Aeonna's avatar

What Drow ought to look like

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By Aeonna   |   
Published: August 30, 2007
© 2007 - 2020 Aeonna
To my mind, it would be logical if the Drow were all albino, as many cave-dwelling creatures are.

In this picture I have also given the Drow girl large, bat-like ears as I assumed that her hearing would need to be excellent in such dark surroundings. She may even be blind. I postulate this with the assumption that the Drow, after thousands of years in the Underdark, cut off from the Surface, would adapt to their environment.

Further comment: Thank you for some great discussions on this subject! Some of the comments contained points so important that they ought to be mentioned here.
1) Talking of evolution in this context in misleading, as the process takes a lot longer than the few thousand years I mentioned. This becomes even more true if one assumes that the Drow have a longer life-span and reach maturity later than Humans.
2) A self-contained world COMPLETELY without sunlight is not orthodox D&D, whichever version of the rules one looks at. I know this and I only discuss the make-up of life without sunlight because it is an amusing theoretical dilemma.
3) There are several different versions of the D&D world. In one early version, the Drow were in fact pale and in another, dark only refers to their moral alignment.
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anonymous's avatar
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Mckill316's avatar
I know this is a really old post and all, but you have an awesome concept right here! What im curious is what kind of equipment she(or the drows of your world) need to wear in other to go outside.
Since they live their entire lives underground, they be super sensitive to the sun and i'd imagine they'll need to wear something that covers all their skin in order to avoid getting a sunburn and something
to protect their eyes (like a pair of goggles with lenses similar to sunglasses). 
And thats only the beginning, what relations do they have with the outside world(If they even have one)?
What's their culture like?
What's their cities like?
Oh man, i can't stop thinking about this!
Touch-Not-This-Cat's avatar
The way I understand it, D&D elves have a very different kind of pigment in their skin, but not their follicles. They use melanin in their hair but something more exotic in their dermis. So Drow hair is white, as you would expect, but elf skin has the OPPOSITE long term adaptive reaction to sunlight as humans and most other creatures.
Mckill316's avatar
So wait, how does the pigments on elves work within the dnd universe? The more they are in the sunlight the brighter they become? That dosent make any sense if you compare with humans.
Touch-Not-This-Cat's avatar
If you assume they used melanin, which they DO NOT, which is my point. They use something else, although the lore is vague on exactly what. I suspect it MIGHT be a retcon muguffin accidentally created by some ignoramus who didn’t understand how pigment worked when expanding on Dark Elf lore. Who precisely invented the Drow?
Mckill316's avatar
The creators of DnD were the first to coin the term drow for dark elves. Even though "dark elf" is just another
name for dwarf, sense in norse mythology dwarfs are associated as part of the elf family but they live deep
underneath the mountains. Hence the term "Dark Elf".
Touch-Not-This-Cat's avatar
Knuckleheads probably confused environment with skin color.
bobbobbbbob's avatar
bobbobbbbobHobbyist Digital Artist
There are albino drow, they're called szarkai according to Drow of the Underark.
Aeonna's avatar
AeonnaProfessional Interface Designer
The beauty of fantasy is that there is a lot of flexibility with the "rules". This was my own imagining. I don't claim to know things other fans don't, I just presented a musing.
EraAtrum's avatar
Well, there is a book called "Drow of the Underdark". In it, it tells of three creation myths. In one of them, when Lolth's followers rebelled against the other Elven deities, they were cursed with the dark skin so that they could be told apart from the faithful Elves. In another one, it is said that Lolth blessed them with the dark skin as a gift. The third one (where you're idea would actually make more sense), is that all Elves were originally Drow. Some rebelled and Lolth drove them above ground and cursed them with the light skin.

That being said, I LOVE this idea. I think it would make an excellent race, separate from the Drow. Perhaps a race of Elf that had actually created to live underground, instead of being driven under.
Aeonna's avatar
AeonnaProfessional Interface Designer
Thanks for the summary! Two of those myths were new to me. It's fun that something that in itself is fiction has three different creation myths.
makizuki's avatar
you do know that they have dark skin because of Loth, not evolution its their mark for serving their goddess.
Aeonna's avatar
AeonnaProfessional Interface Designer
Yes, I know the official version. I just made a mental game of coming up with a different explanation.
TheScribe2343's avatar
Black skinned drow might have evolved darker skin to hide from the rather horrific predators that exist in the Underdark. That being said, this is a really cool drawing.
Aeonna's avatar
AeonnaProfessional Interface Designer
Supposing the monsters in the Underdark hade normal sight, as we do, camouflage would make sense.
Thanks : )
Complete-SpaZ's avatar
Complete-SpaZHobbyist Writer
I'll never look at a drow the same way again. This would make so much more sense, though Fantasy has never been known to follow logic. The idea and drawing is really cool. :heart:
Aeonna's avatar
AeonnaProfessional Interface Designer
Thank you! :dance:
MoonlessCry's avatar
MoonlessCryStudent Digital Artist
Greetings :D

Your drawing is absolutely great, I think you have a really logical and interesting point of view, but I'm afraid that it's not an existing logic in a fantasy world where everything has its reason and its own story. Your theory is completely consistent respecting the natural evolution of living beings, but I would like to explain you some things about the drow that will be very useful and interesting for you, and certainly will get you out of your doubts. :heart: (Also, sorry for my english, it's not my mother tongue... u.u")

I'll start correcting you an essential point that you reported:
"3) There are several different versions of the D&D world. In one early version, the Drow were in fact pale and in another, dark only refers to their moral alignment."
Indeed, long ago, drow were pale. If you've already read the history of the drow, you'd know that they were always white skinned until the day that their goddess Araushnee (actually known for everyone as Lolth) and her dark elven children were banished from the surface lands and exiled into the Underdark after betraying Corellon Larethian, patron god of elves. According to my knowledge of the D&D official background, Corellon cursed Araushnee transforming her into a bloated spider demon, and punished the dark elves, turning their skin black as their evil hearts. :) As you can see, is an affair involving divine magic, and no developments are worth when magic is involved.
That doesn't mean that there are no albino drows. In fact, albino drows are an extremely rare genetic mutation with alabastor white skin and other aspects of all albino creatures, representing 1/5 of 1% of the whole drow population. Known as szarkai, they are considered chosen of Lolth, and they have nothing to do with their alignment. A drow is free to choose their destiny regardless of his skin color. :D

I hope to solve your doubts with this information, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

I love talking to people so interested in those black velvet beauties... :iconilikeitplz:
Aeonna's avatar
AeonnaProfessional Interface Designer
Wow, that was a long post. Excuse me if I am more brief.

My whole reasoning assumes that there is no such thing as magic. This is the premise. The official version stirs the imagination nicely and I am not trying to overwrite or disprove it. I just thought it would be fun to try out a parallel version where the same creatures exist but everything can be proven with scientific theory.

And yes, they are very beautiful ^^
MoonlessCry's avatar
MoonlessCryStudent Digital Artist
Oh, in that case there's no problem xD Scientifically, your version is absolutely correct and I have no objection with it, but I have a habit of giving explanations to many D&D players who are still wondering why the drow have the features that they have, and sometimes, it's a little bit hard to show them that in a fantasy world with magic everything is possible.

Anyway, thanks for reading my extense paragraph and for answering it (?) :heart:
larqven's avatar
A cute albino elf! Yes, this might be more accurate, though the time for evolution might prevent it.

She does look rather blind with her eyes not looking at anything and huge pupils. Her hand gives her the sense of being rather tactile as well--using her fingers as if they were antennae.

The moths give rise to another idea. Under extreme conditions, evolution and survival of the fittest can happen fairly quickly in animals with very short generations and large broods. Specifically, the Industrial Revolution caused soot to coat birch trees, making their bark dark. White moths that lived on them became colored dark after several generations as the dominant whites were killed off due to predation. After coal plants were replaced, and the air got cleaner, birch trees became whiter again. The process than reversed itself with the moths returning to their original white color due to habitat change.

Likewise, mice have also been observed changing colors over many generations under environmental conditions where hawks could pick them off. The mice tend to become a similar color as the ground they scavenge for seeds on.

By accident or design, the colorless moths in this pic make for a nice touch on this idea of color changing due to the environment.
Aeonna's avatar
AeonnaProfessional Interface Designer
Thanks for the comment!

Glad you noticed her unseeing eyes! I do think of her as being blind, as there is no natural light in the underground and other senses would take over. (The luminescent parts of the picture were added for effect and because I couldn't well post a wholly black deviation).

I imagine the survival of the fittest is a particularly harsh selection among the dangers of the Underdark, so maybe it would be quicker than usual.
silent-shrieking's avatar
silent-shriekingHobbyist Traditional Artist
I had always thought that drow's skin was black even before they separated from the surface elves and that it wasn't a result of living underground. It was just always like that.
Aeonna's avatar
AeonnaProfessional Interface Designer
There may well be such a version of the story, or if not there should be. There is no real truth in these matters : )
shamira-g's avatar
shamira-gStudent Digital Artist
I like this alot.
and some drow are born bone white albino, so your interpretation is not too far out there.
anonymous's avatar
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