Saturday, April 30, 2011

On Source Material

So, I've been poking at the cultural work for "the Other" done by Elves (hinted at in my original post on the matter), and one common influence for what Americans think of Elves is the game Dungeons & Dragons (yes in addition to Tolkien, of course). A common quote, widely found via Google (or here for example), for the D&D source is attributed to D&D creator Gary Gygax, supposedly from an old Dragon magazine. Gygax (supposedly) said,

Drow are mentioned in Keightley's The Fairy Mythology, as I recall (it might have been The Secret Commonwealth [of Elves..., by Kirk]--neither book is before me, and it is not all that important anyway), and as dark elves of evil nature, they served as an ideal basis for the creation of a unique new mythos designed especially for the AD&D game. [Supposedly from "Books Are Books, Games Are Games" in Dragon #31.]
So I looked at both -- Keightley online via Google Books, and Kirk in the 1933 edition at the NYPL although I later discovered it is also online. It's in neither (well it is once in Keightley, as a verb). The nice thing about the online sources is, you can search both via Google (Google Books or Google with the URL for the Kirk).

The searches:

What does appear is trow in Keightly, but they are little green-clothed Shakespearean fairies: they are "of a diminutive stature" and "are usually dressed in gay green garments" (p. 165).

According to the Wikipedia page on Drow (the D&D version), Gygax later corrected his source. But the uncorrected quote was what I ran into a lot initially. This isn't an "interent good, internet bad" story, it's more a story about people (Gygax misremembering, people putting up quotes and then never noticing corrections....).

Sadly, I can't verify the Dragon quote by Gygax.