When did elf ears get so long?

Hi, all. When I returned to role-playing games late last year, I noticed that elves are now generally depicted long ears like kangaroos or rabbits. When I was young, elf-ears were merely slightly pointed, like Mr. Spock’s.

My question is when did this happen? Was it some video game or some show that elongated elvish ears? Or was there some particular artist that popularized it? Does it mean anything, in your view?

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The first time I saw super long elf ears was in World of Warcraft, but my only previous idea of what they looked like was from the Lord of the Rings movies. Still weirded me out!

Ears are pretty long in the Japanese version of the Rules Cyclopedia (which is fairly early):

So this may be one of the precedents. I personally really dig the “Elfs with Horns” thing that crops up occasionally in some of the Willingham Art :slight_smile:

At level 5 roll or choose:

  1. Giraffe Style Ossicones
  2. Deer Antlers
  3. Bighorn Sheep
  4. Pronghorn
  5. Water Buffalo
  6. Nubian Goat
  7. Mouflon
  8. Pyrenean Goat
  9. Sahara Oryx
  10. Addax
  11. Bharal
  12. African Buffalo
  13. Markhor
  14. Saiga
  15. Garna
  16. Bison
  17. Chamois
  18. Kudu
  19. Reindeer Antlers
  20. Moose Antlers
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ktrey, I think you probably pinpointed its origin rightly in Japan. That edition of the Rules Cyclopedia seems to have been from 1994. I wonder, though, how it made the transition. Any other hints out there, folks?

As for the horned elf in Moldvay’s Basic, I always assumed it was a headdress or helm.

I tend to prefer my Elfs on the weirder side (as evidenced in my d100 Encounter Table for them: These Wood Elfs Are…) so I like to lean into lacunae like this. :slight_smile:

I too remember when they were shorter, more “Spock-like” ears in the early days, but I think the influence of Japanese Animation, particularly Deedlit from Record of Lodoss War (around 1988 I think?) is probably where they started getting quite a bit more exaggerated:

Thank you! I am nearly clueless about Japanese Animation, except for the things everybody knows from Akira onward.

Such ears, tsk!

But I like your table (I should say tables!).

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Don’t forget about Elf Quest! Circa 1978:


And the elves in the 1977 Hobbit cartoon had some longish ears:

Ha, Zack, good point. I was a big fan of Elfquest (read the main books and even ran the role-playing game briefly). I had completely forgotten about it and have not even remembered Elfquest for many years. You’re right about the longer ears there. But the Elfquest elves are not like D&D elves… or at least, they weren’t. As I saw it. The Rankin & Bass Elrond is a bit long-eared, but his ears don’t sprout out to the sides as the new elves’ ears do.

Yes, I think it’s a combination of 70s and 90s art, from different directions. Since the 1980s, my rpg group has a running joke that you can always tell if an NPC is a half-elf because only one of their ears is pointy :smile: