Mist Harbor Library Lectures - 2024-03-03 - On Folklore and Oral Histories (log)

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The following was a part of the Mist Harbor Library lecture series, where Elaejia took her first turn as a guest speaker. This was presented on 3rd Charlatos, 5124. The lecture discussed two folktales and how they might offer insight or clues into historical events which are as yet undocumented.

The log has been edited to remove excess noise and chatter.


Rohese softly begins, "As the Library's Loremaster, it gives me great pleasure to once again welcome you to another in our lecture series."

Rohese wrinkles her nose.

Aendir applauds politely.

Rohese wiggles her nose at Aendir.

Rohese brightly explains, "As I'm sure you are all aware by now, the aim is to provide a platform for imparting knowledge and encouraging discussion."

Rohese gently reminds, "I ask that everyone be considerate to our speaker, as well as those who comment or ask questions."

Rohese softly continues, "All opinions are welcome and indeed encouraged, as long as they are courteously expressed."

Rohese nods slowly.

Rohese excitedly says, "I am especially delighted that our speaker agreed to be here today."

Rohese affectionately continues, "Not only is she a very good friend of mine, she also happens to be erudite and eloquent."

Rohese surreptitiously glances at you.

You smile quietly to yourself.

Rohese admiringly says, "So, without further ado, please give Lady Elaejia Silithyr a warm Library welcome."

Rohese takes a few steps back.

Calenmir applauds.

Yunni applauds you.

Meril applauds you.

Raelee takes a moment to observe you.

You take a few steps toward a small podium.

You incline your head.

You pleasantly say, "Good afternoon all, and thank you to Rohese for inviting me to speak today."

You murmur, "Not least because having a deadline encouraged me to actually put my thoughts to paper."

Emindala chuckles.

You disclose, "Today's lecture may be a bit unconventional, and I should confess at the outset that part of my motivation is a selfish one - I hope to learn at least as much from you, as you from me."

You elaborate, "I am recently returned from the countryside along the course of the Tyrfael River, the first of several planned expeditions on the subject of this research, where I began collecting folklore and legends relating to the natural - and in some cases unnatural - world."

You rhetorically ask, "I will share some of what I learned there shortly, but first I will address the obvious question -- why?"

You diplomatically say, "It goes without saying that our histories are sparsely written and a great deal is lost, or has never been written. It is in that space that I am looking to the popular memory in the form of oral histories."

You contend, "It is my belief that most, if not all, of these incredible legends contain at least kernel of overlooked truth. With this research I hope to suss out some of those truths and perhaps link them into some cohesive whole."

You hold up your hand and tilt it side to side in a so-so gesture.

You continue, "I believe many important lessons in well-known tales may have been obscured by fabrications of motivated reasoning and creative liberties - for example, moralists looking to impose their views of what an orderly world should be on a fundamentally chaotic one."

You say, "But there are elements that can still be of use."

You say, "A simple glance at the so-called lessons of many stories reveals too many self-satisfied answers, as if their writers had chanced upon Fash'lo'nae's library and stolen away the locations of all the fish for the rest of us."

Elaejia smiles slightly.

You say, "Consider the familiar example of the Rayne of Glo'antern Moor, a tale told by nearly every old wanderer and guide who passes through Ta'Illistim."

You recount, "The story goes that Rayne was the most beautiful maiden in the Shining City, the daughter of a blacksmith who hoped her beauty would attract a nobleman. Eventually, a commander in the army became enamored and her father quickly agreed to the union, but Rayne insisted the commander court her before she would agree. She drew out this courtship for seven years, until he was to be called up to see to southern dissention, before she finally agreed to wed."

You say, "The commander bid her meet him on the Glo'antern Moor as he returned from his father's northern fastness in a fortnight's time to celebrate their union. On the appointed day, she waited for him but he never arrived because - of course - he had been slain, and she wasted away upon the moor until she perished. Now she haunts the moor, a shade of sadness and regret."

(Elaejia waves her free hand as she speaks, emphasizing her words.)

You evenly conclude, "The tale ends with the cautionary admonition to "Love well, for tomorrow may never come."

(Elaejia purses her lips.)

You pointedly remark, "Leaving aside the suspect notion that an Illistimi commander would choose a moor on the far side of Zul Logoth as his wedding venue," she pauses with a sniff, "The tale, certainly told mainly to reinforce the notions of filial piety and womanly subservience, raises at least two other questions in my reading."

You observe, "First of course is the mention of unrest in the "south." What southern region could this mean? The tale does not say."

You give your eyebrow a little workout.

Rohese nods faintly.

You consider, "A search of the accepted histories offers a scant handful of possibilities - None of which seem likely. Perhaps it was an undocumented popular reaction to the destruction of the Ashrim Isles, but this seems an ill fit. Argent Mirror Ulorean's failed experiment might have been an apt conclusion, but that tumult occurred within the Shining City and not in any southern province."

(Elaejia lifts one shoulder slightly.)

You ask, "The second interesting part of this tale is when it claims our long-suffering commander is slain - on his trip from his own family lands," she pauses with a furrowed brow, asking rhetorically, "What?"

You gaze with interest at your surroundings.

You frankly say, "This notion throws a great deal into question, of course. If the unrest was so widespread that it should find the commander before he even set forth, or - more insidiously - some element of the uprising decided to make a pre-emptive strike... Well," she spreads her hands, long fingers curled upward, before continuing sardonically, "The Lorekeepers of the Aeis have admitted that even extremely valuable records have been maliciously tampered with in the past."

You simply say, "It is in pursuit of these glimpses into understanding that I am seeking as I document oral histories, to fill these gaps in the record."

You continue, "Before I invite your contributions to my research, I will share one more tale - one of a rather different nature, whose implications I have not yet plumbed. The beldam who shared it with me insisted that I memorize it rather than write it down in her presence, lest I attract the wrong sort of attention to her house on the Vyr'Tyrfael."

You close your eyes for a moment.

You take a deep breath.

You recite, "Perhaps you know, the yew permits nothing to grow beneath its bough."

You say, "Perhaps you know, to eat the yew seed is to eat death."

You carefully place a hand-painted off-white poster on the floor.

You say, "Perhaps you know, the age of the oldest yews cannot be gauged, for they decay from within. Still, they live, driving new branches downward into the earth to form new trunks. Sprawling, creeping, gangling - sowing death, bearing death, and enfolding death within."

(Calenmir folds his right leg over his left at the knee, his buckskin riding boots foot bouncing rhythmically to Elaejia's cadence.)

You bluntly say, "You may know these things, but you do not understand how it is they came to be, for you are young and heatherwild."

You raise your chin slightly, bolstering your courage.

You continue, "So, listen well... The mother of yews grows near the mouth of Mreanith Lake, on its southern shore, and she did not begin as a yew."

You say, "In her youth, she was a cypress. She grew, the strongest among many sisters, fed by the heady mountain waters flowing from those Dragonspine peaks into the lake."

You say, "The young cypress and her sisters sang to one another, to the birds, to the distant peaks, and occasionally, to the elves who traveled thither into the mountains and beyond."

You slowly reveal, "When her song began to falter, the cypress' anxious sisters reached out to her beneath the earth. They twined their roots with hers and lent their strength and she was comforted. Before long however, her sisters' songs also faltered and she grew afraid. By now she had sensed what was amiss - a mote, a shard, a sliver of something other."

You lower your gaze.

You say, "Something from the river had become wrapped in her roots. It had pierced and poisoned her with pollution. Its essence streamed through her sap and soured her songs."

(Elaejia emphasizes the repetition of consonant sounds.)

You bleakly say, "Her sap drew the corruption through her heartwood, twisting her trunk and bringing decay in its wake. Her needles and seedpods became anathema, souring the earth around her. As her strength failed, her branches buckled and drooped until they pierced the earth."

You say, "With the last of her own true spirit, the cypress drew her roots away from her sisters, to spare them the blight that was taking her. And then, her spirit became something other."

Rohese bites her lip.

You quietly say, "This is how the mother of yews came to be," she concludes, clasping her palms together, "And she hunches there still."

Calenmir cocks his head.

(Elaejia allows the quiet moment to stretch before continuing.)

Dendum says, "This is a good tree story."

Elaejia smiles briefly.

You briskly say, "As I said, this is a considerably different sort of tale, and is what is called an origin or etiological story. It seeks to explain how something came to be as it is, in the case the yew tree."

You indicate the off-white poster as a possible option.

You say, "The yew is a tree that invites this sort of contemplation, having a presence which I think is neatly described in the tale. The writer or writers surely also knew other things about the yew, such as its strong connection to sorcerous magic, as well as its fitness for use in bowyery - though this last feature is noticeably absent from the tale."

You consider, "What else is notable about the tale? The claim that some outside agent or force infected the cypress, "from the river." This is interesting because rivers are most often symbols of purity and life."

You ask, "I will put the question to our group as my lecture concludes - what does this suggest to you?"

Rohese glances around the room.

(Rohese tentatively raises her hand.)

Dendum asks, "Is it not a story of sacrifice and corruption?"

Dendum blinks at Rohese.

Dendum raises his hand.

Speaking reticently to you, Rohese offers, "It is a metaphor for something else, something the author is reluctant to acknowledge."

Speaking in Elven, Calenmir quietly offers, "Seems in both tales, a female entity is being goaded to lend themselves for the greater cause..but," he shrugs, "..maybe that isn't the intent."

Hadya leans forward and rests her chin in her hand, a thoughtful expression on her face.

Emindala says, "Or it could be both, a metaphor and a moral tale."

Calenmir clears his throat.

Rohese looks thoughtfully at Calenmir.

Calenmir apologetically says, "Sorry.."

Speaking softly to Calenmir, Rohese says, "No apologies needed here."

You cock your head at Hadya.

Speaking to Calenmir, you say, "That is a very interesting insight."

Speaking softly to Rohese, Calenmir laughs, "I imagine Common is more appropriate than Elven, however."

Lucraine says, "It sounds much like a child and parent of unconditional love."

Meril says, "I think that the legend places the yew's origin at Mreanith Lake is no happenstance."

Hadya quietly says, "Root."

Dendum raises his hand.

Calenmir politely repeats, "I had said, I believe in both tales, a woman was being goaded into a duty to a greater group.." he nods to the others, folding his hands on his lap, "..I'll be sure to keep Elven to a minimum."

Calenmir chuckles.

You nod at Dendum.

Speaking to Meril, Emindala asks, "How so?"

You see a sketch of a large yew tree, inked in fine grey lines and hazed with a wash of varigated deep green watercolors. The trunk of the tree is veiled in shadow, only an outer ring of bark offset by unpainted highlight, allowing the off-white paper to peek through. The weighty branches droop down, laden with short needles and tiny dots of red-fleshed berries.

Speaking to Calenmir, Rivienne says, "That's a fascinating take on it."

Meril says, "It is a place that has been spoken of in the Shining City, even recently."

Kalyrra cocks her head at Meril.

Littlemelody says, "Loyalty to her sister."

Speaking to Dendum, you say, "In the first tale it is both location and timing that I found interesting or suspect."

Meril says, "Perhaps that it falls on the border between the realms of Ta'Nalfein and New Ta'Faendryl..."

Speaking to you, Dendum reminds, "The elves once held dominion over that part of the world."

Emindala says, "I believe the life of women in the elder days was often of sacrifice."

Speaking softly to Meril, Rohese notes, "It is interesting you say that as my research into arboreal constellations has led me to mark Mreanith Lake on my map to study further."

Speaking softly to you, Rohese apologizes, "But I digress, sorry."

Rivienne asks, "Could it be something like the fear of the "other", accepting something foreign into a society that may effect its core values?"

Aendir says, "On the subject of necromancy, purer targets are often chosen for modifications. It is more of a blank slate, of sorts."

Littlemelody says, "She didn't want to hurt her sisters, so she tried to take all the pain away (self sacrafice)"

Aendir slowly says, "I'm afraid I do not have much further insight than that, though."

Speaking curiously to Emindala, Calenmir posits, "If the same tales are told, it seems such views are still being pressed onto the modern woman.. though," he shrugs, "Only one interpretation."

Vyrshkana frowns.

Rohese glances between Calenmir and yourself.

Calenmir glances at Vyrshkana.

Speaking to Vyrshkana, Calenmir asks, "Or maybe, a different perspective?"

Speaking to Calenmir, Emindala says, "True, but women are branching out more in this modern age. Such as myself, fighting for Eonak as his paladin."

You agree, "I do think the sociological reasons that these and many tales persist is that they put forth lessons that older generations wish to instill in the younger."

Dendum slowly offers, "....The tree sacrificed herself willingly and only after the sisters attempted to do what they could....this is an honorable story of corruption and choice..."

Rohese softly posits, "But is it women who are mainly retelling these tales?"

Hadya thoughtfully says, "Death always seems to be the common thread, no? Death because of sacrifice of self, because of love...it is a common theme...man or woman."

Vyrshkana says, "De tree makinged one wonderinged if dere beinged...um." She pauses and scratches her head. "Some purpose to de corrupting?"."

Vyrshkana says, "Mebbe it not beinged...random."."

Vyrshkana frowns.

Emindala says, "Sacrifice for purer values."

Aendir says, "It certainly increases the dramatic element of a tale."

You nod slowly at Vyrshkana.

Aendir says, "Few tales have been told about finding life through love, though we know it to be true."

Speaking curiously to Vyrshkana, Calenmir continues, "That maybe through adversity, some new beauty arose?"

Speaking lightly to Aendir, you note, "Usually those tales are told in song, I think."

Rohese softly murmurs, "Or poetry."

Rohese demurely lowers her misty grey eyes.

Meril says, "Or perhaps it could also be a metaphor for the Faendryl exile."

Hadya quietly says, "Ah but loving in life...there is no final moral tale to that...only in death do we have finality to tell the tale."

Rohese smiles quietly to herself.

Hadya shrugs nonchalantly.

Speaking to Hadya, you agree, "The last chapter, as it were."

Dendum says, "'The Yew tree did not die it changed."

Emindala agrees with Hadya.

With a subtle tilt of her head, Rohese's elegant finger taps lightly on her bottom lip as she becomes lost in thought.

Hadya quietly says, "It was reborn, which means it did die."

Emindala says, "And it sets the lesson in deeper into the mind."

Rohese nods in agreement at Emindala.

Speaking to Dendum, you say, "Perhaps that speaks to Vyrshkana's question, as to the purpose or intent."

You say, "The yew tree has some notable qualities as I mentioned, perhaps it was changed to bring something about with those qualities."

Rohese looks thoughtfully at you.

Speaking to Meril, you ask, "But I am intersted to hear more of your remark about the exile?"

Lucraine says, "I think the story doesn't want just one correct interpretation nor does any. I thank you all for the knowledge and discussion. I'm walking with some fuel for song."

Littlemelody says, "Yes...why would anyone want to hurt a tree..."

Meril says, "From the elven perspective, the House of Faendryl was corrupted by their research into demonology and necromancy, those being the prime corruptions that infect Elanith. And yet from the Faendryl's perspective, they took upon themselves the responsibility of using sorcery to protect the world from worse dangers."

Hadya quietly says, "No one wants to hear about the boring lives of lovers throughout their lifespan, for it is imperfect. They fought, they cried, they clung to eachother, they fell into ruts and slowly their love changed year by year...but in death we always sum up the best parts of these stories or the tragic parts...It is how good stories are made."

Speaking to Hadya, Emindala says, "I'm not so sure about that."

Speaking to Hadya, Raelee says, "...interesting."

Hadya mildly says, "Alright."

Speaking curiously to you, Calenmir inquires, "Is the premise, then, that the yew is eternally running from its corruption? Outgrowing it from the inside?" she adjusts the spectacles on his nose with on finger, adjusting himsef on his bench cushion, "..eternally fighting to not be overtaken?"

Speaking to Calenmir, you reply, "I think any of those interpretations might be valid."

Speaking to Hadya, Emindala says, "So those tales are told to show how love Should be, while the others are told to teach how you should sacrifice for love or country, or family, etc."

Speaking quietly to Emindala, Hadya says, "As you say."

Aendir grins.

Speaking to you, Calenmir asks, "Of the woman who told it to you, why was she so hesitant to have it written? And.. did she have an interpretation of it herself?"

Aendir says, "The tragedies always sold the most admission, in Loenthra."

Speaking to Hadya, Emindala says, "It IS just a discussion on our opinions, I was just sharing mine."

Aendir says, "They make for a better story, typically."

Speaking quietly to Emindala, Hadya says, "As you say."

Speaking to Calenmir, you say, "I did not press her for details on why she found it unsettling, but I thought to myself that she looked upon her own home on the Tyrfael river as perhaps vulnerable."

Speaking quietly to Emindala, Hadya says, "I merely have nothing else to add."

Rohese graciously says, "Thank you."

Speaking to Hadya, Emindala says, "As you say."

Emindala grins at Hadya.

Dendum brightly exclaims, "Well....we have seen good examples of stories being twisted for certain views at least!"

You pleasantly say, "A lively discussion is as much as any researcher can hope for when bringing their interests to a wider audience."

Rohese smiles at you.

Speaking quietly to you, Hadya says, "It was most interesting."

Speaking to Dendum, you agree, "Indeed, and it is in trying to avoid those pitfalls that I am hoping to identify the elements that maybe motivated versus true."

Rohese softly asks, "Any questions from the audience?"

Rohese softly asks, "Or points you wish to raise?"

Emindala asks, "How often did you say you have these lectures?"

Dendum remarks, "But what if there was an elf that died on the moor waiting for husband?"

You offer, "If any of you know of any interesting folktales, I would be glad to receive them by post."

Speaking softly to Emindala, Rohese says, "Usually every other month as a rule."

(Calenmir swivels his eahnor signet band on his ring finger with the adjacent thumb.)

Emindala says, "If there is a list, please add me to it. I enjoyed this immensely."

Speaking softly to Emindala, Rohese says, "I have been running them for 4 years now and they're never dull."

Emindala says, "That speaks of great dedication on your part then M'lady."

Speaking softly to Raelee, Rohese exclaims, "There's a difference between dull and complicated!"

Speaking to Emindala, Dendum says, ""One day thousands of years from now they may tell the story of Cosima in a library and some will try and figure out the hidden meaning of the woman who died in a fire waiting for her lover....but it is just what happened."

Rohese softly notes, "A fascinating lecture and what excellent discussion today. Thank you, as always."

Rohese lightly declares, "Did I not say she was erudite and eloquent!"

Vyrshkana says, "Tank oos."

Speaking to Dendum, Raelee says, "That would be an interesting example of how actual history can shift into folktale depending upon the telling."

You murmur, "I thank you for your attention and interest today."

Rohese appreciatively concludes, "Thank you all so much for coming and I hope to see you all again soon."

Speaking to you, Rivienne says, "Thank you for giving us so much to think about."

Speaking to you, Emindala says, "I would like to hear more of your stories at some point."

Speaking softly to you, Rohese says, "A triumph, my dear. Quite a lively crowd today."

Speaking to Rohese, Dendum asks, "One day they may tell the story of the librarian of the island...one wonders what the meaning will be eh?"

Rivienne says, "My rereading of Loenthran fairy tales will be so much more interesting."

Speaking lightly to Emindala, you say, "I will insist you share some of your own in return."

Hadya quietly says, "I must be on my way."

Yunni softly says, "Thank you for giving me something to ponder over."

Speaking to you, Emindala says, "Not sure how many I know. . there's one that is actually a ballad a friend of mine wrote from an old tale. . ."

Speaking warmly to Rivienne, Rohese says, "You are very welcome and I will be pinning you down to speak in the not too distant future."

You gaze with interest at Emindala.

Rivienne says, "Like a moth in a case...."

Speaking to you, Raelee states, "It was educational."

Rivienne says, "I'd probably be about as interesting."

Speaking softly to Rivienne, Rohese exclaims, "Nonsense!"

Speaking to Raelee, you say, "I am very pleased you found it so, Magister."

Speaking to you, Emindala says, "She calls it Two Sweethearts, and it's definitely in the love perserveres category."

Raelee says, "Good afternoon."

Rivienne says, "Have a good day, everyone."

Speaking softly to you, Rohese says, "You have given us a lot to think about and I shall be scurrying home to my library in search of stories."

Speaking to Rohese, you say, "I knew any tale with a tree at its center would pique your interest."

Speaking softly to you, Rohese says, "You know me too well."

Dendum says, "Yew is a good tree."

Speaking softly to Meril, Rohese exclaims, "And Mreanith Lake!"

Dendum says, "Despite those who use it for...odd things."

You agree, "It is a tree that invites fascination, once you stop to ponder it."

Speaking softly to Dendum, Rohese says, "All trees are good trees .. apart from those in that awful garden in the Landing."

Speaking disgustedly to Dendum, Rohese says, "Those really are corrupt."

You say, "Those are certainly examples of tampering with an intention in mind."

Rohese softly says, "But the less said of those the better."

Speaking to Rohese, Dendum says, "Those were...not corrupted."

Speaking to Rohese, Dendum says, "Those were made that way."

Speaking softly to Dendum, Rohese counters, "By a corrupted mine."

Rohese softly corrects, "Mind."

Dendum says, "Corruption invites hope of healing sometimes.....there is no hope for those."

Rohese brightly exclaims, "But anyway!"

Rohese agrees with Dendum.

Speaking to Meril, you say, "I appreciated your insights as well, particularly regarding the lake and perhaps a metaphorical reading."

Meril says, "There is something special about legends that are not written."

Speaking politely to Calenmir, Rohese introduces, "I don't believe we have met, by the way, I'm Rohese."

(Calenmir approaches the small podium, standing at the front of it, his hand sliding along the front briefly to feel the wood before sliding both of his hands into the pockets of his trousers.)

You say, "When I write a longer treatise, I will be certain to acknowlege your contribution," she pauses with a glance about adding, "Indeed, all of yours."