For later reference here are some confusing terms or species interpretations that will be used later.

Brownskins: this does not denote a specific race in any way but is a subgroup of intelligent species with human or human-like skin-tones and with hair that doesn't fully envelop the body (those are furskins).

Fairies: in my world tinkerbell would not be classified as a fairy, nor would she be classified even as a pixie, that would just be dumb. Fairies are (on average) seven feet tall and they can't fly naturally, they don't have any special magical powers (but people believe they do) and they live ~350 years on average. They are also brownskins.

Hobgoblins: They seem like a subspecies of goblin from their name but they aren't, goblins would be classified as greenskins while hobgoblins are brownskins. Hobgoblins are about as tall as yoda but with brown skin and hair, they are not inherently evil but are like any other species.

Half-breeds: They are simply a person made via the copulation between members of two different species, half-breeds are infertile.

Half-breeds originally only came about by an inter-species romance which (when they happened) were looked down upon, a lot. Originally if two members of a different species conceived a child together they would both be tortured and killed because of their truly offensive action, this is the same if they have an affair and are discovered. Now eventually a certain clever man realized that, since this was a "civilized" society, he could try and get as many half-elves as he could and use them as slaves (inter-species romance was most common between these two races).

He was able to go around and convince some people to let any man-elf couple to have one child and they can gift that child to him as a slave, afterwards they would not be allowed to see each-other and so-on. Now he wasn't too successful, instead of him getting a whole lot of slaves (like he wanted) the villages decided to force the half-breeding couple to sell their half-breed children as slaves and so-on.

Now various practices for producing half-elves were made and some of them got codified into law as "legal" practices, these specifically dealt with half-elves and their production, not any other half-breeds. The specific practices don't matter but suffice to say that there are many different practices for the production of half-elves and these allowed them to become the second largest group of half-breeds.

So eventually fairy women realized the advantages of half-breeding as well, you see fairies are the longest lived brownskins - living for more than 350 years with a period of fertility lasting for most of their life, this is far greater than any other species. The practice that fairies started was they would marry a person of a different species (generally as one of their wives with them having at least one of their own species) and produce half-breed children for him. Once he died, she would then have a small fortune and she would move to a different region and start a new life, finding a husband of her own that was a fairy. This eventually became a legal practice and it happens most with giants, men and elves - dwarves and hobgoblins are rare half-breeding partners for fairies.

Now the other types of half-breeds are totally undeveloped and I don't have good reasons for why any other types of half-breeds would come about (at-least as a very large group) but assume that there are other types.

So the question I am asking is this: how might this practice affect their economy?

So note, they use the half-breeds for any use that slaves have been used for throughout history (including hard labor) and they are the only source of slave labor for most of history (except debt-servants). The main question is how the fact that these slaves cannot reproduce will affect how they are treated and their value. I don't know how long they live or even their physical appearances so just assume that they live human-length life-spans. If you would like to provide any general ideas on topics related to attribute variations (mainly in the form of lifespan) those would be very welcome.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Different from "our" historical slave-based economy? Who are "we"? The only truly slave-based economy that I know of is (parts of) the late Roman republic or early Empire, and it that economy slaves could occupy a vast variety of positions from lowly farm workers hardly distinguishable from animals, to domestic help, to skilled workers (who usually made lots of money), to what would be called today junior ministers / secretaries in the government. Most usually, a society had some slaves but they were peripheral to the economy, which was mostly based on free or semi-free work. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 13, 2018 at 21:17
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ "Slave based economy of the past (everywhere has had some sort at some point):" oh no they didn't. In fact, most places didn't. Britain didn't. Gaul/France didn't. Egypt didn't. Mesopotamia didn't. India didn't. Japan didn't. China didn't. Central and northern Europe didn't. The Near and Middle East didn't. The only honest-to-goodness slave based economy was in parts of the Roman late republic/early empire, and there the social and economic position of a "slave" covered a vast array of specific situations, many of which were not bad at all. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 13, 2018 at 22:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ... And the Romans had a slave-based economy for a few centuries only because they engaged in a series of successful wars of conquest and for those few centuries had a large influx of newly acquired slaves. Given that the same Romans had an inclination to set the children of slaves free (and make them citizens), this petered out just about as soon as the empire stabilized. By the 4th century even Italy and north Africa no longer had slave based economies. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 13, 2018 at 22:06
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm not really sure I'm getting the point here. You say inter species romances are generally forbidden or frowned upon, so there probably aren't going to be too many of them. Add that to the fact your slave population can't breed itself and I doubt you would have many slaves at all, particularly considering your assumption is that parents would sell their own children into slavery, which I think in most cases is highly unlikely. $\endgroup$ Apr 16, 2018 at 6:19
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Britain and France used slaves a lot. All colonial powers did, It's irrelevant that slaves were not used on homeland, because colonies were main source of wealth (BTW IIRC French colonies had the highest slave mortality rates). Middle East was famous for both slavery and especially famous for using slaves for war (ever heard of Janissaries?). Egypt also used slaves, including slave soldiers (ever heard of Mameluks?). Historically Islam is infamous for using slave soldiers and slave civil servants. In feudal societies peasants are indistinguishable from slaves. $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Apr 16, 2018 at 7:16

3 Answers 3


This is in fact a multilayered question. I believe a thorough answer will require more info on the nature of the races you have, their familial structure, their beliefs – religious and other and their relationships with their children in general, but I will do my best to speculate.

See, I believe the very concept of half-breed slavery is less clear cut than you may think. Let's look at the very core of it, which is the belief a mother would automatically give up and be indifferent to a child of hers who is a halfbreed. Barring the case where a race is fundamentally different than what we know of humanity, the natural instinct for a mother is to bond and love her child. You carry life in your body for nine or however many months it takes for gestation to complete, you go through the pain of labor, and then you are expected to treat the infant as nothing more than a tool or a machine, while still taking care of it until it is self-sufficient, because of course, an infant is not a good slave at birth. Someone needs to train it, feed it, raise it to the point it can work.

Now, I do not say that humanity does not offer cases where parents have sold their children into slavery. It did happen throughout history. Yet, in most cases such parents loved their children and did so due to dire circumstances. Parents with too many mouths to feed, in times of hardship would sell one child to protect the rest. They would say that better to be a slave than to starve to death. So, I have a problem envisioning the detachment needed to make the trade viable. Even if society tells you your baby is an object or a tool and nothing more, it's still living, breathing, smiling at you, making sweet faces and sounds and it's still part of you. I struggle to see how such a trade would be supported by the parents. The only way I can see this working is if by 'slavery' you mean something other than the hard labor and cattle trade mentality that is the common meaning of the word. I can see it working as a more corporate or social thing. Say, for example, that such people are taken from their parents at a certain age by some kind of slave trade organization or guild with a civil name, which trains them as a high-quality product, a well-trained individual to serve the rich and powerful. They may be considered a smart pet or a useful tool. A secretary, an ever-loyal valet or butler or even a body-slave (since while not eunuchs, they still cannot bear or impregnate which is enough in some societies) , a talented tradesman's assistant and so on. Since they are of mixed races, they may be visually unique or have some unique traits which make them more valuable, almost like a work of art. This is a form of slavery which, while still offers the same restraints, also offers enough mental and physical stability to allow society to convince a mother this is the one and only thing her half-breed baby is good for. It also goes well with the fact that such babies, however often they are conceived, cannot reproduce and so the stock cannot grow naturally fast enough for them to be common and affordable to the common man.

since such slaves would be well trained, they would become a sought after commodity, maybe even something of a status symbol, and well trained or well looking ones would be more sought after than the rest, I can see them becoming a trophy to be shown, an item of competition among the rich and powerful. Of course, all that does not mean such slaves would not be abused. Even if there will be set rules regulating the use and treatment of such slaves, there is darkness in every society and there are numerous ways such slaves can be exploited, and I'll leave it at that. In general, treating a humanoid as nothing more than cattle or an object is not good for one's state of mind and would probably expose some ugly sides of people, as well as some unexpectedly good sides in others.

One outcome of such a kind of slavery that I can see is, the blooming of another dark industry, in which the rich and powerful would make use of the lowly and poor to purposefully create 'high quality' halfbreeds, which would have specific unique traits or would be especially pleasing to the eye. They would either buy the poor's cooperation or coerce them one some ways. I can even see a new kind of crime blooming, a sort of piracy if you will, or trafficking of a unique kind, where bands of cutthroats of criminal organizations would kidnap the lowly and hold them to create such halfbreeds by force. Which, of course, would create the need for new law enforcing forces and would have further cultural results.

Something more you need to consider is, since halfbreeds are despised as you said, their conception must be despised as well. Who would want to willingly create something that is considered low and less than 'human'? it would probably create separatism and purism at least in some races. Maybe not the fairies, since as you said, they are built in such a way that would see it as a business opportunity. Yet the other races may create social laws against couples of mixed races and sexual relationships between species. Some would probably shun an individual of their race involved in such a relationship, even refusing to court or be courted by them in the future. Some would even be driven to kill them, or banish them. Some cultures would probably think lowly of a woman bearing such a child. Another aspect of that is rape. Every society has a dark side and one of its terrible vices is rape. What would the offspring of interracial rape be thought of? More importantly, what would the mother be thought of? Would she be blamed, shunned, like some victims are blamed in human society? Would such a dark deed perhaps be given new motives, or new meanings?

Considering the last two points, there may come a time, if a conflict arises between two races, one of which is a purist race, in which women are shunned for such relationships etc, and the other race is not very civil or has another moral code, where as part of a war of physical conflict between the races, the les civil one would perform an act of deliberate rape of women of the purist race as a form of retribution or aggression. Some form of this has happened several times in the dark past of the human race so it's possible.

on another note, how do you identify a halfbreed? I mean, some mixes must have distinct features that get in the mix, but there may be some mixes that are hard to recognize. So are halfbreed slaves marked in some way, so that they are not able to pretend they are not halfbreeds?

Now, as for feudalism, I do think that the type of slavery I offered does not interfere with feudalism, except for the fact a serf or a bondsman can perhaps gain wealth through that, enough to buy the land he/she belongs to or free oneself from the bond. That is, except there are rules that state any halfbreed child of such a person belongs to the feudal lord at birth. (When I think about it, if feudalism exists and such rules are implemented, normal slavery for halfbreeds may work as well, since the mothers would be forced to give the children up. Non-bonded mothers would still pose a problem, of course, and the trade would suffer as well, because there is less selling and buying. )


In today's world, we use a mule-like form of slave labour that we consider valuable and yet at the same time, completely expendable. We've done this for around 150 years. We call these slaves Machines, and they've been getting far more sophisticated since the Industrial Revolution.

While you say that half breed slaves would have the status of animals in the society you envision, that won't be the case in terms of how we treat animals today because domestic animals today (and for that matter the slaves of the societies of the past that used slaves) can be bred.

Don't underestimate this very important distinction; being able to breed animals means that they are self sustaining and that they can be selectively bred to encourage specific traits; just look at the difference between egg v. meat chickens to see how we're using artificial selection to enhance and magnify desirable traits in domestic animals. In Australia, there are some species of sheep that now grow wool continuously; if they are not regularly sheared they will die of heat stress and exhaustion brought on by hauling an increasingly heavy layer of wool around with them.

While a distasteful subject, there is some evidence that in pre-civil war USA, the southern states engaged in similar behaviours with their own pools of slaves, encouraging marriages between slaves they thought would bring superior qualities to their offspring.

The point of all this is that animals are treated in society as an asset whose superior qualities can be replicated and merged with others over time, making a better product. Your slaves don't have this benefit and as such they would have the same status as machines in your world.

It should not be inferred from this that they would not have their material (and emotional) needs met; farmers regularly maintain and service their tractors and the like because they're expensive and they want to maximise the utility of their investment. Your mule slaves will also come with a cost, and losing them to malnutrition, poor health, or even suicide would not lead to good value in terms of their practical use. Therefore, they'd be fed well, housed well, and potentially even be given some form of recreational time and activities to ensure their morale (and therefore their utility) stays high.

At the end of the day though, slaves in numbers would have to be 'manufactured', not bred.

Sure there is a chance that some half breeds will be born through exceptional circumstances like illicit cross-species romance and the like. BUT, the primary business model for slave production would have to be surrogacy, probably with your fairies as the mothers.

Imagine (if you will) a slaving house offering a contract to young fairy maidens. X credits for 10 slaves. As you've already pointed out, they have a long life and assuming that they remain fertile for a much longer window (and have a larger reproductive output normally) it's a career that may not impact their ability to gain a fairy partner later in their life. So; they (via surrogacy) bring 10 children to term, and then they are released from their contracts.

Fairy (or other species) women who take such contracts are likely to be looked down upon in this mixed society in the same manner as prostitutes are in Western society today. Certainly it would be seen as a questionable form of employment, but the problem becomes stable production rates, which the market for slaves will demand. As such, the more society looks down on the career choice, the more lucrative it will become purely on a supply and demand basis.

Of course, the obvious market disruption would be their own Industrial Revolution. As machines, people are unreliable and fragile. Machines made of metal and powered by fuel sources that don't compete with food production for the primary species will always be preferred by labour consumers, especially if those machines can do the work of many slaves.

In the first half of the 20th century, cane fields were cut down by a small army of workers using machetes. In the first half of the 21st century, it's done by a single man driving a cane harvester. As has been discussed in comments, there's a reason for this; it's more efficient. Slavery is inefficient even when the slaves can be bred for replenishment of numbers. When they can't, they'd be hideously expensive but every bit as frail as those from our history. Machines as a rule require less maintenance, are more reliable, do the job more consistently, and use different energy sources to free people and are therefore seen not to compete for survival resources.

In short, your slaves would have more in common with machines than animals and as such would never compete with technological progress. While it may exist for a time, your slave market would eventually be decimated by technology, paid (and skilled) labour and a marked distaste for the manufacturing process. If none of that puts your slave market out of business, eventually leaders would rise from the ranks of slaves demanding freedom and equality and if your species live in democratic societies, those demands will eventually be met. Your slavery model simply isn't viable over time in a progressive society that engages in scientific and technical endeavour.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm working in the time period that it is viable right now, later I will be working on their equivalent of the industrial revolution (which is more like an AI revolution) and how that affects things. $\endgroup$
    – skout
    Apr 16, 2018 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ "they would have the same status as machines in your world" I'd just like to point out that mules don't (for the most part) reproduce & yet have always been afforded the status of "animal" rather than "machine", so you're answer would seem to fall at the first gate when compared to its most obvious & direct real world counterpart. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 20, 2018 at 18:14

It is a common misconception that Feudalism was about slavery - it was not. It was about Fealty, and loyalty to your Lord in exchange for protection and economic access. As such it was actually a commercial exchange, and you were usually free to travel elsewhere, although it made little sense to do so most of the time.

This system reliably lasted hundreds of years, before the Napoleanoic era where armies swept through lands absorbing them into most nation states or empires we know of prior to WW1 (when most empires collapsed to form the democratic states we know today).

Slavery, in contrast, implies a denial of rights that is entitled to another. For example:

  • you can't travel beyond where you are permitted (escape)
  • you can't do what you want (must follow orders)
  • you can be exchanged like another (you are worth a monetary value and can be bought and sold)

This of course does not mean you couldn't earn money, or hold status. Many slaves in the past did, it was just they were in a permanent 'lower class' with no option to escape this class.

Being trapped is a common feature of slavery. It is not a feature endemic to the past, it can be applied to even our current time.

There are actually discussions today about Sexual Slavery, where women travel from poor countries and are trapped in a system where they have no ability to escape. Same for Child Slavery, where children work without any rights.

For your scenario, if the half-breeds cannot reproduce, they are already 'trapped' and have no ability to regain numbers - it is a zero sum game for them. The implications are though:

  • They would be quite rare and irreplaceable in certain (most) cases. This means they would be highly valued, and could demand more rights. Eventually, over time, there may be a 'revolution' as they become more powerful and reset the balance of power in their favour.

  • Being of mixed breeding, they would have unique attributes - again highly valueable but also culturally. Many slaves in our history were shifted around the world, this brought culture, and fascination, from parts of the world ordinary citizens would not normally think of. This would make the world a 'melting pot' over time and increase globalisation and global awareness.

  • Being of different racial backgrounds, you may find in the future of your slave system that the slaves actually form heirarchies amongst themselves. A little mini-society microcosm. Although probably innocuous at first, it may grow in strength and size as its society grows, and prosper in it's own economy or politic. The reintegration of this economy or politic into the main 'real' one may be another instance of revolution.

  • Fuedalism could actually work in the above system, as it is a commercial exchange, but it would be mutually exclusive of slavery. Ie. they would be treated as equals to your purebreds. Although they may be ostrocised, and subject to discrimination, they may also be highly valued by the Lord for whatever unique skill or attribute they possess.

All in all, slavery is actually an inefficient social construct. Although economies may seem to benefit from a broad lower class, in time this benefit is actually erased by the broad economic, cultural and technological acceleration found in more free societies we live in today.

  • $\begingroup$ great! but the other answer is just as good! $\endgroup$
    – skout
    Apr 17, 2018 at 2:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .