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I'm world-building for a universe. I just came up with Deals Best Kept, and I realized I wanted to have a bunch of fantasy races interact, be very culturally diverse and mixed, and also account for a lot of the anachronism that happens in fantasy, specifically how you have multiple different fantasy creatures from different mythologies.

All interacting but not really, so I had an idea the Fae were a very broad grouping of magical creatures in folklore anthology, so I decided how about in this universe the Fae brought in or conquered many of the fantasy races we know, with the story setting being centuries later in a fantasy-esque early 20th century around when World War I might have happened, but I didn't want homogenization or a monoculture going on.

How do I build a unified national identity? Multiple ethnicities, multiple cultures, one single nation? More importantly, how to get the tribes to accept the empire's culture and customs While retaining their distinct culture'

The points below are just the world-building I've come up with so far.

•The Fae are similar to the fae depicted in folklore and mythology. They are known for their cunning, wisdom, and deceitful nature. They possess magical abilities and have a strong connection to the spirit realm.

•The Fae have a unique approach to cultural assimilation. Instead of conquering other cultures, they gradually seep their legends, traditions, and culture into the societies they assimilate. They learn from the locals, exchange stories, and adapt their own practices, while still allowing the other cultures to maintain their cultural identities.

• Fae magic is based on the concept of presentation and theater. They believe in "faking it till you make it" and have the ability to present themselves in a way that aligns with what they want to become. This includes positioning themselves as immune to harm or adopting disguises.

• The Fae approach warfare in a theatrical and strategic manner. They focus on presentation and deception, using tactics that seem like exaggerated legends. Their battles involve clever tactics and illusions to confuse and outmaneuver their enemies.

•The Fae's influence on other races varies. Elves and dwarves, for example, have assimilated into the Fae Empire while retaining their cultural identities. Humans were treated as slaves initially but were eventually integrated into the empire with a softer touch. Goblins faced prejudice but proved their worth, leading to their reluctant inclusion. Orcs, with their strength-focused culture, developed an understanding with the Fae and joined the empire.

•As time progresses, the Fae's stories and legends from other cultures undergo subtle changes. They retain the roots and themes but adapt the language and presentation to fit their own cultural sensibilities. Stories that do not align with their ideals become more metaphorical and obscured in subtext.

Thanks for any help

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    $\begingroup$ I am pretty sure you dont. The various cultures will just merge into one new one. $\endgroup$
    – ErikHall
    Jul 8, 2023 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ @ErikHall: Both the Roman and the American empires are direct examples that multi-ethnic multi-cultural empires are indeed possible. The Roman empire was always bilingual, the western part speaking Latin and the eastern part speaking Greek; the culture of Rome and the culture of Alexandria could not be more different -- and yet, they all called themselves Romans. The American empire is solidly bilingual, everything from commerce to entertainment being available both in English and in Spanish; and the cultures of New England, Louisiana and California are remarkably distinct. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 8, 2023 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ see the Mongols, the mongol founding religion discourages conversion, (ancestor based) so the religion of conquered people was left more or less intact. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 9, 2023 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ The Roman conquests were not similar to what this question requests. First, the military might is what mattered. Rebellion was viciously crushed. Second, conscription became the alternative to extermination, so they "romanized" while in service to conquer other enemies of Rome, who were sometimes ancient enemies of their own. Third, religion was pushed on the conquered, especially after the advent of the Imperial Cult. In return, your gods were put in the Roman pantheon. Syncretism was expected, which turned out to be a major issue for some peoples, and Rome responded accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Aug 21, 2023 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ When Rome sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD and completely obliterated the Temple, this was a last resort to romanize them. They did not want to destroy judaism at first, but those stubborn Jews refused to be good Romans who would syncretize their god with the Roman gods. And so they went with obliteration, with the expectation that in 30 years no one would be Jewish. Which was a much more common approach for previous empires. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Aug 21, 2023 at 17:29

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The Fae have taken over the cultures but they haven't taken over them in so many words. Does it sound contradictory? Absolutely -- But that is the point.

Their entire species is about being theatrical, deceptive, and wise. They understand that they don't have to go in and crush their opponent's military to take over. So they don't -- they instead attack on an axis their targets aren't well defended against. Sometimes that is force, other time it is not.

They know that to take over the world means that they have to administrate it. And that would be boring work, not at all conducive to a race that likes their theatre. But you know who knows how to administer the Elven Empire? Those elves you took over. Those Dwarves that you have taken over seem pretty good at handling Dwarven affairs too -- let's put them to work administering the Dwarven Kingdoms.

And how do they explain this? Well as an example, the Fae spin a legend. The Dwarven Kings lost the blessing of the Dwarven Gods for their slights against them. The Dwarf Gods searched for a new family to bestow their blessings on in order to rule the dwarves, one stout and true with a zeal to improve their species (in a way the Fae want). Make up a sufficiently dwarf-y test of worthiness and there you have it, a mythological justification for the new leadership. Spun right, this will last centuries.

Will some of them have the ambition to try to free their race from the yokes of the Fae -- Sure. But if the populace is all right with their distant overlords, and their modified legends promise retribution for defying said overlords, then those that seek total freedom will likely not get far before they are thwarted. And likely ironically punished.

In the end, my thought is that the Fae are basically the a combination of the UN and a feudal lord. They're the ones that are the final arbiters on matters between their vassal states, but try not to interfere in their day to day lives so as to not irritate them too much. They use their wisdom and power (actual or perceived) to arbitrate decisions with an eye for doing what is best for their empire. They draw their tithe from their vassals to keep their power intact but will otherwise let them do their things.

Considering that traditionally different fantasy species have different specialties this isn't as hard as it may look. Those humans with their short lives might be an issue since many don't think quite in the same longer terms as other species, but that isn't anything that can't be handled.

For a comparison, see the Civilization games, notable Civ 6 for this. The Fae have basically won a Culture Victory.

PS: The Fae tried this with the humans once. Turns out strange women lying in ponds distributing swords was not the best way to create a long-term government. But it was quite dramatic while it lasted.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd say more like the EU than the UN, but a good answer altogether. This could set the stage for some Frank Herbert level stuff. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Aug 21, 2023 at 17:08
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So, this is very much a real-world problem, especially in the West.

How I Believe it can be solved.

  • Every group has to have something in common, that they all voluntarily believe in.

It could be:

  • Religion
  • Nationalism
  • Music
  • Sport
  • Values
  • National Service
  • Whatever

For the real-world aspect, I personally believe that part of the issue in the west is that we have forgotten our own values (or more specifically, had them critiqued to death by self-loathing academics with an ulterior motive).

To add weight to this answer - if you look at America just post 9/11 - the whole country was united in a shared experience - the horror and anger at the event.

Alternatively - look at the British Sikh community, especially on St George's day - you'll barely find a more patriotic display of Flags, Bunting and quintessential Britishness.

As a personal anecdote, As a Metalhead - visiting Wacken (the biggest Metal festival in the world) - you could be in the Moshpit with people from different continents, but because you are all there, of your own free-will (and as some considerable effort for many people), for the same reason - in that moment, you are one.

You have a shared experience - you aren't Black/White/Yellow/Green - you are all Metalheads.

Traditionally for most countries - this was achieved by Religion, however not everyone believes and not everyone shares the same gods.

Nationalism is the next most common one - the belief that the country is generally good. This works fine, right up until it's taken from the Country is good to the Country is superior, and everyone starts speaking like a mid-century German...

Sport - In NZ, that's Rugby, whilst it's not as universal, Sport does allow people to come together - in Auckland, going to an All Blacks game, you'll see Middle-class families, Rich older ladies, Recent migrants from Korea who barely speak English, Large Pacific island families - all resplendent in All Blacks gear.

Same with Music.

Values is harder to do - as generally Values that don't have a basis in Religion or something that can withstand philosophical undermining is difficult to do.

National Service - As I've gotten older, although the idea of conscription into the Military isn't appealing - having something that every member of the population goes through is a very good way to build national identity and cohesion, even with different groups. Now, you could make it so that it's not Military service - but something similar - but the key points being that it needs to be as near identical as possible and for long enough that it's a lasting experience e.g. 1 Year of doing something.

There may be other things you can come up - but that's my thoughts. A Lot of this is based on personal experience and seeing how certain areas have changed over time as the culture has been fractured more and more.

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    $\begingroup$ Self-loathing academics. +10000 if I could vote that many times! It's also the truth. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 9, 2023 at 4:12
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    $\begingroup$ In a lot of places conscription has the alternative of national service, which is pretty much doing a government job for a while (usually longer than if you'd gone with conscription), it'd probably also work to build national cohesion $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Jul 9, 2023 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ I'd expand on the "nationalism" more, instead of jumping straight to Hitler comparisons. The 3rd Reich movement of Germany was reactionary to a sense that German culture was being lost. Specifically, I'd mention that nationalism, at least in western countries, is becoming more of a creedal matter than one of "blood and soil". The western nations of the world are mooch more willing today to accept "good countrymen" based more on what they believe and do, rather than their parentage. This is of course very true in the USA, which them leads into the values and loss of values portions. Good answer $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Aug 21, 2023 at 17:16
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Two methods come to mind from history

  1. Focus on the top.

Instead of trying to assimilate the common elf focus on the elet. Mary in to the elet they have your newly weed introduced your clothing, customs, and language to the elet. In a few generations they see themselves more as Fea then there orginal race.

We see this in both the Spanish and Roman empires.

  1. Comon ideology/religion.

Send teacher or preacher to persuade the inhabitants to not only convert to your religion or ideology but to make there position in that ideology there primary identity.

There no longer elves, dwarfs, hobbits, there the working class, or Christian, or the enlightened.

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Homogenization is the tendency in history, with many peoples even using genocide to get there. So called "multiculturalism" is a modem phenomenon that's generously 150 years old, but more like 90, that only exists because of the commercialization of rapid air travel (and it is very far from proving itself as a durable ideology). So, if you're in a WWI era equivalent, no explanation is needed. Fae and everything else are exploiting the same situations we have now, leading to fast mass migrations. 200 years ago, all your races were more or less living only in their homelands.

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It probably boils down to one simple thing: if the empire benefits the different races that are part of it, then they work together no matter how different they are.

At best, they can even combine their different views to benefit the empire. However, if they see the empire (or being part of it) as a big enough problem, they combine their strengths to fight it, or even to bring it down.

So, it is up to the empire to prove that the different races are better off being part of the empire than not being part of it. There are different ways to approach this challenge, and there are multiple ways to make this happen, so it is entirely up to the story make it work & make it interesting (and relevant).

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The currently ruling elite just declares there culture the best there is and declares the others rural and hillbilly. Happens everywhere time and time again. Some elites of the other cultures adopt it, others reject it, that is the whole idea of empire.

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