An Elven nation that once thrived for thousands of years as a predominantly agricultural race was forced underground because of unexplainable occurrences of extreme weather conditions (tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, blizzards) threatening their existence. The majority of weather this continent has experienced is sunshine, with the occasional thunderstorms and rain. Having no previous experience with other weather conditions, the Elven nation migrates underground to prevent themselves from becoming extinct.

Factors to consider:

  • These are the first Elves to exist, so any other species of Elves came about as a result of reproduction.
  • There are around 100,000 Elves belonging to this nation.
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are meals they have, but they do not require as much food as humans to survive.
  • The majority of their food is plant-based but they occasionally eat meat.
  • Their sight and hearing are better than that of any human but they rely more on hearing due to the darkness.
  • They are typically 6 feet (1.8 metres) tall.
  • These Elves live can live for 300 years but only reproduce until they are 100. In this time, they have between 2-5 children. The rest of the time is spent training, learning, and working.
  • The extreme weather conditions are frequent but not constant, so they can and do make surface trips for resources.
  • They have little experience with building with anything other than wood.
  • The nation survives underground for at least 5,000 years.
  • Although they cannot cast magic, they have some magical attributes such as longer lives, and they are more resistant to diseases than humans.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Aside from the non-magic portion these elves sound distinctly similar to the "dark elves" of the Forgotten Realms world. If your looking for inspiration R. A. Salvatore. the author, has a great series about one in particular. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 20:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What is an "Elven" nation, and how is it different from, let's say, an Uralic nation? Are elves just long-lived humans with pointy ears, or are there other differences? And then... First, almost all humans ate mostly plant-based food with very occasional meat until about 100 years ago. Second, how on earth they have little experience with building non-wooden structures after building underground living and working space for a hundred thousand people? This is a staggeringly massive effort, and almost magical for a pre-industrial society. Third, why don't they simply emigrate elsewhere? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I'm saying they had no prior experience with building structures out of anything other than wood. Very quickly, they would need learn how to work with stone. In regards to the Elven nation, I just meant there were a lot of them and they all made up a massive colony. For this scenario, they are just glorified humans with long life and pointy ears. $\endgroup$ Commented May 1, 2019 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ This seems very very similar to the other questions you asked some days ago... What exactly is different? Just some of the numbers? $\endgroup$
    – fgysin
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ @ fgysin, that is because he broke it into 2 questions to be more in keeping with worldbuilding single question policy. One is about how they would survive, the other is about the effects on their physiology. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 14:00

5 Answers 5


They do not survive underground.

A large group of people moving into some tornado shelter will bring supplies with them - like food. When they eat that food there will be no more food. Hunger will drive them back outside where at least there used to be something to eat, or they will starve in the cave.

Food adequate for a large group of people is not found naturally occurring in caves. This issue of primary producers (like plants, or hydrothermal bacteria) at the bottom of the food chain is either sidestepped in subterranean fantasies or shimmed up by the invention of magical energy that sustains ecosystems productive enough to sustain large creatures like dark elves. And owlbears. And hook horrors. All them, eating the mana barnacles.

  • $\begingroup$ How is it then that Dwarves are able to live underground and build gigantic cave systems? $\endgroup$ Commented May 1, 2019 at 3:49
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    $\begingroup$ @WillRobinson, a mix of trade and surface farming. Dwarves are miners and get metals and precious stones, humans are farmers with a need for metals and a taste for precious stones. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ My answer, and the answers it links to, shows that it is perfectly possible for an advanced enough society to grow or synthesize food indoors, and thus underground. If the Elves were technologically or magically advanced enough before going underground they would have no problems artificially creating food that would not naturally occur in caves. $\endgroup$ Commented May 1, 2019 at 15:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding - you are right; first worlders today totally grow food indoors. Even easier if we had magic batteries. Magic is the best wild card. If the elves have magic to recreate the outside world inside then it will be as if nothing has changed. Because they are described as "agricultural" I considered them to have the tech characterizing human societies for the past 5000 years except for the last 200. Iron age farmers would struggle to grow crops in a cave, I am sure you will agree. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 16:18

Hell yes, their charm of animals means that they become Bat-Whisperers.

The elves would need to get used to some serious compromises, and adapt quick, or fade from this world.

Bats are great partners, they produce guano (from eating fruit and insects), producing fertilizer and attracting insects which eat the debris.

The insects feeding on the guano can be gathered and roasted or eaten raw if Legolas can overcome his prejudices.

The guano can be used as an energy supply - fuel for cooking/heating etc.. It can also be used to grow a variety of edible fungi. There might be a few "incendiary incidents" before the elves get the hang of this - saltpetre being an issue.

The bats themselves can be trained - they're nearly as intelligent as rats, more to the point they're social - in return for affection, they can be trained to bring back small fruit, maybe herbs and other tidbits to their trainers. The elves being superb and experienced horse whisperers, perhaps this is not such a big leap.

Since bats exist in such great numbers in caves (sometimes in the tens to hundreds of thousands) they could potentialy support a goodly population, along with any gleanings from streams/underground sea caves etc. (not to mention bear meat - tasts so gamey and rich - best accompanied with sweet fruit as a contrast) - they could do just fine, given determination and strong stomachs.

Any elf colony which allies itself with vampire bats could become outcast, possibly even unspoken about over time - a fearfull legend.


If the Elves have advanced enough technology, magic, magical technology, or technological magic, they can built an underground civilization and survive with ease.

See here: Giving Tolkien Architecture a Reality Check: Dwarvish Kingdoms

and here: How can Dwarves produce honey underground?

And here: How many people can you feed per square-kilometer of farmland?

And with sufficiently advanced science food can be synthesized from chemicals, like in a Star Trek food replicator.

In real life sufficiently advanced technology such as fusion power generation and artificial lighting in indoor hydroponics or aeroponics farming, or even chemical synthesizing of food, can support a totally enclosed civilization underground or in a space habitat.


You have two options that I see:

  1. They enlist the help of another creature: This could be Dwarves for digging, or some other creature

  2. There is a large, sustainable plant underground that they found when they started, and were able to collect seeds, and in their caverns, they plant it and have a harvesting system, possibly allowing for more content about their harvest festival.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Meme myself and a very creepy, when you have a few minutes, please take the tour and read up in our help center about how we work: How to Answer Not a bad basis for an answer, needs elaboration - what creatures for example, and why. How would this "plant" work - plants being photosynthetic and all (needing light). Then you can tell us about this festival you propose, how would that work? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 22:18

In reality, elves are (thought to be) supernatural beings. Their existence isn't governed by the laws of physics and therefore your question makes absolutely no sense in relation to them.

In your questions, what you call "elves" seem to be humans with an extended live span. You state no other difference between your "elves" and normal humans. Therefore what you basically ask is "How would humans survive underground without prior experience?"

The answer to that is:

While their ingenuity would allow them to grow food underground and create living spaces, the mental health of most people requires the open sky, movement in the open, experience of landscapes, and so on. Lacking the option to go outside, many people will soon begin to suffer from depression with all that follows from that (suicides, lack off offspring, etc.). As an effect, your society will survive but in a very unhappy state, sort of like a concentration camp in WWII.

  • $\begingroup$ Apparently the elves in the story are going to excavate a vast underground city to live in. So they could create landscapes with varied interior architecture and perhaps interior gardens, lawns, & forests in their parks. Some of the ceilings could have images of blue skies and clouds, or stars in the night sky. Even the primitive technology of ancient and medieval times occasionally produced ceilings with moving images of the sky. Modern technology or equivalent magic can produce floors, ceilings, and walls made out of screens that display moving images. Continued. $\endgroup$ Commented May 1, 2019 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ Continued. The original question includes this point: "The extreme weather conditions are frequent but not constant, so they can and do make surface trips for resources." Therefore the elves might possibly enjoy "the open sky, movement in the open, experience of landscapes, and so on" during those trips to the surface about as often as you do in your lifestyle. $\endgroup$ Commented May 1, 2019 at 15:59

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