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Bohemond

Orlanth the Abuser

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Am I the only one who finds the Wooing of Ernalda story (Glorantha Sourcebook, p. 115, but also in Heortling Mythology) incredibly creepy? 
Let's break this down. According to the myth, Orlanth goes to Ernalda and demands her earth from her. She agrees to a trade (earth for bullroarer), but when he goes back home, his brothers make fun of him. So he goes back to Ernalda and vehemently insults her for humiliating her (which she hasn't actually done). He threatens to attack her, so she calms him down by returning the bullroarer and having sex with him. He goes back to his brothers, who again mock him, so he goes back to Ernalda again "In a blind rage" and forces Ernalda to beg for mercy from him. Then he marries her. 

This looks an awful lot like domestic violence. The boyfriend gets mocked by his male friends for being gentle, so he demonstrates his physical power by attacking his girlfriend, who appeases him with sex and ultimately agrees to marry him because she's afraid to say no. His friends are taunting him into abusing his girlfriend, and he blames her for the fact that his friends are being dicks to him. This is literally exactly how toxic masculinity operates in the real world. 

I get that this is supposed to be a demonstration of how Earth calms Air. But it reads as a mythic justification for men engaging in violence against women. 

Edited by Bohemond
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There are what we can call "raw" or rough moments lurking in a lot of the myths, keeping in mind that the forms that come down to us have almost certainly been smoothed in the telling to suit the sentiments of the people who pass them on. Sometimes this process may even extend to incidents being reassigned from revered characters to someone else in the narrative, or even whole characters appropriated or invented in order to avoid confusing the audience. (Especially volatile Storm Bull types.)

For what it's worth Greg has written about his own internal conflicts around these issues in places like his friend John Matthews' Choirs of the God: Revisioning Masculinity. I think the rough edges around Orlanth in particular reflect an admirable effort to resolve them, which is one of the things mythology gives us. (Not being defensive here but simply circumventing that particular debate before it starts.) Archaic Orlanth does a lot of dumb things, sometimes to women. Orlanth saves the world not by running from those things but by acknowledging them and trying to repair the damage. For better or worse, that's apparently why Ernalda loves him. Sometimes when she stops, it's because he's changed or she has. It's hard but it happens.

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Orlanth embodies both the best and sometimes the worst of Orlanthi masculinity. He is a god that constantly learns a better way. His wooing of Ernalda is wrong, and that's the point. He (later) learns a better way. Emulating the selfish young Orlanth is not a good idea particularly if you want someone to actually love you.

I like this story better than the one you've described... http://www.glorantha.com/docs/how-orlanth-met-ernalda/

And this one: http://www.glorantha.com/docs/the-making-of-the-storm-tribe/

Ernalda and her female worshippers are thankfully at least partly equipped to defend themselves on their own. More so than most bronze age women were.

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That's really why so many Orlanthi men worship Orlanth: because he has such a developed mythic arc where he constantly changes (because it's what he embodies), there's some moment in Orlanth's life and experience that you can learn from no matter where you are in your own life. True, a lot of men will inevitably learn the wrong lesson from that ("as long as I try to make it right after, then it's okay if I make a rash, stupid action in the heat of the moment that hurts others" is considered a legitimate lesson to learn from the story of Orlanth killing Yelm, rather than, "If you make a mistake, you have to make it right"). This is simply inevitable with myth.

But the Orlanth of his peoples' myths is very different from the Dara Happans' vision of Yelm: Yelm cannot ever be wrong to a Dar Happan, because he represents an ideal of perfect order. But all but the most foolish Orlanthi knows that his god has made many, many mistakes and had to learn from them to become better. The fundamental lesson of Orlanth's mythic cycle is basically that you are not doomed to be the asshole you start out as, so long as your mind is always open to the right Change.

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Some myths should be creepy. And the Orlanthi are often (usually?) an extremely violent people, so it should be no surprise that some of their myths show that.

What we have not seen much of are the myths of manipulative Ernalda. The Making of the Storm Tribe hints at it. Further hints are given in the history of Esrolia, where the manipulations of the Grandmothers become so extreme that they hurt the land and it’s capacity to grow. Only at this point does the goddess withdraw her blessings.

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Remember Orlanth has a LOT of problem material... the Darkness came because he murdered the lawful king; arguably, this disruption of the Way The Universe Should Be allowed in Chaos & the Devil (certainly, the Dawn was integral to defeating Chaos).

Fucking Up then Fixing It may be the most prevalent & important theme in the Orlanth mythography...

 

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Zeus raped Hera to shame her into marriage. Some of the Indian and Greek tales are horrifying seen through a modern lens.

Bronze age peoples don't have modern day sensibilities, nor should they.

Edited by Pentallion
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9 minutes ago, Pentallion said:

Zeus raped Hera to shame her into marriage. Some of the Indian and Greek tales are horrifying seen through a modern lens.

Bronze age peoples don't have modern day sensibilities, nor should they.

Aye. Good old Jove was a serial sexual predator, who got away with it because of Divine status and power.

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Also, you get the impression in these myths that Ernalda knows exactly what she's doing. She's way smarter than her husband, after all. The world is a crummy place for women, but Ernalda knows how to navigate it.

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1 hour ago, Pentallion said:

Zeus raped Hera to shame her into marriage. Some of the Indian and Greek tales are horrifying seen through a modern lens.

Bronze age peoples don't have modern day sensibilities, nor should they.

While I agree with this, and was about to post something similar, I also understand if a GM or Guide or whatever might feel like adapting things to be a bit more palateable for their players - especially if some of the players are women, or from other groups that have historically been treated very badly. Not to mention people who've actually suffered abuse themselves on a personal level.

Glorantha already deviates from RW Bronze age cultures in some aspects to make things a bit less rigid perhaps, and to open up for fun quests and the like, and while some of that is possibly based on archaeological and anthropological discoveries, other aspects are, well, made up to serve the idea of adventurism.

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I would suggest not trying to interpret any myths through a lense of modern viewpoints with al the accumulated cultural associations we as modern people have

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1 minute ago, Martin said:

I would suggest not trying to interpret any myths through a lense of modern viewpoints with al the accumulated cultural associations we as modern people have

I think the OP's point is that this is a GAME, and mythologizing / accepting "Orlanth the Abuser" is really problematic to the First Principle of MGF.

The anthropologist's POV isn't the gamer's POV.

 

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6 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

Also, you get the impression in these myths that Ernalda knows exactly what she's doing. She's way smarter than her husband, after all. The world is a crummy place for women, but Ernalda knows how to navigate it.

This times 1000.

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7 minutes ago, g33k said:

I think the OP's point is that this is a GAME, and mythologizing / accepting "Orlanth the Abuser" is really problematic to the First Principle of MGF.

The anthropologist's POV isn't the gamer's POV.

 

You may want to tell that to the userbase on this subforum. I tend to avoid the Glorantha section because of the pseudoanthropologists. 

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38 minutes ago, tedopon said:

You may want to tell that to the userbase on this subforum. I tend to avoid the Glorantha section because of the pseudoanthropologists. 

Greg's interest in mythology and anthropology is the reason that Glorantha exists, though we only really know of Her because of the game. Both are valid approaches to Her Mysteries.

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30 minutes ago, jeffjerwin said:

Greg's interest in mythology and anthropology is the reason that Glorantha exists, though we only really know of Her because of the game. Both are valid approaches to Her Mysteries.

I have an anthropology degree. A real one, from an actual university. Not dissing the study of people and all the systems they create.

Just pointing out that many fans of the setting are a little on the self serious side. I definitely fall completely on the other "valid approach" end of the spectrum. Glorantha is my favorite world in which to drink beer and laugh with my friends.

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7 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

While I agree with this, and was about to post something similar, I also understand if a GM or Guide or whatever might feel like adapting things to be a bit more palateable for their players - especially if some of the players are women, or from other groups that have historically been treated very badly. Not to mention people who've actually suffered abuse themselves on a personal level.

Glorantha already deviates from RW Bronze age cultures in some aspects to make things a bit less rigid perhaps, and to open up for fun quests and the like, and while some of that is possibly based on archaeological and anthropological discoveries, other aspects are, well, made up to serve the idea of adventurism.

Gloranthan mythology never seemed to shy away from these issues IMO.  Just look at Thed, goddess of Rape.  She was wronged and is really a tragic figure.

These are adult themes and nobody is claiming that the storm gods are "good guys".

Edited by Pentallion
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9 hours ago, Pentallion said:

Zeus raped Hera to shame her into marriage. Some of the Indian and Greek tales are horrifying seen through a modern lens.

Bronze age peoples don't have modern day sensibilities, nor should they.

Yes. But we're 21st century people operating in a 21st century milieu. 21st century players, especially female players, may very well find this myth to be a real problem. Just because rape was a common occurrence in the ancient world doesn't mean it should get a pass in our fictional story-setting. There's nothing in this myth itself that identifies what Orlanth does to Ernalda to be a mistake that he grows past, which means that it's easy to read this myth as essentially championing Orlanth's behavior rather than undermining it. I'm very familiar with Glorantha (being playing in it since 1980 or so), including the whole 'Orlanth fixes his mistakes' thing and the idea that Ernalda has more control that it seems, and neither of those ideas emerged for me as I read through the myth a good dozen times. If I missed it, I'm pretty sure a whole lot of other people will miss it too. 

As I'm sure we're all aware, table-top gaming has a long history of not being very friendly to female players. Glorantha is, I think, a friendlier game world for women than a lot of the alternatives, but I know a couple of women who find the highly-gendered nature of Glorantha pretty uncomfortable, and a myth like this strikes me as likely to trigger female players who have experienced domestic violence or rape. I'm in the early stages of planning a large-scale Sartar LARP that will probably involve a fair number of female players, so I need to be thinking about how a myth like this is going to read to female players. 

 

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3 minutes ago, Pentallion said:

Gloranthan mythology never seemed to shy away from these issues IMO.  Just look at Thed, goddess of Rape.  She was wronged and is really a tragic figure.

These are adult themes and nobody is claiming that the storm gods are "good guys".

"nobody is claiming that the storm gods are "good guys". " 


Given that most PCs (the males at least) gravitate toward Storm Gods--Orlanth in all his incarnations, Urox, Humakt, maybe Odayla and Yinkin, I'm pretty sure a large segment of the player base sees Orlanth and his kin as the good guys. And the game has generally taken an Anti-Lunar stance, which positions the Red Goddess' main opponent, Orlanth, as the hero in the meta-story. 

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5 minutes ago, The God Learner said:

Ragnaglar should have a spot in this too. Perhaps most of Orlanth Abuser went to him in the end?

That is a really good suggestion. Ragnaglar is basically the god of uncontrollable sexual urges, so it would make sense that he was the one urging Orlanth to be aggressive. And it would offer an indication that Orlanth's behavior is problematic, not normative. 

Edited by Bohemond

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8 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

Yes. But we're 21st century people operating in a 21st century milieu. 21st century players, especially female players, may very well find this myth to be a real problem. Just because rape was a common occurrence in the ancient world doesn't mean it should get a pass in our fictional story-setting. There's nothing in this myth itself that identifies what Orlanth does to Ernalda to be a mistake that he grows past, which means that it's easy to read this myth as essentially championing Orlanth's behavior rather than undermining it. I'm very familiar with Glorantha (being playing in it since 1980 or so), including the whole 'Orlanth fixes his mistakes' thing and the idea that Ernalda has more control that it seems, and neither of those ideas emerged for me as I read through the myth a good dozen times. If I missed it, I'm pretty sure a whole lot of other people will miss it too. 

As I'm sure we're all aware, table-top gaming has a long history of not being very friendly to female players. Glorantha is, I think, a friendlier game world for women than a lot of the alternatives, but I know a couple of women who find the highly-gendered nature of Glorantha pretty uncomfortable, and a myth like this strikes me as likely to trigger female players who have experienced domestic violence or rape. I'm in the early stages of planning a large-scale Sartar LARP that will probably involve a fair number of female players, so I need to be thinking about how a myth like this is going to read to female players. 

 

I'd read it to female players bluntly and with no apologies.  It's a bronze age world.  Women can handle that.  Give them more credit.

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7 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

"nobody is claiming that the storm gods are "good guys". " 


Given that most PCs (the males at least) gravitate toward Storm Gods--Orlanth in all his incarnations, Urox, Humakt, maybe Odayla and Yinkin, I'm pretty sure a large segment of the player base sees Orlanth and his kin as the good guys. And the game has generally taken an Anti-Lunar stance, which positions the Red Goddess' main opponent, Orlanth, as the hero in the meta-story. 

The meta-story that culminates in ALL the gods being killed by the heroes.  Think on that then get back to me that Orlanth is one of the "good guys".

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29 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

I'm very familiar with Glorantha (being playing in it since 1980 or so), including the whole 'Orlanth fixes his mistakes' thing and the idea that Ernalda has more control that it seems, and neither of those ideas emerged for me as I read through the myth a good dozen times. If I missed it, I'm pretty sure a whole lot of other people will miss it too. 

You are correct. The myth exists in the book without that framework. You (or rather we, since I have the same issues with it) should retell it, according to how the story has evolved (in universe and in the evolution of the game).

Maybe we can work together to provide an alternate version, including the whole courtship and the 'Orlanth learns from his mistakes' missing conclusion.

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