Endless Blue – Week 128 – Myths Among the Waves   Leave a comment

Folklore

Myths Among the Waves

Folklore is way to explain that which is beyond simple education. Through parable, what it means to be piscean, to be part of a particular culture, can be shared with succeeding generations. The following three stories are examples of how folklore shapes the minds in the Endless Blue.

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell

Perhaps the most ubiquitous parable in the Endless Blue is the tale of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. While variations are found in most all cultures, it is unique in that any number of morals can be drawn from its narrative.

Anchored on the natural process that bivalve mussels (like clams and oysters) use that produces pearls, the parable tells of how a tiny speck gets caught between the mussel and its shell. The rough speck digs into the body of the mussel, scraping and cutting the tender flesh. In response, the mussel slowly excretes nacre, which coats the speck in a smooth coating. Thus it lubricates the irritant for a moment.

With time the nacre hardens, and the burgeoning pearl again begins causing friction for the mussel. More nacre is excreted, the pain is eased, and the cycle continues. As the pearl slowly grows, the mussel is entranced with the process. Idyllically it basks in iridescent glow of the pearl, marveling at its beauty, lost in the intriguing growth. How large will it grow? How much will it be worth? Will it ever stop hurting?

Time passes, the pearl grows, and the mussel finds that the once tiny irritant has now become a massive growth. No longer can the bivalve close its shell, and thereby leaves a vulnerable spot open to the elements and predators.

From this point, the resolution of the parable varies. Some tellings say the pearl grew so large that eventually it occupied more space in the shell than the mussel itself, and the animal is forces out of its shell, where it is preyed upon by predators. Or the shell finally cracks from the pearl’s expansion, ruining the mussels protection and again leaving it vulnerable. Other versions tell how the mussels ultimately expelled the seductive gemstone, and thus was spared those horrible fates.

Different cultures derive different moral lessons from essentially the same story:

– that ignoring a problem too long will lead to worse results. If the speck had been expelled as soon as it was felt, none of the negative consequences would have happened.

– that obsession blinds you to the world around you, a sort of “curiosity killed the cat”. The mussel was so intrigued by the growing pearl that it put its own safety aside to see how large it could be cultured, to the creature’s detriment.

– that unfettered greed will lead to ruin. A similar variation as above, but focuses on the pearl’s beauty/monetary value and how mussel was so preoccupied with the growing pearl that it failed to see how it caused the animal’s demise. This is a favorite interpretation by the Church of Olyhydra, and seen as apocryphal to Mershaulkites and followers of Avarita.

– that any obstacle can be overcome eventually. This is a tale of warning, where the mussel ultimately realizes the danger the pearl represents and saves itself. By persevering, continuing to try in the face of great odds, anyone can succeed.

– that suffering through adversity rewards us in the end, paralleling the “whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” idiom.

– that even treasure can be found in the ugliest of places, a version of the ugly duckling story that concentrates on the unattractiveness of the mussel’s shell and slimy bodily appearance.

– that death is natural and can lead to beautiful things. In this version, the tale continues with the harvesting of the pearl by a piscean artisan and made into beautiful jewelry, usually a ring then used to woo another into marriage.

Source: Most all Elquan cultures

The Rainbow Eel

The Rainbow Eel is a parable from a time when pisceans ascribed primal powers to animal spirits. These spirits represented an ideal of what it meant to be the creature, but also the embodiment of some aspect of piscean nature.

The Rainbow Eel was believed to a beautiful, scintillating representation of eels. Long and lithe, speckled with rainbow scales, it glittered in the water where ever it swam, breaking the light into its component colors. Obsessed with her own appearance, she was known to swim in long arcs, circling around and around, mesmerizing herself and any whom gazed upon her with the scattering of light on her scales.

Named after the extra-aquatic phenomenon of rainbows, the Rainbow Eel also represented the treacherousness all pisceans expect from the abominations that prowl the Vastness. The Rainbow Eel was known to be fickle, sometimes welcoming pilot fish to preen parasites from her elongated body, only to turn on them suddenly and consuming them whole.

The story goes that the Lernygne Lax, incessantly pursued by predators of the wild, desperately sought sanctuary among some “blooming dark water [that] billowed up from the sea floor”. There it hid in fear for itself, all the while the boiling waters slowly cooking it flesh. This in turn attracted more hungry sea life, until the area swarmed with hunters.

Even the Rainbow Eel could taste the hint of simmering salmon in the waters, and taking advantage of her long, lithe body, dove into the poluted water after the Lax. Her flesh sizzled from the heat and her eyes burned from the chemicals, yet she did not falter in her aim. Her maw wide open, she bit down upon the helpless Lernygne Lax.

The moment her teeth pierced the Lax’s succulent meat, the gift of knowledge struck her. She realized her folly. The heat and chemically infused water had blackened her once prismatic scales, and her eyes glossed over with cataracts. She recoiled, and as the collected hunters watched her thrashing, the Lax escaped.

The Rainbow Eel regained her composure, and the gift of the Lax left behind showed her everything she had lost. Blinded, she could never gaze upon her own, or any, beauty again. Ruined, her burnt scales lost their glamour, and with nothing left but her own cruelty, she was abandoned by her admirers.

Except for the loyal pilot fish. Only they stayed with her, not caring her former luster was gone. For coming so close to her body the pilot fish could see what other could not; if you looked closely enough, the faintest traces of the Rainbow Eel’s opalescence could still be seen in her scales.

Source: Spiritualist Folklore

Sedna

The chronicle of Sedna is a creation myth from the Book of the Idolatry. Sedna was a demigod, the child of Acedia (Ahto) and Gula (Icthara). As the offspring of indolence and gluttony, she is the representation of unslaked hunger, of forced fasting and missed meals, of failed feasts and ruined repasts.

When Acedia first withdrew from Elqua, he left the firstborn Sedna alone, unable to fend for herself. Wracked with hunger pains, her stomach churning, gurgling madly, she tried to wake her sleeping father. Unresponsive, Acedia slept.

As the hunger drove her to desperation, she again tried to awaken the slumbering Acedia, grabbing and shaking him violently, causing the sea-quakes felt across the Known World.

Groggily, Acedia batted her away with a blow so mighty it took her hours to return. Again she tried to rouse him, and again he buffeted her away. This is where the tides come from.

Finally tired of being repeatedly banished, Sedna dug her fingers into Acedia’s gills and hung on for dear life. She bit into him, driven by starvation. If he would not feed her, he would serve as her meal.

In pain, Acedia lashed out, severing Sedna’s fingers. Her fingers were carried away on the tides. The fingers of her left hand became the whales, dolphins, and porpoises of Elqua, while the fingers of her right became the seals, walruses, and dugongs. As she bled into to waters, the droplets of blood became the algae known as Cruor, which cause the Red Tide when they bloom.

Unable to swim and emaciated from hunger, she was dragged across the oceans by its currents, her hair falling out and settling along the seabed, becoming the kelp forests.

In her anguish, tears poured from her eyes, flowing into the brine rivers and forming brine pools and lakes where most all life is desiccated by her bitterness.

All the while, Acedia slept, dreaming of a world his child would never see.

Source: The Book of the Idolatry

Be it through idiom, parable, or myth, folklore serves as the unifying ideals that a culture holds dear. It gives voice to the voiceless, direction to the directionless, and insight to those whom seek vision.

If the cultures of Elqua have anything in common,
it is the need to tell stories that empower themselves.
— Unknown.

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