My story takes place in a medieval/fantasy setting. The main part plays out on a locked-off island with a fairly uniform population I'd call Asian to keep this question to the point (look Asian and have those genetics, but of course there is no Asian continent nor culture in that world). They keep to themselves, but of course there is some interaction with the outside world, mainly a nation of seafarers (Caucasian face shape, mostly varying shades of blond, blue or other very low-melanin eyes, white or freckled skin).

What I am looking for is, in a setting that has a very 'pure' racial background (in this case, an island largely locked of from the rest of the world), how would I describe the visual characteristics of children with a mixed background, aka if someone four generations down was rumored to have had intercourse with an 'outsider', what characteristics would they most likely show that people could point at to prove their point? I'd go by simple Mendelian genetics, which is what I learned in school, but the traits most easily describing a human (hair, eye and skin color) are sadly a bit more complicated in their inheritance, which is the core of my problem.

Another question in the same setting: With how melanin (eg. skin/eye/hair color) inheritance goes, how would a condition like albinism affect genetics? Albinism in itself is recessive and would disappear if 'bred' to a healthy partner. But what if the partner is fair skinned, blue-eyed and blond?

In context: There is this young woman, an islander (Asian characteristics), who is an albino. She's carrying the child of one of the seafarers (blond, blue eyed, freckles). Would the dark hair and eye color the albino mother would have had without her condition 'return' in the absence of the albinism, or would the child still be paler than its already light-blond father? And, if she marries an islander, would she be able to pass the child off as his (the man himself is completely informed and supportive), assuming the general public (villagers, gossipers, you know the kind) is not too knowledgeable?

Edit: I deleted the first part because it was misleading. Also edited the last part and added more context to hopefully be more clear.

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    $\begingroup$ Children look like their biological parents. It's not fiction. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 22, 2019 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch - not meaning to sound sulky, but was going more for a matter of dominant/recessive traits, things that have a 'pick-one-or-the-other' inheritance (yellow or green peas) vs. things that have a spectrum inheritance (human skin color or white rose+red rose=pink rose). Genetics are a complex and fascinating field especially once you get into the second generation (pink rose+pink rose=pink rose OR white rose OR red rose). Once in that second generation, children no longer have to look like their biological parents. $\endgroup$
    – SoraNoRyu
    Jun 22, 2019 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ Because most of the time this is an issue of narrative necessity, meaning the child needs to look like what you, the author require for the story to develop. Remember, you don't need your story to meet the standard of judgment a geneticist may require. As written the question is too broad as even a primer on genetics and heredity is beyond the scope of Stack Exchange. If my comment didn't help, can you narrow the question substantially? (and reduce it to a single question?) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jun 22, 2019 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ (1) Europoids are not albinos, not even those Europoids which have pale skin. (2) Not that many people with blue eyes in the Caucasus. They exist, but are rare; probably you are using the word "Caucasian" with the American meaning "Europoid of western European descent". (3) The vast majority of Europoids have brown eyes. Many Europoids. e.g. Persians, Arabs or Afghans, do not have pale skin. (5) If by Asian you mean Mongoloid peoples, then mixed-race Europoid/Mongoloids persons are usually called Eurasians and some are considered very beautiful. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 22, 2019 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ There are very few human physical traits which are determined by a straight dominant/recessive set of alleles in Mendelian fashion. Wikipedia has a list of Mendelian traits in humans and a list of simple Mendelian genetics in humans. Hair color (and hair aspect in general), eye color, skin pigmentation are polygenic and don't inherit in a simple Mendelian model. As for how Eurasians look, IMDb has a list of Eurasian actors. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 22, 2019 at 15:34

1 Answer 1

  • [A] young woman, an islander (asian characteristics), [...] is an albino. She's carrying the child of one of the seafarers (blond, blue eyed, freckles). Would the dark hair and eye color the albino mother would have had without her condition 'return' in the absence of the albinism, or would the child still be paler than its already light-blond father?

    Albinism won't carry to the child; the child will look as if they were the child of a non-albino islander mother and a foreigner.

    I've never ever heard of a first-generation inter-racial child looking entirely like one of the "races" of their parents. The vast majority of human phenotypical characteristics are polygenic, so that in the first generation inheritance appears to be blending.

    Most likely the child will exhibit a typical Eurasian phenotype, that is, their eye shape would look intermediate between Europoid "wide eyes" and Mongoloid "slanted eyes", their nose would be intermediate between their father's and their mother's. The hair may be blond(ish) or black(ish), and its texture will most likely be like their mother's and not silky smooth as their father's. They will most likely have freckles (which are usually the manifestation of a dominant allele). Likely the child will grow to be taller than the islanders. The child may or may not have blue eyes; the most likely outcome is typical human brown eyes.

    Skin tone is much more complicated. First of all, the skin tone of most East-Asian people is well within the normal variation of the skin tone of "white" people. I have met people from central Asia and China whose skin tone was if anything lighter than that of most Europeans. (Not as light as the stereotypical Swede, but definitely lighter than the stereotypical Greek.) Second, even in countries populated by stereotypical pale northwesterners, people with darker skin tone exist and have always existed.

  • And, if she marries an islander, would she be able to pass the child of as his?

    Basically any Englishman will most likely be able to tell that the child is Eurasian and any villager will be able to tell that the child has foreign blood. What's interesting is that it is likely that some their children or grandchildren or grand-grandchildren will show blue eyes, or blond(ish) hair...


  1. Humans exchange genes at each and every opportunity. It may be the case that the sea-faring Englishman is carrying East-Asian genes -- maybe from the Huns, or from the Mongols, or from who knows what ancient migration. So it is possible (although not likely) that instead of showing a typical Eurasian phenotype the child will look closer to a typical East-Asian, just maybe taller, or with a little wider eyes than usual, or with a nose a little more protruding than usual, or with hair less lustrous black than usual.

  2. The pure East-Asian populations are purely mythical, as are the pure North-West Block populations. There are occasional blue eyes in Afghanistan, and occasional blond and even red hair in China, and didn't the Ainu population of Japan look pretty much like Europoids, with wide eyes and curly brown hair and bushy beards?

    In all human populations children are occasionally born showing characters not typical for the area. For example, in Romania we have a Hungarian-speaking population, the Székelys, whose distant ancestors came from central Asia more than a thousand years ago: and to this day some Székely children are born with almond eyes (which we find quite attractive).

    The point being that it may be perfectly possible to explain some of the physical attributes of the child as a throwback to one of the grandparents or grand-grandparents of the woman or her husband. Oh, they have curly hair like the barbarian bride the grand-grandfather of the woman brought back from that epic battle! Oh, their eyes are steel-blue like the father's great-uncle had, and they are tall like him too!


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