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Sir_Godspeed

Why are Pelorians so (comparatively) culturally diverse?

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Okay, so bear with me. Orlanthi are a very large group, and cover a very large area in Genertela, as well as Umathela. And yet, they seem to have certain common cultural and religious signifiers. They *tend* to combine the worship of a storm king with an earth queen, they tend to organize in extended clans with relatively unstable higher levels of organizations, ie. tribes, kingdoms, etc., and they tend to have numerous cults and subcults that people enter into based on individual or familial preference or tradition.

So basically, even if there is a good deal of variation, there are also a fairly decent amount of commonalities between them. Part of this might be because their culture, such as it is, is fairly young, many large populations being post-Dawn converts rather than ancient "natively" Orlanthi from the Storm Age.

When we move to the Pelorians, however, we find a "culture" (always an iffy term, but that is how it's used in the Guide) that covers a smaller area, and has a smaller total population - and seems wildly disparate in practices. If Esrolia represents a significant departure from mainstream Orlanthi practices, then pretty much every other Pelorian subculture seems to be a significant deviation. Pelanda, Darjiin, the Stork river people along Oslira, Alkoth, Rinliddi, Darsen, etc. etc.

Frankly, the only "cultural" commonality I can see is that they mostly seem to acknowledge some version of the Sun as a supreme ruler, but not even that is prevalent everywhere. There doesn't seem to be any really unifiying "theme" the way the Orlanthi, or Malkioni, or Kralorelans or Fonritans have, and it's kind of frustrating at times.

We're *told* that Lodril and Oria is widely worshipped everywhere in the Pelorian bowl, but I can't think of all that many examples that actually *show* it, aside from some small examples from commoner life within the Dara Happan Tripolis itself. The unifying factor, to me at least, seems far more of a political one, in that many of the Pelorian nations at various points were under the Dara Happan Empire or one of its successors. I can also imagine that it's the age - Pelorian cultures have antecedents that seems significantly older that the Orlanthi as we know them today (though not necessarily Storm People as a whole), and so may have diverged over a much longer time period. You can also argue that they lacked any equivalent of the Lightbringer missionaries unifying them with common rites and beliefs in the Dawn (unless you count specifically acknowledging a Dara Happan emperor). Lastly, I'm wondering if this is also due to a textual bias: writers on Peloria have tended to focus on the region's diversity rather than emphasizing or showcasing its commonalities for flavor reasons. In other words, yeah, sure, there are the Heron Goddess of and Racoon God and all that, but those are mainly regional patrons, and most people widely worship Lodril and Oria as well, and acknowledge Yelm as the supreme sun, we just don't mention it because it's kind of a given. Problem is, as a reader, that's not really the impression I'm getting, and it makes the idea of a Pelorian "culture group" sound kind of hollow and contrived.

There is a sub-question to this about what it means, thematically from a worldbuilding perspective, that Alkoth is one of three cities that makes up the Dara Happan tripolis, yet its culture and practices seem so utterly deviant from the other two cities, that any treatise on "Dara Happan culture" feels like it only really applies to Raibanth and Yuthuppa. Is this, once again, a result of writers exaggerating Alkoth's eccentricities in order for it to feel more interesting? Are Alkothi commoners pretty much like those in Rai+Yu, but largely ignored in favor of a more elite-centric perspective?

This is more or less some thoughts I've had in my mind for a while, and some frustrations I have as a reader and consumer. If someone introduced a new group to me and says "They're Doraddi" or "They're Orlanthi" I feel like I kind of know what I'm in for. But when someone says "They're Pelorians", it feels like it tells me jack all, maybe aside from geographical location.

Any thoughts on this? Just as a bit of disclaimer: I am aware that these other cultures also do have an enormous amount of variety, and that to a considerable extent, their "thematic" unity is a result of simplifying things. I am more wondering why not I get the same impression of Pelorians. Additionally, I am of course also fully aware that realistically, there's going to be a lot of cultural variety going around. This isn't a question of reallism.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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Without thinking about this a whole lot, Peloria has tended to be ruled by empires, and empires tend to leave local rulers intact.

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1 hour ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

they seem to have certain common cultural and religious signifiers

For me it boils down to different historical choices. As you point out, Theyalan missionaries syncretized a wide "barbarian belt" of storm-compatible communities and then the Dark and Silver Empires each helped finish the job in their own ways. 

On the other hand Peloria was largely free to evolve in isolation, like some landlocked darwinian island in a sea of storm and others. Yelm (as opposed to Nysalor) didn't really send missionaries as much as "recognize" lost tribes. Militant Carmania evidently kept the God Learners out. (Strikes me there's an untold epic there.) And even Arkat evidently had no interest in this part of the world when he was done. (Ditto.) 

So you get a world where storm people are quick to acknowledge similarities when they find them far abroad (we are orlanthi all us) whereas sun people at home revel in the narcissism of the relatively small differences that were omnipresent at the dawn. Take the sun out of the picture and the world reverts to local rites. I don't know if Peloria has IFWW except through solar worship or smaller "city gods," for example.

(And yeah, textual priorities. Much of what we have is an effort to "make Peloria interesting" and that means emphasizing difference behind what would otherwise be a hierarchical monolith eternally opposed to the urban mob. Neither produces history in the classic sense.)

Edited by scott-martin
IFWW
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1 hour ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Lodril and Oria is widely worshipped everywhere in the Pelorian bowl

If I were a gambler I'd bet that their "omnipresence" is another Carmanian import aimed at giving the conquered urban lowlies something to do. The original gods of the teeming Dara Happan underclass are probably deep buried now . . . and since every family came into town carrying strange gods, that's other angle on the diversity you see. Empire of immigrants, imperfectly unified.

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Probably due to geography and the start-point at the Dawn. The Pelorian basin is very large, and whilst the four major river systems provide a means of transport, there were a variety of different and isolated populations at the Dawn. In the God Time, whilst there was a central Solar civilization, it wasn't the sole culture, and it fragmented during and after the Gods War, leaving survivors scattered across a wide area, and some of those survivors were very distinct from one another. Add in migrations into the basin before and during Time, and the succession of imperial powers, it results in a fragmented cultural map.

The Lunar Empire, with its slogan 'We are all Us' attempts to unify and impose a high level of syncretism between these divergent strains to create a new Pelorian culture.

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So much ungood oldthink. Peloria is one. Diversity is unity. There has always been an Emperor, and we have always served Him happily. Hail the Red King! He protects us from Tyrants by ruling us with perfect, unquestioned authority. While it is true that we have once again built a new god to unify us and return the Golden Age, it's really an old god that was always there. So that makes it okay. There has always been a Moon. There is only one Sun. The Light of Illumination has never been extinguished. The apparent Chaos of so many cultures is an illusion, since we all exist under the Law of the Glow Above. Everything is changing exactly according to schedule. Change is just a path to Stasis. Remain Calm, Citizen!

Oops. Sorry. Be assured that I only killed you to advance the cause of life. Congratulations on your ascension. 

We are all Us.

We have always been at war with Rebellus Terminus.

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7 hours ago, scott-martin said:

If I were a gambler I'd bet that their "omnipresence" is another Carmanian import aimed at giving the conquered urban lowlies something to do. The original gods of the teeming Dara Happan underclass are probably deep buried now . . . and since every family came into town carrying strange gods, that's other angle on the diversity you see. Empire of immigrants, imperfectly unified.

Well, there is Turos in Pelanda (who Lodril grew jealous of and their priesthoods fought, according to the Entekosiad) and likely Shidan in Rinliddi (who is one of the husbands of Basekora along with Lodril), and Kostaddi's Gerendetho (now primarily seen as a son of Lodril, but was noted as formerly leading his own pantheon in GRoY. It's also notable that III-1 on the Gods Wall has been identified as both Gerendetho and Turos. And Genert)

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10 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Okay, so bear with me. Orlanthi are a very large group, and cover a very large area in Genertela, as well as Umathela. And yet, they seem to have certain common cultural and religious signifiers. They *tend* to combine the worship of a storm king with an earth queen, they tend to organize in extended clans with relatively unstable higher levels of organizations, ie. tribes, kingdoms, etc., and they tend to have numerous cults and subcults that people enter into based on individual or familial preference or tradition.

We've really only seen one or two Orlanthi nations described in much details: the Heortlings and the Esrolians.  I daresay the other Orlanthi are as different from them as the Heortlings and the Esrolians are from each other.  

As to why the Pelorians preserve their differences so much with respect to the Dara Happans and to each other, I think it's becuase they have spent a long time in the light of Dara Happa and have learned through bitter experience the bare minimum of subservience that keeps the Dara Happans happy and their own traditions intact.  With the Orlanthi, you have adventurous elements going to places of stagnation and raising hell.  In doing so, they spread their own values and blur geographical differences.  In Peloria, there are more differences among the many Pelorians because the Dara Happans are happy with submission.

 

 

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The ur-Theyalan culture is really a hodge-podge of different cultures stessing their common attributes (including the Elder Races of Dragon Pass). Kethaela has six distinct human cultures (if you count the Kitori as human) on an area of maybe three Heartland satrapies.

Many hill barbarians have but a rudimentary culture. Local costume is dictated by way of life, climate and habitat. Farming with ox-drawn plows, herding cattle and sheep, raiding neighbors.. . so you say that the Old Irish, the Thracians and Vedic India were the same culture? It takes a dedicated linguist to make out the similarities of elements of their language. The Neolithic Revolution was a radical change similar to the Theyalan missionaries.

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Ever been to Britain? Old countries tend to have huge diversity, travel just a few miles and the place feels completely different.

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20 hours ago, Joerg said:

The ur-Theyalan culture is really a hodge-podge of different cultures stessing their common attributes (including the Elder Races of Dragon Pass). Kethaela has six distinct human cultures (if you count the Kitori as human) on an area of maybe three Heartland satrapies.

Many hill barbarians have but a rudimentary culture. Local costume is dictated by way of life, climate and habitat. Farming with ox-drawn plows, herding cattle and sheep, raiding neighbors.. . so you say that the Old Irish, the Thracians and Vedic India were the same culture? It takes a dedicated linguist to make out the similarities of elements of their language. The Neolithic Revolution was a radical change similar to the Theyalan missionaries.

However there are major similarities between Vedic religion and Old Irish, at least for two people so distant.

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After reading the responses, I'm beginning to narrow in on what my issue is.

Basically, it appears to me to be a mainly representational and textual/narrative issue: most of the other cultures in Glorantha are issued a fairly easy to follow set of signifiers, either in terms of ways of living, mythology, aesthetics or what have you. Whether this is accurate on a deeper, more detailed and microscopic level isn't necessarily the issue here.

Pelorians, in my impression, are not really given such signifiers, which in my opinion, makes the *so-called* Pelorian culture group appear mostly as a hodge-podge of unrelated cultures and societies whose main claim to relatedness is political authority more than anything else, and which makes "mentally" navigating the various regions and cultures there feel a bit like a game of cultural mad libs.

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1 hour ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

After reading the responses, I'm beginning to narrow in on what my issue is.

Basically, it appears to me to be a mainly representational and textual/narrative issue: most of the other cultures in Glorantha are issued a fairly easy to follow set of signifiers, either in terms of ways of living, mythology, aesthetics or what have you. Whether this is accurate on a deeper, more detailed and microscopic level isn't necessarily the issue here.

Pelorians, in my impression, are not really given such signifiers, which in my opinion, makes the *so-called* Pelorian culture group appear mostly as a hodge-podge of unrelated cultures and societies whose main claim to relatedness is political authority more than anything else, and which makes "mentally" navigating the various regions and cultures there feel a bit like a game of cultural mad libs.

Perhaps the difference is that the Theyalans all cooperated to contribute, whereas the Pelorians are ruled from above to better contribute, or... The Theyalan way brought an exchange of ideas and concepts, and created more of a shared identity, whereas the shared identity in Peloria is having the same overlord.

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1 hour ago, Joerg said:

whereas the shared identity in Peloria is having the same overlord.

It's the impression I'm getting.

It would be interesting to see if the Pelorians had an equivalent of the Orlanthi/Ernaldan initiation rite, or the Lightbringer myth cycle, or something akin to that.

The closest I can see, personally, are the ideas of the Muster and the Regalia - where subjects of the Emperor deliver specific, mythically significant units for war, and mythically significant artifacts after a new Emperor passes the Ten Tests. However, from the literature I've seen, it seems these myths/practices are mostly significant from the perspective of the Tripolis.

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1 hour ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

It would be interesting to see if the Pelorians had an equivalent of the Orlanthi/Ernaldan initiation rite, or the Lightbringer myth cycle, or something akin to that.

It seems like a very diverse multicultural empire. The key religious commonality ought to be the local top deity swearing fealty to Yelm or becoming a lover of the Red Goddess or otherwise bending the metaphysical knee.

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Perhaps semi-related: "Peloria" is actually the name of a process through which normally irregular flowers become regular through repetition of the special irregularity. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/peloria

I wonder if Greg and later authors had this in mind when designing the land. To me, it seems perfect as an allusion to the idea of all these unique cultures gradually being absorbed into a larger classification.

Edited by Richard S.
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