The Research Accessibility Aid Is: IN!!!

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by cosmofex, May 1, 2018.

  1. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    i somehow never saw this thread before or i would've done this long ago, but uh

    weirdly enough, i actually do need to know that specific thing for my writey project. is this something you have some good sources you could link me on?

    i generally enjoy doing research, but i've been coming up against a series of brick walls in trying to write my fictional-world not-exactly-sami reindeer herders, because apparently what little history about equivalent cultures didn't get erased or forgotten is written in finnish.

    basically, i've got a tribe of reindeer herders who send a bunch of folks down to the sea to fish in the summers. their fishing camp got hit by raiders, everybody died, all the food got taken and the boats stolen or burned. they still have their reindeer, but they're fresh out of able-bodied men aside from one alcoholic shaman and a few teenagers, and they pretty much know unless they get real lucky somehow they're going to slowly starve over the next few years.

    what i need to research is what they do to try to stave that off. but i can't seem to find a starting point. all my search terms lead me in wrong directions. and of course, i'm the adhd poster child and i get sucked down every rabbit hole i find, so even wrong directions can eat an entire afternoon.

    so do you think you could find me some kind of starting point for like... experiential, practical, day-to-day, What Did They Actually Do With Their Time information about arctic cultures fighting famine?
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
  2. cosmofex

    cosmofex trans lesbian extraordinaire

    @jacktrash The best part is that I originally made the Research Accessibility Aid after helping you look up gluten-free baking, and I remember seeing you talk about the Sami folk around the same time!

    Ok so! You say you need starting points more than summaries, and you need ancient Sami specifically and ancient arctic peoples in general.

    First things first, arctic cultures don't really have a famine food the way cultures from more productive land do. So little grows that everything that can be eaten is a staple, and everything that can't is indigestible. Also, nomadic people like the Sami tend to just leave areas struck by famine, or assimilate into better-off tribes rather than try to stick it out like more stationary cultures do. The problems your characters will be facing are going to be less about food availability and more about lack of knowledge and experience. Same end result, but with a different set of solutions.

    Now! for research!

    First up, food:
    • Tree bark was one of the many foods in the Sami diet. When a tree was harvested for timber, the inner bark was ground up into flour to make bread. In snow-free months, vertical strips were taken off of live trees, leaving at least 2/3 of the circumference so that the tree would live to make more bark. Oddly, this was the opposite of a famine food- the "rich" Sami with bountiful herds were said to collect the most pine and birch bark.
    • Mushrooms such as chaga can be extremely healthy foods, and were definitely on the menu.
    • Sami also ate insects like the reindeer warble fly, though not in great quantities. (warning: images are kinda body horror)
    • the reindeer themselves constituted a large portion of the diet. Specifically for the coastal Sami like your tribe, the herd was small and never meant for meat. They were for milk and cheese production, and for attracting wild reindeer. The wild ones were the reindeer that got eaten for the coastal groups.
    Next up, random links
    Basically, every member of the tribe was involved in the food gathering process. There wasn't a secret aspect of hunting that only men knew, there wasn't a secret aspect of cooking that only women knew. Food was so tight at all times that most modern non-nomadic societies would consider it famine. Their staple foods were famine foods just about everywhere south of them. Every child over the age of "can't hold a stick" knew how to make a fish spear or bait a hook. Every teenager had been hunting with the family for a few years already and while they weren't the best they were still pretty OK at it. In the Sami people, there wasn't famine-specific food, there was just food. Then when there was less food, they went somewhere where there was more food.

    But you're still short a lot of folks in the tribe, and life is tough. Luckily for them, it's summer. The experienced or smart cookies will start catching food as quick as they can, then smoke, dry, or salt every ounce of it. They'll collect berries, nuts, roots, shoots, herbs, weeds, grasses, pine bark, birch bark, birch sap, anything they can stuff in a jar of brine or jam or vinegar or fat. They'll get the crippled guy who survived the attack but lost his legs to teach them tricks for trapping, they'll get the half-senile granny to give them pointers on reindeer, they'll antagonize the shit out of the shaman to work a little magic for them. When autumn comes and the reindeer go into rut, they'll slaughter, butcher, and jerky-fie all the wild reindeer that visit their herd, and they'll use the skins to make new boats. By the end of winter, the purely physical stuff will have been replaced. Next year, they go find another tribe and either ask for lessons or assimilate until they're aged up.

    That's the good-luck scenario. The bad-luck scenario is that the teenagers are young enough to have not been hunting and there's no one but the kids and the drunk shaman who has been too busy shamaning to learn the skills of surviving. They get the news of the raid early in summer and start rationing. The kids end up having to kill and eat the reindeer in their herd. The wild reindeer aren't lured in. Foraging and fishing holds off total starvation until winter arrives. Winter rolls in and the river and the forage is frozen over and buried under the snow. Kids starve unless another tribe finds them. If the other tribe takes them in, they live happily ever after. If the tribe doesn't take them in but does teach them necessary skills, or better yet lends a few men and women, they have a rough winter but everyone lives happily ever after. The tribe won't choose to just leave them to die, because thats an incredibly shitty thing to do to people you are 100% likely to be distantly related to.

    the no-good-very-bad-luck scenario is that they never get news of the raid and don't rationing until one day they realize that they're on their own. Another tribe doesn't find them until someone wants to visit their aunt in that one tribe of sea sami and when they get there they find bones under the snow. A few of the most recent ones have been chewed on.

    Last but not least: some wikipedia pages on related subjects!
    • Like x 3
  3. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    thank you so much! this is all really useful.

    what i'd been planning was that the raid happens late in the summer, and the stores of smoked and dried fish are stolen too, and they end up having to eat some of their reindeer over the next winter. plotwise, i want to weaken their famine resilience without wiping them out, so that a few years later another bad summer pushes them to the point of having to send someone to negotiate with the gods. so i can't let them assimilate into another tribe, but i don't want them all dead when my protagonist is seven either. i need him and his sister to survive until they're old enough that he can volunteer to bring their case to the gods (which is to say, be sacrificed in the bog) and have it be more teenage bravado than innocent pathos.

    i didn't know about luring in the wild reindeer and eating them instead. if they do that for a while, and then in the summers they send women to fish -- so basically they can be either fishing OR foraging, and they don't dare go far from shore because their boats are kind of hastily thrown together -- then maybe i could see them surviving but not having enough that they can weather further misfortune?

    i might need to come up with some explanation why they don't join up with the tribe casimir's dad (aka the alcoholic shaman) came from. maybe they finally make the grudging decision that it's necessary... only to find that tribe got wiped out completely by the raiders.

    bit more grimdark than i usually go, but it'd sure give leila a nice backstory impetus for when she becomes an adult and organizes a counterstrike that paints the raiders' beaches red.
    • Like x 5
  4. vuatson

    vuatson [delurks]

    can I just say, I absolutely can't wait to read this book
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  5. cosmofex

    cosmofex trans lesbian extraordinaire

    This sounds pretty much exactly like what they would go with. As for why they don't join up with casimir's dad's tribe, it could be quite as simple as they just straight up can't find them. Sami are nomadic, and if the reindeer decide to move all the way to the Kola Penninsula, the Sami will follow. Odds are, if the dad's tribe isn't in the area, the decimated tribe will be just shit outa luck. Now, another part of being nomadic is inter-tribal breeding is very common so tribal warfare or other help-precluding disagreements were super rare, so another tribe in the area could drop by but decide that resources are too tight to help with more than just knowledge. This would mean that the scenario that led to them searching for the dad's tribe could be resolved, while still leaving resources super tight until the tribe grew enough to split their attention safely.

    Honestly, I'd say that the first winter would be for-sure the hardest, but they wouldn't get much easier for 5 years or so, until confidence and population grew. A series of illnesses would probably be the thing to tip the balance in a bad summer rather than drought or blight. The illnesses don't even have to be lethal, they just have to lay people up for a week or two. That leaves the number of mouths eating the same, while cutting down the hands gathering to almost nil. The illness strikes right as the wild reindeer come in the fall, and suddenly there's no jerky or fall berries for the winter. It takes them into december to finish off the fish, and maybe if you want to make life really hard for them they kill off a bunch of trees by girdling the bark. It was a practice that the Sami avoided at all times out of respect for the tree, but maybe with the famine they just can't afford not to. The killing of the trees angers some or all of the gods, and suddenly a call-for-help that may have cost only a reindeer sacrifice or a bear hunt now requires a full-on human sacrifice.

    Either way, this story goes hard as hell and its gonna be the best thing since the god eaters and i cannot WAIT
    • Like x 1
  6. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    that sounds perfect, thank you!

    the thing writers never get right about human sacrifice is... it's the sacrifice who gets to ask the gods for things. not the guy with the knife. so you better make sure your messenger wants the same things you do. :D
  7. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    hmm, i really don't want to do the Dead Mom Trope, but i feel like if they had both shamans in full working order they'd have a much easier time of things. maybe casimir's mom can get cursed by the raiders' shaman during the raid, which is why she wasn't able to cover the fishers' retreat with her magic, and the curse continues to make it hard for her to be useful from then on.

    what's a good fairytale curse i can hit my guy's mum with that isn't 'game of thrones' levels of grimdark but will make her more burden than asset? getting turned into a swan in the daytimes? i think that one's irish tho.
  8. LadyNighteyes

    LadyNighteyes Wicked Witch of the Radiant Historia Fandom

    Well, that does vary a bit with the specific human sacrifice. I imagine the guy who spends a year partying it up as a living embodiment of Tezcatlipoca and then gets sacrificed at the end is probably the main guy going "so please don't send jaguars to eat everyone again kthx," but the captured enemy warriors having their hearts ripped out for the glory of Huitzilopochtli probably have a bit less input. Unless the Aztecs figured everybody would be able to get behind the sun not getting eaten by star demons.
  9. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    yeah, that occurred to me right after i posted, that there's different kinds of human sacrifice. it's just that fiction always latches onto the aztec heap 'o enemy hearts model, or the moloch kiddie snack type. those are kind of a height-of-empire sort of religious excess, i think, similar to declaring your rulers divine, and building huge temples, and all that.

    anyhow, this particular fictional group of people do human sacrifice like once in a generation MAYBE, more like once a century, only when shit gets super super dire. i mean, historically, we don't know enough about bog bodies and neolithic religion and all that to say for sure, but it's looking plausible that human sacrifices were either a symbolic murdering of the misfortune (such as with the 'thrice killed' ones) or a messenger sent to the gods. and as a writer i found that last one very intriguing. like, among people who genuinely believe in this cosmology, and in fact who are correct about it and these land spirits really do exist and all, you could absolutely have a human sacrifice who was a genuine volunteer. not tricked into it or brainwashed or even bribed with special favors for his family. just this brave kid who's like "you know what, i'm at least as curious as i am scared, and this is something i can do for everybody, so let me do it."

    and then... he comes back. which is real awkward.
    • Like x 5
  10. cosmofex

    cosmofex trans lesbian extraordinaire

    hoo boy would that be awkward. the famine lifts, and everyone starts celebrating, and little timmy crawls his ass out of the bog and just says "the pine trees are kinda pissed, so look out for dead-falls next year, but Ruohtta says he'll lay off" and starts coughing up bog water.

    stars, that'd be hilarious

    Also, for avoiding the Dead Mom Curse, Sami shamans use a drum and joiking to do their workings. A curse of muteness or a quasi-crushed voice box and put a fist through the drum head, and there's nothing she could do beyond what a non-shaman could. She can still share info through writing, but no magic ever again until she can make a new drum and get another shaman to cure her voice. If none of the local shamans are up to it, or the gods don't approve, that could mean never.
  11. Aondeug

    Aondeug Cringe Annoying Ass Female Lobster

    My favorite variety of human sacrifice is personally the 'The land is failing and the king is shit. We must ritualistically execute him and find a new one to fuck the land goddess so we don't all fucking starve to death,' variant. That's a fun one. The king is the Face of his people. He is the one in good with the land goddess. Or Is Fucking Supposed To Be Since Her Being Happy With The King Is Why We Get To Live Here At All.

    So it's his neck on the line when the crops fail spectacularly.
    • Like x 2
  12. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    ooh, curse of muteness is PERFECT. and it'd help explain why later he learns orc magic and starts using weird shit like tattoo-bound dreamworld summonings that no sensible or wholesome shaman would do. because if all you've got is sound, it's too easy to take away. well, and also he's kind of off his nut.

    as for coming back, it's worse than that, he actually DOES get help -- directions to a mass stranding of sperm whales, some of them not quite dead yet -- but he got it from the wrong god. he hooked up with the Witness, aka the Elk God, which is about a million years old and doesn't want anything, so you can't negotiate with it. but sometimes it gets interested in someone and follows them around, and... well, no matter how heroic the kid was in volunteering, you don't want him anywhere near you with that thing dogging his heels.

    @Aondeug i dig that one too but these folks don't farm.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
    • Like x 4
  13. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    ooh ooh ooh what if!!! ! the raiders' shaman stole her voice??? so it's not something her husband can cure, even though he's a pretty decent shaman and they can share power and stuff. they'd have to go get her voice back from the guy who stole it. which gives leila a brilliant excuse impetus for taking the fight to the raiders later. it's not revenge, she's just trying to get her mom's voice back!

    even though that mostly happens offstage, i still want it to feel like casimir's not the only protagonist in the world, just the only one we happen to be following, you know? and his sister's a lot more heroic than he is. he's brave, power-hungry, and a military genius, but he's not actually very epic, personality-wise. leila, though: definitely the hero of one of those books where the cover's got the heroine doing some magic glowy thing with a staff on a windy cliff, with lots of detail in the hair and clothes. very much an historically-accurate embroidery details on the cover kind of hero.
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  14. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    found a nice map showing how reindeer migrate down to the sea in summer and up into mountain/forests in winter.


    i'd worried i was doing it wrong, because you'd think high altitudes in an arctic winter would be a terrible place to live, but it turns out forests are better shelter than coasts, i guess.
    • Informative x 2
  15. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    ok at this point i'm being a pest, i know, but -- do you know what search terms i'd use to find accounts of older children and teens surviving in the wilderness? everything i can think of is giving me either feral children raised by animals, or homeless or abused teens who spent a few weeks or months in a tent near a modern town.

    i need to figure out how casimir survived being exiled at age 13 or 14. even though his tribe sent him off with everything they could spare, maybe even gave him a reindeer of his own to take along, he's still just an adolescent in the middle of a growth spurt, and maybe not making the best decisions. i don't want to just handwave and go "oh but Nature People Forest Skillz and also Magic" but i also, as usual, don't want to go full grimdark.
  16. cosmofex

    cosmofex trans lesbian extraordinaire

    Nah, you're not being a pest, this is super cool plot genesis we're watching here!

    My first suggestions are a couple of fiction books. They're both very plausible stories, and honestly they read a hell of a lot better than most non-fictional accounts I've found.
    1. Hatchet is about a 13 year old boy stranded deep in the wilderness with nothing but the titular hatchet following a plane crash in northern Canada. While the crash happened in early summer and he was rescued towards the end of summer, there are several sequels, including one which is an alternate ending in which he is not rescued and must survive winter in the wild.
    2. My Side Of The Mountain is about a boy who decides that he wants to live alone in his great grandparent's abandoned farm, which has been reduced to a foundation being reclaimed by the forest. He still was connected to society and visited/was visited by members of the nearby town, but his lifestyle was entirely self-sufficient once he got set up.
    Following that (since i can't find a properly sourced account), I'd read the accounts of those feral children. Children only really get considered feral when there's a loss/absence of language involved. Other than that, their accounts still describe how those children stayed alive, and from the wikipedia article, not all of them were adopted so much as they weren't driven away. The kids still had to figure out how to stay warm, how to get food and water, how to stay sheltered from the weather. They got into their situations at different ages, some as old as 8, and stayed out there for different lengths of time. It stands to reason that people don't just suddenly stop ending up stranded in the wilderness for years at a certain age, they just stop being considered feral.

    Specific to your character, a 13 year old Sami kid is old enough to have been hunting before, old enough to have learned to fish, make traps, and forage. He's not without any resources or tools since the tribe sent him off with spare goods. He'd have absolutely helped his family smoke, salt, or dry meat, so he knows how to make sure there's food for winter, and he knows how to assemble a warm shelter that'll survive the winter. Basically, he's got all the knowledge to survive, he's just not got enough manpower to thrive. Furthermore, if you want to be really safe and head off teenage stupidity, maybe one or two tribe members aren't so happy with his exile so they give him as much pointers as they can, or leave care packages for him when they're in the area.

    In this situation, "Nature People Forest Skillz" really honestly is the difference between dying before summer ends and living for ten years with nothing but a knife and the clothes on your back. If someone wasn't raised in a nomadic subsistence-level tribe, getting suddenly exiled means either starvation or moving to an area where they aren't exiled. If someone is from such a tribe, it means they miss mom and dad real bad, and they miss getting days off. Sure, both kids are teenagers, but Teenager 1 dies because he didn't know you could eat that, and Teenager 2 is fine because she knew you could. Knowledge is everything when you have nothing.

    You can use this as an opportunity, too! It's a chance to explore Sami food and culture, by having young Casimir reminisce about how his mom used to make such and such dish with him, but he could never get it right during his exile since it was really a two-person job to get the timing right, or how he used to miss this activity or that craft so badly. Show the reader just how close the Sami lived to starvation, and subtly direct them to the conclusion that this could have been so very grimdark indeed if he hadn't learned well.

    The last bit I've got for you is a suggestion for search terms- while I didn't find properly cited accounts, i did have a lot of luck finding news articles by googling "teenager stranded in wilderness" and a length of time. The down side is that they are universally about someone trying to work their way back to civilization. I get the feeling that the ones that stay in the wilderness voluntarily just get labeled "feral" or "hermit" depending on their age.
    • Like x 4
  17. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    well, he does travel out of the area, because he shortly concludes that being near his family but unable to see them (because magical contagion, because he's the oldest death god's pet human now, he would bring misfortune to anyone he even made eye contact with, let alone talked to or hugged) is way too painful, and heads off to seek his fortune. and i'm honestly not sure how much of his survival skills would still apply in a different biome.

    the first bit i have actually outlined after he's sent away in the fall is him showing up on the steppe at an orc cattle ranch, half dead and covered in crunched-up ghosts. so like... obviously something went wrong.

    i just have way too many options. he's smart and capable, but was weakened by the same illness/famine as the rest of the tribe when he did the sacrifice, and also he's impulsive and occasionally a little too curious about things that could kill him. it's possible the elk god had to haul his bacon out of the fire a few times, except that it doesn't really do that? but he's doing some kind of ghost-bothering, anyhow. i don't even know, i have choice paralysis.

    edit: whoops, i got so caught up in idea-ing that i forgot to say thanks. thank you! you are helping SO MUCH.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
    • Like x 4
  18. cosmofex

    cosmofex trans lesbian extraordinaire

    Absolutely! I'm glad to be a help!

    For out-of-biome survival, it all depends on how mean you feel like being. A lot of the plants are the same or closely related, the problem will be the lack of trees for making things. If you really feel like being just a jerk, you can also look up plants native to both areas and try to find some that look similar but the steppe one is poisonous.

    On another note, how bizarre is it that we both have stories involving orcs on the steppe? mine are ex-mushroom farmers forced into raiding by the advancing Golden Horde that really just wanted to be left alone in their burrows. As soon as they went outside they said "this sucks, i want a roof" and proceeded to take over a town to get some shade. In short, absolutely no one was happy with their situation.
    • Like x 1
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  19. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    oh, nice. good luck mushroom hunting, kiddo. :D

    my orcs come in two varieties, fen and highland. fen orcs have skin like frogs, and highland orcs have skin like toads, pretty much. this means the smooth green type orcs have to deal with either human bullshit or dry air, since humans have claimed all the marsh and river valley land mostly. mostly they choose to deal with human bullshit, though, because steppe winters are hells of painful for somebody who needs to keep their skin moist. the few who thrive in the highlands are the ones who herd sheep, because lanolin is the good stuff.

    the result being, our hero is rescued from starvation/snackyghosts by green cowboys who are absolutely religious about moisturizing.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
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  20. Ah well

    Ah well wannabe ghost

    Hello @cosmofex a long time ago I remember a comic about stories, where these green beings write them and send them into the sky and one of them makes ugly sinking things and they ask him why, and it illustrates like why unhappy stories are good sometimes

    I’ve been trying to find it for a long time and I just can’t get the keywords right can you help?
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