Inspired by 'The Sixth Winter' by Douglas Orgill and John Gribben.
The world is Earth, but one where, fifteen thousand years ago, the ice age did not end. Because of this the world remains in ice age which, if anything, has deepened with time. The seas are shallower by more than one hundred metres, with may land bridges where in the real world there is sea. Woolly mammoths, rhinos and so on still roam the land. Ice sheets cover large areas of Eurasia, North America and the Andes.
There are still humans, of course, but they have been pushed rather further than in the real world by the pressures of the ice age. As such the people who live at the edge of the glaciers are the most highly evolved humans on the planet. Many have a very good sense of direction; some, who usually become tribal shamen, have perfect memories, recording thousands of years of oral tradition. Others have conscious control over their metabolisms and other physical processes that are normally considerd sutomatic, by means of trances and so on, or can consciously access hysterical strength. There are rumours that some of the arctic peoples have magical powers, the ability to track anything and so on. All, by training and natural talent, can survive in hugely hostile environments.
Another change which the ice age is wrought was forcing timber wolves - known in this world as TATHOL - to gather into larger packs, some of over one hundred members, to hunt prey such as mammoths. This living in larger packs forced wolves to develop into a more social form. Over time the increased social skill developed here, along with the skills necessary to hunt, survive, and compete with humans, plus handle the decline in prey caused by their and human predation, pushed wolves into becoming a sentient form. These sentient wolves have no increased ability to manipulate their environment beyond that of a normal wolf, but they do not really need it. Their intelligence alone has given them the ability to thrive, and they have spread form Siberia, where they evolved, into North America and Europe. They reached North America before humanity.
As sentient wolves, they are somewhat larger than the non-sentient variety, and have a head which is even larger in proportion, with the forehead extended forward to hold an expanded brain. The female Tathol have rather larger hips to accommodate the large heads of their young, and litters are rather smaller than in timber wolves, though single births are still very rare. The young Tathol develop considerably more slowly than the non-sentient form.
The wolves have a number of different languages, developed from a Tathol root language. As wolves do not have anywhere near as versatile and well-developed vocal apparatus as humans, their languages are as much gesture, body language (tail wags and position, posture and so on), fur bristling and so on as vocal. Their vocalisations are not much more sophisticated than normal wolfish vocalisations, but their faces are far more flexible than non-sentient wolves, and they have much finer control over their fur. As such scars and wounds can lead to a change of 'voice' for the wolf in question.
Wolves can learn to understand the purely vocal languages of humans, but cannot reproduce their range of sounds. Humans can likewise learn so understand the wolves multi-aspected language, but again cannot fully reproduce it themselves, lacking fur, tails and so on. This lack of understanding between the two species has also led to conflict. Of course, wolves fight among themselves too, for territory and food.
One or two wolf cultures have evolved a written language, developed from marks left to indicate territorial boundaries, hunting information and so on. Tathol scripts tend to use quite simple characters due to the limitations of their paws, tending to be things like Ogham (see also here). No Tathol scripts use ideograms or pictograms - they are too complex for a wolf's paws. Obviously humans and wolves can learn to read each others scripts; humans can write in Tathol scripts too, though wolves often cannot write human scripts. As such, there is some human-wolf communication, but it tends to be complicated...
Human scripts are as varied as the civilisations they have formed; some use pictograms (like Ancient Egyptian) or ideograms (like Chinese), some use individual characters for sounds (like the Roman alphabet). Some human scripts write in boustrophedon ('ox-writing') where the direction of writing changes from line to line (i.e. left to right on one line, right to left on the next, and so on); there are three type of this: 1) lines reverse direction but words do not, 2) lines reverse direction and so do words, 3) all of lines, words and letters themselves are reversed from line to line.
Although the wolves, as a sentient race, are considerably younger than humanity, they are just as capable of learning, and are rather more prolific. Because of this the increased intelligence of the wolves has led them into a great deal of conflict with the humans.
Some wolf groups keep human slaves as 'hands'. Some humans also keep wolves as slaves, and have domesticated dogs. Wolves tend to kill these wherever they find them.
In addition to the human civilisations in the arctic, human civilisations have grown up beyond the tribal level in various more hospitable climes. The oldest of these are in the Middle East, India and Africa, with only slightly newer ones in the Indo-China area. The human civilisations all fight among themselves, and the more northerly ones also fight with the wolves. In every location civilisations rise and fall with time.
Humanity is completely unaware of the Americas; the eastern civilisations are aware of Australia, and it has aboriginal inhabitants, but no-one really goes there. Likewise the islands of the Pacific Ocean, although some are inhabited, are largely unknown.
Human technology remains primitive (although more advanced than that of the wolves). There are no ocean-going ships, although trading ships do go along the coasts of the Indian ocean and along as far as the 'Chinese' empire. Horses and chariots are used in land warfare. Steel is very rare and expensive. Gunpowder has not been invented; the main ranged weapon is the bow.
Given the great changes in history and pre-history caused by the continuance of the ice age, no civilisation in Wolfworld remotely corresponds to any from the real world.
A long time ago an empire known as VAHAPLA, centred on the River Nile, grew up. This was the first major civilisation in the world. Over time it spread east into the Arabian peninsula, south to the horn of Africa and west into the Sahara, which remains green here. Over time Vahapla became corrupt, oppressive and decadent. Various parts of the empire seceded and Vahapla split into various smaller nations, some of which have in time built up into major civilisations in their own right. The core of the empire remains.
In the present day there are eight main human civilisations/empires:
NEW VAHAPLA. This is an empire centred on the River Nile and extending along the North African coast. It is the remains of the old Vahaplan Empire. It is a very religious state, almost a theocracy, and is in a cold war with the major states which split from it, Haknanri and Navvab. New Vahapla is a strong dictatorship, where no dissent is tolerated.
The Vahaplan religion is based on the worship of two deities, Dihajrad, the Sun and Jhomor, the Moon, with the Dihajrad representing good and Jhomor evil, who constantly struggle with one other for supremacy, However, the Vahaplan religion teaches that if either one should win, the world will be either burned or frozen (respectively), so both deities must be supported; those who do so will go to paradise when they die. As such this religion is very much a part of the Vahaplan government, and its rigid centralised hierarchy is an integral part of the government. Everyone attends weekly services where the religious teachings are preached by rote. Because maintaining the balance of the two deities is very important, having as many people as possible to do so is considered important, and the religion performs zealous missionary work, to the extent of converting people by force.
Clothing is an indicator of social class in Vahapla - the higher class one is, the less one wears, because of the heating and so on available to one. Religious figures all wear obvious religious symbols.
HAKNANRI. This is a cluster of independent city-states in the southern Arabian peninsula. Haknanri was originally settled by the old Vahaplan Empire, but the people there threw off Vahaplan control and formed their own civilisation. Although they compete among one another is trade and other fields, they are strongly linked, and vigorously defend one another from outside threats.
The Haknanrans are conservative, and argue a lot amongst themselves, but war very little. As in Vahapla clothing is an important indicator of social class - the higher class one is, the less one wears, because of the heating and so on available to one. Haknanran families live together in large extended groups within family compounds.
The Haknanran religion is descended from that practised in New Vahapla. However, they do not believe that if either deity triumphs the world is doomed, instead supporting the triumph of Dihajrad over Jhomor, which will bring paradise to earth. Thus they worship the sun and revile the moon, and in return, they believe, Dihajrad intervenes in their favour when they need assistance and brings worshippers into paradise when they die. Their religion has a much looser hierarchy than that of Vahapla, although it still has a central authority, and very formal rituals with little teaching of religious thought. Non-worshippers are allowed to join the religion, but there is little active seeking out of converts.
NAVVAB. Navvab is a loosely-organised kingdom in the horn of Africa, another offshoot of the old Vahaplan Empire. They are quite divided internally, by politics and trade, but all the divisions are peaceable, and there is little internal conflict. They are very conservative, and against technological progress, but are also quite expansionistic, so have a large military.
As with Haknanri, the religion of Navvab is an offshoot of that of the old Vahaplan Empire, having essentially the same precepts, and worshipping Dihajrad and Jhomor, but interpreted differently. They believe in the same dualistic deities and the need for balance between them. Unlike the Vahaplans, they have rituals several times a week, and their teaching is slightly less formal, with a little teaching included. Also unlike the Vahapla, the religion is organised on a much more regional level, with little central hierarchy. They are also far less missionary than Vahapla, though they do accepts new converts to the religion.
Other customs of the Navvab are that everyone has hidden tattooing with religious significance, all people only eat with one hand, the other being considered unclean, marriages are arranged and performed by the parents of those getting married, and everyone lives in communal housing.
INSHALAN. Inshalan is a collection of semi-nomadic tribes who live all across what is, in the real world, parts of the Holy Land, northern Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India.
The tribespeople all live communally, and every Inshalan is heavily tattooed, with tattoos indicating social status, role in society, and achievements. Warriors in particular have fierce facial tattoos to intimidate their enemies. They believe in their superiority over every other race, and are militaristic enough to be expanding their territory at the expense of their neighbours. Although they argue amongst themselves a lot, their belief in their own superiority unites them against everyone else. They are good riders and among the most technologically advanced people too, advancing quite rapidly.
They have a lot of contact with the wolves, and so hate them more than most.
Their religion is entirely different to that of the old Vahaplan Empire. They believe in Rythyn, the mother Earth, who is present everywhere, at all times, and influences everything, for good or ill. As such, Rythyn accepts the sprits of those who die and reincarnates them in a new form consistent with their behaviour in their previous lives. Also because of this, all Inshalan conduct several rituals every day, particularly at dawn, dusk and noon. Each tribe has its own shamaness, who interprets the religion on a tribal level, for the tribe alone, and conducts the rituals, teaching about Rythyn as she does. Although they will accept converts, they will only do so from their own race, as all others are inferior, and unworthy of the Mother.
HADERILA. This is a new expanding empire in southern Africa, formed from exiles from the former Vahaplan empire who settled there and who have since mixed with locals. Their population is growing, and the empire is spreading north and west across the south of Africa.
The people of Haderila have a religion entirely separate from that of Vahapla (though there are still people there who follow the old religiong), instead being based on the beliefs of the local people. They see gods as being everywhere, but most of them being aspects of a much smaller group of High Gods, such as the Sun, the Moon, the Sky, the Earth, the Wind, the Sea, Winter, and so on. Worshippers are received into paradise, while non-believers go to hell. Followers worship every other week, in informal groups where there is much communal teaching and little ritual. The religion in loosely centralised, but with a good deal of local decision-making. They actively seek new converts, and as such other religions are persecuted in Haderila, making followers of the Vahaplan religion worship in secret.
In Haderila military people have unusual, distinctive hairdos, with a great deal of spiking and ornate hairdressing. All women must visit the quarters of a priest whenever the priest believes they require purification, and people of low social class have an unusual ceremony upon maturity, when they are tattooed with the mark of their Lord; this binds them to the land where they live and makes it very hard for them to run away, should they wish to.
KASTTRIN. Kasttrin is a very old, conservative, insular society in the far east, east of a line defined by the real-world cities of Hanoi, Kunming, Chengtu, Paokt, Taiyuan and Tangshan. They have something of a hive society with very rigid castes into which people are born, and a long wooden wall to defend themselves against the wolves.
Kasttrin is a theocracy, with non-marriage prohibited for all, widows and widowers having to marry a relative of their spouse, and religious figures prohibited from eating food which is white, the colour of the dead.
Their religion is a form of animism, with spirits everywhere and in everything, which must be kept happy and placated by rituals performed by everyone at least hourly. People reincarnate when they die, in a random form, with no karma. Only high-ranking members of the priesthood may see the sacred texts upon which their faith is based, but they are also zealous in working to ensure that everyone in the entire world is eventually converted to their One True Religion.
SHAPYAMAH. This is a progressive, factionated, peaceable but also rather xenophobic culture in southern India and Sri Lanka. The Shapyamah are a society divided by class, but although a monarchy, they also have a limited democracy for those of upper social class.
Women perform marriages in Shapyamah, everyone eats at unusual times, with the higher social classes being largely carnivorous. Everyone sees colour as having an unusual significance, so that everywhere there are colours of significance to the purpose of the place, and peoples faces are usually painted, and their hair dyed, for luck, success and so on.
The Shapyamah religion is a form of pantheism, in which their deity, Myrnath, is everything, and everything, including themselves, is part of Myrnath. As such order and tranquillity are considered very important, as they contribute to the tranquillity of Myrnath itself. Most rituals are thus devoted to soothing the deity to maintain tranquillity in the world, and to spread tranquillity in the world to soothe Myrnath. Those who take part in this activity are welcomed into the deity's embrace on death, a form of paradise. The religion is governed by a rigid hierarchy, though it has quite a lot of local flexibility, and services teach the tenets of the religion by rote several times a week. They actively seek out new converts to their religion.
LADITRIL. An expanding empire in the islands of south-east Asia - the Malayan peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and so on - Laditril is expanding by trade rather than conquest, being not very militaristic.
Despite their best efforts they are in a cold war with Kasttrin, as their two empires seek to control the same land areas. There have, in the past, been major wars between them and even now there are skirmishes.
Laditril is progressive and advancing, with many internal factions, who get on by trade and talking rather than fighting. They are very friendly to outsiders.
Everyone in Laditril eats as much meat as possible, and everyone engages in extensive gift-giving customs, as a sign of generosity and friendship. The whole society is held together by a network of gift-giving.
The religion of Laditril is devoted to the worship of a sky god, Praltan, who is involved with peoples lives at crucial moments. Praltan also controls the reincarnation of the dead into new forms based on their behaviour in past lives. Worship consists of daily rituals conducted by a rigid religious hierarchy with most decisions on a regional level. The church restricts its holy writings to those of a high rank within the church itself. They are quite zealous in converting people of their own race to their religion.
In addition to these eight major states, there are minor human nations and tribes scattered across the world, particularly across the green Sahara, where they broke away from the old Vahaplan Empire. Many of these minor states border the major states and some are allies or tributary states of them.
There are also a large number of other religions across the world, of every type.
A MAP OF WOLFWORLD
White space indicates ice caps. Pale green is land outside the eight major states. Note the changes in coastline due to the lower sea level.
There are sixteen major wolf groupings, four of them in Eurasia, and, from east to west, are known to humans as Thruxtac, Radhuseng, Yihilyu and Chistir. The other eight are in North America, where they are unknown to humans. There are also many more smaller Tathol groupings. They tend to be lower technology than the human states, even with human slaves as 'hands'.
The Tathol states vary from rigid 'empires', with defined packs of packs and an overall super-Alpha male and female, to loose associations which are more nearly just a group of packs co-operating over a long period. Packs do war with one another as well as humans.
Most humans believe that the wolves are evil, and the enemy; the wolves think likewise about humans, but also see the use of humans as hands...
Out of the Ice Age. A story by David bar Elias set in this world.
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And credit to The Paleomap Project, Sebastien Merkel and Wolf Web for some of the information used in the creation of this page.