The question is about enmity between 2 different races that are different in their ideology, physic and abilities. It is not about the political issues or indifference that may arise within a society.

The dragons are not very massive as seen in other stories, here they are of the size of a grown up horse. They are not very violent but peace loving. The elf people are Magic users with their magical abilities limited to certain areas like warfare and healing.

  1. What could be a reason to inflict enmity between these races?
  2. Just a feeling of superiority or thirst for power and the need to exploit a non magical or less powerful species is all that it takes?
  3. What else could be the reason to have a war that continued for ages and pass on to many generations?
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    $\begingroup$ If they are anything like humans, there is one reason that's absolutely sufficient: The others are different. History has shown time after time that this is sufficient to fuel a war (of course the stated reason will be slightly different; them being dangerous being a likely claim). $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Dec 22, 2015 at 12:29
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    $\begingroup$ @celtschk Definitely. There's nothing more infuriating than having somebody who sees the world slightly differently to you. Once you get a good "them and us" theme going, it tends to snowball. $\endgroup$
    – Smoj
    Dec 22, 2015 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ “The souls of emperors and cobblers are cast in the same mold. The same reason that makes us wrangle with a neighbor creates a war betwixt princes.” $\endgroup$
    – Hackworth
    Dec 22, 2015 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Coming up with controversial topics for a fantasy political system? $\endgroup$
    – James
    Dec 22, 2015 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ The fact that you stated "about the size of a horse" made me instantly think...maybe the elves tried to enslave them for riding them like horses. $\endgroup$
    – DasBeasto
    Dec 22, 2015 at 17:33

7 Answers 7


Disputed territory always seems to work.

Dragon: Get off my land, elf.

Elf: This land has always been mine.

Dragon: Rubbish, it was given to me by my grandfather.

Elf: After he stole it from mine.

Ideological differences are another favourite.

Dragon: Why are you elves so much into the magic of war?

Elf: Why are you not? You're built for it, look at your claws and fire breath.

Dragon: You're a fool. Peace is the answer.

Elf: You're the fool, and you stink.

A perceived insult.

Dragon: Your wife is looking pretty good today!

Elf: What did you just say?

Warfare for generations.

If you want to find out what would cause a war that lasts for generations, just look into the Balkan Wars, which led to the First World War and also the later Yugoslav Wars but realise that the true causes of those wars (and the bad blood that preceded them) have been disputed for hundreds of years.

Typically, wars like those have roots going back so far that nobody can reliably pinpoint the true reasons why they fight.

Sometimes in situations like that, there will be a period of peace, and then the old rivalries flare up again, going around in a cycle of anger built up over generations.

Another example is the history of Jerusalem.

  • $\begingroup$ I would go with Disputed territory, and conflict over resources. As pointed out the war goes on for generations and the newer Generations are learned to hate other species without being able to pinpoint the real reasons. Thanks for the Answer :-) $\endgroup$
    – Ajay Bhasy
    Dec 23, 2015 at 6:58

Conflict over environment. e.g. Elves live in forests, dragons have a tendency to burn down forests.

Conflict over resources. This one is harder, the only thing they'd fight over is hunting grounds. Elves aren't traditionally farmers so the dragons wouldn't be killing livestock but if the dragon hunting style panicked the wild herds and disrupted the Elven hunts, or the dragons felt the Elves were (over)hunting "their" herds.

You'd have to have them actually rubbing up against each other somehow, it's far more common to go to war with your neighbours than with someone far away, and there'd have to be something to constantly remind them of the conflict or it would fade away. The normal power/money/land human conflicts don't apply to two significantly different species with such different requirements.


If elven magic is so focused on warfare, it is easy to believe that elven civilization and people are also any sort of warriors or, at least, pretty aggressive. So maybe there was enmity between elven clans much before against the drakes. Think about it like the Ancient Greek, many city states fighting against each others.

Dragons are peaceful, but still dragons. They have claws and breath fire. Even with the size of a grown up horse, they are still much bigger even for an (american) football player. That makes them formidable warhorses, and elves KNOW IT.

The cruel elven warriors tried to enslave the peaceful dragons to use them against their own kind, but the dragon pride won't let them.


This is an incredibly broad question. Listing the reasons two peoples can hate each other could fill volumes. In our history of humanity, we have found quite a few reasons to hate each other.

Now Stack Exchange frowns upon questions that result in "list answers." At first I thought this question had to be too broad, and worth closing, because it had to generate a list. But then I got to thinking, the question of "why might two people hate each other in general" is actually quite the useful World Building question. Accordingly, my answer is very generic.

For discussion purposes, let's say every individual, or group of individuals, has a "goal function," that they use to decide whether a potential action accomplishes their goals or not. This goal function can change over time, as people's opinions change. With this concept alone, we have a powerful tool for capturing enmity between two races, for we have a feedback loop. Our goal function affects which actions we take, and our actions lead us down paths which shape our goal function. We've all heard the effect of feedback. The effect of a slight whisper into a microphone that's turned up too loud feeds back from the loudspeaker to the microphone until it rapidly turns into an earsplitting sound.

Usually these goal functions directly benefit the individual or group. "Planting seeds ensures I get to eat when winter comes, thus planting seeds is good," for instance. Wanting to build up your own quality of life is generally considered to be a healthy goal function.

However, when dealing with other minds, it's not always easy to figure out what those goal functions should look like. If Dragons' planting of seeds, food high in protien to replace the carnivorous faire of their ancestors, involves slashing and burning sacred Elf forest land, we can get contorted goals to deal with it. The Elves may decide, "Dragons cut down our forests. They don't respond to reason, but do seem to respond to pain, so if we hurt them when they are cutting the forests down, maybe we can teach them how to not cut down our forests, despite the language/cultural barrier." The key to this is that the elves have made their "goal function" include a conditional "opposing Dragons achieving their goal function when they are cutting down the forests."

At this point, the Dragons can short circuit the feedback loop. If, at this time, they decide that the Elves are probably trying to tell them something about their farming methods in their own special way, and decide maybe the best way to solve this is to keep the Elves interests in mind, the feedback loop is broken. The Dragons have decided to make "supporting the Elves achieving their goal function, because it's good for the Dragons."

However, more likely, given the lack of cultural and linguistic interaction that caused the problem in the first place, the dragons will respond as a child does. Rather than getting the message of "don't burn down the forests," the message they receive is "don't burn down the forests when the Elves are watching." They get creative, finding ways to sneak things in. It's only natural. They may have an exploding population that needs food, and thus farmland. Maybe they don't want to turn to eating the Elves, as their ancestors once did.

The result is quite agnostic to the rationale of the Dragons. The Elves only see the effect. It's getting harder and harder to actually catch the Dragons in the act. The forests are still getting destroyed. At this point the Elves engage in what I believe to be a key step in the cycle, highly visible in the aftermath. They make the decision that, since they know Dragons are harming the forest, they declare that they will punish the Dragons, even when they don't catch them in the act. Any Dragon seen will be assumed complicit to the burning of the forests. The goal function shifts from "opposing Dragons achieving their goal function when they are cutting down the forests." to "Since we know the dragons are cutting down the forest, opposing Dragons in any activity is good."

The key word in that goal function is "know." When we use that word in a context such as this, it typically means we're no longer looking to change our mind. Perhaps more to the point, we no longer assign value to putting ourselves in good positions to test our "knowledge." Maybe it was all a misunderstanding. Perhaps the Elves know this, and recognize that it may be a misunderstanding, but they're simply no longer going out of their way to find more information to bring into the equation. This is essential for animosity: the loss of a desire to act towards finding a common ground. You may be happy if a common ground finds you, but you're no longer inconveniencing yourself to find it.

From the Dragon's perspective, this increase in hostility is frightening indeed. Dragons are getting wounded and even killed by Elvish flash mobs. They have to act. Going back to our child reasoning, the elves have shifted from acting as a mother spanking the child with a wooden spoon during the act to a father spanking the child with a belt after the act. Now there's debate about whether mother's wooden spoon helps or hurts a child's maturation, but its generally agreed upon that the belt does not. If the punishment comes in slow enough to permit intellectual analysis, it will be rationalized upon. The Dragons respond by changing their fitness function. Clearly supporting the Elves' desires is detrimental to their own. They sever the last thing holding the feedback loop at bay: their goodwill towards the Elves.

Now, many things can happen. The feedback loop is unimpeded -- the sound tech at the board is away on break, and the microphone is primed to screech as loud as it pleases. War is a possibility. The key to war is the point where the harming of Dragons becomes equal or greater in value to the lives of the Elves themselves. If that hatred can rise to that point, war will occur.

However, it does not always reach that point. Distance can help. Not just physical distance, but mental distance as well. Perhaps the Dragons start building a wall to protect their farmland. Now there's a clear mental barrier between "us" and "them." With this barrier in place, it may be harder to convince Elves that its worth dying to kill Dragons. In this case, the feelings don't go away, they simmer. These boil down into the enmity between races.

Enimity is not free. For most species, children are not born hating anything. They must be taught to hate, and they will raise questions along the way. Something has to provide the energy required to maintain this hatred as a few young individuals question whether maybe there's a more peaceful way. However, the Elves may find that a little nugget of that boiled down hatred is easy to transmit to the next generation. Even though most of the anger and rage may die down over time, this little bit procreates from generation to generation, ensuring an apparently built-in natural hatred of the Dragons. Long after the anger dies, long after the wall is torn down because it's no longer suiting anyone's needs, the hatred may propagate.

And its very difficult to face hatred with love. It takes skill and inner strength. Depending on how strong the Dragons are, they may find this enmity from the Elves bothersome, and match it with an enmity of their own, home grown from Elvish insults.

And now you have a "natural enemy." It may not even be evident that it's part of your society. It can also simmer this way for an extraordinarily long time. Often this hatred permits certain actions which benefit your race, such as an increased tendency to take from others. If the hatred becomes the foundation of the good, it can be very hard to remove this natural animosity.

I have shown a rather large example of this, but history has shown that such feedback loops can occur as a result of mere personal insults to leadership as well. Two tribes may stay enemies for a long time after a spat between tribal leaders.

This also suggests the resolution to such enmity. One needs a feedback loop inspiring people to come together, instead of driving them apart. If it is strong enough, it will begin rooting out the hatred. But that's for another world. You want hatred between your two races, you can get it!

  • $\begingroup$ This answer would definitely help me in developing incidents and details regarding how the enmity developed through generations. Thanks for the detailed Answer. $\endgroup$
    – Ajay Bhasy
    Dec 23, 2015 at 7:00

Here's an interesting idea I haven't seen yet: what if dragons are non-magical. Not only that, what if they actively dislike magic and try to hunt it out wherever they find it? Perhaps they perceive the use of magic as a danger to the fabric of reality, and so they're willing to cast off their typically peaceful ways and fight to stop magic from being used. In this case, any cultural contact between elves and dragons could precipitate a war.

This also creates an interesting morally ambiguous framework: the elves are using potentially dangerous magic and pose a threat (which may be real or only perceived) to reality, however the dragons have instigated a war against them and may be attempting to hunt them to extinction (depending on how ingrained magic use is in elven society). If you're making this world as an RPG setting, you could leave the choice of who to side with up to your players. If it's for a form of non-interactive media, you can still get a lot of mileage out of both sides seeming justified (and unjustified) to the protagonist in different ways, and having her figure out where her loyalties lay.


private property is generally simple. all people recognize the value of "i won't steal your stuff if you don't steal mine". conflict arises over shared resources (e.g. the air, the water, etc.). so, maybe the elves don't like the dragons flying over (and pooping on) their fields. maybe the dragons don't like the elves draining the rivers for irrigation. other resources can be seen as "shared". perhaps the elves view the forest as a "shared" resource they occasionally visit, but the dragons think they own the whole place. if either race could consistently control the land, then the dispute would end. but if the elves and dragons both regularly use the land with impunity, then it is de facto shared and conflict will continue. shared resource are particularly problematic when the two races use them in mutually exclusive ways. e.g. the elves want to clear land of trees to plant the crops they need, but the dragons want to grow trees which they need to build their nests. since both races view the land as a shared resource, and both races think they know the "right" way to use the land, conflict is likely to become intense.


All of the above, sure, but go for a super-devastating incredibly-tough-to-crack dissonance, might as well do it with magical magic.

Hows about: The ancient wars have been about the ancient land of Shmatlantis where the staff of the gods that created the universe resides. According to conflicting legends Dragons/Elves were first, have received dominance over the world from the gods, but the other race stole the ancient artifact/power, those meddling villains.

Shmatlantis magically resurfaces every 1000 years, for 3 days. That's where the truth lies in the form of some ancient key/scroll/an (did I say 'ancient' yet?) artifact of coolness.

So a bunch of guys from each race are selected through rigorous training/ceremonies over 1000 years to prepare for the treasure hunt. They become leaders in battles and learn to hate the bad guys to extreme.

The guys at the UN are stumped.


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