Log in

No account? Create an account
01 April 2009 @ 10:07 pm
Elvish Physiology and Body Culture  
Elvish body structure is very similar to that of humans; basic skeletal structure typically displays no variation in joint type or placement, though elves tend to be more flexible. The main variation in skeletal structure is in height; most elves are between six to seven feet tall, averaging about six feet, four inches. Females are slightly shorter than males but otherwise there is very little sexual dimorphism; secondary sexual characteristics are minimal. All elves, male and female, tend towards a very slender body type with narrow hips and shoulders. Compared to typical human body types, males exhibit minimal muscular hypertrophy and females are small-breasted. Males and females participate equally in child-rearing, village politics, and most professions; females are said to be more suited to the magics of sculpting the village plant life, but males may perform these functions as well.

Elves have elongated auricles which allow for more directionally-focused hearing than humans. An elf can more easily locate the source of a sound by hearing alone, which is essential in a low-visibility environment such as the rainforest. Elf ears are about an inch longer than human ears but are otherwise similar in structure. The inner ear is identical.

Elvish eyes adjust to different levels of light very quickly; their forest environment is low-contrast and somewhat dim, but their vision adjusts and functions normally in high-contrast or bright environments. Like humans, they have white sclera, and colored irises that adjust the size of the circular pupil. Eye color in elves is more varied than in humans; green and brown are most common, but blue, purple, gray, golden-yellow, burgundy-red and brownish-red are also present (proper red is an indicator of albinism and is very rare). These colors may vary broadly in shade, intensity, and lightness; they may be so dark as to approach black, or nearly white. Flecks, striations, spots, rings, and complete or sectoral heterochromia are not unheard of.

Skin color ranges from milky-pale to medium-olive, with most falling close to an intermediate shade. They tend to burn rather than to tan, given that they spend much of their lives beneath the thick canopy. The exception is the small subset of elves who border the desert and practice transseremic trade, who tend towards darker bronze skin and tan rather than burn. Elves have little body hair; they develop few but pronounced facial wrinkles as they age, usually starting at around two hundred years old. Spots and blemishes on the skin are fairly rare, but more apparent on paler skin types. Skin tone is not correlated with hair or eye color, unlike in humans. Elvish skin tends not to develop hypertrophic scars.

Blond and red hair are very rare among elves, as they tend towards coarser hair types with dark pigmentation; these colors, like pure red eyes, usually indicate albinism. Brown is by far the most common, and very many shades of it exist, from light golden-brown to almost greenish olive-brown, to glossy chestnut brown, to nearly black. Truly black hair is somewhat rare, but there are many shades of high-gloss, near-black hair that have undertones of blue, violet, red, or green. Hair color tends to be uniform with very little variation (highlights, streaks, et cetera) on an individual. Hair with red tones, whether the base is brown or black, is considered very attractive. Exposure to sun for long periods tends to bleach brown-based hair, but not black.

Elves have high standards of beauty, based less on body type (since builds are fairly uniform and the active nature of village life keeps most in good shape) and more on characteristics such as hand and face shape, posture and poise, hair and skin condition, timbre of the voice, and eloquence in speaking. Slender features, bright white sclera, long and thin nose, narrow and back-swept ears, firm posture accompanied by slow and even movements, thick and glossy hair, smooth and firm skin, and a clear voice with no cracking or buzzing are considered ideal traits. Elves, especially those between young adulthood and middle age, are expected to do what they can to be conventionally beautiful when it comes to characteristics over which they have control; such care is generally not destructive or unhealthy, and complying signals attention to societal values. Males and females are equally expected to follow these standards.

Most body modification has cultural value and symbolic meaning; few modifications are made without these considerations. Tattoos on the face, neck, and arms are marks of valiant hunts, war-time exploits, or great magical prowess (and can even have functions in certain magical procedures); a vast array of symbols (as well as words written in the Elvish script) are used for this purpose, and it is highly inappropriate for someone other than a warrior, hunter, or magic-user to receive a tattoo of any sort. Piercings of the earlobe, ear cartilage, and nasal bridge are not unusual among hunters, smiths, and those who make long journeys; these jewelry items are made from metal, bone, horn, or crystal, and each village or alliance of villages has its own style. Various plant-based chemical mixtures can be used for temporary hair coloring, but this is typically used only in a ritual or artistic context; otherwise, it is considered vain to attempt to change one's natural characteristics.

Elves live to around three hundred years old; they reach sexual maturity at around fifty, but the status of "adulthood" is not conferred until ninety and most do not marry until this age. Adulthood is based more upon self-regulation, knowledge of the family craft, and ability to provide than it is on biological maturity. An elf is expected to be on ostensibly friendly terms with everyone in the village, and is encouraged to develop close friendships with both sexes, but romantic and sexual relations only occur within the context of marriage. The notion of such relationships occurring with someone other than one's spouse is almost completely unheard of, for marriage and sex (while they may occur between a couple "in love") exist to benefit the village by producing children and creating a stable environment for those children to grow. Pleasure, sensuality, and romance are considered secondary to this main purpose.
Current Mood: busybusy