How to handle Gryphons?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by D. Gray Warrior, Apr 18, 2017.

  1. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Master

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    The story I'm working on is political and military fantasy, and in their world, there are Gryphons. The Gryphons are as intelligent as humans, but cannot replicate human speech, so they communicate primarily through body language. The Gryphons are rode by soldiers, and comprise of a special military unit called the Riders.

    The problem is that I have is how would they house Gryphons when they are not using them? I'd imagine they'd like to fly around freely instead of being tethered to a pole or something, and due to their intelligence, they would probably find that demeaning.

    Also, why would Gryphons willing let humans ride them into battle?

    The backstory was that there was a war between humans and the gryphons because the humans were sick of being preyed on by the winged beasts, and the humans won, with the condition of the treaty that the Gryphons would have to serve humans.
     
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  2. They could reside on raised platforms, like a perch or roost. Sleep on the roof of their rider's house, or even live with their rider. They could be stabled in pens carved into cliff faces, or...anything, really. You're kinda stuck between restraining them in some way or making it so that they don't want to fly away. Maybe they have to be stationed in wilder areas so they can hunt freely for food without killing everyone's livestock.

    Of course, all this depends on how savage or civilized you want them to be and behave.

    You mention that Gryphons preyed upon humans. If they see humans as prey animals, I doubt they'd honor a treaty made with them. The Gryphons would probably have to be forcibly enslaved and subjugated. Or there could be a circumstance in which Gryphons can no longer live without humans; maybe their natural habitat/home was destroyed or invaded in the war and the Gryphons were forced to coexist or die.

    At any rate, this probably is not a egalitarian relationship between the species, full of goodwill...What do you want the relationship between the species to be like? Are the Gryphons treated cruelly?

    The only reason I can think of for Gryphons to allow humans to ride them into battle is if a deep bond between rider and gryphon existed. Or else they were forced to, as in, the humans threaten to crush all their eggs if they don't. Or, if they were united against an enemy equally loathsome to humans and Gryphons.
     
  3. elemtilas

    elemtilas Mystagogue

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    Agreed! Any highly intelligent / self-aware creature (especially one that is, for all intents and purposes, a kind of person) will chafe at being so confined. Especially if their cognitive capacities are as or nearly as high as humans'.

    As for housing & feeding them, any country of Humans that fields a contingent of Gryphon warriors will need some kind of barracks arrangement and mess hall and other facilities suitable for their companions.

    Questions to ask yourself: What do Gryphons (in your world) eat and how do they prepare food? Where do Gryphons live and what are their native houses like? How dexterous are they and do they make and use tools? Given that they're not dumb beasts, how do they handle "social" habits like not crapping all over their homes and proper dining etiquette when sharing a freshly killed human with an...er...human guest... Guess that may not go over so well!

    You get the point: once you figure out what the culture of Gryphons is like in your world, you can use that to sort out how Human warlords will accommodate those Gryphons under their command.


    Why are humans willing to let other humans order them into battle?

    Perhaps not all Gryphons are so willing. Perhaps some are pacifists (Quaker Gryphons, anyone?) Perhaps some prefer their own cultural modes of warfare. Perhaps those that are willing to ride into battle with Humans do so because they recognise in humankind a creature with similar tastes in bloodlust and a penchant for gory mass melée fighting?

    Not a good situation for the humans! Anyway, here you just rather answered your own question. A long time ago, the Humans defeated and humiliated the Gryphons, and forced upon them an onerous and dishonorable "treaty" that basically enslaves a portion of the warrior population, making them subservient to Human masters. Echoes of post-WWI Germany.

    I look forward to reading about how the treacherous Humans will get their comeuppance at the claws of their unwilling servants!
     
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  4. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Master

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    Both of you raise good points and have given me things to contemplate. I picture the Gryphons as living mostly solitary lives. Usually, Gryphons will only be found living together when it comes to reproduction and raising offspring. Since they lack human limbs, they wouldn't have civilization in the traditional human sense, so many of them live in caves or any other natural formation that protects them from the weather. They have a rule that if a cave is unoccupied without any signs of recent habitation, the Gryphon may move right in. He can also fight another Gryphon over a cave.

    Gryphons sleeping on roofs seem fine, but the roof would have to be able to support a Gryphon's weight. Given that they are bird-like creatures, their bones would probably be hollow, and so they wouldn't weigh as much as one would think.

    As for their relations with humans, the war was something they got eventually got over as it happened so long ago by the time of the story.
     
  5. elemtilas

    elemtilas Mystagogue

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    Interesting!

    I guess, for the Humans in the neighbourhood, don't go on extended holiday leaving your house vacant! You might find a new occupant when you get home!

    Even relatively shacky type houses would be strong enough to support an 800 or so pound Gryphon. Maybe not two of them if they get all jiggy up there and have have some kids romping around! :)

    There are plenty of humans *here* who are still fighting their forefathers' wars of five and ten centuries ago...
     
  6. Vaporo

    Vaporo Lore Master

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    The Gryphons don't have much civilization on their own? Perhaps they've learned to live alongside humans because they've come to enjoy civilization. How long ago was this human-Gryphon war? Long enough that many modern humans and Gryphons are willing to forgive and forget? Maybe there is a range of human-Gryphon friendliness, with the upper edge being those Gryphons willing to fight alongside human soldiers for their shared country.
     
  7. Lisselle

    Lisselle Master

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    Anne McCaffrey's 'Dragon Riders of Pern' series might be help, if you haven't already read them? (First book is Dragon Flight.)

    I always think to go to war without conscription one must believe in the cause. So maybe the Gryphons have a good reason to wish to fight alongside the Humans? (Outside of treaty.)

    Speaking from a Vegan's perspective I would assume no animal wishes to be shackled and enslaved by Humanity, so to work with a theory where the sentient beings have parallel, equally valid lives to the humans seems the only option.

    Gryphons are beautiful, your idea's conjure great imagery.
     
  8. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

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    Selective breeding.
    I don't think that Humans have converted a human hunting animal in to a domestic one [the dog/wolf - maybe] but there have been a few fairly dangerous animals that have been domesticated [horses, cattle, elephants, spring to mind]. The Sami people of Scandinavia have selectively breed reindeer from the most tractable Bucks and culled out the wildest to produce a much more docile herd creature than their wild relatives. The police [and I'm sure armies before them] train horse to not fear fire or loud noises.
     
  9. elemtilas

    elemtilas Mystagogue

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    Eugenics.

    Gryphons being an intelligent race of People, I really doubt they'll so eagerly go along with any kind of Human imposed breeding programme! An interesting premise, yes, and surely lots of room for all kinds of creepy stories there, but probably not what the OP is looking for.
     
  10. TheCrystallineEntity

    TheCrystallineEntity Dark Lord

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    Handling Gyrphons...hmmm...I suggest meat as bait, a really big, long stick, and Gryphon-proof full body armor. :D
     
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Dark Lord

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    Why can't the gryphons just come and go as they please? Maybe they arrive when their duty shift starts (daybreak, whatever.) If they are intelligent and bound by treaty, I don't know they need to be treated as pets, domesticated animals, or slaves. Unless that's what you want for them.

    Since you've said that they like caves, maybe you could include a series of caves, naturally formed or created specifically for them, that will serve as their homes. Caves in cliffs within a mile or two of the city. Perhaps a series of natural caverns under the city with easy access, unused/depleted mines, or even ancient underground tombs could have been repurposed for these gryphons.

    Do individual gryphons have different personalities? Most humans do, and many animals do. Perhaps some serve more willingly, have formed friendships with some humans, or like the routine, whereas others don't. Is the whole race of gryphons in service to the humans, or only some?
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  12. Queshire

    Queshire Dark Lord

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    Are they just very intelligent animals or do they actually have human level intelligence? Can they write by dipping a claw in ink or just scratching out words in the dirt?

    If they can then the reason they let humans ride them could amount to simply hands. Humans don't need to find a cave, they can build one (or vastly better shelters.) Sure, a gryphon's claws could render a human into chuncky salsa in a fair fight, but that's a good reason to not fight fair. Arrows and spears to keep out of the gryphon's range, nets to hold them in place, torches to burn all the things, etc and so on. Having the help of humans could end being the deciding factor when fighting another gryphon.

    Even short of combat, maybe gryphons have grown to have an appreciation for having their food cooked instead of raw? Maybe they like watching plays? Maybe some of the barding humans make are the gryphon equivalent of a little black dress?
     
  13. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Master

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    Well, they are capable of writing, but they use their claws. Instead of ink though, they use the blood of prey they have killed. They have their own writing system, but it might be more like Chinese with different characters representing words and ideas rather than letters.

    They do have their own spoken language, it's just that they cannot imitate human sounds, at least not entirely.
     
  14. pmmg

    pmmg Grandmaster

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    I think I am a little bothered by the line "The Gryphons are as intelligent as humans...".

    If this is true, why don't they just clock out and where they choose to live is up to them. But I am asking a lot more questions about this as well. Such as, if they are as intelligent as humans, why agree to be their mounts? Why not just establish themselves as top of the food chain? But assuming things are friendly and amiable, then I think the Gryphons ought to just find and make their own homes. I draw the line at socialism extending to Gryphons.
     
  15. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Grandmaster

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    Yeah, I have a hard time with the concept of a race of human-level intelligent creatures being fine with enslavement just because it was forced on them a long time ago.
     
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Someone already mentioned Anne Macaffrey. To which I would add Naomi Novik.

    This has been done convincingly before. I recommend reading at least one novel from each.
     
  17. Queshire

    Queshire Dark Lord

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    Is there a reason to use blood over ink other than "Rawr, rawr, I'm a predator!"?

    Well, I think a lack of thumbs might have something to do with it. Hard to be top of the food chain when the squishy humans can make tools that can kill you before you get close. Similarly for the mounts bit, well, gotta make money some way and joining the army is as good a way as any other.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  18. FifthView

    FifthView Dark Lord

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    I'd love to see a gryphon haggling with a human butcher over the cost of a side of beef. Also, the gryphon counting out coppers and silvers....*

    *Edit: But, yeah, although that'd be a cool sight to see, and to know it happens, that might not fit well within the OP's world. But a system of barter could work, whether it's providing shelter, food, or whatever.

    Were I designing it, I might design the gryphons so that they are creatures of habit. Maybe the war and treaty happened long ago, but so much time passed that now service to humans is a tradition or habit, perhaps even a rite of passage in the gryphon society.

    The thing that interests me about the idea of humans riding equally-intelligent gryphons into battle: Dr. Strange's cloak.

    I mean the way the cloak often had ideas of its own, saw a better path, and didn't always go where Dr. Strange wanted it to (in the movie.) So when you have two equally-intelligent beings going into combat together, you might sometimes have that disagreement. Probably, you'd need some give-and-take, with both rider and gryphon trusting each other and willing to follow what the other determines to be the best course of action. And maybe the gryphon chooses the rider, like the way the wand chooses the user (H. Potter) or the cloak chooses the sorcerer. Maybe gryphons thrill at battle, and riding in with an experienced rider is like playing a game of Doom for them; who knows?
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  19. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Master

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    Well, they can use ink, but since they lack opposable thumbs, they are not able to make tools, so using blood for ink is just more practical for them.
     
  20. Queshire

    Queshire Dark Lord

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    They can buy ink or other useful stuff made with thumbs for money they can earn via letting soldiers ride upon their backs or other jobs like hunting dangerous predators that might prey upon their livestock.
     
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