Elven Anxieties in Patience and the Lily (essay)

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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: Elven Anxieties in Patience and the Lily

Author: Lord Silvean Rashere

To my Elven Brothers and Sisters, Greetings in the Name of Cherished Memory,

A recent extended stay in Ta’Illistim has afforded me the opportunity to alternate between excellent library collections and more visceral research among the gremlocks. I hope, for their sake, that there is some great and bulbous gremlock god freely offering gremlock comfort and gremlock salvation.

Residing in Ta’Illisitim, it seems appropriate to spend some of my leisure hours reflecting on Elven legends. In particular, I have chosen to offer a reading of “Patience and the Lily” since it is one of the most popular.

“Patience and the Lily” is a study in dichotomies that plays on the reader’s expectations by offering no easy resolutions. Indeed, it seems that the pairing of love with evil, or love against evil, at the end of the story is only offered in testimony to enduring struggle rather than a forecasting of hopeful resolution. Perhaps doe-eyed readers can take some comfort in finding that the “lily” of the title is a bejeweled sign of love. Formed of opals, diamonds, and jade, this flower is of a kind that will never wither and die. As such, love is shown to endure even if it cannot dispense with death.

In the beginning of the tale we find the only depiction of peace in the rural village of Sylvaerrand where Patience “was a good child and quickly grew to love working in the fields with her father.” After the menacing stranger lays a curse upon Patience that results in the death of her father, she is condemned to roam the lands as a dangerous outcast. Forced to abandon the sedentary life necessary for the cultivation of land, Patience must move between townships and even ends up in Ta’Vaalor and presumably Ta’Illistim since she later travels to Old Ta’Faendryl. The sharp contrast between the pleasures of rural, sedentary life and the ill-fated wandering through urban areas suggests that this aspect of the story may have ancient roots. I believe that “Patience and the Lily” in its present form is a re-ordering of an older tale grappling with the first division between the Sylvankind and the Elves of the early empire.

As a result of less ancient additions, “Patience and the Lily” argues a sharp contrast between sorcery and other forms of magic, particularly that of wizards. The villain of the piece, alternatively called “dark stranger” and “sorcerer,” is described as “aged, his face worn and half-covered by a long combed beard.” This description embodies the alien nature of sorcery in the legend since the stranger, the outsider with aged skin and facial hair, is clearly no Elf. Angry that his land had been usurped, I would suggest that this stranger not only represents sorcery but anxiety over the Faendryl people as a whole. Descendants of Korthyr and the former leaders of the Elven Empire, the Faendryl still possess an unresolved grievance over their exile.

The failed effort to undo the curse is led by the wizard Gailyn who seeks out the assistance of Maelfey, who “had studied the arts of sorcery, as well as wizardry.” It is interesting that the only way sorcery can be safely handled in the story is if it is tempered with wizardry. Ultimately, I think the tale betrays apprehension over its own design by shifting our focus away from a full damnation of sorcery toward a realization that intent governs the moral dimension of magic. True love, according to Maelfey, is the “one true weakness of evil sorcery” but it does not follow that all sorcery is evil sorcery. Maelfey’s sorcerous knowledge is not evil, after all.

The ending, of course, is ambiguous. Is sorcery too deadly to be opposed? Was the unhappy result a judgment upon the sincerity of Patience? The reader is left with the image of Patience wandering the ruins of Old Ta’Faendryl with the one enduring symbol of love, the jeweled lily, clutched in her hands.

If my reading of this story’s relationship to the exile of the Faendryl is accurate, then it makes sense that Patience ends her journey in those ruins. The lily becomes a representation of another enduring hope – that a reunited Elven Empire may once again restore order to the world. There are no differences between the Faendryl and the Elven Nations, or among any of the Elven City-States, so great that they might overcome our shared blood and common history. My counsel is constant: increase diplomatic contact and exercise patience, extraordinary patience.

Silvean Rashere