On Elf Height

From Robert Kirk’s glossary in The Secret Commonwealth, written in the seventeenth century (page 76 of the NYRB edition):

Elves: A tribe of the fairies that use not to exceed an ell in stature.

So how tall is an ell? According to this helpful page of conversions:

1 ell = 114.3 cm = 45 inches = 3.75 feet = 5 spans

It’s interesting to see this meaning actually encoded in the name, despite the fact that the tall Norse elf (the álfar) has become dominant via the works of Tolkien.

Also related, over at Strange Magic: Monster Makeover: Elves (though I prefer my faeries to have more sinister and less German peasant).

AD&D Monster Manual page 40

5 thoughts on “On Elf Height

    1. Brendan

      Thanks for the pointer; I did not know about Sir Orfeo. It’s interesting to note the conflation of the underworld/afterlife with the faerie realm. That is also present in The Secret Commonwealth to some degree. Those with the second sight can see ghosts and the dying (perceived as a shroud around a living person) in addition to faerie creatures.

  1. Clovis Cithog

    Height & Weight tables from my campaign are easily adjusted for any campaign

    To generate a character’s height, roll the indicated number of dice adding the character’s STR modifier to the result. Add this total to racial base to determine character’s height (average height for each race and gender is also listed) :

    Height Determination Table
    RACE Base Male Female M/ F

    Orc 50” +3d10 +2d10 66/ 61
    Elf 50” +3d6 +2d6 61/ 57
    Dwarf 40” +2d6 +2d4 48/ 45
    Human 60” +3d6 +2d6 70/ 66
    halfLing 30” +2d6 +2d4 36/ 34
    ½ -Elf 60” +2d6 +2d4 67/ 65

    After determining the character’s height, for every inch of height above the base (determined above)and for each point of CON modifier; roll d10 (d6 if elf or halfling, rerolling 1s if cleric), then ADD this total to base weight listed below for character’s race (average weight for each gender is also listed on next table) :

    Weight Determination Table
    RACE Base Male Female

    Orc 75 175# 125#
    Elf 60 95# 85#
    Dwarf 100 145# 125#
    Human 100 160# 135#
    halfLing 25 45# 40#
    ½ -Elf 75 115# 105#


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