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If you’ve seen any of my previous questions on Algennon’s fantastic and deadly ecosystem, you might know the drill: first a monster gets designed, then strategies to defend against it. But we’ve moved past mere Crabozzes and Puddings, and onto a far more intelligent and horrifying creature: the Simswine.

Physically, it’s a terrifying beast: it stands on two legs around 5 feet (1.524 meters) with a posture similar to a gorilla, but the Simswine, as its name suggests, is related to suides, and especially resembles the extinct Archaeotherium genus of entelodonts:

enter image description here

They have blood red eyes, clawed front feet, and long sharp cuspids on their top row of teeth. It dwells in large forests and taigas, and eats plants for sustenance.

But the Simswine doesn’t hunt things just for sustenance. Like the mosquito, Simswines need to consume blood to form sperm and egg cells, or else they can’t reproduce and poof, no more Simswines. Any kind of animal blood will work, but for some reason the consumption of a person’s blood will cause the children born from those bloodmade germ cells to be stronger. And another thing: Simswines are SMART. Their intelligence is on par with that of a corvid, and they have great skill in problem solving and understanding human reactions to certain actions, especially speech, though they don’t associate words with objects, and rather associate sounds with reactions. Also, they’re smart enough to know that humans in groups that get provoked are going to fight back, and are certainly not worth going after.

This need for blood and high intelligence leads to a very fun ability: Mimicry. Simswines can imitate sounds made by other animals with near perfect accuracy, then grab the lured animal and either strangle it or claw it to death. So you can see why people would fear Simswines. Luckily, Simswines almost never attack people openly or in their own settlements, and despite their natural weapons of fangs, claws, and large size, they usually only attack people who don’t suspect it. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still pose a very significant threat, especially to children. Given this creature’s abilities and the technology level of the people it hunts, how would medieval people defend themselves from Simswines?

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    $\begingroup$ Are people more or less likely to run into a Simswine when compared to running into a highwayman or mugger? $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Uh do you know that only female mosquitoes drink blood? So making male reproductive cells would be kinda hard for them ^^". $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ I posit that your people would do the same thing that humans and their ancestors have always done with inconvenient megafauna: track down the big lumps of irritating ambulatory protein and eat them. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ You don't expand on the intelligence aspects of this creature at all. I don't really see why it needs to be dealt with any differently from a bear, wolf, tiger, or any other large predator with claws and teeth. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearHoagie You’re right, so I’ve edited the question to elaborate on the Simswines’ knowledge of how creatures react to certain sounds and actions, and their understanding of the threats that angry humans pose. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:18

8 Answers 8

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Language

Yes, these Simswines imitate people, but they are not people. Just by engaging in a conversation, we can quickly get the Simswine out of its conversational depth.

So simply, you hear someone yell "heeeelp!" You respond with a "what's wrong?" If you get back a "heeeelp!" or other not well articulated response, then your suspicion should be aroused. Further questioning would surely lead to nonsense answers.

For instance, in the above situation, you may say: "What's wrong?" They may respond: "Simswines!" That's a Simswine response: people either totally survive an attack or are brutally murdered and exsanguinated. Unless they develop shrike-like habits and "save people for later..."

Strength in Numbers

Humans are mostly soft and breakable, so we really need to rely on each other to survive. This is especially so when dealing with a bloodthirsty tank of an animal. You should never investigate a cry for help in the wilderness unless you got several well armed people!

Throwing Darts, Arrows, Spears

Now for the nitty-gritty about weapons. Humans have the capacity to throw, use ranged weapons, and find cover. That's the best thing to do against a buffalo-sized swine who wants your blood. Throw things and bravely run away!

Warriors in the European medieval period (and even into the early Renaissance) used war darts. It appears to have been a very popular weapon. I know people hear "dart" and think of a small things you use in a bar game, but these war darts were really specialized javelins with big, broad heads and large fletching. Even a tank like an entelodont would feel the impact from one of these.

Additionally, bows and crossbows were "common enough" through the European medieval period that you could expect a few people with some missile weapons in a travelling party. (IRL for hunting, but also defense.)

These Simswines will, of course, provide a pressure to increase the number of people packing a bow or crossbow. One arrow or bolt will likely not do much, but many of them may give a Simswines pause. Obviously, human blood doesn't help you much for reproduction if you are dead or dying from infection.

Finally, spears are a classic choice for fighting large animals. There are tons of historic examples of people using them to kill elephants, tigers, lions, and other dangerous beasts. For something so large, strength in numbers is important here. A single person may be able to kill it, but these appear to be large, deadly animals. A Simswine may find one spear worth the risk, but 5, 10, or more may change their minds.

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    $\begingroup$ Amazing answer! You combined the part about shibboleths that most other answers have stated, along with the parts about actual combat that I had been waiting for! $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ One boar spear should be enough, if wielded well. It would still be best to hunt them in groups, but no need to overstate their toughness. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Apr 18, 2023 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ Lyrebirds in real life can mimic human voices, but not hold any sort of conversation. google.com/… $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2023 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ A problem with bows and crossbows is that you shouldn’t keep them under tension for hours. So it takes a bit of time to get them ready. You wouldn’t keep a bow strung beside you while traveling on a carriage for hours every day. So they are pretty much not feasible to use for defending against a surprise attack. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Apr 19, 2023 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael a couple of (2nd best perhaps) bows kept strung at any one time in a large party with many bows would provide some initial defence. Short watches where the watchers have their bows strung. Or no bows but atlatls instead. Either way boar spears as a 2nd line of defence. $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Apr 19, 2023 at 13:10
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They would hunt them to (regional) extinction.

If they bring pointy teeth, you bring pointy sticks. If they bring a pack, you bring a warband. If they put one of yours in their belly, you put their whole bloodline in the fossil record. That's the hominin way.

You've invented another monster less hazardous to humans with pointy sticks than other humans with pointy sticks. We've always known what to do with animals or people that hunt us: hunt them right back, with superior weapons, better pack tactics, long term planning, and the human specialty of unrelenting hatred, until there aren't any of them left except at the outer margins of our territory.

If you want monsters less dangerous than a group of humans with pointy sticks to be a persistent threat, you pretty much have to make them sea monsters (or amphibious monsters) so that we can't get our dogs and pointy sticks, follow them to their homes, and murder every last one of them.

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    $\begingroup$ Sad, but disgustingly true. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Apr 18, 2023 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ Best answer imho. Ask the wolves of England how humans deal with maneating predators, but first time travel to the sixteenth century so you can find one of the last survivors. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Apr 18, 2023 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ And those wolves were not even attacking humans, merely a few sheep and deer. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Apr 19, 2023 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ "sea monsters" Or mountain monsters. They're somewhat at risk from humans with bows, but humans and their domesticated animals aren't generally great over difficult terrain so it gives them a chance to get away. (Consider survivability of bears and wolves in the Alps or Carpathians compared with the UK.) $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Apr 19, 2023 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ I bet there's good eatin' on a swine like that. Just another good reason to go hunting them $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Apr 19, 2023 at 21:57
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Times Tables

enter image description here

The Simiswine can memorise a few phrases. But it doesn't know the meaning of the phrases. It just knows it can get people's attention using "Help! They're after me."

It is bad at responding when there is a right answer. If you hear someone shouting in the woods, shout back, and ask them what is four plus five.

The Simiswine doesn't know what is four plus five. It can only memorise fifteen things. There are a hundred different addition tables to memorise and just as many multiplication ones.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm quite sure corvids, and even far less intelligent animals, know what is four plus five. But they still won't understand a phrase "four plus five" if they can only mimic human language, not actually speak it. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2023 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ @ReverentLapwing unless they have been trained on billions examples of phrases of human languages (which is ChatGPT, mimicking human language, but somehow can get so well when we do it at very large scale) $\endgroup$
    – justhalf
    Apr 20, 2023 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ @justhalf ChatGPT told me once that the size of a hydrogen atom is bigger than helium because 4 is smaller than 2. It also told me that 12 cookies made from the same amount of dough as 6 cookies have twice the calories. Not doing so well. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2023 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ But better than corvids is my point :) So at some point we need more complex sentences to discover that it's simply mimicry instead of intelligence. (I'm also a proponent that ChatGPT is not intelligent) $\endgroup$
    – justhalf
    Apr 20, 2023 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ReverentLapwing I don't believe corvids have been trained to do times tables in response to verbal commands. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 20, 2023 at 11:13
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They need to set up a shibboleth or a password which the beast can't obviously imitate.

One thing is to imitate "help me" or "hey, you!", another is to know that to "No man can kill me" you need to answer with "I am no man!".

With this simple step, humans can tell from a distance if the thing looking like a human that they are approaching is a human or a human mimicry, and act accordingly.

It's not 100% fail proof, but it can work decently in organized communities, where people can share information among them. And for the foreigners, they just need to be able to read the alerts put on signs along the road to be recognized:"by entering the reign of Patagonius VII, you will be safe if when greeted with X you answer Y". Your beasts can't read.

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    $\begingroup$ That’s a great idea! This would be a perfect way for travelers to differentiate the voices of people and Simswines. Just keep in mind that a Simswine is a very clever creature, and by observation of travelers using the shibboleth correctly (not going to lie, I first thought that was a Lovecraft monster when I first heard of it), it might understand that a certain phrase facilitates a certain response. But if you keep changing it, everything should be fine. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ It need not even be a set phrase or password, normal conversation will suffice. Even if a parrot could perfectly mimic the human voice, for example, it would quickly become obvious that you're not actually conversing with it. A shibboleth will actually be a liability, as the creature can fairly easily learn one specific call and response. Better to use a non-fixed ad hoc test that's simple for anyone who actually speaks the language but impossible for something that merely mimics it, like "what color is the sky" or "say the word 'orange'". $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ And thus, you've just reinvented captchas. :D $\endgroup$
    – neminem
    Apr 19, 2023 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ Firstly, I don't think "shibboleth" is right here, a shibboleth refers to specificly regional quirks of language - given that the Simswines mimic the people around them, a Shibboleth would only work for travelers passing through, unless maybe there's a type of sound or speech pattern that the Simswine can't replicate. Secondly, a passcode would only work if you rotate them regularly. All it would take is one instance of a Simswine overhearing the password and getting away for the system to be broken. Personally, I think @NuclearHoagie is on the right track $\endgroup$
    – Bitsplease
    Apr 20, 2023 at 17:31
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There's a hint of this in another answer, but: dogs. Not fighting dogs (though they may have a role too) but dogs with a keen sense of smell. These would be used for both tracking Simswine packs to hunt them down, and to alert a village or party of travellers that the beasts were nearby.

Dogs would need to be kept fairly close by their handlers. If the dogs were routinely let out of sight one or two swine could imitate their barking to draw off defenders before the rest of their pack attacked the vulnerable from the other direction.

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Habitat destruction.

Humans have driven many species to extinction or near-extinction. Although sometimes targeted hunting plays a role (such as the grey wolf in North America) it has the problem of humans needing to compete with natural reproduction of the animal.

However, there is another way that is so easy, it happens unintentionally all the time. In fact it takes a lot effort not to do it. Destroy the animal's habitat to prevent the species's ability to restock its population. At that point, you can hunt them down if you're in a rush, or just wait for them to succumb to old age and starvation.

This animal sounds like it is quite large and relies on stealth or ambushing - the mimicry isn't very useful if prey can see it. The obvious place for it to live is some kind of thick forest, or perhaps shrubland or tall grass. Notably gorillas live in jungles, as do tigers. In this case the solution is simple: Simply clear cut the forest. This is a natural thing to do for medieval economies, and happened in our world as well. Perhaps in your world, wood is extra cheap, because people clearcut woods first and worry about the timber second. Or perhaps governments subsidize it. Regardless, people would use wood a lot more for fuel, construction and manufacturing. Coal mining would be less common. Navies would be more abundant. Sea trade would prosper. Wooden version of tools would be used more - perhaps people use cheap and disposable wooden plows since wood is so cheap. Clogs would be in fashion.

With the deforestation depressing wood prices, and therefore wooden products, these products would tend to be regarded as disposable. Since there would also be a large wood-fuel economy, there would be a large recycling industry (into fuel).

For defense, most likely lumberjacks would organize in troops, perhaps even with armed soldier escorts. If there's a suspected nest of swines in one area, they might just set the forest on fire to be done with it. If they're clever, perhaps they might cut paths through forests first and divide them into small sections - as the swine are forced to cross open terrain, they can be hunted with ranged weapons.

Note also that it is not merely a matter of destroying the habitat of the swine, but also their natural prey. Whatever it is they normally feed on - say, deer - will start dwindling as well as it runs out of places to feed, live and breed. The swine will then starve.

The rapidly cleared land can be used for agriculture, which would also create economic prosperity. With shrinking living space and competition for wild prey, some swine will begin to prey on livestock. This will surely incense the farmers, and motivate hunting parties against them, as was the case with the grey wolf, further contributing to their decline.

As for the weapons, I think that's a mere detail. The mimicry doesn't change much. A determined hunter would use tracking or hounds to find the swine. In such a world, decent people would understandably avoid the woods, so if the hunters hear some person crying out it doesn't matter if it's a real human or a swine mimicking one. They won't be getting much kindness either way. Incidentally, human bandits also often mimic innocent humans, and yet it is not such a difficult task to defeat them. Hunters would either shoot swine with bows or crossbows to avoid risking close range, or use long spears, perhaps on horseback. Trapping or baiting is a tempting option as well. Perhaps the traps would have to be a bit elaborate given their intelligence, but it is possible to trap ravens after all. An interesting idea is to set poisoned animals loose for the swine - although mosquito are able to distinguish blood composition, so perhaps this would not work so well. But if there are things that smell unappetizing to the swine, then it becomes a potential swine repellent for humans at sub-lethal doses.

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There's bound to be a fable of a forest demon that you can bamboozle by asking him three questions. Different retellings would differ wildly on the specifics of the actual questions to be asked, but the main principle will be the same: since Simswines are only good at repetition, their answers do not make sense - except if they have happened to previously overhear the correct response and, in a separate stroke of luck, happen to use just that response. With three questions, the chances of speech-mimicking creature which rarely encounters humans (because it lives in big forests, where few people live) giving a coherent answer every time are minuscule. Then you would know what you are dealing with and be able to escape.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice answer. In retrospect, I should have given more thought to the fact that being able to speak like a human definitely doesn’t mean you can understand what you or they are saying. But just because you’ve bamboozled him and know to escape doesn’t mean he won’t still attack: the speech is mostly just a lure. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Jobah_HigherMind, thank you. There is also another thing that a conversation does: it demonstrates that you are aware of Simswine's presence. (Also, by responding, Simswine provide some approximation of their position and movement.) But they "usually only attack people who don’t suspect it", i.e. the people who do not ask the three questions. They may still decide to attack, but you would at the very least already be prepared to climb up the nearest tree, where the hoofed (I assume...?) Simswine will be unable to follow. $\endgroup$
    – ihaveideas
    Apr 18, 2023 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ Your assumption is sort of right, because even though Simswines have claws on their front feet, their back legs are hoofed so they still can’t climb trees. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2023 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Jobah_HigherMind, thank you. But you know, I'm having second thoughts now. The three questions trick assumes that Simswines can't see through it, and will in fact respond. Could they be smart enough not to, or to develop some strategy to be used specifically against humans? $\endgroup$
    – ihaveideas
    Apr 18, 2023 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps they could, but that depends on the story, not the worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2023 at 11:27
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Ask it a few simple questions, not ones with a single set response, but ones where the correct answer or answers changes based on the circumstances. For example ask what todays date is, it doesn’t matter how often the monster over hears the answer, it won’t give a correct response.

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