I've always wondered what kind of Elves Suldanessellar Elves are. Moon? Wood? What?
This has been brought up before, see here: (https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/47853/jon-irenicus-subrace-spoilers
). While the thread is decent, as are some of the answers provided, it doesn't give a "complete" account from various sources, which is what I will be doing here.
Like all good things, our journey begins with Google. The answer that comes up is the following:
"Suldanessellar is a fictional town in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. Located within the nation of Tethyr, the city is populated entirely by wild elves. Suldanessellar was created by the unification of two wild elf tribes; the Suldusk and Elmanesse."
But is this right?
Firstly, let's start with the geography: (https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Forest_of_Tethir
) - If you click here, you can see the list of races that live in the forest of Tethir (aka Wealdath - Elven for "unspoiled woods"). Wood Elves are not mentioned (generic "Elves" are, which tells us exactly nothing), while Green Elves (aka Wild Elves) are specifically
mentioned as living in this region. But then, confusingly, on the page for Wood Elves themselves, it tells you that they inhabit Tethyr (though not specifically the forest, we can deduce that they do), while on the page for Wild Elves, it says that they do not inhabit the region of Tethyr at all! Thus, this source is of limited, if any, help. The search continues.
What of the aforementioned tribes of Suldusk and Elmanesse?
The wiki says "The elves of the Wealdath were divided into two major tribes—the Elmanesse and the Suldusk. The Elmanesse lived in a large expanse of woods east of the Trade Way, in Noromath; the Suldusk lived in the southeastern reaches."
Now, we know that Suldanessellar is located in the South-Eastern part of the Forest of Tethir, meaning that the Suldanessellar Elves were of the Suldusk tribe (interestingly, both the name of the city and the tribe start with the prefix "Sul"). Further, the Suldusk are natives of that forest while the Elmanesse are immigrants from Myth Drannor, coming to the Forest after that city fell. Together, they built Suldanessellar. Now, because the city's name starts with the same prefix ("Sul") as the tribe of Suldusk - and
since the Suldusk are the natives of the land - we can imagine that they probably played a bigger role in this, and we can therefore probably deduce that the Elves of Suldanessellar are primarily of the Suldusk tribe. Since the Elmanesse were High Elves fleeing from Myth Drannor (ie, they would have a strong knowledge of the arcane), we may envision that Irenicus may have been of that tribe, while Ellesime was of the Suldusk. She is more spiritual, being granted immortality and eternal youth by the major God of the Suldanessellar Elves, Rillifane Rallathil, no less (and she is a cleric/mage). Though this is just my own speculation, it does seem to fit.
But, speaking of Rillifane, does he help us with this mystery? His FR wiki says:
"In keeping with the controversy regarding the wild elf/wood elf subrace split, older sources talk about Rillifane Rallathil being the patron of the Sy'Tel'Quessir, commonly understood to be also known as wild elves or green elves (at the time also known as wood elves or sylvan elves). Newer sources however, which do make a differentiation between the two subraces, make specific reference to the Leaflord being the patron of wild elves. However, in these same newer sources the Wild One is talked of as the patron of wood elves and to a much lesser extent that of the wild elves. Further confusing this is that fact that Solonor Thelandira is talked of as being the special patron of the wood elves and, most recently, in the Player's Handbook 5th edition, Rillifane is listed as "wood elf god of nature."
So, more confusion. While one might argue that it is only in recent times
that Rillifane is associated with Wood Elves, rather than Wild Elves, it doesn't matter because he was always
considered to be a deity of the Sy'Tel'Quessir - which were Wood AND Wild Elves (because they were once the same thing - which was certainly the case when BG2 was made). See here: (at the bottom of the page):
; ), it says the following:
Under 1st and 2nd editions, wild elves and wood elves were considered to be one subrace with different names. Wild elf was considered somewhat derogatory, much like calling a moon elf "grey elf."
This is probably the most important point in the entire case. Since the BG series is 2nd edition D&D, we can see where the confusion comes from. Wood and Wild were
the same thing, but because they are not considered the same thing today, Suldanessellar, which is located in the forest of Tethir where the Wood/Wild Elves live, is now considered Wild Elf territory.
BUT! They were conceived of
as Wood Elves (certainly the traits
that are associated with Wood Elves are the same as the Suldanessellar Elves). So the fact that they are Wild Elves today means little. They weren't thought of with the traits that are now distinctive of Wild Elves.
In other words, at the time of their making they were Wood Elves,
so we should consider them thus.
So, let's sum it all up:
CASE FOR WOOD ELVES:
- Wild Elves do not build permanent settlements, meaning they are unlikely to build a city. Wood Elves do build settlements.
- Wood Elves are more civilised than Wild Elves, and it certainly does not seem as if the Elves of Suldanessellar are savages in furs. They have a lovely city and culture, and advanced weapons and armor.
- They clearly have an organised religion centered around Rillifane and the Tree of Life - and even a Temple for their worship. Wild Elves don't have such things, and are more likely to be druids rather than clerics (we see many clerics (even a High Priestess - Demin), but no druids among the Suldanessellar Elves)
- A structured monarchy, ruled by a Queen - this kind of structure does not exist among Wild Elves, who are more nomadic and tribal
- At the time of making of BG2, Wood and Wild Elves were the same thing. Even though it is now stated that Wild Elves inhabit the region of where Suldanessllar sits, since the traits of what we now consider to be Wood Elves are the same traits of Sudanessellar Elves, we can deduce that they are Wood Elves, and the developers would have thought of them as such.
- Rillifane was considered a deity of the Sy'Tel'Quessir, which covers, at the time of making of BG2
, both of what we separate into Wood and Wild Elf categories today.
- Suldanessellar Elves employ enough arcane magic (Ellesime and Irenicus, plus the many War Mages and Seers we see) to deny them being Wild Elves (in whose societies arcane magic is virtually non-existent)
CASE FOR WILD ELVES
- Though they do not build permanent settlements, Suldanessellar is stated to be only a "meeting place" for Elves and is not inhabited all year round (at least not to full capacity - we can imagine that Ellesime and her servants probably live there, as do clerics, guards, etc). Ergo, it is plausible that this one place could potentially have been built by them for the sake of meeting (and unification of the Suldusk and Elmanesse tribes).
- Suldusk is specifically stated to be a native Wild Elf tribe of the Forest of Tethir, and Elmanesse are immigrant High-Elves-turned-Wild-Elves; it is also specifically stated that they both together built the city of Suldanessellar.
- Though arcane magic is rare among the Wild Elves in general, Suldanessellar was built in part by the Elmanesse tribe - who are immigrants from Myth Drannor - a High Elf city known for its powerful arcane magics. Thus, this knowledge could have been brought in by them, making Suldanessellar a bit of an "exception to the rule" as far as Wild Elves and arcane magic go, given the unique circumstances on which it was founded. Ditto for their advanced weaponry and architecture.
All of the points for the pro-Wild Elf theory are weakened by the fact that Wild Elves did not exist
at the time that BG2 was made, and the traits that the Wild Elves now possess are not the ones of the Suldanessellar Elves (the Suldanessellar Elves have the traits of Wood Elves).
We have to transport ourselves back in time to when BG2 was made. At that time, there were no distinctions between Wood and Wild Elves. They were the same thing. In later editions, these races were split into the subraces we know today. Thus, we have to view it from that perspective.
Though Wild Elves inhabit the territory today (and have even been stated in lore to have built Suldanessellar), most of the traits
we actually see from the Suldanessellar Elves are the same traits associated with Wood Elves.
In other words, it was Wild Elves who were the new kids on the block (ie, a new created race recently), while the Wood Elves remain in the original form that the Sy'Tel'Quessir were conceived of. The spirit of the Suldanessellar Elves is thus Wood Elf in nature, and it is in that image that they were created by the BG2 developers.
Thus, if I HAD to give a "as factual as possible answer taking the spirit and timeline and everything into a whole-picture account" I would say that the Suldanessellar Elves are Wood Elves.
That said, I've always thought of them as Wild Elves, so calling them Wood Elves after all this research feels odd to me. Admittedly, Wood Elves does make way
more sense when all the evidence is gathered, but for whatever reason, Wild Elves just feels more right to me. Kivan, who is from Shilmista forest, is also a Wild Elf (by today's standards - again, back then, Wood/Wild were the same thing), so that is perhaps why - I just subconsciously associate them more with the BG series than I do Wood Elves because I started this research not at the time of their release, but in more recent times. Maybe eventually I will subconsciously "accept" them as Wood Elves as the info sinks in over time.
In fact, maybe the sanest option is that it is a synthesis of the two - Wild Elf by blood
(Suldusk/native tribe), Wood Elf by culture
(Elmanesse/immigrant tribe) - and liberally mixing this and that between the two across both, creating a unique alchemy. Wood Elves are the "balance" between the savage Wild Elves and the highly cultured High Elves - and we can see both of these aspects within Suldanessellar. They are remote, recluse, wary of outsiders, and don't have plans for empires and such (Wild Elf behavior). But they are structured, monarchical, have a beautiful city, an organised religion, have clerics, not druids, and pay homage to the land (Wood Elf behavior).
Like many things in BG, Suldanessellar may be a "special case" that is unlike anything else to be found anywhere in the Realms. It was only created for the BG series anyway, and the lore hasn't been consistent for that reason. Perhaps "Suldanessellar Elf" is just a thing unto itself, and should be classed as its own unique subrace. Who knows?
In any case, it has been fun researching this and I hope it helps anyone who has asked the same questions.