Over two millennia ago the elves and dwarves were the powers of Thedas. The elves ruled above the earth and the dwarves below it. The elves spent centuries becoming master magicians, craftsmen, and artists, and it is said they were nearly immortal. When humans first arrived in Thedas, the elves gave them aid despite what they considered impatient and rude behavior on the human’s part. The elves were shocked when diseases carried by the humans began killing them. They were horrified when they discovered that just being near humans shortened their lifespan and made them mortal. They attempted to shut themselves away from the rest of Thedas, but the rising Tevinter Imperium attacked them with its legions and its blood magic. The elf kingdom of Arlathan fell and the survivors spent the next 500 years as slaves of the Imperium.
The words of the Prophetess were instrumental in convincing the elves to rebel against the Tevinter and after the fall of the Imperium, the elves were granted a country of their own south of Orlais called the Dales, in return for their help. When freedom did come, it was all too brief.
For several centuries, all was well, until the elves were found to have accepted Andraste’s words, but not her faith. The new elf homeland tried to revive the lost culture of Arlathan. That included worship of the ancient elven pantheon and this the Chantry would not tolerate. It declared an Exalted March against the Dales, accusing the elves of blood magic, practicing other forbidden rites, but mainly for daring to adhere to their old gods. The Dales were sacked and their people scattered, and for a second time the elves lost their homeland. Some of the survivors became wanderers, but the rest were absorbed into the various human kingdoms.
The elves that still cling to their old beliefs are known as the Dalish elves, an insular people who travel the wilds in massive wagons drawn by huge white stags and have as little truck with humans as possible. The rest of the elves now live in human settlements, but inevitably apart in an area sectioned off for their use called an “alienage.” Some alienages are walled off, but this is as much for the safety of the elven families as it is to protect humans from the “thieving knife-ears.” Elves are a graceful people with fair features. They are usually servants or laborers in Ferelden. While their lot is not easy, they are paid for their work and have rights, which is seldom the case elsewhere. Many Fereldan elves hold that they have far better lives than their people in other countries, as they would rather be poor freemen than rich slaves.