|Height||Male: 4'7"—5'5" ; Female: 4'7"—5'5"|
|Weight||Male: 87—157 lbs. ; Female: 82—152 lbs.|
|Diet||same as humans|
The Drow, also known as the Dark Elves, Deep Elves, or even sometimes called "The Ones Who Went Below", is a dark-skinned sub-race of Elves that normally lives beneath the ground in large, subterranean cities that stretch all over the entire continent of Arda. The majority of Drow are seen by the rest of the races inhabiting Middle Earth as evil due to their earliest ancestors worshiping Morgoth and the giant spider known as Ungoliath, and later the Spider Goddess known as Lolth.
Drow are easily spotted by those living on the surface due to their dark skin, the colors varying from light gray to stark black, there is one exception though, the albino Drows that are considered Szarkai. They have fine, long, silvery white or pale yellow hair. Their stature is much smaller than that of other Elves, giving off a misleadingly fragile appearance to those not very familiar with the race. Drow eyes could be of any color, with bright red being the most common. It is possible to read some information in the eye color of a Drow. For example, Drow eyes reddened when they were angry, and turned yellow when they were sick, poisoned, or under some negative magical influence. The Drow are, like many of the other races of Elves, unnaturally graceful, and possess an almost otherworldly, ethereal aura. The biggest drawback for the Drow, though, are their inability to see well on the surface during the hours of the day. Dark Elves are born in the familiar darkness of the subterranean world they were banished to, and are therefore hypersensitive to practically every physical sense. Their hearing is much sharper than that of an Elf from the surface world, and the same can be said for their touch, and their ability to see in the dark world they inhabit. However, the light from the sun can easily blind the even more sensitive eyes that a Drow possesses, something that can be prevented by either hooded cloaks, or spells.
Drow society is divided up into a caste system. One of the more basic facts know to most about Drow is the matriarchal nature of their society. This is due in large part to Lolth's influence upon the race, as she never accepts males into her priesthood. As direct servitors of Lolth, the priestess caste thus holds the highest position in society. They control all aspects of Drow life, with the high priestess of each city ruling it with an iron fist.
Beneath them are the various noble Houses, each ranked by their level of influence in their city, with these rankings constantly shifting as one House gains prominence over another. Mimicking the priestess caste, the noble houses tend to be led by a matriarch, the oldest and, by virtue of surviving, most powerful member of the House. Rarely, a patriarch will take hold, but they are not often taken seriously by other Houses; thus, even when the most powerful member is a male, they will often serve indirectly, taking an easily manipulated female member of the House as a proxy ruler. The nobility control most day-to-day matters of governing in their city that the priestesses feel no need to bother with, including managing trade with other cities, and the upkeep of the city itself. Each House has a specific duty, and often the need for this duty at a given time is reflected in that House's ranking within the city.
The lowest Drow caste is the common caste, made up of various merchant clans. These clans tend to be much more egalitarian than the priesthood and nobility with regards to gender, as they quite simply do not have the luxury to restrict leadership to one sort or another; however, during any interactions with the higher castes, female bias does still manifest itself. Much as the noble Houses, each clan is devoted to a single job - fungus farming, stonework, tool crafting - and it is the duty of all in that clan to devote themselves to that job entirely. Commoners only have the opportunity to change jobs when marrying into another clan, and thus, commoner marriage often occurs relatively early in life, before the completion of a Drow's apprenticeship. While a noble could easily become a priestess, a commoner rarely gets the opportunity to become a noble; rarely, a merchant clan will become nobility if their job suddenly becomes of great importance, but more often the only circumstance in which this could occur would be should the commoner manage to marry into a noble House. Even then, such a commoner rarely survives long.
Finally, below the commoners is the caste of Drow slaves, seen as far below any variety of Drow purely because they are not Drow. Elves are treated worst out of all, but no Drow slave tends to be treated especially well. Of course, below even the slaves are the Driders. These half-Drow half-spider monstrosities are formed from Drow subjected to horrifying rituals of the priesthood of Lolth, most often as punishment for great crimes against the city. The transformation leaves their body twisted but their mind largely untouched; Driders hold most of their prior intelligence, but they have little ability to communicate, and are seen as little more than animals. Driders are most often kept hemmed in a single communal pen beneath the church of Lolth, released only when their talents are needed by the city's militia. Treated even worse than slaves, Driders are given no privacy or dignity, and barely fed or cared for; at times, the church priestesses will even allow the Driders to feed on one another as a form of population control.
Despite the striation of caste, few Drow regret their lot in life. Beyond all other feelings, pride is the chief driving force of a Drow; pride in oneself, pride in one's house or clan, pride in their city, and pride in their race. While they may not be the most important, they are the best. Everyone else is seen as lesser to them, the accomplishments of others merely minor bumps on the road to Drow supremacy. Even amongst the merchant clans this attitude holds true - they may be less than the nobility, but they are still of key importance to the city, and of course far more important than any other clan. This pride is in large part the reason why Drow society is so treacherous: in any House, a good number of Drow feel they would be a far better leader, and it's only a matter of time until that is proven true. While this would seem at first glance to lead to a massive dog pile of individuals scrambling on top of one another for dominance, the preference as expressed by Lolth to avoid blatant, explicit acts of dominance in favor of more subtle betrayals allows Drow society to persist, as it encourages Drow to bide their time for the proper moment in order to not just take, but hold power. Of course, there are Drow that care nothing for leading, but they hold no less pride than their kin, for in every Drow, abilities and pursuits are classified into two categories: areas in which the drow could easily excel should they wish to try, and areas that hold no importance whatsoever. It is this desire for subtlety, in fact, that points towards the true reason outsiders are so mistrusted; it is not because they are different, but rather because they are not yet predictable. In Drow culture, the more predictable a person is, the more "trusted" they are, as they can be more easily outmaneuvered or manipulated as necessary. Thus, given enough time (and with measured enough actions), any individual could "earn the trust" of a Drow.
This pride and, indeed, arrogance also expresses itself in other ways beyond just social interaction. While few cultures tend to spend a great deal of time within their histories dwelling on their failures, Drow historians have a special talent for interpreting a failure as a victory. The defeat of Morgoth and Ungoliath, presumed to be the mother of Lolth, both, surprisingly to many, hold a special place in Drow lore, seen not as defeats but rather triumphs.
Similarly, Drow pride manifests itself in Drow architecture and artistry, which is more often made with an eye towards form at the expense of function; aesthetic qualities are weighed far ahead of performance, with spell-work helping to shore up the faults, since certainly their work would not fail. Even their civic design expresses this: while most subterranean races build their cities in natural caverns, or as multiple tunnels connecting open areas, Drow cities are made of massively-carved caverns filled with elaborate buildings. This prioritizing can lead to some amazingly beautiful work, but without constant upkeep most Drow constructions collapse in a matter of decades, or even years, and Drow artistry tends to be quite fragile for its material, very hard to safely transport without magical aid. Thus there tend to be few Drow ruins within the subterranean Arda, as any abandoned city is soon buried or rendered inaccessible by cave-ins.
Of course, this does not stop the Drow from having a deep appreciation for artwork, and thankfully for true connoisseurs, the most popular Drow art form is quite sturdy in material. As stone-craft is for the dwarves, gem cutting is for the drow. Not merely basic oval or faceted cuts, Drow gem sculptors can create wondrous work from gem that seems almost impossible to have been made. A very patient process, Drow gem-work is based less on the hammer and chisel, and more on slow scrapings from slim adamantine blades over the course of months or even years; more akin to whittling than traditional gem-work.
Outside gem-work, Drow artistic interests tend to lean towards the more visible expressions of skill - tailoring, landscaping, and other ways of displaying the artisans contained within one's House or clan. Amongst the noble Houses, the amount of art produced by its own members even tends to be part of the ranking of prominence, with some seeking to lure especially skilled artisans out of their born Houses through promises of marriage and excessive dowries. Each House is expected to at minimum hold a gem cutter and a tailor within their ranks, and it is considered quite embarrassing to be seen wearing clothing or accessories not woven by your own House.
As mentioned above, priestesses of Lolth are held above all others in Drow society. On the other hand, priestesses of Kiaransalee, one of Ungoliath's other presumed children in Drow lore, hold no special prominence above other Drow, ranked only as their House or clan dictate, despite the fact that her worship is grudgingly accepted by Lolthites. As for the other means of mystical power, sorcerers are somewhat accepted amongst females, and vaguely put up with as useful when the art manifests in males, most often as servants - such natural magical arts are seen as gifts from Lolth, regardless of their actual origin. Wizards are rare and distrusted, their flavor of the arcane seen as too surfacer-elf to trust; any who study the art of the wizard are taken at a certain point in their studies by the church of Lolth and put through massively invasive mental examinations to ensure there is no sign of betrayal within their minds. Those that hold even the slightest inkling are immediately taken to be made into Driders, while even those that pass will end up banished more likely than not should they continue their studies.
In the more scientific domains, no field is given greater prominence than alchemy. Not purely in the realm of poison-craft, though indeed many top poisoners are Drow, alchemy of all sorts is quite important to the Drow. Indeed, nearly all the largest Drow cities would not survive without the aid of their House of alchemists, their fungus farms simply being insufficient to sustain their population.
Given their adoration of Lolth, the role of spiders in Drow society is hardly surprising. Spiders tend to serve much the same role that cats serve in human or Elven society, kept as both companion and pest control. No Drow would ever dare to harm a spider except in self defense, even a normally-sized one, and while the larger spiders are not truly worshiped, they are held in high esteem. Many Drow cities have an entire clan, or even a House, with the duty of spider husbandry, silk weaving, or poison milking.
The few Drow Houses that originally went with Morgoth when he defected from Eru Ilúvatar are called by the name of the 'Firstborn', a term only given to those who have supported Morgoth since the dawn of his campaign against Eru. Not many of these original supporting Drow Houses remain in the world of Arda, however those who still linger beneath the earth are supposed to have been blessed with luck and many different strengths by their former patron and deity.
Members of the Firstborn
To be revealed...
- Most of the information about the Drow Society has been taken from this webpage: http://www.rilmani.org/timaresh/Drow