adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Itty-bitty Humanoids

Okay, we all are familiar with the square-cube law of proportion, right? At least well enough to know that larger creatures need proportionally thicker bones or other supports and smaller ones can get away with thin ones. An ant can not only support itself with its spindly limbs but also lift weights considerably greater than its own. An ant proportionally blown up to human size would collapse under its own weight.

And a human proportionally taken to down to ant size would be incredibly clumsy and have serious troubles regulating its internal temperature. The tiny humanoids in Pratchett’s ‘Bromeliad’ trilogy are described as ‘sumo’ like. That wouldn’t work; they need to be just the opposite.

Think of those old illustrations of Brownies and other Little People. They are often portrayed with bulbous bodies and spindly arms and legs, a large head sitting on top. Those artists may not have known about the square-cube thing but they got it right. The pretty little fairies, however, would be an impossibility.

Well, impossible in our world. In one with different gravity, it would be another matter.

I do have Little People in some of my novels. The same Little People, actually, though named differently in different places and different eras — Malvern refers to them as ‘goblins’ when he meets them and his native friends have their own names. They are ‘poto’ in my latest novel, GOD OF RAIN. In the Donzalo books, they are referred to as kobolds.

They are the only ‘others’ that I have explored in much detail in the fantasy novels, though I mention trolls and ogres in passing. We might visit them some other time (my children’s book, THE CONTRARY FAIRY, is not part of this canon, but a variety of fairy folk show up in it). There are also the Fay, but they are pretty much human-sized, at least the ones that have shown up so far.

But my kobolds (my preferred name) do show up and interact in varying degrees in the Donzalo’s Destiny books, in the second Malvern novel, VALLEY OF VISIONS, and now in this new Mora book. They stand about waist-high to us, and dwell in warrens of burrows in the high mountains. The ones in the Malvern/Mora books, that is; I don’t get into much of their lifestyle in the Donzalo tales. Would they have thin arms and legs and thicker bodies? Absolutely. Wizened, hairless, large hands and feet, big noses, small ears — all adaptations to their size, their environment, their way of life.

In time, I shall probably explore them and other semi-human peoples further. There is much to discover (i.e. invent!) about them yet. But only if they serve a story; otherwise they remain in my notes.

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