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Last week I pointed out that the Indo-European peoples had more than their share of stories about their predecessors being abnormally short (gnomes/elves/fairies) or tall (giants) and asked anyone who was interested if they might have any ideas as to why that was.

The responses I got seemed to favor the theory that the conquering group was a few inches taller or shorter than the people they conquered and that this difference was exaggerrated with time and the tellings.  That makes sense I guess.  It’s rare that any two modern culture groups are roughly equal in height, or even build.  It only makes sense that these differences would have been noticed and amplified with time.

So, another curiosity is that these other-sized people seem to be associated with magic.  The fairies, for instance, have an entire world within each sidh.  The dwarves are astonishing craftsmen.  Elves, gnomes, leprechauns, sprites, Titans, and Jotuns each have some – magical ability.  Why?

And here is only speculation, but I’ll draw it from history.  In the fifth century of the common era, the Roman Empire collapsed and barbarian tribes quickly settled in its ruins.  Not surprisingly, the barbarians respected Roman culture, emulated Roman language, and preserved as much of it as they were able to.  Clearly, the civilization with the better technology or the larger armies is not always the one that wins.  The Germanic tribes of the era knew this.

So what if the pre-Indo-Europeans had better crafting skills than the invaders, as the fairies and the Norse dwarves have?  What if they were able to mine gold better, like the leprechauns seem to (else why would they always have gold)?  Perhaps the earlier cultures had a better, or deeper, understanding of the Earth with its cycles, agriculture, and lack of morality, like the jotuns and titans.

The Celts, Norse, even the Greeks had no respect for the people they conquered.  The Norse hardly speak of it, the Greeks mention the Pelasgians as a worthless culture that was suited to slavery, and the Irish don’t seem to respect the previous cultures even as they talk about them.

Yet it’s hard to deny when another culture has something yours does not.  You can wrap it in magic if you want, you can make them act malicious, but if you are going to characterize them there has to be some accuracy in what you say about them.

Just a thought.

What do you think?  I am not holding my breath that some Atlantean civilization will appear in the archeological record or surface at some point in the near future, but what do you think of the idea that sometimes the more technologically advanced group was conquered and their technology died with them?  Maybe they had some medical device or technique that would take hundreds of years to re-find, or maybe they just knew a little bit more about the native plants, animals, and landscape than the invaders.