Feuding Races in Medieval Settings

Anonymous said: I’m basing a lighthearted fantasy story around two countries in a loosely medieval setting. I was planning to have the citizens of one country be relatively discriminatory for a variety of reasons against the other one. I considered making the other country (and one of the lead characters who’s from there) a non-white race. What would be some things to watch out in such a scenario? Any suggestions?

I recently read a book pretty similar to this layout, loosely pseudo-medieval (European) setting with a prejudice dynamic.

It’s called Chained by Elise Marion and revolves around the Kingdom of Alemere made up of three different realms. 

Sourcing the Tensions

In Chained, the people of Dinasdale are the equivalent of Black people, the Daleraia are White people, and the Camritte people either I don’t remember or their race isn’t made clear plus an outside country of golden-skinned people called the Lerrothe that I took for mixed race, likely Black and White. Well the Dinasdale and Daleraian people (Black and White) are in a feud that dates back some decades, perhaps a century or so.

The reasons these two realms have tension are based on actions of men in their respective royal families. Ultimately the actions of the Daleraira (whites) kingdom started the feud, though when the story begins the recent feud is sparked by actions within the royal Dinasdale (Black) family.

Now, I would’ve felt iffy with the Black family having begun the feud, particularly because of why it’d begun in the first place (both the actions of the families involve kidnapping of women, murder and violence).

Both were in the wrong, yes, and you don’t need to fear not letting folks of your PoC races do awful things if the story calls for it, but be careful with what you might insinuate. There’s enough images of Black people being violent and savage unprovoked, for example. There’s no racism issues in Chained, more like ethnocentrism and xenophobia, though whether there’s racism in your story or not, it’s still good to consider what sort of reflection something has in a real life context.

Portraying your Races

Be mindful of your portrayals of your races as a whole. It might be obvious, but avoid implying the ways of the PoC to be inferior to the White race of people whether in culture or lifestyle, technological advancement, etc. Chained handled this well; both countries are essentially part of Alemere (pseudo-Europe) the biggest differences are cultural; what folks do for a living, entertainment, mannerisms.

I’d also suggest you be dynamic when developing the POC country’s people and avoid heavy extremities (aka caricatures). They shouldn’t be all alike or a monolith of their people or culture.

As for developing characters within the race, while you don’t want your POC to all be perfect, they shouldn’t (they meaning the people, the government) all have to be a guilt-free people either. Some folks may be heroic, others might be low-lives, some might be somewhere in between.

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