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Are little people worth having in a setting

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Peregrine, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    A fictional "race" of little people?

    I am not thinking about hidden little people such as trows or househould spirits such as brownies, I am thinking about little people with their own society, laws, clans...

    How can such such race can coexist with physically superior races?
    Its hard for me to imagine a civilization ruled by little people.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    That depends on what you mean by little people.

    Edit:
    It also depends on what you mean by worth having.
     
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  3. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    What do you mean by "little people"? Fantasy little people like hobbits/halflings or dwarves, or humans with dwarfism like we have in real life? Also, define "worth having"?
     
  4. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    Depends on what purpose they serve in the story. If it just for bling, then I would say it would be pointless to include them.

    If, however, they have their own detailed culture and part within the story you are telling, if they make it more interesting, then by all means, go for it. Though I would make the recommendation that they be designed to fit well in the world, not simply thrown in willy-nilly.
     
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  5. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    Maybe its bling because little people are common in fantasy and I was influenced by the popularity of them.
    I see many fantasies having at least one "race" that is small, its very common in fantasy that at least one of the races is a small race.

    I imagined in my setting something like this.
    There is only one race of little people, the dwarfs (I know that this has association with dwarfism, I just prefer that way).
    They are named dwarfs because I wanted a general term that describes little people, for example there are red dwarfs in space, dwarf elephants and people with dwarfism are called dwarfs.
    They are mostly a pastorialist society, most dwarfs are shepherds or goatherds. They can be compared to Vlachs in real life who were known for being shepherds.
    They live in mountains and hills. They have their own "clans". Not all dwarfs have beards, mining and smithing is not their primary activity. They do not have underground cities. They are a scattered people like Vlachs.

    A shepherd society is kind of a culture, but its not enough to be considered a culture by me, its more like a way of life.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    You mean like they're physically small?

    I'm thinking sure, they could add flavor to the world. They may not rule great civilisations, or even small ones, but they could have their own societies. They could have a role to fill in the world in which they exist.
     
  7. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    This.

    I haven't thought what is the "purpose" of their existence. I am not sure whether to include them just because they are popular and just because they are physically different from humans. I need a good reason. In the #5 post I wrote how I imagined these little people. But still for me they seem a underdeveloped "race".

    I am open to constructive criticism about this. Saigonnus said if its just for the bling its not worth it and I agree with that.

    How can they add flavor?
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  8. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    For sure. If you don't have a reason to put them in, then it's probably better to avoid it.

    I'm thinking that when it comes to world building, the best reason to include something is because you want to. If you do, you'll come up with good reasons for it. If you're not passionate about having little people in your setting, don't worry about it. How important they are to the setting will be directly proportionate to who passionate you are about including them. If you don't care about having them as a part of your setting, they're probably not going to be very interesting and you'll probably do better focusing on the things you're passionate about.
     
  9. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    I have been world building on an idea surrounding a society of little people as well, in a post-apocalyptic setting with old west tech level. Magic exists, but tech has stagnated to a 19th century level for most things.

    Human existed, but died out during the apocalypse, leaving them as the only inhabitants of their world. I may include small pockets of survivors, given how resilient humans are, but as of now, I have no plans for it.

    The Akari are nearly as adaptable as humans in where they can live, and are traders, farmers, fishermen, crafters, whatever they need to be.

    Contributing to the Akari is their principal concern, they ostracize (even to the point of banishment) those who DON'T contribute in any meaningful way, but they help those who, for whatever reason, cannot do much. (Old age, injury, disability etc.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  10. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Well, just sayin, to whatever the tallest race is on a particular world, all the other races are smaller. So, if size has the most to do with whether a group of beings can coexist or control their own territories, us human types might not really fair that well against giants and ogres.

    And I know you did not mean it to sound this way, but things can exist even if we don't understand their purpose. I cant seem to find a purpose for all the insects that make their way into my house, and perhaps they should rethink their choices before they enter, but yet...more than few make attempt the endeavor.

    Why have little people? I think often these fill a role of being the most vulnerable and the most in need of protection, and thus, in that way, the most innocent. And so, when the quest is put upon them, they become the most unlikely of hero's in the quest. And we can all cheer when the little guy finally wins the day. (Or, they could just be a sub-in for farm boys.)

    But you know, I don't have gnomes or dwarves or hobbits in the world I created. There is no over-arching reason to include any race. Heck, the world as we know it does not seem to have those staples either. Adventurous tales can include anything, or not anything, you want. If these don't fit in the world as you imagine it, leave them out.

    Though, I will add, the hobbits of the shire, or the Peck's in willow did not make me question whether their societies could exist, I just kind of took that as a given that they could. I am sure I would do so again if I saw them appear in a fantasy world. Little green people like Yoda though, that's totally unacceptable.
     
  11. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    I share this viewpoint.

    Can you please answer my Neanderthals thread?
     
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I have gnomes in Altearth. As will all the other races, I took their core characteristics and asked: where would they fit? what would they do?

    What I came up with is a bit off the beaten path. In Altearth, gnomes are something like faithful servants. As a people they value service. They have some native skills, especially with woodworking (think joinery), but they have wound up being agricultural workers. Gnomes naturally gravitate to the communities of others--humans and dwarves, primarily. They don't view what they grow as being "theirs" on which they pay a tax to their overlords; rather, they view the land and its bounty as belonging to the other community (human or dwarf), of which they get to keep a sufficient and honorable amount. In return, the larger community is to protect them, not only physically but also at law and in disputes. It's a symbiotic relationship. Elves don't build cities or towns, so you rarely find gnomes in association with them.

    Gnomes also form personal bonds with individuals. In France this is known as compagnage, a status highly respected by gnomes.

    Gnomes could never build their own civilization. If their larger community is destroyed, the gnomes will migrate to another. As you might guess, gnomes are rather open to exploitation. If this happens, they will simply leave. As humans and dwarves became increasingly dependent upon gnome labor, this happened less often. Unfortunately, orcs enslave gnomes whenever they encounter them. Trolls just kill them.

    So, there's at least one example of how little people might fit into a larger world. Give them a place and a function, and they'll do fine.
     
  13. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Does anyone know why Tolkein made his main character a Hobbit? Why did Tolkein invent Hobbits?

    I'll tell you :)

    Tolkein and CS Lewis of "The Chronicles of Narnia" were buddies in University. Lewis had already written Narnia, and his Buddy JR thought it was great and we telling him about this bedtime story he had been telling his children, which was the basis for "The Hobbit". Lewis loved the story and told Tolkein he should try to publish it. So Tolkein did.

    But why a Hobbit? Why a "little person"?

    Because it was a children's story. The whole point of the story was that it was meant to be engaging for small children and it was meant to have that "even tiny little people (like you) can be a hero. You don't have to be a big strong man, or a elf with magical powers to be a hero," theme.

    He purposely made the Hobbit small and furry and non-threatening because they were supposed to appeal to children. Children were supposed to immediately identify with the main character because he was small and insignificant and "nothing special" just like how they feel.

    That was the point of Tolkein using "little people".

    Now, different races and using little people has become synonymous with "Fantasy", but writers aren't taking into account what purpose they offer to the story. They are just including them because they are "supposed to".

    So my opinion is don't include ANYTHING that doesn't serve a direct purpose to the plot or theme of the story. Period.

    If you wasn't to include little people in your world, think long and hard about why they are there.
     
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  14. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    This.

    You're right about the last thing, some authors make the mistake of including a race of littlemen just because its popular or they supposed to.
    I fell for the same trap and now I do not think I am supposed to have a race of little people in my fantasy.

    In summary, nobody is supposed to add something just because its popular and little people do not define fantasy.


    The Hobbit was a completely different book from LOTR, Tolkien did not take it seriously there as LOTR, there were even trolls named Bert, Tom and William. And Tolkien was just playing with that story, whereas LOTR is a serious work.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  15. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I'm going to depart a little from the others here. Yes I agree, don't include a race of little people just because "you're supposed to" or it goes with the genre. But also don't exclude them just because they serve no purpose. What purpose do humans serve? (In reality or in your story.) Being simply part of the world build is enough of a reason for a people to exist. And as your story progresses you can add other things to them which add to their importance to the work.

    The only proviso I would make is that if their small physical stature makes them vulnerable to being wiped out, you have to come up with a reason why they haven't been. Eg they have magic? They can appear and disappear in the blink of an eye?

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  16. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    Without humans, a story would be a fable, what are you going to write about without humans or any sapient being? About penguins living their monotonous lives and chasing fish?
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    A purpose may be defined broadly. It may be as simple as the way you envision your world, and the "flavor" you want to achieve with your setting, is one that is helped by having little races. That's a perfectly valid purpose and reason to have them.
     
  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I rather agree with Psychotick. There are many groups of people in the world that don't affect us normally. Sometimes it's okay to include something to just "fill out the world," so long as you play it into that role. If that's the only reason you have halflings (or whatever), don't spend six pages explaining how they live. But even as just a spare detail it can fit the right setting.
     
  19. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Hmm, I'll nitpick. They are small just like children, but they also consider themselves "special" just like children, living in a self-centered society, one might argue is as delusional as the narcissism of a child. Entering the great big world of Mordor and war is... maturation... the realization of just how puny you are. Hobbits are insulated and special, as children are, and therefore identifiable to all of us, our childhoods. Not insignificant until reality chases them on big black horses and stabs them in the dark.

    Although the Hobbit is admittedly lighter, goblins and spiders trying to eat you is still a heck of a wake up call.

    One could have all kinds of fun with this. LOL.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  20. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi Peregrine,

    I said what use are humans to a story - not sapient beings - the two aren't always the same. Read Watership Down? So why do you need a race called humans? What use are they? You only need someone whose head you can get into. Rabbits would do just as well.

    So should Watership down have done without humans altogether? Are they of no use to the story? Or do they make the world build and so should be there for that reason? That's my point.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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