Skin Coloration of the Elfes of Aquilon



The world of Aquilon is a diverse planet, with two main continents, named Arran and Ogon. Among the numerous sentient species, all of which established civilizations, the elfes are the most diverse and separated into several well-defined divisions, effectively subspecies of the same species. Besides important cultural differences, the most distinct feature of each subspecies is skin coloration, which differs greatly and is often used to name the entire clade. Although initially it was thought that each clade is synthesizing a different pigment, it soon appeared that the skin’s chemical composition is not differing from the human’s one and the color difference is entirely due to differences in structure.

Melanin and melanocytes

Initially, the incredible variety of skin color in elfes was thought to be defined by different pigments – either blue, black, or red. However, it is not common in mammals to produce such a variety of pigments. Just like humans on the planet Earth, the skin coloration of elfes of Aquilon is entirely defined by the amount of melanin, produced by specialized skin cells called melanocytes. In humans, this sole pigment is responsible for skin coloration, varying from the darkest brown to almost white. Not much differently, in elfes similar in shape and function cells, called melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis produce the same pigment. The main function is to protect the skin from UVR radiation, e.g., to prevent burns. However, in elfes this seems to be a secondary function, and skin coloration has a more profound sexual and social significance. Although some elfes are prone to mate with humans and produce viable offspring of semi-elfes, different elf clades are strictly avoiding each other.


The Melanin clade

The melanin clade consists of two major lineages – the elfes noirs and the elfes sylvains, as well as the semi-elfes, descendants of humans and elfes sylvains. Unlike the other major clade, these elves have functional melanocytes and produce both eumelanin and pheomelanin.

Elfes noirs

The black elves are characterized by a large number of melanocytes and constant production of large amounts of eumelanin to the point their skin appears entirely black. Interestingly, their hairs, similarly to most of the other lineages, are not pigmented at all and appear white. It is because of the few or complete lack of melanocytes in the hair follicles.

Elfes sylvains  

Unlike the black elves, the melanocytes of elfes sylvains tend to produce larger amounts of pheomelanin and a smaller amount of eumelanin, thus giving their skin a yellowish-to-pink color. This difference is defined by the inclusion of sulfur from the amino acid cysteine into the melanin structure, a small diversion of the synthesis pathway, but giving a large effect. As previously mentioned, the semi-elfes descended from the elfes sylvains, and they do not differ in either melanocyte number or melanin biosynthesis.

The Melanin-deficient clade

The second major clade of elfes is more diverse in skin coloration, however, not truly melanin-deficient. It is actually the irregular distribution of melanocytes, and not a defect in the melanin biosynthetic pathway the reason for this. Here, the three main lineages possess snow-white, blood-red and azure-blue skin.

Elfes blancs  

The white elves are quite pale in skin coloration, although not to the extent of true albinism. Their skin is very poor in melanocytes, although many of them do have melanocytes in the hair follicles, consequently having blonde or even red hair. Occasionally, their skin may look reddish due to the dilation of blood vessels.

Elfes bleus

Often described as azure-skinned, the blue elves owe their incredibly-colored skin to the parallel layers of collagen in the dermis, along with few to no melanocytes in the skin. It is more of an illusion or optical effect, rather than true blue color.

Elfes rouges

Finally, the red elves may look heavily sun-burned and their incredible red skin is actually owing its color to the abundance of blood vessels close to the surface.

Significance of the skin coloration

Unlike in humans, the melanin distribution, e.g., the skin coloration in elves is not related to UV protection. It is probably because of their superior antioxidant and DNA-repairing mechanisms, but their skin is much less affected by environmental factors and aging. Moreover, the darkest of all elves on Aquilon, the elfes noirs avoid the sun and inhabit dark places.

Therefore, we must assume that the different skin colorations originated as random mutations and were later established due to sexual selection and social exclusion. The elfes blancs considered themselves as the noblest among all others and would not under any circumstances mate with some of the other lineages. Assuming they are the original genotype, the blue and red elves developed into one clade, while the sylvains and black elves formed another, more distant clade. Although melanocyte differentiation, migration, and melanin synthesis are controlled by a highly complicated gene expression pattern, we should also assume that the origin of a new lineage was due to a single mutation and allele development, most probably with a recessive manifestation. Thus, it took several generations for the recessive allele to occur homozygously. Such individuals were immediately rejected from society, but the new variant was already abundant in the population and more and more homozygous individuals occurred until they formed their own separate societies.


Jean-Luc Istin, Kyko Duarte, Nicolas Jarry, Gianluca Maconi, Olivier Peru, Stephane Bileau, Eric Corbeyran, Bordier, Christophe Arleston, Dimat (2013 – ongoing) Elfes. Soleil Productions

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