Xenial: Concerning Hospitality

Stopping by for the first time for the A-Z Challenge? Read a short intro to the A-Zs of Worldbuilding here!

X is for Xenial...
X is for Xenial…

Xenial (once again, courtesy of The Phrontistery) means of or concerning hospitality toward guests.

Hospitality in worldbuilding – even fiction – isn’t something you necessarily think about until you need it in a story. For contemporary fiction, this isn’t quite a problem – all you need to do is google an etiquette website.

Fantasy can be a bit more problematic – while you can look up etiquette and draw from it, you often want to make things unique, but you don’t want to make them too bizarre.

Common Courtesy

  • Is there a ritual greeting?

This might be a phrase (i.e. hello), a handshake, a kiss, the washing of feet, etc.

Ritual greetings may be shortened or skipped with close relatives and good friends.

  • What are the protocols for greeting someone of higher social status?

Depending on how highly ranked the person is, the protocol may vary. The town mayor probably won’t be given as much deference as a king or queen.

Protocol may include anything from treating someone with formal respect, to a bow or curtsy, or even full prostration o the ground in someone’s presence, especially if a ruler is seen as having divine power.

  • Who is not greeted, or greeted privately instead of publicly?

Exemptions may include ignoring those of lower social ranking (servants, slaves, beggars), or outright disdain for anyone seen as inferior for any reason.

Treatment of Guests

  • What amenities are customarily offered to guests?

Things like a drink, a meal, feed for a horse (or equivalent creature), etc.

Amenities offered may change based on the social rank of the guest, whether they were invited or just showed up, how much the host has available to offer, how long the guests will be present (a few hours vs. a few days), etc.

  • When is it permissible to turn away guests?

Can one turn a guest away just because the feel like it, or do they need a concrete reason? Some reasons may transcend other protocols – perhaps a guest of any social rank can be denied when there has been a death in the family, for example.

  • What is the worst faux pas possible?

What is never acceptable, under any circumstances? Either as a guest, or a host, or just walking down the street?

Fare Thee Well…

For this post, at least. Etiquette can be fun – you can literally make your characters jump through hoops not to offend people, and then it can be even more fun when they break all the rules!

Original image used in header is by lusi.

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About Rebekah

Rebekah Loper writes character-driven epic fantasy featuring resilient women in trying and impossible circumstances who just want to save themselves but usually end up saving the world, often while falling in love.
She lives in Tulsa, OK with her husband, dog, two formerly feral cats, a small flock of feathered dragons (...chickens. They're chickens), and an extensive tea collection. When she's not writing, she battles the Oklahoma elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead.