3
$\begingroup$

I'm writing a novel where an empire is on the rise, with a lot of discrimination against other species, yet, for plot reasons they use shock troops that are of another species, elves. The empire use them because of plot related reason, they thrive well in the environment they're invading and those elves do quite a good job at beeing servants, they need the humans for supplies and stuff. Yet, since this empire use its hatred of other species to wage war, how could they use politically those elves without too much trouble? At first I thought the Emperor said so and since he's in charge, everyone must follow. Yet, in real life, many absolute government had dissents, especially with this kind of arguments, usually causing their downfall (I'm thinking of the janissaries and their awkward relationship with the sultans, ending in the Ottoman empire's fall). At the beginning of the story, the Empire is on the rise, and therefore not a lot of dissonent voices should be around.

What would be the easiest way to justify the elves' use ? The empire's politics will in time be more and more oppressive towards the elves because they are a different species, I just don't want the politics to be bickering about that at the beginning, yet I'm not finding a good way out.

$\endgroup$
15
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ Seletively sending people out as cannon fodder is definitely oppressive. "What, you mean our fine boys and girls should risk getting killed or maimed in battle?! No way! Let those dirty others do that... all they are good for anyway... dieing for us... preferably horribly." $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Jan 10 at 16:14
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This question feels very "story based." I'm having a hard time seeing it from a perspective that provides anything besides a suggestion for how to tell the story. Even in the real world, political maneuvering is all about telling the right story. $\endgroup$ Jan 10 at 16:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ is it me or the elves are a lot like Gurkha? also used by mean employer but at least they could preserved their dignity nothing more and nothing less. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jan 10 at 17:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user6760 Kinda yeah ! I thought of janissaries gurkhas, alpine corps... Basically any troops that happened to be specialized for a job by a culturally diverse empire $\endgroup$
    – LamaDelRay
    Jan 10 at 17:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I dunno why you need a particular justification. Real life racist empires have been using colonized population as shock troops for centuries if not millenia. $\endgroup$
    – armand
    Jan 12 at 4:07

10 Answers 10

28
$\begingroup$

You mentioned the Ottomans. Well, there were the Janissaries, who started out as slave soldiers. The Romans had their auxiliaries. The Nazis, among others, used penal battalions. For that matter, think of the Foreign Legion.

  • Regular soldiers must not see them as peers.
    Keep the lower-class troops in separate units, under upper-class officers (and perhaps NCOs). Think about how far the elves can rise before they hit a ceiling. Compare the British Indian Army.
  • Civilans must not see them as soldiers.
    Deploy them In areas far from the upper class populations, and far from their own ethnic groups. Have them oppress other minorities. Recruits from one colony fight in another colony, not in the motherland.
    A normal citizen will never get to see them in uniform, let alone under arms.
  • When they are too old to serve, give them jobs as supervisors and foremen among their own group (keeping those under the thumb of PTSD-suffering veterans to sabotage civil society).
$\endgroup$
6
  • $\begingroup$ "Recruits from one colony fight in another colony" has precedent too - Roman Auxiliaries. They were usually volunteers rather than conscripts, but were recruited in one colony and sent to fight in others. For example many of the Auxiliaries in Britain came from Gaul and the Rhineland (Wikipedia) $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Jan 11 at 13:34
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ And have someone else that they can consider themselves to be better than. When they can oppress someone else, they will consider themselves as part of the system and will fight to protect the system (see poor whites in the Confederacy). $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Jan 11 at 15:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As i understand it Romans are a counter example. The auxiliaries were most often archers and cavalry as the linked article states. The Roman citizen units were the shock troops for a large portion of the Roman Empires existence. $\endgroup$ Jan 11 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ @GaultDrakkor, I see it as "expendable" vs. "safeguarded" rather than "light" vs, "heavy." Legions were not expendable. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Jan 12 at 17:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @o.m. Per historian Bret Deveraux, one of the great strengths of the Roman republic was its ability to reconstitute its military, year after year, with a robust annual recruitment process. You could win battles against such an enemy, but not a war... $\endgroup$ Jan 12 at 23:53
14
$\begingroup$

The untouchables deal with trash

Race as a caste system is a very common combination, especially in empires. See India, the Spanish empire in Latin America, etc. The lowest castes in a society may be despised and degraded, but they can still be useful for dealing with work that you don’t want to sully the other castes with.

Use the elves as shock troops against outsiders of the lower races, so that your glorious warrior caste is not sullied in the unclean blood of those beasts.

And there’s no issue having them be part of the empire. My toilet plunger occupies a place in my bathroom, my most intimate of abodes, because I use it to deal with shit. It’s convenient and useful. I’d never take it into my bedroom, but I’m not going to throw it out.

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

Why would we waste our Precious, pure blood children - when we can use inferior Xenos instead

When it comes to an expanding Empire - Children are one of the most precious resources - they are the means by which the Empire is propagated through time.

So sending them to fight and die in a War is counter-productive. Now, sure - all the Officer corps would be from the Empire (this will be important) - in order to make sure that the 'Savages' don't do anything stupid - but the actual Grunts can absolutely be Elves.

Now - from some historical context - consider the concept of Martial Races - you may balk at the, shall we say 'Notion of its time' - but this was a concept. You could even make the argument that the British Armies' continued relationship with the Gurkhas (the nicest, Politest, most hard-as-nails monsters on the Battlefield) is in-line with this tradition.

Seriously though - if you aren't British or don't know who the Gurkhas are - read up on them. The Brits love the Gurkhas and whilst compared to the average western soldier they are smaller, shorter and less stocky - they are some of the fiercest fighters on the Planet and have earned a reputation to allow them to stand amongst Giants.

In short - there's historical precedent to point to for Empires using second-class Citizens for fighting in Conflicts. Even Xenophobic/Racist Empires - because it's better that they die, than you die.

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

You gave the reason yourself

they thrive well in the environment they're invading

All the empire has to do is say that they are well-suited to it. This does not even require a belief that they are inferior. All sorts of tribal/national groups have been specialized troops on the claim that they are particularly good at it. This may be because their culture makes a big deal of archery and so they are archers, or because their circumstances lead their learning useful skills, as when a group living on the marginal agricultural land supplements their diet with hunting, and the hunters learn skills that make them good scouts. It may be from historical happenstance, where a group of elves made a good showing in a battle as archers, and so elven archers acquired a reputation that made their appearance a boost to your side's morale and a blow to your foe's, even before they fought. And so on.

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

The emperor can mask the cannon fodder usage as a magnanimous gesture toward the oppressed: "see, as of today you folks are worth less than the dust on my servant car, but if you fight for the country in the war I am about to wage, and if you survive the service, I will grant you the citizenship and that will make you and your family live a better life."

It has been done in the past and even today, when some classes of people have been given the "opportunity".

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ That would explicitely be the problem. This is basically what he'll promise to the elves, and they're okay. But the ministers and stuff will most likely feel this is a can of worm best left closed, it's on how to convince them $\endgroup$
    – LamaDelRay
    Jan 10 at 16:32
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @LamaDelRay What, are the ministers itching to levy troops themselves (at considerable personal expense and inconvenience to their fiefs)? Auxilia are troops you don't even have to spend money on, it doesn't get better than that. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jan 10 at 17:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Service guarantees citizenship. Join today! $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jan 11 at 9:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @LamaDelRay, also, the "citizenship" given to those auxilia elves may differ from the citizenship ministers are enjoying. Like, they would have some rights, but not all, and not everywhere, but only in the newly conquered provinces far from the core empire. And they lose everything if they try to move back. So ministers won't even have to meet those new "citizens". $\endgroup$
    – user28434
    Jan 13 at 10:13
3
$\begingroup$

The case of Korean people under the Japanese empire at the beginning of the 20th century is interesting.

On the one hand, Japan enrolled Korean men in the army at the end of World War 2 (from the linked Wikipedia article) :

Starting in 1944, Japan started the conscription of Koreans into the armed forces. All Korean males were drafted to either join the Imperial Japanese Army, as of April 1944, or work in the military industrial sector, as of September 1944. Before 1944, 18,000 Koreans passed the examination for induction into the army. Koreans provided workers to mines and construction sites around Japan. The number of conscripted Koreans reached its peak in 1944 in preparation for war. From 1944, about 200,000 Korean males were inducted into the army.

On the other hand, even a racist empire knows that it has to rely to some extend on local powers and elites to rule a territory it recently invaded. In the case of Japanese colonisation, some Korean political and economical elite were allowed to continue business and kept important positions in the colonial administration (though quotas, spoliations and arbitrary confiscations existed and key positions were held by Japanese).

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Just hire them to fight, they cannot leave if they're dependent on you for supplies, so they're unlikely to desert.

The Balearic Islanders are a good example, they were hired en masse first by the Carthaginians then by the Romans. They fought well, were separate units and spent their loot & pay almost as fast as they got it. Basically they'd fight for whoever owned their region, because they can't fight for anyone else and still expect to return home.

They were important only for their slinging skill, no one seems to have wanted to socialise with them, all sources describe them as wild savages, valuable at war and nothing else.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Its not heard of xenophobic nations to have an approved subgroup of the people they discriminate against (oftentimes, a minority within the group). Its an effective form of control, the subgroup feels indebted to the controlling nation and will happily use their new position of power to suppress those who threaten it. The subgroup might also be more culturally similar to the nation, and that common ground makes it harder for people to hate them. It also could be an instance of conversion, where the subgroup adopts the values of the nation and so there is less reason to object to them.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Random thoughts

TLDR: Make the elves less sentient

"...an empire is on the rise, with a lot of discrimination against other species, yet, for plot reasons they use shock troops that are of another species, elves."

If you think of elves more like technology like AI, they can fit a parallel because they are indifferent to the enemy. Killing other sentient life is not as easy to convince a civilization to do. You elude to ideas of this further in the text. Since you are going mythical, I would consider the idea of the species being more animalistic, or being well-trained animals. They get trained on eating the flesh of those other species and trained to an aversion of the flesh of the dominant species. That also provides an incentive to the animal because they like the flesh and provides them a food source.

"The empire use them because of plot related reason, they thrive well in the environment they're invading and those elves do quite a good job at beeing servants, they need the humans for supplies and stuff."

Not sure the reasons but it would be hard to get another sentient species to willingly do that to another species, too many questions of ethics, morality, etc unless your default construction of elven civilization is either less sentient, animalistic, or have historically based disdain to the other species. I liken this to current civilization, in America, the slow invasion of enemies makes it easy to kill Americans because you would not be able to get the military in America to kill their own. They are good servants that get "supplies and stuff"; AI, elves, well-trained animal-like creatures, they won't have feelings about killing.

"Yet, since this empire use its hatred of other species to wage war, how could they use politically those elves without too much trouble? At first I thought the Emperor said so and since he's in charge, everyone must follow. Yet, in real life, many absolute government had dissents, especially with this kind of arguments, usually causing their downfall (I'm thinking of the janissaries and their awkward relationship with the sultans, ending in the Ottoman empire's fall)."

We are at the point in civilization where we truly will be able to eradicate other species with indiscriminate AI. This is why I go back to the idea of animals because they are equivalent in many ways, they don't carry the same questions that are difficult to explain if not impossible.

"At the beginning of the story, the Empire is on the rise, and therefore not a lot of dissonent voices should be around."

Just like our current politics are playing out, dissent from within is heard but not given much credence because the greater goal or game is being sought and played. The march forward will continue when the plans have been laied out long before the public catches wind of what is really happening. AI is something we have lead on but there are others that have the technology, the same as other civilizations. But as an empire on the rise, they do "whatever it takes" to accomplish their goals. People look forward to a future where AI can help humanity. These elves or creatures can be used within their society that is beneficial. I would envision large building projects, roadway construction. This brings in the ideas of ancient civilizations to make their societies appear to be great because they are able to accomplish such feats. People are happy to have elves within their society as servants. You can't always be at war so it gives acknowledgement to what happens in the meantime in between conflicts. That can go in a lot of directions to make the case.

"What would be the easiest way to justify the elves' use ?"

See above. I'd go on to say, just like any technology, at it's essence, does that. The elves, technology, animals, make the lives of their societies easier.

"The empire's politics will in time be more and more oppressive towards the elves because they are a different species, I just don't want the politics to be bickering about that at the beginning, yet I'm not finding a good way out."

Cut out the politics and make them less sentient, they are more like dogs in a sense, they are trained.

This is super dark, I am not evil, but I think you can make an allegory that ties in the unabstracted truth of what every people group wants to do when they are ruled by fear. Fear of lack of resources, different philosophies, the other in general. Every civilizations has to believe and agree upon a set of ideas, rules, laws, philosophies to conduct itself. We take that for granted and is why we see our current society become what it is. Just like other dystopian ideas from Huxley, Wells, etc, there is an understanding of man wanting to continue win the game of life. They want to win and dominate. It's a sad truth but that's how it's spelled out throughout our own history. It's not peace they seek, it's dominance and that's what it seems like you are saying with the set up of your empire. They discriminate for whatever reasons you provide and in the end it boils down to the same desire for man to rule over other man, or be God. Man wants to either reach God, those that follow, or be God, those that rebel. They would, if successful in eradicating the other species with the help of elves, find within their own society to destroy the other once they run out of enemies from without. No peaceful coexistence, just domination.

Just thoughts. All of that to say make them less sentient.

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's very interesting thoughts, I'm not sure on how to interpret them all but thanks for the input. $\endgroup$
    – LamaDelRay
    Jan 12 at 8:47
0
$\begingroup$

Loyal troops in some positions prevent / mitigate revolt of low level soldiers

There have been revolts in the past but they have always gotten themselves blockaded and defeated in detail.

Control of the seas

Your empire spans many islands. There's a lot of fighting that needs to be done on land but your empire needs to control the seas first.

The sailors are drawn from a loyal core. There's a large investment per sailor in terms of gunnery / sea (or space if you're that advanced) faring / and ships.

Control of fortifications and other mitigating factors

Additional steps have been taken to reduce the chance of revolt.

  • High investment fortifications such as castles are held by well trained loyal elves. Whenever a revolt happens the revolting species have no place to hold off numerically superior forces who are defeating them in detail.
  • Siege unit positions are also always loyal elves. When a revolt happens the shock troops do not have the know how or equipment for destroying fortifications.
  • Elite units that require high investments such as cavalry / machines of war are also controlled by loyal troops.
  • While the shock troop junior officers are the same species as the shock troops they are treated well and are much more loyal to the empire than the enlisted troops as a result of their status. When a revolt happens there are very few officers to lead the enlisted soldiers.

justification of use - loyal home front

With factors mitigating using other species as shock troops your empires economy draws much more from its primary species. This is necessary because it would be problematic if the untermensch species were the drivers of the economy. It's better to have a solid home front with the untermensch fighting wars far away then to risk a revolt at home.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .