These elves have a maximum lifespan of 250 years. Their life cycle is as follows:

  • Puberty at 40
  • Menopause at 160
  • Retirement at 200

This gives elves about 120 years of fertility. Children are born decades apart, with parents still being able to reproduce for many years even after there own children have had kids of their own. This can lead to odd circumstances to humans, such as grandchildren being older than their sons and daughters, or having great-great grandparents who are still alive.

This culture has a strong respect and adherence to elders, where the older person generally has more power and influence. With overlapping generations and elven longevity, how can this affect the concept of family and how it is structured?

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    $\begingroup$ divide all your numbers by 3, and you got more or less the same things for human. Human can also have grandchildren being older than their sons and daughters, or having great-great grandparents who are still alive. But the majority of family have kids with few years of difference, even if they are able to do kids with huge age differencies. Elves family structure would not be that different from humans $\endgroup$
    – Kepotx
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ Overlapping generations in a family sometimes happens in Homo Sapiens - see King David II and King Robert II of Scotland for example. In my own family I had a great great great great grandmother who lived from 1746-1841. She died a year after her youngest grandchild was born in 1840, but already had 8 of her many great great grandchildren born - the earliest in 1835. My answer here: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/118260/… mentions the family of Bahadur Shah II with his oldest great grandson and youngest son about the same age. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ Why assume that elves even have a 1950s western culture-style nuclear family structure? Even now, "blended" families, single parents, and children of widely-separated ages are not so rare as to be particularly remarkable. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 18:06

2 Answers 2


If we use these ratios with humans (with a maximum lifespan of 80 years):

  • Puberty is at 12.8 years
  • Menopause is at 51.2 years
  • Retirement is at 64 years

These aren't actually that far off reality. If humans wanted to, we could quite easily have grandchildren older than their aunts/uncles or have great-great-grandparents still alive.

We don't though, because as a society the typical age to have children is 20 to 35 (or 62 to 110 for an elf). We could have children outside of that range, but we generally choose not to.

Another, possibly related point is how long a pregnancy lasts for an elf. Nine months is actually a reasonable proportion of a human's life, but if it is also nine months for an elf the cost is comparatively less.

In conclusion, this aspect of longevity will likely not affect family structure much compared to a human family. A bigger problem would be finding someone you'd be willing to spend so much time with!

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. Unless elves have a similar ratio of pregnancies per year their family tree should not look that different from humans. It is not far fetched to assume that they have roughly the same amount of pregnancies per woman as humans. If it was higher they would increase in numbers like a plague - which is not how elves are usually imagined. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Artificial Au contraire. With the same pregnancy ratio, elves population grows very slowly compared to humans. Take a human couple and an elven one, married in the same year. 50 years later the human couple has had 3 children, which have already married and had 3 children each. The elven couple, meanwhile, has only had one child and is pregnant with their second. By the time the elven couple has their third child his first is married, but childless still, the second is still single and the human couple is already dead, but their descendants outnumber the elven ones by 27 to 3. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Rekesoft Sorry, I wasn't specific enough. What i tried to say was that if elves had as many children per year per woman as humans they'd grow faster. As elves are usually portrayed as a exalted rarity in the fictional universe. Not as breeding machines. You'd have one woman spawning 9 children. Quite untypical for what is conventional seen as elves. "Increase in numbers like a plague" was NOT referring to the speed, but the relative growth rate per generation. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 11:44

Communal rearing of the young by the prepubescent.

This,” said I, “and all that precedes has for its sequel, in my opinion, the following law.” “What? “That these women shall all be common to all the men, and that none shall cohabit with any privately; and that the children shall be common, and that no parent shall know its own offspring nor any child its parent.”

Plato's Republic, Book 5

Let us consider the elves as an extension of the system of humans. Why should humans reach reproductive fitness in their teen years? Why not as soon as they can walk, like other animals? It has been proposed that nonreproductive but competent individuals (grade school aged children) improve genetic fitness because they can watch energetic smaller children and keep them from falling in holes etc. Those individuals who, by genetic accident, delayed having their own babies turn out to improved the fitness of their genes by keeping their siblings alive. The trait spreads - evolution.

So too the elves, to the extreme. Competent prereproductive young people (ages 20-40) live in a communal kibbutz, in which all members consider themselves brothers and sisters and raised in equality (in the above quote Plato states " women shall be common to all men" but the converse is also true - he actually proposes raising boys and girls as equals). The young elves have the energy and playfulness to devote to the project of raising very young kids. Using the skills of these older immatures in this way leaves the adults available to pursue whatever grown elves do - exactly as is the case for humans.

This also would produce a more equitable and fair social structure, which is why Plato proposed it and why the Israelis tried it. Structuring the entire elf society as Plato recommends in The Republic would come out fairly fantastic, even though his plan is over 2000 years old.


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