First some disclaimers. These figures lump published numbers for only playable types of elves together (particularly sylvan, grey, high). So no I am not talking drow or sea elves or snow elves, etc. Also, my math is not solid, and there is bound to be some obscure reference I missed, so at best this study is mostly accurate. Third, I'm not a big expert on demographics, but it does interest me, so I'm drawing conclusions on this info the best I can. Many Greyhawk fans have argued demographics of the setting in the past which in 2000 led to the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer recalculation of these national populations. I will be comparing both the LGG numbers and the 1983 boxed set numbers.
Beginning with how the elven populations are figured, in the 83 Guide Gygax smartly avoids giving exact numbers on demi-human (collected elven, dwarven, gnomish, halfling, etc) populations. When he did it was with war-time statistics in mind so it only meant fighting males only, which for a wargamer like Gygax makes sense. So for these nations I would assign a multiplier of 3 assuming a bare minimum average of one female and offspring per fighting male. This led to another rabbit hole topic I'll address below. When specific numbers weren't given, demi-humans were generalized into terms like "some", "few" or "many" The Guide says these approximations include females and offspring and they constitute a percentage of the listed human population. For purposes of this study, "many" is the suggested 20%, "some" is 10% and "few" is 5%. So for example, Bissel has 50,000 humans and "some" demi-humans, so 5000. With this number I have to break elves out of the overall total. Here I fall back on the LGG which exhaustively lists all types by percentage of population, to tell me almost 10% of all demi-humans (dwarves are majority here) in Bissel are elves (of any type), or 500 for a final total. That sounds like a modest total of elves you'd expect in a fantasy world. When you start comparing and adding up other nations I found that going by Gygax figures in the boxed set, there is about 627,000 elves in the Flanaess.
This means in the Guide, there is a generous 17,500 total elves in Furyondy, which coincidentally is the same number of male fighting elves in the main elven ruled nation of Celene. If you add females and young, Celene then might have an impressive 52,500 elves. But in the LGG the number of Furyondian elves rises to 133,362, which is more than the entire elven population of Celene in the LGG at 110,600, because in 3e the writers of D&D made it standard to have the majority type of any population 79% the total. Now, nobody would ever suspect Furyondy has more elves than Celene, unless they were just commuting over from the Vesve Forest or Highfolk. These places have their own elven population totals however. Thus in this instance, Gygax's numbers seem more realistic.
For fun here is some of my totals for some elven lands:
Celene 110,660 (LGG) vs 52,500 (Guide)
Highfolk/Highvale 36,400 (LGG) vs 81,000 (Guide)
Sunndi 11,250 (LGG) vs 21,000 (Guide)
Duchy of Ulek 74,518 (LGG) vs 48,000 (Guide)
Vesve Forest 13,000 (LGG) vs 39,000 (Guide)
Now look at some of the biggest human controlled lands and their elven populations:
Nyrond 235,638 (LGG) vs 68,750 (Guide)
Keoland 144,000 (LGG) vs 9900 (Guide)
Ahlissa 191,805 (LGG) vs Great Kingdom 100,000 (Guide)
One last discussion, elves are a long lived species. In Gygax's heyday of writing Greyhawk, I'm sure when he wrote "fighting males" for demi-human populations as a generalization, he didn't figure that elven women (or dwur for that matter) who live for many centuries have enough time to practice archery and sword-fighting to be "battle ready" as well. When the Guide says Geoff has 6000 fighting age elven males, surely there is another 6000 females who are just as capable. Also, elven generations are way off base compared to humans. While they initially grow at the rate of humans, elves aren't considered adults until their 100th birthday (5e and 1e agree). Do these near 100 year-old children have fighting ability at all? You can see four or five human generations before an elf male is old enough to be in their army!
Another note, it doesn't need explained that long-lived elves have a much lower birth rate than frail medieval-era lifespan humans. So when we see figures in the LGG or Guide, that is a snapshot of a census done at that starting point in the timeline. It is thus wrong to permanently tie these elven figures (or any demi-human) to human population totals because when your campaign moves forward and the humans add one or two more generations, the elven totals should remain static or worse, go down.
Congratulations if you've read this entire article or merely skipped to the end. This is the kind of scholarly (nerdy) stuff that some Greyhawk fans like myself ponder and will sometimes torture you with in turn to clear our mind! If you have any commentary or corrections, feel free to join in my mania below. Thank you and until next time...