Humans, the Half-Made

Let us return this week to exploring Akhelas, the First Land, in the setting of the Endless Lands. My previous post began exploring the setting’s creation and cosmology. For today, let’s talk about humanity.

The origin of humans in the Endless Lands begins with a folk story, “How Papa Thrun Earned His Wings.” I largely discovery-wrote that story. In many ways, “Thrun” was a pebble which triggered a long chain of creative exploration. It is about a little fantasy creature, Papa Thrun, going on a journey to visit First Dragon and thank the ur-god for creating Papa and Mama Thrun. First Dragon asks Papa Thrun to try creating something, and the result is a Half-Made. Amused, First Dragon grants Papa Thrun a boon, and that’s why thruns have wings.

This led to a few basic concepts about the setting’s biology. First, the “basic form” has six limbs, not four. The dragons of the Endless Lands are your standard European dragons in shape. Big lizards with two arms, two legs, two wings, long scaly tail, and bad breath. As creator deities, the Nine fashioned living creatures in their image. I oscillate back and forth whether to describe creatures such as the goat-yak shihrak or the crocodilian jikeeyivet with Earthly analogues, or to lean in to the weirdness when writing fiction. I’ve explored non-terrestrial flora in a similar way—one such work is “The Nine Magic Trees of Jairen.”

The important part for today, though, is that humans do not follow this model.

As you may know from personal experience, humans are squishy mostly-hairless critters which usually have four limbs. Thus, the peoples of each culture group I’ve tinkered with think of themselves as being Half-Made.

I don’t know if the story about Papa Thrun is historically “true” in the Endless Lands, but its “meaning” is true. Humans really are the Half-Made. Humans are incomplete, and that makes them important. They have potential for change and growth in ways that other creations do not. The Half-Made are not divine, but nonetheless they are capable of creation.

This is important, and ties back in to the setting’s metaphysics. Creation is an ongoing process. The Vessel expands infinitely, giving rise to manifold permutations of the Endless Lands. Wrapped in the Light, continued creative activity generates magical energy. Creation sustains the universe, while the Void’s entropic principle seeks to break into the Vessel and end it. (As an aside, one of the setting’s great philosophic mysteries is whether or not the primal forces of Light and Void can be called “sentient.”) The human creative impulse—not just art, but also procreation, compassion, changing lives, exploring natural principles, all of it—helps sustain the world.

In turn, this led me to a realization about the magical ecology of the Endless Lands. The natural world is living, sentient, which manifests as spirits antagonistic to the Half-Made. Not “hostile,” and certainly not “evil.” But antagonistic, so that the Half-Made are forced to continue growing, changing, improving.

Life is a challenge to overcome, a problem to solved, a battle to win.

Until next time, then.

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