Friday, 4 July 2008

Myths for Malkioni

One of the many things I discussed over a beer at Tentacles this year was ILH-2: Under the Red Moon. If you're a Glorantha fan, there's a lot of useful information in this book about the workings of the Lunar religion and so on. Like my upcoming book, Heroes of Malkion, a fair chunk of the book consists of descriptions of the local cults. Now, on the whole, I was pleased with this as a set of cults, providing, as it does, a whole bunch of character options, and giving us an idea of who the Lunar gods are. The rules implementation seems a bit overly complicated to me, what with trying to merge theism, animism, and wizardry into one seemingly randomly assorted whole, but what cropped up in our discussion were the stories behind the various Immortals.

How could we make such stories interesting and entertaining? We have a good idea of many of the theist myths, and where to take their inspiration from, but the stories of most of the Lunar Immortals are rather different, since most of them used to be living people in historical time, not Gods from Before the Dawn. And, of course, the same question arises with the Malkioni saints. Where to get ideas from, without falling into the trap of endlessly repeating "Saint X was a carpenter/librarian/crocodile-wrangler who was very holy; now he is the Patron Saint of carpenters/librarians/crocodile-wranglers?"

Malkioni hagiography is rather different from the tales of Heortling deities and the like. And where better to get inspiration from it than real-world hagiography? The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches have many, many saints, and they provide plenty of good ideas for how the Malkioni saints might work. The Patron Saints Index is a very useful online source, here, and one that I have often perused. There is a rich seam of mythology to be mined from Christian and other monotheist stories, and, on the whole, they have not been used much in Glorantha.

That is not to say, of course, that you should lift the story whole from Catholic canon to Malkionism - the religions are very different, and we are trying to create fiction here, not to rip off a real-world source. But the themes can be very helpful, and we can put them into a Gloranthan context. This, hopefully, is what takes a saint cult from "hey, we need a saint for heralds" to something more interesting that feels a living part of Glorantha. It also allows us to show differences between different sects by having different types of story for saints with outwardly similar roles. For example, I made Saint Falerine, the patron saint of noblewomen in Hrestoli lands, very different from Saint Deelia, her Rokari counterpart. Falerine is more pro-active, with romantic elements in her story that fit the Hrestoli mindset, while Deelia is content to do as she's told, attaining sainthood through purity and duty.

It's also the case that quite a lot of Catholic saints, especially the early ones, died quite horribly. This too, is to me an interesting source of stories, with brave Malkioni worshippers fighting against the wicked Brithini, or whatever other enemies present themselves. There is a problem here, unfortunately, in that canonical Glorantha requires that Saints must have been powerful heroes in life (to forge the link with the hero plane), even if their eventual fate is martyrdom. So, none of those truly inspiring stories where someone becomes a saint precisely because they were willing to be martyred despite not being uber-powerful. But such is the framework that we have to work with when writing in what is, ultimately, somebody else's creation, and there's still plenty of room for some great stories of other types. Especially if, like Saint Deelia, the hero path that you took didn't involve the traditional smiting-of-thine-enemies.

Another point to remember is that they are saints; they have to be virtuous from somebody's point of view. (This is less of a problem for the Sorcerous Founders, of course). Just as Orlanth and Yelmalio and all the rest show the virtues of the pagan cultures, the Malkioni saints should do the same. Now, there's no reason why you can't have, say, a Patron Saint of Thieves. Christians do - he's called Saint Dismas, and even if you don't recognise the name, you'll recognise his story. (There's good old Saint Nicholas, too, but he's more of a Patron Saint Against Thieves). Indeed, Saint Osni the Penitent, in Kingdom of the Flamesword, is a patron saint of criminals in just this sense.

Hopefully, the saints described in Heroes of Malkion, and the further ones in the later books, provide a range of stories, from inspirational heroism, to romance, to miraculous deeds that showed new ways of living. My hope is that, after reading Heroes of Malkion, you'll not only remember that Saint Avlor is Patron Saint of Lost Causes, but remember why. Whether I'll succeed... well, I guess we'll find out later this year...

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