I am answering random questions today about world building, over on Reddit and decided to take my answers from there and expand upon them even further over here. So that's what this page is. Me rambling on about various aspects of world building techniques I use when writing the Quaraun series. The questions I am answering are embedded here. Clicking the link in the embedded question will take you to the original Reddit page where you can see the original answer along with other people's answers. If you wish to comment, you can do so on the Reddit page where a place to do so is provided.
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities and is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. It is a common and seemingly natural tendency for humans to perceive nonhuman animals or inanimate objects as having human characteristics, one which some suggest provides a window into the way in which humans perceive themselves. An example of this tendency might include naming cars or begging machines to work.
Elves are not Humans.
And yet, in every Fantasy novel you read, Elves act like Humans, dress like Humans, treat each other like Humans, respond like Humans, and I am always left bored and wonder, if the author only wanted to write Humans with poity ears, then why did they call them Elves?
Elves should not be expected to act like Humans.
Elves view marriage as sacred, because they put high importance on the family unit.
The Elf concept of marriage though is, not quite what we Humans would call marriage. There are no weddings and vows and parties or anything like that.
Also, Elves do not take sex lightly. Elves are logical and seem emotionless to Humans, though they actually are far more emotional then Human, but they choose to not show it outwardly. They see sex as a serious thing to be done for reproduction or as a sign of commitment. In the Elf mind, once a couple has had sexual intercorse, they are now married.
Rape is viewed as a grave sin, because it forces a person to be married to someone not of their choosing. Elves do not like the idea of having freedom of choice taken away. Thus rape is punishable by execution.
There is a bonding ritual, where the Elves involved will telepathically link their minds together, allowing each to feel the others emotions, thoughts, desires, and thus allowing each to always be able to know what is needed to keep the other feeling safe and happy.
There are 3 different types of Hive Minds in Elf society:
Both exist, though neither is the primary reason.
Political agreements happen once in a while in royal families, but it's uncommon.
Romantic lovers are unusual. When they occur, the pair will preform a soul binding ritual,
Love may inspire a union, but more often logic and the desire to make each other happy is the reason. For example, if there is an Elf that is lonely and has no family unit (but has not been out cast) a family unit may decide to invite that Elf to live with them for a few months. If the sad Elf is made happy by his/her companionship with the Elf family they are visiting, they will be invited to become part of the family and will then be allowed to sleep in the family bed, where all the Elves cuddle up together at night.
The family units are like very small close knit mini-communities within the larger community of the village. It ensures that no Elf is ever alone or becomes lonely (as Elves can die from loneliness) and also ensures they always have someone who cares about them, whom they can talk to and hug, and feel safe.
Elves are small, most only 5 feet tall and they are frail, with hollow bones like birds. They are very emotional (though they do not show it outwardly) and are very high strung, prone to panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, and anxiety. When alone they become agitated and paranoid, to almost schizophrenic levels. (And if an Elf lives alone long enough they develop schizophrenia and eventually go insane if left alone to many years.) It is because of their highly anxiety prone temperament that is why they live in large family units of multiple males and multiple females all together. It helps them to feel relaxed and safe, knowing they are not alone and have others who are there for them.
Usually voluntary, though once in a while an arranged one for some sort of political reason may occur.
Even in an arranged union, it is very rare that the new Elf is not welcomed and accepted immediately as part of the family. Elves each know how horrible it feels to be alone or not included by a group, so they strive to make sure no one ever feels left out or unwanted.
An Elf really has to do something terrible to get out cast from most family units.
For example, an Elf that murdered another Elf (especially if he murdered one of his wives or children or someone in the family unit) will be cut off the hive mind and cast out of Elf society.
But for the most part, every Elf union is voluntary and is a result of one family of Elves feeling pity for an Elf that has no family and inviting the lonely Elf to join their group.
All Elves have laws forbidding marriage to non-Elves on some level, though these laws vary from one tribe or clan or village to the next.
Some Elf societies for example are tolerant of half-Elves and do not punish a half-Elf for what it's parents were, so allow half-Elves into their society, but at the same time forbid the marrying of non-Elves to prevent more half-Elves from happening.
A few are tolerant of Faeries and allow Elf and Fae marriage.
Most High Elves allow Gnomes into relationships with Elves, so long as the Elf also has an Elven spouse as well. It is rumours that Gnomes are in fact the result of many generations of interbreeding between Elves and Dwarves, and that the first Gnomes were in fact half Elves/half Dwarves. Because they are rumoured to be a type of small "Elf Hybrid" most Elves, accept Gnomes into their societies viewing them as "miniature Elves".
Some Elves are accepting of Dwarves, believing Dwarves to be a type of short chubby Elf, while others think of Dwarves as deformed mongrels and forbid contact with them.
Most Elves are accepting of Brownies and refer to them as "Christmas Elves" or "Cookie Elves" due to the fact most Brownies live with Santa Claus in the North Pole. (Yes, Santa is a character in my series, as is Krumpas and most other "holiday" myths like Harvey the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost, etc. In my series, Santa Claus is an undead Lich Leprechaun, thus why he's short, and is immortal. Not all Lich's are bad or seen as monsters in this series. Santa Claus is one of at least 2 Liches that are known to be good and peaceful.) Brownies are seen as a type of short "bantam" Elf. The ones who live in the North Pole are called "Christmas Elves" while the ones living in hollow tree in Michigan off Lake Gitchegumee are "Keeblers" or "Cookie Elves".
As a general rule, if your race is peaceful and can be thought of as in some way "kin" to Elves, Elves allow marriages to them.
Humans however are a different matter...
There are no known Elf communities that allow Humans into their society, and will out cast or in some cased execute any Elf who takes a Human spouse. Elves have a logical reason for this law. Elves regard sex as a very sacred and ritualistic thing, reserved only for bonded mates. They have no concept of one night stands, prostitution, adultery, or any form of sex for fun. It completely baffles their logical little brains and they can not understand creatures who are so driven by lusts that they can not control their own emotions.
Elves do not like Humans. Elves look at Humans as being unintelligent and barely sentient. Elves see Humans as the lowest life form, considering them to be a type of parasite in need of extermination (though Elves are peaceful and will not kill unless defending a family member from harm and even then they often try to avoid killing, so while they talk a great deal about a desire to be rid of Humans they don't do anything about it.) Elves watch Humans are they breed faster than rabbits and wipe the planet into mass over population, seriously endangering all non Human life (other people, plants, animals, etc). Elves can often be overheard referring to Humans as "lower than rats and faster to spread disease" and usually Elves point to the Human nature of rampant sex for pleasure as the root of the problem of the vast boom of the Human population.
Humans know little about Elves and likewise Elves know little about Humans. Female Elves rarely are aware of the concept of sex for pleasure or one night stands, whereas Human men often see no harm in bedding any female they like. This results in often a she-Elf will bed with a Man thinking he has chosen her for a wife, then being devastated the next day when he leaves her and goes off to his life without giving her another thought. Because of the callus way Humans view sex, the Elves have made laws forbidding relationships with Humans, to the point that Humans are seen as a type of Monster to be killed on sight as a way to protect the female Elves.
There are 3 basic groups of Elves with many sub-groups with in them... so 3 Races of Elves with lots of Cultures within each of the 3 races:
While there are no laws against it, High Elves generally refuse to marry Common Elves or Wild Elves. High Elves have laws against half-Elves and are known to kill half-Elf infants, abuse half-Elf children, and torture to death half-Elf adults.
Common Elves have nothing against marrying High Elves, but avoid marrying Wild Elves. Some Common Elf tribes are accepting of half-Elves, most are not.
Wild Elves are too busy eating High Elves and Common Elves to think about marrying them. Though they will usually welcome any out cast, criminal, deranged, insane, or otherwise Feral Elf into their ranks. They also are highly accepting of half-Elves and Demons who are generally not welcomed in most High Elf and Common Elf communities.
High Elves are prone to incest and rarely marry outside of their family unit, so royal blood almost never married working class blood, etc. This also means a single family will likely all have the same career (the son is a candy maker because his father was; the daughter is a healer because her mother was; the baker's children will all be bakers, etc.)
Common Elves are more liberal and less rules driven then the High Elves and thus often intermarry between classes, careers, and social standing. Royalty can marry working class, tailors can marry musicians, bakers can marry merchants, etc.
Elves are not solitary creatures. They are akin to schooling fish or birds that live in large flocks. It's an in born genetic instinctual thing, and has nothing to do with laws or rules or religious beliefs or whatever. Elves are naturally very communal and social, and each family unit will often include 2 or 3 or more males and 6 or 7 or more females, all of whom are spouses to each other equally. Most family units have about 10 or 12 adults and any children born to them. Some families will have mostly males and only a couple of females. Some wil have mostly females and only a couple of males. Some will be an even mix of male to female. Some may be only males or only females.
Usually there will be one dominant alpha male in the group who acts as the head of the family, and he will classify all the others (including the other males) as his wives, and will have intercourse with all of the others male and female alike. The submissive beta males will be allowed to have sex with each other and with the females, but will never top the dominate male, only submissively bottoming to him. Any children born will be classified as the alpha male's children regardless of which male is the biological father.
It is common for Humans to be confused, when they encounter a group of Elves and it'll be something like 4 males and 2 females and 1 male will introduce himself by him name and than say "And these are my wives." The Humans will note that there are likely more males in the group then females and wonder why the Elf introduced them as his "wives". The reason for this is the Elves do not have a word that means husband or wife, because marriage and the family unit is not made up of wedding ceremonies or husbands and wives the way a Human family is. And when a male Elf says "wife" it is a mistranslation, of Elves attempting to speak in Human English, but not having a clear working knowledge of the language, often using words incorrectly. "Wife" is one such word. Elves see Human males point to their spouse and say "This is my wife." Thus Elves came to assume any spouse was always a wife. The word they really mean to say is "spouse" but no Human ever says "this is my spouse" so Elves mistranslated the meaning of the word wife when attempting to write an English to Elvish dictionary, resulting in every Elf misusing the word wife without realizing the English to Elvish dictionary had this error in it.
While all Elves form these family units (each unit usually being about 5 to 10 adults) incest is rare in Common Elves and Wild Elves, but nearly always occurs among High Elves, with the dominate male, having intercorse with both his sons and daughters, and the siblings often having intercorse with each other. No one really knows for sure why High Elves do this. It is believed to be partly due to the rarity of pregnancies among High Elves, but then that does not explain the dominant alpha males having intercourse with other weaker beta males.
Incest is very rare with Common Elves. Common Elves usually have many children (as many as a dozen per female). The children grow up and leave the family unit to form their own family units.
The High Elves, rarely have children (most females will never have more then 4 if they ever have any at all) and when the children grow up, they rarely leave the family unit. Incest is the norm, is expected, and a High Elf who does not practice incest is seen as abnormal and may be out cast from his family unit on that ground.
High Elves also have a high rate of male twins being born, with about 2 in every 10 pregnancies being male twins, but a low rate of females, with only 1 in every hundred pregnancies being a female. This results in a high rate of beta males in each family unit. If a family unit has too many beta males, the more dominant of the beta males may gang up on the weakest males and publicly humiliate them to drive them out of the family unit. There doesn't need to be a reason for this. It is the equivalent of putting too many fish in a tank and the bigger males attack the smaller males to make more territory space for each male by killing the weaker males. Just as territorial male fish will kill a weaker male, so too will a dominate Elf male Elf kill off any weaker male Elves, just to have more space. Some weaker males refuse to fight back and are killed, while others may fight back and regain respect in the family unit or be killed in the fight, and still others will simply run away scared. Ones that flee the family unit are called "Out Cast Elves".
These Out Cast beta males are rarely able to form their own family unit within Elf society as they are then seen by other Elves as weaklings and runts who were too cowardly to stand their ground and fight for their territory in the family unit. Often these outcast beta males will leave Elf society and attempt to form a family unit with non-Elves, usually Faeries or Humans, somethings with Demons. This results in many half-Elves being born.
Out cast Elves that are unable to form a new family unit will pine away from grief and loneliness becoming weak and sick, and will eventually either go insane and become Feral Elves or sink into depression and commit suicide. Mad Elves/Feral elves are seen as very dangerous, as they often become cannibals and may turn to vampiristic-like activities of drinking the blood of other Elves. As a general rule most Elves will kill a Feral Elf on sight, mostly just to put it out of it's misery.
My main character (Quaraun the Insane) is a very depressed, highly suicidal out cast beta male who is fast sinking into insanity and becoming a Feral Elf. The story follows his life after being out cast and his struggle with wanting to be part of Elf society but no longer being accepted, his battle with depression and suicide and the mental illness caused by the trauma of being out cast and his eventually building a family unit that consists of a male Faerie, a male Demon, a female Human, a female half-Elf (his daughter by the female Human) and a female Elf also outcast.
Quaraun was out cast from his family unit by his biological father. Quaraun had refused to submit to other males in his group, then refused to mount any of his sisters when they reached ovulation. Then went and had a secret affair with a Faerie whom he bound his soul to. His family unit publicly beat him, torturing him, and leaving him as bait in a trap for a monster. His lover died over the course of these events. Then his family forced him to impregnate his sister, twice. She gave birth to twins each time. On the anniversary of his lover's death he murdered his children and their mother in a resurrection spell to bring his lover back as a Lich. This resulted in his being out cast from Elf society.
I think I already answered that, didn't I?
Yes, this does happen, but it is rare. Most Elf family units have more females then males, but there sometimes occurred those with only 1 or 2 females and 7 or 8 males. There are also rare occurrences of all female family units or all male family units, but these don't happen that often and usually they are family units that once had both genders, but for whatever reason all members of one gender died, leaving only a single gender family unit behind.
See the answer above.
There is no limit. Some units are small with 1 male and 2 females, other units are huge with 5 or 6 males and 10 or 12 females. It's rare that family units have more then 12 spouses total. There is no exact reason for this, other than, Elves simply feel safer and happier in a group of 10 or 12. No one would complain if one family unit grow to 30 or more people, but most Elves just reach a feeling of contentment at around 10 spouses so stop seeking to add more around that point.
The series follows after the real world origin stories of the Elves, Dwarves, Fae, and Demons as told in the Bible's books of Genesis, Enoch, Tobias, Maccabees, Ecclesiasticus, Ecclesiastes, Leviticus, Nag-Hamid, Isaiah, and Revelations.... which teaches that all of these non-Human races were once various forms of Angels (Seraphim, Watchers, Grigori, Cherubim, etc.) who lost their wings and were forced to live on Earth among the Humans.
The Bible teaches that the highest ranking among them (the ArchAngels) became the Alfar (Elves) who were always male, had feminine enthral beauty, extreme long life, and were very arrogant because they had once been God's commanding officers. They were seen as not evil, but still were Fallen Angels no longer worthy of Heaven, due to their insatiable lusts for sex with Human Woman. They were originally called the Watchers (he who watches over mankind) and later renamed the Grigori (adulterer who sleeps with married women), later called the Alfar (Elves aka fair folk), and in modern times became known as the Pleasians or Nordic Aliens.
The Bible teaches that the Fates (Fae) were the lesser Angels, who were cast into the swamps of the Earth and became solitary wise people, who spoke in parables (riddles) and liked to play tricks on Humans. Again, not evil, they were cast out of Heaven for just being too annoying for God to want to deal with their pranks anymore.
The Bible teaches that there were some Angels who sought to kill God and overthrow his throne and claim themselves as Gods. These were seen as evil due to their mutiny, and were not only cast out, but changed to look like monsters that mankind would fear the sight of them. They became known as Demons.
Not in the Bible, but instead in the Koran, the story of the battle of Heaven and the Fall of the Angels is longer, and includes another set of Angels, whom abandoned their posts in Heaven to live among the Humans and teach Humans to be magicians and wizards. They believed that God had too much power and should not be enslaving Humans for food. Their goal was to set the Humans free by giving Humans the power of the Gods. Considered by God to be the most vile and evil Angels of all, he striped them of their bodies, and forced their disembodied spirits to live in plants, rocks, sand, etc. These were the Dev and Guls (singular) or the Di'Jinn (plural), later known as Devils, Ghouls, Poltergeists, and Genies.
According to the Bible (as well as the Torah and the Koran) God created the Angels first, but they were very headstrong and difficult to control and enslave and had a bad habit of fighting back viciously when God tried to eat them, thus they were cast out of Heaven, and God started over and this time created a race that was both easier to enslave, tastier to eat, were not able to cast magic, and were too stupid to know they were nothing but herds waiting to be slaughtered as food for God....they became known as Humans.
The Battle of Heaven was when the Angels tried to rescue the poor stupid sheeples from the tyrant God that made them only to be his slaves.
The Bible states because the Angels and the Humans were both children of God, they were sexually compatible. Likewise because Elves, Fae, Demons and Di'Jinn are types of Fallen Angels, they too are sexually compatible with Humans.
Humans who had psychic and or prophetic abilities and those who could do magic or perform miracles were those Humans whom were children of Angel bloodlines - Angels marrying Human wives and giving birth to half-Angels called Nephilim (Bible) or Nephites (Book of Mormon).
Thus, Humans, Angels, Elves, Fae, Demons, and Di'Jinn are all capable of interbreeding according to the Bible.
And thus, because I based the races in my novels after the real world races of the Bible (Humans, Angels, Elves, Fae, Demons, and Di'Jinn), therefore, they are capable of interbreeding because they are likewise all related or so says the Bible.
Not so much. It is on some levels. It's generally expected for each female to bare children, but it's not really that important as to which male fathers the child or how long it takes for the female to have a child. Elves, having a life span of about 500 t 750 years (depending on race), tend to have a decade or more between children and some females may not reach fertility until 120 years old.
Elves are also not overly sexual creatures. They tend to have a sort of "mating season" that occurs only once every 3 or 4 years. Females do not have monthly menstrual cycles, instead only becoming fertile once every 36 months or so. The males will have sex with the female once they scene that a female in the group is fertile/ovulating. At which point she'll be bred by each of the male repeatedly for a period of several days to a few weeks, however long her ovulation period lasts, and hopefully she becomes pregnant. She may find herself mounted by several males at once, or each male in turn mounting her one after the other, with her receiving no break in between each male. No one really cares which male fertilized her as long as it was a male from within the family unit and a baby resulted.
Male Elves become viciously protective of their females, and if a male who is not a part of the family unit tries to bred with her, they will gang up on him and kill him. An outside male raping one of their females is a serious offence, and the males in the family unit will hunt down, capture, and viciously torture to death the rapist. If the rapists was part of a different family unit, they may kill not just the rapist himself, but also every male in his family unit and then take the females and add them to they group.
Outside of the female's ovulation period, Elves don't have sexual intercourse that often. They are somewhat demi-sexual, in that none of them has much sex drive (outside of mating season) but if one of the family unit should feel the urge for sex, the others will all comply out of a desire to make sure each member of the family has their needs met.
The primary objective of marriage is to ensure the happiness of each member of the family unit. As long as each member is content and happy, there is no need to focus on making/bearing children.
Elves are like schooling fish, in that they are just happier when they have a family group they can rely on for love and support and protection. The family unit is rarely separated, and no Elf is ever alone. If food is needed, the whole family will go together to gather food with the dominate male acting as a look out for danger, while the others work in groups of 2 or 3 to gather food, none of then getting out of sight of the dominate male. Keeping the family safe and happy is the purpose of marriage.
Most male Elves tend to not be involved in child rearing, however, a few of the more submissive beta males may be prone to helping the females in child rearing.
All the females will care for the children together. This allows for any female that may be barren to have children to raise, while taking to load off any female that may have had multiple children close together. All the females will be seen as "mother" to all the children. The biological mother will be referred to as the child's "medusa" and the biological child referred to as her "polyp". Rarely though are the children aware which she-Elf was his/her biological mother. Babies will be feed by which ever female has milk to provide at the time the baby is hungry, wither she is the biological mother or not. While the babies are weened to eat solid foods after a few months, the females will continue to breast feed any child that wants it until they are 10 years old. Usually, this is done at night as a way to get children to sleep, by allowing the child to suck on a warm tit until they fall asleep.
In High Elf family units, where incest is the norm, the females will allow the children to suckle right into adulthood and male children may begin breeding their mothers as young as 14 years old. The High Elves have a very non carnal, animalistic innocence when it comes to reproduction, as they do not see sex as something to be done for pleasure, and therefore do not see anything wrong with a young male Elf breeding his own mother or his own sister along side the other males once she goes into ovulation again. Likewise older males breeding their young daughters at whatever (often very young) age she starts her first ovulation period is not seen as immoral or wrong.
In all Elf societies, while the males are very defencive of the family unit as a whole, it is the females who become highly viscous in defence of the children, like a mother bear protecting her cubs, all the females in the group will band together to defend a child. If a child is kidnapped (as often happens... Faeries being prone to kidnapping Elf and Human babies, usually with the intent of eating them) the males will stay to protect the remaining children, while the females go off together to hunt down the kidnapper and bring their baby back. When a child is threatened, the females are far more deadly than even the most dominate of males.
Female Elves are bigger, more well muscled, and generally better in a physical fight, then the small, thin, weak males. Male Elves are rarely much more then 5 feet tall, while female Elves are taller, bigger, and stronger then the males. Thus while the males may bully each other, they never confront a female, and they leave any fighting that needs to be done in battle by warriors to the females.
Female Elves often are very "Amazon Warrior" types. If Elves have to go to war, it's the females who gather up weapons and put on armor to do battle. Male Elves are rarely ever seen in battle and almost never become warriors or soldiers. Elves though, are generally peaceful and only go to war if their family is being attacked by outsiders and they are unable to run away safely, without fighting.
While Elves are more advanced than Humans in some respects, in other areas they are far less civilized, and far more animal-like. Marriage is one of those things. Elves view the act of sex, as synonymous with the act of marriage, and thus have no such thing as weddings. Sex is therefore a very ritualistic act for Elves. Elves will not have sex outside of marriage, and instead will do a courtship ritual, that rarely last more than a day or 2, to get the she-Elf's attention. They likely are not well acquainted beforehand and are strangers to one another. This ends with the male forcibly copulating with the female, to "claim" her as his wife. This first act of sex between the couple is done in public, that other males know not to go after this female.
Elves are also polyamorous and will have multiple spouses, usually 1 male will have multiple male and female spouses. This is because there is a much higher birth rate of males than females and so there are not enough females for each male to have one. Many weaker males will take on a "female" role submitting to a more dominate male. Most family units consists of several males and multiple females, with each sharing the other (so in a family unite of 7 Elves, each Elf has 6 spouses.)
Elves who marry out of love (as opposed to instinct) are rare, but when this happens, the couple performs something known as The Soul Binding ritual. This is when two Elves fall in love and want to be bound to each other through eternity, even after death. It is a type of Necromancy ritual and is forbidden in most Elf Societies. The couple literally cut their souls in half and exchange them. Once this is done, each part of the pair exist mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in both bodies. If one of the pair is injured, both suffer the pain from the injury. If one dies, the other feels the death as though they were dying too, and often are so emotionally traumatized by it that they die of grief within a few days after their lover died. It is not uncommon however, after one dies, for the other to go mad and try to resurrect the dead one, then find themselves bound to a mindless zombie or heartless vampire or icy lich and then upon realizing this is just a reanimated corpse and not their lover, try to commit suicide only to find they can not die now that they are bound to an undead beast, as half their own soul is now undead as well. Thus why the ritual is forbidden.
Arranged marriages are literally rape. The parents, hold the couple down on each other.
Elves do not have prostitutes or the concept of "one night stands" in their culture, and they find Humans to be "barbaric" because both are common aspects in Human culture.
Humans have the same wedding traditions found in real world Humans. Elves find themselves confused by the Human tendency to have big weddings. In the Elf mind, these are frivolous things meant to show off in front of other people. Elves view the Human wedding ceremony as being a way of showing off wealth, and thus feel that it is a bad way to start off a marriage.
There do exist Elves, who once introduced to Human society, will use Human prostitutes without feeling the act of sex = marriage, but this is rare. This is often because of the high rate of male Elves but the rarity of female Elves, meaning many males would not have the opportunity to bed a female otherwise. It is however, the most common reason for the existence of half-Elves. Most half-Elves have Elf fathers and non-Elf prostitute mothers. A half-Elf resulting from an Elf marrying a non-Elf is rare.