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I have a fantasy setting that is about as advanced as the late 15th to early 16th century. There are humans and many other sapient non-human species; humans are one of the only species to create large kingdoms and empires.

Some human rulers keep non-humans as exotic servants, slaves or part of private menageries to show off their wealth and power. Among the non-human species kept are trolls, humanoids descended from baboons. A male can be up to 8 feet tall with the proportional strength of a gorilla.

How would their masters prevent their troll slaves from escaping or rebelling? A troll could snap a human spine in half with no effort.

Trolls are as intelligent as humans and their societies range from hunter-gatherer tribes of less than 50 people to small agricultural villages with a population of 200-300.

The scenario I'm thinking of is a human noble keeping a small group of less than 10 trolls as part of a private menagerie/servants to show off. As for magical means of control; magic is very rare in this setting and the average person has no knowledge of how to use magic.

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    $\begingroup$ It all depends on what slavery is in your world and how the masters treat their slaves. The kind of hereditary chattel slavery which the U.S.A. had in quite recent modern history is very different from what the Romans had in the 2nd century, for example. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 22, 2022 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ It pretty much depends on disposition of those slave species. Humans successfully domesticated many species which are much stronger than humans. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Nov 22, 2022 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ Well, while there were a small number of people called slaves in medieval Italy, they were very very few, and they were very very expensive. No rebellion because there were so few and their life was no different from a "free" servant. As for slavery in the pre-modern Muslim world (including Spain or should I say Al-Andalus), it was usually a normal station in life, with some very notable exceptions of military slaves such as the Mamluks. The Mohammedan religion encourages the manumission of slaves, and for example basically all children beget by masters from their slave women were made free. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 22, 2022 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ easy: don't do slavery. Incentivize them to stay by paying them or making them think they can leave whenever they like $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2022 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ I know they're not as intelligent as humans, nor are they 8 feet tall, but humans are nowhere near the limits of our capabilities when keeping actual gorillas captive in a menagerie. They're already plenty strong enough to easily win a "fair" fight. Making them work would be a greater challenge. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2022 at 16:59

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Divide your enslaved trolls into two groups. The strongest trolls are given privileged positions - good food, comfortable accommodation, respect, etc. The high-status trolls don't rebel because their lives are fairly pleasant. The low-status trolls don't rebel because, if they did, the high-status trolls would punish them.

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    $\begingroup$ this is also what we do in the real world to ensure compliance. $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2022 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ This is true for human history as well. Slaves were often treated much worse by their (also enslaved) overseers than by their owners. The owners only cared for the job being done and had no reason to brutalize their workforce. But high ranking slaves did abuse lower-ranking slaves, as it was a good way for them to live out their power fantasies and to feel in charge (and to maintain the pecking order). $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Nov 23, 2022 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ Far be it from me to write someone else's political satire for them, but if you really want to press the point, give the high-status trolls a badge and a gun. Or a clipboard and an inflated job title. Or an office on capitol hill. It's pick your target, really. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2022 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ No need, good housing and food are expansive. Give one group standard slave stuff and the other some barely better things, then make them compete for the better status, they'll be too busy fighting each other to worry about fighting you, you'd be surprised how often this works in the real world. $\endgroup$
    – TurtleTail
    Nov 25, 2022 at 16:34
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Nowhere to go

Enslaved trolls were exiled from their tribe, or enslaved when their tribe was destroyed.

Escaping your master means a long and desperate flight through human territories where everyone will know you are a runaway slave and so desperate. (You get a vicious circle where everyone knows you are dangerous, and so the only way you can get what you need is intimidation.) Then you end up in troll territory where you, at best, will be a second-class member of a tribe that takes you in.

If slaves are considered members of their owners' households, they may already have as much status as they would get after this flight. Or more. Even, for instance, quite rich merchants would be hesitant to offend a personal servant of the duke.

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Selection

The trolls in the troll troup are not a random group. They are selected for their docility and docility / tractability is ensured through continuous human interaction.

These trolls don't lay around eating in between getting displayed by the master. They are part of the household and a valued part. The trolls work the fields and mill along with the humans of the nobles household. They are valued for their strength. They are treated as well as any other worker on the estate. They interact with humans on a daily basis.

If a troll loses its temper and breaks things or hurts someone, it is punished. If this becomes routine behavior it is sold or put down.

The estate manager purchases or trades for trolls from other places who have a history of docility and good natured behavior. The trolls in your troll troop have a good track record.

Except for the one newcomer with the red braids who can do gymnastic tricks. He has not been with them long enough to establish a track record of docility but he is really amazing to watch.

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  • $\begingroup$ This will work, and I gave it thumbs-up. The only thing to be aware of is, docility comes at the expense of intelligence. Dogs, for example, bred from wild critters, have significantly smaller brains than do similar sized wolves. Aggressive breeds of cattle have larger brains than more docile forms. Compare your typical German Shepherd dog to a timber wolf with the same weight. The wolf has a 50% larger brain. $\endgroup$
    – Boba Fit
    Nov 23, 2022 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ @BobaFit: I'm not claiming dogs are smarter than wolves, I don't know. But a blue whale's brain is 4 times the size of mine, and I still reckon I'd beat it at Scrabble. The least docile humans are not reliably the most intelligent either. These trolls are explicitly human-intelligence, which is a narrow-ish range, so unless you breed them for millennia I doubt you'll see much correlation between brain size and intelligence $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2022 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ Also consider Neanderthals: much bigger brains than homo sapiens sapiens. Closely enough related that (unlike my blue whale example) the comparison could be meaningful. Although we don't really know whether they were more or less intelligent than us, there's probably not a huge amount in it one way or the other, just like there isn't between men and women. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2022 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ It should also be pointed out that breeding programs are only really practical if the trolls have a short lifespan than humans, with a correspondingly shorter time to sexual maturity. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2022 at 0:56
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How you prevent trolls from rebelling is largely dependent on the psychological nature of the trolls.

You say that slaves are largely only kept by the elite, as a status symbol. Historically, this has been a more positive and less cruel or detrimental role than the more well known forms of slavery such as chattel slavery (As kindhearted as the institution of slavery can be, that is).

If your trolls are brutish, dimwitted creatures, as they are often depicted in various pieces of fiction, they might not find the arrangement altogether unpleasant. They get to wear fine silks, eat food fit for a king, and in return they only have to lug their owner around in a litter or carry their luggage, tasks which are made easy due to their strength. Sure, they might lack personal autonomy or freedom, as what is tantamount to the expensive toy of some haughty noble, but they lack the intelligence or introspection to ponder such concepts.

If they are on a similar intellectual level to humans and are altogether unhappy with being kidnapped to fuel the self-esteem of some autocrat, they can still be controlled rather readily. Because slaves are the toys of the rich, they are likely few in numbers, and lacking in organisational capabilities (The shrewd slaveowner will make sure of this, by separating trolls wherever necessary, or not buying members of the same tribe, so as to minimise their cooperational abilities). Even if it should come to that, the humans have many ways of deterring rebellion through violence. Sure, the trolls could carve through a few palace guards, but a man or two in 16th century plate armor (When the art reached its pinnacle, before the wide adoption of the gun) with a sword or poleaxe, or a crossbowman 50 paces away, would still prove decidedly challenging to an unarmed troll.

Then again, this raises the question; why is the species with the intelligence of humans, but far greater physical attributes subservient to their smaller brethren?

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  • $\begingroup$ "why is the species with the intelligence of humans, but far greater physical attributes subservient" - long run this might be temporary. The trolls are hunter-gatherers and small agricultural villages. The humans are 15th-16th century, so they have cities and armies and bank loans. The real threat to the human authorities is when the trolls start going to school, but even then it might be many generations before they can overcome institutional racism and hereditary economic class structures. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2022 at 17:09
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This is not really different from the real world. In many places oppressed people have or had the power to kill or overthrow their masters. Be it slaves or citizens in a state with a totalitarian regime.

The reason why rebellions are relatively rare are many. But I think it mainly boils down to the fact that you need a critical mass to have any hope of success.

A single slave killing their master is suicide. You need a strong enough group of slaves which is able to convince other slaves that joining their cause is not suicide and actually has a good chance to succeed.

If your slaves are super strong it merely means that the critical mass is lower.

The precautions are still the same: Keep groups of slaves separate. Make sure they can’t communicate and organize. Try to create dissonance by having different groups of slaves (e.g. “recruit” from different tribes) which are unlikely to cooperate.

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    $\begingroup$ "A single slave killing their master is suicide." - and perhaps 15th-16th century rulers are less risk-averse to that than (most) modern rulers would be. Yeah, my troll slave might kill me and go down in a hail of crossbow bolts, but it's far less likely than that the Holy Roman Emperor will kill me for whatever nonsense I'm plotting against him. In democratic countries about the worst that'll happen to a risk-taking ruler is they'll lose their job. Maybe jail time, but highly unlikely. Rebellion was a managed risk back then, rather than virtually unthinkable in many countries today. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2022 at 17:15
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Look at the real world and how groups in our world tried to stop slaves from rising up. All of the items below are ways that one group may try to control

  1. Thought Control: For slavers to control a species with more strength you need to control how they view the world. maybe These trolls are taught from a very young age that they ARE stupid. That they were designed by a God to be slaves. Maybe there are stories about Trolls who think for themselves and have bad things happen to them. The humans may control how slaves family groups work (i.e separating kids from parents) In this way, there is a cultural pressure that helps keep the spirit of the trolls down.
  2. Magic: You are talking about a fantasy world. Maybe there is some sort of magical reason that can force trolls or other slaves to do as they are told. Magical Contracts. Magical chains that shock their wearers. People are very creative at hurting and controlling each other.

The biggest thing to remember is that slavery isn't just something that happens. It is an industry and a system that is formed by many groups working together. Every culture that had slavery had to juggle needs and desires. For Romans slavery was temporary and slaves were protected by laws and were given a large amount of freedom and usually life was better as a slave than what they used to know. In the US slavery was almost brutally perfected to break its participants and keep them docile by heavy and brutal punishment and conditioning.

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Divide and Conquer

To prevent a rebellion, you need to prevent them from thinking that they have a chance for it. Splitting them up into small groups will be essential for several reasons.

  1. Prevent Conspiracy: If they never have a chance to talk to the other groups, they can't plan and build trust. Troll informants (fake if necessary) will also help reduce trust.
  2. Reduce Information: Knowledge (like where the back doors, stables and weapons are) is power. Keep each group in a separate section of the estate so they don't know anything about the rest of it.
  3. Numbers Advantage: The strength of a rebellion is that they can group up and overwhelm the enemy in a small area. Splitting them up prevents this.
  4. Limited Escapees: It's easier to catch two escaped prisoners than ten. This means that you can devote more resources to catching them quickly on horseback. The quicker you catch and make a display out of them, the more futile the attempts seem.

All these will reduce the motivation for and the possible success of rebellion or escape and can be paired with the other answers to amplify the effect.

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The Trolls Die Off without their Masters a) The trolls are the males and the Masters are the egg-laying females of the same species. b) The Jem H'adar scenario. c) The trolls carry a chronic, incurable, and ordinarily fatal disease for which only the Masters have the treatment.

The Masters Can Take on the Trolls Though the physical strength of the trolls far exceeds that of the Masters, the Masters are venomous--deadlier than any venomous animal. The Masters' pheromones are incapacitating and hallucinogenic. Their claws and teeth kill with one scratch or nip. Their bodies produce enough surplus venom to coat their blades and arrows.

The Trolls become the Masters All of the trolls develop into Masters over time. The Masters are everything that the trolls long to become.

The Masters Control Animals that can Take On the Trolls The animals might be bigger than the trolls, or smaller animals that hunt in swarms or packs. Think about the "compies" in Jurassic Park, killer whales against blue whales, wolves against moose.

The trolls must hibernate. The Masters have an entire season to find and kill every last troll group that works against the Masters' interests.

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    $\begingroup$ Trolls are explicitly mammals descended from baboons. $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2022 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ Is genetic engineering allowed in this scenario? $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2022 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ No, because genetical engineering would be far too advanced for a premodern setting. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2022 at 21:26
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Lobotomy

Lobotomy is a surgical procedure, in which parts of brain are destroyed to alter subject behavior. Later versions of the procedure could be performed in as little as 10 minutes, didn't require preparation of surgery rooms and could be done at the patient house.

It was intended to reduce agitation in (supposedly) mentally ill patients, but had undesireable side effects, like apathy, lack of initiative, poor ability to concentrate, generally passive behavior and reduced emotional response.

This practice was eventually banned as ineffective and inhumane threatment, but in your world it could remain avaliable for pacifying slaves: those side effects might actually be desireable in their case.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your last two paragraphs contain reasons why lobotomy might not be used for pacifying an entire population of slaves. $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2022 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ In a different species with a different brain structure a lobotomy may work. The effects and side effects need not be the same as when it is applied to humans. $\endgroup$
    – JanKanis
    Nov 24, 2022 at 22:15
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Systemic slavery

Maybe escaping captivity wouldn't be too difficult. It probably wouldn't be too hard to convince a few fellow enslaved folks to escape either.

But then what? You're in a country that considers you property, with authorities that support slavery and which can deploy slave-hunting units to bring you back or put you down. The first place they'd look is those troll camps/villages, so you can't exactly run there. Any other other place, you can't be sure that you won't be turned in by the locals.

That means, if you smart, you know that escaping means leaving a bunch of people behind and living on the run and/or looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life, or die trying.

You might also surmise that any violence you display will be repaid with interests on kin and tribespeople. Knowing that innocents will likely suffer the consequences of your actions is a great moral conundrum that will deadlock people with a shred of empathy.

This is also applicable to a larger rebellion, except instead of deploying a small unit or sending out a bolo, they'll be sending the army to quash your little rebellion. And of course, burning down troll villages in reprisal is always on the table.

In other words, escaping/rebelling is dangerous, uncertain, and is likely to hurt people you care about. Which gives you a pretty good reason to decide against it, even if you really dislike your current condition.

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Shackles to restrict movement. Manipulation, like the threat of violence towards the slave's loved ones. Rewards for good behavior, punishment for bad behavior. This could range from clothing made available to rations provided. Shows of strength and cruelty by executing non-compliant slaves publically.

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One solution could be social engineering. In the Red Rising series of books by Pierce Brown, there is a caste of genetically modified human super-soldiers called Obsidians, who very easily can (and have, and do) kill their Gold masters, but after a major rebellion were reeducated into believing their masters were divine beings, and that it was a great honor to serve them. You could apply something similar to your society, over the centuries feeding these slave species propaganda and steering their psychology to see their enslavement as instead an honour or a fact of nature. This of course onky works if these slave species have been under this society's proverbial thumb for a very, very long time, seeing as the technology necessary for genetic engineering or other technological solutions is not present.

Generally, throughout history slaves have been kept in line through fear. Indentured servants fear the effects of not paying their debts, for instance. Since these slaves cannot be reasonably threatened with physical violence, it will likely have to be psychological in nature. If you can't break their fingers, break their minds.

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Well, you know, as much as I hate to discuss how thinking beings could be made into slaves, history still has plenty of examples to choose from. Others have touched on some of these, but I can think of a few that haven't yet been mentioned:

  • Juvenile indoctrination: Aside from the whole "selective breeding" thing to take the edge off of aggressive behaviours, there's also the fact that, if you raise your dangerous pet the right way, they're very likely never going to even consider hurting you as a thing they could ever do. There are plenty of very strong and dangerous breeds of dogs who are trained as puppies who the boss is (and also who they should respect and protect), and unless pushed past the breaking point, would never ever show more than mild discontent to their owners. The fact that there are plenty of people who put up with horrible treatment from "loved ones" for decades suggests that more intelligent animals, such as the trolls, would also be just as easily vulnerable to juvenile indoctrination.
  • Juvenile castration: It doesn't take very many fertile males to impregnate as many females as you could ever want pregnant. And, given that these are mammals, closely related to humans, their endocrine systems would be very similar to humans and other mammals. So, horses are gelded to make them more controllable. Bulls, dogs, cats all become more docile when then get their nuts nipped before they become adults. So all the "free to move about" trolls are eunuchs. Breeding males and females kept in strict captivity.
  • Roofies: If the masters have a way of short-circuiting the trolls' brains' ability to transfer short-term memories into long-term storage, then they have beings who never have the opportunity to build up resentment. The trolls would be allowed to learn and develop properly up to the end of their adolescent stage, but after that would have drugs added to their food or water supply that has similar effects to rohypnol, or the black-out effect that extreme drinking causes. They would wake up, be hungry and thirsty, with no idea that much if any time had passed since they were still adolescents, get their food and water with the drugs in them, and then simple follow directions for the rest of the day. (Essentially, something similar to the "voodoo zombie" idea. In many ways, it's the same as a physical lobotomy, only chemically induced.)
  • Addiction: If the masters control access to a substance that the trolls are physically addicted to, one that doesn't impair their ability during the day, and makes them happy and content, but has severe withdrawal symptoms if not consumed regularly, then the trolls would be extremely disinclined to act out for fear of not getting their next hit. It's like controlling access to food, only with a much faster-acting effect. (And, continuing the theme, they would be introduced to the substance as juveniles -- heck, feed the mothers enough of the stuff, and the trolls will be born addicted.)
  • Religion: Well, you know, if the trolls' culture is such that they believe that serving the masters is a higher calling -- the highest of callings, actually -- then they'll keep themselves in line. It worked with the Catholic Church for centuries.... (Yes, this is similar to what other's have mentioned, but not so explicitly.)
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  • $\begingroup$ Would castration work on gorillas and chimpanzees too? $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2022 at 21:27
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You use the example from Deep Space Nine the Jem Hadar. They are controlled by the use of a drug that they need to survive. You carefully control the production and access to the drug which in turn allows you to control your slaves.

In the situation you relate instead of a genetically engineered species you need to get your trolls addicted to the drug or to need an antidote to a constantly fed poison. The antidote/poison system needs careful administration. The poison needs to be long acting in the absence of the antidote. So if the slaves break free they no longer get the antidote and then the poison will kill them.

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