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Underrated Cultures

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Telcontar, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I suppose one might argue about what constitutes a "culture" but I'll nominate medieval southwestern France / northeastern Spain. Navarre, for those who know the region. It was a really interesting blend of peoples, including Basques. The Cathar heresy was born there.

    Another: the Waldensians in Savoy. Medieval Wales. Brittany. The Hussites. I've always been interested in those little pockets of Germans in eastern Europe ... Transylvanian Saxons, anyone?

    And that's just the Middle Ages. It's tougher to look at more ancient peoples because our sources don't let us look very deeply into their cultures. A few myths, some artifacts, some philological sluething, but mostly we come away with more questions than answers. The Etruscans are a good example.
  2. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    That is interesting. Like a juxtaposition between modern and ancient culture.
    See, this is what fantasy is all about: exploring cultures that never existed in reality. At least, that's if you ask me.

    Also, I've been looking into New Age depictions of Atlantis for inspiration. Does that count? Hypothetical Atlantian culture? We could use some more of that. I want to see some fantasy settings that look like they belong on a Prog Rock album cover.
  3. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    I think the entire Near East has been seriously underrated despite the vast research and available information on it. :(
    Ashur-is-King likes this.
  4. SM-Dreamer

    SM-Dreamer Troubadour

    I actually wish my library had more information on this region and the history; half the stuff I find is modern, which I don't want. But I certainly like learning about ancient and classical times in that region.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    There is a *ton* of books on medieval Islam. Try searching at a university library; that will give you a bibliography you can take to your interlibrary loan.
  6. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    If you search on "ancient Near East" or "Mesopotamia" I can promise that you will find what you seek. Lots of good books on the subject and stuff. :)
  7. The cultures of South East Asia are particularly rich during the 'middle age' period in which most fantasy worlds are set. The Khmer empire is one I know a little bit about having been lucky to go there a couple of times. During the 12c it's capital is thought to have been, at that time, the largest, most populous city on the planet, and it's culture and traditions very much in contrast to those in Europe. It's easy to think of them as primitive and exotic but during those times all these 'alternative empires' had fully functioning administrations with people no doubt employed in the mundane jobs; census collectors, pest control, taxation, water transportation, sewage, and probably harboured most of the hopes and fears we do today.
  8. Zāl Dastān

    Zāl Dastān Dreamer

    The pre-Roman Iberians are a favorite of mine. I also wonder why so little is done with the distinctive, yet efficient imperial models of nations like Venice or the Incas. It's especially tragic how merchant republics so rarely take center stage.

    Also, pretty much anyone in Africa before the Europeans colonized it. It's a wonder that even today so little is done with groups like the Mali Empire or Axum/Ethiopia. Even Arab colonization of East and North Africa would be refreshing.
  9. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    I'd say Carthage inspired cultures are pretty rare. Which is kind of surprising considering that it was the only non-Italian power to pose a serious threat to Rome until the empire was in deep decline.

    Someone else mentioned Native Americans earlier, and I have to agree. There is a lot of potential there that is often overlooked.
  10. hannibal41

    hannibal41 Acolyte

    In my world, i have used Amharic (ethiopian empire), mixed with generic dwarf culture to create a historical empire of mine. A rival empire was fairly indian, but had influences of Aztec in it, but the people have become more tribal and barbaric after the collapse of their empire.
  11. Surad

    Surad Minstrel

    I didn't read much of this thread yet, so I don't know if what I'm going to write has been done to death or not. :p

    One thing about cultures that are underrepresented in fantasy are Native American, but not native North American, I'm referring specifically to Aztec/Mayan/Olmec/Central American cultures. In my novel, I'm trying to create a culture that has some blend of Aztec culture and Southeast Asian culture. That's the second thing. When Asian culture is mentioned in fantasy, they almost always take from Japanese sources, or maybe Chinese if you're having a good day, but for some reason, Thai and Malayan cultures are almost completely neglected. I haven't done that much research on Malayan culture, but I want to incorporate some elements of it into the story, even if the time I spend in the novel isn't that much in the actual culture.
  12. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Troubadour

    Cultures I would like to see:

    Moorish Empire
  13. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    You might like Charles R. Saunders's Imaro books, especially the first one's Act One (there are four books in all). The title character is raised within a society closely based on the Maasai, right down to sharing some of the cultural vocabulary. They're some of my personal favorites within the fantasy genre.
    imsc likes this.
  14. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    The Mayans have a wonderful history to use for inspiration or the Polynesians who populated Samoa, Hawaii and several other islands during their ocean explorations.
  15. Ashur-is-King

    Ashur-is-King New Member

    YES, this is so true! My own WIP takes place in a setting inspired by the Iron Age in the Near East. It is a very great deal of fun!
  16. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    I don't think "underrated" or "overrated" has much to do with it.

    First, you have to realize that's its only very recently in the history of fantasy, since the rise of the internet and the infinity of information at our fingertips, that it has become easy to research any culture in the world. Before the internet, researching most of the world's cultures would require more effort and resources than the average genre writer has. This is likely one reason why most writers fell back on using the familiar or often the cultures that they had knowledge of due to college studies or day jobs. For instance, Tolkien's Rohirric culture is so vivid because he was an expert in Anglo Saxon language and literature.

    Second, which cultures one is influenced and inspired by is a highly individual thing. One cannot just say to a writer "this culture is underrated, you should write about it" if the writer feels no interest or inspiration from the culture. And which culture interests you is simply a result of personal taste. For instance, I prefer Japanese culture to Chinese or Korean culture, even though they all have a lot in common, because the Japanese language and names are to me the most aesthetically pleasing and also because I find the geography and landscape of Japan stirs my inner sense of beauty the most.

    I think there is already a lot more variety than there used to be in fantasy cultures and I feel sure that the genre will continue to expand horizons. Partly because of the information age we live in and partly because so many writers are freer than ever from artificial constraints on their writing.
  17. seth.omorrow

    seth.omorrow Acolyte

    The Basque people of southern France and northern Spain.

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