BUT YO, REMEMBER THE FANTASY CHARACTERS I POSTED A WHILE AGO
I'll probably be making more (as well as environments and creatures), but first I wanted to explore the races I had in mind for the world me and *Ai-Bee are building for this.
This project is currently unnamed, but it's something I've wanted to do ever since I was in middle school.
A lot of High Fantasy is very overdone and all the designs are inbred, so as a kid I wanted to see a fantasy world that was more diverse, but used a lot of familiar things from the genre.
I realize I'm taking a lot of liberties with the typical interpretations of High Fantasy...but it's fucking fantasy, dude.
What's fantasy without imagination? I always thought the "rules" some people ascribe to were bullshit anyway.
(sorry any Tolkien/D&D-die-hards, this project probably isn't for you)
I reference a lot of cultures and plan to mix them with more typical fantasy elements, but if anyone who belongs to the cultures that inspired me, by all means please let me know if I've done anything seriously wrong or offensive and I will look into it and fix it as best as I can. And yes, I know where the names I'm using came from.
No body shaming will be tolerated. (ʘ‿ʘ✿)
So without any further ado, here is some thought-vomit on each of the races and sub-races!
Jotun: Famous for their mining, wrought iron, rich ore, and music, the Jotuns are a proud but crude people with hints of their Elven pompousness. Derogatorily known as the Dark Elves, the Jotun are on horrible terms with the Western High Elves, having never let go of a bad blood feud that split the two cultures apart just a century ago. The Jotuns were chased up north, where they developed a new capital city underground and developed surprisingly good relations with the native Ogres, who they currently coexist with peacefully. They have strong military prowess, led by a warrior king or queen who earns the throne through strategic superiority in battle.
Inspirations and notes: Traditional Russian culture with influence from Medieval Gothic. Sleek and athletic, biggest elf race. North-to-Eastern European features.
Naiads: Elegant, sophisticated, and snooty, the High Elves are a technologically advanced nation that hold a majority of the influence in the West. While they trade freely with the Myr and Gnomes, they view themselves as culturally superior. They’re known for their alchemy and automated armors, which are employed for all menial jobs in their society. The Goblins were once heavily employed by the Naiads for lower level work, but ever since the invention of their mobile armors, they’ve since freed them, though their menial employment is still apparent in the western sector of the world. Lavish and peaceful, Naiads hold intellectual, magical, and philosophical pursuits in high regard, and are led by a council of elected officials.
Inspirations and notes: Art Deco era and Decopunk, American Roaring 20’s. Thin fashion-model bodies. White-American features.
Dryads: The Wood Elves are a carefree people living in the upper branches of the Eastern forest-marshes, which are known to many as a tropical paradise. Good-humored and creative, they’re famous for their artistry in painting, calligraphy, pottery, and sculpting. Over-indulgent in the fine arts and simple pleasures, they’re an open and polyamorous culture that values fun and comfort, earning them the nickname “Nymphs”. While their laissez-faire attitude can come across as insanely irresponsible, their playful, youthful nature makes it hard to dislike them individually. Other than trading with the Garuda, the Dryads tend to keep to themselves. Their expertise in magic is rivaled only by the Fae.
Inspirations and notes: Ancient Chinese culture, Qing Dyasty. Petite, skinny physiques. Central-to-East Asian features.
Djinni: A gender-segregated but matriarchal society, the Djinni are a generally peaceful, scholarly culture. Djinn women are the spiritual leaders, politicians, and scientists, while Djinn men are kept to physical work, like smithing, dancing, and military. They believe the female mind is the greatest asset, promoting them to be physically modest; their men, on the other hand, are visually flamboyant and beautiful. Nationalistic and proud, they also greatly value families, and healthy births are celebrated for days on end. The Djinni live in harmony with the Giants, and are well-known traders throughout the world.
Inspirations and notes: Ancient Persian and Arab culture, mainly Ottoman. Lithe but pronounced/curvy bodies. South Asian/Middle Eastern features.
The other races:
To see more of this world, please visit this gallery!
Just thought you should know :'DDD
The Jötun are giants. In our mythology, elves are an entirely different race. They even come from completely different realms. The Jötuns come from Jötunheimr whilst the Elves come from Alfheimr and Dark Elves from Svartalfheimr.
I'm sorry if I come off rude, but this is my religion we're talking about and it's a little bit hurtful to see someone take a word that comes from my faith and culture and use it for something completely unrelated, both in culture and in race. And trust me, that kind of thing can be more harmful than one would think. Marvel's Thor taught me that the hard way.
I understand that this is fantasy, but you did say if you'd done anything wrong/offensive to let you know. I'm sure you could find a name that doesn't come from an existing culture and means a completely different thing than what you're using it for.
I don't know how much of this project of mine you've looked into, but I use mythological creature names from multiple mythologies and religions, even my own. I'm Muslim, and I've used Djinni for another elf race; other mythological names I've used "wrongly" are Garuda from Hinduism, Myrmidon/Gorgon/Dryad/Naid from Greek mythology, the list goes on.
I do truly want people from the respective cultures to talk to me about harmful misuse, but, again not trying to be rude, is re-interpretation of mythology (not religion or belief systems, but mythology) harmful? My goal isn't 100% accuracy, because I don't think re-telling the same stories is creative or inventive-- and directly re-telling mythology is lazy in my opinion. The mythologies already exist and can be told through traditional means, why steal that? I've always felt putting more effort into re-creating something new, with the inspiration of mythology, did more justice to the imagination and spiritual impact of the mythos.
All of my elves are named after elemental mythologies from all around the world. Very few are accurate, but I wanted them to have the connotation of nature magic to them. The Naiads were named for the water association, Dryads for plants/trees, and Djinni are commonly associated with fire and smoke in Islamic lore. My reasoning for using Jotun for the northern elves was because they live in icy areas and are, physically, the largest race of elves. I wanted them to feel like a combination of ice giants and dark elves (and unfortunately, because Svartálfar just isn't as well-known when used in high fantasy, I chose the more recognizable name of the two)
This might be obtuse of me, but I hope you understand my reasoning.
(As a footnote, the main reason I asked for call-outs was actually for each fantasy race's in-world culture. For example, my Dwarves are Nordic inspired, so if I were to do something off base with their culture in the future, I would love to hear your thoughts)
And honestly, look...I do sincerely want to know more about your beliefs and try to find some kind of consensus, but the cultural harm I am talking about is more than simple offense and ignorance. I've had Greek mythology enthusiasts come after me with fire and pitchforks for using the name Gorgon (even though most modern day Greeks are Eastern Orthodox), so I hope you can understand my frustration. I realize yours is actually a legitimate religion unlike mythology buffs, but again, I have even used things from my own religion for this project that I personally believe in as true. These beliefs of mine, however, I also recognize as part of the mythology of my religion, as they have very little to do with the actual beliefs I hold in regards to doing good and treating people well. No matter how much I believe in Djinni, they are, to me, similar to how Angels have been misinterpreted and changed wildly in popular media. Mythology exists to enrich both religious and secular culture.
However, again, the kind of harm I am talking about is beyond offense. The misuse and exotifying of certain religions and cultures in media has a real-world impact on huge minority groups.
While many neopagan religions are technically minorities, and while many pagan religions have suffered from oppression in the past in Europe, the fact is many neopagan religions are so young and new that the oppressions they face are cultural invisibility. I am not saying your offense is invalid, but I am having a hard time connecting that with harm. Does my usage of these terms make such wide misunderstandings to our current social consciousness, that it makes it hard for you to practice your religion? Does my usage of these terms make it so that you get harassed in the streets and called slurs? Does my usage of the term create such a rift in society that people start being so enamored with Asatru people that they suddenly think they're hypersexual beings that hold magical powers in bed??
Because it happens: the consistent connection between sexuality and Hinduism (things like the Gamma Sutra being popularized, belly dancers being a popular class in many fantasy games and essentially equated as entertainers or whores, even the Disney movie Aladdin and the way they sexualized Princess Jasmine) actually make things very hard for South Asian women, who are at high risks of being raped and abused in relationships in the West. And that's only with one of the cultures I've developed.
That is the type of dialogue I am looking for.
I know your religion is important to you, I honest to God would love for you to educate me more on how I am offending you, but the harm you are talking about is a little different from, and I'm sorry to say this, more pressing racial and cultural issues that are rampant in western-centric fantasy
I'm not trying to deny your chance to explain your side more, I am asking you to re-evaluate your attitude a bit and understand what I am trying to do with this project. It's not just about naming conventions.
From my experience, honestly? Yes. Re-interpretation of mythology intrinsically linked with a certain faith can be harmful. For example Marvel's Thor takes our God and turns him into something different, and all these people love it but disregard our culture and our belief. I've had many people think they know everything about Norse Mythology because they've read Marvel Comics and disrespect our God because they don't understand him. It's hard to explain, but I do truly find it hurtful when someone takes an idea from my religion and turns it into something it's not for the sake of popularity.
It's not a "re-interpretation", it's a downright disregard for what the mythology says. These might just be mythology and stories to you, but they are intrinsically linked to my religion and I find it disrespectful that you would disregard all the faith and culture surrounding something for the sake of a name that sounds good. If you're so intent on being "creative and inventive" why is using a name that's not as well-known or recognisable a bad thing? Or better yet, create your own names? Or use a name that fits with the culture you're using for inspiration?
Jotun isn't even the word for frost giant. It's just the word for giant. There are three different races of giants.
Do the Fae and Dryads ever meet up? Like, are there any mini-populations of Fae living elsewhere, maybe in a Garuda farming community or amongst the Dryads? Just how secretive are the Fae?
Are there any sacred temple cities anywhere dedicated to tree worship? With sacred acorns or renewal ceremonies for damaged forests or anything?
Like, say, someone got greedy and logged a giant swath of forest for valuable wood, are there any ceremonies or rituals or things that anyone might do for that? Maybe a really really solemn tree funeral with seedling planting or damage-control measures?
Oh! Do the Dryads have treehouse villages? Like, in GIANT redwood-looking trees with little villages perched in the branches, and big round fields and farm cottages ringed around the trunks where the Garuda live, and then off over the hill somewhere there's a super-secret Fae village trading medicines and advice and guidance and spells for foodstuffs and dyes and musical instruments and other things?
That'd be so cool! :3
And again, lots of culture questions that will be answered eventually. Please be patient!
If beauty could kill, they'd be the suspects
Hope you understand!
I mean, not gonna lie, this is pretty AWESOME!
Also, in regards to the fourth eleven race, was the name 'Djinni' inspired by the Arabic ghost name 'Djin'??
Ahaha, I also appreciate that the Naiads are snooty.
And I love how the elf cultures match up to the human cultures the coexist with!!
THANKS AGAIN!! <33
are all completely different and separate mythological creatures.
Most male elves don't grow much facial hair, but the Jotun and Djinni can
The Jotun are probably my personal favorite. It's mostly because I see the similarities to Tolkiens Noldor, but you have also taken Jotuns to their own direction so that they don't feel like they are cheap Noldor rip-offs. I also prefer the more athletic bodybuilds, since that's the mental image I have had of Tolkien elves ever since I read The Silmarillion as a 13-year-old(Silmarillion has some pretty amazing feats of strenght for the elves).
I also kind of see some Drow inspiration in the underground dwelling and the dark purplish skintone, which I have noticed as being given to the Drow, when the artists want to make them easier to draw. I don't actually know much about the Drow other than that they are supposed to be evil Spider worshippers and mathriarcal, so your Jotun aren't too similar to them either.
I really like the hairstyles and I like how the men and women have different styles, but you can also still clearly see the shared cultural background.
I do also happen to find Russian culture interesting and I find the aesthetics as well as those of Medieval Gothic very visually appealing, so I can imagine them in some type of context, though based on your other art the visuals of your world are actually more of pure fantasy than based strictly on any historical period.
I'm not all that sure if Jotun is the correct name for them, since the mythological Jötunn are actual Giants, but your Jotun are only bit over 6' tall and even shorter than the 7' tall Giants in your setting, so the name doesn't seem appropriate or properly descriptive, but maybe you have some idea of their culture that would make them in someway more similar to the Jötunn so that the name is better justified.
Naids are only interesting to me, because I love Art Deco and 1920's, but other than that there is something that I personally find off putting about them. I quess part of it is because of the thin supermodel bodies and the other part is how negatively their culture comes across in your descriptions.
On the other hand I kind of love the more mean and petty take on the elves, since I feel that's actually realistic for immortal people to develop attitude that they are much better than the mere mortals they have to share the rest of the world with. It's also one of the few things that barely anyone actually copies from Tolkien, since his elves could be far more assholish and grudging than any of the mortals, I mean the Silmarillion is all about assholish imperialistic elves coming to Beleriand and making things harder for the Teleri/other elves and for all the mortals arriving there, with their wars and superior attitude towards even the other elves.
I also like how they are the artistic and philosophical people, because again that's probably what an immortal society would actually end up evolving into, especially if they are more advanced than other cultures for most of the history and thus find wars very easy, when they have more experience and technology than the competitors.
Dryad society does sound like it would be interesting, though you should be careful with the polyamory and sexual freedom, because that can be seen as fetishization, especially since China actually has some minority culture, which name I cannot recall, who have very sexually free attitudes and many Chinese people were insulted over a Tumblr meme involving said culture. Their complaints related to the fact that the western people recycling the meme around were fetishzing one of their minority cultures and how they feel like lot of western focus on China makes a fetish out of some aspect of their culture, so the majority Chinese banded together and told people off for how insulting their attitudes were. Your depiction isn't based on what I see here, but some Chinese person could see an issue with it, especially since the meme was rather recent like past couple of years.
Cheerful wood elves are a cliché that started with Tolkien, but you have definately managed to make them your own enough that anyone picking on that similarity is nitpicker.
When you state Ancient China as an inspiration you do mean Qin Dynasty instead of the Qing Dynasty, since Qin Dynasty is the dynasty started by the first Emperor of China who unified them, while Qing Dynasty starts sometime in the 1600's and ends in 1912(it's the one which fashions eventually evolved into the Qipao dress for women).
I really like the Djinni and they are very different and refreshing take on the elves and djinni, since both have become rather stereotyped in mainstream media. I like the mathriarcal culture and how you reason it with men being seen as more stupid because they are strong and needed to fight. That feels very natural and like something that could happen in real world.
I do like the hairstyles for both genders and also the idea that the women wear modest clothes while the men are flamboyant, because that also feels likely based on the mathriarcal society, since the women would cover up, because they are already admired and in charge and thus don't need to seduce men, and the flamboyance also makes sense for the men so that they can get the attention of a powerful woman who's help they need for their work to succeed and probably for their careers to progress.
With the inspiration my issues relate to the fact that it feels like the time periods are all over the place, since you specify Ancient Persia, but then also mention the Ottomans who are Medieval to 1922 and then the Arabs are completely different culture so it kind of feels like mixing France, Russia and Italy, which don't really have much incommon despite being European and Christian. The fact that Ancient Persians weren't muslims makes them even more unlike the Arabs and Ottomans.
You probably have a good idea for how to mix the cultures together and get a harmonious result, but it just currently seems like the cultures are really unlike each other and were picked because they are all Middle-Eastern in origin. That can probably also seem bit insulting to the Persians, Arabs and Turkish people who definately will not view their cultures as almost same, just like all European countries will insist they are totally unlike their next door neighbors.
Elves are definately the hardest of the "classic" fantasy races to make into interesting and deep cultures, especially since they were actually the culture Tolkien spent his entire life developing, and who have very rich history and are actually rather unlike the fantasy stereotypes they inspired. Basically the perfect elves illusion that Lord of the Rings might cause people to view them as is completely shattered by the Silmarillion, which gives the elves very human flaws, but allows them to cause much greater problems and havoc due to their immortal lives.
You are doing good job with the elves and I actually do like your ideas for them even if I'm rather critical, but I actually feel like you made the other races more interesting than the elves, who are simply harder to do.
You actually brought up something really important with the Djinni! At the time I wrote this, I was just brainstorming and threw those cultures out as a very vague idea that I wanted. Since then I've actually pinpointed the specific culture that inspires them (Mughal era India), so I'll be updating the description with that. Thank you so much for reminding me!
The Dryad are supposed to be based on the last dynasty, Qing, though I suppose that doesn't count as "Ancient China" anymore does it I should probably update that as well.
In regards to their sexuality, I'm Chinese myself, so I'm more than familiar with the kind of fetishization that we (and other Asians) have to endure. (Healthy) polyamory isn't quite the same as saying they're sexual deviants, and I want to portray them with healthy and liberated practices rather than over-sexualized beasts, if that makes sense.
Sorry you don't like the Naiads though! I never meant to portray them in a negative light, just haughty in classic elf fashion, though that in itself might seem antagonizing I suppose.
Again, I appreciate your comments! I'm very glad that you're excited about my world but critical, I definitely need that with how big and all-encompassing I want this universe to be
I definately wouldn't classify Qing Dynasty as ancient, since I think ancient reguires more than thousand years and is usually used for the centuries surrounding year 0.
I didn't even realize you were Chinese. I rarely if ever check on where the different artists come from.
I have noticed lot of the rather creepy fetishization towards Asian people(well really towards all women, but I guess there is more racist/exploitative aspect to the fetishization when it comes to people of color).
I do wish more people would write about healthy polyamory, since that would make peoples attitudes better towards it, since concenting grown-ups should be allowed to have sex with whoever they want to, but it's still rather distant dream for most women, who almost always suffer the negative consequences of the current attitudes. It's very sad that free attitude towards sex is seen as being over-sexualized or being sexual deviant, when it should actually be seen as healthy and normal.
Haughtyness is really difficult to potray right, because if the characters/culture are too haughty they give very negative and antagonistic feel, which hinders at least my enjoyment of them.
Have you read Tolkiens Silmarillion? It has some amazingly haughty and jerkassish elves, but I actually enjoyed the assholish ones better than the more likable elves, because the likable ones were boring and did barely anything, exept for the suicidal attacks againts overwhelming foes they sometimes pulled, when they felt there was no hope left.
I were actually bit afraid that I were being too critical, but I can see that with how large this project of yours is that you want to fix all the flaws and prefer bit harsh critique, rather than mindless praise or maybes.
And yeah! Please don't be shy. Your feedback is really good too! Unlike a lot of people who are blindly critical or loyal to the genre, you have some great things to say. Thanks again for taking the time!
I definately liked the haughty, imperialistic, racist and assholish elves much better than the heroic and nice elves, though the Silmarillion has only two elves who could be classified as villains(and they are so nasty that the assholish elves come across as heroes).
The nice/heroic elves are sympathetic characters, but you don't really get a sense of them as people properly in the stories.
Like there are Fëanor and Fingolfin, who are brothers.
Fëanor is haughty and assholish elf(we don't get to see racism from him, because he dies so early), but his implied mental illness/trauma and the way the story offers alternate paths he could have taken for a better outcome and all the tragedy he and his sons suffer makes him more human.
Fingolfin is stereotypical elf in that he's absolutely perfect and good, he forgives Fëanor threatening him on a sword point, he is great leader and people gladly follow him even to danger and he gets the most epic moment in the Silmarillion, with comparisions to Oromë(one of the Valar, a god) and he seems to have absolutely no flaws, except being too forgiving and possibly slightly suicidal(his epic moment).
I also really liked how racist most of the elves were towards humans in the begining of the Silmarillion, and how the elves disliked the other tribes of elves, but still viewed killing other elves as completely unforgivable, since it made them really intersting and gave depth to the cultures.
Sorry about rambling, but Silmarillion just happens to be the best and deepest of Tolkiens books, even if many people find it hard to read, because of the style it was written in. Some people also have trouble with the elven names and not remembering who's related to who and in what way(my issues were with the human names actually).
It's to me kind of hard to tell if my critique is just right or too critical or too "forgiving".
My ideas of culture is very similar to yours in my own project but I'm avoiding the high fantasy of green/blue/purple skinned people with tails and ears, but I absolutely adore your work so far <3 I just wanted to say, fantastic work but also I'd like to ask a question. As an outside voice and a fellow artist, how would one go about creating a unique and fascinating fantasy world and avoid the bland norms? I'm kinda stuck at a dead end atm ;;
Creating a new, unique world is pretty difficult and involved and I don't think there's a formulaic way to go about it, BUT I think the most important thing to remember is to be connected and educated. A lot of times, people who are disconnected from other media tend to get arrogant about their idea and assume it's unique when it really isn't. Being up-to-date on what other artists are doing keeps us humble and also informed on what's already been done, what's successful, what we like and don't like, etc.
It's also good to limit sources of inspiration. The broader your pool of inspiration, the more generic your idea will be. Do research and zone in on certain time periods, locations, etc. But also don't steal from that inspiration too directly or it gets boring.
Let ideas incubate, don't be scared to spend a long time on your world. Good luck, hope that helps!