Sartar and nationhood

From: John Hughes <nysalor_at_...>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 09:50:57 +1100

Martin Dick (Gedday Martin!):

> Personally, I think that there is currently too much emphasis on the
> divided nature of the clans and tribes in Sartar. I think that this
> way underestimates the influence Sartar had on the country.

I've certainly a lot of sympathy for this point of view, even though my post might be emphasising the opposite pole. 'Who is Us?' and 'Whom is Them?' are continuing tensions in any community, and a great dramatic hook. In Sartar especially, we should never be comfortable about assuming who our enemies *or* our friends are. We've all played too many scenarios with seventh-act twists or reversals for that...

Sartar and his successors certainly did build a sense of nationhood, but it was a very *Orlanthi* nation. There doesn't seem to have been many centralised institutions created beyond the rituals of the Sartar and Rex cults: no central beaurocracy, no national army. In fact the model (in modern terms) seems very much to be independant and temporary tribal states with a largely ritual Prince (high king). Orlanthi leadership is build on persuasion, not compulsion. Perhaps, like the Irish High King, Sartar's successors could call the tribes to war, but they *couldn't* compel them to stay.

Several centuries after Sartar, Heortling notions of justice, hospitality, worship and war are all thoroughly kin/tribal rather than based on the power and authority of a central state.

As well as Sartar, there is the profound and universal influence of the Ernalda cult, which builds unity according to its own feminine models.

Why did national unity seemingly disintegrate following the Lunar invasion? Perhaps because Sartar as a kingdom spectacularly failed to prevent the invasion itself. Perhaps because the tribes could not maintain a unified front, and many did deals with the invader or turned traitor. Perhaps because the Lunar ideology of "We are all one" sticks in the craw of Orlanthi whose first principle is "No one can make you do anything", and who clearly regard themselves as *different* and *superior* to those dog-loving Lismelder, troll-loving Kitori, sister-loving Balmyr or [insert local campaign prejudice of choice, just as long as its not 'sheep-loving Tovtaros'].

Perhaps Orlanthi national consciousness is like a supersaturated chemical solution, simply requiring the right catalyst (or irritant! :)) for it to recrystallise. Sartar is still out there on the Godplane, and rebels like Kallyr and the Argraths surely understand his power and potential. Raise the tribes!

By coincidence, I'm currently reading Robin Fox's wonderful essay called 'The Virgin and the Godfather: Kinship versus the State in Greek Tragedy and After'. Fox begins with 'Antigone' and traces the historical tension between kin groups and state power from Greek and Roman to modern times. A quote from his opening paragraph (he's actually quoting himself from an earlier work) seems relevant to our discussion:

'The war between kinship and authority is alive in legend. In story and fantasy kinship struggles against beaurocratic authority, whether of church or state. It undermines, it challenges, it disturbs. The Mafia constantly fascinates because "the family" demands total loyalty and provides total security. When the state fails to protect, people look longingly at the certainty of kinship."



nysalor_at_... John Hughes

Sartar's daughters, bind your breasts,
There is no time to weep or rest;
The Kheldon Queen has set us the test
take up your spears and follow!

The Wind is free, the Storm will break;
the godis at the weapontake
Swear the clans will ne'er forsake
Good Vinga's purest daughter.

Up with spear and out with sword!
On we'll go for by the Storm,
The battle-thanes have given their word
Raise the tribes for Starbrow!

A Sartar Boasting Song.

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