The elves are a graceful people, known for their fair features. They are shorter and more lithe than humans. They were once the first and only race on Thedas, and in those days, the elves were said to have been immortals who lived in harmony with nature. Then the humans -- whom they called shem'lens (or "quick children") -- arrived from the north, and before long, the great forests made way for towns and cities. The elves discovered that contact with humans brought disease, and even caused the immortal race to quicken -- to age and finally die. They withdrew to their home of Elvhenan, breaking off all contact. The Tevinter Imperium took this act of isolation as hostility, and declared war. Arlathan was besieged but held out for six years; eventually, the magisters resorted to a blood ritual that dragged the entire city beneath the earth, obliterating it. What few elves survived were enslaved and all evidence of their ancient culture was lost.

The elves were among the first to join Andraste in her Exalted March against the Tevinter Imperium. Freed, they settled in the Dales, blaming humanity for their Quickening. They, however, continued to worship their gods, and would not allow a Chantry to be built in the Dales. Eventually, the tensions between them and the Orlesians got so strained, that the empire declared war, calling it an Exalted March as -- ironically -- Andraste had called her attack on the Imperium. And once again, the elves were defeated by the humans.

The nobility became the wanderers known as the Dalish and kept their old ways; the rest settled among the humans. They live as city elves, second-class citizens serving in the roles of servants and laborers, often performing the most menial, undesirable tasks. The city elves are an upbeat people, despite living in the squalor of the walled alienages. They are led by a hahren, and in the middle of every alienage is a Vhenadahl: a tree of the people. Elves are commonly referred to by the humans as the slur of “knife ears”.

The Dalish lead nomadic lives, wandering from place-to-place. Humans consider them bandits, but the demeanor of the Dalish towards humans varies from clan to clan. Some may get along fairly well, while others take to the bandit path. They rarely encounter each other, though once a decade or so, they all meet together, and their Keepers -- their leaders -- meet together to exchange knowledge. They seek to recover, inherit, and preserve the knowledge and sacred treasures of Arlathan and the Dales. Their mission often brings them to elven ruins of old. They worship the elven pantheon, and each tribe member has the symbol of their chosen god on their face. The Dalish are known most for their landships, the aravels that are special wagons with large triangular sails atop them and rudder-like devices on the back. The Dalish also forge ironbark, a unique substance that is stronger and lighter than steel.

If an elf and a human breed, the child is always a human.