Parenting In The Nameless World

31 Jul

Obviously, there are details I’m not going to go into – and I can only speak in generalised terms anyway – but this is a brief outline that may answer a few questions.

The Nameless World takes a profoundly different view of child-raising than the modern-day West. In particular, there is no real concept that childhood is a time to be enjoyed – children are expected to start working and/or studying as soon as they are physically able to do so, with an eye to their future adulthood. The Nameless World does recognise, on one hand, that children and teenagers are immature (to the point where allowances will be made for their behaviour, if it isn’t strikingly out of hand), but it also recognises that parents have a duty to turn their children into productive citizens as quickly as possible.

There is no concept of the ‘parent as best friend.’ Parents have near-complete authority over their children (the only real exception to this is where there’s a clan-structure and the ultimate authority is the boss) and can dictate every aspect of their young lives. An older child can leave, in theory, but that child would almost certainly be disowned. ‘Because I said so’ is a perfectly valid argument, as far as the Nameless World is concerned.

A child born to a peasant family would be put to work as soon as he or she was physically able. Parents teach them the skills they need from the start. Sons work in the fields; daughters learn to cook, sew and take care of the animals. Craftsmen would treat their sons – and rarely their daughters, although it does happen – as apprentices. A son would be expected to follow his father into the family trade. Daughters would be expected to be an asset to whichever family they marry into.

A child born to a merchant family would be taught the basics of trade, again from a very early age. They’d be expected to master reading and writing, all the other skills necessary for merchant life. They’d be working behind the counter as soon as they could do it, then shadowing their parents as they make trades.

A child born to an aristocratic family would be trained in everything from war-fighting to courtly etiquette from birth. They would probably be farmed out to another aristocratic family of similar rank for at least part of their teens, on the theory that parents wouldn’t be strict enough with their own children. The higher-ranking ones – male and female alike – would be expected to take the lead, in discussions with their peers. Daughters, in particular, would be taught how to command a household; sons would be expected to know how to fight and negotiate, depending on circumstances. (Randor was neglectful, by the standards of his world.)

A child born to a magical family would be trained in magical theory even before they developed magic. Like noblemen, there would be a high focus on practical learning and working with others; young magicians (male and female alike) are expected to build up networks of friendships and patronage. (Sons and daughters get very similar treatment.) Unlike noblemen, there is no concern about ‘blood’ – the child of a newborn magician who marries into a family will not be treated any differently.

Parents across the Nameless World expected to have a say in who their child marries, when he or she comes of age. However, wise parents work hard to ensure their children are reasonably happy with their choice.

Both aristocratic and magical families face the same problem, when it comes to rearing children. On one hand, the children must be groomed to support their parents and then replace their parents; on the other hand, the children must not be either allowed to rebel or appear weak. (The Nameless World has had quite a few figures akin to Robert Curthose and Henry the Young King.) Finding something that keeps their children busy and in practice, without encouraging them to consider rebellion, keeps many of the aristocracy up late at night. One’s child must be independent, but not too independent.

Several readers have questioned why Void isn’t a stronger presence in Emily’s life (and why this doesn’t lead people to suspect the truth) and/or why the prospect of her presumed father’s retaliation isn’t worrying some of her enemies.

To answer the first point, good parenting – as far as the magical community is concerned – involves letting one’s child make mistakes and learn from them. Void is not expected to come to the rescue every time Emily stubs her toe, as that will stunt Emily’s growth as an adult. No one is particularly surprised that Void isn’t hovering around Whitehall, watching Emily. In this, he’s no different from hundreds of real parents. There’s no such thing as ‘Helicopter Parents’ in the Nameless World.

To answer the second point, everyone expects Emily to stand on her own. Void cannot put out too much of a security blanket without weakening her reputation, which would haunt her as she grows into adulthood and beyond. He might be inclined to extract revenge for a daughter – and just above everyone believes that she is his daughter or, at the very least, closely related to him – but not to save Emily from the consequences of her own mistakes.

He could have said something after Emily was manipulated into challenging Master Grey, for example, but that would have weakened Emily’s reputation badly. She would end up looking like a smarmy teacher’s pet, rather than a powerful magician in her own right.

Not a good thing, in other words.

25 Responses to “Parenting In The Nameless World”

  1. Pyo July 31, 2017 at 6:15 pm #

    “There’s no such thing as ‘Helicopter Parents’ in the Nameless World.”
    They seem to be quite ready to hover around as soon as it comes to serious romance 😉

    Child upbringing is a very interesting topic. My favorite (non fiction) that has a bit about it is probably Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book, some 10-11th century “blog” by a woman at the Japanese imperial court. She has some entries where I just have to and say “I feel exactly the same!” – despite being so utterly and completely alien otherwise.

    One of them is about overindulged mothers who go on and on who sweet and cute and smart their kid is and indulge the bratty little nuisance in every whim. And all the other women around them go all “awww, so cute!” and everyone makes a huge fuss.
    And Sei apparently is just annoyed or outright disgusted by this behavior – what I can say? I feel exactly the same!

    And then I remember that she’s at court to serve one of the Emperor’s wives, who is around 13 when the book “starts” and naturally considered an adult, of course.

    So, completely different. Yet also exactly the same 😉

    • Jared July 31, 2017 at 9:18 pm #


  2. Jared July 31, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    Thanks for this. It helps add some prospective to the story. And helps us see it without our cultural glasses.

  3. Simon July 31, 2017 at 9:47 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Could you do something similar for how the mastery education works in the nameless world as I am a bit confused as to how the mastery works with combat sorcerers/ sorceresses, mediators and the specific mastery, ie charms. Just reread Sargent’s Apprentice and the bit where they are setting up the portal made me realise that it’s all a bit confusing when she was offered the charms apprenticeship. Do they get both combat sorcerer and master-ship at the same time and then further training for mediator?


    • FarWalker July 31, 2017 at 10:08 pm #

      Two things – I agree with Simon’s observation and request about mastery education and secondly thanks for explaining parenting and void’s “Parental”relationship with Emily.

    • chrishanger August 2, 2017 at 11:14 am #

      The short answer is that a ‘master’ both specialises in a particular subject AND has the right to teach it. But I will go into more detail later on.


  4. G July 31, 2017 at 11:22 pm #

    This explains Void letting Emily handle adversaries her own age, even non-life threatening issues with adults, but Master Gray was a middle-aged veteran combat sorcerer intending to kill a young woman who is still a student–with her life at risk (and the odds of her surviving were poor)–Void being concerned about her reputation doesn’t work as well as an explanation…also, if Emily was Void’s daughter, he would want to do anything to keep Heart’s Eye and control of the nexus point within the family…I would think he would intervene before Emily could be blackmailed or pressured to give it up…

    • chrishanger August 2, 2017 at 12:00 pm #

      I think I need to write another blog post


  5. William Ameling July 31, 2017 at 11:41 pm #

    Perhaps Void takes Emily’s status as a “Child of Destiny” to be a lot more real than we realize or Emily realizes. He has already invested too much in her for him to be taking her lightly as a “Pretend” Child of Destiny, even though Emily does not think that she is a “Real” Child of Destiny. Maybe he knows more than we realize from unusual sources, i.e. other/inter dimensional beings or forces. I think that the name “Void” indicates what he considers his greatest or most important area of study as a magician and it is reflected in his interest in Emily who has been exposed to those forces at her start as a magician. Void would not be spending the time he has on Emily unless he considers it important to his interests and area of study, as well as stopping the Necromancers.

    • Ann August 1, 2017 at 1:50 am #

      Void should believe she is a child of destiny .

      She has killed several necromancers (something he can’t and no other mage has done).
      She has destroyed a guild (numerals and double entry accounts), changed mounted warfare (stirrups), changed unmounted warfare (gunpower), changed financial affairs (Bank, micro-loans), created a steam power industry, introduced paper and printing, new foods and the bra. She killed a champion duellist when no-one expected her to succeed. She created a fingerprint spell and discovered the true nature of a mimic and how to detect a hidden mimic. She was the first person to tame a nexus and co-invented the most flexible, intelligent ward system. She saved the whitehall commune and taught them how to survive encounters with Manavours that were hunting them.

      By what standard isn’t she a child of destiny – the demons think she is and expect her to shape the future for years.,

      • An Marie August 1, 2017 at 11:42 pm #

        What Ann said! I agree totally. I also think that Void was well aware of her true status from the very beginning, based on what the Dragon said.

        I also agree with G about Master Gray and Void.

  6. Ihas August 1, 2017 at 2:04 am #

    I’m curious how a merchant family would deal with an heir, subject to a marriage contract from an early age to another merchant family member, would deal with the heir developing magic. Would the heir be expected to fulfill the role as heir of the merchant family or join or establish a magical family? Would the marriage contract with the nonmagical member of the other merchant family be considered void?

    • Jared August 1, 2017 at 2:55 am #

      That’s an excellent question!

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 1, 2017 at 2:56 am #

      I suspect it would depend.

      First of all, IIRC it is not a necessity for a magician to marry into a magic-family. So there likely isn’t a problem with the magician heir marrying the “promised” non-magician partner.

      Second, there are likely “ways out of” such marriage contracts so if a magic-family really wants this new magician to marry into their family, the magic-family could “pay off” the other merchant family.

      Third, if the non-magician future spouse has “problems” with marrying a magician and the new magician wants other possible spouses, then both families could “void” the marriage contract.

    • Ihas August 1, 2017 at 3:14 am #

      I’d like to add that I’m curious about the difference between magical oaths, magical contracts, and nonmagical contracts. From a previous post by Chris, an oath taker would be bound by their subjective belief that they complied with the spirit of the oath. But there was an example of a student who tried to make herself a better student using a magical contract that she would study, and she found herself forced to study 24/7. That sounds less like the spirit and more like the letter of the contract. As far as nonmagical contracts, those are tried in court, apparently. Are magical contracts ever tried in court or are they always self fulfilling?

    • chrishanger August 2, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

      It would depend on what the grown child wanted to do. It’s not easy to force a magician into a match when they don’t want it (and most merchants are smart enough to realise that a forced marriage might not be happy anyway.)

      But there’s no rule against a mixed marriage.


  7. William Ameling August 1, 2017 at 3:35 am #

    I DO believe that Emily is a Child of Destiny in the sense used in the SIM series. In fact I think that she will end up being one of the most significant ones. What I am trying to say is that Emily does not think that she is one and hates the idea. However, I think that Void may know a lot more (from sources not available to Emily or almost everyone (human) in the Nameless World) than Emily realizes and that he does consider her to be a Child of Destiny. The Demon in the first book gave Shadye exactly what he asked for, a true Child of Destiny, not just someone whose mother is named Destiny as Emily believes, (or to be more precise someone who was capable of becoming a Child of Destiny). Anyone who actually starts believing that they are a Child of Destiny will not be as effective, and will probably die of stupid over confidant mistakes.

    I still wonder why Void arranged for Emily to be transported by the dragon to Whitehall when it would have been much simpler to just teleport her there himself, instead of using an extremely valuable (and very old) favor with that dragon. I think that more is involved than giving Emily an impressive entrance to Whitehall. Just how did some of the students learn about Emily being a Child of Destiny? It had to have from people that Void talked to on or near the White Council, which got passed on VERY quickly to students of their families at Whitehall. I think that the rumors about Emily being a Child of Destiny were already at Whitehall on her first day or two at Whitehall. Just why did Void allow those rumors to even get started?

  8. G August 1, 2017 at 6:02 am #

    If parents intervening when their children are in danger makes them look weak, compromising their ability to function in the Nameless World, does this mean that the parents of other children at Whitehall won’t intervene if their children are hurt or threatened?? The series needs to be consistent…

  9. georgephillies August 1, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    All parents are not the same.

  10. BigC August 1, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

    I think this illustrates very well why Emily is so important to this world and it’s survival. Apart from the obvious advantages of very advanced knowledge she is able to drift free without being bound by the overly complicated system of favors and patronage which keep the nameless world largely stunted and in denial about their true threat. This is especially true in the magical community which, even after what Void and Aurelius talked about with not being able to ignore the necromancers, most magical families spend time squabbling, backbiting and maneuvering for position even if it rarely turns into all out war I suspect many promising young magicians die before their time because of family infighting for the top spot. This is seen in SIM 6 and talked about in SIM 12 with Fulvia as the most extreme example, more interested in holding onto power than making a thriving family that could survive without her. Even now the White council seems more interested in managing favors and patronage than fighting its true war.

    From what I have seen of the books so far Emily is literally the only one on the Nameless world who despite being socially stagnated is intent on having her relationships not based on favors and patronage. This may be an oversimplification but there doesn’t seem to be any true loyalty on the Nameless World, as soon as someone’s use is exhausted they are abandoned this is why Emily’s mindset from Earth and her willingness to stick by those she is loyal to even if they can’t politically help her, makes her appear so strange to others use to getting only what they want out of their friendships.

    The stagnation is also made worse by the fact that the Nameless World is mono-cultural. At one point in SIM 11 Emily remarks that even magicians seem uninterested in actually finding ways to end the war. This can be seen on Earth in the past where isolated mono-cultural societies like Qing china were unable to adapt even as the world was crashing down around them. As such the Nameless World prior to Emily can only think on one track and continued to do so even as the Necromancers where closing in as illustrated by the very first conversations Emily had in the Nameless World. Even Master Grey who is reportedly obsessed with defeating the Necromancers could only think about the number of combat sorcerers and the status quo even as his vaunted system was going down in flames rather than taking some risks that might go a long way to ensuring victory (something I believe Emily should have pointed out to him. Enter Emily, the one source of culture clash on the Nameless world and from whom true progress started to occur that could eventually lead to victory even though some of it has been destabilizing.

    While the parenting system (particularly marriage obligations) described makes sense in the nameless world and even Earth into the early 20th century in some places I believe that there is a very good reason why the system was left behind in the west and elsewhere. While alliance by marriage seems like a good lock for alliance it almost always made things worse. Instead of doing what is diplomatically practical the family alliance takes precedent like Louis the 14th involving France in the war of the Spanish succession against his better judgement for the sake of family ties which laid the foundations for what would eventually destroy his dynasty. Or the War of the Roses which has so many interlocking characters and backbiting that George RR Martin based Game of Thrones on it. As was also pointed out in SIM 8 Nepotism leads to a decay in the quality of people doing the job as those who are born into a role very often seem to be `much worse at doing the job than those who pursued and earned it. Add on top of this primogeniture which creates a large number of bitter second sons its a wonder that the powder keg that is the Nameless World didn’t vanish long ago.

    • Pyo August 1, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

      Much good stuff there, but the Qing example is … ironic? Qing was a Manchu dynasty ruling over Han-Chinese (and about a 100 other ethnicities). Not exactly mono-cultural 😉

    • chrishanger August 2, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

      That is true. Emily was not raised to think of her friends as assets first, people second.


    • Wazman August 6, 2017 at 4:14 am #

      Until Emily’s arrival in the Nameless World it was on a path of stagnation and apathy. At least in terms of the Alliance all parties Great Magical Families, White Council, and the ruling aristocracy needed a sharp kick in the family jewels to wake up. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out

  11. William Ameling August 6, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

    That is EXACTLY what a Child of Destiny is supposed to DO. Break up the old static political, economic and social systems and bring in change.

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