Uz Trickster

From: PMichaels@aol.com
Date: Mon 13 Jan 1997 - 14:59:13 EET


James Frusetta helps me to further flesh out my thoughts on Zorak Zoran
as the Uz Trickster:

>On the whole, the argument is very good.

Thank you!

>...by saying "trolls are cruel" aren't we guilty of putting a Human bias on
>their actions? For example, if a troll slowly eats an elf, is he being
>cruel? As far as the troll's considered, an elf has about the status of RW
>broccoli.

*sigh*

OK. I'm guilty as charged. I'm human, and I'm not sure I can take myself
out of that context enough to NOT have a human bias. But if you want to
attempt to avoid such a bias, be my guest. The best thing may be for you
to try to describe from a trollish point of view what it is like to slowly
devour a living sentient being. Personally, I'm not sure I want to get into
the mind of a troll that much. (Such sick and twisted human figures as
the fictional Hannibel Lechter and the all-too-real Jeffrey Dahmer might
give you an idea why I prefer not to go there for my entertainment.)

But even if you do that, you'll have to use human language to describe the
trollish actions and thoughts. You'll have to use human words (unless you
actually want to create the language of Darktongue and then teach it to
everyone), which will carry implicit human meaning and which will be
ascribed further meaning by the human listeners that will be your
audience. So in the end, I'm not sure human bias can be avoided anyway.

Besides, there is a fine tradition in the official Chaosium stuff of
labeling trolls such things as "callous," "brutal," and "crude" without much
apparent worry.

I have been thinking further about how to describe the means by which the
Uz seek to understand their Trickster, and I no longer believe it is "cruel."
 
I have been considering how the trolls, as a race, are described as "the
Eaters" who are "preeminently devourers" in the world. Taking a bite of
something and chewing it, especially for a race that doesn't particularly
care whether the food is dead or not, is an inherently violent act. So, as

comedy can grasp the essence of humanity, it is _violence_ that can grasp
the essence of the Uz.

>IMO, humor _is_ important to the trolls. On the face of it, trollish
>society is "might makes right" to an extreme -- most of the insights we
>get in Trollpak imply that trollish relations are determined by power
>first, other interests second.
...
>But what's the release mechanism? Either every inter-troll conflict
>ends with the bloody elimination of the losers, or at some point the
>losers back off. I think humor plays a part in this. In terms of allowing
>the losers a mechanism to back down. Maybe that's one of the positive
>things Trickster does, facilitates this kind of trollish interaction. Any
>thoughts?

I don't think the trolls use humor as such a "release mechanism." For this
to happen troll comedy would need to create social bonds, and I don't
think it does. It is a HUMAN thing to feel closer to someone after sharing

a laugh together at something comic. I think trollish laughter is a simple
personal expression of enjoyment which does not have the same social
effects it does for humans. What makes trolls feel closer to one another
is to participate in a violent act together, during which they may laugh. A

regular trollish pastime is pulling appendages off insects, which they
then enjoy eating. And while they enjoy the eating, it is the pulling the
wings off the flies TOGETHER that makes the trolls feel "chummy."

But even if I'm wrong and humor is used to moderate conflict, so what?
Violence plays an important part in human interactions, but as a race we
don't consider it to make us human. Instead we believe that it is comedy
which says something important about the human condition. But trolls
are non-human, and I think part of their inhumanity is that they consider

violence to make them trolls.

>ZZ is _not_ a creator deity...

Of course he is!!

There is the story about Zorak Zoran and Karrg travelling together and
coming across "something." (This "something" varies in different stories -
a spiny caterpillar, an acid-slime covered slug, the first Helmet Beetle,
etc.) Being hungry (as always), the two attack the "something" the way
trolls had always done - with bare hands and teeth. Because of what the
"something" is, they can't hurt it and possibly get hurt themselves in
trying to hit and bite it. Karrg sits down and howls in frustration and
anger. But Zorak Zoran gets so enraged that he does something no troll
had ever done before - he picks up what until then had always been
considered "food" - a rock, a stick, or a bone, depending on the story - and
he hits the "something" with it until it was dead! After eating, Karrg
(mother-loving son that he is) runs back to the Mothers in Darkness with
the idea, gains their permission to do this strange thing ("You want to hit
new food with old food? What for?"), practices and improves on it, and
gains the name "Master of Weapons" for himself.

There is also a similar story about how ZZ, when in a rage because his
enemy was out of his reach (something that is flying, someone on the
other side of the Styx, etc.), created the idea of throwing rocks.

So, for Uz, Zorak Zoran is the creator of weapons. (Of course he also
forgets this sometimes, and even his followers have been known to
charge at an especially hated opponent with only fist and fang, forgetting
about the mace at their side, in their rush to kill.)

And, while there are different stories about how he did it, he also created
zombies and skeletons. One story is that during one fight all of Zorak

Zoran's family and friends died, but they continued fighting simply
because the raging ZZ continued howling at them to KILL! KILL! KILL!!!

(For Uz, skeletons and zombies are probably the human equivalent of
clown figures. They are the dead, the end result of violence, who can
commit further violence, and trolls are intrigued by this possibility. The
very idea of their bodies being able to continue doing violence after they
are dead is inspirational and sublime to some trolls!)

>...nor is he a fool, or a rogue, or an illusionist, or a shapeshifter:
>he's Scary Monster with added bells and whistles.

Well I could argue that since ZZ is described as male, and in Uz culture
"the male is a sort of rogue," the ZZ _is_ a rogue, but I don't think that is

quite what you meant. And anyway, THAT'S MY POINT: in Uz culture the
Trickster WOULD NOT BE a fool, an illusionist, or a shapeshifter!!! Those
are what Trickster is in HUMAN cultures! In a non-human culture he will
be something DIFFERENT!

And I feel this view of ZZ as Uz Trickster is _much_ more than just
"Scary Monster with added bells and whistles." Scary Monster was based

on Paul Reilly's two or three sentence description, in turn based on a
conversation he had with Sandy Petersen about the Uz trickster. But
there was no sense of "feel" for how Scary Monster fit into Uz culture, or
why it was important. Now we have a cultural context for understanding
the Uz trickster figure, and know a little bit more about how inhuman the
Uz are.

Peace,
     Peter

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