Law 101

Law exists in every culture, and has existed almost since the dawn of humankind. There are many different kinds of laws. Today we’re going to talk about inheritance laws and oppressive laws.

Recommended Reading

Limyaael’s Inheritance Rant talks about the importance of inheritance and the different ways it can operate.

Limyaael’s Rant on Class/Caste systems talks about class/caste systems and how they operate.

Inheritance

~Are families traced via the mother’s blood or the father’s blood? This will have a profound impact on inheritance. While your inheritance may not directly follow the line to the first born son or daughter, if families are matrilineal it’s more likely to go to one of the daughters and if they’re patrilineal it will probably go to one of the sons.

Llyr is interesting in that children don’t all have the same last name. Both parents retain their original names unless they choose not to, and the first born gets the more powerful last name while the second gets the less powerful last name. They alternate.

~Do parents choose which child inherits, or is it always the first? The practice of passing on the property to the first born son is called primogeniture. It’s a widely held European practice, although perhaps not as important now as it was back in the day.

Does law enforce primogeniture? Do parents choose which child they pass on their property to when they die? Are there laws that stop daughters from receiving the inheritance, or sons if your world is matriarchal?

Note that the people who get the inheritance are the people in power. If daughters usually get the inheritance, it’s safe to say that they hold the real power, since they have the land and the titles.

~If there are no children, who gets the inheritance?
If somebody dies without children, does the inheritance go to a younger sibling? If there is no younger sibling, does it go to an older sibling? To an apprentice? What happens to the land if there is no familial heir?

Oppression/Class

~What laws exist to keep people in their class?
Are there laws that keep people from moving from one class to the next? These are probably designed to keep lower classes out of higher ranks-things like keeping peasants out of schools. What are these based upon? Magical talent? (For example, if the upper class all has magic, and the lower class has none.) Race? (I’m sure you’re familiar with the Jim Crow Laws, which kept blacks and whites separate in theatres, restaurants, and workplaces.) Language? (You may or may not be aware that Natives, Africans, and many other cultures have all been beaten for speaking their languages by Europeans.) What keeps the lower class distinct?

There might even be laws in place to keep peasants from acquiring noble clothing, if that is the only distinction between rich and poor.

~How does religion relate to these laws?
Religion has been used as a justification for oppression of all kinds throughout the centuries. Conversion to Christianity (thus saving these people from hell) was used as an excuse to enslave millions of people and to abuse milllions more throughout the Americas and Africa. Within Christianity there has even been use of Protestant versus Catholic as an excuse for the English to abuse the Irish, among other things.

Is your religion used to justify oppression? Are the oppressors and the oppressed from two different religious groups? Does the church have its own courts? Does the church have its own laws? Does it take active part in enforcing the oppression of the people?

~How many classes are there?
For a long time the classes were Peasants, Knights, Nobles, and Royalty. There was also a small class of artisans and shopkeepers. How many classes exist in your kingdom? How different are they from one another? Does slavery exist, and if so, who are the slaves and why?

List the classes of your kingdom, and beside each write a sentence or two about what makes that class unique and how they are kept in their place.

Prompt Time!

Write 800 words about Friendship from a secondary character’s PoV.

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About Dianna Gunn

I am a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. My first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is available now through The Book Smugglers Publishing.

Posted on January 7, 2011, in Novels, Prompts, Workshops, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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