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[page 4] A Report on the PSYCHOLOGY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF HOMO ELVIS (or ELFRIDIS) Marion Zimmer Bradley {Title art: Eleven asterisks are scattered around the title, giving the impression of stars.} Ever since my early days in fandom -- the days of the letter-columns, when a fan's delight was to pick to pieces the scientific background -- or lack of it -- of the various stories -- it's been a habit of mine to work out the scientific possibility of various creatures of fantasy. Of course the example par excellence of this arose from my favorite fantasy novel , Kuttner's "Dark World, " where he explains a werewolf as possible: "But the bones? Specialized osseous tissues, capable under certain conditions of spontaneous alteration....part of it was hypnotism, of course. Matholch was not as wolfish as he seemed. Yet he did change his shape..." This sort of thing has always delighted me. I still remember the thrill I got when, after carefully investigating the conditions under which a woman might bear "a litter" of six or eight children, as shown in Sturgeon's "The Golden Helix," I received a letter from Sturgeon himself saying in effect, "I just thought it up, without working out the details--and whaddya know, it works!" Obviously the world of Middle Earth, with its races of -- no, not nonhumans, but quasi-humans, protohumans as it were, co-existing with mankind -- offered a vast field for this biological speculation and inquiry into why the orcs, dwarves, hobbits and elves all developed along their particular lines. Since a paper on the orcs and hobbits is under progress by another fan, for eventual printing in I PALANTIR, I will not now enter that province, except to remark that the hobbits must have had an abnormally high metabolism -- their huge appetites compared with their size, and their tremendous fertility. To me, there are several intriguing points about the biology and the psychology of the elves; and this article will be concerned mostly with these points. First, it seems fairly obvious that the elves and men evolved from a single racial stock, simian in nature. Their cross-fertility would indicate that men and elves are no further apart than the lion and tiger; and since the offspring of men and elves was not a sterile hybrid but an enduring crossbreed with characteristics of both races, they must have been even nearer. The elves, then, can without hesitation be assigned to the genus homo; and for convenience I intend to designate them, in this study, as homo elvis, as distinguished from homo sapiens. Should any dedicated Tolkien fan feel that I am taking liberties with the Sacred Writings, I reply that the elves do not belong to Tolkien alone, but appear in the mythology of Irish and Nordic peoples, usually displaying those characteristics assigned to them by Dr. Tolkien, and thus indicating the persistence of legendry of a similar race -- which Poul Anderson has explored in "Interloper" -- co-existing with homo sapiens but different in many ways. However, if it makes these 104% fans feel better; they may realize that in _homo elvis_ I am discussing also the _chieri_, or wood-people, of the Merdinian/Darkover mythes. I cite examples from Tolkien only because Arwen and Galadriel are more familiar than Linnea and Yvante. I believe the species homo elvis to have descended, perhaps, from a strain of primates somewhat different from that which evolved into homo sapiens; and for various reasons, I would assign this ancestor to be the class of tarsiers. Their dexterity, their light weight compared to their size, and their comparatively more discriminating eyesight already show how homo elvis will differentiate from sapiens. ANATOMY: Since no specimens are currently available for inspection, far less dissection, we must confine ourselves to superficial observation· The major anatomical difference is that of the structural weight of the bones, which (like those of arboreal animals, or birds) are narrower, hollower and far lighter than those of the relatively heavy sapiens. Such frail bones could not, of course, support any great weight of flesh, [page 5] so that obesity was an anti-survival trait bred out of the race at an early stage in development (who ever heard of a fat elf?) and the typical habitus is tall and by human standards, excessively slender. This gave to them an exceedingly deceptive characteristic of apparent fragility; for in reality they were hardier than mankind. This hardihood was due to a remarkable strength of sinew and muscle, a tensile quality of the connective tissue which prevented ordinary degenerative diseases. This, in part, accounted for their longevity; they seem, as well, to have had some ability to throw off fatigue poisons and thus they did not age noticeably to human eyes. A fully developed adult male -- the apparent size of a tall man -- would possibly stand 67 inches tall and weigh, perhaps, between fifty and sixty pounds. The women were commonly as tall as the men. It is a curious fact that grey or very light blue eyes tend to be far-sighted; the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN once printed a study of jet-flyers, who of course must have eyesight of unusual quality -- very far-sighted, capable of distinguishing distant planes traveling at the speed of sound in time to evade them within split seconds, and capable of unusually fast reactions. Normal eyesight is imperfect for a jet flyer. Of the fifty (I thin.k) studied, all but one had light grey eyes. Can we deduce one lingering trait from a single elvis ancestor, millenia ago? The keen eyesight of the elves is obviously linked to their eye color. Examination of any monkey-house will show a wide yariety of ear patterns. Human hearing, though acute, is not as keen as the animal; and the peculiarly curved shell-type ears of the elves must make their hearing trebly acute, which in turn would be so acutely painful that a pleasing voice would be, quite literally", a survival characteristic in homo elvis. This would also explain why rare musical geniuses seem to hear sounds not natural to homo sapiens; the elvish strain again, perhaps, these rare atavisms from those "changelings" which all mythologies mention? An imperfect elvish child, perhaps, placed with humans? And from such a changeling, a heritage of abnormally perfect eyesight or hearing, recessive for generations and appearing in a jet flyer or a musician -- or an athlete, tireless and abnormally co-ordinated? Their arboreal ancestry and the habit of mimicking would also develop a natural manner of expressing themseives in song; a way of concealing their presence, which would also account for their quality of absolutely noiseless movement in necessity. (This is the condition which has been vulgarized in the joke about "Nobody here but us chickens"; in the early days of the race, it might have been necessary to convince marauders that there was nobody in these trees but a few birds.) The brain centers are highly organized, with somewhat more cerebral but less medullar activity (the high foreheads of homo elvis) which would make for somewhat inferior instinctive actions but a greater reliance on reason. This would also account. (the highly developed language centers) for their "gift of tongues." GROWTH AND MATURATION: The newly born, like many species of primates, are minute; and because of their slower maturity are less developed at birth than the lesser species. The newborn foal can walk; the newborn kitten is blind but can suck; the newborn human is virtually helpless except for grasping reflex and a crying reflex; the newborn homo elvis must then be considerably less developed, probably covered with fine downy hair and somewhat monkeylike in appearance. They are exceptionally delicate in contrast to the hardiness of the mature species, which is one of the reasons why they do not increase rapidly in numbers. After the first expansion of the lungs the infants do not cry; and they develop vision more quickly than the young of homo sapiens. Also, because of the unusual lightness of their bones, they walk alone at an early age, but they are slower to develop other habits of maturity. REPRODUCTION: Secondary sex characteristics among homo elvis are minimal; the voices of both male and female are musical but undifferentiated by pitch as is the way among sapiens; a male may speak or sing in what humans would call soprano, or an elf-woman in a pitch relatively deeper than any normal human female. The women are more slender than is common among sapiens, and except when they have unweaned children are not conspicuously mammalian in the fashion of the human female. Both sexes have finer hair than human; the males do not have facial or body hair in the manner of sapiens. A bearded elf is seldom [page 6] seen; or possibly they develop beards only in extreme old age. Despite their extreme longevity, they did not increase in numbers. Unlike the short-lived homo sapiens, which only a tremendous sex urge and reproductive drive saved from extinction, such drive would have been anti-survival, rather than pro, in homo elvis. Sex drive normally was low, and in some individuals nonexistent; and there is some evidence that it was being bred out of the race altogether. This fact, of course, profoundly affected their psychology; the herd instinct rather than the sex instinct was predominant, so that their overpowering emotions were directed toward their kind in general rather than to one individual; this overflowed in such group activities as their characteristic social patterns of song and their excessive exclusiveness and avoidance of other races. Also, as with some birds and higher primates, they mate for life; they are psychologically monogamous, though probably not physically incapable of a less limited breeding. This alone, however, would not account for their decline in numbers, so we are forced to conclude that the fertility of both sexes was highly erratic and limited; that a woman might be capable of bearing for a total of perhaps three hundred years out of four or five thousand in the lifespan, and that in relatively short periods spaced perhaps fifty to a hundred years apart. The ingrained monogamy would also move against any specific possibility of this kind; for if the fertility of the males was as erratic as that of the females, the mathematically slight possibility of both parents being capable of reproduction simultaneously would almost put each child in the category of a fortunate accident to be greeted with rejoicing. This tendency seems to have been counteracted slightly by the birth of occasional twins; but this alone could not avoid their slow diminishing. CROSS-FERTILITY WITH HUMANS :That such unions were fertile we have ample evidence. We are informed that in the records of Middle Earth there were only three unions of the High-Elves and men; Lúthien and Beren, Idril and Tuor, and Arwen and Aragon. We know that in at least two of these cases, (Lúthien and Arwen) the elf-woman lost her immortality and died comparatively young. There is some evidence that this was a matter of choice; but I prefer to discard this as superstition and look with a strictly scientific view at the facts. We should also note; the survival of an elvish strain in the house of Dol Amroth, among others (see Legolas' greeting to Prince Imrahil) indicates that there must have been several such unions between the other elvish peoples -- the wood-elves, who seem to have been a lesser strain; are most likely -- and homo sapiens. (One hobbit family, the Tooks, had a "fairy" -- i.e., an elvish -- strain.) It seems to me logical to conclude that bearing the child of a homo sapiens is the crucial experience which would result in a loss of her immortality for the elf-woman. It is barely possible that the two races, despite their cross-fertility, contained, in the chemistry of their blood, some mutually antagonistic element which, in placental interchange, might build up antibodies in the mother's blood -- and possibly lessen the peculiar resistance to time and the chemical process of aging. That this is a chemical process transmissible through the genes is shown by the lengthened lifespan of the Halfelven, which gradually lessened as the line of the Kings of Gondor grew further from the elvish strain. Aragorn appears to have been an atavism in many ways, for his lifespan, although not comparable with that of the earliest kings of Gondor who chose to remain mortal, was immensely longer than that of his nearest kin. Perhaps this is the place to mention that the immense reverence in which the elves were held by mankind, in the early days of the race, might account for the reason why mankind has adopted the monogamous ideal so ill suited to its bio-physical and psychological drives. The elves, well-meaning though they were, occasionally showed a lack of discrimination in their educative processes, as when they taught trees to talk; they may have made a similar mistake when they imposed their monogamous ideal -- or at least demonstrated it -- to a subrace not suited to it. This ideal, however, also demonstrates why Arwen and Aragorn were capable of a lengthy engagement of some sixty-odd years; once having chosen, this was for Arwen normal behavior, and Aragorn, brought up in an elvish household, would find their _mores_ quite comprehensible, although the difference might account for the sublimatory fervor with [page 7] which he plunged into battles, explorations and wanderings in disguise! One more point must be made, however. If the plight of an elvish woman married to a mortal man was tragic, in the light of her lost immortality (although we might consider that it was almost a psychic necessity) the plight of an elvish man who chose a mortal woman would be grievous indeed. They were not constituted for promiscuity, so that such liaisons would not be carelessly contracted; yet the brevity of a mortal woman's lifespan would be heartbreakingly short for her elvish lover; he would be forced to see her age and die, yet there is no evidence that this would affect his lifespan in any way. Since such a choice was for life, he would be doomed to an inconceivable loneliness without consolation -- and might well consider that the woman who could choose to alter her sense of time to that of a mortal was fortunate. Such an elf-man might indeed die of grief; and after a few cases, I think such unions would become very rare indeed.... But this is a subject not for full development in the space at my disposal.· --Marion Zimmer Bradley