Society and Culture

'Why all the stories? What else knits us together, child? Our societies and cultures are a tangled skein woven of no surer thread than story. We tell ourselves to care about each other, and so care we do. But story's a surprisingly hard thread to snap. It's resilient. It comes springing back, in a new pattern, that reminds you enough of the old to be a warning.'

– Advice from a grandparent to a grandchild

The way in which animals live is not as it once was. Long ago, the world was a far harsher place. Animal-kind fought each other tooth and claw for territory, for food, for survival. They were forced to do so by their own natures in order to live. Legend says that it was the White Raccoon who changed this. Their Blessing made it so no animal would have to feed on another for survival, and bestowed unto them an intelligence never before known, allowing those of feathers, gills, scales and fur to live in harmony.

The animals of The City and its surroundings have responded to this in a variety of ways. Some have built communities in which resources and friendship are shared freely and equitably, without leaders. Others have claimed power over their small area, relying on charisma for such claims to be heeded. Many others have chosen to rely on themselves or their close friends, and simply live peacefully in the vicinity of others, each finding their own food and shelter. Some have even developed systems for which resources or acts may be traded, though few have implemented this on a larger scale. The animals of this world are wanderers, artists, entrepreneurs, historians, philosophers, carers, tinkerers, scholars, storytellers, performers, teachers, kings, hedonists.

They find themselves now spread across the map. Those without thick coats to protect against the warm now possess the intelligence to fashion such coverings for themselves, and those previously confined to the waters may now rely on the aid of their terrestrial or avian friends to help them travel around. Those who have spent their entire lives underground now see their children venture up to the surface. The world has changed, and continues to do so.

Despite their sentience, the animals of this world do not tend to wear clothes. They may often be seen, however, adorned in the various human trinkets they have found, which they consider exciting accessories. That is not to say, of course, that they always correctly guess which of these trinkets were meant to be worn.

All animals in the City and its surroundings are able to understand each other, regardless of that animal's natural method of communication, thanks to the Blessing of the White Raccoon. A couple of rudimentary logographic writing systems have been developed, based loosely on the as-yet-undeciphered inscriptions left by the humans, though a lack of standard education combined with the crudeness of these new systems means that they are only known by a small group of animals – most often by scholars or entrepreneurs, who employ them for the purpose of recordkeeping. For general purposes, most animals rely on oral methods of communication.

Technology in The City is both incredibly advanced and incredibly primitive. There are remnants of human-made structures and machines as far as the eye can see, and some of these maintain small amounts of functionality – especially those which relied on solar panels as opposed to power stations. However, the animals have yet to even uncover how these mysterious machines function, much less utilise them. The level of technology possessed by most animals is around the level of neolithic humans pre-discovering fire.

A variety of diverse types of relationship can be seen in the world of White Raccoon, including both intraspecies and interspecies couples. An intraspecies pairing involves a relationship between characters of the same species (e.g. two penguins in a partnership), whilst an interspecies pairing involves a relationship between characters of different species, to varying degrees of separation (e.g. a raccoon and a fox in a partnership). Intraspecies relationships are more common than interspecies relationships, but in the City and its surrounding regions both kinds are treated equally, with no one specific type favoured over the other. Although interspecies couples cannot produce offspring, they can still have children through other methods if they so wish, such as adoption. Of course, not every couple, intraspecies or interspecies, will necessarily want to have children, and this is also a valid and well-established view and will not lead to judgement from their peers.

The City Centre

The culture of the City Centre is likely the most internally varied of all the regions. Whilst the vast majority of those who live in the area tend to mind their own business, living either alone or within small groupings of friends and family, there are several sub-areas with distinct and rigid social structures.

The two most notable of these are the inhabitants of the Grey Trees, and those who reside in the Gated Place. The former rarely stray from the level on which they reside, and hold a great reverence for those who make their home farther up: the peaks are notoriously punishing due to high winds and resource scarcity. Inhabitants of the same level tend to share resources, though this trend disappears on higher floors, which are fiercely competitive. The latter are a community of which very little is known, except that few enter and even fewer leave. The members flock around worship of their Guardian, and seem very tight-knit. Despite this, those from the City Centre are often seen as cold or antisocial by others.

The Suburbs

To the outside at least, the inhabitants of the Suburbs are known to be a peaceful sort; “content” if you're being kind, “empty-headed” if you're not. In reality, most of those who live in the Suburbs merely know what they're doing and enjoy doing it, whether that be the Scholars giving lectures in the crumbling Shelters or the racing animals pushing their limits in the Park.

While many animals who live here are happy to share resources, and oftentimes their shelter, with others, there are some who are not so generous. Squabbles about the owner of a particular shiny trinket are not uncommon, and there are examples of some who refuse to share their space with others, occasionally even barring the Scholars from researching in a particular building. Those who live in other areas of the City may see the inhabitants of the Suburbs as idlers, choosing to spend their time relaxing with their discussions and recreational activities, rather than working to help society.

The Forest

The Forest has a relatively unified culture, centred on strong bonds of mutual aid and a pride in storytelling and appreciation for the strange and magical. There is no organised system of political power, but there are collectively-managed systems for storing and fairly distributing food during the Winter, going back some time. Much of the folklore of the Forest is concerned with maintaining the equitable social structures it has attained, and forest-dwellers are sometimes stereotypically viewed as self-satisfied and smug in their sense of achieving a perfect social system.

The Plains

The Plains are a vast, unkept wilderness, and the social structures there largely reflect this. Animals on the Plains tend to band together in herds, whose social dynamic closely follow that of a large family, with usually one or two parental figures leading the group. Although some herds grow very large and contain a wide variety of animal species, such as Boy's Cows, there is no overarching structure that connects the various herds. Some herds prefer to look after themselves, remaining courteous but detached from different groups. Others form close alliances or friendships based around mutual aid or even just shared pastimes, such as the multitude of herds that gather around the Behemoth Twins for a good scratch.

Because of the range of herds present in the Plains, the views held by non-natives vary wildly, often mistakenly assuming every herd acts the same. Opinions tend to be formed based on the first herd foreigners come across, whether that be the chivalrous Boy's Cows or the lethargic elephant herds at the Behemoth Twins.

The Waterways

The Waterways is wide and extremely deep, and with its combination of sandy shores and fathomless depths, several somewhat distinct cultures have developed inside of it, though each are influenced by the others in important ways.

The most dominant, and powerful, culture of the Shore is that of the followers of the Empress Penguin. Any animals loyal to the Empress tend to be defensive and haughty, taught to take great pride in what they have built on the Shore. They readily trade with any animal who comes by, and in a far more organised fashion than most other animals, but usually expect something in return and are not predisposed to giving generously. This rule does not extend to fellow members of their organisation, where the prevailing belief is that any animal loyal to the Empress has the right to expect the protection and help of her subjects in return.

As a centre for trade, the Shore is a diverse location, and those who are not loyal to the Empress and her followers tend to treat her with a weary tolerance. Otherwise, the Shore bustles with a vibrant spirit of trade and excitement, of a collection of wondrous things. Animals can easily get lost in the atmosphere, if they wander.

Inside the Great Lake itself however, it is quite different. With its quietness and general emptiness, what cultures form down there tend to be contemplative, generally uninterested in exploration but deeply interested in deeper questions of existence. Due to how infrequently these small groups meet, a strong tradition of hospitality has developed in which hosting is considered a very special occasion, and this also extends to guests from outside the Lake. However, this tradition comes with a strong aversion to rudeness, loudness or insult, lest anyone disturb the perfect environment for quiet contemplation.

It's entirely possible, even probable, that what animals that live in the Depths have developed cultures, but little is known about them. What has filtered upwards is that they are deeply bizarre, esoteric, and filled with reverence for the impenetrable darkness.

The Underground

For many, many years, the Underground remained isolated from the rest of the City. During this time, it was home only to a few burrowing animals and the former so-called 'vermin' from the era when humans were still around. As a result, a unique culture developed in the Underground. From the days when the animals first gained sentience, there has been an instated Monarch, whose role is to protect the residents of the Underground, ensuring that they have enough food and resources to survive, a relic from days of scrounging around the humans' leftovers. The inhabitants are therefore keen to share their food amongst themselves, but less so with the animals up top. Currently, the Monarch position is held by the well-liked Rat King.

By location, the culture in the Underground varies. In the main domains of the Murky Waters and the Nether Labyrinth, the culture is cohesive, with a solid sense of community amongst the residents of the Underground and a mutual respect for The Rat King and his Knights. They value knowledge and protection, and as such, many residents are keen scholars. However, the culture becomes more varied in the Caves, which are spread out further from the City geographically. Their individual cultures typically reflect those of the areas they are closest to – the Forest or the Waterways – but nonetheless share the similar reclusive air of the areas beneath the City's main limits.

Outsiders do not know much about the occurrences in the Nether Kingdom and the intricacies of their society. To surface-dwellers, these are eerie subterrestrial folk, often sharing stories of things that go bump in the night below the overgrown paved streets. But many would probably not notice the Underground native living amongst them, their only tell-tale signs being the divergence in oral storytelling, routes from A to B, and theories about the history of animal-kind.

  • culture.txt
  • Last modified: 2023/07/17 14:39
  • by gm_aric