Monthly Archives: February 2015

Quality of Life Standardization/Globalization

Analogous Era:mid 20th century standard of living, Electrical Age
Genre: DiselpunkUrban/Dungeon Punk
Tech:
Power-electric generator/motor, direct current, alternating current, solar cells, wind turbine, geothermal springs, alchemical reactors, few nuclear reactors, gemstone charm bags
Transportation-bicycle, quadracycle, motorcycle, mono-wheel, automobile, subway train, elevator brake, escalator, motorcycle, radar, time zones, windshield
Medicine-bandage, antibiotics, prescription pills, vaccinations, anesthetic, sterile surgery, acupuncture, x-ray machine, blood transfusion, organ transplantation, contact lenses, dialysis, germicidials
Cooking- kitchen stove, pressure cooker, solar cooker, microwave oven
Food Storage- refrigerator, freezer, metal can, cardboard box, can opener
Communication-ball point pen, radio, television (color), record player, movie camera, instant camera, copy machine, typewriter, fax machine
Weaponry-swords, ionized blades, handgun, long guns, rifle, shotgun, gatling guns, tanks, raygun, elemental arrows, electric scepter, chemical pistol, magic boomstick, charged staves

Living Races:

Civilized

Have significant residence in cities/suburbs

  • Djinn
  • Fairy
  • Homin
  • Lamia (some)
  • Bakeneko
  • Inugami
  • Genius Loci
  • Merfolk
  • Harpy (some)
  • AGI
  • Huli Jing (some)
  • Tanuki (some)

Wilderness

  • Homin
  • Fairy
  • Merfolk
  • Huli Jing
  • Tanuki
  • Tengu
  • Okami
  • Usagi
  • Amazons
  • Giants
  • Elementals
  • Dryad
  • Genius Loci

Monstrous

Avoided/spurred by civilization

  • Jorogumo
  • Kappa
  • Yukionna
  • Oni
  • Demons
 Significant Events

  • The first solar cell able to convert sunlight into electricity was constructed.
  • The revised Jinn Government, Fairy, and Homins come together to create the United Sapient Species to prevent future inter-species war and genocide, mutual rebuilding of societies, and set up programs for social equity.
  • Invention of alternating current made it possible to transmit electricity at high voltages over long distances.
  • Debates over AC and DC electricity over practicality and safety. Demonstrations of AC lead to it being used in the first large scale central generation system and high-voltage AC transmission lines were built to connect lower-voltage distribution lines in towns and cities.
  • Integration of power lines across a country led to the idea of a national power grid that provided AC mainly to urban areas.
  • Electric powered households gained new inventions such as the vacuum cleaner, washing machine, air conditioner, refrigerator, fluorescent lamp, pop-up toaster.
  • Mana based power began to emerge as USS passed an Act that encouraged research, development and demonstration
  • Globalization is often blamed for increasing risk behaviors such as smoking and alcohol consumption, increasing social conflict, loss of identity, dislocation and dissatisfaction. Others argue that greater cultural exchange is likely to increase tolerance and understanding, while more access to information can create lifestyle and social changes with health benefits, such as gender equality, greater respect for people’s rights
  • Early cultural programs are set up in human, faye, and spirit societies; a few groups against integration polices rise up and promote species-ist qualities
  • Exploration of Lunarian ruins rediscovers advanced technology for the wartime era; reverse engineering provides for new domestic technologies; a huge renaissance in applied sciences.
  • Renaissance spurs the creation of new utilitarian and domestic focused spell-craft; electric and mana central stations providing public power is tested in a few major mixed race urban centers; its success leads to plans of future implementations.
  • The idea to the world divide into 24 time zones so that everyone in the world can be on roughly similar schedules (like noon being roughly when the sun is highest in the sky) was proposed by railway planners and engineers.
  • Corporations and free trade increase, guilds decrease as education and jobs become more centralized and sedentary.
  • More cities and suburbs are made displacing open territories and incorporating indigenous settlements
  • Creation of technology shortens work hours, creating a leisure class. Supermarkets, delicatessens and packaged foods become the norm in large cities.
  • Mana fuel cells become a commercial success; Alchemical reactors power large cities with electrical generators as back up.
  • Guilds starts to get absorbed into larger corporations and start to fade away.
Late
  • With depletion in accessible coal and oil, began to embrace renewable energy, building monumental wind farms as well as the first large scale solar-thermal power plant.
  • Diseases of affluence begin to crop up in urbanized and wealthy nations after a few generations.
  • Advancements in farming, domestic and commercial tech, communications, and recreation are shared between species and integrated in civilian lives.
  • All Lunarians awake from stasis with goals to slowly rebuild their culture and civilization; specific cultures develop according to area.
  • Standardization of the availability of modern education,  communications, energy, medical treatment, weaponry, transportation, and manufacturing is carried for all ethnic groups although indigenous varieties are still made available.

The Medieval Calendar

James B. Shannon

1496 copy of a German calendar created by Johannes Von Gmunden (c.1380-1443). 1496 copy of a German calendar created by Johannes Von Gmunden (c.1380-1443).


Julian vs Gregorian


When was the last time you gave more than a passing thought to how our current calendar came to be? If I were to venture a guess, I would say that most of us probably have a vague recollection of a long-ago school lesson that explained all that—maybe. But for writers of history or historical fiction it is an important discussion—particularly if your area of focus is prior to the eighteenth century.

I think we all recognize that the cycle of the seasons dictated so much of our ancestors’ activities that it deserves to exert significant influence on our writing. Our world-building generally takes adequate account of the time of year. But did you know that historical accuracy often requires that we also place events on the correct day of the week?

Before the…

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Leonard Nimoy Has Passed Away

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

According to this article at New York Times, Leonard Nimoy has passed away.  He was 83.

Last I’d heard, he was recovering.  But I guess it wasn’t to be.  Seeing the stars of my favourite TV show dying is difficult.  It’s hard to really say anything.  Not a happy night.

And I’m not going to do a silly Spock quote.  He had a long and prosperous life.

SpockLeonard Nimoy, March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015.

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Guilded Age

Analogous Era: Early 20th century standard, Gilded Age, Roaring Twenties
GenreDiesel/Dungeon Punk
Tech:
Power-water mills, charm bags, magic crystal/gems, engine starter, steam engine,  internal combustion engine, electrochemical batteries, dry-cell battery, geothermal spring, DC current
Transportation-bicycle, quadracycle, monowheel, zepplin, bathysphere, biplane, seaplane, hand glider
Medicine– psychiatry, gauze bandage, diagnostic medical devices (stethoscope), microscope
Cooking– charcoal grill, tandoor, wood oven, kitchen stove, hot pot, kettle, gas stove
Food storage– dry pantry, still houses, icebox, smoke houses, brine barrels, preserve jars, metal cans, gelatin, stewing jugs
Communicationtypewriter, ink and feathered pen, electric radio, ribbon microphone, magazines, black and white film projector
Weaponry– short sword, dagger, broadsword, cutlass, kurki, katana, tachi, main-gauche, glaive, hook-sword, buckler, sai, katar, mace and chain flail, quarterstaff, urumi, lance, longbow, composite bow, recurve bow,  arquebuses, musket, bayonet, single shot pistols, harmonica gun, multipurpose magic wand

Living Races:

Civilized

Have significant residence in cities/suburbs
  • Djinn
  • Fairy (some Seelie)
  • Homin (some Forest)
  • Genius Loci (some)
  • Merfolk (some)
  • AGI
  • Harpy (few)
  • Lamia (few)
Wilderness
  • Homin
  • Fairy
  • Merfolk
  • Huli Jing
  • Tanuki
  • Tengu
  • Okami
  • Usagi
  • Amazons
  • Giants
  • Elementals
  • Dryad
  • Genius Loci
  • Inugami
  • Bakeneko
Monstrous
Avoided/spurred by civilization
  • Harpy
  • Lamia
  • Jorogumo
  • Kappa
  • Yukionna
  • Oni

 Significant Events


  • Skilled craftsmen formed guilds in settled towns still recovering their populations and commerce.
  • Alchemical reactions lead to rediscovery of combustion engines. Internal combustion engines are created to compete with popular steam models via diesel or gasoline.
  • Rediscovery of storing mana into crystal and gemstones, charm bags with jewels can now last longer and have bigger effect radius.
  • Patent for a barrage wall with turbines installed in to generate power as water flows in and out of the estuary basin, bay, or river.
  • Merchants and tradesmen that came together in guilds became savvy businessmen and learned to deal with moneylenders and bankers.
  • People of various trades like blacksmithing, medicine, printing, cuisine, textile, engineering,  magical study, later came together to form various types of guilds.
  • Advances in new fields of science and engineering are made within guilds. Soon the guilds hold demonstrations to the public displaying various new inventions and experiments.
  • Increase in guilds leads to creation of regional councils who deal with the affairs of various guilds along with standardized rules of initiation, membership, and apprenticeship.
  • Guilds for adventuring become the most popular way to bring in both personal and community wealth, causing them to spread widely.
  • Adventuring in unclaimed wilderness increased the occurrence of various melee weapon variations for protection along trade routes,  and wandering bandits between settlements.
  • Various types of handheld firearms experiment with various launching mechanisms like matchlocks, wheel locks, flintlocks, and cap-locks.  They were mainly used as distraction measures or emergency weaponry in magic depleted situations, but the number of those depending on them or specializing with them were growing steadily.
  • Scraps of technology from the war become integrated into personal warfare or re-purposed for other devices.
  •  Publications launch new school of thought, behaviorism. In contrast to psychoanalysis, behaviorism focuses on observable and measurable behavior. It reaches critical acclaim when an experiment using behaviorist principles is able to domesticate a few generations of harpies into developing empathy and becoming suitable for civil society. This implies that not all monstrous humanoids are innately evil and can potentially enter greater society.
  • Coastline guilds begin to incorporate Merfolk as members and consumers, adventuring guilds uncover lost technology and artifacts from lunar civilization and advanced weaponry from the Ghul Wars.
  • The spread of knowledge in guilds from various sources began to breakdown species and racial barriers within their walls, and slowly within their local communities.
  • Early refrigerators (iceboxes), a wood cabinet often decorated with some etched designs on the front exterior surface. They included two separate compartments, an insulated, lined area at the top designed to hold large chunks of ice and a bottom section with shelves for storing perishable food products. Some of the ice compartments were top-loaded; others front-loaded through doors. A very necessary part of the system was an interior pipe, which drained water from the melting ice to a collection pan located at the bottom or on the floor.
  • A guild ran by the race of metallic beings called the AGI make head way with rescue missions and device manufacturing. Eventually their efforts lead to the use of interchangeable parts and factories used this to make assembly lines.
  • With creation of the microscope, Alchemists could plainly observe the building blocks of life, cells, and the interactions taking place.
  • Increase of psychology in the public knowledge, revives small guilds focusing in parapsychology. The “mental force” of old observed by spirits and select individuals is re-branded as psychokinetic energy and is found to be sympathetic with changes in electromagnetic fields.
  • Lamia working in cheesemaking discover microorganisms like bacteria and yeast producing effects that suppress the growth of bacterial biofilms and pathogens. Antibiotic chemicals are discovered and isolated from these groups of fungi and non-pathogenic bacteria. Use of these greatly reduced number of bacterial disease caused deaths for Homins and severity of symptoms in faye species.
Late
    • The link between electricity and magnetism is found via the field theory; invented principle of electromagnetic induction leads to the earliest electric motor and generator.
    • A glassblower invents an early fluorescent light bulb, soon after the first incandescent light bulb was made for commercial production. However it used DC, which could only be transmitted for short distances.
    • Aviation guilds recover lost blueprints and designs to aircraft and attempt to engineer them. They resurrect the biplane design along with propeller based engines as they continue experimenting with jet engines.
    • First economically practical power station in a major city allows for distribution of DC electricity for homes and businesses, including street lighting via overhead wires.
    • A few decades of experiments are made involving microbes to determine whether spontaneous generation gives rise to life forms. Eventually experiments refuted the idea and Kaphian cities grew to accept that living things only came from living things.

Post War Government Reconstruction

Analogous Era: Industrial/Victorian under Feudal System
Genre/Setting:Steampunk/Gas-lamp Fantasy
Tech:
Power- water-wheel, clockwork, steam engine
Transportation-clockwork powered carriage, hot air balloon, steam locomotive, steam wagon, horse carriage, bicycle
Medicine-physical therapy, painkillers, inoculation, splints & traction, amputation
Cooking- cheese making, brewery, hearth cooking, communal oven, pit barbeque
Food storage-taverns, smokehouses, ice houses, pantry
Communication- telegraph, typewriter, printing press, gramophone, pamphlets
Weaponry-rapiers, broadswords, automatic crossbows, flintlocks, scimitars, bucklers, knuckle dusters, gauntletsgreaves

“Kaf”

Living Races:

Civilized

  • Djinn
  • Fairy (some; Seelie)
  • Homin (few;Forest)
  • AGI
  • Dryad (few)

Wilderness

  • Homin
  • Merfolk
  • Huli Jing
  • Tanuki
  • Tengu
  • Okami
  • Usagi
  • Amazons
  • Giants
  • Elementals
  • Dryad
  • Genius Loci

Monstrous

  • Harpy
  • Lamia
  • Jorogumo
  • Kappa
  • Yukionna
  • Oni

 

 Significant Events


  • Efforts to reconstruct the government of the remaining jinn species is reconstructed after a revolution during the last of the wars. Legislation for the integration of djinn races are passed and implemented in major walks of society like employment, education, transportation.
  • The environment becomes stable enough that non-jinn can set up small settlements like hamlets and attempt to return to sedentary living.
  • People of towns and villages are hired to create or distribute pamphlets, unbound (and therefore inexpensive) booklets intended for wide circulation. Pamphlets were used to broadcast the writer’s opinions: to articulate a political ideology, for example, or to encourage people to vote for a particular politician.
  • With many habitats in disarray from the environment, various fairy communities come together to restore and improve the health of  and protect the ecosystems their habitat. Eventually they came to greatly improve the sustainability and biodiversity of their territories leading to their way of life to revolve around maintaining the animals, plants and preparing them and the land for the transition between seasons.
  • Fairy nobles claim what was left behind by Faerie courts of the past that roamed the grasslands, mountains, and tundra.
  • With the land cleared of most faye and large magical beasts, Homins began to settle into new territories. They learned that by carrying the seeds of trees, they could plant them in other areas and spread large trees into the savanna and the tall grass plains.
  • For safety and for defense, remaining people formed small communities around a central lord or master. Most consisted of being under one race although a few included those of other species.
  • The king or queen of a region awarded land grants or “fiefs” to their most important nobles, barons, and bishops, in return for their contribution of soldiers for the king’s armies. “Vassals” were the position of people who defended the areas from enemy groups. At the lowest echelon of society were the peasants, also called “serfs”. In exchange for living and working on his land, known as the “demesne,” the lord offered his peasants protection.
  • Deep wetland niches are taken up by emerging brackish merfolk and various lamia communities respectively. Lamia also travel and spread into arid regions like deserts as well. Harpies expand into the mountain ranges, open plains, and deep jungles. As these species are consisted monsters by larger society, their territory is separated from town and villages and generally ignored. Species like these are referred to as monstrous humanoids.
  • Many parishes and places would set up species segregation regulations to ”protect their peasants and nobles from malicious influence” which included anti-miscegenation laws meant to keep fairies and homins from breeding with the monstrous humanoids.
  • Late in the Era, peace and order grew and as a result, peasants began to expand their farms and villages further into the countryside. Most merchants were peddlers who  went from village to village selling their goods. As the demand for goods increased–particularly for the gems, silks, metal alloys and other luxuries they became more familiar with complex issues of trade, commerce, accounting, and contracts.
  • With the advent of trade and commerce, feudal life declined. As the tradesmen became wealthier, they resented having to give their profits to their lords.
  • Alchemists experimented with the effects of magic on steam based technology. This led to the increase of energy output from various models of steam engines; results spurred interest in the possible results that would come with other sources for engines and motors.
  • Steam engine took root in urban areas while the country side continued with water mills.
  • First psychology laboratory opens and credited with establishing psychology as an academic discipline. Early schools include functionalism and structuralism, but the school of psychoanalysis becomes the most influential in society.
Qarin
Living Races:
Civilized
  • (Qarin) Fairy
  • Celestials (Lunar)
Wilderness
  • Gyokuto
  • Elves
Stasis
  • Lunarians

Significant Events


 

  • Lunarians are underground in stasis maintained by machines created by their deceased parents and guardians.
  • Qarin fairy are released from their stasis before the lunarians awake; they locate the fallen and isolated communities of Gyoto henge.
  • Qarin Fairy work with the remaining  Gyoto and Lunar celestials to restore the various ecosystems of Qarin so they can continue to support life.
  • The fairies find a community of the last elves in existence in the valley and give them the opportunity to help rebuild the world.

 

Climatic Extinction Disaster & Fall of the Pantheon Age

Setting/Sub-genre: Dystopian/Apocalyptic

*Last war is ended by the genocide of Ghul from the doomsday devices they created via stripping the divinity from captured Celestials
*Last war resulted in the deaths of roughly 45% of all djinn, 40% of all other spirits,  10% of Lunarians and 85% of faery. Due to not officially taking part only 5% of causalities are (Kaf) human.
*The failure of Celestials cause them to resign their positions as many feel they are no longer worthy of worship. Some walk the planet, others decide to live with the lower beings by endlessly reincarnating as them, a few others relinquished the divinity built up by worship to make permanent bloodlines among the Arcane Realm races.
*Main coal and gemstone extraction resources are nearly depleted, leading to a energy crisis.
*Extremely large amounts of soot and carbon dioxide result in dramatic changes in seasons and habitats.
*Pollution runoff and increases in ocean temperatures cause sea creatures to be drastically reduced in number.
*Dramatic climatic changes cause various species of faery to die out after already low populations from the war effort. Those that survive out compete the others.
*Three quarters of magical beast species are wiped out due to lack of food via drought, increased frequency of natural disasters and over hunting of vulnerable populations by malnourished faery and spirits
*Naga species are dwindled to so few numbers that most are forced to mate with any naga species they can find, leading to hybridized offspring; only female hybrid offspring survive to birth but are able to reproduce via parthenogenesis to create the first of the Lamia species*Kaf humans begin to explore new areas left to them with the disappearance of most faery.

*Most Qarin stations on Kaf fall into ruin without anyone who know how to maintain them

*Most technology and scientific knowledge brought to Kaf residences from Qarin are lost due to commotion of war.

*Constant civil wars take place between various classes of Djinn over dwindling resources and civil liberties, eventually breaking down and weakening the Jinn Caliphate.

* Descendents of  sea elves and nixies (called Merfolk) out compete other aquatic humanoids for survival.

*Descendents of hominids and nymphs (Giants) are forced to survive on isolated hilly island chains.

World-building Advising: The Empire Writes Back

So as I build the world of the Arcane Realm, I often find various concepts to build up this weird setting of mine.

So I vaguely looked at the idea of empires as in real world history, they have been a big part of it, spreading cultures, ideology, political powers and similar things to that. The ancient world ran on the progress made by empires and dynasty’s and the modern world as we know was made by breaking that tradition  and entering a new world.

 

I think this video from Extra Credits segment Extra History further illustrates this and I hope you take a look at it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-wSL4WqUws&list=PLhyKYa0YJ_5Aq7g4bil7bnGi0A8gTsawu&index=5

So unknowingly the fictional world that I made could reasonably have its own imperial forces that spread culture, power, and conflict. But to properly build my fictional empires, I had to take a look at real world empires. So along with Wikipedia I also found another site: http://empires.findthedata.com/.

Thanks to this site I have to share with those who are making their own imperial powers some things to think about:

Founder

The Leader who brought the empire into existence and declared it either through political consolidation or military conquest. Think a bit about their personality and could make a story about how they came up with power on their own

Peak Leader

Leader who accomplished the empire’s largest size. Could be the founder but for a long running empire, they often could

Size (Square Kilometers)

Land (in kilometers squared) controlled at the empire’s peak. Now you might not have to write down the actual size but its a good idea to think about how far particular powers reach within your world, even if you don’t like map making.

Year (at peak size)

Year the empire was its largest.
Again, the numbers aren’t important for everybody (unless you have a timeline for your story) but use this to think about which monarchies and leaders exist at the same time and how they will interact and play off each other at their strongest and weakest.

Government Type

Self-explanatory:

  • Hereditary Ruler
  • Authoritarian
  • Republic

 

Reason for End

A short explanation of what caused the empire to fall. Going from the most to least common:
  • Conquest
  • Rebellion
  • Leader Death
  • Civil War
  • Incorporated into New Entity
  • Voluntary Withdrawal from Territory
  • Revolution
So far I’ve been using these to create my own imperial powers in the Arcane Realm and I hope this could be useful to people building worlds or historical writers or anyone who finds this interesting.
Thanks to Extra Credits and Find The Data.com for getting me interested enough to make this post.

1001 Mythic Setting 3: Jinnistan

Where djinn live is very hard to pin down. Traditionally they are said to live in hidden our out of the way places, such as ruins, wastelands, pits and holes, etc. They are often associated with filth and unclean places. Indeed, there’s an old tradition that one should not piss into holes because djinn like to live in them, and a djinni you just pissed on is unlikely to be very forgiving. For the most part, djinn move amongst us unseen, and there are many precautions to be taken because of this.

But djinn are also associated with the underworld. Not quite hell, but definitely some sort of underground abode. In folktales they often dwell in magical caverns, where they store their vast riches in underground palaces. Such locations tend to have a phantasmal, otherworldly nature. Similar traditions exist for the Persian peri, who we’ll get to in a bit.

There are also some references to Jinnistan, an entire otherworld beyond our own. Descriptions of it are vague. Middle Eastern folklore abounds with tales of strange lands, but which ones were thought to lie in the real world and which were not is somewhat unclear. The only solid tradition I’ve ever heard of regarding Jinnistan is a Persian one that says it lies beyond the emerald mountains that surround the world. Whether this is a metaphorical boundary, a mountain range covered in lush greenery, or a literal mountain range made of vast gemstones is anybody’s guess. Take your pick.

1001 Mythic Setting 2: Ifrit

The general concept of ifrit is that they are very similar to or are djinn, though they tend to be more hostile towards humans. However, in a modern Egyptian ethnography, I came across an interesting belief: ifrit are ghosts.

In Islam, the general interpretation of the theology is that upon death your spirit is immediately judged and taken to paradise or cast into hell. There are, in short, not supposed to be any such thing as ghosts. But the idea that ghosts exist is old as dirt, and it’s one that never seems to quite go away. The result is that the tradition underwent a modification. People still believed in ghosts, but when the local Imam came around asking questions, folks could simply refer to ghosts as a type of malicious djinn.

As a result, ifrit are often associated with abandoned (haunted) houses, murders, premature death, and the other paraphernalia of ghosts and hauntings. How you would like to use them is up to you; you could stick with the “evil djinn” angle, explore the ghost concept, or perhaps try for some synthesis of the two.

1001 Mythic Setting 1: Jinni

So, several times over the last few months I’ve seen threads asking for advice on how to build desert/Arabian Nights style settings. Seeing as this is a field I am interested in and makes up a large part of what the Arcane Realm is based on on, I thought I’d post a starter kit of sorts.

This is going to be the first of a series giving overviews about recognizable aspects of Middle Eastern Fantasy (because do we need yet another medieval western Europe fantasy?)
Understand that the following is by no means comprehensive. It is intended merely to be a collection of ideas from myth, legend, and traditions that might jog your imagination.

I’m mainly going to focus on 1001 Nights sort of stuff. We’ll start with djinn. If you’re in a TL;DR mood, now’s the time to leave.

Jinni

The traditional view of djinn as individuals is that they are like humans, but have very poor impulse control. Being made of fire, they’re supposed to be as mercurial, dangerous, and unpredictable as fire is. Consequently they get bored with things very quickly, and sometimes fail to properly think through their actions. There are many stories of djinn falling in love with humans, but failing to realize how destructive their affections can be.

As for their society, it is more or less like ours. Djinn can be good or bad (though even the good ones can be dangerous and unpredictable). Often in folklore “good” is associated with “has converted to Islam,” but the point stands that they can choose to be good or bad, and even that they can choose their religion. The idea of “good” djinn usually involves them realizing how destructive their nature can be and consciously attempting to practice self-control, with varying degrees of success.

One thing you may have seen is references to different classifications of djinn. In D&D, for example, they are regularly divided amongst the elements, with djinn being associated with air, ifrit with fire, and marids with water. This has little to do with actual folklore. All djinn were thought to be made of “smokeless fire,” while mankind was made from (depending on the source) mud or clay. In the folklore these terms have different meanings. A “marid” is merely an exceptionally strong and powerful djinni. The term for malicious djinn is usually “shaitan,” though “ifrit” is sometimes used in this way as well. Ifrit, however, has other connotations, which I will mention later.

What precisely djinn can do is rarely spelled out in the Arabian Nights, but then the stories don’t go into much detail in general. This is because they are folktales, and folktales often are light on details because they are really just the skeletons of a story, a summary provided for the storyteller, who will creatively inject his own details.

So what can djinn do? Well, if you pay attention, they usually display the same powers in their stories: flight, invisibility, great strength, possession, and shape-shifting. “Wishes” are based less on djinn conjuring something from nothing (a power reserved for god) and more on the idea that they used these aforementioned skills. For example, Islamic tradition has it that King Solomon commanded the djinn and ordered them to build the great temple of Jerusalem. They had to actually assemble it, not just make it appear, but due to their powers they could assemble it very quickly. The djinni in the original version of Aladdin does the same thing when ordered to construct a palace.

If you order a djinni to do something too complex for him to accomplish, he may call up his family members or friends to assist him. He may also just bully lesser djinn into it. If you order a djinni to make you rich, he may give you some of the vast treasures he has accumulated over his long lifetime (in stories djinn often guarded hidden treasure caches) or he may simply take the riches you desire from somewhere else. The point is, djinn can’t just pluck whatever you want out of the ether. They have to find it and bring it to you. This can lead to complications, especially if the mountain of gold they just gave you came from the local sultan’s treasury.

Andrew McDowell

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