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The book burning/sacrificing thread got me thinking on what types of books exist in Glorantha, specifically novels. I know that in most of Glorantha literacy is very rare and so most of their entertainment is oral stories and plays, but in more civilized regions like the Lunar empire and Kralorela, where literacy is more widespread, I imagine reading could be another common form of entertainment. And if there are books produced purely for entertainment, would they be completely fictional or would they be retellings of popular myths and the like (or is there a difference)? On a related note, would knowledge cults like IO and LM collect and preserve works of fiction?

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Just now, Richard S. said:

The book burning/sacrificing thread got me thinking on what types of books exist in Glorantha, specifically novels. I know that in most of Glorantha literacy is very rare and so most of their entertainment is oral stories and plays, but in more civilized regions like the Lunar empire and Kralorela, where literacy is more widespread, I imagine reading could be another common form of entertainment.

Reading can be a form of entertainment in mostly illiterate societies, too, with a literate person reading aloud to a host of people listening. That's how the German language bible had its great impact during the Reformation.

Most Gloranthan writing known to me has magical applications, even the tallying records of Issaries and related merchants.

There will be fiction - the lad in the King of Sartar story about "follow chosen leader" has all the markings of a purely fictional character. Then again, Jogrampur of Umathela notoriety started out as a purely fictional construct, and ended up granting real, and surprising, magic when his followers rebelled against the local God Learners (even some years before the Machine War). But with enough consumers, fiction may end up shaping parts of the mythic reality.

Just now, Richard S. said:

And if there are books produced purely for entertainment, would they be completely fictional or would they be retellings of popular myths and the like (or is there a difference)? On a related note, would knowledge cults like IO and LM collect and preserve works of fiction?

Telling disrespectable stories of popular heroes/villains is an ancient pastime, and will probably be as much a mainstay of Gloranthan prose and poem fiction as are the Greek gods in English poetry.

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Not to tempt the "postmodern GL" assassins but I'm not sure the overwhelming majority of living Gloranthans even have a category for "fiction." They know about telling stories and know from experience that it's possible to lie, but the line between dreams and visions, narrative and prophecy is a blurry one. We know there are ballads and historical songs and that in Esrolia at least there's something like a scripted dramatic tradition . . . all of these forms can be collected and written down.

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The concept of the novel is a fairly recent invention - either around 1100s or 1400s depending on whether you consider only European or include Asian equivalents as well. It is, however, needless to say more or less medieval.

Long-form prose did exist prior to that, but it wasn't really considered a novel. Play manuscripts existed, for example, as did allegorical tales and such. Myths were collected, and some writers did blatant creative work to make sense of myths, even so far as to pretty much invent new ones. The border between fiction writing, divine inspiration and philosophy is pretty blurred there. Travelogues, often sensationalized also existed, as did biographies. Letters are of course a staple, although how widely used they were for private, amusement-centric correspondance I don't know.

It's my impression that Glorantha is overall more developed in terms of writing and literature than the RW Bronze Age (and perhaps even Iron Age/Antiquity). Reading some of the designations for Knowledge Temple letters makes me think of how modern archeologists chart scrolls rather than how Bronze Age peoples would have done it - but I admit that's some personal assumptions.

Glorantha also suffers from the "every myth is true"-issue, which a lot of fantasy does. Inserting fiction into those kinds of settings will often just be interpreted by RW-players as just another in-universe source of story hooks, imho.

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Rather than novels, I favour the epic poem of the Bronze age. I like the idea of the epic Gilgamesh (and other sumerian poems) on clay tablets. I've seen an excellent live story telling by a UK storyteller Ben Haggerty (clip here: http://benhaggarty.com) and it's really the medium for this. Likewise the Iliad and Odyssey. In Glorantha some will be written down, likely in short form, but told in a more expanded way. Having seen the excellent exhibition at the British Museum,  I see the great LM libraries akin to the Library of Ashurbanipal: 

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The original library documents however, which would have included leather scrolls, wax boards, and possibly papyri, contained perhaps a much broader spectrum of knowledge than that known from the surviving clay tablet cuneiform texts. Certainly, we must expect that a large share of Ashurbanipal's libraries consisted of writing-boards and not clay tablets.

In amongst them will be stories and poems, but I don't think novels as we know them.

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3 hours ago, David Scott said:

I like the idea of the epic Gilgamesh (and other sumerian poems) on clay tablets. I've seen an excellent live story telling by a UK storyteller Ben Haggerty (clip here: http://benhaggarty.com) and it's really the medium for this.

I've seen Ben telling Gilgamesh too. Amazing. If you ever get the chance, snap up tickets to see a masterful storyteller in action. I like to think that this is how stories used to be passed on many years ago, and I don't see why it wouldn't be similar in Glorantha.

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A while ago I saw someone talk about how epic poems were told (it might've been Lindybeige), and they said that it was likely accompanied by the tapping of a staff onto the ground to keep the pace/rhythm. I'm not sure where he got that from, or if it's feasible in the long-term, but certainly the telling of a long-form epos is impressive.

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No printing press, no novels. Without mass production of books, they're too rare and too expensive to be a source of private entertainment.

The only books you'd get lots of copies of are religious scriptures, and even then, you might have only a few per town, in the possession of the ruling family and at the main religious site.

I certainly think there are plays (and written records thereof) performed in places like Peloria, Esrolia, and Safelster. Skalds in Orlanthi lands would recite sagas, some of which might be written down, but doubt there are more than a few dozen copies of each,  mostly under lock and key in some Lhankor Mhy library. All would be potentially useful magically, since they'd be about "historical" figures. They'd also have lots of differences, depending on who wrote them down and who was reciting. Having adventurers seeking just the right copy of the Harmastsaga could be fun. I figure there are bards in Loskalm, and their lays are also written down from time to time. Rokari probably don't allow such frivolities, so while there are probably stories told among the lower castes, they're not written anywhere and there aren't professional performers, unless they exist for the amusement of the noble caste.

The only place there might be printing presses and thus novels would be Kralorela. Tang dynasty had wood block printing, but before that, documents were reproduced by doing ink rubbings from stone blocks.

Most written or oral entertainment would be based on historical figures, and of course, in Glorantha, even if you make something up, if enough people believe a character is real, he or she could still manifest in the Other World. I remember reading once that some Chinese gods started out as fictional characters , but gathered enough believers to receive worship. So if there are any authors out there in Glorantha, they're potentially very dangerous people. Perhaps the state requires their removal? But of course, trying to get rid of them might mean defeating their fictional constructs. Good luck with that.

 

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30 minutes ago, RHW said:

No printing press, no novels. Without mass production of books, they're too rare and too expensive to be a source of private entertainment.

That's a good point.

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Most written or oral entertainment would be based on historical figures, and of course, in Glorantha, even if you make something up, if enough people believe a character is real, he or she could still manifest in the Other World. I remember reading once that some Chinese gods started out as fictional characters , but gathered enough believers to receive worship. So if there are any authors out there in Glorantha, they're potentially very dangerous people. Perhaps the state requires their removal? But of course, trying to get rid of them might mean defeating their fictional constructs. Good luck with that.

Indeed. One could imagine a fictional writer/storyteller like that being essentially equal to or even explicitly a Chaos worshipper! That's actually an interesting idea for a bad guy..

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37 minutes ago, RHW said:

if there are any authors out there in Glorantha, they're potentially very dangerous people.

You've made just Irrippi Ontor extremely interesting as a hinge between Illusion and the literacy cults. 

Edited by scott-martin
i-p-p-i
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10 minutes ago, Grievous said:

That's a good point.

Indeed. One could imagine a fictional writer/storyteller like that being essentially equal to or even explicitly a Chaos worshipper! That's actually an interesting idea for a bad guy..

A group of bad guys in my house Lunar campaign was a popular band in Glamour called the Ill Wind. Their gimmick was that they dressed up like savage Sartarite barbarians and sang songs that celebrated the enemies of the Empire. Very punk! Very sexy! Very trendy with the young folks.

Except that their concerts were effectively worship ceremonies for the Storm Gods and their lead singer was a hero of Eurmal and his bandmates were unknowingly heroforming Orlanth, Storm Bull, and Babestor Gor right in the middle of the Lunar Empire. So that was a problem. And when the band found out the PCs were trying to get them banned from all the best venues in the city things got very stormy.

Popular entertainment in Glorantha is a weapon.

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On 2/2/2019 at 8:03 AM, RHW said:

Popular entertainment in Glorantha is a weapon.

Perhaps "weapon" is a bit harsh, but art in its many forms has long been a tool of propaganda which the ruling classes generally seek to control through patronage.  On the other hand, nobody pays the band at the end of the night, do they?  It's a crummy tradition that's as old as musical instruments and beer I think.

Edited by Darius West

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