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Is there any way to set a kingdom in a forest so that it still is a forest instead of a clearing surrounded by forest?

The kingdom must live on the ground, and somehow, if transplanted to Renaissance Europe, would have the social status accorded to kingdoms of that time, instead of being regarded as an "Uppity City" or something.

The forest can be as large as needed, but is dense enough to be commonly referred to as a forest instead of . . . a woodland?

Precursor Civilizations inhabited this world, and died out because extra-dimensional invaders. Not incomprehensible, but malevolent to currently living lifeforms.

Definition of Forest in Wikipedia

It is on good terms with its neighboring countries, and trades with them.

Technology of neighboring countries

Printing Press

Gramophone

Mass Manufacture of clothes and metal goods.

Exports

Bows

Paper

Anything that you can think of that doesn't violate the next list.

Technologies unknown in other countries (Possible Secret Tech)

Guns

Computers

Human-sized Variable Armament Combat Golem

Anything else to be added here you can think of, as long as it can stay secret.

Other Countries in the World

Trades with a Renaissance France Kingdom

(Somewhere) Renaissance-era Japan

(North) (Somewhere cold, but inhabited)

(South) (Unknown)

Other Geographical Information

Could have Volcanoes or Deserts, or anything else bordering the forest, as long as it is geographically possible.

Kingdom could slowly be losing land, but at current time, is still a kingdom.

Question

Can you make a kingdom in a forest? That's it. The other stuff is stuff that is available if you NEED it for a Forest Kingdom. Sorta like Code Golf. Simplest method for a Ground-level Forest Kingdom, wins.

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    $\begingroup$ "Two trees less than a meter away" is a very, very dense forest. $\endgroup$ – Mark Apr 16 '15 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark - Possibly not? You set your forest as a pyramid thing... but okay... I'll change it... maybe... Yeah... How about now? 2 Trees every 2 meters... Hmm... Nope... 1 and a half... $\endgroup$ – Malady Apr 16 '15 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ Thats still pretty close together and one dense forest...doubtful much for light makes it through to the ground. I think you're now in the territory of creating the city up in the trees instead of on the forest floor. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Apr 16 '15 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ I think the Ewoks accomplished this. $\endgroup$ – BrettFromLA Apr 16 '15 at 23:56
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    $\begingroup$ the level of technology is somewhere between ancient history (bow) and modern age (computer ) ? could you clarify it, if it's important for the question ? $\endgroup$ – Vincent Apr 17 '15 at 1:13
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I can see this question has already been answered but I'm going to have to strongly disagree with the answer congusbongus gave. I'm not trying to kick up a fuss so let me say why I think its very possible for a forest kingdom of some sort to exist.

When you say forest kingdom I assume you mean a fairly sophisticated state based on a high population density and a separate class of aristocracy that did not need to farm due to the amount of produce grown by others that could support such a class, who were then able to provide a ruling structure to weld the state together as well as control external defense, all of this existing in a forest.

There is increasing evidence that something pretty much exactly like I just described actually did exist in reality, specifically in the Amazonian basin prior to contact with the Europeans. The main evidence for this is the fact that huge areas of the Amazon have so called 'Terra Preta' (black soil), earth with high charcoal content. Terra Preta usually also has signs of broken pottery, as well as other human remains such as middens, really it implies heavy human habitation over a long period, supporting a much higher population level than today. This has been recognized by scholars all over the world:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/11/081119-lost-cities-amazon.html

In fact, from all directions the idea that the Amazonian basin was a relatively low density wilderness before Europeans arrived is under attack, there have been clear indications that big towns and vast amounts of villages once existed in the amazon:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/08/080828-amazon-cities.html

There have even been huge geoglyphs etched into the land discovered from the air, as well as with radar and laser analysis:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/world/americas/land-carvings-attest-to-amazons-lost-world.html http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31467619

Even roads have been discovered: http://news.sciencemag.org/2003/09/pristine-forest-teemed-people

a bit more info: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/lost-amazon-cities/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101018074612.htm

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/03/1491/302445/

Now this is all extremely controversial but the evidence is building up endlessly that a complex civilization with a much higher population than we thought possible was spread throughout the Amazon, one that supported major public works and complex trade between them. There's more as well, Francisco de Orellano was the first European to travel through the rain-forest and write about it. For centuries his account has mostly been dismissed as fantasy but in light of these recent discoveries there has been a re-evaluation. Even if we don't take everything he says as absolute truth there are still important clues as to the makeup of the Amazonian civilization, for one there were way more people than would be attested for later, they were experienced in war and had a complex aristocracy. Even today the nomadic descendants of the Amazonian civilizations are known to often have a bafflingly complex social structure and landless aristocracy compared to almost all other Nomadic peoples. This is probably a clue of the past society's social complexity.

If you want to know more about the Amazon's past let me recommend a couple of books and documentaries:

BBC4 "Unnatural History":https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUXLim2HIvU

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus: http://www.amazon.com/1491-Revelations-Americas-Before-Columbus/dp/1400032059

The Amazon was still a forest, but the basis of the agriculture was on trees (in any event it was tough to clear large areas of the forest without iron tools, none of which existed in the Amazon before the Europeans), Charles C. Mann's article in the Atlantic has more info here:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/03/1491/302445/

The BBC4 documentary also goes into the nature of the agriculture as well.

(BTW, in case your wondering what happened to all of the one time inhabitants they seem to have been extremely hard hit by the epidemic of old world diseases after the Europeans arrived, which may have killed up 90% of the people living there and caused their society to crumble)

Anyway, sorry for being so long winded but this is a hugely controversial topic so I wanted to be thorough. To sum it up, YES, it really is possible to create a complex society within a dense forest, and with the use of trees to cover for field crops. In our reality, kingdoms and complex societies DID exist in the Amazonian basin.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, congusbongus was more No, and Yes... But, this one's more direct with the Yes, so I'm changing my accepted answer... $\endgroup$ – Malady Apr 26 '15 at 12:22
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If we take human history as reality, then the answer is no. In this sole example, kingdom implies large political entity whose control is enforced by a large army which requires a food surplus which implies agriculture, the last of which cannot take place in a forest. Of course this calculus depends on the reality of Earth and human nature, but once those are given, the links are quite strong:

  • Kingdoms require threat of force to exist, because otherwise why would I willingly subject myself to some dude unrelated to me? The army could threaten to kill me, or protect me from being killed by a foreign army, or usually both.
  • Armies require food because when they're being an army, they're not very good at acquiring their own food. As they say, an army marches on its stomach.
  • Food surpluses require agriculture, which is domesticated life forms selectively bred / domesticated to produce more food. There are actually thousands of food crops that have the potential to create enough surplus to feed armies and build a civilisation out of, but in our case they were all terrestrial plants. (There were nomadic herders who did well for a while but could never match the population density of agriculturalists, and the latter "won" in the end). Forests are especially poor in this regard as you have all those pesky trees sucking up all the valuable nutrients.

Although in our reality, the link between agriculture and kingdoms is quite strong, you could easily shake things up by breaking that link at some step, in favour of forests. Here are some you could try:

  • Kingdoms without coersion: humans have an individualist/anti-authority streak so they are not willing to submit to someone they deem as an equal. If you change human nature, for example make them more like ants, or somehow create a god-like king, you might make a kingdom without threat of force possible. You could do the same if the humans are under threat from an outside force that humans really dislike, like a different species, although this only ensures unity and not necessarily a king. Alternately, you could add some phenomenon or MacGuffin that only a king /kingdom has. In Ancient Egypt, the pharaohs (and their priestly class) were useful for one thing: predicting the floods, which requires tricky timekeeping and was crucial for agriculture on the Nile. In Ancient China, the legendary Yu the Great got his reputation from controlling the floods, and henceforth all Chinese emperors based their legitimacy on their perceived ability to control natural disasters. Perhaps your forest has a magic well and the kingdom is based on rent-seeking, or like the pharaohs there's some hard-to-predict phenomenon that requires intense study by an elite.
  • An army that doesn't require food: this one's trickier to game, as you need to come up with something else that an army requires, that can only be provided by a large political entity such as kingdoms. Plus, you'll need some reason why the army itself is food-sufficient. One thing you could try is make your forest denizens natural soldiers, like the steppe nomads, who learned horseback archery from childhood and are peerless soldiers without extra training. Perhaps instead of horses, you have some forest-animal that is both useful in normal forest hunting/gathering and in warfare. Use your imagination here!
  • Forest agriculture: you could try making your forest fantastically nourishing for some reason, either with some fictional crop that grows in forests, or having a constant external infusion of nutrients. The Amazon for example gets half of its external nutrients from dust blown over from the Sahara.
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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I'm fine with very strange forests, as long as they are within the limits of physics and biology and so on... $\endgroup$ – Malady Apr 17 '15 at 2:33
  • $\begingroup$ As for those forest animals, we do have for example the question Pack animals for forests. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 17 '15 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ How about the possibility that civilisations with some order/central control can organise better than the redundancy that comes with anarchy, and so outperform more individualistic groups? Diving up job rolls for example, creating hyrachy and systems of control, and people at the top, akin to kings. $\endgroup$ – alan2here Apr 18 '15 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ Why can a forest that dense not effectively be a farm? $\endgroup$ – alan2here Apr 18 '15 at 21:13
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This hangs upon agreeing upon one definition:

Can we name a densely-grown orchard a forest?

As long as sufficient percent of the trees bear fruit, the whole agriculture can be based upon tree-grown fruit. Especially in tropical regions, properly maintained jungle could provide all the food you need.

Wooden housing using trees for structural support would be quite viable. A road network wouldn't need to make a significant dent in the forest, especially if you create separate lanes distanced by sections of the forest.

There wouldn't be much of animal farming, but with the right culture limited hunting wouldn't deplete the natural resources, and some farm animals could live off fruit. Fishing and growing macrobiotic fauna would be viable dietary choices to provide animal-based proteins as well, along with fruit and mushrooms of the groundcover flora (which can be farmed to a degree too).

The rest goes from there; some obstacles and less-than-optimal solutions but nothing that would prevent it from existing.

The worst risk is forest fires. A couple weeks of drought would enable the enemy army to cause a true mayhem. Your world would require either of:

  • a specific climate that makes it impossible
  • some very advanced fire-fighting techniques (magic?)
  • a very good leverage so that nobody would want to do this on purpose, plus a reasonable set of the two above so that accidental forest fires wouldn't run out of control.
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  • $\begingroup$ If you can have the reputation of the Forest Kingdom be "Forest Kingdom", instead of "Orchard Kingdom" ... Then yes... but I would think that travelers would know the difference between those, and then call the kingdom the "Orchard Kingdom"... $\endgroup$ – Malady Apr 17 '15 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ Trees in an orchard are usually small and short, so you can get at the fruit easily. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Apr 17 '15 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Oldcat: You are thinking of modern-day orchards with selectively bred or genetically engineered trees. I assure you orchards 200 years ago looked very differently. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 17 '15 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't change the fact that fruit 100 foot up in the air is wasted from the point of view of the farmer. Orchards on Civil War battlefields, 150 years ago, were relatively small trees $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Apr 17 '15 at 18:13
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If you think of the Orchard Kingdom as trees laid out in rows, you are thinking European/Asian. It's only in the 21st C that anthropologists & archaeologists began to recognize that large swaths of the Amazon Jungle are New World orchards, & then spotted this same practice in North America. Not being mad for geometric grids, American natives planted trees in clumps, often mixed clumps, looked after them, then harvested fruits & nuts as they ripened. It was a much less labor intensive way of orchardry. (Can't recall the name of the book, primarily on a lost explorer of the Amazon, early 20th C, looking for a lost city/civilization, who could not see the orchards that were part of its remains.) An orchard is purposely planted, not necessarily spaced out.

The trees themselves can provide a bountiful crop with plenty of energy. The Arcadians of Greece were slow to take up agriculture because their oak forests produced sweet acorns as their dietary staple, & they could graze sheep and pigs between them. Give them some long-vine or aerophyte beans & fungi from cloud ears to truffles & I think you're good to go.

Houses can be grown out of trees like banyans, trimming the aerial roots to produce walls & hollows rather than letting the hollows fill up with trunk. These provide forest giants whose massive buttressed branches can be used for above-ground lookouts and highways.

Also notice that people not used to heavy forest can get lost very quickly. This is easily part of their defences.

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How about something much like the traditional fantasy elf kingdom?

  • Find a way to make the forest incredibly resistent to logging. Very hard wood, or trees which explode into lethal splinters if you take an axe to them, or incredible powers of regrowth.
  • Find a way why this kudzu forest doesn't overrun the rest of your world. Perhaps it depends on soil conditions which are only found within the present boundaries of the forest.
  • Give your kingdom an armed force which is optimized for forest warfare, and much less efficient outside. The trees will break any rigid formation, so perhaps skirmishers with bows/rifles who could not face an unshaken pike square or a cavalry charge in the open.
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Most problematic would be food. As congusbongus wrote in Forest agriculture you can do several things. First is a plant that grows on trees (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mistletoe) or is a tree that is nourishing. Second is an animal that feeds on a trees and can be base of food in kingdom. Lastly you could do a plant that require for some reason forest. Could be magical could be symbiotic relation that is very nourishing.

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As many have said, the major problem with this is getting enough food to support your people: unless your forest is an incredibly rich forest full of a large variety of food-bearing trees, you need agriculture or lots of imports. Importing would be possible, because you can trade your timber for food.

Apart from that, it would indeed be possible. Houses can be built using the trees as support; the canopy, while blocking quite a lot of light, would also block much of the rain, so houses could be slightly less sturdy, costing less material and being built faster.

Defending your kingdom would also be easy: since your people are used to the forest, they can design strategy around it. Archers can climb trees and shoot at attackers; soldiers can camp up and hide in the bushes, then ambush anyone attacking from behind.

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Yes, a Forest Kingdom could exist. The main problem, as pointed out in most comments above, is food. Foraging is not a sustainable food source for a kingdom, neither is hunting. They are both supplementary. What you will need is some form of agriculture.

The point about agriculture is that most people associate it with single crop agriculture. But, in forested communities, like in the Andes, one would most likely find multi-crop agriculture. In one plot of land, say, small, and unploughed, one could grow mushrooms, root crops, berries, etc. All in the same patch of land. You could even be imaginative and take multi-cropping to the trees - vines, fruit, mushrooms, some sort of fowl.

So, the food problem is solvable.

Now, the second big problem is centralised authority. First, a kingdom can have varying levels of centralisation. A forest Kingdom would, naturally, be more decentralised than an urban civilisational one. So, you could develop complex tribal structures, etc. supplemented by tribal councils.

For reference, I recommend you look at some of the work by James Scott. He's an agricultural sociologist, has researched on South American, pre-Columbine, highland agriculture, and on South East Asian kingdoms, both in highly forested areas.

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There are some edible staples that can grow with minimal sunlight on the forest floor. Mushrooms immediately come to mind because they naturally grow in dark, moist environments and can be harvested 5 weeks. It doesn't take much to grow mushrooms either. They grow in dead animal and plant matter which would be abundant on the forest floor.

This, combined with several species of tree that produce nuts, maybe blackberry bushes that are abundant (at least in the woods in southern Illinois which is what I am basing my answer on) and hunting deer would provide a pretty well-balanced diet. I assume the populations would be smaller than the surrounding agrarian societies such as the 'French' kingdom you mentioned.

This would actually open up a the Cities in the trees idea as viable depending on the size of the trees.

I see no reason why a kingdom cannot exist in a massive forest assuming a means to feed the people and create cities is met. And that there are no giant tree spiders.

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