Dark Elf Trilogy

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The Dark Elf Trilogy are a series of novels, set in the 'Forgotten Realms' Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting, that are generally regarded as author R. A. Salvatore's most enduring work.[1] The novels were a prequel trilogy, as Salvatore had already written a trilogy of novels featuring the lead character.

The books tell the origin of Drizzt Do'Urden, a dark or drow elf, who is repulsed by the matriarchal theocratic society he is raised in. Vicious, violent, deceptive, arrogant, the dark elves of Menzoberranzan really only have one rule: don't get caught. But Drizzt was born with a conscience, something no drow can afford. His upbringing and training as a warrior are depicted in the first book, Homeland, after which he leaves the city of his birth to live in the wilds of the Underdark. His desperate survival there, and realizing he can't stay there forever, make up the bulk of the second book, Exile. At the end of the novel, he reaches the surface world. In Sojourn, he adapts to the surface world, his years underground serving him well as his survival instincts allow him to carry on in the face of great threats. Eventually, he comes under the tutelage of a retired adventurer and ranger, who gives him formal training in the ways of being a guardian of the wild. Finally, he moves north, to Icewind Dale, where he first meets the dwarf king and human girl who would become his dearest friends.

The trilogy is noted as being remarkable for giving real meat to the mysterious society of the dark elves, who until that point had remained a mystery except for being a generally villainous race. The matriarchy, the dichotomy of stratification and mobility, and the worship of an evil goddess allowed Dungeons and Dragons players to understand how an evil society might actually, for lack of a better term, "work".

Concerns and Criticism

The implications of the novels, based as they were on Dungeons and Dragons conventions, have given rise to debate in subsequent years (as have Dungeons and Dragons' racial tropes themselves). The implication that all or most drow are wholly evil, and that Drizzt alone was truly good (with his father, uneasy at his race's predilections but unwilling to take steps against them, implied to occupy a neutral limbo), indicated that it was genetics that made him moral, not his upbringing, which was little different from any other male drow, save his that his father, who trained him during his teenage years, was more gentle than most. This is further emphasized with his sister Vierna; his other siblings are only half-related to him, sharing only their mother's blood, but Vierna, who treated him much more kindly than would be expected, was also his father's daughter, and though she didn't know this had a more temperate attitude as a result, though she was lost, having become just a loyal, if not as fanatical, a follower of the dark elves' goddess as her sisters and mother. In summation, the book seems to endorse the idea that goodness derives from blood, not upbringing. However, it is not revealed how Drizzt's father gained his distaste for dark elf society.

Other criticisms have been leveled at the book--of course the race of evil fanatic elves has to be dark-skinned, even though they live underground. This is dealt with in-world by their being marked distinctively so no one would ever mistake them for anything other than what they are. The other large criticism, though, is leveled at making drow society both matriarchal and evil. However, others have defended this by noting that the book does not condemn matriarchy but inequality in general. Later books in the Drizzt series indicate that the parts of the surface world that the main character, portrayed as unfailingly moral and upright, favors are all much more egalitarian than is perhaps believable in a quasi-medieval world, and there are plenty of villains who hold similar views towards women that dark elf rulers are shown to have towards men.