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Gloranthan mythemes


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One of the subjects that most appeal to me from Ancient mythologies is how they manage mythemes showing different moral values from our current ones.

So, I'm particularly interested in knowing how Stafford and his successors managed sensitive issues such as:
(I provide examples from Greek and Christian mythologies)

- Brother A kills brother B:

Cain and Abel
Romulus and Remus

 

- Brothers A and B kill each other:

The Aloadae

Eteocles and Polynices

 

- False accusation of seduction:

Potiphar's wife to Joseph

Astymadeia to Peleus

Phaedra to Hippolytus

Stheneboea to Bellerophon

 

I don't name more truculent mythemes because they might be too much politically incorrect.

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A major mytheme in Central Glorantha is rebellion. In Solar Pelorian mythologies, rebellion is the social corrosion that drives the cosmos towards degradation and corruption. In Orlanthi/Lightbringer mythology, rebellion is the legitimate assertion of autonomy against tyranny ("No One Can Make You Do Anything" and "Violence Is Always An Option").

Obviously, neither culture completely disallows nor completely promotes rebellion in all forms, where they largely disagree is on the form of legitimate authority, which has put them at odds for centuries, but which also means that they kinda share many of the same underlying ideas. 

(Orlanth's killing of Yelm can be seen as a form of brother-killing - technically an uncle-killing, but neither mythologies really acknowledge this implicit relation in any overt ways, so it doesn't appear to be significant).

The survival myth is also extemely important all over Glorantha (with the possible notable exception of the East Islands/Vithela), which appears to often be used as an explanation for the form of society. It does, however, take wildly different forms. 

 

On another note, and one you're likely aware of so it might be unnecessary to mention, exploiting mythemes/mythical archetypes to achieve magical results within Time is a long-established method in Glorantha, so you'll probably see a lot of these running around. The Dara Happan Emperors are all emulating Yelm/Murharzarm, for example, and derive strong magic from it. Heroquesting is basically just reenacting mythemes in order to strengthen the moral lessons they provide, and likely derive magical benefits from it.

You could also argue that Esrolian foreign policy is an emulation of Ernaldan/Earth mythemes, where aligning oneself with whichever male deity is in ascendance is preferable to asserting overt political power oneself. Earth cultures all over Glorantha have a long-standing practice of sorta seemingly submitting or withdrawing, while drawing benefits from this relation. It's obviously a "moral lesson" that we can critique in the real world as idealizing a form of feminine-masculine smybiosis that is overly idealized and realistically a lot more harsh for the feminine (it's hard to argue that the Oasis People in Prax have a complete consent in their relation with the Beast Nomads, for example, perhaps a bit like how a housewife might be understood as having some power in her domestic sphere, but her autonomy is still pretty limited and she is often at the mercy of patriarchal practices. There's a reason why Ersolans are wary of the orthodox Orlanthi king model). My point is, this appears to be a kind of Gloranthan moral lesson that might've been embraced by some human cultures at various points in human history, even if it appears... uncomfortable to us. (I guess it helps that in Glorantha fertility magic and the withholding of such is a lot more powerful than in the real world. In Glorantha, pissing off the Earth Queen is BAD.) The Doraddi, arguably an Earth people in their own right, basically said "f*** this shit I'm out" and appear to be doing pretty well with that solution.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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32 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

A major mytheme in Central Glorantha is rebellion. In Solar Pelorian mythologies, rebellion is the social corrosion that drives the cosmos towards degradation and corruption. In Orlanthi/Lightbringer mythology, rebellion is the legitimate assertion of autonomy against tyranny ("No One Can Make You Do Anything" and "Violence Is Always An Option").

Obviously, neither culture completely disallows nor completely promotes rebellion in all forms, where they largely disagree is on the form of legitimate authority, which has put them at odds for centuries, but which also means that they kinda share many of the same underlying ideas. 

(Orlanth's killing of Yelm can be seen as a form of brother-killing - technically an uncle-killing, but neither mythologies really acknowledge this implicit relation in any overt ways, so it doesn't appear to be significant).

 

For what it is worth - in some older stories and in places like Saird, Orlanth and Yelm are the Two Rival Brothers.  And the Orlanthi readily acknowledge that killing Yelm had Bad Consequences. Just as the Greeks readily admit that Zeus was dick about that hold Prometheus thing.

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1 hour ago, Jeff said:

For what it is worth - in some older stories and in places like Saird, Orlanth and Yelm are the Two Rival Brothers.  And the Orlanthi readily acknowledge that killing Yelm had Bad Consequences. Just as the Greeks readily admit that Zeus was dick about that hold Prometheus thing.

First off, that's super-interesting about the brother deal and I'd love to hear more about that!

Secondly, you're right of course. The Lightbringer cycle is to a very large degree about the importance of reconciliation and facing consequences honorably (whatever that entails).

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36 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

First off, that's super-interesting about the brother deal and I'd love to hear more about that!

Quite often a son and nephew are treated as brothers, especially if they live together and are similar in age.

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9 hours ago, Nel said:

One of the subjects that most appeal to me from Ancient mythologies is how they manage mythemes showing different moral values from our current ones.

Tagging this because you've given me that most dreadful gift, worse than any dumb theory: a long-range project. Watch the skies!

Glorantha revels in fratricide and at least historically not so much la belle dame sans merci, which is I think where a lot of the ambivalence around the Red Goddess happens and where we might see interesting developments on the horizon. The horrifying thing for most prominent (male) Gloranthan figures isn't to be accused of sexual misconduct as to be actively seduced, enthralled or "converted." Less Phaedra, more Circe . . . and even then, it rarely seems so bad.

But a lot of Ariadne. And not a little Medea.

Edited by scott-martin
loco parens
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An obvious Gloranthan mytheme is Danger of science, which the GodLearners personified.

It explains why Glorantha hasn't become a transhumanist setting:
Acording to the Gloranthan mindset, the use of natural resources (i.e., daemons, spirits, lesser gods, etc) would be an abuse.

That Hubris of knowledge explains also why Illuminated characters are hazardous for commoners.

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It's interesting, because I think we can talk about the narrative tropes of the game world since the Dawn, and both we and the inhabitants of Glorantha can talk about the mythemes of GodTime.  For example, I feel confident in saying that since time began, the world of Glorantha tends to associate universal ideals with imperial projects.  Nysalor, the EWF, the Godlearners, the Lunars... As a setting, I think Glorantha has some concerns about the hubris of universal and imperial projects baked into it.

 

Before time, I think a common narrative arc of various mythologies is a movement of the world from simplicity to complication (more peoples, more difference, more disagreements, etc).  I feel confident in saying that's in Pelorian myth, Orlanthi myth, and Malkioni myth.  Surviving the darkness required forging a new balance that acknowledge more difference than what could have existed in the Green or Golden Ages.

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12 hours ago, Nel said:

An obvious Gloranthan mytheme is Danger of science, which the GodLearners personified.

It explains why Glorantha hasn't become a transhumanist setting:
Acording to the Gloranthan mindset, the use of natural resources (i.e., daemons, spirits, lesser gods, etc) would be an abuse.

That Hubris of knowledge explains also why Illuminated characters are hazardous for commoners.

Yet there are trans-humanists in Glorantha - heroes like Jareel, Harrak, Zabur and Ralzakark. Arguably anyone who heroquests has taken their first step on the path to trans-humanism.

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The Bible keeps running the mytheme that you absolutely should usurp the rights of your older brother(s), ideally through trickery.

Orlanth becoming chief of the Storm Tribe despite being the youngest has shades of this. As does stealing Death from Humakt.

Edited by Akhôrahil
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Malkioni mythology (the mortal variety, not Brithini) seems to have a common mytheme of sacrifice/martyrdom. Malkion the Sacrifice saved the world. Xemela sacrificed herself during the Darkness I think? Hrestol was straight up martyred for professing his beliefs. There might be others. 

 

It's not that the other mythologies don't have it, but I posit that Malkionism seems to idealize it more centrally, perhaps?

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4 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Malkioni mythology (the mortal variety, not Brithini) seems to have a common mytheme of sacrifice/martyrdom. Malkion the Sacrifice saved the world.

I'm not so sure Malkion the Sacrifice is canon any more.  The myth of his destruction while trying to unite the cosmos is.  But since Jeff was making noises not so long ago about the God Learners identifying Malkion as Flesh Man, that kinda makes the notion of a sacrifice untenable.  

4 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Xemela sacrificed herself during the Darkness I think? Hrestol was straight up martyred for professing his beliefs. There might be others. 

I'm not a great fan of Malkioni Saints being validated through martyrdom.  They aren't Christians.  Hrestol wasn't martyred for professing his beliefs, he was executed for causing major havoc in Brithos (I've been told that one of his followers killed the reigning Talar of Brithos) and elsewhere

 

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I'm not 100% sure what OP is trying to ask for examples of in this thread, but something that's way more common in glorantha than brothers killing brothers seems to be  frequently bloody conflicts that arise between uncles and nephews, which are sometimes morally justified by the involved cultures, if they're not ignoring the possible family relation. Umath and Shargash, Yelm and Orlanth, Orlanth and Daga, Vadrus and Barntar, Storm Bull and Wakboth to name a few off the top of my head, plus the whole initiation of Orlanth myth of the potentially homicidal (deicidal?) uncles and their pits.

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4 hours ago, metcalph said:

They aren't Christians.  Hrestol wasn't martyred for professing his beliefs, he was executed for causing major havoc in Brithos (I've been told that one of his followers killed the reigning Talar of Brithos) and elsewhere

Lots of religions have martyrs, even aside from Abrahamic ones.

Besides, to a Hrestoli, that might count as martyrdom, regardless of Brithini views on the matter. I don't know.

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Since many of the major gods are kin - especially the Air and Sky gods - the Gods War is going to also be a tale of kin strife. Yelm's father is Orlanth and Humakt's grandfather. Storm Bull fought against Ragnaglar, his brother. That's in the nature of the Gods War - the original Unity was shattered by the birth of Umath and the Young Gods expanded and grew, coming into conflict with the Old.

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18 hours ago, EricW said:

Yet there are trans-humanists in Glorantha - heroes like Jareel, Harrak, Zabur and Ralzakark. Arguably anyone who heroquests has taken their first step on the path to trans-humanism.

Rather than a trans-human, I'd say that Harrek would be tantamount to a cyborg:
Not bio-mechanically, but bio-spiritually enhanced by the White Bear.

 

6 hours ago, nabda said:

I'm not 100% sure what OP is trying to ask for examples of in this thread, but something that's way more common in glorantha than brothers killing brothers seems to be  frequently bloody conflicts that arise between uncles and nephews, which are sometimes morally justified by the involved cultures, if they're not ignoring the possible family relation. Umath and Shargash, Yelm and Orlanth, Orlanth and Daga, Vadrus and Barntar, Storm Bull and Wakboth to name a few off the top of my head, plus the whole initiation of Orlanth myth of the potentially homicidal (deicidal?) uncles and their pits.

This is exactly what I was asking for.

It looks like that the typical kin conflict in Glorantha is not among brothers (representing each one different archetypes or foundational paradigms), but among uncles and nephews (which suggests a generational relay).

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6 minutes ago, Nel said:

It looks like that the typical kin conflict in Glorantha is not among brothers (representing each one different archetypes or foundational paradigms), but among uncles and nephews (which suggests a generational relay).

Most of the examples above have to do with Orlanthi/Storm deities (at least in part) suggesting perhaps that this is tied into the relative latecoming of the Storm Pantheon. Storm are perpetual younger relatives, trying to carve out their own sphere/property, even amongst each other. 

If I were to put my anthropologist hat fully on, I'd definitely try to tie it into their inheritance system(s), but as far as I know, it's probably a coincidence overall, since Orlanthi isn't matrilineal with avuncular inheritance or anything like that.

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