Elvish Vs Elven

From a writing perspective, which word do you use more often? Elvish or Elven???

Why does it matter?

Well, let me explain.

If you are a fantasy writer and your fictional world contains elves, chances are likely you are going to sometimes being using one or both of the above words.

It varies upon the author, but typically it works as follows:

Elvish - The language of elves, but also used as an adjective to describe elvish words, elvish names, elvish poetry, elvish writing, elvish script, elvish semantics, etc.

Elven - An adjective used to describe things made by elves. Elven swords, elven architecture, elven magic, elven mapmaking techniques, etc.

As noted above however, it does vary with the author. Tolkien for example had his own rules for when he used elven and elvish. But at least he was consistent about it.

And therein lies the most important part. As a fantasy writer if you are going to use the words in question then you need to use them consistently.

For example, Andrzej Sapkowski, author of the Witcher book series, uses "Eldar" as the language of elves instead of Elvish. But at least he does it consistently.

In my own writing I use elvish and elven, as per the definitions above, and Eldar refers to completely different group of powerful beings known as the "Eldar Noramir".

For more about the Eldar Noramir see the Korovian Creation Myth.

But I do find it interesting that Sapkowski chose to use the word Eldar as the language of elves.

Eldar has multiple meanings in different languages:
  • Eldar in Hebrew - "God Resides".
  • Eldar in Old Norse - A warrior who wields fire as a weapon.
  • Eldar in Turkic - Ruler or King.
  • Eldar in Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic - Fire.

So there is a lot of meanings to possibly interpret there.

In Tolkien's work Eldar is a name applied to elves. The name was given to the elves by the Vala Oromë when he first found them wandering.

So Eldar has previously been used as an alternative to saying elves.

Andrzej Sapkowski might have even considered giving the book shown above a different title. eg. "Blood of the Eldar".

But then only nerds like myself would know he was talking about elves.


Question Time!
 "As a writer, how do you depict dialogue between characters who are speaking elvish?"

That depends on who the POV (Point of View) character is.

If the main character/POV character doesn't speak Elvish, I write it in elvish so the reader doesn't know the words either.

Although for reference I use Esperanto as a way to translate English into an elvish sounding language. Esperanto is effectively my go to language for all things elvish.

If the POV character does speak elvish then I write the words in English, but I indicate to the reader which language is being spoken.

Eg. "Greetings friend, how farest thee?" asked the halfling in formal elvish.

Note also that the character's knowledge of the language might vary. Flawless elvish, formal elvish, informal elvish, crude elvish, a childish knowledge of elvish, and they probably speak with an accent if their elvish is not flawless.

Which words I choose to use in a particular situation also varies on the language.

Formal High Elvish is more flowery and flowing, prone to artistic flair and metaphor.

Dwarven is more guttural and sounds rocky, with Low Dwarven being prone to swearing.

Halfling or Habbel is more pastoral, using simpler words common to farmers, and prone to anecdotal sayings.

Minotaurs talk like vegans. Vegans who are holier than thou and very formal about it. eg. "Wouldst thou eat an ape? Then don't expectest me to eat thine cattle."

Because Korovia is so in-depth and complex I created a section on my fiction website where people can read about Korovia's complex history, culture, economics, maps, guilds, heraldry, religions and more. This way fans of my writing can find lots of background information about the world.

I even made a page dedicated just to fables.

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