Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Haflings (Hin)

Introduction

The name halfling is a term used by other races and considered a misnomer by halflings. They refer to others as “big folk” and to themselves as the Hin, or “small folk.”

There are two other key things you need to know before you can begin to understand halflings.

Just like their notoriously large appetites for food, Halflings have a huge appetite for life. They fling themselves into everything they do to experience it to the full. They are joyful optimists, full of curiosity and ingenuity; life is full of new experiences and pleasure. Halflings love to poke fun at “the big folk” when they take themselves too seriously. They seldom grieve, and never for the loss of material things. However when they do grieve, they do so with all their heart. When a member of the family dies halflings are overwhelmed by grief for weeks if not months. When it is a spouse this intense grief can dominate the rest of their lives.

The heart of halfling life, the centre of all that they do is home. However to a halfling home is not a place, home is people. The extended family or commonwealth of several clans is home – no matter where they happen to be. Whole clans can migrate from one village to another, and the big folk can mistakenly think halflings are rootless and unsettled. However the truth of it is when the families move the take their roots and their “home” with them.

Appearance : At around 3 foot tall halflings definitely live up to the name “small folk”. They have much the same proportions as the big folk, but based on their weights and heights they aren’t quite as slender as the elves. They have ruddy skin and usually have straight dark hair. Men often have sideburns but you hardly ever see hin with beards or moustaches. Their clothing is comfortable and practical. In the past elven-like pointy ears were only seen in Luiren hin, but recently they have become much more common all over Faerun.

Attributes: The Hin are an agile and nimble race. They are excellent climbers, and sure footed on the ground. Their small fingers are particularly adept at manipulating objects. Halfling hands make for excellent lock picking.

Their agility and small size mean halflings can move silently and remain hidden more than the larger races. This fits well with their tendency to avoid open conflict where possible. However if combat cannot be avoided, a halfling will fling themselves into the fray with the same enthusiasm and gusto they apply to most of their pursuits.

The Hin are optimists by nature, always looking at the blessings they do have rather than mourning losses. Their cheerful nature and buoyant good humour are infectious. Not only will a halfling adventurer have a high morale, but also her colleagues will also feel inspired with confidence and courage. However a halfling is likely to be devastated by the death of a close friend.

The favourite games of Hin children involve throwing, especially throwing stones. Not surprisingly adult halflings are particularly skilled with thrown weapons.

Halflings grow up being taught to be courageous and brave, and Yondalla has blessed halflings by making them particularly lucky. As a result of this halflings frequently take risks that can appal their big folk friends.

Attitudes, Psychology and Culture:

General: A halfling is considered to be a well balanced and admirable person if they are cheerful, creative and honest with other halflings. Big folk often learn the hard way that halflings can be remarkably stubborn, and yet halflings see stubbornness as a character flaw. Lying or tricking the big folk is perfectly acceptable, and even admired, but lying to fellow halflings is very much frowned on. Gloomy, stubborn, self important or just plain boring halflings are “taken down a peg” by becoming the butt of an insult game or a practical joke.

Halflings try for perfection in whatever they do – but the values they place on different achievements can seem odd to the non Hin. They can put as much dedication into making a perfect batch of honey cakes as into hunting down monsters who intrude into their lands.

Halflings avoid conflict and aggression within their families and communities. This is only common sense when so many people live under one roof. They often use humour to defuse potential problems. If there is an ongoing disagreement it takes the form of occasional snipes and digs rather than an out and out row. This type of battle may go on for years.

The Hin value comfort and happiness above wealth. A halfling would be much happier in a plain but highly comfortable tunic and breeches than he would be in a loose fitting brocaded silk coat, no matter how fine the tailoring.

Food and Drink: Halflings have prodigious appetites; and really value fine food and drink. Their diet consists of six meals a day - breakfast, brunch, lunch, teatime, supper, and bedtime snack. They are excellent cooks. A superb baker may receive as much fame and respect as a general-at-arms. Halflings are also good at making ale, wine and cheeses, as well as being skilled at tending gardens and orchards. This is just as well considering the amount of food a halfling can consume.

At festival times, such as Great Choice or Joining Festival, the host family are not expected to provide more than a modest amount of food and drink. Those attending all bring contributions to make the feast.

Relationships with Other Races: The Hin get on very well with all the other races. Their good humoured friendly attitude to others means they are accepted as part of many mixed communities. This means that you will find halfling communities in most large towns and cities. Halflings are ingenious and inventive, adapt quickly and thus can make the most of changes in a community. They tend to prefer the more changeable societies found in human lands to the more static towns and cities of the longer lived races. They adapt to the rules and mores of this larger society, but still keep a strong identity as halflings. Halflings have even been known to adopt members of other races into their families, and have even accepted intelligent creatures such as pseudo dragons as equal members of the community.

Halfling Families: A Hin only considers his birth family (in Earth terms - nuclear family) to be a small part of his true family. Family means a large group of people related to each other and intermarried. This extended (or perhaps even over extended) family can run to a hundred or more people across many generations. Relationships within the family are largely very informal, but age brings respect. Younger siblings are taught to respect their elder siblings, and the oldest members of the family are held in great esteem. Disobeying an elder is severely frowned on. The family is ruled in a benign but firm manner by a matriarch or a patriarch – usually one of the senior generation.

Children are not just cared for by their mothers – all the older members of the family will be involved. The other members of the commonwealth or community will also frequently lend a hand.

Halfling marriages are loving and close partnerships. Unfaithfulness is very rare, and divorce so rare as to be almost unheard of. The only grounds for divorce are repeated adultery, and the break up of a marriage leads to deep rifts between the families involved.

Gifts: Halflings have a great tradition of giving presents – not just on birthdays but on other important occasions as well. Young halflings who have travelled are expected to bring home little gifts for all of their family; couples who are newly wed are given gifts; a farmer who has just reclaimed a new field from the wilderness may give gifts to those who helped him; expectant mothers are showered with gifts throughout their pregnancies.

It is not the actual value of the gift that is prized, but how well the gift fits the recipient. Usefulness and practicality outweigh price, and the gift must be appropriate for the relationship between giver and receiver.

Attitudes to Property: Halflings have acquired a reputation among the other races for being thieves and rogues. This has arisen in two ways. Firstly halfling communities or commonwealths hold all wealth and belongings in common. If one farmer snaps his pruning shears he will go take his neighbour’s shears in order to finish the orchard. If his neighbour was not actually using the shears, neither will see any problem with this. The shears do not belong to any one person – they belong to the entire community. Halflings who have lived for some time in a Hin enclave within a city presumably have learned that this does not apply to objects owned by other races – or they would have long since been driven out. However newcomers may mistakenly “borrow” things from big folk.

Yondalla frowns on halflings stealing from each other as does Brandobaris. However stealing from the big folk is an entirely different matter. Playing a trick on the big folk is an admirable thing to do, and stealing from them is a natural extension of this. The Hin are sure footed and nimble fingered – it is not surprising many of them become light-fingered as well.

Collections: Almost all halflings have a collection of some kind or another. The nature of these collections range from the expected (dried flowers, insects and butterflies, small coins) to the more exotic. A halfling on world walk may collect small stones from every land he visits or a small piece of exotic wood; a town dweller may collect mugs from every potter in town – anything that can be collected will be collected! Collections of two to three hundred objects are standard, and they can get considerably larger.

Those who collect similar objects usually have a friendly rivalry, but sometimes this degenerates into a more sinister jealousy. Most of the burglaries in halfling communities are related to collections.

World Walk: Some young adult halflings choose to spend a decade or so wandering the world, collecting experiences, knowledge and mementos. This is not a planned tour, but they wander where ever the fancy takes them. World walk is distinctly different to those halflings who have decided to make a long term career away from their families. World walkers fully intend to return home and still consider themselves to be very much a part of their families.

Language: Halflings have their own language which is rich and complex as you would expect from a culture that relies far more on oral tradition than written records. However all halflings speak Common as well, though it may be a dialect that is difficult for an outsider to understand. If their names are botanical (as so many are) – they will usually give you the Common translation.

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