Re: Ghouls

From: Todd Gardiner <todd.gardiner_at_hPFZjlLeRNUTHHcB7q8_qxbENpAyLfQT4anoWPie5ulV9j4GjJR34fOwbtZMCr>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2009 09:00:18 -0700

I'm of the opinion that eaters of man-flesh become ghouls become undead/eternal comes from H.P. Lovecraft's writing. He has several stories in which the path to eternalness comes from consuming what lies in graves, and that this leads to a secret "underground" life of the ghoul. This idea then filtered into D&D, and from there into other games as discussed in the ideas above about the diffusion of undead antagonists into other media.

Interestingly enough, the HPL ghouls were not normally too concerned with the living, nor with making more dead people. The duration of mouldering somehow contributed to the value of the bones they gnaw on. Fresh kills where not as terrifying to the author, perhaps.

But I don't think that this metaphysical scheme should be influencing what my idea of Gloranthan ghouls are. To me those that break taboo and then fail to make amends or be punished, are causing the universe to restructure. As then continue to break the rules of the universe, the universe changes what it must so the rules are no longer broken; and if you are no longer human, you're no longer a cannibal when you eat human flesh... Only through certain specific rituals is it possible to change the act of cannibalism in Glorantha into a different and mystically powerful act. And thereby sidestep the taboo against cannibalism.

IMHO, taboo is not just a set of social rules that say this act is unacceptable; not in the magically infused world of Glorantha. Easy to perform violations are repaired by the Sacred Time heroquests that repair and remake the world each year, separating the destructive Other from the accepted followers of "The Way Things Are Done." Thus rapists and cannibals and other taboo breakers become changed by the refreshing of the world (or at least this could be one mechanism out of a host of means for preserving the structure of the magical universe).

Bigger taboos that are harder to perform are also harder to repair, but then this seems to be what Heroes are for and the culmination of these violations may be what repeatedly leads Glorantha to the end of one age and the start of another.


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