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Thread: Sidhelien Philosophy
01-15-2008, 08:48 AM #1
We`ve been focusing so much on elven spirituality in BR lately, and I think we`ve all got a pretty good handle on the concept (even where we disagree.) So I`d like to change tacks a bit and open up the discussion to an even broader topic: That is, the elven "philosophy."
First, I should note that I think it behooves us to really think about the Sidhe as being practically an alien species. That is, their basic nature is so different from that of mortals that I think there is a tendency to describe them in ways anthropomorphize them. Most non-human races in fantasy or SF are really not very different from humans. They are, in fact, largely based on humanity. But Cerilian elves go further than biological metaphors. They are immortal. They never sicken. Their basic nature is tied to magic. They have no gods and (IMO) are biologically/physically/intrinsically incapable of worshipping those gods in a way that is definitive of humanity and other Cerilian
races. I like to describe this difference as being related to the difference between a spirit and a soul, but whatever the reasons for these difference might be it`s important to bear in mind that they are fundamentally different in many ways and would have a similarly different psychology, culture and philosophy.
So, I`ve been thinking about the role of the Taelinri in Sidhelien society and here is the intro the document I`m putting together on the subject. At first I was thinking that it was going to be a simple write up of the Taelinri alone, but I`m starting to think it`d make more sense as a 10-12 page (at a guess) document that focuses on Sidhelien culture in general ranging from issues as the elven take on magic, nature and a few other social structures. We`ll see what comes up in the next few days--and what I`ve the time to sit down and organize.
In any case, here`s the introductory text to the section on the Taelinri:
Listen, young one, for you must hear the story of the past. You are one of the few left to us. An elven child is the most precious thing upon this world, and as such you have a duty to know the stories of your people and truths of our existence. We are the first, but we will not be the last. We are lasting, but not forever. Our homes are our very lives, and as we go, so to goes the very source of life and magic of our world.
Unlike the elves of other campaign worlds, the Sidhe of the BIRTHRIGHT setting have no gods, no priests and no religion in the sense that other races have those things. The Sidhe are guided by principles and abilities that differ radically from mortal races, and their basic differences lead to several social dynamics that unique to their role in the setting. Amongst these differences is the role of the Taelinri.
For Cerilia`s elves, the Taelinri take on much of what would be the role of priests or shamans in other cultures. They are teachers, scholars, advisors as well as representatives of their culture`s moral and ethical standards. However, like many other aspects of Sidhelien culture, the Taelinri role in society is not so formalized or determined as such position would be amongst other Cerilian races. The Taelinri are respected by elves, and their advice is highly sought after, but despite that respect and the value placed upon it the Sidhe often turn from it in practice.
The Taelinri teach that elves sprung from the union of earth, air, fire and water. The exact means of that union is the source of several creation myths. Confusing to other Cerilian races, the Taelinri teach any and all of these creation myths, and when describing their origins the Sidhe may tell stories that seem to conflict with one another. This is due to the fact that amongst the Sidhe these creation myths are not given particular significance, for they understand that like many other stories and lessons taught by the Taelinri, the myths` purposes are essentially metaphorical, and that all the creation myths are true in meaning if not in fact. Whether the first elf sprung from the roots of a great oak that had been struck by lightning, as one creation myth goes, or if the first elf rose from Lake ??? fully formed of mist and moonlight, as is told in another, the important thing is the truth behind the tale: that the Sidhe are an expression of the natural world and made of the same stuff that makes nature itself.
As a reflection of the material world embodied in a living being, every elf is a world unto himself, and he should be guided first and foremost by himself. All decisions, when made honestly and instinctively in consideration of all elvenkind and with faith in the elf`s pure nature, can only be correct decisions. Within each elf there is a balance of the elements and just as these elements rise and fall according to the season, the weather and the fluctuations of fate, so too must the elf. Therefore, all decisions can be reworked and changed. As long as such changes are based upon the instincts of a true elf they must be as correct as were the previous decisions. Significant life changes can be made instinctively and are justified as an internal change on the part of the elf rather than a change in any external factor. No such decision can ever be "right" any more than the previous decision was "wrong" and as a result of embracing their instincts, elves live their lives without doubt, regret or indecision. The Taelinri teach and embrace a simple philosophy: "Live and do as you will."
Because the decision making process involved the good of all elvenkind there is rarely conflict amongst elves. They do not differentiate between the individual good and the communal good for what is one without the other? Crime is rare in elven lands-except that introduced by other Cerilian races, of course.
Within the elven community, the Taelinri almost always preach a universal message of peace and cooperation. Though it occurred nearly 5,000 years ago, the breakup of the united kingdom of the Aelvinnwode remains a pivotal moment in Sidhelien history, and for the Taelinri the millennia before the kingdom fell apart remains the ideal elven society. The Golden Age was the time of elven supremacy and even the youngest of the Taelinri long for its return. The Taelinri believe that elves should cooperate and unite, that all differences amongst elven peoples are petty and that it is the obligation of every elf to work for the glory of all.
The same decision making process gives the Sidhe extraordinary trust in their leaders, for those in power are simply following the dictates of their instinctive nature as would any other elf in the same position. Leaders do sometimes disagree with other leaders, but these disagreements are the temporary fluctuations of elements and will be resolved in due course. However, most disagreements are simply the expression of different destinies based upon the elemental makeup of the leader. Those who follow such leaders must do so based upon their own instinctive decision making process.
In regards to interaction with other Cerilian races, there is a wide range of opinion. Most believe that other Cerilian races are inferior, and that the Sidhe must rise again to dominate Cerilia. Others are less aggressive in their opinions, favoring simple relocation of other "useful" races after the reunification of the elves and the reforestation of the continent. Some Taelinri support the gheallie Sidhe, while others favor normalizing relations with humanity, at least for the time being.
Last edited by Thelandrin; 01-15-2008 at 05:41 PM. Reason: Vertical space - ease of reading.
01-17-2008, 07:14 AM #2
- Join Date
- Feb 2007
Geeman "No such decision can ever be "right" any more than the previous decision was "wrong" and as a result of embracing their instincts, elves live their lives without doubt, regret or indecision. The Taelinri teach and embrace a simple philosophy: "Live and do as you will."
To paraphrase - Given your above writings, elves have an innate/instinctive sense of what is right (correct) for the elvish people and as long as those bounds are kept to no decision can be right or wrong.
"Live and do as you will - but be guided by your elvish instincts" would be the simple philosophy then?
As a elf you could also see how some elves choose to express this instinct by slaughtering humans but it would not necessarily have to be the way you choose to express you personal instincts. Certainly slaughtering other elves is "wrong".
There is still room for conflict and disagreement here though - as with human society - if one elves "expression" conflicts directly with anothers view of what is best for the greater good or even with their personal express of this. - diplomacy and violence cannot be performed openly from the same court against the same opponent simultaneously(well it can be but it tends to get very messy but you get my point)
Therefore politics has to ignore some of the individuals wishes for personal expression.
Part of the role of the Taelinri has to be to foster unity and understanding - not every piece in an orchestra has to play the some note - but unless the players understand harmony and cooperation only noise results.
Geeman "They do not differentiate between the individual good and the communal good for what is one without the other? Crime is rare in elven lands-except that introduced by other Cerilian races, of course." - so when does communal good become more important than the rights of the individual? If its not "right" for the communal good do elves even consider it as an expression of their individuality?
Being a chaotic race does not mean that you have to be chaotically oppositional.
I think defining the nature of elvish Chaotic nature/alignment may be rather important (but D&D alignments have always been annoying -providing a box full of stereotypes) as it is the underlying principle of their nature.
Last edited by Gman; 01-17-2008 at 07:22 AM.
01-19-2008, 11:39 PM #3
humans, so some degree of anthropomorphization is unavoidable. Our frame of reference is humanity; while it is clearly a limitation, it is all we have. What guesses we can make about the Sidhelien all have to start with the words, "If I myself were an elf, here's how I think I would feel about it." Therefore, any philosophy we advocate for the Sidhelien is nearly guaranteed to be something a real-world human philosopher once said.
elven children. Therefore, the education of children cannot be the primary purpose of the taelinri; sure, that's part of what they do, but that doesn't fill very much of their time. They are teachers, scholars, and advisors, but because almost no elves are children, almost all students and advice-seekers aren't children either. I think of them more as reference librarians; they are the people who enjoy answering questions like, "The humans next door want to make another treaty. Does anyone remember how many previous ones there were and how they ended?" Most elves just say, "Badly." The taelinri are the elves who answer, "Forty-seven in the last three thousand years. In order, their outcomes were..." It's like the difference between people who just like playing catch and those who like memorizing the batting averages of minor-leaguers from ninety years ago. Mostly it's just another eccentric hobby, but occasionally it comes in useful.
http://www.emersoncentral.com/selfreliance.htm to be pasted word-for-word into my post at this point (except for the occasional mention of god) as the best description of Sidhelien philosophy I can imagine. That's why I think your comment, "despite that respect and the value placed upon it the Sidhe often turn from it in practice" has got hold of the wrong end of the stick -- rejecting the advice of a taelinir about a specific topic *is* adherence to the primary commandment taught by all taelinri: make up your own mind. Doing one's own thing at all times is the greatest value any Sidhe can place on the advice of the taelinri.
source that says Tuarhievel went without any ruler at all for over four hundred years specifically because it took that long for any elf to get around to considering the good of his fellows. I ascribe the lack of conflict and crime among the elves largely to their fundamental nondependence on resources -- they can live perfectly well off nothing more than the magic of the land for countless years without ever *needing* to interact at all with another elf. They may wish to, but they are not required to, which makes them fundamentally different from humans. Psychologically and economically, humans are mostly herd animals: more like wolves than owls, more like sheep than turtles. Elves, I think, are the reverse. Humans need societies to survive, but elves don't have to have any society at all unless they think it would be fun to play a cooperative game together for a while. Human laws are necessary to healthy operation of the herd, and exile was long considered a punishment on par with execution; elven laws are little more than customary self-imposed restrictions like the D&D rules, which they can stop playing just by walking away, without any fear that exile can do them any real harm or will last longer than they wish it to.
I think the taelinri would phrase it thus: "Make your own decisions based on your own perception of your own good, and trust others to do the same. To impose your idea of goodness upon other elves by making assumptions about what is good for them is the height of rudeness and contempt. Doing your part to advance 'the good of all elvenkind' means nothing more or less than doing what you feel is good for you, because you are an elf and no one else can ever know better what is good for you than you do yourself." I think the only obedience which the elves think is not inherently evil is near-solipsistic obedience to your personal passions.
loyalty is to themselves.
throwing and breaking things when they get suddenly angry, or riding out to slaughter a village full of humans), but they don't often punch each other because punching hungry grizzly bears is much safer.
government) is rather sad and somewhat scary. "I'm glad there's some poor fool who wants to be king, because none of my friends would ever saddle themselves with such a terrible job!" I also think Sidhelien believe the citizen's greatest duty is to complain whenever the leader does something with which they don't agree, so much so that civil disobedience is the cultural norm.
leadership positions don't last very long by Sidhelien standards -- spending few centuries as king and then retiring may be the equivalent of a Roman consul's one-year term (after which re-election was quite rare). On the other hand, maybe the published material's contention that Tuarhievel has had only two rulers since Deismaar is true only because exactly two out of the many tens of thousands of elves who lived there during that time had the slightest interest in being king. For four hundred years after Deismaar, PSoT says there was no ruler at all -- if true, I think it implies the elven Land's Choice is so strong that the Thorn Throne was itself the domain-action-taking regent of Tuarhievel during that time.
01-20-2008, 02:50 AM #4
At 03:39 PM 1/19/2008, ryancaveney wrote:
>Unfortunately, all of us discussing them in this forum happen to be humans.... [snip]
I`ve had my suspicions for some time now, so let`s not jump to any conclusions....
>>it`d make more sense as a 10-12 page (at a guess) document that focuses on Sidhelien culture
>Of course! Before you can write about their place in society, you must decide what that society is like.
I`ve been putting a little, ancillary time into this document. I`ve been calling it "Secrets of the Sidhe" and my plan is to include at least one prestige class write up, and some game mechanical solutions to various Sidhelien issues having to do with magic, the Land`s Choice, sex, race relations and culture. I anticipate it will be complete within two Microsoft weeks, which as anyone familiar with MS scheduling knows, means anytime in the next fourteen months.
>------------ QUOTE ----------
>Listen, young one
>Here I think is the first glaring failure to be insufficiently non-human. =) In the very next sentence, you go on to say there aren`t many elven children. Therefore, the education of children cannot be the primary purpose of the taelinri; sure, that`s part of what they do, but that doesn`t fill very much of their time. They are teachers, scholars, and advisors, but because almost no elves are children, almost all students and advice-seekers aren`t children either. I think of them more as reference librarians.... [snip]
Sooner or later I`ll figure out exactly how to work into that vignette that the "young one" is 83 years old....
Without that noted, though, wouldn`t the rarity of the Sidhelien child merit education by his/er a taelinri tutor for at least part of that process? Taelinri could (and I think do) occupy the role you suggest even if they take a few years out of their busy immortality to educate the rare octogenarian adolescent. In fact, they`d probably be lined up to engage in such a vital (and rare) service.
>>the decision making process involved the good of all elvenkind
>Huh? Where did that come from? What in the original materials gives any sign at all that any given elf ever thinks about the good of all elvenkind?
Note: The full quote that goes along the lines that the taelinir TEACH that they make a decision with consideration of all elvenkind... whether elves actually do so is another matter.
I`m imagining the role of the taelinri as somewhere between Cassandra and that of Receiver of Memory in The Giver.... The taelinri see the world as hostile to the elves on the whole and find their role as one of education, pacification (within the community) and unification.
>...I think it implies the elven Land`s Choice is so strong that the Thorn Throne was itself the domain-action-taking regent of Tuarhievel during that time.
I haven`t really considered the role of the Land`s Choice yet, but I suspect it`ll go the route of that old (ancient in Internet terms) material bandied about regarding the Cerilian Gaia Hypothesis.... We`ll see.
Personally, I don`t see the Sidhelien as violent _within their communities_ at all. At least, they are "chaotic" but mostly that`s because their actions are labelled so by humanity. The Sidhe are beyond so crass (and human) a consideration as the line that defines law and chaos. Within what humans would describe as their chaotic nature, however, the Sidhe are pretty homogenous. Decisions are left up to the individual to make, but most reach very similar conclusions, or their conclusions only appear chaotic to humans because the Sidhe aren`t really concerned with the vagaries of mortal life. It isn`t until a mortal comes into their midst that things suddenly go berserk or, more accurately, that their fundamental unity of intention goes haywire. Imagine a cacophony of voices: "What shall we do with him? Kill him! Put flowers in his hair! Let him go! Where`s my harp? I`ll fight him for the honor of my ancesters. Me too! Not me. Ah, thank you, I like saffroncakes. Wait, where`d the human go? Hunt him down! I must write a poem about this...."
Last edited by Thelandrin; 01-20-2008 at 05:22 PM. Reason: Vertical length.
01-20-2008, 04:22 AM #5
Cerilian Sidhe, surely the rest of you can, too. That's why I said "unfortunately."
elven children are rare enough that taelinri have to have something else to do with most of their time, or they'd get really bored.
Level Five personality is supposed to be characterized by uniqueness and autonomy, not the martyrdom of becoming a public utility! But I digress.
The neatest idea I ever encountered in Forgotten Realms is the "selu ki'ira", or memory stones, of ancient Cormanthyr (yes, I'll buy just about any RPG supplement that has the word "elves" on the cover). They are little gemstones that noble elves wear on their foreheads like magical bindis, which record their memories as they happen. The stones are passed down through the generations, giving newcomers access to the experiences and advice of their predecessors, and becoming steadily more powerful and nearly sentient as they accumulate more and more recordings of elven personalities. I think Tuarhievel's Thorn Throne acts as such an item, allowing the current ruler to know what all the previous rulers over the last 18,000 years would have done in the same situation, and why, and how it turned out for them. I think taelinri serve a similar function -- a selu ki'ira is a taelinir in a USB drive. The reason I made the baseball statistician analogy is that I think most elves don't bother to remember most of their own experiences except in rather vague and general terms; IMO, the taelinri are precisely those elves who have decided to spend their time remembering every detail of everything that ever happened to them, and adding to that store of details by interviewing others to obtain and preserve theirs.
distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing."
01-21-2008, 12:04 AM #6
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
- Columbus, Ohio, United States
Regarding a sidhelien ruler "pitied by the rest"-- see the character Krosp
I, in the Phil Foglio webstrip Girl Genius-- he`s been genetically altered to
be ruler of all the world`s cats. But none of them listen to him, either, so
he`s rather grumpy. Unless you rub his belly or dangle string in front of
Last edited by Thelandrin; 01-21-2008 at 04:40 PM. Reason: The awnshegh of advertising strikes again!
01-22-2008, 10:35 PM #7
Gary, I did write a short summary of Sidhelien society and culture a number of years back (about 6 pages in small print), unfortunately, in German. I thought on translating the text, but the syntax is in parts quite complicated, and I don't know when and if I find the time to do this. Here's the basic outline of what I did:
I used what I had available on elves at that time as inspiration, which wasn't much. I also remember that I relied heavily on the social structure of the Drow as described in the old Menzoberranzan box and the 2e Drow of the Underdark as a source, with the evil bits removed.
The basic building block of Sidhelien society is a clan-like structure I termed Taeghyrion, often referred to as a 'house' and compared to noble houses by non-elves. The Taeghyrinn (the plural) are both social and economic entities which basically govern themselves and provide the necessities of life for their members. They also exert political influence and in this regard, they stand in friendly competition with each other.
Important decisions are always debated and decided in the Thadhelienti, an assembly into which each house sends a number of representatives according to its rank. The highest ranking houses also have the right to send a single representative to the Aerdar é Iashe Taeghyrinne, the council of the great houses, which advises the ruler and is responsible for the day-to-day politics in an elven nation.
This system makes the rank of a house very important for determining its political influnence, and here the Taelinri come into play. The achievements of each house determine its rank and its the duty of the Taelinri to evaluate each house. A Taelinir visits the Taeghyrion for a period of at least a year and determines its standing by a complicated system which takes into account its size, e.g. how many members it has, and its economic, cultural, military, and magical might. Using this system, a good poet can improve the rank of his house as well as or even more than a mighty warrior or a crafty artisan or mage.
During the time he stays with the house, the Taelinir also acts as a teacher and adviser to the house and tries to pass on his knowledge and abilities.
This task gives the Taelinri a real function in Sidhelien society I believe, apart from being detail-obsessed know-it-alls
Well, I realise that this might be too structured a view of the Sidhelien for some - heck, I'm not even sure I'd write it the same way now - and I don't know if you can use any of this, but if you want to have a few more details or happen to be able to read German and want to see the text, feel free to ask via post, message or mail.
Anyway, I really look forward to see what you come up with. The elven PC in my group has expressed her interest in becoming a Taelinir and so far, I don't really have a good idea how this could be accomplished, but for the time being I decided to use the Keeper of Songs prestige class published in Mongoose's Quintessential Elf as an entry requirement, which would make the Taelinri into a high-level second stage prestige class - though I'm not too sure that it even makes sense to develop them as a prestige class, given that they can come from all walks of life.
01-23-2008, 12:29 AM #8
At 02:35 PM 1/22/2008, Beruin wrote:
>Gary, I did write a short summary of Sidhelien society and culture
>a number of years back (about 6 pages in small print),
>unfortunately, in German. I thought on translating the text, but the
>syntax is in parts quite complicated, and I don`t know when and if I
>find the time to do this.
Do you have it in a document that you could post? My German is quite
rusty, so if the syntax is as complicated as you say I`ll probably
not get much more than the gist of the outline you`ve already
described, but there are a couple of folks around here who might like
to see it....
01-23-2008, 04:52 PM #9
elves in most D&D worlds, but in Cerilia I think it's much too structured. I envision Sidhelien "government" as more like New England town meetings, in that everyone may attend but few bother to, and the ability to sway an audience of your peers by the quality of your oratorical performance is an important determinant of your political power (bard is the class which non-monarchist politicians should prefer). I think it may be even more like house meetings in a college dorm or frat: meetings are announced in advance, but almost no one goes because almost no one cares -- until the next morning when the new rules are posted, and the people who dislike them organize attendance at the next week's meeting and promptly reverse whatever was decided in the first place.
Khinasi* society, with priests of Avani and Rilni playing the role of the taelinri.
Cerilian dark elf: a society composed entirely of management consultants. *shudder* Maybe ninja gnomes with laser guns and jetpacks would be better after all. :}
01-23-2008, 11:44 PM #10
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