Greg Sez: Esrolian Q&A (2001)

Questions assembled from the Hero Wars mailing list, answers by Greg Stafford.

1. Are there any good pointers for Esrolian culture?
A: “There is always another way.” They are not that different from Heortlings except that the social and religious positions of men and women are reversed so that mothers and eldest sisters own property, inherit it, etc. They are much more agricultural than the Heortlings, less hunting. They have a greater mercantile base. They are more accepting of foreigners. They have more pacifistic factions than any Heortling society (a cause of constant political problems within the country).

2. I think another principal difference between the Esrolians and the Heortlings is their conception of the role of a ruler. The ruler as warleader is not going to be particularly important to the Esrolians – unlike the Heortlings. In fact, I am uncertain how Esrolian rulers would be chosen. Hereditary succession seems inappropriate – perhaps rulers are chosen by a council of elders – “grandmothers.” Does that sound right?
A: Yes.

3. Is Esrolian culture more urban-centered than that of the Heortlings (i.e. approx 1 in 18 Esrolians live in Nochet)?
A: More urban dominated, yes.

4. ‘Most’ rural Heortlings live communally in steads; Do ‘most’ rural Esrolians live communally with their extended family in steads? Is their technology similar? Is their style of dress similar? Would they recognise each others customs?
A: Yes to all.

5. Are non-leadership gender roles similar to Heortlings i.e women still run the home, men perform warfare, heavy labour but valued differently? Or are many gender-roles reversed for ‘most’ Esrolians?
A: Roles are not reversed. “Biology always wins.”

6. Are clans still the basic social unit, or federations/alliances/tribes?
A: Clans, matrilineally calculated.

7. Is the similarity to Heortling culture most significant to those clans that worship Orlanth as Ernalda’s husband (or have the appropriate year-father), with other clans diverging from this model with the influence of their choice of year-father.
A: Yes.

8. Is polyandry common?
A: Common? Not sure what that means. Acceptable? Yes. Common among the rich and powerful? Yes.

9. Is the Orlanth cult less rich in subcults in Esrolia?
A: Yes.

10. Is his mythic role less significant as ‘just one of Ernalda’s husbands’?
A: Yes and No. Mostly no.

11. Do Esrolians recognise Vinga and Nandan?
A: Yes.

12. Is Yelmalio still a consort (“husband-protector”) of Ernalda in Esrolia? Who is Yelmalio’s wife in Dragon Pass? In the River of Cradles? Is it (still) Ernalda?
A: First, please take note that the questions’ wording makes some implications that skew the answers, so I am rewording it. It is more correct to ask who is Yelmalio’s wife in the Yelmalio temples. Most Orlanthi would not say Ernalda is the wife of Yelmalio, even though the worshippers at the Sun Dome Temple in Dragon Pass would say so. Yes, Yelmalio is a consort of Ernalda in Esrola. Yes, Yelmalio is a consort of Ernalda for the Yelmalians in Dragon Pass. Yes, Yelmalio is a consort of Ernalda for the Yelmalians in Prax. All of thesese peoples’ predecessors beleived that Ernalda was a wife of Elmal.

13. Would a matrilineal and matriachal Heortling clan look similiar to an Esrolian one if you were an outsider (say a Loskalmite)?
A: Yes.

14. Did the Kingdom of Night change Esrolian culture?
A: The ambiguity here is vast. What is “change” in the context? Esrolia was established after the terrible and tragic events of the Sword and Helm Saga. This occurred during the Darkness, after Vingkot was dead. Virtually NO large political interaction occured at that time — everyone was fighting locally for survival. Esrola benefitted from Heort’s inspiration of I Fought We Won, and afterwards was the Unity Battle and the Unity Council, which established the KoN as the dominant political entity. The KoN saved Esrolia from total destruction by chaos. Thus the two grew up together, with constant influence and reciprocal influence. Perhaps it is useful to compare this to the Kitori, who were clearly dominated and significently influenced by the uz.

15. Another question would be their relationship with Trolls, who would have been a dominant factor in Esrolian life for most of the Kingdom of Night era.
A: What does “dominant factor” mean? The trolls didn’t try to affect human practices, either political or religious. The Esrolians and trolls both have a goddess-dominated religion, and we know that they shared worship for many deities. Who is Ezkankekko’s mother? They shared a concern for keeping world order by cooperation.

16. It seems to me that Esrolia must have been peculiarly troll friendly – would this be a by product of matriarchy or vice versa?
A: What does “troll friendly” mean in this context? I sincerely doubt it means that people were chummy with uz, having them by for dinner parties, orgies or sacrifices. (And what human would accept an invitation to ANY of those function from the uz without mortal trepidation?) The Esrolian peoples had reached an accomodation with having uz as the supreme political leaders. I doubt that it affected local human politics. Clans would not be affected. Sure they would be paying tribute or something to the uz. But that had been established before time began. It is simply “the way it is.” Certainly it would have prevented the people from automatically deciding that all uz were terrible cratures as they did in Seshnela (for instance).

17. Are the Malkioni a significant influence on Esrolian culture? If so is that influence mainly confined to urban areas?
A: No. But yes, there are significent numbers of Malkioni in cities to affect their running.

18. Would a male Esrolian have a closer relationship with his sister’s children on the grounds that is they who will inherit, or does marriage tie his fortunes to his wife’s clan so much that he would favour his own offspring?
A: They are matrilineal. Sons belong to their mother’s clans. Officially, it is impossible to prove paternity.

19. Do the mercantile elements of the economy wield any political power?
A: Yes, absolutely.

20. Celts/Saxons/Vikings are good sources of real-world inspiration for Heortlings. Are there any other cultures we might think of when drawing inspiration for Esrolians? (Addition by Charles September 2012: thinking has moved on – direct analogs with real world cultures are less common now).
A: No.

21. Are there Eunuchs in Esrolia?
A: Except for some aberrant practices by some relatively minor subgroups, the Esrolians do not practice castration.

22. I assume that Ernalda the Queen is the Esrolian rulership figure.
A: Yes. Look for details in the TR book, which will be released this month.

23. I am interested how Esrolia deals with the edges of its territory. What I mean is, how does it interact with the clan next door that is just out of Esrolia. Is that clan “a bit” more female dominated, is it a gradual change or would there be a definite dividing line. It seems to me to be almost certain to provoke problems – I guess this can be seen in Greymane’s raids.
A: No definite dividing line. There are always gradual changes. We know that some clans even as far away as Sartar revere goddesses more than gods. Border troubles are a great source of story.

24. Is Axe Hall on the Shadow Plateau a site holy to Babeester Gor? What happens there?
A: It is her biggest holy place. She there struck down Ovodaka. Babeester Gor worshippers try to pilgrimage there because their goddess is very powerful. The brew is of the blood of gods, the company is perfect and all pain, suffering and worry of the cultists is removed.

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