I am working on a fantasy story, and I am intending to put part of the plot in a village in the tundra. I need to figure out how they would sustain themselves. Obviously they could import all their food and firewood, but that would not be sustainable for a very long time. This takes place in a setting where glass is prohibitively expensive, so building greenhouses is problematic.

How could a village grow food and generate enough heat to survive?

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    $\begingroup$ Historically, humans living under such conditions relied primarily on animals for food and even heating. (Inuit burned fat from whale blubber, combined with dried driftwood, moss and animal dung). Do you have a reason for wanting the village to grow crops? $\endgroup$
    – Cyrus
    Nov 4, 2015 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyrus Its what I thought would be required. $\endgroup$
    – Tritium21
    Nov 4, 2015 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ Is it near the sea somewhere or far inland? If near the sea, sealing, fishing and whaling can easily sustain the town. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2015 at 13:58

2 Answers 2



Imagening people living on the tundra permanently is not hard considering there's real life people living in both artic and green tundras.

Consider Siberian or Mongol tribesmen. Though they are both nomadic, meaning they don't have single large villages (to the best of my knowledge), you can invent a society where there's a class of people traveling and herding large animal groups and shipping products back to the village.

Typical example animals would be horses or reindeer. Both producing hide/leather/bones/food/manure.

Mongols living on plains ofcourse don't have trees for firewood, so what they do is burn dried pony poop.


The survival of any community in any environment depends on:

  • the availability of necessities (food, water, firewood etc)
  • the technological level of their society (scientific understanding and means for converting scientific ideas into tangible products)
  • the amount of export the community can produce and its value
  • the soil type and the feasibility of agriculture

No matter where you place your community and what the community size, you cannot escape the impact of these factors. In your setting, the questions would be:

1- What is the staple food of your people? Can they hunt enough seals or find enough beached whales to feed themselves on the long term? Do they hunt reindeer?

2- If greenhouses are not a viable option, do the techies of the community have any other means of putting their raw materials into productive use?

For example, is it possible to build large communal igloos where all the people could gather so as to conserve all body heat in one place and requiring only one central fire to heat up the entire population etc?

3- Do they have any gold mines? Can they export their reindeer or seal skins in exchange for rifles, firewood, fuel oil etc?

4- Can they grow crops during summer? Anything that has edible foliage (even for reindeer) counts as crop. If they can grow fodder in summer, they could harvest it and turn it into hay, allowing them to keep domesticated reindeer for milk and hide.


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