• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Half man half...

Mälakor

New Member
So of course in fantasy there are many races and being to chose from to add into the story.

What I want to discuss is the mixing of these races and beings. I have seen it done sometimes but not often and usually is just a side note and not a main part of the plot. What do you all think about say the offspring of a man and a elf. Or Dwarf and Elf etc.

What I wonder is about the abilities of these races and would there be crossover? Like Elves usually are immortal or have a really long life span would this stay if an Elf and a Human have a child. Or a different example a dwarfs vision underground being able to see in complete darkness. Would the child of a dwarf and a human get this trait or would it be a poor thing constantly walking into walls and stubbing it’s toe.
 

Insolent Lad

Maester
One could go the Tolkien route on immortality and allow the offspring to choose between being mortal man or immortal elf. My own elves are long-lived but not immortal so that's not an option for me—although I have matings between immortal gods and mortal beings which does bring up that problem. My solution was to say it's basically a coin toss; the kid could turn out a mortal or it could turn out a god.

On other inherited abilities, we might ask if there is a specific gene (or genes) responsible. And are they recessive or dominant? If the former, they might pop up again a few generations later, depending on whom those offspring might produce their own offspring with. The ability to wield magic is one such ability I've been trying to work out to my own satisfaction, in that all fay have magic but only some human (due to a recessive gene). Is the same mechanism at work or is it a completely different genetic heritage? I'll decide when I have to, I reckon. :)
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
hmm...

I do have elves and humans on my worlds, they don't mix much, but half-elves are not unknown. Elves in my worlds have mild dark vision and innate magical ability, though rarely developed past a basic level. Half elves almost always inherit both, but these tend to be...not so great. Elves are intensely social to the point where almost all have a deep psychic need to be among their own kind (which can include half-elves if need be.) Half-elves, though, can 'go it alone.'

Dwarves on my worlds are basically short humans with extended lifespans. So, yes mixes are possible.

Goblins and hobgoblins have a fundamentally alien biology; cross breeds being impossible.

Rachasa (cat men) are a 'created race' with a large dollop of human in the mix. Rare, usually requiring magic (and impressive stamina on the humans part) but mixed offspring are not entirely unknown. The big advantage the offspring have is the ability to shift back and forth from 'hairy human' to 'under-muscled rachasa.' Regular rachasa are capable of impressive physical feats: being able to leap straight up 10-20 feet, manage a 30-40 standing horizontal jump, and able to tear a door right off its hinges or flip a cart over. Mixed offspring barely hit the bottom end of this scale, though a knack for minor magic is possible. They are seldom regarded as attractive by either race.
 

Chasejxyz

Inkling
In reality, the parents of a hybrid need to be similar in a lot of ways. They don't HAVE to be in the same genus (esp. with plants) but things like size/reproductive biology have to be taken into account. That's why there's no chihuahua/great dane mixes, for example. There's also "hybrid vigor," where the hybrid is better at [thing] more so than either parents. Mules are really good at carrying loads and eating less/worse quality food, while ligers can get much bigger than a tiger or a lion. Genetics also isn't a simple single dominant/recessive allele determining how something looks. Eye color is a prime example because they always use it in baby's first biology class and it's absolutely wrong (and makes kids freak out and think they must be adopted). I absolutely hate plants because they're so loosey-goosey with what a "species" is and genes can be mixed really easily, you can even graft trees from species A onto species B and it'll be a happy, healthy chimera tree. Biological reality is just so weird and there's so many seeds of ideas for things to use in fantasy. So look up hybrid species on Wikipedia to learn more about it and maybe get some more ideas.

The main source of conflict for my story is between the species and their major differences: phoenixes are immortal, have magic, can fly, but they're limited in the tools they can use with their natural bodies since their "hands" are also their feet; humans have incredibly dextrous hands and can make so many things with them, but they don't live very long, don't have magic, and they're always upset about how things are "unfair" for them, as it's a kingdom that's made by, but not for, them. There are half phoenixes and their descendants, since there is a spell for phoenixes to take on a human form (sometimes you just gotta do things yourself and can't make your servant do it, you know?), so they look mostly human. Things can be non-normal human colors, they can have magic, they can even have some feathers or scales in places, but they don't have a pair of wings on their back, lay eggs, or be some sort of minotaur-type situation. My explanation is that a phoenix's DNA is altered* enough when they shape change, it "matches"/"supports" their human form (so a phoenix genotype and a (mostly) human phenotype), which is why two very different species can interbreed. But the hybrid's DNA is, ultimately, going to be based on human forms, so it can never turn into a bird. There's also "unPhoenixes," which is what you get when you cross two phoenixes in human form. 100% a phoenix genetically, but it looks like and will always be, essentially, a human. As you can imagine it's generally considered a pretty unfortunate thing to be!

Phoenixes (and a number of other species) are immortal (in the definition most people use, in that they don't die of old age but you can still kill one if you stab it enough) because of magic. It "automatically" repairs things, so you're always making enough collagen and your telomeres stay at a nice length, but as time goes on, you need more and more magic to keep up. Half phoenixes make magic, but not as much as a phoenix, so they won't live 10,000 years, but can do a few thousand if they play their cards right. I have a very rough formula for the theoretical maximum lifespan because I do have some characters that are 3-way hybrids and also some magic that does cut your "lifespan" in "half" and I just wanted some numbers for my own planning lol.

As long as it's biologically possible (and since magic is involved, most things can be), I really do believe that any multi-species society is going to have a ton of hybrids, and we don't see them a lot, which is a bummer. It's also pretty old hat to say "oh they just hate everyone else so they just live in their mountain/forest/swamp/island and never interact with anyone else, ever." We had black samurai in feudal Japan, one of the most isolationist countries in this planet's history, a dwarf and an elf or an orc and a mermaid or whatever combination you can think of would happen at some point. And since it is fantasy, you can give them whatever traits from whatever parents you want. Orc with gills, why not. Only elf who can grow a beard. Regular human guy but his sweat is mildly poisonous because his mom was a frog person. Do it! It'll be cool! Don't get as entrenched in genetics/biology as I do since I Really Like Biology and figuring out this stuff is fun for me.

*Not being re-written, but maybe sticking on some protein tags or screwing around with the histones. I haven't actually figured out how exactly it works, but it's magic, no one in this world is aware of genetic codes or protein structures or anything like that, so it's never going to come up, and I'm sure no one is ever going to actually ask me about it lol
 

Saigonnus

Auror
I would guess it would depend on the "features" for each of the races in the mix. If your Elves are immortal, it would still be possible for the offspring to be immortal, even if they are a Dwelf or Half-Elf. It also might be possible for that Dwelf to grow a patchy, or even full beard due to it's Dwarvish parent. It's height would probably somewhere in the average height (given that the height difference between Elves and Dwarves aren't that great) It would also probably tend to be a bit stocky for an Elf. Genetics are a wierd thing, and can even be a generational thing. Inherited from grandma or grandpa, uncle, great uncle etc.
 

WooHooMan

Auror
I noticed that the posts here are strictly looking at this through a genetic lens. When it comes to magical junk or spiritual stuff, would that really be effected by genetics?
Perhaps an elf offspring always has an elf soul (or whatever) that allows for immortality and magic prowess regardless of how much human genetics they got in them. So a half-elf would be immortal but a 1/4 elf would be mortal. Or something like that.
I think that could make for a cool story like a half-elf parent having some drama over the idea of having a kid that they’d outlive.
 

Insolent Lad

Maester
I think that could make for a cool story like a half-elf parent having some drama over the idea of having a kid that they’d outlive.
That's somewhat of a recurring theme in my stories, though it's usually gods and demigods facing that situation. Also, elves, gods, etc outliving their mates from another lineage.
I went with a genetic approach instead of a spiritual one because spirits/souls don't exist in (most of) my fantasy fiction. And because a physical body is going to reflect its genetic heritage, even if there was a soul attached.
 
Yeah, the consideration of genetics seems off point, unless the story is science fantasy maybe.

On the other hand, phenotype considerations might play a gene-adjacent role in a lot of non-science fantasy. The results of breeding and cross breeding are observable even if knowledge of genetics is lacking, and people might also infer an intrinsic difference in people who have (as we would say) evolved to survive and thrive in different environments .

Plus, how the so-called "special abilities" or fantastic traits are understood to work might play a role. If it's all left to magic, or the idea of souls maybe, then the inheritance of these traits might be largely mysterious to the people living in these lands. But if there are some correlations to other visible traits, then there could be a general logic behind who inherits what. For instance, if all Elves have grey eyes and they are also known to have a special ability called farsight, then hybrids who have grey eyes might also have that ability but those with green, blue, hazel, brown eyes would not. Why? We in our world might say it's genetics—even if we don't know the exact genes involved—but in their world it's just a matter of common correlation of observable traits.

Some traits, like long life spans, might be harder to infer. In this case, a part of the world building might be something as simple as stating within the novel this is inheritable by hybrids or not or a 50/50 chance. In other words, assuming that hybrids are not so rare that it becomes a mystery for the peoples of those lands, patterns over time will have been discerned. Possibly the long-lived races will have understood all these patterns better than short-lived races; or, alternatively, societies with extensive historical records will have learned of the patterns whereas societies with almost no record keeping, who are short-lived, might have no clue. If hybrids are very common in the present, then just about everyone will know the "rules" of inheritance, simply from being around the after effects so to speak.
 
Last edited:

WooHooMan

Auror
Something that I’m wondering; if it’s all genetics, couldn’t both parents have dark vision or whatever but then have a child without it? After all, two blonde parents can have a brunette child.
I mean, even if dark vision is an inherent dwarf trait, it has to be possible that a dwarf could be born without it if there’s some human genes swimming around their gene pool.

So, I’m thinking that what traits carry over eventually becomes a coin toss. I guessed it be kind of lucky if there’s some guy who seems like a normal human but he gets dark vision because he’s 1/16 dwarf or something.
 
After all, two blonde parents can have a brunette child.

I believe this may be extremely rare and could involve one parent being a chimera (having two sets of DNA), or some other unusual development process for the child. Blond hair is recessive. Each of the two blond parents has two "blond" genes; so they can't pass a brunette gene to their child in normal circumstances.

The thing about Dwarves and dark vision is interesting. If every pure-blood dwarf has dark vision, and this has always been the case without exception, then perhaps there's no other gene but the one for dark vision. In other words, every dwarf has two of that gene. This doesn't really say anything about whether that gene is dominant or recessive. So....when mixed with a human's DNA, what happens? If every such hybrid gets dark vision, then we'd learn that, between the two races, the "dark vision gene" is dominant. Whatever humans have for that special trait would be recessive. But if only some dwarf-human hybrids get dark vision, then things become really convoluted.

So lets say the gene for dwarves is Dd. (Dark vision is "D" and dwarf is lowercase "d.") In them, each dwarf has two of these; so...Dd-Dd.

But in humans, the corresponding gene is Dh. (not-Dark vision, D, and human, h.) Here's where it gets tricky. Since no purely human humans have dark vision, ever, then their combo is also double: Dh-Dh. The question of dominant and recessive isn't answered here.

Dominant and recessive...within the species isn't answered, for either Dwarves or Humans.

But between the species? Hmm.

If every single Dwarf-Human hybrid (50/50) also gets dark vision, then the Dwarf gene for it is dominant in that combo. If none do, then the Human gene for not having it is dominant in that combo. The combo is Dd-Dh. Which of these is dominant? Whatever the writer wants it to be, heh.

But if only some 50/50 hybrids get dark vision, then we're probably looking at a phenotype that involves multiple sets of genes. I.e., you have to have all these in order to get dark vision. It's not just about one gene causing the trait. So....

Since all Dwarves have dark vision, they have, say, all three of these pairs of genes: Dd1-Dd1, Dd2-Dd2, and Dd3-Dd3. It takes all of these to have dark vision.

But humans....don't. Let's say humans still have the previously mentioned human gene pair Dh-Dh. Let's say the corresponding dwarf gene is dominant. So a 50/50 hybrid would end up with Dd-Dh, with the "has dark vision" gene there being dominant. But. That hybrid might not also get Dd2-Dd2 and Dd3-Dd3 to go along with their Dd-Dh. Not having all three, the human does not have dark vision.

Here's where it gets really complicated, because humans might have Dd2's and Dd3's running around in their genome. It's just that they don't have the Dwarven Dd1 anywhere. That's why humans don't have dark vision. They never have all three pairs of genes working to create it. But just because they have Dd2's and Dd3's running around in their genome....this doesn't mean that, for humans, these are dominant or recessive. Perhaps for each of those, humans have a second gene that is dominant or recessive; in other words, every human has one of these combos, per gene, with dominant gene in bold:

Dd2-Dd2
Dd2
-Dh2
Dh2-Dh2

Dd3-Dd3
Dd3
-Dh3
Dh3-Dh3

You can imagine alternates, with the "Dh" being bold, or dominant, instead, if you want less incidence of human-dwarf hybrids inheriting dark vision.

Well...hope that's not unclear. Basically, the human-dwarf offspring might not get all three of the necessary pairs. Or...could, depending on the genes floating around in his human parent's DNA.

Edit: Caveat. I'm just an armchair geneticist, so I'm sure the above is extremely watered down. For all I know, it could be somehow wrong. :sneaky:
 
Last edited:

MrNybble

Sage
Depends on the race if the traits are magical or genetic. Some traits may pass down without being diluted. Other may never be if the race is not pure. It all comes down to the imagination of the writer and how practical they want to be. Could give examples of my races, but nobody here wants to read pages upon pages of breeding results.
 

WooHooMan

Auror
I believe this may be extremely rare and could involve one parent being a chimera (having two sets of DNA), or some other unusual development process for the child. Blond hair is recessive. Each of the two blond parents has two "blond" genes; so they can't pass a brunette gene to their child in normal circumstances.

I didn’t say it was common, just that it could happen. I should have specified that in that scenario, both blondes would have a brunette gene but whatever. You explained what I was trying to get at better than I did.
 
In my worlds, much like the real world, two species cannot produce fertile offspring without powerful magic. So...no. There are no half elves or half orcs or half dogs.


Also, elves already can grow facial hair, although it tends to be rather sparse on the cheek area, and they tend to have Fu Manchus (real Fu Manchus, not the Horsehsoe mustaches that people call Fu Manchus) and pointed goatees.
 
Last edited:

Queshire

Auror
Many races like elves, dwarves and orcs are descended from ancient humanity in my story so interbreeding is relatively easy there. Others are on a case by case basis. Devils are the result of a posessing spirit bounding with a newborn and fully fusing with them into a symbiotic whole as they age so that tends to take precedent of whatever race they'd otherwise be and gnomes are effectively biological androids that don't reproduce as other races. Still, tech, magic and the assistance of spirits is advanced enough that there's not a lot keeping any particular pairing from having kids.

That said, as a D&D nerd only half elfs and half orcs stand out as major races.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
my worlds, elves and humans have common but distant ancestors. Offspring between elves and humans...that usually takes magic or special circumstances.

War between Solaria and Sinaliel (main elf nation) ended with the creation of the 'faerie march' a sort of wild and wooly buffer region dotted with free towns, castles held by exiled knights...and the Faerie Queens - female elves of great sorcerous ability who are known to take human consorts (usually but not always knights) and for dabbling in political matters on both sides of the border. Most, but by no means all of the half elves in Solaria and Sinaliel have one or another of the Fairy Queens as a parent or grandparent.
 
This thread has made me wonder. Half-elf is a human term. After all, a human would consider the elf to be the unusual part and therefore a half-human half elf gets called a half elf. Would elves then refer to such a combination as a half-human? That would make more sense to me than them also referring to half-elf.

As for the blond parents - brunette child, it actually depend on the type of brunette. There's a few different types of brown hair. Most are dominant (over blond), but there's a recesive version as well. If both blond parent have that recesive version then they can have a brunette child.
 

Saigonnus

Auror
As for the blond parents - brunette child, it actually depend on the type of brunette. There's a few different types of brown hair. Most are dominant (over blond), but there's a recesive version as well. If both blond parent have that recesive version then they can have a brunette child.

I wonder how many marriages broke up due to this phenomena? Someone must have been unfaithful, right?
 
No...it's just a recessive genetic thing. They have ancestors who are brunette, so they received the brunette gene from them.

I think the general point is that, 99% of the time (my made up approximation), blond parents only have the blond gene. Two copies of it. Each. So when they have a child, that child will also have two copies of it. Well I'm not sure about red hair, and whether it's recessive vis-a-vis blond. But brunette? No. They could have brunettes as ancestors, but they do not have a gene for being brunette. Example: If my mother is a brunette with one gene for brunette and one for blond, she'll appear to be a brunette but could have passed the blond gene to me, not the brunette gene. The fact that she's an ancestor does not mean that she automatically passed a brunette gene to me. If I were a true blond, I'd only have two blond gene.

As for the "different types of brunette...." someone mentioned....that's something I know nothing about. I wonder if this is a case of the English language playing loose and crazy, as it does. What is brunette, after all? So I'm willing to buy the idea that different kinds of brunette exist. I do know that people seem to have a wide variety of natural hair colors, along a spectrum. Also, a lot of people who start as blonds when toddlers end up with darker hair, as I did. (I went from platinum blond to ...whatever I am now. A very "dirty blond" or light brown. English language again.) I think that body chemistry plays a role as well as genes, or they play together, for those of us whose hair has darkened with age. (Before lightening again...to gray. As mine is beginning to do.)

Apparently, in Caucasian peoples, true blond hair in adults is around 4% to 5% of the population, or maybe 2% (found two different figures in a quick search), so it's rather rare, a consequence of being recessive.
 
Top