The Elven Race are one of the most ancient and powerful of all the races of the Warhammer world. They are tall, slender humanoids who are inherently magical and live for millennia. There are three main factions of Elves: the High Elves, Dark Elves and Wood Elves.
Compared to humans, Elves are tall, fair-skinned, and slender. Most art shows them with high cheekbones and slightly angular faces and slanted eyes. Some depictions show them with black eyes, while others show them with normal pupils/irises. High Elves are often shown with blonde hair, Wood Elves with brown and Dark Elves with black but these changes are minor and the three groups are for the most part physically indistinguishable.
Assuming they do not die a violent death, Elves are capable of living for thousands of years. It is not considered impossible for an Elf to live to be 6,000, although this would be extremely unusual for only Malekith, the Witch King of Naggaroth could claim such an achievement. Most often an Elf will not die of old age in the human sense, rather he or she will simply grow weary of the world's troubles and lose passion for life, eventually passing away.
Elves are inherently magical, and their long lives gives magically gifted elves more than enough time to train their skill at controlling many of the Winds of Magic. This is in contrast to human wizards, who can usually only hope to use one form of magic. Elves are resistant to disease and to physical mutations caused by Chaos, although notably they are still vulnerable to Nurgle's Rot. There is also some evidence that Chaos can affect their minds in more subtle ways. Elves experience emotions and thoughts more intensely than most other races. At best, this can result in them spending centuries training or honing a skill to perfection. At worst, they can become "lost" in their experiences, over-indulging and losing track of reality.
The ancestors of the Elves, along with those of the Dwarfs and Humans, were introduced to the Warhammer World by the Old Ones. The Elves were put under the care of the Slann, and learned much from their mentors, quickly achieving a high level of civilisation, as well as an understanding of the dangers of Chaos. The Old Ones eventually transferred the Elves from the Old World towards Ulthuan. The Elves have various creation stories regarding Asuryan the Phoenix God. They eventually adopted Ulthuan as their homeland and lived mostly in peace for a long time, recording this as their Golden Age.
The Coming of Chaos
During the Coming of Chaos the Elves fought valiantly against the onslaught of Daemons who invaded Ulthuan, but slowly they were being defeated and were threatened with annihilation. A hero called Aenarion arose, and walked through the flames at the Shrine of Asuryan. Emerging unburnt, he was crowned as the first Phoenix King and the united elves drove back the daemons temporarily. The Keeper of Secrets N'Kari killed Aenarion's wife, the Everqueen Astarielle. Aenarion's children Morelion and Yvraine had been saved, but he didn't know this. In his grief Aenarion drew the Sword of Khaine and fought back the Daemons once more. During this time, Caledor Dragontamer made contact with the Dwarfs and learned from Grimnir of the Portal at the north pole which spewed chaos energy and empowered the Daemons. Aenarion remarried to Morathi and she bore him a son called Malekith. Caledor devised a plan to create a Vortex to drain away the magical energy and banish most of the Daemons. Aenarion defended Caledor while the great spell was put in action, but was mortally wounded in the process. Before death, he returned the Sword of Khaine to its place.
When it came time for the elves to rebuild and elect a new Phoenix King, they chose Bel Shanaar of Tiranoc rather than Malekith. Malekith instead became the leader of their military and ruler of Nagarythe. It was at this point that the elves explored the seas and shores and established several colonies, most of them in the Old World to Ulthuan's east. They fought battles against Orcs, Goblins and Beastmen, and also re-established contact with the Dwarfs. Trade flourished between the two peoples, for a time.
The Sundering and the Dark Elves
Malekith used an inquisition against the Elven Cult of Pleasure (secretly headed by Morathi) as a cover to murder his enemies. Eventually, he poisoned The Phoenix King, framing it as a suicide. He then massacred many of the princes and walked through the flames at the Shrine of Asuryan. However he was horribly burnt. Malekith was nursed back to health by his mother and placed inside a magical armour. Malekith launched a massive civil war, attempting to claim the Phoenix Throne by force. Eventually, facing defeat, he planned to undo the Vortex. However loyalist mages interfered with this plan and the resulting magical cataclysm sunk much of western Ulthuan, an event known as The Sundering. Malekith and his followers fled across the Ocean, founding the kingdom of Naggaroth on the western continent and becoming the Dark Elves. The loyalists remained in Ulthuan and became the High Elves.
The War of the Beard
After the Sundering, the Dark Elves posed as High Elves and attacked a Dwarf caravan. Outraged, the Dwarfs sent a messenger to Ulthuan to demand recompense from the Phoenix King. The High Elves responded by shaving the Dwarf's beard and sending him back. This angered the Dwarfs even more and they began to attack High Elf colonies in the Old World in what became known as the War of the Beard. The war raged on for many years and finally culminated at the 14th siege of Tor Alessi, where the Dwarf King Gotrek Starbreaker killed the Phoenix King Caledor II. The Dwarfs took the crown and retreated to their holds, while the High Elves abandoned their colonies. Relations between the two races never fully recovered.
The Wood Elves
During the reign of Caradryel the Peacemaker, the Dark Elves launched a new attack on Ulthuan. In response, Caradryel recalled the Elven forces from the Old World to deal with the Dark Elves. However, some High Elf colonists living in the Old World refused to leave as they had grown attached to their new home. Without the protection of the High Elf military, these colonists were vulnerable to attacks from Greenskins and Beastmen as well as Dwarfs. Over time they retreated further and further into the mysterious enchanted forest of Athel Loren. The spirits of the forest were wary of the Elves at first, however they soon discovered that the Elves could protect the forest during the long winter months when the forest spirits were dormant. Eventually two Elves, named Orion and Ariel became the avatars of the Elf god of the hunt Kurnous and life Isha and they rule the Wood Elves to this day. Over time the Wood Elves became inextricably linked with the fate of Athel Loren.
The Elves worship a wide variety of deities of varying power and temperament. These beings are divided into into two main spheres of influence, with neither having dominance over the other. This is encapsulated belief of Yenlui, or balance; a philosophy that dictates that there must be a harmony between the light and dark natures of the Elven spirit.
The most widely acknowledged Elven gods are the Cadai or the gods of the Heavens, who represent the more positive characteristics of Elven culture and the natural world. These are ruled by Asuryan the greatest of the gods. In Elven belief many of the unsavory aspects of their nature and the world at large are also represented by gods known as the Cytharai, gods of the Cytharai or gods of the underworld. Of these Khaine is the most well known, being the god of murder and war.
- Warhammer Armies: Wood Elves (8th Edition) -- pg. 7