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Exotic Extended Marriage

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Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people.
Chief Justice Waite, 1878 court case Reynolds v. United States note 

People of strange, exotic cultures are often depicted as being far more open to extended marriages, with three or more participants, than we are. Common in Speculative Fiction, this emphasizes just how different these people are from us, especially if they are humans like us or Humanoid Aliens that still considerably resemble us.

In most of the world today, marriage is limited to two people at a time, but that has not always been the case, there are a few places where it's not the case now, and some authors like to speculate that it may not be true in the future. Some works of Historical Fiction will use this trope to emphasize the exoticness of foreign or ancient cultures.

Historically, the most common form of extended marriage was one man with multiple wives. The technical term for this is "polygyny",note  and it has appeared in a wide variety of cultures. For this reason, adventure stories set in an exotic corner of the Earth are most likely to feature polygyny. To some extent, this can be Truth in Television.

In works set on other worlds, all sorts of extended marriages can be found, often associated with a Free-Love Future. Extended marriage is often shown as an element of both utopias and dystopias. And when it comes to exotic aliens with bizarre alien reproduction, all bets are off. Monogamy may not even be physically possible, let alone desirable.

This isn't just any multi-partner scenario—see Polyamory for that. This is when a species' or culture's non-monogamousness is used to show that they're different than us. Also, there has to be some kind of legal or ceremonial element, and it should be remembered that a marriage does NOT have to involve romantic or sexual relationships. Indeed, very often these scenarios are arranged marriages.

The existence of this trope is often a necessity for a Marry Them All scenario. The Royal Harem, when played for exoticism (often in an orientalist way in Western works), is a subtrope involving elite men who practice polygamy—though the harem is also likely to contain concubines (as opposed to official wives) and the man's children and female blood relatives (if the writer is going for accuracy). See the Useful Notes page, For the Love of Many, for a broader discussion of the general topic.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, the orc chief points out three different women in the village as his wives. It's unclear if this is standard practice for all orc men, or a special privilege of the chief.
  • In the canon Tenchi Muyo! OVA, Juraian royalty practices just about every kind of old fashioned marriage trope out there: the Emperor has multiple wives, children are encouraged to marry their half-siblings, no one would pause at an age difference on the order of millennia, etc. These practices add some legitimacy to Tenchi's harem situation, leaving open the possibility that he could just Marry Them All.
    • Some of the situation (as well as in GXP) are political as well: as the 3rd OAV points out, Tenchi's home is the single largest concentration of power in the universe, by just about any definition of the word.
  • In Code Geass, Emperor Charles zi Brittania has 108 wives. This is unique to the role of emperor, in order for him to have as many warrior heirs as possible so that they can fight for the throne, in line with Britannia's social-Darwinist philosophy.

    Comic Books 
  • Elfquest: Savah mentions that Sun Villagers have occasionally taken more than one mate. Such cases presumably are needed when elvish Recognition - an involuntary drive to hook up with another elf whose genes are highly compatible - demands they select one partner, but their emotional connection is firmly with another.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: In Guardians of the Galaxy (2020), Star-Lord becomes stranded with a Mors and Aradia, a male and female alien couple, for one hundred and forty-four years. After the first year, the two of them invite him to be part of their "bond", but he refuses because he's still trying to find a way back home to Gamora. When he tries to explain monogamy to them, she playfully calls him weird. After the twelfth year, a way home is finally found but he accepts the alien dimension as his new home and indeed joins the pair in their relationship. Aradia, in fact, seemingly gives birth to a child named "Rocky" from the relationship (while it's never said that Rocky is Peter's, he clearly cares for the child as much as any father would, and the name is clearly Earthling). After more than one hundred and forty years, the corrupted Greek Gods come looking for him in his new home and he reluctantly chooses to return back to his original home, leaving his lovers behind.
  • The Inhumans: Black Bolt was at one point married with four different Inhuman queens besides his official love interest Medusa. They belonged to different alien species known as Universal Inhumans, who were experimented by the Kree and underwent similar augmentation processes as Terrigenesis, and they all married him due to an prophecy regarding the Midnight King who was thought to be him. They were all killed (with the exception of Medusa) by the Super-Inhuman Vox.
  • Iznogoud: The practice of polygyny is carried over from some real life Islamic cultures into the world of Iznogoud; Caliph Haroun el-Plassid has multiple wives and dozens of children (so many that he can't reliably remember all of their names), as does Sultan Pullmankar. In "A Calculated Risk", the Caliph and Sultan Pullmankar sign a marriage contract engaging the Caliph's 37th son to the Sultan's 42nd daughter.
  • Superman: A Supermans Girlfriend Lois Lane story has Lois fall in love with Titanman, a muscular Human Alien. On their wedding day, Titanman reveals to Lois he comes from a planet that legalized polygamy, and that she will become his eighth wife. Lois objects to the thought of having to share a husband with seven other women, so Titanman tranquilizes her into proceeding with the wedding. Superman jealously refuses to save her, but she escapes having to marry Titanman by awakening back in the Daily Planet.

    Fan Works 
  • This is how Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità ended. After spending months together in a polyamorous relationship, Italy proposed to both Germany and Japan in front of all the other countries during one of their World Meetings. Everyone cheered as Germany and Japan tackled Italy to the ground and showered him with kisses.
  • A Mighty Demon Slayer Grooms Some Ponies has Megan introducing polygamy (or more correctly, harem-like herds) among the ponies as a necessity due to the male-to-female imbalance. Over the generations, the gender ratio balances out and the ponies slowly switch to monogamy.
  • Discussed in the Spider-Man fic “Dinner for Three”, when Peter and Mary Jane ask Felicia Hardy to marry them. When Felicia questions if that would be legal in New York, Peter observes that he knows a king who is also head of his own religion in Wakanda, and is confident that T’Challa would be willing to help them out, at which point their Wakandan marriage would be perfectly legal in New York.
  • Inverted in Bait and Switch (STO), which mentions that the Pe'khdar don't generally practice anything resembling marriage at all. They actually expect sexual relationships to fade, and children are the responsibility of the mother's entire clan.
  • New Tamaran: All Tamaraneans (except royalty) have intermingling group marriages, uniting the whole species together in love.
  • In Pokemon: Shadow of Time, due to his status as the Crown Prince of Rota, after an incident where the royal family were nearly decimated by a plague, Ash is actually legally obliged to practice polygamy.
  • The Power of Seven reveals that wizarding culture can create a precedent for Harry to pull this off; as he is the sole heir to the Houses of Black and Potter, he could marry two different witches to continue those family lines, and he could also marry witches who are the last surviving members of their families (such as Susan and Luna being the last Bones and Lovegood) and let them keep their names so that their children could continue their bloodlines.
  • Multiple My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fics have herds being an option, including the The Teacher, the Sorceress and the Wonderbolt series (in which Twilight marries the title characters); The Great Alicorn Hunt, in which Sweetie Belle informs her sister that half the ponies in Equestria were in herds as recently as fifty years before, and it's still perfectly legal, though not as common; and Six Brides For Two Sisters, in which Luna seeks to marry all six Element-bearers at once (and have Twilight also marry Celestia).
  • In the Triptych Continuum, polygamy is legal, but only if every member involved assents to every other member. As such, these kind of relationships are fairly rare.
  • In TRON: Endgame Scenario (a Tron 2.0/TronLegacy Patchwork Fic series), Programs are commonly "bundled" in groups from two to five members.
  • A Crown of Stars: In Avalon -an Empire than spans a chunk of The Multiverse, led by a couple of God Emperors-, getting married to multiple partners is completely legal and endorsed by Avaloni's divine rulers.
  • The Code Geass Alternate Universe Fic Mosaic gives Suzaku (who's the Japanese Emperor) multiple wives.
  • In Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion, certain Britannian men — that is to say, commoners who meet certain wealth requirements and members of the nobility — are allowed to have a "Worthy Reward" marriage. This means that they are allowed to marry multiple wives and have a number of official mistresses depending on their rank. This is the legal basis of the Emperor's Royal Harem, who's also the law biggest user.
  • In Hyrule Warriors: War of Love and Lust, polygamy is legal in Hyrule, even if it's not commonly practiced.
  • Generally speaking, it sort of goes without saying that the more unrealistic and deliberately wish-fulfillment based fan-fics across a wide variety of fandoms often touch on this trope, many times touching on it as an excuse to detail the Ho Yay-based scenarios.
  • In the Love Hina fanfic Prince of PolPol, females outnumber males on the titular island, so men are permitted to take many wives, and any female who is not blood related to the prince and has lived with him for longer than a year is considered engaged to him, with the wedding ceremony consisting of sharing the Kiss of Marriage and an apple.
  • In Handmaid, the titular handmaid system, while a bit out of practice, is still an acceptable way for a king to produce legitimate heirs while still being married to his wife, at least according to the Catholic Church. There is even a ceremony to mark the union and if the handmaid produces a son she is crowned Princess Consort. Katherine of Aragon decides to convince Henry VIII to take this route so he can have heirs but Mary's life and legitimacy can still be preserved, and Anne Boleyn is chosen as the handmaid. (Anne's fine with this because the other big nail in this story is she falls for Katherine, so will do this in order to stay close to her.)
  • In Heated Storm Yields a Wild Horse's Heart, the Chinese Amazons practise polygyny — if a man is deemed worthy enough to have several brides, and it's such a complicated process that the tradition fell into obscurity until Shampoo invokes it to marry Ranma without forcing him to renege on his previous engagement to Nabiki (and later Ukyo). However, the Amazons do not look kindly upon polyandry since a woman cannot bear more than a single man's child at a time, so it's seen as greedy and hurting other women by stealing potential husbands, and a good way to be cast out from the village as a criminal.
  • Played for Laughs in the Omakelous Ladybug short WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?, when during a drunken coming-of-age party, the intoxicated Team Miraculous ends up in a country that allows polygamy. Marinette, Adrien, and Kagami end up married to each other, as do Kim, Max, Ondine, and Alix.
  • A couple of fanfics written before the premier of Pokémon Horizons: The Series, set during an era of fan speculation of new protagonist Liko's possible relation to Ash, and by extension his female companions, let to a few works, such as Riko Has All the Moms and A Visit From Grandma where polygamy is uncommon, but not unheard of, in the Pokemon world, and Liko is the daughter of such a relationship, with the latter having more parents while the former's parent includes a Latias. The question of 'who' her mom isn't particularly important in either work, as she is raised and loved by all of them with a specific title for each of them to keep it all straight.
  • A Thing of Vikings: Berk and the future North Sea Empire allow polyamory, with specific legal definitions of "spouse" and "concubine", and certain rights thereof. One epigraph notes that the record for the largest legally wed group is nine.

  • In Aaron Lee Yeager's Kharmic Rebound most of the heroines come from cultures where multiple spouses raise no eyebrows. Cha'Rolette and Kalia come from powerful aristocratic families where political alliances through marriage to multiple spouses are commonplace. Ilrica's race is wolf-like, with an Alpha-male essentially married to all the huntresses in the pack. Trahzi's race share a hive-mind and have no preconceived notion of what marriage should or should not be, so she is open to the idea. While Zurra and Lyssandra are so in love with Gerald that they don't mind so long as it makes him happy. Even Gerald, the lone human in the story, claims it doesn't really bother him because he grew up in Utah.
  • In Dune, Fremen commonly take multiple wives as a way of pinpointing male sterility. Imperial nobles are allowed only one wife but may take bound-concubines whose children by him are considered legitimate (a bit like how things worked in the Ottoman Empire and Qing Dynasty China), but lower in the line of succession than children from a wife. Paul is the son of a duke and his beloved concubine (who in a bit of a subversion of the usual course was his only mate;note  Duke Leto liked to play Elizabeth I's game and pretend to court various noble women for political advantage), and it causes Paul no small bit of angst that he has to relegate his Fremen love Chani to a concubine and marry the emperor's daughter in a Sexless Marriage in order to legitimize his coup.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Polygamy was acceptable, though not common, in the Valyrian Freehold, in contrast with monogamous Westeros. Aegon the Conqueror had two wives, Rhaenys and Visenya, who both also happened to be his sisters, as Brother–Sister Incest was common in Valyria and Aegon married his younger sister Rhaenys for love after marrying his older sister Visenya out of tradition. The Targaryens basically gave up polygamy after Maegor the Cruel, who had six wives and practically a 0% Approval Rating, but it's still practiced in certain places in Essos. That said, it's still common for royals to keep mistresses, they're just not given the official status of a spouse. In fact, if they're so inclined they can legitimize any bastards resulting from such relationships, as Aegon IV did with all of his Great Bastards on his deathbed, precipitating a civil war between supporters of his trueborn son Daeron II and his bastard son Daemon Blackfyre.
    • One exception to the rule in Westeros are the Ironborn. Ironborn men are allowed to have multiple wives, with one rock wife who must be Ironborn as well, and an unlimited number of salt wives, who will inevitably be women from the mainland captured on raids. The children of salt wives are considered legitimate and have inheritance rights, but they come after the rock wife's children in the line of succession.
  • Robert A. Heinlein used this trope a few times, as part of a broader theme of Polyamory in his works:
    • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress features extended marriage as a common part of life on the moon, in large part because of a shortage of women. The protagonist, Mannie, is part of what he calls a "line marriage". note 
    • Friday starts with the protagonist in a group marriage in New Zealand, although they divorce her after she exposes their racist hypocrisy. She later joins a much healthier group marriage.
  • In Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite, the harsh life on the Lost Colony of Geta has led to extended marriages being quite common. Marriages of up to six people are allowed, and a six-marriage is considered the most perfect, balanced ideal.
  • In C. J. Cherryh's Chanur Novels there are two examples:
    • The cat-like Hani form prides, with one dominant male and a group of related females.
    • The stsho, who have three different sexes, form mating trios. And one of the sexes can be in two different trios at once.
  • In the Earth's Children series, set in the distant past before the rise of civilization, most matings are one man & one woman, but sometimes a man will mate with two women, or a woman with two men. Whatever works for them.
  • The Sharing Knife has a case where a Lakewalker couple couldn't have children, their families were pressuring them to break up, instead they brought a second husband into the relationship. The husbands are married to each other as well.
  • The novella "The Outcasts of Heaven Belt" by Joan Vinge features a starship crew who are all an intermarried group (although it's usual to have a "special" relationship with just one spouse).
  • Gail Dalton's One Rose Trilogy has a society where the size of a marriage ranges from a minimum of four to a maximum of twelve.
  • In Wen Spencer's A Brother's Price, a plague has left the world seriously gender-skewed, with 5-10 girls born for every boy. The solution for this is for boys to marry all sisters in a family—though it's noted that sufficiently wealthy people who can afford to, or people with more than one brother to swap, may choose to split the family, with half the sisters marrying one husband and the other half another (one such occasion among the royal family being directly responsible for a civil war in the book's history). The hero, Jerrin Whistler, spends the beginning of the book anxious about potentially marrying into the Brindle family, where he would be the only husband to thirty sisters. In the end, he goes on on to marry all of the princesses of the realm.
  • In the Honor Harrington series:
    • The planet Grayson (where Honor has dual-citizenship) allows extended marriages (polygynous, due to females greatly outnumbering males on the planet).
    • Beowulf runs even more on this, having a wide variety of atypical marital and familial arrangements.
    • On Manticore (Honor's other homeworld), a devoted and lifelong bond between two people is considered at least somewhat unusual and entirely voluntary—and even that marriage can be modified to include others if both spouses agree.
  • In Nnedi Okorafor's The Shadow Speaker, Princess Sarauniya Jaa has two husbands.
  • In David Brin's Uplift series, uplifted chimpanzees and dolphins are often involved in group marriages, and so do many aliens.
    • At the end of The Uplift War, neo-chimp Fiben marries both his love interests, and notes that they're not much help in warding off the attentions of nearly every other female chimp on the planet who wants his genes now that he's a war hero.
    • In Infinity's Shore, the neo-dolphin Kaa mentions that his parents were in a "Heinlein-style" line marriage, and his lover Peepoe briefly entertains the notion of being founding matriarch of her own line. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be.
    • The species known as the Gubru forms marriages in threes, and doesn't become sexually differentiated until after marriage, when one member of the threesome will become dominant and the sole female, while the other two become male.
  • "Group Marriages" make an appearance in another David Brin work, Existence, which takes place in 2050. One of the protagonists, space-garbage-man Gerald Livingstone, is part of a seven-way marriage with both male and female partners. The marriage has produced several children, though none seem to be Gerald's.
    Suddenly, his spouses seemed interested in bedtime. All of them. Even Francesca, who had never liked Gerald very much. "We miss you," they said in messages and calls. More attention than he normally got from the group marriage. In fact, all seven offered to come visit him "in this time of stress."... Joey, Jocelyn, and Hubert even volunteered to sign waivers and enter quarantine with him! The offer was flattering. Tempting. Especially since Gerald always felt an outsider, at the periphery of their little clan, long suspecting they proposed to him for the prestige of an astronaut husband.
  • Vonda N. McIntyre's Starfarer series has at least one married triad (Victoria Fraser MacKenzie, Stephen Thomas Gregory, and Satoshi Lono). There was originally a fourth spouse, but they died before the series kicks off.
  • In Jack McDevitt's Omega (part of the Priscilla Hutchins series), the newly discovered alien race known informally as the Goompahs have a complex system of shared spouses that the researchers studying the race have a hard time figuring out. Conjugal relations are allowed throughout a particular marriage group, but most individuals seem to have one or two preferred spouses within their group.
  • In Cherry Wilder's Torin trilogy, beginning with The Luck of Brin's Five, the traditional Torinese family structure is built around a group of five adults, which includes at least one woman and two men in the roles we'd think of as wife and husbands. (Other roles are possible; the five adults can include grandparents as well as parents, for instance.) Biologically, each child has one mother and one father, the same as humans, but all husbands share equally in the raising of each of the family's children, and it's considered impolite to suggest that any of a child's fathers are more or less "really" its father than any other.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, it is revealed that the Cereans (the species to which Ki-Adi-Mundi belongs) have a sex ratio unbelievably lopsided towards females, and that's why they are polygamous. Even Jedi like Ki-Adi are allowed and advised to practice polygamy, since every unmarried or not married enough male is a demographical hazard to the entire race.
  • In the Marsbound books, this is a rare but not unusual feature of The Future. In the second book, Starbound, the selected starship crewmembers from Earth are a married triple.
  • Several of the future human species in Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men practice different kinds of group marriage. The Last Men have 96-person marriages that can also merge into telepathic group minds.
  • In Island in the Sea of Time and its sequels, most of the Bronze-Age cultures that the Nantucketers encounter believe in polygamy or polyamory. This leads to some tension between Nantucketer Marian Alston and her Fiernan partner Swindapa, as the latter is bisexual and openly ogles other men or women. Over the course of the books, Big Bad William Walker acquires several wives from different cultures as a way of building alliances.
  • A number of M.C.A. Hogarth's universes feature cultures that practice polygamy of some sort.
    • In Flight of the Godkin Griffin some of the many cultures in Shraeven practice a variety of marriages. For instance noblemen are expected to take multiple wives, a few times Angharad thinks of marrying both her lesbian lovers since she's The Empire's newly appointed governor of Shraeven, but Ragna says she's not the type who could make it work.
    • In the Paradox universe Harat-shar practice polygyny. Chatcaava on the other hand treat their females as slaves and don't so much marry as claim and rape.
    • Tales of the Jokka: Jokka discourage heterosexual relationships because childbirth has a strong risk of Death of Personality, instead Houses practically treat their females like chattel and assign males to breed them when needed or rent them out to other Houses. However they don't have any problems with homosexual relationships between any number of individuals. And at the end of A Bloom in the North, it turns out that on the northern continent, where mind-death is practically unknown due to better nutrition, triads with one of each gender are the norm.
  • Marcus LaGrone's "The Highlands of Afon'' novels feature yet another feline alien example. Highlands Taiks have a four to one female:male ratio so they are polygynous. Traditionally the father is the defender of the family while the First Mother is head of the family's business and the Second Mother mostly raises the kids, Third and Fourth mothers support the First's business. Other races of Taik have a more even gender ratio though, including one that genetically engineered themselves to have very little sexual dimorphism.
  • In Francis Carsac's Terre en fuite (Fleeing Earth), humans encounter a Lost Colony in the Etanor (likely Proxima Centauri) system descended from the crew of one of the ship sent out centuries before through the newly-discovered hyperspace before it was discovered that hyperspace travel is of the Blind Jump variety. Due to the fact that the colony (called Tilia) was started by less than two dozen people and that various mutations due to exposure to cosmic rays not only skew the ratio of male-to-female births to 1:7 but also result in some males being born completely lacking in initiative, each normal male is required to marry multiple women in order to produce many children. At the same time, the Tilians are a culture of Proud Warrior Race Guys, so most able men are soldiers, fighting a war against aliens called the Triss from a neighboring planet. Earthlings, whose technology surpasses that of the Tilians, promise to help them correct the mutation.
  • Group marriages in Through Alien Eyes can apparently be of many configurations. There's mention of a triad consisting of two brothers and a woman. A large group marriage has a monogamous dyad within it and Juna marries into this family without entering relations with anyone. These marriages are there for the sense of family and mutual support, and to pool child-rights.
  • The Star Trek Novel 'Verse has it that Andorians practice group marriages of four due to their Bizarre Alien Sexes. One member of each sex has to take part in a telepathic mating bond called a shelthreth in order to produce a child, and sexual contact outside of a shelthreth, called tezha, is taboo.
  • In Last Sacrifice, Raymond of the Keepers is married to Sarah and has Paulette as a concubine. Establishing the Keepers as more exotic that the average Moroi.
  • In Dayworld by Philip José Farmer, the protagonist's Thursday persona James Dunski is in a group marriage with three women and two other men. The fact that James and Rupert are in on the Masquerade and the others are not puts a strain on the marriage, and James and Rupert plan to leave.
  • In Children of the Black Sun, group marriages are normal in Ricalani culture, with multiple men and multiple women all being considered a single household. Characters from other cultures consider this decidedly odd, but as certain Love Triangles arise, the idea starts to look more practical.
  • In Crawford Killian's Eyas, this is standard in one human culture (the one into which the protagonist was adopted): A traditional marriage is two men and two women, all considered married to one another; a time in the past when monogamy was forced on them by conquerors is viewed as a dark era. At least two species of "brutes'' seem to be polygynous on account of skewed gender ratios.
  • In Rudyard Kipling's Kim, the Woman of Shamlegh already lives in a polyandrous marriage—which was then and still is Truth in Television for a number of cultures in the Himalayas—when she indicates to Kim that she would like him to become her husband too.
  • In Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, navigating through Hyperspace requires three people working extremely closely together and who know each other very well, so navigators, and eventually starship crews in general, have started to marry in threesomes; a habit which mainstream society still generally frowns on.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, the Hexarchate - at least in Jedao's times - seems to have no problem with multiple spouses, as Meng is mentioned as having four partners.
  • Several stories in Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish 'verse are set on the planet O, where people are divided into "Moieties"note  known as Evening and Morning, and all of society is built around said moieties. On O, a traditional marriage consists of an Evening man and woman and a Morning man and woman. Each person has a wife and a husband of the opposite moiety, both of whom they're expected to be sexually intimate with, and an additional spouse of the opposite gender but the same moiety as them, whom they're forbidden to be sexually intimate with. Le Guin adds that these marriages may open up to six or eight people total, and include siblings as partners—but the siblings, being of the same moiety, will not be intimate. Funnily enough, O is by and large a conservative and predictable world, and these extended marriages are the only really unusual thing about them compared to other planets.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Aiel people are the subject of many wild stories in the Westlands for their militaristic culture and fantastically intricate code of honor, but what really startles Westerners is their practice of marrying multiple "sister-wives". Moreover, the women in question negotiate it between them, then propose to the prospective husband as an all-or-nothing deal.
  • In The Traitor Baru Cormorant, the title character has a mother and two fathers. In her native Taranoki culture this isn’t anything unusual, but unfortunately the Imperial Republic of Falcrest is less open-minded.
    • The long-collapsed Tu Maia empire practiced partible paternity, the belief that children could inherit traits from multiple fathers, and encouraged polyandry as a result. Many of their descendants still do the same, the people of Taranoke being one of them.
  • In Wicked, Fiyero mentions that in his culture taboos such as having multiple partners aren't that uncommon. His wife has offered to let him sleep with her sisters, but Fiyero always declines.
  • City of Bones by Martha Wells: The bio-engineered Krismen mate in trios. Khat cites this tradition as one of the reasons he fled his home enclave to live among humans, saying he wasn't interested in being someone's second husband in an Arranged Marriage.
  • In October Daye, polygamous marriages are allowed under fey law so long as every partner agrees. King Oberon had three wives, and in A Killing Frost Simon Torquill finally divorces October's mother Amandine and shortly thereafter marries his old friend Patrick and Patrick's wife Dianda.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: This has yet to be shown among commoners, but nobles are known to take both extra spouses and concubines. Karstedt had three wives at some point, one of them having died a few years prior to Myne meeting him. When shown Sylvester's home, Rozemyne is explicitly told that there's a wing meant for his eventual second and third wives.
  • In Cat Planet Cuties, the Catians have no issues with a male choosing multiple mates due to there being a gender imbalance in the species resulting in there being about 20 female Catians for every 1 male. This becomes relevant to the plot when Kio's house is converted into the official Catian embassy, leaving Kio free to marry all three of the girls in love with him.
  • In High School Dx D, Devils consider polyamory and polygamy a matter of preference for those involved. This may have something to do with their long lifespans and low fertility, especially after the Great Offscreen War appears to have left a gender disparity in its wake. Rias and her brother are children of such an arrangement, but not only are they the only (known) children of it, they both have the same mother. Part of it appears to also be a leftover from less-enlightened times, as a Master sleeping with their servants is also considered normal, but one who admits to doing so without consent is considered scum. All this means Issei goes from shocked to delighted with his First-Episode Resurrection.
    On the other hand, it's also shown that monogamy isn't alien to them either. The only thing considered outlandish about Sirzechs and Grayfia is that he has the title of Satan, yet she wears the pants.
  • The Occupation Saga: Polygyny is common among the alien species of The 'Verse due to typically having much higher ratios of females to males than humans do, though it's normally a matter of the women sharing a subordinate male between them rather than a straight harem setup. Main character Jason Linford gradually gets used to this, and by the start of book three is in a polyamorous relationship with two Shil'vati, Raisha and Kernathu, and a Rakiri named Yaro.
  • How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: Polygamy is legal in Elfrieden, for both men and women. When Souma wonders about this, his future Top Wife Liscia states that it’s not considered immoral, and that she’d be willing for him to have up to eight including her (the number of days in this world’s week). Legally, the daughters of royal or knightly families are Primary Queens, while those of commoner stock are Secondary Queens (their offspring having no claim to royalty). This sets Souma up for no less than five such marriages by the time he's formally coronated in volume 10.
  • In the Discworld novel Jingo, the Klatchian tradition of polygyny is brought up a couple of times, always to highlight how alien Klatchian culture seems to Morporkians.
  • This comes up in The City Who Fought, men from Bethel often take multiple wives. Kolnari enter multiple marriages as well as taking Breeding Slaves as they consider spreading their share of the "Divine Seed" of paramount importance, but nobles claim most Kolnari women - the Big Bad has many wives, concubines, and slaves, but one common soldier with brief POV shares two wives with his four brothers. A miner on the SSS-900-C, the 'default' people in this book, also mentions having two husbands on the station.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Nietzscheans of Andromeda, a genetically engineered Human Subspecies who believe in Social Darwinism, practice polygyny. A male can marry as many females as his displays of genetic fitness attract; alpha males often have ten or more (despite this, it is actually the females who are in control and matriarchs preside over the approval of genetic matches in their pride).
  • In Babylon 5, Londo Mollari has three wives, all Arranged Marriages, whom he hates. It's apparently not uncommon for high status Centauri nobles, and made easier by their six "appendages". In the episode "Soul Mates", he's granted dispensation by the Emperor to divorce two of them, and chooses to stay married to Timov. Unlike Mariel and Daggair, she's known for her Brutal Honesty and doesn't pretend to like him, but won't plot to assassinate him either.
  • Sister Clarice Willow in Caprica is married to multiple men and women, who are all married to each other. This is implied to be unusual but perfectly legal, and although Clarice and her spouses are secretly members of a monotheistic religion it's obviously practiced by some polytheist families as well, since the fact they're monotheists is secret but the fact they're all married is not.
  • Polyamorous marriages aren't considered unusual in the setting of The Expanse (and presumably the novel series it's based on). Holden has eight parents (five fathers and three mothers) and was conceived via a mixing of all eight genetic profiles. It's implied that such marriages also produce naturally conceived children with two "true" parents, but with all the adults being equally considered as mothers and fathers.
  • In Farscape, Rygel once had many wives, before he was deposed and ended up with the rest of our refugees. Though to be fair, he was the emperor of a multi-system empire.
  • House of the Dragon: In early Season 1, Daemon Targaryen's claims that he's going to take Mysaria as a second wife (after Rhea Royce, who's still alive) "in the tradition of Old Valyria", much like Aegon the Conqueror, who was married to both his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya. The exoticness is intentional, Invoked, since polygyny is now forbidden in Westeros and Daemon's decision to become a polygamist is a stunt entirely for attention.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: The fictional witch culture at least in the US has polyandry (marriage between a woman and multiple men) as a common feature. In fact, it's standard among High Atlantic witches, an elite upper-class group, with three husbands being an average number. This is explained as a way to have a larger source of positive genetics in any child's conception (which they all contribute to simultaneously, probably by magic).
  • Sliders: In "Easy Slider", polygamy is legal on the world that the sliders visit.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • In "Angel One", the Enterprise crew visits an alien race where the women are larger in stature than the men and hold all of the business, scientific, and government jobs as well as any occupations requiring physical strength. The smaller men are thought to be better suited for domestic and artistic endeavors. Important women, especially, have multiple husbands, and they all share a marital bed. This is all part of a Persecution Flip as An Aesop.
      • In "Up the Long Ladder", the crew of the Enterprise discovers two human Lost Colonies, both of which are under threat. The Bringloidi are an agrarian society that has given up advanced technology for a simple life, but their planet is no longer habitable. The Mariposans are a more technically advanced society of clones derived from five original settlers who survived a crash, threatened by Clone Degeneration. The only solution provided by Dr. Pulaski is to re-join the two peoples (they originally came on the same ship). However, in order to provide enough genetic variety to ensure long-term survival, each Bringloidi or Mariposan will need to have three mates. This state of affairs is likely to last for generations, until enough genetic variety has been created. Even then, cultural inertia is likely to keep them doing it for long after the necessity has passed. One Bringloidi woman seems relieved at the idea of being surrounded by intelligent and well-mannered Mariposan men.
      • This trope is the alternate interpretation of a throwaway line from "Data's Day" that Andorian marriages consist of four people. The Star Trek Novelverse prefers the Bizarre Alien Sexes interpretation, with there being four genders needed to participate in Andorian reproduction (two humans perceive as masculine and two we perceive as feminine).
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • In "Sanctuary", among the Skrreea, a matriarchal society, the women take multiple males as mates. The main Skrreea character isn't familiar with the word "husband" but describes her own two men as "bonded to me". She's a little surprised to find out Kira doesn't have any males of her own ("at the moment") and notes that "they come in very handy".
      • "Field of Fire" has a throwaway mention that a murdered Gold Shirt, a Bolian, had a wife and co-husband on Bolias.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: Denobulans (both male and female) tend to have three spouses each. Dr. Phlox, the Enterprise's chief surgeon, thus had a total of 720 people he was directly or indirectly married to. There's also no taboo against seeking companionship outside the three typical marriages, as demonstrated when one of Phlox's wives comes aboard and starts hitting on Trip, who is extremely uncomfortable with the idea. When he tells Phlox about it, Phlox smiles and asks him if she has given Trip a rose-petal bath. Trip is taken aback, unaware of Denobulan marital practices. When Phlox explains, Trip tells him that he's been brought up to believe that any married woman was off-limits. Phlox simply shrugs and tells him it's his loss. Phlox has also previously almost had a relationship with another crewmember, who backed out when he explained how marriages work among his people.
  • In Tiger King, even the clergyperson officiating Joe Exotic's wedding hangs a Lampshade on the fact that it's not every day one sees a marriage with three husbands. A justified real life example, as we are clearly meant to see Joe Exotic's lifestyle as, well, exotic.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blue Rose has "star marriages", where all the participants are considered to be the spouses of all the other participants, even if they are not sexually involved with each other. They are quite common in the islands, uncommon in Aldis and almost unheard of elsewhere.
  • Dungeons & Dragons.
    • Dragon magazine #103 article "The Centaur Papers". Centaurs were said to be polygamous. The wealthier a male centaur was, the more wives he had.
    • Dragon magazine #116 article "The Ecology of the Minotaur". Minotaurs are polygamous, with each minotaur bull having up to 7 females. This shows just how much Depending on the Writer can effect even tabletop games; minotaurs were originally said to be an Always Male One-Gender Race.
    • Al-Qadim: Both polygyny and polyandry are legal, though polygyny is more common since it's more likely for a male to be able to support multiple wives than the reverse. And, as with the Arabic culture that inspired the setting, there's a four-spouse limit.
  • Highland Trolls in Earthdawn have line marriages similar to the ones in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.
  • Men having several wives is common in the world of Spears of the Dawn. The custom originated during the Long War against the Sixth Kingdom, when most men were killed in battle. In the (relatively) peaceful present day, when there's once more roughly as many men as women around, it makes less sense and is cause for some social unrest.
  • In Tékumel, the Tsolyáni clans are not just polygamous, but also follow the Iroquois kinship in which one's paternal uncles and maternal aunts, and all of their spouses (but not slaves or mistresses, although same-sex spouses count), are treated as your parents (including calling them "Father" or "Mother"), and all their children are also your siblings. The Tsolyáni people have such a sex-positive outlook on life, that no one bats an eye towards adultery, nor teenagers running back and forth between the boy's and girl's dorms. Despite how complicated this all sounds, everyone knows who one's biological mother is, and usually one's father. As clans are highly communal and massive, responsibility for raising children fall on the whole clan, and as such, very few people grow-up unwanted and unloved.
  • Pathfinder's Mwangi Expanse expansion introduces the anadi, a group of sapient spiders. The anadi tend to form "web marriages" of up to five anadi, who all communally raise their young. Anadi are named by taking a syllable from each member of the web marriage, though they may take on a phrase-title once they settle into their identity.
  • Downplayed in the Discworld Roleplaying Game, where the Sultan of Al-Ybi has a harem full of wives, but considers himself Happily Married to his First Wife, and think of the others as more like his First Wife's friends.

  • Pilot Program is about a modern Mormon couple called to serve in the restoration of polygamy. It Subverts or Inverts this trope—they're polygamous, but it's not meant to be exotic or sensationalized. The play tells its story as very small, personal, and relatable.

    Video Games 
  • In Crusader Kings II, Muslim rulers and reformed pagans with the polygamy trait can marry up to four women at a time. Meanwhile, pagans, Zoroastrians, Indians, and tribal chiefs can take up to three concubines at a time (and get prestige from forcing high-status women into concubinage). Muslims also get random events about interactions between primary and secondary wives such as having one of them Murder the Hypotenuse, or for them to fall in love with each other. Finally, Bön and African pagans, as well as any reformed pagan with the Enatic Clans trait, allow female rulers to take up to three consorts, who are treated as concubines (including forcing captured men into becoming consorts for a prestige bonus).
  • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the angara seem to practice polyamorous relationships. While the details aren't gone into, Jaal mentions having five mothers and at least two dozen siblings, and he implies these numbers are merely average for an angaran family.
  • In the Destiny games, the Awoken of the Reef practice polygyny because they’re descendants of a human colony ship that set out with a nearly 3:1 ratio of women to men, presumably to accelerate population growth.
  • In Pathfinder: Kingmaker you can romance both Octavia and Regongar. In the end, since you're the King or Queen, you can marry them both. Linzi, your biographer, is very impressed. Though some of the characters are... less approving.
  • World of Warcraft has the Dragon Aspects, who are implied to have a variety of unusual domestic arrangements. Their mates are called "consorts" and it is confirmed in the Dungeon Journal entry for Sintharia that an Aspect can have more than one consort at a time. Consorts can be anything from sex/breeding slaves, to a romantic partner more similar to a husband/wife. The female Aspects have male consorts and the male Aspects have female consorts. It's not clear whether consorts are a sign of prestige, or whether plural marriage is just how dragons roll.

  • The Voch'khari from Alfie (2010) are a tribalistic race of goat-esq Beast Men from the Red Woods. On top of preferring to go without clothes, it is considered ordinary for tribesmen and women to take on many spouses of both sexes. They are known for being very passionate and open about sex compared to other species, perfectly willing to copulate out in the open, expect their guests to partake in it for their hospitality (though they are not typically the most welcoming), and would even "swap spouses" during yearly celebrations. Ozge's desire to enter into a monogamous relationship is considered "selfish" to them (though that could be because their leader wants Ozge to join her harem) and they are initially hostile to Alfie's travelling party because Ozge is escorting them.
  • Collar 6 mixes legal marriages with dom/sub ownership arrangements which are also legal commitments and nearly as binding. The protagonist, Mistress Sixx, has three personal slaves who might as well be her wives, and not-quite antagonist Michael Kappel is married to two people — his wife Evita and their mutual consort Gunther. Gunther is also their jointly-owned personal slave, as are two women named Alice and Anya. It gets complicated.
  • In the Furry Webcomic 21st Century Fox the giraffes Cecil, Barb, and Beth form a "herd". Their vulpine friends find the idea of wanting to share one male a bit odd.
  • The Weave has the fairy queens, who apparently each have several husbands and wives. Whether this is appliable to all fairies or just something the queens do is not specified as of yet.
  • A background character in Anecdote of Error mentions having both a wife and a husband, suggesting that plural marriage is practiced in Batea. This may have something to do with the housekeeper system, in which only some women may have children.

    Web Original 
  • In Chakona Space Chakats are polyamorous, with a saying that "love doesn't divide, it multiplies". In addition Foxtaurs and Caitians are polygynous due to skewed gender ratios (3-1 and 8-1 females to males respectively). The former two species are Terran, but uncommon enough on earth that mates of different species have to get used to their idea of monogamy as a foreign concept.
  • In Learning To Live With Orcs, by Richard Bartle, male orcs of the titular tribe may have many wives, and each wife may have many husbands.

    Western Animation 
  • Young Justice (2010): Season 4 shows that marriages between three people are apparently unremarkable in Atlantean culture, so long as all the participants wish it. Lagoon Boy has both a husband and a wife.