Emotional development in long-lived fantasy races

sknox

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>So my question for long-lived fantasy races is how long does a pregnancy last?
As long as you want it to. It's fantasy.

If you're writing SF, otoh, you'll need to buckle up and study some biology.
 

Cathbad

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As long as you want it to. It's fantasy.
I really loathe these kind of answers.

Why do you single out Fantasy this way? Do you believe we make one elf's pregnancy two years, the next 10 months? Whichever our silly minds decide in he moment? (In my fantasy world, all elves have a 10 month pregnancy.)

And why just 'Fantasy'? You said
If you're writing SF, otoh, you'll need to buckle up and study some biology.
Tell me... how long does your research say a pregnancy for an Alerian Milobyte last?
 

sknox

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I haven't done research so I don't know. In general, SF readers are fussier about breaking laws of physics or biology than are fantasy readers.

I admit my reply was flip but it was meant seriously. In fantasy, all things are possible. In most conventional fiction, what's allowed is dictated by real world parameters. No elves. Such things are allowed in SF, but there's usually at least some attention to real-world science. The rules are loosest for fantasy.

This is one of the aspects of the genre that attracts me. How long should a pregnancy last? In the abstract, I do not care. What matters is, in the context of the story I'm telling, does length of pregnancy matter? In what way? Answering those questions gives me what I need. The story matters more than principles of biology.

Other folk approach fantasy in a different spirit and that's fine.
 

Josh K

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Humans are some of the slowest creatures to develop emotionally and physically on earth. I think a lot of it has to do with brain size - there are tradeoffs for being smarter. However, assuming similar brain size to humans (which I think we can do typically), we can expect someone like elves to develop at a similar pace. Meaning, a 20 year old elf is probably going to be similar in emotional development to a 20 year old human. Now, the other thing to consider is cultural - in that case you may very well see 20 year old elves acting much more like children. Humans are expected to be adults by 20, but if a race lives 1k years then who knows what that expectation will be. Maybe there are different traditions and expectations, and an elf is only an adult at 200 years of age in the culture. I think there is a lot of opportunity to explore cultural divides because of this. I could just imagine some 20 year old elf savant who is treated like a child, gets angry, goes on a killing spree and becomes a horrifying villain. Sounds like a fun write.
 

Cathbad

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In fantasy, all things are possible.
Sorry, but I totally disagree with this statement. And if I ever read a book that uses this principle, I'll invite everyone to my first-ever book burning!

The rules are loosest for fantasy.
Hogwash. If anything, the serious fantasy writer has to take more care not to violate the 'natural rules' of his world!
 

millymollymo

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And... if your brains didn't hurt enough at the thought of working out physical and emotional development trade offs.

What about the social aspect.(Arguably an overlap of the world building, physical and intellectual.)
 

sknox

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>What about the social aspect
Yup. That was the gist of my first response to the OP. There are many opportunities and themes to explore, but few books that explore them.
 

sknox

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>the serious fantasy writer has to take more care not to violate the 'natural rules' of his world!
Ah, I see one point of confusion. I agree with the above statement, but assert the following:
the serious fantasy writer does not have to avoid violating the natural rules of the real world.

This may be the source of the (somewhat fiery) disagreement. I was not proposing that fantasy writers--any writers, for that matter--not worry about internal consistency. Of course they do. That's what creates the illusion. I was proposing that the realist writer is bound by the laws of real-world physics (etc.); the SF writer is not so bound but must take care to explain how and why the laws are being bent (most true for hard SF), and the fantasy writer is free to break pretty much all the real-world laws without needed to explain any of it, so long as the world created is internally consistent and believable.

Is that more palatable?
 

Karn's Return

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The way I would see this issue would be this:


In most fantasy that concerns long-lived races such as Tolkeinian elves, you have to remember that the worlds they inhabit are, at best, still wild and dangerous for the most part. The countless wars and disputes between these races rages on for decades, centuries, sometimes even millennia. In the end, you would have to figure that most survivors, especially combat veterans-which most major characters in stories would almost certainly have to be save for the exception of a key few perhaps-would have to become jaded, with a heart of frozen stone, just to be able to not only wake up living with themselves day to day, but also to move on from the grief and loss of loved ones, friends and family they would have lost in battles, or become separated from for months or years at a time due to external circumstances, etc. Not to mention that the longer one lives, the more one sees and experiences, so if nothing else, one would eventually maybe even just become bored of everyday life and slowly turn Vulcan in a sense just to keep from going mad from sheer ennui.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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In The Lord of the Rings there are characters, like Galadriel, who (if we read the Silmarillion) have lived for tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands?) of years, and the fact is that there is something about them, something in their manner, that sets them apart. Elrond, as terrifically old and experienced as he is, is by comparison with Galadriel a youngster, and his daughter Arwen even more. Arwen seems to have lived apart, a relatively sheltered life, yet she has known suffering and loss nevertheless, had to come to terms with terrible things in her lifetime. And Tolkien treats these characters with a certain reverence, as though they are more than we could possibly understand, more than he can understand, so he doesn't even try to explain their internal thoughts.

Gandalf, on the other hand, is even older, but it is his job to blend in, to move among mortals and win their trust, and he is not exactly the same person as Gandalf as he was in his original incarnation as a Maia. It is like he has taken on a disguise and the disguise is more than just a disguise; it is who he actually is so long as he wears it. Even so, by the time of The Lord of the Rings he has been Gandalf for many times a human lifetime. And we get flashes of the wisdom and understanding that he has accumulated during that time and in the eons before. He may appear a cranky old man on the surface, but he has depths of compassion and knowledge that we get glimpses of nevertheless.

You would never, ever, mistake any of these characters for a petulant adolescent—which is a gripe I have with certain popular authors who shall remain nameless, some of whose characters are thousands of years old but might as well be human teenagers for all the maturity they show. It is as though endless youth in appearance means endless youth in all ways, which I suppose is a fantasy that itself has appeal for many readers. Not for me, though. As a reader I like older characters to show the marks of their experience, their time in the world, whether that experience has made them wiser and greater or worn them down to a rag of what they once were and only the most basic animal nature remains. Either is fine by me, just not centuries of sameness. It comes down to personal taste, though, doesn't it?
 

The Big Peat

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I've yet to come across long lived fantasy races that don't have at least prolonged societal adolescence tbh.

Hogwash. If anything, the serious fantasy writer has to take more care not to violate the 'natural rules' of his world!
Yes, but the natural rules of their world are whatever they want.
 

sknox

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>Yes, but the natural rules of their world are whatever they want.
To an extent. To begin with. Ultimately, though, because we are in the business of communicating with other people, the natural rules of my world have to be able to convince the reader that they make sense. Those rules have to make sense to me first, of course--that's necessary but it is not sufficient.

I think that lies at the heart of so many forum questions. Here's this idea I have and it makes sense to me, but does it make sense to you folks, too? It's natural enough to ask, a bit like asking does this shirt look okay, but there's an important difference. The shirt might look okay to others or not, but with story ideas, with those "natural rules of the world" how they are expressed in the abstract is almost irrelevant. What counts is how they are sold to the reader by means of the storytelling. Perfectly good ideas can burn to the ground if told badly. Likewise, there are many examples of extremely shaky science or world-building that succeed because the story that inhabits them is so strong.
 

Plucky Novice

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So it occurred to me last night that surely longevity must come with some form of trade-off, especially when it comes to fantasy races.

The obvious point would be a slow physical development process - so a race that might live for a few hundred years might spend the first few decades of their life effectively like a child, not hitting adolescence until humans would be reaching midde-age - I think Tolkien may have specifically related something about that with Hobbits and possibly also elves.

But something I don't recall is slow emotional development - that this may be particularly slow, resulting in long-lived races acting in a manner that may seem unduly childish by comparison to humans. Again, this may be featured in Tolkien, especially with regards to various meetings of elves singing playfully in the trees.

However, I don't get the impression that any of this really comes across in modern fantasy fiction.

In which case, is it traditional in literature for long-lived races to show relatively childish characteristics, and is this carried on into modern literature?

Just thinking aloud. :)
I think you have to look to evolution here. On earth different creatures develop and mature at different speeds. They have evolved a certain way in order to survive.

If a baby antelope developed at the rate of a human it would be eaten because it couldn't run away, be carried or protected by it's parent.

Emotional development must to some degree be evolved. The rest is based on need and experience as others have already said.

So the question I would ask about any alien or fantasy race is why they have evolved as they have (including longevity) and what forces have been present to drive their emotional development?
 

Venusian Broon

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I think you have to look to evolution here. On earth different creatures develop and mature at different speeds. They have evolved a certain way in order to survive.

If a baby antelope developed at the rate of a human it would be eaten because it couldn't run away, be carried or protected by it's parent.

Emotional development must to some degree be evolved. The rest is based on need and experience as others have already said.

So the question I would ask about any alien or fantasy race is why they have evolved as they have (including longevity) and what forces have been present to drive their emotional development?
You've hit the nail on the head for me, PN. Unless you are not worldbuilding to that sort of degree and therefore your fantasy race can be anything, this must be a major factor.

Imagining a being that has a life span of thousands of years and hypothesising that such a being must also have a similar pattern of development as a human, but just stretched out, seems off to me. It depends, as you state, on the circumstances of their evolution.

But just taking humans as an example - life spans are increasing but it seems to me that it's the middle and ends of life that are driving that. We are not staying children any longer!

Actually I think what you have to worry about is the other end of life, old age. If we were to make breakthroughs in medical science and start to produce people that even had a couple of hundred years of life, it's not clear to me that our brain, mind and social bonds could cope with that length of time, and that they would need to undergo evolution to balance this out. Could a human brain really hold five hundred years of memories, never mind thousands? Or would it be a crazed mis-match of randomness?
 

The Big Peat

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You've hit the nail on the head for me, PN. Unless you are not worldbuilding to that sort of degree and therefore your fantasy race can be anything, this must be a major factor.

Imagining a being that has a life span of thousands of years and hypothesising that such a being must also have a similar pattern of development as a human, but just stretched out, seems off to me. It depends, as you state, on the circumstances of their evolution.

But just taking humans as an example - life spans are increasing but it seems to me that it's the middle and ends of life that are driving that. We are not staying children any longer!

Actually I think what you have to worry about is the other end of life, old age. If we were to make breakthroughs in medical science and start to produce people that even had a couple of hundred years of life, it's not clear to me that our brain, mind and social bonds could cope with that length of time, and that they would need to undergo evolution to balance this out. Could a human brain really hold five hundred years of memories, never mind thousands? Or would it be a crazed mis-match of randomness?
Biologically no. Socially, I think maybe yes. Society seems to smile at prolonged 'adolescences' in people, at least in the western world.

Conversely, the rise of big money entertainment seems to be driving down the age at which one becomes an adult in a few small fields, which is then emulated to a certain degree by other ambitious less talented youths.
 

Venusian Broon

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Biologically no. Socially, I think maybe yes. Society seems to smile at prolonged 'adolescences' in people, at least in the western world.

Conversely, the rise of big money entertainment seems to be driving down the age at which one becomes an adult in a few small fields, which is then emulated to a certain degree by other ambitious less talented youths.
Fair point. But I do think there is a large degree of relativity when we start to bring in society with regards to this question. Society is fluid and everchanging and we adapt to whatever we find, no matter what old grumpy men think their golden age 'way back then' actually did.

In some ways I feel the 'prolonged adolescents' of today are in a better mental and emotional state than those of the same age fifty years ago. (And in other ways not, of course.)
 

The Big Peat

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Fair point. But I do think there is a large degree of relativity when we start to bring in society with regards to this question. Society is fluid and everchanging and we adapt to whatever we find, no matter what old grumpy men think their golden age 'way back then' actually did.

In some ways I feel the 'prolonged adolescents' of today are in a better mental and emotional state than those of the same age fifty years ago. (And in other ways not, of course.)
Oh, huge amounts of relativity. Unbridled oodles. But there's where the juice is here for me. Being different in and of itself isn't a particularly interesting thing for me in fantasy races (or at least the science of it isn't). Not boring, just not "Wow" either. But how that effects their lives, their cultures, their worldview? That's where the fun is.

On my longlist of "Things I'll write about some day, honest" is what it'd be like to be a human who meets elves, then meets very different elves, then sees them arguing (and not just Seelie vs Unseelie). It's a huge shame Tolkien shied away from comparing an ancient elf lord who remembered Valinor and Gondolin with the youthful rustic prince Legolas.
 

Brian G Turner

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At that time Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three.
The Lord of the Rings - Book One - Chapter 1 - A Long-expected Party
 

-K2-

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Actually I think what you have to worry about is the other end of life, old age. If we were to make breakthroughs in medical science and start to produce people that even had a couple of hundred years of life, it's not clear to me that our brain, mind and social bonds could cope with that length of time, and that they would need to undergo evolution to balance this out. Could a human brain really hold five hundred years of memories, never mind thousands? Or would it be a crazed mis-match of randomness?
Now you did it. You provoked me to regurgitate long debated musings of my own mind. :eek: So you might want to skip this ;)

Just brainstorming, but what if, what are often called 'gifts' such as having an almost instinctual ability to work out mechanical problems, work wood, create art, mathematics, etc.-- or precognition-- perhaps even some forms of insanity (schizophrenia) and so on...were not just un/lucky combinations, but, memories and knowledge handed down from prior generations?

IOW, at the moment of conception, all of the knowledge and experience of your parents 'at that point' were encoded into the DNA (or whatever) that formed you. Along with it is the knowledge and experience they gained from their parents up to the point when they were conceived, and so on going back to the dawn of time.

Skills and abilities passed on and built upon by each subsequent generation. Precognition/déjà vu/instinctualy knowing who to avoid or how to react in social situations, not so much some magical ability, but millennia of experience allowing you to subconsciously 'guess' or predict, calculate, what is going to happen to even having knowledge of previous similar events or places. Certain forms of insanity, where those memories, thoughts, and so on, push their way due to a defect into your conscious mind either confusing or conflicting with current reality.

Naturally, not being knowledge you could directly draw from, that forefather experience and skills would reveal itself through 'inspiration.' You don't know why, nor have been taught, yet, you seem to just know. I would also suspect that over time that access to such knowledge degrades or is veiled as we heap on our own experience and knowledge tending to look to them for guidance instead of letting that of this passed down experience flow freely.

Clearly as we see with dementia and alzheimer's patients who regress drawing out long forgotten memories that we actually forget nothing, just stuffing it away. So there is the ability to shield (not eliminate) impertinent 'formative' information. Leaving the only question of, could it be handed down genetically?

If so, then I would say "yes, the human mind could hold thousands of years of information." I suspect that knowledge is not limited by the constraints of a physical size (number of cells, size of your noggin (your avatar regardless), whatever).

I warned you not to read that ;)

K2
 
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