Daggerford and the North
The elves are one of the major races of the Realms, and once ruled large sections of the Realms after the time of the dragons and before the coming of humankind. Now the majority of these long-lived beings have retreated from the onslaught of humankind, seeking quieter forests, and their numbers in the Realms are a faction of those even a thousand years ago.
The elves of the Forgotten Realms are of human height, but much more slender. Their fingers and hands are half-again as long as a humans, and delicately tapered, and their bones are light and surprisingly sturdy. Elven faces are thinner and more serene, and elven ears, as are ears in half a hundred known worlds, are pointed.
There are several known elven subraces in the Forgotten Realms, and most of them live in relative harmony. Cross-breeding is possible between the subraces, but in the case of the elves, the child will either take after the male or female parents race (there are no drow-moon elf mongrels, and the child of such an unlikely union would have either all the traits of a dark elf or of a moon elf). The subraces are:
Sun Elves: Sun elves are also called gold elves or high elves, and have bronze skin and hair of copper, black, or golden blond. Their eyes are golden, silver, or black. Sun elves tend to be recognized as the most civilized of the elven subraces and the most aloof from humankind and the other races. The majority of the native elves of Evermeet are sun elves, though the royal family are moon elves.
Llewyrr Elves: The Llewyrr were a race of elves that once held sway over the isle of Gwynneth – and perhaps others – of the Moonshaes, but as humans began to colonize the islands the Llewyrr decided to retreat to Synnoria and isolate themselves. The Llewyrr are very similar to those called the sun elves and it is suspected the they were the descendants of the survivors of a shipwrecked elven vessel that was on a journey to Evermeet, but only the Llewyrr can know for sure. Some very old texts refer to the Llewyrr as “Eladrin”, which may be an ancient type of elf. The Llewyrr are smaller than other elves, reaching heights no taller than 5 feet. They have skin ranging from bronze to dark brown in color. Their hair can be blonde, coppery-red, or a deep chestnut hue. Eyes can be green, topaz, gold, or hazel. They enjoy wearing jewelry and other adornments.
Moon Elves: Moon elves are also called silver or gray elves, and are much paler than gold elves, with faces of bleached white tinged with blue. Moon elves usually have hair of silver-white, black, or blue, though all reported colors normally found in humans and elves may be found in this race. Their eyes are blue or green, and have gold flecks. They tend to tolerate humankind the most of the elven subraces, and the majority of adventuring elves and half-elves are of moon elf descent.
Wood Elves: Wood elves (also known as green elves, copper elves, or forest elves) are the most populous of the elven races. Wood elves see themselves as guardians of the ancient forest homes that were largely abandoned after the Crown Wars and before the Retreat, but unlike most other elves they do not view themselves as a people apart from the rest of Faerûn. Non-elves often confuse wood elves and wild elves, calling both subraces “wood”, “wild” and “forest” elves interchangeably.
Wild Elves: Wild elves are also called green elves or forest elves, and often confused with wood elves, and are reclusive and distrusting of non-elves, in particular humankind. Wild elves of the Forgotten Realms tend to be copperish in hue with tinctures of green. Their hair tends toward browns and blacks, with occasional blonds and copper-colored natives. Their eyes green, brown, or hazel. They tend to be the least organized of the elven peoples, and while there is no elven nation made up entirely of wild elves, there are wild elves in every other elven nation and on Evermeet.
Sea Elves: Sea elves, also called aquatic or water elves, are divided into two further divisions: those of the Great Sea (including all its salt-water domains such as the Shining Sea and Sea of Swords), and those of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Great Sea elves are radiant in different shades of deep greens, with irregular patches of brown striped through their bodies. Fallen Star sea elves are various shades of blue, with white patches and stripes. Both have the full variety of eye and hair color found in all the elven peoples and have webbed feet and hands and the ability to breathe water.
Dark Elves: Dark elves, also called drow (pronounced to rhyme with now or how) or night elves, comprise the most sinister and evil segment of the elven race, as if this subrace seems to balance the tranquility and goodness of their cousins with unrepentant maliciousness and evil. Drow have black skin that resembles nothing so much as polished obsidian, pale eyes (often mistaken for solid white), and hair of stark white. The variations in coloration present in the other elven subraces is missing here. Most of this fell race has been driven underground, and it members are shunned by the other elven subraces.
Twistborn Elves: Twistborn elves are a magical offshoot of wood and gold elves. They were brought about through ancient elven magic, and some say that crossbreeding with doppelgangers was also involved. The twistborn are very rare, and most folks that meet one – even other elves – never even realize it.
Elven Life: The elves call their own race Tel’Quessir, which translates as the people. Strangers, in particular non-elven strangers, are generally placed under the category N’Tel’Quess, or not-people. Most elves treat the not-people with respect and politeness, as a host would a stumbling child, though the drow fiercely enslave any who are not of their race and consider the other elven subraces N’Tel’Quess.
The elves are generally ruled by hereditary noble houses that have held control of their nations for generations (and given the nature and long life of elves, the rule of a wise king may exceed the history of a human nation). Elven rule is autocratic and absolute, and it is the theology and philosophy of the elves which prevents abuse of such complete power. The coronals (monarchs of the Elven Court) make their pronouncements rarely, preferring to remain outside the normal course of their subjects lives. However, once a decision is made and pronounced by a coronal whether to declare war or retreat to Evermeetit is followed by the bulk of the population.
The Retreat: The oddest phenomenon of elven life (to human observers) is the Retreat, which is viewed as a lemming like drive to sail to the farthest west, beyond the sea. In the case of the elves of the Forgotten Realms, the reason is not some biological drive, but rather the decision of the leaders of the elven nations to withdraw to less hostile lands. Such a decision was made after years (human generations) of thought, discussion, and meditation. Once made, it is irrevocable.
In the case of the recently voided Elven Court, the decision to retreat was made some 500 years after deliberation began. In the Year of Moonfall (1344 DR), the Pronouncement of Retreat passed from elf to elf, and they began to quietly evacuate their homelands along the Inner Sea. While for humans the disappearance of the Elven Court is regarded as a sudden vacuum in the heart of the Realms, for the Elven Court itself it was as inevitable (and as important) as a merchant moving his shop farther down the street to increase the distance from a competitor.
The elves in Retreat usually make for Evermeet across the sea or Evereska on the edge of the Great Sand Sea of Anauroch. Those who reach Evermeet swear their fealty to Queen Amlaruil, who is that domains monarch. Long ago the elven nation of Evermeet made the decision to fight those humans (and members of other races) who came to her shores, and as a result Evermeet is both the strongest sea power in the Realms, and a haven for the other elves in Retreat. Those who choose not to abandon the Realms entirely join the community at Evereska and seek to help defend Evereska’s new colony in the Greycloak Hills.
Those elves on the Sword Coast and with easy access to the sea make the passage to Evermeet by boat, protected by the Navy of the Queen. How those farther inland cross is not known, for none see their passage out of the world of humankind. Great magics and extra-dimensional gates are assumed to be used, though there have been tales of great butterflies carrying some elven nobles westward.
The Former Elven Nations: The former elven nations of the Realms include Illefarn, where Waterdeep now rises from the seacoast; Askavar, which is now called the Wood of Sharp Teeth, and the Elven Court, which once ruled Cormanthor, the forest country that ran from Cormyr to the Moonsea. Current elven nations include Evermeet in its seaward seclusion and Evereska (located in a mountain valley), with its colony in the Greycloak Hills. In addition, there are scattered groups of elves found throughout the realms, including wild elves, groups without noble rulers, and those who are comfortable with the human population (usually younger elves). The drow are not welcome among the elven nations and so have their own lairs in the Underdark.
Adventuring Elves: Adventuring elves are usually moon elves, though there are wild and gold elves as well found among humankinds adventuring companies. Sea elves and drow are much rarer in the surface world, but there are notable exceptions.
(SOURCES: Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting; Player’s Options: Elves; The Forgotten Realms Wiki)