Diverse Bytes

From: John Hughes (nysalor@primus.com.au)
Date: Mon 20 Mar 2000 - 00:09:34 EET


Heys folks

ICELANDIC SAGAS

David:

> I suspect
>that, as in saga Iceland, you end up with more cattle than you can
>feed over the winter. So right before winter, you slaughter any
>animals you won't be able to support over the winter. You probably
>preserve them with salt if you have it, smoke if not.

There are far better analogues than Iceland, which has a host of unique
factors: its population and population density, climate, relative sparsity
of predators (wild dogs, the occasional floed in polar bear), length of
settlement, initial lack of animal-induced environmental degradation and
range of vegetation types. There is also a gradient of meat-eating from
pole to equator: Inuit (all meat) Lapps (often just 'reindeer salad' -
partially digested moss from the stomach of deer) down to the swidden
agriculturalists of the equatorial zones, who thrive on root crops like
yams, taro and manioc, with only the occasional animal supplement. Iceland
is way out on one axis.

You also need to be careful in using the sagas as uncritical sources: the
'epic' sagas of settlement, heroism and court cases are not intended to be
naturalistic, and tend to focus on the upper echelons of society, those
with the resources to conduct lengthy court cases and feuds. For several
centuries following the settlement period, the number of tax payers (i.e.
the moderately wealthy) numbered only four or so thousand. There is a group
of more 'naturalistic' and pastoral Icelandic sagas and sub-sagas (Ale
Hood, Thorstein Staff-Struck, Hrafnkel's Saga) that detail everyday life
more realistically, and these are filled with poor, poverty stricken farms
with only a few animals and marginal viability. (Lovers of these sagas will
know the source of my inspiration for Lagerwater).

As Andrew has demonstrated at some length, plentiful meat-eating is a
historical romanticism and accurate only for the wealthy.

DRAGON PASS WINTERS

>BTW, I don't agree with Jeff Richard that all Dragon Pass winters are
>bitterly cold, but I do think it snows enough that the cattle can't
>forage for themselves.

I guess I'm somewhere in the middle here. I'd certainly see a range of
variability, with the south being subject to less frenzied attacks from the
demon armies of Ice and Snow. Uplands and troll lands I'd see as being
badly hit. I run an upland campaign, and have always advocated strong
elemental connections, so my Dark Season run ugly, long and deep. Even in
mild winters of course, it only takes one sudden storm or black frost to
destroy a pastured herd.

GLORANTHANESS

Andrew:

>Thus, overall, I
>would guess that most Gloranthan peasants are nutritionally better off than
>RW ones, but not much more so.

This is also my working hypothesis.

For all things Gloranthan, be it seasons, plant growth or animal breeding,
I posit them being more 'vital', 'alive' and subject to a greater range of
variation than similar earthly experience. The year is shorter, though
equivalent to our own in terms of aging, so either time flows qualitatively
slower or a day is qualitatively 'longer'. Either way, more is packed into
less. Maximum variation and maximum vitality (which can also be inverted if
you regard desolation as a positive quality) flow from mythic structure and
gaming needs. In Glorantha, wet is wetter, dark is darker, slime is slimer,
colours more colourful, life more vital and death quite interesting really.

AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGIES

> There is one respect in which RW peasants might be better off than
>Gloranthan ones. ... Since Sartar and surrounding
>areas are based on early Celts, Germans, and Anglo-Saxons, they probably
>don't understand the concept of 3-field rotation, which means that their
>crop yields are naturally going to be smaller than RW European peasants.

I've played with this, and have an open mind about it. Field improvements
and high yields might also come from close relationships with local
land/plant spirits and from closely guarded (regional) Ernaldan secrets,
rather than primarily from technologies. As always, it depends on where you
personally stand on the magically unique <-----> historical analogue axis.

UZ INSECTS

Jeff Kyer:

>Do the plethora of insects that the Trolls have as livestock and such go
>dormant in Dark/Storm seasons? I was not sure how they would stand up
>to the cold if, for example, a Troll raiding party decided to use some
>of these brutes.

Those insects have been with the trolls since Wonderhome: a paradisal realm
of bitter cold and total darkness. Remember that 'seasons', or at least the
regular in-time progression of them, are very *recent* to Glorantha, having
only been around 1600 years or so. Darkness and Cold are positive,
elemental qualities, and so you can have plants and animals that thrive on
dark and cold as others do on light and warmth. Those giant insects are an
obvious example of such.

YABBA DABBA DO

Gary Switzer:

>The lowlands along the
>Creek-Stream likely have milder winter weather than the uplands
>to the east. Makes it more comfy for the dinosaurs, too, which
>are another (though occasional) source of protein for the Orlanthi
>that they don't share with any RW counterparts.

Dang it Gary, I'm just thinking I'm starting to understand something when
you bring in herds of dinosaurs to mess with my neat conceptualisations.
Sauronic channelling aside, just where *do* dinosaurs fit it? How many of
them are there? What's their range? What's their life cycle? Are they
sacred, or are they hunted? Semi-legendary upland rarities or common pests
to be fired out and hunted? Can they be herded, or even domesticated, as
some sources suggest, or are they too stupid / too dangerous (Terasin died
trying to escape a hungry one) / too magical to be interfered with much in
any way? Does over-interest in THEM bring dragonewt interest in YOU, which
nobody wants?

Personally, because of the scarcity of references to them, I'd keep
dinosaurs semi-sacred, rare and liminal, perhaps even spending part of
their lives on the Other Side. Be interested in other folks views though.

LOKAMAYADON

Mike Cule:

>Oh, wait! How about this: He's not trying to bring back the Devil. He's
>trying to bring back Lockyamadon! (sp?) You know the first age priest
>who corrupted the Orlanthi way. Wouldn't he be a great internal enemy
>for the modern day Orlanthi?

What you mean *bring* him back? What makes you think he ain't back ALREADY?

[CARVED]
Broddi Clapsaddle
Long-time Harvar Ironfist watcher.
[HIS RUNES]

THED & ORLANTH: MYTHIC ANALYSIS

>>The myth about this appears in KING OF SARTAR. Basically, Thed comes to
>>Orlanth seeking justice because she has been raped. Orlanth promises her
>>justice, and Thed reveals that her rapist is Orlanth's kinsman Ragnaglar.
>>The Broo are Thed's revenge for the horror that Ragnaglar inflicted upon her
>>(i.e., Orlanth's wife and daughters will have to fear what happened to
>>Thed). She did not invite the rape, but she inflicts it upon the womenfolk
>>of those who raped her. It ain't the blame-it-on-the-victim game at all.

A couple of points on the Sartarite myth 'The Greater Darkness' (KOS p. 77).

It's primarily a warning tale about what happens when there is 'too much
justice'. Thed approaches Orlanth as the brother of Ragnaglar, and is thus
seeking compensation rather than adjudication. Orlanth treats her normally,

though those retelling the myth would know that Thed is already poisoned by
chaos: her actions and demands indicate this. (As Graham noted: men and
women who have been raped do not think that way). Thed's action is
essentially the first intrusion of chaos into Firststead, and until this
event Orlanth and Ernalda 'never considered that virtue could become evil'.

Nor should Orlanth be seen as a Yelm- or Solomon-like wise ruler. More than
most, Orlanth stuffs up, as he does here. The shadow of kinstrife falls

even on Firststead. To learn from those mistakes and to take responsibility
for them is the way of Orlanth and the way of Orlanthi. Rather than a

statement about rape, it's a statement about Chaos, and how to deal with
it. A statement about the loss of moral innocence. Orlanth learns from his
mistakes, and declares all three outlaws, beyond kinship and justice.

The parallel themes about Ragnaglar and Malia further illustrate this. The
myth illustrates the nature of Chaos by showing how each of the sacred and
holy principles are corrupted: just compensation to unjust punishment,
mediation to revenge, acceptance to hatred, justice to chaotic force,
parenthood to the begetting of monsters.

The message to present listeners is clear: learn as Orlanth did, do not use
principles of justice when dealing with Chaos.

Andrew:
>Presumably, for a Thed worshipper, this would be a critical myth to
>heroquest on, since it reveal the origin of Thed's power and chaotic
>nature

For me there is a very basic question here: does chaos use myth or is chaos
anti-myth? Does chaos heroquest or is it anti-heroquest? Given that certain
chaos cults are organised and hierarchal and enduring, they too have
mechanisms to gain power and rationalise their place in the universe. And
yes, lots of them do heroquest or at least something very similar to
heroquest. But I suspect that it's more complicated than that, depending on
what sort of chaos we're talking about (a dangerous place for Orlanthi to
think, as it carries the promise of madness or even worse illumination).
There are mysteries here.

VINGA'S WOAD & OTHER SPECTATOR SPORTS

Kudos to Alexandre Lanciani, with much hooting and clanging of swords on
shields.

I have my own theories on the relationship between Elmal and Vinga, and its
not exactly 'loyal friendship', but that will be explored in the next TOTRM
so I'll shaddup for now.

Jane, if you ever make it Down Under, we're gonna have to take you to an
Aussie Rules (Australian Football) match. Lots of jiggling, bouncing,

bending, and straining - I got a feeling you'd love it. And my team
(Sydney Swans) even has a star player called Greg Stafford...

Cheers

John
___________________________________________________________
nysalor@primus.com.au John Hughes
nysalor@yahoo.com
johnp.hughes@dva.gov.au
     
The lovers and the dancers are beaten into clay,
And the tall men and the swordsmen,
and the horsemen, where are they?
William Butler Yeats.

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