Jotoki look somewhat like large, spindly starfish. They have a torochord (ring-shaped) instead of a notochord, with 5 "self-sections" (apparently semi-independent brains) that operate the Jotok's body cooperatively. Each "tentacle/tail" has its own unique brain.
The Jotoki begin life as small eel-like aquatic swimmers, most of which are eaten by predators; in time, five of the survivors will merge to form one collective organism, which grows into an arboreal adolescent; its tails become arms, and its fins differentiate into fingers which in turn sprout smaller, threadlike appendages from their tips. During normal, non-arboreal locomotion an adult Jotok will walk on the pads of its "elbows" (the primary joint of its appendages). When wanting achieve higher speeds it will switch to its "wrist pads" with the five thumbed hands locked out of the way around the wrist. Despite the awkward-looking gait caused by possessing an odd number of appendages, and a typical rate of travel that has been described as "leisurely," Jotoki are capable of running extremely fast when they want to. Due to the benefits of their unique anatomy, which include extreme flexibility and malleability, superb dexterity, and the ability to multi-task effectively, the Jotoki make excellent workers and are well-suited for almost any kind of skilled or unskilled manual labor in almost any environment.
Since the five sub-units that make up one Jotok individual are not necessarily genetically related, reproduction does not require sex; a Jotok can simply find a pond and deposit its offspring to begin the cycle again. A Jotok who desires a family can simply go into the wilderness and "harvest" an adolescent of the proper age (a property that Kzin slavers later exploit).
Little is known for certain about Jotoki society prior to their enslavement by the Kzin. Traditionally it was generally accepted that the Jotoki were already running an interstellar trading empire when they first encountered the Kzin. It is believed that when the two races first met the Kzin were still living as primitive nomads, centuries from developing any sort of flying technology, let alone a spaceship. Nevertheless, the Jotoki saw potential in the Heroic race and attempted to use the as warriors and bodyguards. Unfortunately for the Jotoki, however, it did not take long for the Kzin to get a taste for glory once they had been exposed to the wonders of the modern universe. At some point, the Kzin working for the Jotoki as mercenaries rose up, cast off their chains, seized control of the Jotoki empire, and enslaved their former overlords. It was in this way that the primitive Kzin, a generation removed from chasing game on the plains of their homeworld, were able to achieve interstellar dominance through the mastery of such advanced technologies as the gravity polarizer. This view is supported in the story Fly-By-Night by Larry Niven himself in Man-Kzin Wars IX. In this story, a Jotoki character tells Beowulf Schaeffer that "...Jotoki created gravity planers, yes. Kzinti enslaved us and stole the design."
Alternate History Edit
Although this view is still commonly held, other sources seem to contradict or at least complicate the history of the Jotoki and their relation to their Kzin masters. In The Soft Weapon by Larry Niven in the Neutron Star collection it is stated that "...between the discoveries of atomic power and the gravity polarizer... ...it seemed the Kzinti species would destroy itself in wars...", implying that the Kzin invented these technologies themselves.
Possible resolution Edit
The short story Jotok by Paul Chafe presents a slightly different take on the old tale of Jotoki-Kzin dealings. In this story, it is explained that primitive Kzinti clans on the Kzin homeworld were being marginalized by advanced Kzinti who use atomic power and gravity polarizer-driven spacecraft. It is the primitives who were hired by the Jotoki, to use as mercenaries against the more advanced Kzinti. This practice destabilized the entire Kzin society on both sides and led to permanent changes in the balance of power.
Jotoki operated in groups called "clanpods", as part of their former planet-wide tradeweb. Details of this arrangement are not known. Jotok technological specialties included gravity polarizers, linguistics and biotechnology. They had the ability to force-grow clones to adulthood.
Young Jotoki grow up by themselves in the forests. At a certain stage in its growth the Jotok imprints itself on an adult Jotoki (if one is available) and enters a stage of rapid learning and brain growth. It is this imprinting that allows the Kzin to bend the Jotoki to their will, despite not understanding half of the technology that the Jotoki provide for them. While a properly imprinted Jotok is wholly subservient to its master and incapable of thinking for itself, un-imprinted adult Jotoki are considered feral, and regarded as little more than animals. They can be extremely dangerous, even to a grown Kzin, as they prefer to hunt in large groups and use the element of surprise to drop on unwary victims from overhead. A full grown Jotok is capable of hiding so well in the wild that even a Kzin will fail to spot it in time to prevent an ambush. The Jotoki are aided in hiding by their ability to change their scent to mimic that of their environment.
In the wild Jotoki wear no clothing but they are known to wear specially designed uniforms when performing work for their Kzin overlords. The purpose of these garments is twofold, first to differentiate the various slaves more easily from each other, and also to provide extra pockets and places to store tools and other work related items for increased efficiency.
The Jotoki were also experts at trade. Their interstellar trade empire was quite developed for its time, but when the Jotoki attempted to use the Kzin as mercenaries, the Kzin revolted and conquered the Jotoki. In "modern" times (i.e. during most of the Known Space stories), Jotoki are a seldom-seen slave race of the Kzinti. The Kzinti believe that there is a free Jotoki fleet wandering amongst the stars, which would have provided their most strenuous opposition (excepting humans).
Serving the Patriarchy Edit
Although rarely seen by humans not under Kzin rule, the Jotoki are an integral part of the day-to-day functioning of the Patriarchy. It would be impossible for the Heroes of the Patriarchy to maintain their technology to even a fraction of the standard that the Jotoki hold it too. In this behavior the paradoxical nature of the Jotoki is evident. While they are extremely innovative and advanced, with the ability to develop and control technology that is literally light years ahead of native Kzin technology, the peculiar hardwiring of Jotoki anatomy has forced the entire race with few exceptions into the lowly and subservient role of a glorified Kzin mechanic. Of course the Jotoki are much more than mechanics, but from a human perspective it is impossible to understand how such a gifted creatures could be so easily controlled by those who appear from the outside to be vastly inferior.
In fact, Jotoki rearing is a long, detailed and intensive project that is carefully maintained by specially trained Heroes. Training begins with imprinting and moves on to language development, followed by computer simulations, and finally hand-on-tutoring. Without proper imprinting and guidance from their Kzin masters, the Jotoki are prone to making a plethora of poor decisions.
After the Liberation of Wunderland untold numbers of Jotoki found themselves without masters. Many of them reverted to a feral nature and became territorial, in one instance creating a colony within a crashed Kzin cruiser in Grossgeister swamp and aggressively killing any creature that encroached in their territory, be it man, Kzin, or beast. These feral groups would continue to pose a challenge for those attempting to rebuild Wunderland for years after the first Man-Kzin War had ended, although this did not stop some humans from attempting to breed their own domesticated Jotoki. The success of these endeavors is uncertain.