Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Brief Tangent (from an existing tangent) on the Power of Haraal.

The Presence and the Gaze are the two most fantastical yet well-attested qualities which Haraal was said to possess.

The Presence was a potent aura which enveloped him and his immediate surroundings, a sort of outward expression of his latent force of personality and divine radiance. But rather than influencing people, this extension of his magnetism affected the world at large. Within Haraal's Presence, everything which was good, became better, and everything which was bad, grew worse, with the nature of "good" or "bad" being up to Haraal's own personal morality, of course.

Crops flourished in his presence if they were in some way beneficial to him, such as when the shepherd family's garden suddenly grew choked with engorged tubers and root vegetables after a light spring shower graced the hills. But if he visited the heartland of a man or people who opposed him, or whom he took a dim view of, the food he passed by would rapidly rot into a pungent melange of ashes and slime. Likewise, iron wielded by his own hand or the hand of one of his servants became sharper and more durable, but weapons leveled against him would be brittle and prone to breaking upon his bare skin. Treacherous or overgrown roads cleared themselves upon his arrival, only to regain their misintent moments later. The herds under his control would swell grossly in population when all else around them would grow sickly, to the point that it was said that "even Haraal's bulls grew heavy with calf".¹

The Gaze was what allowed him to enact his will upon other thinking, feeling observers. Under the man's smoldering look, the most powerful will would break like a twig or be molded like molten bronze.

If he willed it, he could make his enemies fall to their knees begging for forgiveness, or fall on their own swords sobbing apologies. His servants would often do the same, but while seeming far happier about the whole ordeal. All preexisting law and order among men melted away under his slightest mental effort, and rearranged themselves according to him. As a case in point, Haraal apparently married all half-dozen of the adult women in the shepherd family on the very same day that he announced his name, despite the fact that most of them had already been married. Indeed most of the husbands, sons, and other male relatives were apparently too busy swearing their fealty to him to object.

From that small holding at the feet of Yorl'di, Haraal and his newfound followers were said to have spread north. ² Spurred on by bits of lore told to him by the shepherds, and then immediately filling in any and all gaps or mistakes using his own unerring brilliance, Haraal quickly adopted Ersuunian ways as his own, and would announce to his growing camp of followers by the end of the summer that he desired absolute authority over those riders and their homeland. This statement was made with complete confidence and met with cheers and the kisses of boot-licks, as many such pronouncements would end.

Inexplicably, impossibly, and despite the oftentimes prodigious powers of the gods of modesty and decorum, he would achieve all of this and more.

¹ Verse 12,823, line 1 of the Histories of All, Yashka the Sage, 1284 BR.

² As argued in Mythinterpretations of History by our own late Berschut Groz, former Head of the Department of Comparative Mythology, the mountain peak or peaks known to us as Yorl'di are likely to correspond to the highlands of the southeastern terminus of the Pashels/Pach-Yul Mountain Range. This starting point allows us to place the first areas of Haraalian expansion close to the area between the eastern edge of the Ersuunian Basin and the highlands to the east, with the corridor to the coast of the far south having laid tantalizingly close as well as open, but never taken. It is for this reason that the south is so often maligned, or at least treated as beneath the notice of those "true" successors to the empire- a subject which I am somewhat more free to approach now that I am well beyond the walls of Deneroth, but which I would not be able to do properly while so many drunken fools and sloshing mugs are surrounding me at this juncture.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Goblin Watch, Episode 01.

((Welp. I tried to start a YouTube series. I tried to create a simple but practical and charming visual aesthetic to go along with my (hopefully) edutaining solo rambling. I tried to develop long-term designs to get in on that sweet AdSense gravy-train in a way that wouldn't pepper my blog with awkward, unrelated advertisements for low home refinancing rates or highly specific dating websites.

Operative word being "tried".

In the end, I just don't have the skill, patience, or computer processing power to be able to build a video series from scratch.

So instead, I've decided to throw the audio up onto Soundcloud!

Come listen to the first episode of Goblin Watch here.

In this new format, I'll be approaching the history of the "goblin" in a rambling solo-cast style, but also providing each episode's script as a textual post of its very own, in case anxious, high-pitched voices aren't quite your cup of tea. So feel free to click above or scroll down, or both if you're feeling generous, and enjoy.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for how I can improve this (besides getting a better mic, of course. I am a bit limited on funds for now), and let me know if you would prefer future episodes to be shortish like this (5-15 minutes total), or if they should be beefier (20-30 minutes or more).

Additionally, if you would like me to dedicate a Ko-Fi post to audio, let me know in advance! I am still eagerly awaiting CuPost material.))

Goblin Watch, Episode 01.

Hello, and welcome to Goblin Watch! The mini-series dedicated to the origins and iterations of everyone's favorite folkloric critters and adventurer fodder.

Have you ever wondered where goblins come from? Well, when a mother goblin and a father goblin love each other...

Wait, wrong episode.


But seriously, have you ever wondered where the idea of a goblin comes from? Who invented it, and in how many different parts of the world? What makes a goblin different from or similar to other mythical creatures like elves, or dwarves? In what state was the idea of the goblin when that Tolkien git came along and got his hands on the word, and what has it been like ever since he left his indelible mark on it and in part wedded it to the revolutionary new idea of orcs?

These and many other questions will be raised, and hopefully we'll be able to find some good answers to them.

I am, appropriately enough, the Furtive Goblin, and I will help lead the way.

Over the next few weeks, or months, or however long this lasts, we will be delving into the history of the concept of the goblin, and how people have used that idea over the centuries.

This exploration will take us through vast stretches of mythology, literature, cinema, video gaming, and even pop culture, though not in any particular order.

It will also be a journey of self-discovery for me, as I come to grips with my identity.

Without any further ado, let's begin with the first step taken in any ambitious series: A soul-crushing lesson in etymology and dead languages!

Just a head's up, I am not a linguist, and my ability to pronounce words in other languages, even Romance languages, is pretty abysmal, so my apologies for getting many things wrong.

The Modern English word g-o-b-l-i-n “goblin” is the current most common version of the word, with several other spellings having been around and attested to for a while before most writers decided on the simplest one. So, the vast majority of goblins we'll come across from here on out will be just goblins. Goblyn with a 'y' is something we are going to come back to in a couple of chapters once we hit tabletop role-playing games, however.

English goblin first appeared in the 14th century CE, deriving from the earlier Anglo-Norman word gobelin, which itself derives from an Old French word of the same spelling.

(Little known fact, a contingent of 200 goblin cavalrygobs was instrumental in the victory at the Battle of Hastings. They rode on William the Conqueror's hunting dogs.)

This French word in turn deviated in around the 12th century CE from the Medieval Latin word cabalus or possible gobalus. We aren't quite sure which, because of the different ways Latin handled /g/, /c/, and /k/ sounds in written script.

Finally, our old Latin friends seemed to have ripped the idea from the Greeks, who used the word kobalos, plural kobaloi. In addition to being a rude name you'd call someone you might deem a rogue, knave, or thieving jerk, the kobalos is a class of spirits or other minor divinities in Greek Mythology- again, material we'll be sure to touch upon in a later episode.

And that's pretty much all there is. I was somewhat disappointed to find that there isn't a strong suggestion anywhere of what the Greek word might come from, or if there was a single Proto-Indo-European word from which all of this descends.

But that's only the more popular etymology for goblin in modern discourse.

Another theory which I'm personally more skeptical of is that goblin is ultimately a diminutive sort of pet-version of the proper name Gobel/Gobeau, possibly of Germanic or French origin.

A third theory is that goblin derives from the name for the continental Germanic kobold, but given that kobold shares Greek kobalos as the same etymological root, this theory sort of turns around into the first etymology.

(Side note, this also gives an etymological precedent for kobolds being so similar in behavior and physical appearance to goblins in the first few iterations of Dungeons & Dragons, despite my personal preference for those of a more recent, scalier persuasion.)

Goblin itself is the origin for the Welsh creature called a coblyn, showing that we are not dealing with a linguistic dead-end, and giving an inkling of where the word might go in the coming centuries as language changes and interacts. The coblyn is classified as a type of Knocker- a more brownie- or leperchaun-esque being which I've only heard about for the first time in researching this video. It's an interesting point for later exploration, but for now we've got to stay on topic.

Now that we've got an idea of the word, let's take a look at its earliest uses. Tune in next [insert time frame here] for a look at the nature and actions of goblins and their ancestors in myths, as well as folklore- that last great bastion for all half-discarded things which have fallen out of the favor of dominant mythologies and belief systems.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Artist Appreciation.

I hope spring has finally arrived for most of you, Burrowers. The high winds and 30°F temperatures of winter are lingering here as of late, with the added bonus of rain water causing the ground to become sodden or swollen. I had to kick the door to my den hard enough to dent the front of my shoe just to get it open this morning. Of course I saw a squirrel on the other side and immediately shut it again, and now I'm wishing that I still had that barricade of a dirt clod in place.

But while I'm trying to stay hunkered down and quiet, I've come across a couple of delightful things that I wanted to pass on to others.

First and foremost, I want to thank an artist known as Evoro for this awesome bit of sketchwork.

To any of you longtime readers, this gangling guy might be recognizable as Ergil, one of the gods of the ITUniverse whom I've written about before. He's a psychopomp and avatar of death, but also the acceptance and relief of death, so he's a fairly swell fellow. Not a great conversationalist, though.

I recommend that you can check out Evoro's art blog for other doodles. In particular, I like the Darkest Dungeon inspired character designs.

Also, I'd like to thank an unnervingly dedicated super-fan for initially commissioning the sketch.

You know who you are.

Completely unrelated to any of my work, I wanted to give the comic GoblinsGoblins a plug.

It's a once-every-few-days single-panel strip detailing the misadventures of two nameless little goblins wandering around a dreary, swampy, forested world full of death, grinding despair, ennui, ruined leather boots, and heart-rending determination in the face of all those things. It pretty well sums up the feeling I have when I'm trying to get out of bed some mornings, and I think other youngish adult-like people could appreciate and relate to some of the themes the Tall Goblin muses on.

I hope the comic persists for a good long while, and that we might get a more in-depth look into the thoughts or personality Small Goblin someday.

As an added bonus for you readers who dig Magic: the Gathering, the artist has apparently designed an entire goblin deck.

It seems a lot more effective than my last attempt at a minotaur tribal.

Stupid digeridoos never getting drawn when I needed them...

Friday, April 13, 2018

On the Origins of Haraal.

Despite my strong feelings on the subject, I have to retain some small shred of impartiality, lest I become no better a writer than any member of the mid-tier faculty back at the ITU. In writing for a broader potential audience (all half-dozen of you), I must assume that no piece of history is universally-known. And that even extends to the life of Haraal, who incidentally was exactly the sort of figure who wanted his own name to be universally known.

According to the most common legend which supposedly stems from his own account of his early life, Haraal was not born. But he was birthed.

Upon the slopes of a mythical peak known as Yorl'di, there stood a weathered old tree which could generously be called a pine, alabaster in color and of the bristlecone variety. It was gnarled, bent and bowed by the unremitting wind and cold of those desolate slopes, such that it could scarcely grow more than a few needles facing away from the breeze. To any observer, it would appear almost completely dead.

But what it was actually doing was channeling its life inward, rather than expressing it outwardly. Over the span of a year, the tree's bent trunk swelled and distended until bark split and the integrity of the whole plant was compromised. When this massive protuberance at last ruptured, out came the body of a fully grown adult male, a bit sticky with sap but otherwise no worse for wear considering the year he'd just spent inside of a frozen tree. As popular depictions are quick to agree, he was bronze-skinned, black-haired, and possessed of a smoldering icy-blue gaze the likes of which one could see in an ice floe shattered by a sudden winter storm. It is no coincidence, I think, that he so closely resembled the aesthetic ideal of the old Ersuunians.

In all of his glory he stood up, dazed and nude, and turned to behold his dead "mother".

Instantaneously, the full scope of knowledge of life and death and the nature of the world blossomed within the man's mind. This would not be the only time the man would be known to instantly acquire knowledge- time and time again, often at the most convenient and dramatic moment possible, he would suddenly come into complete and masterful knowledge of whatever practical or philosophical issue was at hand. Whether this knowledge was gifted to him by a miraculous source, or it was innate to him and merely needed "unlocking" has been a topic of hot debate among priests and scholars alike for several centuries.

Whatever the nature of his genius, he did not however obtain the knowledge of how to walk properly in that first insight. Upon turning away from the splintered tree, he tripped and fell down a precipice, nearly painting a cliff face with his own insides.

Fortunately for this as-of-yet unnamed man, he was not killed by the fall, though he was badly hurt. Miraculously, the daughter of a shepherd from the lowlands just so happened to be gathering herbs and berries from the more mild scree-fields by the base of Yorl'di, and saw the man fall. She then took him back to her family's home and nursed him back to health, and in doing so, the man learned language. When he rose from bed one day, having healed at an astonishing rate, he pronounced that his name was Haraal.¹

This was also the moment of awakening for two of Haraal's other remarkable qualities; the Presence, and the Gaze. Both of them abilities which would be instrumental in his future successes.

Somewhat (un)fortunately for the shepherd's family, Haraal thanked them for their hospitality by testing both of these qualities on them.

¹ Officially, Haraal learned how to speak the language of the shepherds (as well as all other languages known to man) simply by watching and listening to them from his bed. Controversially, some scholars have argued that it may be that the shepherd's daughter was the one to directly teach him the spoken word, or even to name him, when he had neither before then. This theory pokes a hole in the idea of Haraal's immaculate or innate knowledge however, as well as places him in a position of tutelage--and therefore subordination--to another person, and a woman at that. To see this theory in full, as well as the rebuttals to it by Haraal's hardline faithful, look to the expanded introductory chapter found in annotated copies of Origins of Instruction: A Comparative Examination of the Earliest Instances of Formal Education in Recorded History by Apla the Elder, BR 82.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

On the Consolidation of the Ancient Ersuunians.

History seems to enjoy starting cycles just as much as it likes seeing those cycles broken.

It began a new cycle with the settling-down of the Ersuunian tribes into semi-sedentary or even fully agrarian communities within a few generations of mastering the Basin for themselves. They still maintained animal herding as their chief industry, but their vast pasture lands became more rigidly delineated from one another's over time, even to the point that they were individually owned by a chieftain and/or his people. Other land was tilled and farmed, not so that the people could live off of the fruits of those lands themselves, but so that the vast herds would have stored grains to subsist off of every winter.

It isn't explicit where this large number of agricultural workers came from all of a sudden, but I am open to the speculation that they were the first Esgodarrans and lower-caste Ersuunians living together in any sort of cooperation, with firsthand experience and knowledge of the land coming from the hill-people of the periphery. That extensive harvesting of tree products never caught on among the ancient Ersuunians at this time also indicates to me that it was a specialization developed by the Esgodarrans who were pushed farthest into the hilly forests from their original, more pastoral homelands.

Small-scale raiding and regional disputes kept the tribes mostly separate until a warrior named Gohr united them. He did this by launching an aggressive campaign across the basin, incorporating defeated groups into his army and continually pushing forward from south to north, until he was able to force the coalition of tribes battling against him into a stalemate. He then extended an offer for peace and the other chieftains, expecting him to demand of them a treaty which would heavily favor him and ensure him the customary decades of tribute plus bonuses, reluctantly agreed.

Gohr had different ideas in mind however, and at the banquet where they had all gathered together, his political rivals were all poisoned. This included the heads of allied families, and many members of each noble family as well, leaving the entire basin in a state of political instability which Gohr was able to mold to his liking. Out of this vomit-slicked usurpation, he became a proper king. To this day, even in Deneroth's heavily influenced as well as reformed dialectical Ersuut, the phrase "invited to a warlord's dinner" survives to describe an experience expected to be bad, but turning out to be even worse.

This king consolidated his power and pioneered the greater use of agriculture by his people, though the cavalry elite which had won him his battles was exempted from this, as well as the eventual land-tax system which was put in place. It is said that while his riders expanded his domain even farther beyond the heartland of the basin, Gohr's subjects grew skinny and complaisant while Gohr himself grew fat and complacent. A little more than twenty years after taking power, before an heir had been decided upon, one among his corps of nomad-cavalry organized a coup which saw him overthrown, and a new dynasty put in place. Though Gohr did not die from it personally, mass poisoning was used once more as a political tactic.

This set the trend for the next several centuries, as hot-blooded young heroes from the marginal lands of the basin won the allegiance of the riders, overthrew the acculturated and corrupt dynasty, became acculturated and corrupt in turn, and was then overthrown by the next young hero from the periphery.

Successive generations of rulers in their palisade-towns and nascent stone-foundation cities were keenly aware of this cycle, and attempted to break it. Naturally, the remaining dedicated equestrians were opposed to all measures taken. But over the grinding years of centuries, the mobility and independence of those pastoralists was diminished until they could pose no credible threat to their lords, and the ways of war among the Ersuunians transitioned from being focused on an almost mercenary mounted elite to including far more mixed varieties of specialized and in some cases even career soldiers. It took generations of bloodshed and repeatedly denied justice by a hundred different parties, but finally an uneasy peace settled over the basin, where political strife more and more took the form of courtly intrigue over open warfare.

And then Haraal showed up.