literacy, cities, and Sartarite national identity

From: Stephen Tempest <>
Date: Mon, 05 Feb 2001 11:28:19 GMT

Peter Larson

>Again, why keep any books at all? Perhaps there is a need for inventory (we left
>the tula with 36 cows....), but it's not like Heortlings are dealing with
>tremendously complex economic arrangements.

That's doubtless true of at least 85% of your basic Orlanthi tribesmen...

However, even in KoDP, set before the foundation of Sartar, there are professional merchants wandering from clan to clan across the breadth of Dragon Pass - I'm thinking of the woman who sometimes shows up as a random event and offers to trade magic items, rather than the "standard" trade for cows, grain etc which is controlled by the Clan Ring. She would need to have some way of keeping track of her stock, and remembering which tulas have certain goods available and which offer the best prices, etc - even if she doesn't get involved in complex economic deals.

However, even in a basic agricultural environment, you'll often have to keep track of arrangements stretching over seasons or even years because that's the way farming works - a grain farmer who wants to trade for anything *has* to do it on credit, to be repaid next harvest time (unless he has savings or some other source of wealth, like raiding the neighbours...). Sure, most such "credit" will be informal, done through family ties ("Cousin Bjorn says you still owe him for borrowing his plough three years ago"), but the travelling merchants who deal in products not available locally (salt, metalwork, wooden goods in the Praxian borderlands, etc) will need to make more formal arrangements.

By the 17th century, things would be even more advanced in Sartar (and yet more so in Tarsh, come to that). There are now cities with permanent markets; roads connecting them; long-distance trade. This may not have much effect yet on the 85% of Orlanthi who still live up in the hills and come into the city maybe once every two or three years, if that. Sartar is not yet an urban society like Dara Happa or the Western city states. However, I do think that the minority who live in the cities will, out of necessity, develop more of the trappings of civilisation, including literacy - and that will gradually be filtering out into the countryside.

Give it another century or two and Sartar may well become "civilised", in the classical Graeco-Roman sense of the term. Of course, in a magical/mythical culture this would be ascribed to the actions of heros and gods, not socio-economic forces: and so we will be told that, for example, Prince Argrath revealed the secrets of writing to his loyal people...

Peter Metcalfe:

>You are not seeing things the Orlanthi way. The social
>cosmos is constructed upon kinship ties. You support
>your closest kin (the clan) and then your tribe. Beyond
>the tribe and clan, kinship ties are very thin and most
>Orlanthi ignore them (but the tribal ring members do not).

I think most people in every society, at any time, support their family then their "tribe" (read "employer" in modern terms?) before anything more distant and abstract.

However, following my thoughts through, I think the idea that "we are Sartarites" rather than "we are Lismelder/Colymar/etc" will *gradually* be filtering through the Quivini Heortlings. It'll be strongest in the cities, where people from several clans will be living and working alongside each other, and trading with people from other tribes and cities. They'll also encounter more non-Orlanthi foreigners, which will give them a greater sense of unity. Of course, invasion and occupation by a foreign power with a different religion and culture does wonders for feelings of national unity, as well...

As Martin Dick says, kinship is *not* everything to the Orlanthi. It may be the basic building-block of the universe, but a wise and far-sighted leader (like Orlanth) will take that foundation and build something new on it. Orlanth swore eternal friendship and alliance with Humakt, who is no kin of his; and he entrusted the safety of his stead and people to Elmal, who was a clansman of his deadly enemy and rival. By befriending and trusting non-kin, Orlanth made the world a better place. We should do the same...


End of The Glorantha Digest V8 #251

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