I have long been a fan of demi-humans. When I first began to play with the Holmes edition all those years ago my first character was an elf and my best friend's was a dwarf. Though my friends and I gravitated towards human characters as we grew older, I have always enjoyed the sense of whimsy and mystery they can bring into a game (they also can transform a "hopeless" character into something dangerous as the halfling Pawnchee has demonstrated in my Lost Colonies campaign). Therefore, I am not particularly interested in "punting" the issue of demi-humans by not including them in my version of Averoigne.
This brings me to the word seelie. With the world of FRPGs we associate this word strongly with fey creatures and their two rival courts who may or may not be benevolent toward humans. If we look at the etymology of the word, however, we find three very interesting meanings: happy, lucky and blessed. I am particularly interested in that last word, especially given this depiction of Christ by the Pre-Raphaelite William Hunt:
I defy anyone to deny that this doesn't have at least a passing resemblance to how Tolkien describes his high elves.
The word unseelie, therefore, means unholy. There are two primary examples of unholy beings that frequent the forests of Averoigne: vampires and lycanthropes. These two can be seen as men who have actively denied God's image and likeness within themselves. Vampires have chosen to seek immortality sans God and lycanthropes (literally wolf-men) have denied their own free-will to make moral choices — they give themselves over to being beasts and beings of pure instinct.
This suggests that the fey, rather than being faeries, elves, dwarves, goblins, etc. are actually bodiless powers (aka angels and demons) who either bless or corrupt normal human beings who then become elves, dwarves, goblins, etc. I imagine that the normal trajectory would look something like this:
- A child is "touched" and begins to display outward signs of being an elf, dwarf or halfling.
- This child would then never quite fit into normal human society. Society may even fear the child.
- The child would then have three options: embrace their gift (and possibly get ostracized), hide their gift in order to fit in (the origin of half-elves?) or reject it.
- Those that embraced their gift but are ostracized are tempted by unseelie fey to take revenge. Those that give in are twisted (the origin of orcs, etc.)
- Those that reject their gift will also be tempted by the unseelie fey to do whatever it takes to get rid of their gift. These will also be twisted.
- Subsequently, those that are twisted have two options: repent or no.
- Those that refuse to repent become monsters.
The one wrench in this whole set-up is the elf, who is able to cast arcane magic. Given that arcane magic is naturally corruptive (especially when not done in conjunction with divine magic and/or the church), the origin of the elven "gift" is most likely not seelie. Quite possibly, the reason people fear the "touched" is due to the very reason that most, if not all, elves are unseelie from the outset…