Half-Elves are a staple of fantasy fiction and have been around since before even Tolkien used the concept and made it his own. Since Tolkien made half-elves popular and thrust them into the mainstream, other fantasy writers have embraced the half human/half elf race (though half elves can be any other race mixed with elven blood), especially since D&D has offered Half-Elves as a playable race for a very long time. However, with the next generation of D&D, there are plans to scrap the "half" races due to perceived prejudices and most likely also to streamline their online character creation plans (but maybe they've reversed that decision?), and whether or not the half-elves may be going away at least in D&D, it might be a fun time to look at some interesting half-elves in fiction.
*Due to lack of official artwork for most of the fiction books, most of the photos I'll be using are from their film counterparts.
It should come as no surprise to anyone, but Tolkien corners the market on Elves and Half-Elves in fiction. In the Lord of the Rings books Arwen is the child of Elrond Half-Elven and Celebrían and is arguably the most well-known half-elf character in fiction though she is not technically half elven. She has been depicted in various mediums over the years and Liv Tyler portrays her in the Lord of the Rings films by Peter Jackson. Arwen is beautiful, loyal, courageous, and wise and because she loved Aragorn, she was willing to give up her Elven immortality in order to be with him, which is a huge sacrifice for an Elf.
ELLADAN & ELROHIR
Less well known than Arwen to casual audiences and readers, and not fully explored in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings novels, the twin sons of Elrond help fight alongside their father in the War of the Ring. Not much is known about them other than that they are often depicted together (hence why there are two of them in one entry) and that they are honorable and unafraid to put their lives on the line for those they love.
Tanis is one of the rare examples of a well-known half-elf in fiction who doesn't reside in the Lord of the Rings universe. His mother a human and his father an Elven lord, Tanis is a popular character from the Dragonlance setting in D&D created by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. Tanis is a great leader and is a very skilled strategist and combatant who is often on the front lines of battle. Tanis, though never featured in a live-action film, was depicted in animation and voiced by Michael Rosenbaum. Since he's featured in multiple Dragonlance novels, Tanis has a long and complex character arc that is very interesting to read and chock full of character development.
Descended from the tragic Beren Erchamion (from the Silmarillion) and the elven maiden Lúthien Tinúviel, Elrond is one of the most recognizable half-elves in fiction. Father to Arwen, as well as father to his twin sons Elladan and Elrohir, Elrond is also the esteemed Keeper of Knowledge. Elrond has been depicted in the Lord of the Rings films by Hugo Weaving and he is most often depicted in all mediums as being wise and being a great leader.
Shea Ohmsford is one of the most well-known half elves from author Terry Brooks' Shannara series. Shea is a boy thrust on an adventure initially beyond his understanding and doesn't realize he's part of a special bloodline that consistently fights to keep the continent safe from evil when the times require it, using the amazing magic his heritage gives him access to. Shea Ohmsford was portrayed by Jarred Blakiston in the MTV show based on the Shannara series of books, The Shannara Chronicles.
Orion is the child of Alvarec (a human) and Lirazel (an elf) from Lord Dunsany's 1924 novel, The King of Elfland's Daughter. The lord of Erl sends his son, Alveric, to fetch the King of Elfland's daughter, Lirazel, as his bride; the couple have a son, Orion. Lirazel, pining for Elfland, returns there. Alveric and his father search for her helplessly. Lirazel now longs for her mortal husband and half-elven son. The King of Elfland changes Erl into a part of Elfland, and the family live forever in a timeless realm.
These characters are some of the more well-known half elves in fiction, but there are others out there. Do you have a favorite we forgot to list? What do you think about half elves in D&D? Let us know in the comments below and don't be afraid to use any of these characters as inspiration in your game of D&D, Pathfinder, or another TTRPG. -Joe