Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fantasy Reconstruction, how do you do it?

Ok, so you've just defeated the ancient evil and the traitors and whatnot.  So, for example, the end of the Lord of the Rings.  What do you do now?

You've got all these orcs and goblins and trolls and foreigners who are no longer under the influence of said evil, but for as long as there have been traitors and whatnot and ancient evil they've been living in an evil based culture and they have an evil based economy.

If they don't send out raiding parties to plunder/eat nearby peoples they don't have anything.  If they don't make weapons of war then they don't make anything.

How does one deal with changing a culture that was designed by evil for generations with the sole purpose of making them evil?

How does one create economies and food sources to replace the pillaging and eating of innocent peoples, which currently serve that purpose?

What does one do to change these evil based cultures, economies, belief systems, memes, codes, traditions and so forth so that those who are members of species that were on the side of evil can be integrated into the new age rather than exterminated?


  1. It really depends on the details of the evil-based group - what kind of evil they were doing, how thoroughly they were defeated, how open they are to change, etc.

    Economically speaking, you can more or less divide these groups into (a) people who provided goods and services to the Evil Overlord, and (b) people who preyed upon others. Group A might be able to sell those same goods and services elsewhere, especially if the defeat of the Evil Overlord failed to bring about world peace, or failing that they'll shift production to something else. Quality furniture instead of weapons, for example. Even if the people in Group A aren't interested in taking any cultural lessons from their conquerors, their economy is based on selling goods and services to someone, and so there'll be strong economic incentives to figure out how to make something others want.

    Group B is a harder case, and success is much more reliant on them wanting to change their ways. When you've got a group of people who've been in the habit of thinking Only suckers do the actual work of food production - we're strong predatory types who take it by force! - persuading them to permanently let go of that idea is nigh-impossible. House Greyjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire is an excellent example of this - they historically were raiders who stole what they wanted, then they got beaten up enough to convince them to cut it out for a while, and then when the kingdom started descending into chaos and it was clear nobody was going to be able to come beat them up any time soon they started up the raiding again. You almost have to crush a people like this, bring them to the brink of destruction and make it nigh-impossible for any sane member of their society to continue to believe that they're the top predators. Once they've either been sufficiently crushed or indicated their willingness to change, send in educators to teach them how to farm/herd/fish/manufacture/etc and supplies to keep them going during the transition - a Marshall Plan for the orcs, if you will. (While persuading a bunch of people to make the massive lifestyle changes necessary to succeed at farming or herding or fishing is going to be a job and a half, the supplies may wind up being your biggest problem if your home population isn't abounding in excess food - "taking bread from our children's mouths to feed our would-be conquerors!", etc.) There may also need to be a heavy propaganda effort characterizing the old ways as dead-end thuggery and the new ways as a respectable means to make an honest living, again depending on how readily they're taking to the new non-raiding lifestyle.

    Moving on from economics to the question of Evil religions/customs/etc, I think these can be dealt with by a combination of legal suppression and offering of preferred alternatives. Declare the Cthulhu cult illegal and publicly execute anyone found sacrificing virgins to it, for example, while setting up prominent new temples to the religions you regard favorably. You may even be able to find a peaceful branch of the Cthulhu cult worth encouraging, the sort of reformers who say things like What Lord Cthulhu really wants if for us to conquer the ignorance and wickedness within our own souls and We regard scriptural references to "brain-eating" as an elaborate metaphor for learning from others.

    Basically, though, you're not really asking how to do reconstruction. You're asking how to do forcible cultural assimilation, in this special fictional circumstance where the conquered culture really does deserve to be erased. It ain't pretty, but the tactics used against the natives in the Americas and Australia are probably going to be your best resource here.

  2. The two good examples that come to mind of trying to dismantle toxic cultures are the US Civil War and WWII. One can reasonably argue that one of these worked a whole lot better than the other.

    What one needs, I suspect, is a really showy victory - smashing down the Dark Lord's tower, wiping out his armies in the field - so that the people of Evilland can feel that they've been outclassed. If it's more like a negotiated peace, you end up with a subject population who think "well, we could have won, if only..." and that gives you the end of WWI and the Dolchstosslegende.

    And, as Loquat suggests, you need a willingness to admit that you're engaging in cultural assimilation, because otherwise you'll be half-hearted about it.

  3. Two more points:

    First, as Firedrake points out, you really want to make sure you don't wind up with a bunch of Unreconstructed folks keeping up their own personal Mystique of the Lost Cause. If the orcish part of the country turns into the kind of place where they proudly fly Sauron's flag as a symbol of their "heritage" and teach their children that Sauron's army was made up of upright, honorable men just defending their homes from those dastardly invaders in "The War of Human Aggression", your project has not achieved its goals.

    Second, let's talk some more about those groups you mention that literally regard their neighbors as their primary, possibly only, food source. I don't think there's ever been a society in real life that actually did that - cannibalism in real life is generally either opportunistic or ritual, with the cannibals getting most of their regular daily nutrition from whatever plants and animals they raise or hunt & gather. So you've come up with this fantasy culture that specifically raids their neighbors in order to abduct people to eat, meaning they either do not care whether they're eating meat from a dumb animal or a thinking person, or they actively prefer to eat intelligent beings. If you try to integrate these Anthropophagi into any kind of broader society, I guarantee you there'll be a recurring problem with them murdering and eating people, because someone missed the taste of human flesh, or someone forgot that the missionary said it's wrong to eat people, or someone was hungry and broke and figured nobody'd miss a beggar, or one of a thousand other excuses, and then you'll have a problem with lynch mobs coming after them. In real life, Jews used to be periodically murdered because of rumors that they murdered Christian children for ritual purposes; how much worse do you think it would be for a minority group that was genuinely in the habit of eating members of the majority for dinner? Quite honestly, once the Ancient Evil isn't around to protect the people-eaters any longer, I'll be amazed if they last a full generation without one or more vigilante groups wiping them out, assuming some faction within the Armies of Good doesn't get the bright idea to kill them all during or immediately after the conquest in the first place.

    1. Indeed, I believe that when even the occasionally-cannibal groups have entered a wider society (e.g. someone's invented better canoes), they've tended to be wiped out as a priority.

      There's also the disease consideration, of course, if they're eating their own kind; especially if they aren't terribly careful about cooking techniques, they may well wipe themselves out.

  4. What lord Cthulhu really wants is to go on napping, everyone trying to wake him isn't trying to help him, they're trying to defy his will in order to serve their own selfish ends.

    Don't be one of them.

    Be a loyal servant to the lord from the deep an make sure his sleep is untroubled.

  5. Well, Gandalf remarked to the Lord Denethor that he pitied even the slaves of Sauron. In the end, the King Elessar gave them all the land around Lake Nurnen (where previously food was grown for Mordor) for their own.

    That's the human slaves within Mordor. There were others. There were the orcs of Mordor. There were unallied orcs in the Misty Mountains and elsewhere. And there were the human kingdoms which were allied with or subservient to Sauron. Those last caused some trouble for some years, if I remember correctly.