Thursday, October 06, 2011

On Fantasy Miscegenation

Dungeons & Dragons has half-elves (half-elf, half human, that is). This makes a certain amount of sense, since it's easy to imagine elves being sexually attractive to both men and women. I mean, isn't that basically the definition of elves? "Like humans, but sexier?"

There are also half-orcs, which is somewhat harder to imagine, since very few people are sexually attracted to green pig-people, and the reverse, one would assume, would also be true. I think this idea runs on a vaguely racist/misogynist trope of, well, of course those savage, sexually-insatiable orcs are attracted to Our Women, and of course they're going to rape them given half a chance. I don't think there are too many half-orc characters who are presented as coming from consensual unions, or ones in which the mother is the orc. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, half-orcs were at one point temporarily eliminated "as part of a wide attempt by TSR to remove controversial topics from D&D," whatever that may mean exactly. Citation Needed, however, so take that as you will.

There are no half-dwarves, and this makes sense, because it's hard to imagine most people being attracted to fantasy dwarves (obviously, this has nothing to do with real-life dwarfs, who are something else entirely) (note that I'm making sweeping generalizations here--that last statement is definitively not true--and no doubt in some sourcebook somewhere you can find all the things I'm claiming you can't find--but they're certainly not anywhere near as standardized/widespread as half-elves). But why not half-dwarves/half-gnomes? Dwarves and gnomes are supposed to be related to each other, even, so you'd think it would be only natural that there would be inter-racial unions. For that matter, why not half-dwarf or -gnome/halflings? Halflings may not be related to either, but you'd think the relationship would be analogous to that between elves and humans. But these things just don't seem to exist.

You could say that this is because we need humans to identify with, so other-race hybrids are beside the point; it's the same reason that science fiction almost always features humans or at least characters who are essentially human. But that doesn't really pan out, given that there are all kinds of crazy non-human PCs in various permutations of D&D, from goblins to giant bugs. I dunno. I suppose it's not a big deal, but it does seem to bespeak a certain lack of imagination on the part of the designers.


Anonymous dlauthor pontificated to the effect that...

For the genesis of D&D race-mixing, it begins and ends with Tolkien. JRR had half-elves (Elrond, for instance, and various other mixed-blood situations) and half-orcs (Saruman's breeding experiments to make an army that would march in daylight, which probably were pretty unsavory and definitely made reference to the unpleasantness of eugenics).

10:52 AM  

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