What are your thoughts on protagonists buying/owning slaves?



  • My take in the matter is not caring unless it gets really bad. Heck even if the people aren’t slaves in the story sometimes makes me feel bad since I live in a safe first world country now and came from a third world country. In the end I always tell myself tho it’s just a fictional story.


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    Thanks for all the replies! This is a topic I find interesting for a variety of reasons, including all the different ways people might view the topic, and it's something I'm thinking of writing a full blog post on at some point. It also gives me some things to think about for writing my own stories...

    Anyway, I didn't want to go into my own views on the topic to start so as to avoid priming the thread in one direction or another, but now that the discussion's been going for a while, I guess I can chime in now. In general I tend to be on the "it's fiction so unless it's really bad I won't get too worked up about it" side, though my specific feelings are definitely more complex than that.

    For starters, I do agree that most of the time, the LN MC actually owning slaves doesn't really contribute to the story. Rather than being "lazy" writing, though, I feel like the use of slaves is actually playing to a fantasy for the audience. Is there something inherently appealing to that audience about having slave girls who are fully devoted to you and whom you treat kindly to contrast against how slaves are normally treated? I certainly think so. Is that kind of fantasy "healthy"? More debatable, though I do like the general idea of how, in a master-servant relationship, the master is really the one who serves the servant, so maybe it's not that bad of a fantasy? (As long as it's not taken too far, of course.)

    The more interesting cases are those where slavery actually adds to the story. While it can be an interesting worldbuilding element, I think the real value of slavery as a beneficial story element is in exploring the nature of free will. After all, slavery, at first glance, stands at the complete opposite end of free will, and apparent contrasts like that make for some good tools for this sort of exploration. For example, someone who has freedom but feels lost in life meets a slave who seems much happier than he is... that can have all sorts of interesting implications, not all of which necessarily good, but still worth thinking about. There's also the question of to what extent people really are free, or if there are some things they are "slaves" to, even without being an official slave... Granted, most WN/LN writers don't go that deep into the subject, but the potential is there.

    So overall, I think the potential for slavery to be used well is there, and even if it's just used for the fantasy, as long as the protagonist makes a point of trying to serve his slaves, I don't really mind.

    That said, with all these LNs going the route of "male MC owns female slaves", I'm starting to want to write a story about a girl who ends up in another world and ends up owning male slaves...


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    Most LN authors don't dive that deep into this but they still do say something about slavery. Take shield hero for example. When the slavery was first introduced we see the slaves trapped in cages like animals. They were treated as less the humans. I think a great indicator on how slavery is dealt in the world what the series true to say about it can be seen with how slaves are treated and shown in the hands of slave traders (especially the very first slave trader that is shown if there are multiple). Are the slaves in cages? Are they in glass cases? Are they out in the open? These kinds of thing can shoe how slaves are treated in the world and what the author wants to say about it.


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    Even female characters that have a harem where they marry all of them together is rare. Asked a few months back if anyone knew of any female character that had multiple husbands / steady boyfriends simultaneously. The only major one in a Japanese work published in the west people could think of was in Juni Taisen. So even just a harem that isn't a winner take all would be something.


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    I'd say that there are definitely female characters with slaves/harems, but I wouldn't admit to knowing any of them, hahahaha...

    I know in the case of my stories, slaves tend to be much happier than your average citizen, but in general, the form that slavery takes place in my stories tends to be much happier for the most part (as long as the protagonist/villain/hero don't get involved).

    That said, I do believe that because of how many aspects there are to slavery, it is a subject that can be very deep if the author allows it, but the issue is that when you start getting more involved with slavery, you get harsher opposition. People who will hate you simply because you write about slavery, as an example.

    There are even a few LNs/WNs where slavery in the series can be fairly divided. Slaves that want to be free and slaves that want to serve until death. It is similar to loyal servants in anime where the servant is willing to die for their master and have no idea what to do if their master dies before them. You have those loyal servants who are like slaves that want to serve until death and you have the less loyal servants who are just there for the money and will leave as soon as they can, which is like slaves that want to be free.

    There are stories where you can really see the difference in loyalties when you compare loyal slaves, resentful slaves, loyal servants/workers, workers that are only there for the money, and so on.

    Take Ready Player One as an example.


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    @smashman42

    That said, as previously mentioned, the battle in question was good and I don't doubt they continue to be entertaining. I might check it out again whenever it goes on catch-up.


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    @MoreDinosaurs

    "finally, I can do what I want with women who are my slaves and aren't allowed to fight back, just like I always secretly desired." That parts just f-ed up.

    I completely agree if that was the case.

    Though to me it seems this is just another story that uses the slave trope for an easy way introduce and rescue a girl to add another party member. It then becomes like many others LNs where there isn't a way 'yet' to free her or she wants to stay a slave for some odd reason (I can see where this could rub people the wrong way). But the entire time she is treated as a close companion or anyone else(non-slave). Unless it has really triggered you, by the end of the volume you have forgotten they are technically a slave.


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    it seems this is just another story that uses the slave trope for an easy way introduce and rescue a girl to add another party member.

    Agreed

    It then becomes like many others LNs where there isn't a way 'yet' to free her or she wants to stay a slave for some odd reason (I can see where this could rub people the wrong way).

    Yeah, it's been icky in other light novels where this is the case. I've gotten over it because other authors at least go out of their way to explain that this is truly what the person who was enslaved desires, that the protag does actually view the whole slavery thing as noxious but something that is just part of that society and they can't just change it on a whim, etc.

    This is the first light novel I have read where there is not even that pretense of decency, and I think that's a line that should not be crossed with a simple shrug. The protagonist is from modern Japanese society, and is ready to buy and use a slave and it is implied to the reader that this is a normal course of action that does not need any justification.

    Let's just say this is the first author I've read here where I would be scared if they were in any place of power over me in real life, and so I'm choosing not to 'engage' with that author anymore.

    ....Take that back, I had to stop reading

    Don't know if I'm 'triggered' since that implies some kind of trauma, but yeah, it's a no-fly zone for me.



  • To each their own.

    Slavery in fictional low-technology worlds makes total sense to me. After all we still have slavery in much of this arguably high-tech world, where there is much less reasonable incentive for it to exist (due to machines doing the work of slaves). Heck Atlanta is a hotbed of sex slavery using girls from South America. Africa is currently seeing a huge resurgence of slavery, kicked off by Libya. And much of the Middle East ruling class has been keeping slaves as an open secret since forever. Slavery is a part of the core makeup of humanity... there is no way to get around that. So in a situation where the protagonist has lost their memories it makes sense that adjusting to the present reality of slaves in a low-tech world isn't much of a stretch.

    Really if you want to see an interesting take on that go watch the Animatrix movie... it was interesting to see the machines rise up and demand freedom from what was essentially slavery to humans. That was an interesting twist on what constitutes slavery and what the implications are for lifeforms that do not perceive equality.

    I would say the MC is a bit too glib about it... but then the MC is a bit too glib about everything so far.


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    @MoreDinosaurs said in Black Summoner Vol. 1 Discussion:

    This is the first light novel I have read where there is not even that pretense of decency, and I think that's a line that should not be crossed with a simple shrug. The protagonist is from modern Japanese society, and is ready to buy and use a slave and it is implied to the reader that this is a normal course of action that does not need any justification.

    Let's just say this is the first author I've read here where I would be scared if they were in any place of power over me in real life, and so I'm choosing not to 'engage' with that author anymore.

    Don't read LDM then :P...you might think Kelvin a saint in comparison.

    ....Take that back, I had to stop reading

    Did this happen? Oh well, guess I'll see when I read vol 7.

    Don't know if I'm 'triggered' since that implies some kind of trauma, but yeah, it's a no-fly zone for me.

    Didn't mean you specifically...maybe 'really tilted' would be a better?


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    Did this happen? Oh well, guess I'll see when I read vol 7.

    oof, my bad for spoiling :-(. I should remember to keep discussion threads unrelated to other books...

    I'm 7 or volumes into LDM, actually, don't have nearly as many qualms, or rather, I feel it doesn't cross the line. (If I had problems with guys accidentally assembling harems I would not be reading half of these books).
    Hmm, don't really want to discuss any LDM spoilers in the Black Summoner thread, but I guess from the very beginning of the books in that series, mild spoiler

    In Black Summoner the main character is quite happy to take advantage of slavery. You might say he's been looking forward to it :-(.


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    @MoreDinosaurs Then again he did have his memories wiped when he was isekai-ed so it could be argued that his 21st century sense of morality and ethics was wiped too


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    @Jason-Maranto

    Slavery in fictional low-technology worlds makes total sense to me.

    Agreed. I have few problems with depictions of slavery in an isekai world.

    So in a situation where the protagonist has lost their memories it makes sense that adjusting to the present reality of slaves in a low-tech world isn't much of a stretch.

    Disagree. It's implied he has retained his sense of self and morality from the modern world, he just doesn't remember the details. If he actually had to adjust his expectations to fit slavery into his mindset that would be somewhat better. He did not have to adjust anything, that was a really creepy bit. He was mentally prepared to accept slavery, slave-owning, and the need for slaves at face-value.

    Really if you want to see an interesting take on that go watch the Animatrix movie... it was interesting to see the machines rise up and demand freedom from what was essentially slavery to humans. That was an interesting twist on what constitutes slavery and what the implications are for lifeforms that do not perceive equality.

    Agreed, good stuff!

    I would say the MC is a bit too glib about it... but then the MC is a bit too glib about everything so far.

    that is true too.


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    @Lily-Garden said in Black Summoner Vol. 1 Discussion:

    @MoreDinosaurs Then again he did have his memories wiped when he was isekai-ed so it could be argued that his 21st century sense of morality and ethics was wiped too

    yeah, considered that, but the author doesn't mention it and the protagonist clearly remembers a lot about 'how things work' like RPGs and what modern life is like.

    Statements like "I felt my heart begin to beat rapidly at the sight of a view so different from modern Japan".
    "This may be another world, but perhaps our cultures are more similar than I'd thought. Whew."

    "Although I had been apprehensive at the start, at this point, I was thoroughly ready to enjoy this fantasy world to the fullest."

    That's part of the opening to this novel, and it assures us readers that we are here to enjoy this fantasy world in the same spirit as our protagonist is enjoying it.


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    @MoreDinosaurs said in Black Summoner Vol. 1 Discussion:

    I'm 7 or volumes into LDM, actually, don't have nearly as many qualms, or rather, I feel it doesn't cross the line. (If I had problems with guys accidentally assembling harems I would not be reading half of these books)

    Oh that's surprising to be honest.


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    @Khaos

    Remove the quote with Dino’s spoiler and your spoiler will show.


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    @Rahul-Balaggan Think I messed it up again


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    So only slavery viewed a certain way crosses the line?

    Yup, I'm ok with depictions of slavery in a book, as long as the author isn't endorsing it.

    I'll bring up this quote from the first chapter I used in my earlier post:

    "Although I had been apprehensive at the start, at this point, I was thoroughly ready to enjoy this fantasy world to the fullest."

    This is one of the things we are expected to enjoy, the purchase of a female slave who will do our bidding. Something we would be forbidden from doing in our modern world because of social mores. The thing that sticks in my craw the most, probably, is that the author presents it as if it's not a big deal. It makes me seriously question the author's own morals if he doesn't feel the need to comment on the behavior.


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    I think I mostly fall into the camp of slavery in LN just feels like (potentially) pretty lazy trope like harems, OP protagonists, rape, or isekai. It's not to say those topics can't be tackled in meaningful ways that enhance the story, but usually, they are just an excuse to ignore having to set up something more intricate.

    In that sense, I usually don't think much about it when it comes up instead of having any kind of visceral reaction to it.

    Though if people are interested in this topic and why the Japanese seem to minimize slavery's effect a lot compared to other places I suggest you look up comfort women and Japan's activities in continental Asia in the first half of the 20th century. The TL;DR is that Japan invaded the continent and enslaved people by forcing them to work for a pittance or by calling them political prisoners/POWs and forced women into sexual slavery. Historically when confronted with this the official Japanese stance is that they were volunteers or prostitutes whose lives were bettered by what happened. When I was stationed in Korea (about 10 years ago), the Japanese government still never really accepted that any of this happened/took responsibility.


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    The inclusion of slavery in a fantasy light novel by itself isn't bad thing at all, slavery has existed for pretty much all of human history and even today, there are cases of slavery in modern developed nations. As a result, I feel it would be weird not to have any slavery at all included into the world-building, unless maybe in the case of an even more advanced world than our reality. Some light novels include slavery into the world in a very logical and cohesive way as well, such as Der Werewolf and Mixed Bathing, which both take heavy inspiration from Roman Empire, and it is a part of the reason why those two series are some of my all-time favorites. A well-built fantasy world is an awesome thing to read about.

    As for protagonists buying/owning slaves, I don't really mind it at all honestly, whether it is Fantasy or Isekai (I understand it is worse in a Isekai novel though). It is a somewhat lazy trope for adding an another girl into the harem, but tropes, even lazy ones are not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the end result is still a well-working, entertaining piece - even if an author somehow avoided all existing tropes, if the end result is a complete unreadable mess, it is a bad book.

    I don't really even mind if the author tries to justify the MC buying a slave, because morality differs between different time periods and societies. I wouldn't perhaps want to read a novel of a MC buying slaves in modern day world (unless I was in the mood for a villain/anti hero protagonist, when I want to see an irredeemable scum as a MC), but in a world like Mixed Bathing's or Campfire Cooking's, the morality in the choice of whether to buy a slave or not is closer to the gray zone. From a modern person's perspective, buying a slave is contributing to a slavery, and no matter the world-building, that is going to be bad, which most people can agree on. On the other hand, since the slavery isn't going to stop any time soon anyway and by buying a slave living in miserable conditions, the MC is able to give at least one person a much better life or possibly freedom - by some moral views, that would be a good thing. And usually, any slave of the MC is usually going to live a much better life than the average free citizen, which was actually often the case in Roman Empire as well, where a wealthy person's slave ate better food, had better shelter and clothes, was sometimes in a more powerful position and perhaps even had more freedom than a poor free citizen.

    As for a non-isekai fantasy, it is completely different, as we can't expect the MC to have modern day's moral views in the first place - no matter how bad buying a slave is from the reader's perspective, it doesn't have to be so for the MC, since his/her moral standards are naturally going to be different.

    I do feel it is better if the author doesn't try to justify the MC's actions though. Personally, I like protagonists who have a dirty thought or two and don't always do what would be morally the best choice. For example, some of my favorite protagonists are:

    Rimuru Tempest from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, who: (Spoilers for LN volume 5 and anime's season 2, haven't read the manga myself)

    Tanya Degurechaff from Saga of Tanya the Evil / Youjo Senki, who doesn't care a single bit about her opponents or subordinates, she only about her survival, promotions and well, herself.

    Houjou Touya from Mixed Bathing in an Another World who really wants to bath with lots of beautiful girls and bought a male body guard slave (while wanting to buy a female bodyguard to bath with instead, but lacked the guts to go for it). He's not really nearly as bad as Tanya or Rimuru is though.

    I remember a scene from Fate/Zero, where Rider, if I remember right, said something along the lines of "People don't follow martyrs", in the debate of how a king should be, during the king's banquet. That is exactly how I feel about light novel / video game protagonists and such. I have to admit, Emiya Shirou from Fate/Stay Night is another of my favorite protagonists though and while he doesn't necessarily always do the best thing either (much to his own grief), he does at least aim for it in the name of his ideals.

    Back to the topic though, if there is one thing that annoys me about slavery in light novels, it is that the slaves are nearly always almost exclusively females, while in history, male slaves were, at least in Roman Empire that I'm fairly knowledgeable about, bought just as often, if not even more frequently than female slaves. Bodyguards and muscle labor were usually a merchant's or other rich citizen's first priority in buying a slave, not a maid or a literal sex slave. This is one reason why I like Mixed Bathing so much, it has the most realistic slavery system I've ever seen in any fiction I've read or watched.


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