THE MULLOG ORIGIN MYTH ("KOTAIRITENGA")

PREVALENCE HISTORY/ORIGIN/PURPOSE - IMPORTANCE - STORY 

Known among the mullogs as "Kotairitenga", this is the oldest and most central story in the rich oral culture of the race. It isn’t a creation myth, as the mullogs have little opinion of exactly where orcs and halflings came from; in a way they’re too distant to be worth thinking about. This tells the story of how their race came to be, and as such holds great historical as well as cultural worth. The myth centres on the first recorded leader of the mullogs, Naulé. His bones can still be found, mostly attached to very important Ehpi talismans or ancestral amulets. It also tells of the great Ehpi Galumbé, the spirit from which the entire marshland takes its mullog name.

Prevalence. This story is almost unknown outside of the mullogs’ home range of the Silvermarshes, or "Galumbé", as they call it. However, within that range it is ubiquitous; it is a myth for mullogs, addressed to mullogs, though lately, with the help of translators, it has started to travel through the very few non-mullogs allowed within their homeland, and thus out into the wider world. In this case, it has been translated and recorded by the mullog researcher Lumbe Bloggson, whose mixed hobbit-mullog ancestry allows him entry into the Galumbé and a good knowledge of the language. Return to the top

History/Origin/Purpose. The myth tells of the origin of the mullogs as a race, and the first section especially details the history of their ignoble beginnings. A brief summary of the known facts follows:

In the year 822 b.S., halflings fleeing a massacre by Epheronian soldiers arrived on an area of uninhabited marshland known as the Silvermarshes. Having nowhere else to go, they were forced to try to settle the harsh lands. Over the course of the following years they dwindled steadily in numbers, barely able to survive on the marshes. By 288 b.S., only a handful remained, some of whom are reputed to have begun to show strange physical changes as a result of the harsh terrain, and most likely also a degree of inbreeding.

In 288 b.S., the refugees were joined by a group of orcs, seeking refuge after the defeat of their leader, known as Hourelin. Exiled by their kind and hunted by humans, they too sought refuge in the Silvermarshes, and were reluctantly taken in by the halflings, not that it’s likely they had much choice in the matter.

Accounts of how halflings and orcs formed a united society are uncertain – some reports suggest that the orcs raped and subjugated their already weakened halfling neighbours, whilst others cite the orcs as being more co-operative and friendly, as those more aggressive members of their group had already been killed off before they came to the Silvermarshes. Either way, the alliance seems to have been uneasy at first, growing slowly over time as the increasing desperation of orcs and halflings was metered out by the birth of mixed race children whose unusual resilience and adaptability rendered them well suited for life in the marshes. The first
mullog leader, named Naulé Proudrak, is reputed to have greatly aided in uniting the people by officially declaring the Silvermarshes, or "Galumbé", as it would thenceforth be known, the territory of his people. The mullogs eventually outlived their parents, who they remember by the names of “great ones” (orcs) and “tender ones” (halflings). Return to the top

Importance. Incalculable. The sheer age and subject matter makes this story among the most treasured of any
mullog story. It is memorised word for word by many, and parts of it are quoted as curses, blessings, or proverbs frequently. The performance of the myth, with several skilled storytellers reciting it in a strange musical mixture of harmony and gesture, is one of the greatest aspects of mullog culture. I can only apologise that the translated version loses so much of the vibrancy and beauty of the original language, unchanged for centuries. Return to the top 

Story. The myth of the Kotairitenga is split into several section, each one titled according to a specific theme:

Part one: in which the great and tender ones are gathered together in the arms of the marsh

In the beginning, there was the end of two peoples. There was a war, a long time ago and a long way away, far off in the dream landscape of outside-land. Our parents were the tender ones; were a quiet people, of smiles and songs and open-armed welcomes. But the world they lived in did not carry such happiness. A strange and fierce people, the men, came down and found the tender ones in their path. The tender ones, bearing in the eyes of men the crime of being in the way, were swept aside, crushed and scattered like fungi before the arrogant feet of a stilted elk.
 

The Silvermarshes
View picture in full size Image description. The tender ones ended up lost and alone in the marshes. Pic by Bard Judith.

The tender ones found themselves lost and alone, and came into the arms of the marshes. Here they struggled, as living creatures do, for survival, forgetting as they did so their smiles and songs, which were left shining in the footprints they planted on the wild, untouched mud of the marshes. These were a gentle people, not hardened by mist and mire, and the marshland to them was a terrible exile. They dwindled, picked off slowly, by poison, drowning, starvation, or the thorny teeth of kaimuni.

The marsh, though, was not content to let its new orphan children fade into the morning mist. As the numbers of the tender ones shrank to a few dozen, a new silhouette appeared on the horizon. These were a wilder people, their skins hard like sun-bleached wood, their bodies heavy and strong as kaimuni, with teeth as sharp and curved. These were the great ones, and they were fleeing war, just as the tender ones had. Forced to take refuge in the marshes by those who hunted them, they found the tender ones, and the two fearful people saw in each other a common aim – to survive, to forget their hardships and build some kind of future for themselves.

Though they realised that they must come together if either wanted to survive, the alliance was an uneasy one, and the air rang with tensions and fear. They banded together out of a desperate need, but soon they were fighting as much among themselves as with the marshes. Every day was a battle, and it seemed every day they lost a little harder.

Part two: in which the children of the marshes inherit the despair of their parents

The marsh found itself burdened by a people who seemed set on treating their home as an enemy. Something, however, was changing, and with the emergence of fresh alinfa lily spears in spring, new life found its way to the lost people of the marshlands. Ghostly children were born, whose bodies combined traits of both tender and great ones. These young creatures were stronger than their parents, they had skin smooth and tough and pale as cloud, like waterworn pebbles. They had teeth that caught the light like those of the great ones, pointed and hungry as fishes. They had long, strong limbs and their feet found grip in water or mud as easily as if they were walking on air. They lost the downy hair of the tender ones, but kept their childlike faces and bright, fragile smiles.

These were the new mullog children, yet another source of fear for the struggling people. The land was changing their bones and skin, it was turning them into ghosts. Many adults found despair in this, and it seemed no good could come from the birth of such mongrels. The tender ones and the great ones continued to be picked off one by one, until very few were left. We keep their names and their bones, and remember them as the first ancestors.

With the fading of the great and tender ones, a new fear stole upon the remaining people. They were like abandoned children, and they felt it keenly. They found survival in the marshlands easier than their parents had– they could walk in the mud without it eating at their feet, they could live better off the food they found, and they could hunt with teeth and claws and small agile forms far better than either the tender or great ones. But this was small comfort when the future seemed so empty. They were a people without songs or stories, they were children who did not know how to play and could not learn to dream on their own.
 

They had a leader, and though still young he was the oldest of the mullog children. His name was Naulé. He cared fiercely for his people, loving them with the ferocity of the great ones and the compassion of the tender ones. His eyes were green and lonely and faraway, like someone staring into a deep pool and seeing their Eru stare back. [Eru is a term used by the mullogs to refer to the spirit or soul that inhabits any object, living or dead.] But his hope alone was no help, and things got worse. People clustered together closer than ever, but their minds built high dark walls. It was a silent time, as people had forgotten how to sing. Naulé forced himself to hope and to feel keenly every pain that his people bore. But he didn’t find himself hating the marsh as others did. Whenever he looked at it he remembered how it had opened its silver arms to his ancestors when other lands spurned them and cursed them.

Part three: in which Naulé seeks help and learns how to dream

One day he went away, seeking desperately for something that would help his people to find their way in the marshes, to feel that they belonged here. He walked for a long time, until he was painted with black mud, and too tired to move. Exhausted he collapsed, and a whistling beetle saw him. He murmured to the beetle “What should I do now?”

To his surprise, it replied, in a happy shrieking voice, “Be happy and calm! Make a bright light and a sweet fragrant smoke, to invite good spirits. Watch the flames and let them guide you to softer places. But please, wherever you go, my friend, you must keep your hands and face clean of mud. Keep them as pale as stone and you will find all you ask for.” Naulé was confused, and asked the beetle “why should I do such a thing?” but the beetle merely sang its “this is my home” song, and flew away. Naulé watched it go, wondering why it should give such advice, but following it nonetheless as it was the only advice he had. He set to lighting a fire, and gathered frent and squilla fungi, which he burned to help the flames and give a sweet, soft smelling smoke. Deeply tired by his travels, and calmed by the smell of the fire, Naulé fell asleep. He seemed to wake instantly, standing in a world which seemed similar to the marshlands, but somehow more ancient and altogether more alive. Of, course, my friends, Naulé the hopeful had travelled to the spirit world. With the help of clever whistling beetle he had discovered the method of Ohs-er-dan. He had learned how to dream, as only mullogs can.

Wondering at the strange and beautiful landscape, breathing the spirit of he marshlands (but somehow different from the marshes Naulé had lived in until then) he wandered in the spirit world. As he walked, he saw figures watching him from the other side of streams or the branches of trees, and they gazed at him with eyes like the movement of light on a fish’s flanks. These were the ancestor spirits, watching silently their child as he walked through this eerie land. Many reached out to him with hands like age-blackened roots. They called out to him in voices that, though they seemed painfully familiar to Naulé, had no meaning to him. In the spirit world, there is no language without understanding, and these first ancestors had not learnt to understand the marshlands. The advice they cried out to him, the love and apologies they showered on poor Naulé sounded to him like someone singing underwater. Scared and tearful at the sad cries of the ancestors, he turned away and hurried onwards, looking for some creature that might help him and his people.

He walked until he saw a forest lying on its side, as if it were asleep. The trees lay leafless on each other like snakes, winding together into a thick mat. A colossal man made of dark earth was stroking the sleeping trees, singing them a low slow song which makes them knit closer together, and shuddered like a thunderclap in the pit of Naulé’s stomach.

Part four: in which Naulé converses with the earth giant
 
The Earth Giant
View picture in full size Image description. Naulé meets the earth giant. Picture by Arbaon.

It stood among the woven mats of gently breathing tree spirits like a great leader. It was massive, the biggest living creature Naulé had ever seen. It had great limbs more smooth and powerful than those of the great ones, and its skin shone like bare earth after a rainstorm. Its head was like a standing stone half buried in its colossal torso. Its flesh was the colour and texture of peat. From where he stood Naulé could see it moving the trees closer together, weaving them into a living river as they dreamed leafy dreams.

This creature surely must have some advice to offer the young leader; its every movement seemed weighted with wisdom and experience. The mullog began tentatively to climb down towards it.

When he was at the base of the little hill, he shouted out to the spirit – “who are you, earth giant? My name is Naulé Proudrak, and I seek advice if you have any to give.”
The figure made no sign it had noticed his cry, and continued in its slow work.

Naulé decided it might not have heard, and moved closer. When he was standing at the edge of the slumbering patch of forest, he spoke out again; “who are you, silent weaver? I am the leader of a despairing people, why do you not respond?” this last was uttered as again the creature offered no acknowledgement of Naulé’s call.

This close by, he found himself shuddering with fear at the power and size of the giant. Each of the trees was thicker than Naulé’s slender body, and growing constantly with a snake-like motion that from afar he had mistaken for the hushed breathing of a sleeping forest. Now it looked nothing like a collection of tree spirits, but like a river of serpent spirits with no heads, but instead endless probing branches. Yet the towering figure seemed to know easily how to calm the many probing shoots, pushing them gently into a complex pattern so that the many creatures were one greater spirit. There was an air of sadness as well as power in the movements of the giant, and it caused Naulé to remember once more his own despair. With a wail of melancholy he murmured “my people are waiting to die and we are lost and alone and very afraid. Perhaps I should hate this marsh on which we seek refuge, like others do. But whilst I still have hope I cannot, and whilst we are still alone I cannot rest until I have tried everything to save us. I do not know who you are, earth-boned figure, but I ask for your help.”

Finally the spirit paused, and Naulé saw that its work was finished. The river spirit it had built was calm and growing smoothly, weaving itself as it went, taught by the massive earth-scented figure. Lifting its head, the giant looked down at Naulé with eyes as deep and old as anything has ever been, and spoke in a voice that bound within it the silence of the marshlands, the vastness of the sky and the stillness across every pool.

“You are not so lost as you think, lonely Naulé. Look at your skin, smell how it is scented with the quiet peat of these marshes, in which your ancestors are buried. You are a child of this land, as are your people. I have taken you into this place and given you a chance to belong here, to be safe from the fearsome world outside. I have already helped you, though I will gladly help further.“

Wonderingly, Naulé smelt his skin, and found that, though he had taken care, as the beetle spirit had advised, to keep his palms spotless, they bore indelibly the soft cool scent of marsh mud. Here in the spirit world, his flesh was made of the earth. Looking up at the spirit, he knew that this was the spirit of the marshlands, who had altered the children born to the exiles, putting mist in their skins and earth in their bones to make them stronger. This figure was a father to them as much as any of the great or gentle ones. His voice faltering Naulé asked the spirit a final time for its name. The great figure gazed passively down at Naulé, and then stooped to pick him up in a gentle hand, strong as water, soft as mist. Lifting him it spoke in a voice that was every drop of water, every sigh of wind, every cry of bird or beast or insect – “I am Galumbé, first of the Ehpi of this land, creator of those that follow after!”

Part five: in which the mullogs find their place in the Galumbé

Below Naulé’s dangling feet, he could see the river-spirit begin to stir. It was waking, a new spirit in a new world. From this height he could see many other spirits stirring – a poisonous moon-eyed figure who must be Eru swampstalker; a glittering doe-eyed bird-like insect, standing mountain-high, who surely was one of the Ehpi Waterfalls; a creeping black-and-blue swarm moving as one who must be Ehpi sinking-mud. Everywhere new spirits were moving through the spirit world, woken and made aware of his presence by the joyful cry of their parent Galumbé, and the sight was so beautiful and so fiercely alive that Naulé could do nothing but laugh like a child, happy to be the first mullog to feel truly at home.

He awoke suddenly as the fire went out, extinguished by other mullogs, who stood about him with anxious faces, worried to have lost their leader for so long, scared that he might be ill or hurt, or have given up like some of the others.

Naulé the brave and hopeful looked on their eyes, their silver and green eyes like fresh lifereed hung with cold morning dew, and leapt up, smiling and shouting “I have a story to tell you, my friends!”

This is our story, which ends with its own beginning like a bronze grass snake chewing on its own tail. Galumbé is an old spirit who is not often seen, as he prefers to watch and smile at us. Naulé talked with him many times during his lifetime, and through the great Ehpi he learnt of the other powerful spirits within the marshes, and how to talk to them in ways they will understand and respect. This is not an easy land to live in, but it is the land that chose us, and we will survive, forever, as the people who are not so alone as we seem.
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 Date of last edit 31st Singing Bird 1669 a.S.

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