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A Dilemma Regarding Culture

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Shreddies, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

    I've worked up a fantasy world that has (among other things) four races often hired as henchmen or lackeys. Their cultures were progressing pretty well except for one. I wanted to make one of them 'unnatural' or eldritch so, long story short, they basically poof into existence in dark places, such as caves, deep forests, poorly lit wine cellars, etc. (Although there is a heated philosophical debate over whether they indeed 'poof' into existence or if it is more of a 'pauf', or perhaps 'boof')

    Anyways, they start out with enough knowledge to survive until they get to civilization, they can use some magic, and they have a few natural defenses to ward off hungry animals, namely a reeeeaaaally creepy/unnatural aura around them that drives animals away (although they grow out of that after a while).

    My problem is this: If they don't have children, heritage, or family in general, or . . . anything of that sort, what is their culture like? Would they even have a culture? Or a society, or traditions, or superstitions, or any of that fun stuff?
  2. bjza

    bjza Dreamer

    Well, a culture is a way of codifying experience that's transmitted non-genetically. So anywhere members of this species congregate, they'd be able to share a culture. But I'm confused by this:
    The knowledge that they start with: this is akin to instinct: flight or flight, this smells tasty, this smells rotten, type stuff? Or are you imagining they start with knowledge more like language and the kinds of things we transmit through culture?

    What their culture would be like is an interesting question. I'd look toward immigrants and and other transplanted peoples for some ideas, but this would be of a whole other kind of experience.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
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  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    To me, they sound like 'pod people' - somewhere, maybe underground, maybe another dimension, is a cave or laboratory where these guys are grown (either from large eggs or in tanks). While growing, their mother or computer overseeing the process imbues them with basic knowledge. Once they complete their growth, they are hatched (or released from the tanks) where they wander around for a bit until finding the 'door' - which leads to the world they are conjured to.

    So, until stepping through that door (being summoned), their culture would consist of whatever they were imbued with in the egg or growth tank, and whatever associations they may have formed with each other after being hatched but prior to being summoned. I'd suggest that each has a 'secret name' - a logical sequence (numeric or alphabetical designation) and that prior to being summoned, they form temporary heirarchies / associations based on these, with a sort of carryover effect afterwards. Maybe they have to 'win the right' to be summoned.
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  4. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

    Yeah, looking at immigrants might be a good place to start.

    They start out with at least a basic understanding of the local trade language (my race, not the immigrants :D ), to varying degrees, some are better or more learned than others. They usually have a name, or come up with one shortly afterwards, although some can't decide on one or just don't know. (One has the name Mr Forty-Two, or more precisely 'Forty-Ireallyneedtothinkofabettername-Two' because he thought it had a certain 'Oomph' to it)

    I didn't want to explain too much about the time before they poof into existence, at least to the reader, in order to leave something to mystery. Also I intended to have them with no memory of what, where, or who they were before they appear. They have knowledge, not memory, I mean.

    And I just noticed a problem already. Would they have a uniform naming scheme? Knowing their name beforehand would suggest they do, but ...

    Do you think I'd be better off leaving out the whole 'knowing their name beforehand' thing? To move them closer to a blank slate.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  5. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    You might go with a "line of sight" type of name, kinda like Terry Pratchett does with his "educated rodents". The rats live in a garbage heap behind a magical university, and upon eating enough old, congealed potions and dribbly candle stubs, etc. that they became magically intelligent, they give themselves names based on the labels of various things they find in the garbage, just whatever they like the sound of. So you get rats with names like Sardines, Bestbefore, Inbrine, and (my personal favorite) Dangerous Beans. Your creatures, when they poof/pauf/boof into existence, could name themselves after whatever it is they see first.
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  6. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

    I've been meaning to read that one. That's a good idea. A really good one, actually. I've already thought of four more names for them! :D
  7. myfuzzyscarf

    myfuzzyscarf New Member

    I don't think that they would have much of a culture. Maybe they take on the culture of whoever hires them? Also, I think leaving them (as individuals) nameless does move them closer to being a blank slate.
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  8. mbartelsm

    mbartelsm Troubadour

    It's highly unlikely, they would most likely adopt the culture they 'poof' in. However, if they poof into existance in dark places such as caves, it is likely that some caves are recurrent points of poofing, and around these caves cultures could be born, and every time another member poofs then that culture would adopt him/her.

    You could also use this for building some sort of conflict where 'farms' of these beings are created (areas with the optimal conditions for these creatures to poof) and the poofed creatures are used as slaves or soldiers.
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