ABNECUL APIRAC SARA
(SIMPLE INTRODUCTION TO SYLPHS)
Fewl netla necul rihopa
"A land without sylphs is an empty land."
Those who read my work are often curious about the origins and purpose of sylphs. Sylph characters project what is more-or-less a modern worldview, and leave humans to carry on with their mediaeval worldview. It promoted the sylphs from
minor characters to protagonists in their own right.
Genetically, sylphs are mostly, if not quite, human. Some of their behaviour is puzzling, if not distressing, but it is all a product of their evolution. Once that
evolution and history is known, their more puzzling actions become more
understandable, if not obvious.
Why does such a pacific and otherwise loving creature all but abandon infertile offspring? Why do sylphs, particularly infertiles, put up with pretty much anything, so long as they get attention? Why are sylphs superior in so many ways, yet utterly servile to their human overlords?
I hope these and other questions are answered here. Oh, please forgive the self-indulgence of using the sylph language for headings.
(The Sylphs' Beginnings)
The idea for the sylphs came from a sci-fi short story to explain how humans came to the ilvenworld. A technologically advanced race would use either robots or a lesser species to fulfil menial tasks few humans would now be prepared to take on.
Humans had abandoned their dying world, fleeing in "Arks" which would take many generations to find a new homeworld. Using of automata would allow continuity of technology, but what if humans lost their abilities with advanced technology? They might, and did, adapt after leaving their old world, and not necessarily towards greater technology.
So, instead of robots, humans on the Arks used sylphs. But where did they come from?
Because of the way the sylph brain is constructed, and the way they view themselves, sylphs tend towards their sylph, rather than human, roots regarding their homeworld. Sylphs give the name Setananta, or Mythworld, to their ancestral home.
This is where the sylphs originated and, assuming it still exists, is presumably where the original sylphs may still be found. These creatures are quite unlike those found in the books. There, two of the three sylph sexes were flying mammals, and this ancient inheritance is why male and female sylphs still dream of flying today.
On Setananta, sylphs had three genders: male, female and infertile. The latter is a neuter, so is really a non-sex, or species phenotype. As mammalian phenotypes are superficially feminine, infertiles are granted the "she" pronoun in human tongues, though they are not technically female. Neither should they be referred to as
infertile females, as this implies a barren breeding female, which is not the
case. In the sylph language, infertiles are granted their own personal pronoun [en
= male; an = female; in = infertile; un = it, gender neutral].
On Setananta, infertile sylphs could not fly, despite the species having a predator. When attacked, breeding sylphs usually escaped by flying away. Even if caught,
male and female sylphs exuded an odour that helped repel the predator. This odour survives in modern sylphs as the sinabra; it is still stronger in males and females than in infertiles.
Although not neglected, infertiles were not as loved as their breeding brothers and
sisters. Parents cared for them, but kept their distance emotionally. Non-flying and with a weaker sinabra, infertiles existed to be victims for the sylphs' predator. Thanks to infertiles, survival of this non-violent species was secured.
This attitude towards infertiles persists in modern sylphs. Today, parents look after their infertile offspring for the first four or five years, then lose interest in them.
This creates a psychological "wound", which is only mended in the eyes of infertiles when they bond with a human owner. More on that later.
When humans and sylphs first interacted, the sylphs' predator was extinct, surviving only in myth. They did not yet know it, but sylphs had just acquired a new, albeit different, predator.
At this time, there was something of a population crisis among sylphs. With nothing to hunt them, infertile numbers exploded. Humans needed servants for
menial tasks, and sylphs needed to restore balance to their population.
So humans made their offer. This consisted of a genetic manipulation of the sylph genome, reducing the number and frequency of infertile births. Litter size was reduced as was the chance of conceiving infertiles in the first place. Over several
generations, balance was restored to the species.
But humans had stolen the sylphs' genetic code.
(The "New" Sylphs)
Once the genetic code was known, scientists mixed sylph and human DNA. Over several accelerated generations, they finally forged a successful working hybrid. In the early stages, the mutually alien codes would not work well together, but by reducing the sylph share to less than 5% of the entire genome, genetic engineers finally found something they could work with. Three types of sylph were created, known familiarly as Blue, Violet and Indigo, despite little difference in skin colour, other than that determined by exposure to
sunlight. Taxonomy: genus homo; group sylphiae; names caerulus,
viola and indicum.
The three sub-species were intended for different tasks, which meant there were slight differences in intelligence and capabilities. Although intelligence was broadly similar between the three groups, inclinations varied considerably. Blues tended towards the most menial roles, such as land husbandry and domestic duties, while Violet and Indigo Sylphs enjoyed more cerebral challenges.
However, the human designers also wanted sylphs to "know their place". The most primitive part of the brain, taken from the human genome, was modified to preclude violence and ensure that flight always won over fight. This had the added advantage of helping keep sylphs servile, in the knowledge that humans possessed greater power.
The primitive part was based on the human brain, but the hybrids' higher consciousness was mostly imported from the original sylphs. But with a few tweaks.
The new hybrid inherited a human fear of sudden loud noises, but not their fear of falling. This sometimes has unfortunate consequences in a creature that can no longer fly (even infertiles have no fear of falling, unlike the original gender they are modelled on). As their predator used to attack from above, modern sylphs still fear, or are at best uncomfortable with, open spaces.
It was a deliberate move on the part of the genetic engineers that sylphs, despite
better senses (night vision and hearing range, for example), still regard
humans as superior. The hybrids could survive and function as an independent species, but their belief was - and for the most part still is - that humans rule and sylphs follow.
Able to interbreed, it is hardly surprising that the three separate sub-species
eventually merged. Modern sylphs are their descendants.