Brownie ethnic groups, much like their counterparts in many other places,
are mainly an illusion. For the last several thousand years,
Brownies have paid very little attention to the
differences in appearance among them in political or official matters, and the
differences are now purely aesthetic. They pay much more attention to which
tribe someone belongs to; whether they come from one of the
Akdorian tribes, from the
Vale, from Aeruillin, or from one of the so-called "lost tribes" (such as the
Milken). They for the most
part despise and ignore the Rat
Brownies, who are so far lost that they are no longer considered true
Brownies in polite society. Within the Vale itself
the Brownie's Clan is what distinguishes them and
gives them identity, although it is not uncommon for skin colours to play a part
in referring to a Brownie.
In short, appearance is viewed as appearance, nothing more. Generally, a Brownie will be a shade somewhere between the shades of his two parents, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule, making for some good surprises when a new Brownie is born. Some effort is being put into researching this weird phenomenon in the Vale, and it is one of the reasons for the yearly counting during the Festival of the Weighing of the Uruyant. Information on the skin colours in each family is collected then, and this is an invaluable resource to researchers.
The Brownie Colourings. Brownie colourings can be categorized as follows;
...have always been the most numerous in the Vale and in Akdor. It is said that even before Brownies were dispersed, they were by far the most numerous. Their skin (with matching hair and eye colour) ranges from the lightest tan to the deepest shade of brown.
...were once the Brownie aristocracy. In the Vale, they were removed from power sometime during the Year of Darkness. In Akdor, chiefs of the various tribes are generally still Greenbarks, but they now share power with tribal elders of other ethnicities as well. In Aeruillin they... well, they never reached Aeruillin. Green in the desert is so obvious that they were all killed off long before everyone else made it to the Ethereal Void. Their skin (with matching hair and eye colour) ranges from a bright green all the way to a very deep, almost black shade of green. Greybark's mother, Clearcall, was a Greenbark and the Brownie Folk Hero Gebl (also known as "Gebl the Unsated" or "Great Gebl") too.
...(with subgroups called "golden" and "bronze") are the most numerous on the desert continent of Aeruillin, as they blend in well with the sand, and are not uncommon elsewhere, especially in the plantshades. Their skin, along with their hair and eye colour, ranges from the palest yellow to a rich golden or bronze.
... (with the bright silver subshade) are relatively common, because they can blend in to a degree almost anywhere. Their skin, hair, and eye colour range from a light grey to a strong lead grey. The most famous among the Greybarks was Greybark Ferretmaster.
...is the name given to a Brownie whose skin, hair and eye colouration are a deep perfect black. The colouring, like Birchbark, is extremely unusual although there are many Brownies who come very close. It is said that a true Ebonybark is like a shadow in the midst of the darkest forest, and impossible to spot in the dark unless they move. Thus, as all city-folk fear thieves, Milkengrad Brownies can be strangely wary of an Ebonybark.
...is a Brownie whose skin, hair, and the colour of their eye banners are all perfectly white. Only the apple of the eye and a tiny ridge bordering the eye banners are still dark; the first being the usual drop-like black, the other a paler grey. Greybark's father, Moss, was a Birchbark, and the current record for the longest flight with Lleeters is held by one as well. The combination can be rather strange and haunting to one who is not accustomed to it, and it is not for nothing that scary Brownie stories almost always feature a Birchbark somewhere within them.
...are rare. The only place they can blend in well is in water, and as fish and turtles can be dangerous for Brownies, Bluebarks must use their wits to survive even more than other Brownie shades. Of course, this is not the case in Milkengrad, and there the colour is prized as it is considered the most civilised, the furthest away from their wild routes. A bluebark girl, when she accessorises properly, can turn the head of any young Milken she fancies. Their skin, hair and eye colour ranges from royal blue into deep purple. Akdor and the Vale have their share of Bluebarks. In Aeruillin they are almost unheard of. The famous Brownie mage Whisper was a Bluebark.
...are a special case. Their ancestry has little to do with their shading, as Redbarks are those that carry a special aptitude for magic... The magic is said to simply be more concentrated within a Redbark's body, despite the fact that any scolar, Brownie or human, Memnoor or Milken, knows this statement to be fundamentally untrue. However, it is a nice way of brushing over something which remains uncertain at the moment. Alone of all the shades they tend to stand a bit aloof from the others, just because their lives are so much different from others. In the Vale they have formed their own clan predominate the clan dealing with magical learning, Clan Maj, which makes their home under the Diamond Falls. In Akdor they serve as witch doctors. In Aeruillin, they are more numerous, but are just part of the normal population... magic is necessary to survive there, so just about everyone has developed a certain aptitude for it over the generations.
Redbarks have skin that is the deep red of the cinnabark pine tree, with hair and eye colour to match. Their eyes tend to glow an even brighter red when the magic is flowing through them. Greybark's sister, Sunrise, was a Redbark.
Rat Brownies are not included
in these descriptions, as you may have noticed. Their lifestyle in the sewers,
far away from the light of day, has changed them in unexpected ways. Many
mutations have taken place and each
Rat Brownie tribe is ethnically unique. They are also no longer viewed as
true Brownies, even though some tribes still retain
an uncanny resemblance. They have turned their backs on the
Brownie beliefs and ideals and turned to worshipping
the dark spirits instead of the good. This, rather than their strange
appearance, banishes them from the true Brownie race.
Myth and Lore. There are many older myths and stories which have been used for generations to explain why Brownies are different colours and where these come from. They are no longer considered as true by those who are investigating the matter, but many everyday Brownies still hold on to them. The scholars themselves believe this is due to the old-fashioned beliefs and ideals of the general populous, whilst the general populous simply refuse to reject their traditional explanations in favour of the vague suspicions the scholars put forward.
The entire selection can be cumulated into one myth, and although this is rarely recited as a whole any longer as its message goes against the Llaoihrr ideal of unity and equality. It is in fact an extension to the creation myth, probably created some time during the Birni era as a reason why the different colourings should keep to their separate jobs and justifies some being above the rest. It is worth mentioning here only because most of the modern superstitions about skin colours originally come from it.
When the Tree of Life
was struck by lightening and split and its charred bark metamorphosed into
the first 272 Brownies, they were all alike.
Imbued with its magic and power, but
naïve in the ways of the world itself, the newly created creatures began
the long struggle to teach themselves how to survive. And because they
couldn’t all learn every skill necessary to them, the
Brownies took different jobs; some began to
work and gather food, some to hunt, some to make houses and other things
they would need, some to explore the tree’s power which still ran through
them, and some to organise the rest.
From this comes the idea that Greenbarks have the quickest brains, Brownbarks the steadiest hands and Greybarks and Bluebarks the sharpest eyes. However, Yellowbarks are considered the best travellers, which may steam from another version of the myth. It used to be thought that a Brownie's colour was the spirit's way of showing what the Brownie would excel at most, and although this is still widely true it no longer limits the Brownie's choice of occupation. Working hard to achieve something despite a lack of natural talent is considered just as admirable as having it in the first place.
Barkstudy ("rraoLLeh"). Now a well known
subject for study wherever a large enough group of
Brownies is present, “rraoLLeh” or “Barkstudy” is the inverstigation of how
Brownie characteristics are passed down the
generations. The Milken,
Memnoor and especially
the Llaoihrr all have
groups of scholars dedicated to this fascinating subject. The name comes from
the original focus of the research: Brownie Colourings.
Leatherleaf lived around 1000 b.S. and was the founder of Barkstudy. He was the first one to observe and provide proof that the colour of a Brownie’s skin was anything more than random, and the fundamental law which governs the study still bares his name.
Leatherleaf’s Law: “A Brownie's colouring is not random and instead depends on colourings in the familiy's history.”
He also produced and recorded a series of theories, which also still retain his name. These have formed the basis of study since its revival around 100 a.S. The man who was once condemned as anything from crazy to eccentric was finally hailed as a genius and researchers began to investigate the truth behind his ideas.
Below are three the theories of Leatherleaf’s which are still widely accepted within the scholarly community, plus the new Greybark theory. There were originally at least five of Leatherleaf’s, but the others were disproved and stricken from the records.
Theory: "The shade of the
Brownie's colouring is independent from the colour itself."
i.e. how dark or light the Brownie's skin is does not depend on whether they are a greybark, greenbark, yellowbark etc., but rather on how dark or light their parent's was within their respective colours. Of course, certain colours are naturally darker or lighter, blue vs yellow for example, but they all still possess the same range.
Research into this theory has proved almost exclusively in favour of it, despite the difficulty of describing and categorising the different shades. Brownies who have lighter shaded skin often have lighter shaded children and vice versa. It also supports the idea that Ebony and Birchbarks are extremes of the Greybark colouring rather than a separate colour of their own, as these are far more common in matches where the parents are the extreme of their separate shades.
Theory: "A Brown/Greenbark parent's colouring will override a
Simply put: if one parent is a Greenbark or a Brownbark, and the other a Yellow, Red or Bluebark, then the babe will be Green or Brown rather than Yellow, Red or Blue.
The truth of this law is constantly debated among the investigating scolars. Although it does seem to work more often than not, it is not always the case and a rarer coloured baby can be born even from two Green or Brownbarks if there have been other blue, red or yellowbarks in the family before hand. In fact, the latest research is beginning to suggest that the normally weaker colouring must be in both family trees for the baby to have it.
Theory: "Female Redbarks are far more common than Male Redbarks."
Bascially, there are many more females with the redish, magic-enhancing skin than males.
Investigation into the Redbark issue is possibly the most intense of all, as this skin colour comes with a natural aptitude for life magic. Although this theory is proved true every generation (female redbarks outnumber their brothers at around 10:1), scholars as yet have no clue to what causes this.
Greybark Theory: "The Greybark colouring does not fight with the others for
supremacy, but can be triggered to override the usual colouring."
The phenomenon surrounding the appearance of the Greybark colouring is rather strange. It seems to have almost no correlation to the parent's own skin hue, and turns up quite randomly throughout a family's history, often every other generation or more. Greybark children seem to retain their parents shading, but the coloured tint is strangely absent.
 Ebonybark and Birchbark have traditionally been considered as separate, rather rare colourings, but they are now widely accepted as extremes of the greybark colouring. This is simply due to the difficulty of actually defining the colouring, for at what point does the colouring turn from a normal Greybark to a Birch or Ebony? [Back]