The Dark Elves (known as Svartálfar by the Ancient Norse, Älfeneel or Harudheeniksel by the Dark Elves themselves) are the oldest known species in existence, hailing from the realm Svartalfheim. They are one of the mortal enemies of the Asgardians, the other being the Frost Giants. Some members of their race have been shown to have the fortitude to wield an Infinity Stone. They are now presumed to be critically endangered as a species or even extinct.
The Dark Elf race originated in the Ginnungagap ("yawning abyss"): the vast, primordial darkness that existed prior to the creation of the manifest universe, where they reigned absolute and unchallenged.
When the universe came into being and the other civilizations of the Nine Realms arose, the Dark Elves sought to return to power by reverting the universe to its former state of darkness. To achieve this end, their leader, the sorcerer Malekith, engineered the Aether, a superweapon forged from a substance as old as the universe itself. Malekith's planned conquest coincided with the Convergence, a rare cosmic event in which the Realms of Yggdrasil are perfectly aligned.
The Dark Elves were opposed by the Asgardians, under the command of their king Bor. The resulting conflict ending with the Dark Elves forced to retreat to Svartalfheim, where a desperate Malekith attempted to use the Aether in conjunction with the approaching Convergence. The Dark Elves fought bitterly, deploying their most elite troops, the Kursed, in an attempt to halt the Asgardian advance, to no avail, with Bor using the Bifrost Bridge to take the Aether from Malekith before he could use it.
His plans ruined, Malekith launched a final, suicidal attack on the Asgardians, dropping the fleet of Dark Elf ships out of the sky onto the remnants of both armies.
Malekith took advantage of the ensuing chaos to escape the battle along with several dozen men, including his lieutenant Algrim, who would much later become Kursed himself. The few remaining Dark Elves entered a state of suspended animation on their ship, intending to revive themselves at the start of the next Convergence, 5,000 years later, for another attempt at total conquest.
When that time came, Malekith attempted to use the Aether again. By this point, however, it had planted itself within the body of the human woman Jane Foster. Malekith led his kin in an attack on Asgard, where Thor had taken Foster.
Using cloaking devices, Malekith's ship, along with a number of smaller ships, were able to launch a surprise attack on Asgard, using their nimbleness and durability to smash through the Asgardian defenses, though two of the ships were destroyed by the Asgardians in the process. The final ship, with assistance from Algrim, now the last of the Kursed, managed to break through the Asgardian defenses and disgorge its complement of Dark Elf soldiers, along with Malekith himself. The Dark Elves engaged the Asgardian soldiers, both sides suffering heavy casualties as Malekith made for the chambers of Frigga. The Dark Elves were eventually driven away, bereft of their prize, losing three ships and dozens of soldiers in the process.
When Thor, Foster, and Loki came to Svartalfheim in order to trick Malekith into removing the Aether from Foster where it would be destroyed, a number of Dark Elves accompanied Malekith and Algrim onto the field. In the ensuing fight, Loki and Thor killed all of the present Dark Elves, including Algrim, though seemingly at the cost of Loki's life. The rest went to Earth, where they could disperse the Aether to all nine realms and destroy the universe. The rest of the Dark Elves were killed in the ensuing battle, along with Malekith.
At least one of the Dark Elves did not die in the presumed extinction of his species due to a found specimen held in Taneleer Tivan's museum before Carina tries to free herself after touching the Power Stone, resulting in an explosion.
Technology and Weapons
Being the oldest known race (predating the universe itself), Dark Elf technology was very advanced, surpassing even the Asgardians'. They possessed massive, black, T-shaped spaceships with red lights that could travel between the Nine Realms. Each ship could carry several smaller, nimbler "Harrow" craft that could function as troop transports or fighters, using their blade-shaped hulls and superior durability to ram enemy ships and fortifications. Their cloaking devices could render them invisible to any means of locating them, and could even conceal them from the all-seeing eyes of Asgard's guardian, Heimdall. They were also extremely durable, able to withstand projectiles from Asgardian weaponry to a point, and also able to smash through objects without any noticeable signs of damage. The Dark Elf Harrow craft's engines each contain a small black hole used as a propulsion source; the red glowing aperture at the ship's front allows it to "fall" along the direction of travel at very high speeds.
The Dark Elves also possessed plasma energy weapons in a similar vein to the Chitauri, along with swords, bladed gauntlets, shields, and grenades that generate miniature black holes that absorb and crush anything caught in the blast radius before disappearing.
The Dark Elves also possessed their own form of enhanced "super soldiers" known as the Kursed. These tall and extremely muscular soldiers gained their abilities through the breaking of Kurse Stones, gaining immense strength and durability at the cost of being eventually consumed by darkness as the "curse" killed them. The entire class of Kursed warriors perised during the First Battle of Svartalfheim over 5,000 years ago. When the remaining Dark Elves awoke to resume their campaign in 2013, Malekith's lietenant Algrim offered himself up to be transformed into a Kursed. Algrim was ultimately killed in the Second Battle of Svartalfheim, ending the Kursed once and for all.
Like many other races in the Nine Realms, the Dark Elves are humanoid with a more advanced body structure than that of humans. As such, they possessed natural forms of superhuman strength, durability, speed, reflexes, and coordination.
The Dark Elves also seem to be immune to certain physical laws, as Svartalfheim is very different from the the other Nine Realms, located in a star system that is almost completely corroded with dark matter, bringing with it a different set of physical laws. Once "Kursed", the Dark Elves are some of the most formidable beings in existence. The Kursed themselves proved nigh-indestructible when battling the Asgardians, proving strong enough to punch right through force fields, destroy Asgard's shield mechanisms, and knock Thor's hammer, Mjølnir, right out of the air in mid-flight into a rock face, a feat no other being in the universe is been known to have accomplished.
The Dark Elves appear to be tremendously long-lived, possibly even immortal; Malekith, Algrim and all the Dark Elves that survived the First Battle of Svartalfheim were already adults at the beginning of the first Convergence, and have not visibly aged by the time of the second one, 5,000 years later. Meanwhile, Bor, who was Asgardian king at the time of that battle, was long dead, and his son Odin very old even by Asgardian standards. Dark Elves' longevity may be connected to their species predating the current universe.
The Dark Elves' appearance is humanoid, though they are physically distinct, with pointed ears, scar-like ridges on their cheekbones, paler skin, deep-set eyes, and raised foreheads. They were once beautiful a race, as evidenced by the design of their masks, but light and matter are poisonous to them, corroding their appearance with time. Their masks maintain their life force, shielding them from the poisonous effects of the universe. Their masks also show evidence of enlarged eyes, possibly adapted for seeing in the darkness.
Shiväisith was the Dark Elves' native language. Although the Dark Elves were fluent in other languages, their native tongue was a preferable choice when speaking amongst each other.
Notable Dark Elves
- In the comics, the Dark Elves are worshiped along the Light Elves of Alfheim as the Faerie folk of Celtic mythology. They are loosely based on the Dökkálfar and Svartálfar from Norse Mythology, which are sometimes considered to be a different name for the Dwarves.
- In the non-canon comic Captain America & Thor: Avengers!, Alflyse is the Queen of the Dark Elves. However, she is not mentioned in Thor: The Dark World.
- Dark Elves' weapons, armor, and even ships are obviously made of durable non-metallic components, which is a nod to their weakness to certain metals in the comics, especially iron.
Behind the Scenes
- Visual effects supervisor Matt Aitken revealed in an interview with /Film that the Dark Elves were early considerations for a comeback in Avengers: Endgame as part of Thanos' forces during the Battle of Earth: "There were going to be – potentially Dark Elves were going to show up, they didn’t make an appearance...The Dark Elves were mentioned, but we never got as far as rigging them or making them for the battle."