Collects Elfquest 5-10.
Writers: Wendy and Richard Pini
Artist: Wendy Pini
Publishing year: 1988
Publisher: Father Tree Press
Seven turns of seasons have gone by since the Wolfrider tribe’s holt was burned down. The elves and their wolf companions have found a new home at the Sorrow’s End with another elf tribe, the Sun folk. They are a peaceful people who had only one hunter among them until the Wolfriders came there. The leader of the small Wolfrider tribe, Cutter, has even found a family. But then the peace is shattered: humans have come!
The human group is small, but they still hate the elves. Cutter lets the three half-starved humans leave unharmed but he realizes that the Sorrow’s End isn’t safe anymore. There are more humans in the world that he realized before and it’s likely that the elves must defend themselves against the humans at some point. Cutter also starts to wonder if there are more elven tribes in the world. In the end, he decides to leave and look for any other elves. He tries to leave alone but his best friend Skywise and their wolves Nightrunner and Starjumper come with him.
First, they return to the troll caves which are deserted. They morn over their burned holt but they’re attacked and captured by two trolls who are after Cutter’s sword. They claim that the sword holds the key to finding a treasure. Apparently, another troll tribe attacked and killed the other trolls. Cutter is more convinced than ever that there are more elf tribes in the world. Meanwhile, back in the Sorrow’s End some strange and terrible power has taken over the tribe’s best magic user, Savah. That power threatens Cutter and Skywise, as well. So Cutter’s lifemate Leetah has to decide if she will follow Cutter and try to find him. She has lived her whole life in the peaceful village so the decision is hard, even when the Wolfriders will come with her.
Most of this collection focuses on Cutter and Skywise. While Skywise is often seen as the dreamer of the tribe, this time it’s Cutter who dreams so big that others doubt him. Still, Skywise has absolute faith in him and follows his friend pretty much everywhere he leads. Most of the Wolfriders follow their chief because they love him, not because they think that he’s infallible. Cutter is also one of the youngest of his tribe and he seems to the chief because his father Bearclaw was the chief before him. But the Wolfriders aren’t meek followers; they can and will challenge their chief if they think he’s in the wrong.
Not all humans we see in this story are a bad. The elf duo also has to examine their assumptions about humans; even though they’ve gotten their ideas from long and bitter experience, they have to confront the fact that not all humans are the same. Humans killed Skywise’s mother only hours after he was born, so he has very difficult time accepting that. We also get hints about what other elves might be like and the collection ends with a cliffhanger.
But other elves also get their moments in the sun. Leetah wrestles with her fears. She’s Cutter’s lifemate and the Sun Folk’s healer. She’s lived her whole life in the village and she’s secure and comfortable there. But when she’s confronted with the choice to leave and look for Cutter, it terrifies her which is, of course, understandable. Strongbow is the Wolfrider’s best archer who sends (uses telepathy) instead of speaking. He dislikes the Sun folk as soft and weak, and hates humans. He even challenges Cutter when the chief decides to spare the humans. Cutter and Leetah’s small cubs almost steal the show: Ember is already a tomboy and a Wolfrider through and through while her brother Suntop is a quieter boy whose magical powers are already budding. Ember’s wolfcub is adorable!
The plot doesn’t move in such a quick speed as in the first collection, which is good because we now have the chance to explore the world and the characters better.
What I really like in this story is that the time move forward and the people change with it. This is even clearer in the later stories where children grow up and humans form their communities. The Wolfriders are clearly not Tolkien elves: they’re smaller than humans and live with wolves, bonding with them. The wolves are animals and not supernaturally intelligent or anything else supernatural. The Wolfriders are very aware of the natural cycles of the year as well as life and death. They’re all hunters who eat their meat raw. At the same time, they love, respect, and cherish every member of their tribe. Not everyone is a warrior and thankfully not everyone has to be. The Sun folk as similarly small in stature but very gentle people. They are farmers who live in the same village pretty much their whole lives. Their dwellings are small and simple compared to the Middle-Earth elves. While the Wolfriders have had to live their lives quietly in the forest, the Sun folk haven’t had enemies to hide from. They are loud and party loudly, too.
Excellent collection of stories but the next two are my favorites!
The complete collection also includes art from the original issues and the bridge pages from Marvel reprints which are all done by Wendy Pini.