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Multi-cultural, Multi-racial Fantasy races

Discussion in 'Research' started by Hainted, Dec 15, 2013.

  1. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    I've had this discussion with several friends, but why is every single fantasy race white or Caucasian with a different paint job(D&D's Drow for example). If you buy into the idea of an entire world populated with races alongside humans where are the rest of them? I want to expand beyond one race that wears one hat that represents everyone of them that ever lived. Why wouldn't there be Elves in the plains of America, or Naga slithering through the rainforests of South America? I've tried looking for parallels in other culture's myth and folklore, but I can't cover everything, so if anyone has a cultural variation of a classic fantasy race let me know.

    For Example: The Abatwa- Tiny beings that are the perfect miniatures of African tribespeople and maintain a clan and family structure similar to that of the tribes. They live underground, but are not warlike, and spend most of their time foraging,and helping the ants with whom they share their underground homes.

    Tweaked a little, that makes for a very interesting version of the classic Dwarves of fantasy. Anyone got any other examples?
     
    Dark Lord Thomas Pie likes this.
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    I find the OP's post somewhat baffling. Perhaps he has not read China Melvile? Or some of Sandersons recent works? Or even Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith?

    But for 'real world' mythology, India boasts the 'Gandharvas'/'Aparusu' (not certain about the spelling) who certainly come across a lot like elves (Gandharvas being male magicians, musicians, and horsemen, while the Aparusu are female dancers). Also a race of blue skinned dwarves (also supposedly good at riding horses).
     
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  3. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    I concur. Even indy author Brock Deskins includes a character from a desert, nomadic society in his very first book.
     
  4. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I have to say that if you want fantasy with non-Western settings, you can easily find some on the Internet if you know where to look. I'll also add that the Acacia books by David Anthony Durham have a multicultural setting, mixing European, Mediterranean, and African influences.
     
  5. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    I read Melvile, Rothfuss, Croshaw, Rowland, Cornish, Smith, Peters, Green, Zahn, Henderson, Lovecraft,Anthony,Williams, Butcher, and even that horrible Strange and Norrell book. In every instance the non-human races have one culture, and one look, while humanity has all this racial and cultural diversity. Looking to give other fantasy races this kind of diversity, and looking for some good real world suggestions to check out.

    Gandarvas/ Apasaru are a good start, who else can contribute something useful?
     
  6. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

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    I think OP is asking for suggestions and where to look.

    Kate Elliott's SPIRITWALKER trilogy (Cold Magic, Cold Fire, Cold Steel) is a sort of alternate history/steampunk/fantasy melange which includes humans of different and mixed races (African skin and Irish red hair, for example), and also includes another species, the trolls, so you can see race presented from multiple angles. Ian Irvine's RIFTWORLD books (A Shadow on the Glass is the first) is a sort of fantasy/SF blend on a planet inhabited by humans from 3 different original "races" or "species," and then there are people of varying skin color within the different groups, so again there are different constructs of what race is.
     
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  7. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    No I'm looking for real world analogues to the classic fantasy races in cultures other than European. A resource or a few suggestions like Thinker X gave would be most helpful. I'm trying to treat elves, dwarves, etc with the same cultural, and ethnic diversity that humans have so they're not just "white people with funny shaped ears"

    EX: Dwarves: Ludki(European), Abatwa(African), Odhows(Amerindian) All are underground dwelling races that are shorter than humans, and would be considered "Dwarves" in the same way that the Vikings, Zulu, and Cherokee would be considered Human.
     
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  8. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Funny that you mention the Drow in your original post. If you read the Drizzt Do'Urden books, especially the prequel trilogy where it delves deeply into Drow society, you'd see that it's vastly different from what most White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) would know.

    It's highly matriarchal, for one thing. Men are worse than second-class citizens, in many cases they're little more than slaves. For another thing, the major houses are allowed and in some cases encouraged to go to actual war against one another -- not a cold war, but actual frontal assaults -- and as long as there's not too much fuss generated, it's winked at by the ruling matriarchs and let slide.
     
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  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    The various Tiste races in Erikson's Malazan books have different cultures. So do the sub-groups of Toblakai.
     
  10. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Darn it, Steerpike, you're really making me wanna read those books!
     
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    You should. They're great books!
     
  12. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    I got a stack of "to read" books already. :p
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    If you add the original Malazan series to that stack, it'll only be an additional 12,000 to 13,000 pages I bet.
     
  14. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    "Only" 12k pages, he says. :rolleyes:

    We're getting off topic here. I think the point is, non-stereotypical cultures do exist in fantasy, you just have to find them.
     
  15. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    Hainted likes this.
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I, too, can't quite figure out what the OP is asking for here. Black cultures create mythological creatures which, if humanoid, are black. Same with Asian, Indian, Caucasian. That's only to be expected. The desire for diversity within an alien or mythological life form is peculiarly modern and Western. Nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn't be surprising that such things are hard to find in historical tradition.

    At the same time, why even ask? I mean, if you want to create dwarves that are comprised of six different racial types, go right ahead. Make them any color you like. Historical precedents aren't really needed, are they?
     
  17. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    Historical precedents aren't really needed, but would help give them a "weight", and help carry on the tradition started with Elves,Dwarves, and Orcs being used in fantasy. (Liosaelfa,Svartaelfa, and Orke)
    Besides I'm crap at naming stuff, so it would be an immense help.
     
  18. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I think you just need to do a little looking. There are lots of types of elves, to take only one example. Wikipedia's not a bad place to start, but others have given other references. You'll quickly find that Tolkien-esque elves are not the only kind.

    Elf - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I'm sure you'll find similar variations for dwarves. Not so much for other races like orcs. For that I'd turn more to modern gaming systems and other fantasy books.
     
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  19. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Tolkien has a fair bit of diversity among his races, especially the elves. There are many groups and subgroups, from the wise and creative Noldor to the music-loving, seafaring Teleri. Those are just two of the main groups, and there are others who don't get as much development (to my knowledge, at least), like the Nandor. They're not quite multi-racial (unless you view the Avari, Dark-elves, as being Drow-like), but there's a lot of cultural distinction.
     
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  20. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

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    My primary thought on this is that, by looking for cross-cultural analogs you are kind of saying that the white cultures are the standard and that these other cultural legends are only reflections of these prime archetypes.

    Dwarves and elves tend to be white because they are the cultural product of northern European peoples. If you want authentic diversity in cultural depiction, move beyond the analogs and find out what characters make those cultures unique.
     
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