corrupted by sin to where you have some parts of our current spirit that are in opposition to God corrupting the whole spirit so it will go against his image and will. $\endgroup$ – skout Mar 15 '18 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ This seems rather Broad after the edit. How do we know what are good differences or bad differences? For example, if I suggest that elves have six nipples (like some animals), is that good or bad? Cat eyes for night vision? Etc. I don't see how differences are rankable. $\endgroup$ – Brythan Mar 16 '18 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ Tolkein didn't even make a distinction in the ears, it was enough that his characters could recognize the elves as such, without giving them any specific characteristics in his books. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Mar 19 '18 at 2:55
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You could make a different colour scheme for your elves: just as humans are all shades of brown (from pinky-beige "Caucasian" to dark), with pink or yellow undertones, your elves could be different shades of green. Or blue. Then your half-elves could be some sort of mixed colour, or they could have patches like calico cats - whatever appearance you like best.

Your elves could have a different pattern of body hair growth. Remember how Tolkien's hobbits had no beards, but instead had hairy feet? You can get creative with that. And maybe give them non-human hair colours. Maybe even multiple-coloured hair.

Ear shape, eye shape, body proportions (longer fingers, broader shoulders, etc.) - it's your playground. You can toy with the colour and shape of anything and everything.

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So they essentially look the same, minus the ears, live the same length, have the same magical aptitude... Am I right in understanding that you just want it to be like different dog breeds? If so that means that elves and humans can probably breed. And that means Elves are just another kind of human with a different ancestral heritage.

Like people with European heritage generally have pale skin. People with African heritage generally have darker skin. But other than some superficial outside characteristics there are no meaningful differences.

So if you want them to be different at a glance, just take a few characteristics like ear shape, make them slightly pointed. Eye shape, could be slightly bigger/rounder. Height, to make them taller and thinner. Complexion, very pale. Hair color, naturally bleach white. etc.

All this can be done easily through very simple racial drift.

Changes like these can also work even if you don't want them to be able to breed with humans. Say God created humans, God created elves, and they are different, these are the characteristics of Elves that make them look different.

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  • $\begingroup$ I want them to be different species but similar in the aspects I described. $\endgroup$ – skout Mar 16 '18 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ @skout Right. Still works. Just pick a few characteristics to set them apart, with the obvious ones being height, pigmentation, and facial features. It works for Humans vs Vulkans vs Romulans vs Klingons and so on. They are all humanoid, similar in looks, and even able to breed, but anyone watching the show for any length of time is going to be able to tell the aliens apart at a glance. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Mar 16 '18 at 18:46
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If I understand your underlying premise aright, I think we might be kind of in the same boat, at least on this leg of the journey!

In The World there are two groups that share a similar dance to your Elves and Human: Teyor and Men. I think you'll understand when I say the one is among the unfallen of Gea while the other group is among the fallen. And largely for the reasons you cite: in this case, sin and a poor choice in the free will department.

Now I follow a different road with these immortal, sinless, perfected yet not perfect individuals. They look very much like Men. They don't have pointed ears. They can intermingle (but don't generally). They don't look like fantasy / movie Elves. No, if you saw a Teyor and Man enjoying some Auntie Ashgab's 72 Hour Giant Sloth Barbecue (extra hot Devil's Piss hot sauce on the side, please!) down at Uncle Ruftam's Teleranian Eatery, well, you really wouldn't notice anything to distinguish one from the other.

The physical differences that exist are primarily interior: good health is the status quo; their bodies take more punishment and heal more rapidly; they don't suffer common illnesses, maladies and syndromes; cancer is right out; they don't suffer from the same angsts and "primitive" drives gone haywire that Men do. The Teyor will be more graceful of body and movement than his Mannish companion; if Men are, generally speaking, comely, then Teyor are, generally speaking, beautiful.

The real differences lie in where you hint at, the inner, spiritual, fundamental differences. Men and Teyor alike have free will (as do most other races of Gea). Teyor chose more wisely than Men and thus did not suffer the consequences. They are thus very much like what The World's equivalent of "Adam & Eve" ought to have become had it not been for that row between Eve and Lilith...

Lilith, as everyone knows, is the first woman and Eve the second and Adam was the consort. They lived for quite a long while in the earthly paradise until the primeval Serpent comes along. Apples being as delicious as they are, Eve falls for the Serpent's sales pitch and takes delivery of a bushel of sweet goodness. She goes home and Adam sets to, after Eve talks up their golden deliciousness. Lilith, being the elder by a long shot, becomes suspicious of the grocer. A big row ensues and Eve confesses that it was a beautifully feathered Serpent she got the apples from. You know, the one whose market stall is downtown under the spreading Trees?

Adam starts choking on the apple he's eating, realising what's up. Lilith tells them they'd better go and tell Father straight away so he can go down to the market and straighten things out. But Adam is embarrassed and Eve is mortified and they both shake their heads saying "No way, no how! We'll just take the apples and hide them in the garden out back. Father will never know!"

As they head out the door, Lilith says "Well, if you aren't going to tell him, then I'll have to! Please don't make me do that!" But her words fall on deaf ears. Eve and Adam are out the door and into the depths of the garden and out of sight before Lilith can finish.

Later on, Father stops by for a visit with his favourite children. Lilith is there, of course, good girl that she is! But "where have those two rascals gotten off to?" he asks. Lilith is clearly distraught, but Father encourages her and she says "I told them I'd have to tell you even if they wouldn't!"

And so, Father hears the whole sad story and goes out into the garden calling for his children. He never does find them. Not for a long while anyway. First thing he finds is a pile of delicious looking golden apples heaped up under an old dogwood tree. He chuckles to himself "Naughty kids! Good at heart, but at least they're no good at hiding their naughtiness." All around are the remains of an old cloth sack that looks like some little rat has bitten and chewed at it.

Eventually he finds the two of them. They're hiding, crouched under a willow, crying. Both of them have scraps of Old Nix Brand Apples sack cloth tied inexpertly around their waists. Father says to them "Dear children!" But they can't look up into his eyes. They're too ashamed. He says they've been very naughty and have to go on time-out.

So, out in the wide world, it's Lilith and her children who passed the Test and she becomes the first mother of the spiritually perfected Teor; while it's Eve and her children who failed the Test and she becomes the first mother of the downfallen Men.

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  • $\begingroup$ please edit your question to fit with the answer, everything recommendation given was specifically stated as not part of my elves. $\endgroup$ – skout Mar 19 '18 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand the objection(s) here: I'm not the one that asked the question, so I'm not sure how I can edit the original question or ask a different question. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Mar 20 '18 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ skout, what is it you're actually looking for by way of answer? I gave you my take on the issue, but perhaps I'm misunderstanding your post? $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Mar 20 '18 at 1:25
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The differences could be as subtle or as distinct as you like. I'll start with real-world humans as an example.

It's a sometimes funny stereotype that "other" ethnicities all look the same, but it's largely true. Asian people might all look similar to a white American, but a Japanese person can easily distinguish between another Japanese person and a Korean or a Vietnamese person. Similarly, in Europe, people can often know who is German, or Irish, or Italian, just by looking at them. And they might not even be able to explain how they know - it boils down to a combination of facial features, such as the shape of the nose, the width of the eyes, etc.

Or you could go with something a lot more definable, such as reddish hair being common in Men but impossible with Elves. You could make then separate species, but still able to mate with each other and produce offspring (like lions and tigers). It's really up to you to define how different they are, and there are lots of different criteria you could use for that.

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They have like higher agility and can make better archers while humans tend to go with knight or fighter class because of higher strength. This could differentiate the two species to some extent if they were in a fight. While talking about biology, elves look more asian and with long hair but this could be just some cultural thing(the long hair). Some lighter colored hair like silver or white could also help.

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  • $\begingroup$ We are the same human as them, biologically speaking. $\endgroup$ – skout Mar 15 '18 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ And I state that "elves and humans intermingal, often living in the same cities" which means they would share the same culture. $\endgroup$ – skout Mar 15 '18 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ Now I'm very confused! Which do really want? This: I want them to be different species but similar in the aspects I described or this: We are the same human as them, biologically speaking These stipulations are about as far apart from each other as you can get! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Mar 20 '18 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ Bows require strength. At least bows that are supposed to be used for hunting and fighting. $\endgroup$ – Nuloen The Seeker Mar 20 '18 at 23:26
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Races of similar origin that have made a divergence in their evolution adapt to their environment. Looking at our world, the differences usually show up as:

  • Limbs of different sizes (longer arms, fingers, torso)
  • Color and size of the eyes
  • Amount of body hair, skin color
  • Bone and muscle density
  • Resistances to disease
  • Feeding habits, tolerances and preferences for specific foods
  • Behavioral differences - increased aggression, empty, patience, collectivist vs individualist tendencies, criminality
  • Sexual and child bearing differences - do they heavily invest a single child or make plenty of children and let them take their chances in the world? How long does the child grow in its mothers womb? 9 months? Perhaps 12 months?
  • Is the species monogamous or polygamous? Does it respect patrimonial or matrilineal genetic line? Does having multiple partners even mean anything or is pair bonding a thing?
  • Differences in intelligence, organizational and society building skills
  • Some species of fish change the color of their flesh (raw meat) depending on what kind of food they eat. That difference could be applied to elves vs human.
  • Face should be your biggest priority as humans use that the most to recognize and judge each others. Faces could be longer, shorter. Different sizes lips, noses, eyebrows and foreheads. Pronounced jaws or cheek bones. Teeth shape, skull shape (slightly elongated head perhaps?)

  • Posture (shape of the spine) = Hip size

  • Where does the fat accumulate on the body? Stomach? Ass? Legs? Back?
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