I've been meaning to write a collection of short stories set on a fantasy world for some time now, with hopes of expanding some of my more favourite if I ever get the chance, and I'm drawn to the idea of these stories being set on a world that has rings akin to Saturn.

I'm interested in the impact this might have on a civilisation that has developed on this world. I already want to go into details like how it would impact religion (perhaps people would perceive the rings as heaven, the same way humans have perceived the sky to be heaven), how the night would be illuminated by the rings, whether or not the world would need to be much larger than Earth to support a ring system etc.

I was wondering what you think about this idea, whether or not something like this should impact the world/story at all; especially since for the inhabitance, it's something they see all the time and thus a pretty boring thing in the sky in the context.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm 9001% certain this exact question was asked before $\endgroup$ – Spacemonkey Jun 3 '15 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Related, but not dupe: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/2611/…. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jun 3 '15 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, indeed does not look like this exact question was asked afterall... in which case, why wasnt it?? :O +1 for getting us off our lazy butts $\endgroup$ – Spacemonkey Jun 3 '15 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ ...but this is far too broad at the moment. Simply the impact is much too big a topic to cover well in an answer. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Jun 3 '15 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ Hi OTill and welcome to Worldbuilding. We've put this on hold for now as too broad; impact on religion, required size, and illumination are really three different questions, and I encourage you to ask them separately. We welcome the questions, but combining them into one question makes this too much for a reasonably-thorough answer to cover in a reasonable amount of text. Thanks for understanding. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jun 4 '15 at 2:32

Of course it would impact things like religion. The Moon and Sun have had a huge impact and the Sun is there every day.

Now what exactly people would think about them is harder to pin down, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually considered 'heaven' or the 'paths/roads of the gods'

"See that beautiful glowing field my son? that is the home of the gods and as they walk the paths they can look down and see what we are doing..."

any collisions in the rings might be put as fighting between the deities.


It would make low-tech navigation immensely easier, which would likely result in more exploration / trade / conquest over wider areas happening sooner.

The ring would give a clear east-west axis, and you could infer the north-south axis as perpendicular to it. You could infer latitude based on it's position and width.

The most difficult part of low-tech navigation is longitude. If the ring were fully uniform, then it wouldn't help with that. But if there were any stable irregularities to use for reference, that would allow one to infer longitude as will.


Some second order effects would develop due to nights being be far brighter than today, since the night sky would be illuminated by "ringshine". This would make skulking around in the dark a lot harder for predatory animals and people, allow even primitive armies to move and fight at night and probably prevent the evolution of animals which use lunar cycles for signalling (corals don't breed with too much light in the night sky, for example).

The people would not develop naked eye astronomy to anywhere near the extent that ancient people's on Earth did, since the stars would be largely washed out by the ringshine. How this affects the development of other sciences is a open question, but ideas like timekeeping or determining the size of the universe were all influenced by astronomy. This might also have strange effects on mythology (heroes don't get sent to the sky to become constellations) and philosophy (contemplating the night sky literally runs into a roof over your head).

People might be more inclined to explore, however, since one impulse that would be almost impossible to ignore would be the desire to find the end of the rings. People would certainly know the world was round or spherical from a very early time, and have a lot more contact with other civilizations besides tenuous silk roads and precarious sea lanes. This might or might not be a unifying force for the world (I suspect that this would alternate over history, as various "ring empires" rise and fall, and people twist legends to show the rings as alternating unifying and dividing forces).


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