The Good and the Green
The Good and the Green; An Examination of the Athasian Halfling Culture in the form of ater from Brandobaris, flailing adventurer of Ogo, to his dear friend, the elven priest and preserver Disnomos.
The Good and the Green: An Examination of the Athasian Halfling Culture
The Good and the Green; An Examination of the Athasian Halfling Culture in the form of ater from Brandobaris, flailing adventurer of Ogo, to his dear friend, the elven priest and preserver Disnomos.
By: Ernesto F. Santistevan
Dear friend Disnomos,
I hope thister helps in your learning of my peoples.
The Halfling world view is based on the philosophy of the Good and the Green. The Green are the rules of nature. We, the halflings, the other creatures of the forest, the plants, you, the people of the dry lands and even the world itself are parts of a greater whole. We each have a role in the world, we halflings are predators and prey as are other creatures of the world. The Good are the feelings within us that make us smile and rejoice. This is the feeling parental Kirre have upon slaying a sloth, they have at once destroyed a threat to their young and provided meat for them. It is a feeling of satisfaction, of knowing that which you value has been advanced and those who you care for are safer for your actions.
Within this philosophy we halflings know our place in the world and see our role within that whole. We also know our place within our own clans and race and our role there as well. I will go into both aspects more deeply in a moment.
Friend, the Good is rather ephemeral quality and difficult to explain to elves. It is the sense you have upon gaining a great deal of the yellow metal. I have seen you when it is in your hands, the smile, the eyes, the sense of joy. Now, imagine if you might have that feeling when holding other things, a flower for instance. We have that feeling often, walking beside a friend, sharing a hunt, protecting our young, great art, or even great efforts at poor art. You should learn to cultivate that feeling. It is not as metal in a mine, there is always more and that feeling grows faster as it grows larger, much like the jungle.
Halflings as part of the Green
We view ourselves as part of the Green, as much as any other animal that walks the face of Athas. As such, we hunt and are hunted and when we die, it is part of the Green cycle and the best we can hope is to have enjoyed the Good. You are also part of the Green whether you realize it or not, for you are born, hunt, mate, reproduce and die too. We are all part of that grand complexity that we call the Green. It is because of this recognition that we carefully examine the effects of our actions upon the Green and the subsequent effects upon the halfling race. This is something that your peoples could learn, what happens in one place to one elf affects all elves, and the actions of one elf ultimately affect the entire race. It is as if you somehow believe yourself separate from the Green.
As a side note, I mention that defilers are a crime against both the Good and the Green and will be eaten immediately, preferably in the method of a 1000 nibbles. How can such people claim intelligence? You could not find any creature poisoning their own lair, but this is what defilers do. This is the most damning evidence as to the barbarism of your races, you will not find halfling defilers.
Food, why things are...
I guess one of the first things I should explain is how we can eat other creatures such as elves (tasty), dwarves (chewy), humans (bland but can do the most with them), muls (nice blend), Thri-kreen (really, good only for spices) and half-giants (it’s time to invite the neighboring clan over!). Really though, I feel kind of silly explaining this. Suppose someone asked you why you ate that erdlu leg last night? Suppose they asked about the poor erdlu’s feelings, did it want to be eaten, suppose it had family, suppose it wanted to continue living, what about the family it cared for and protected? Simply put friend Disnomos, it doesn’t matter to the Green, you hunted and killed it so you get to eat it. I know, I know, you say elves are different, they can speak, they can think, they are "sentient." Please explain where is this line that is drawn between sentients and non-sentients? Is it the ability to speak? The ability to use the Way? What is it?
And suppose you even come up with a rule such as the ability to speak. How long do you think the sloth would pause before pouncing if you explained that because you have the ability to speak, you should not be eaten. And you say the sloth is a stupid creature and so can be excused, but many predators of enormous intelligence prey upon the so called civilized creatures. Is there some sort of value inherent to the life and body of elves, dwarves, humans, muls, thri-kreen and half-giants? If this is so, please tell me why you sell and kill each other so readily? I am puzzled as to the change in value a body takes for you between life and death. An elven tribe might kill an escaped mul gladiator for an insult made out of ignorance. They can kill because her life means so little, this despite what the mul might contribute to the security of the tribe if she were taken in. However, after slaying the mul, the elves would never consider eating the body for it’s nutrition despite having hungry children. Somehow, the body is given more value than the life it held. Tell me friend, suppose you saw a kirre slay a halfling and then refuse to eat it? What would you think of that kirre? This is how we perceive you.
I would also like to put an end to that ugly rumor you have mentioned to me. Halflings do not eat other halflings. I would like you to find me an example of cannibalism occurring regularly within the Green. It simply does not occur except by the most twisted and sick of individuals and I would bet, that there are much more instances of this happening within any of the human cities at this moment than within the last 10 King’s Ages of halfling history.
Even within your races, the mothering instinct is powerful is it not? Will not even the elven mother protect her young ferociously? Why is that my friend? It is because she is protecting the race of elves. Even the hardest of elven raiders would be hard pressed to slay an elven infant, that he could is again evidence of your savagery. We protect our children, our families, our clans and our species. Elven tribes regularly wage wars on each other, how many elven clans have been destroyed by this process? Halfling tribes will not do this and the only who die are our prey. We are stronger and safer as individuals and a species because our unity. We are part of a greater whole and recognize this, as such, we are better. Imagine how much safer all elves would be if they were also to recognize these unifying ties? Some might say that I am lessoning the strength of halflings in the Green by advocating this unity, perhaps, but I feel the increase in the Good more than compensates for that. Besides, I do not feel that intra-race fighting is at all natural and so elven unity would be more in accord with the Green anyway.
I have noticed that often you of the dry lands tend to act for gain that is beneficial only to you and only for the short run. This is at once sad and puzzling. We halflings have no problems with personal glory, in fact our history is chock full of glorious heroes and artists. What is sad is you strive for personal glory and by doing so, prevent yourselves from achieving it. me give you an example, suppose an elf becomes a great trader and collects mounds of the yellow metal, mold I believe you call it. When he has left this world, his heirs will collect that metal and will remember him briefly, but in some generations, will he be remembered? Tell me, who was the greatest trader in the city of Balic 4 King’s Ages ago?
How is glory achieved? Simply, it is not, it is thrust upon a person. A halfling will take his part in the Green, encourage the Good and perhaps it will inspire others. Then his story will be passed along because of it’s intrinsic value. I know the lessons of my people, their achievements and what they contributed to their clans, I do not know how many pieces of metal passed through their hands or how many berries they ate. We will all leave this world eventually my friend, the only lasting difference we make will be that which affects others, not ourselves.
Possessions and Ownership
A troubling habit you people have is this whole possession obsession. For example, remember when Kemender could not find that clear gem and was upset when he found me showing it to those elves? He really believed that he had some sort of bond with it, I’m still puzzled by his response. Really, he did not have an intrinsic bond with it no matter what superstitions he holds. I mean, he had stuck it in his backpack and it was awful pretty, why should it not be in light where it might be admired. But, I can see you’re confused already, me digress. The air in your lungs right now, it is yours or are you just using that air? Perhaps you might argue that as long as it is in your lungs, it is yours, but really, you’re just using it now and when you’re done it becomes any who chooses to breathe it in right? How would you see a person who walked around claiming that this air over there or this air was his because it was once breathed by him? People might be using something for the moment, but how can it be owned? I mean, really, do you really think that crystal had any bond with Kemender other than in his mind? Do you think it missed him when I picked it up? It’s a rock for the Green’s sake, you people have leave these superstitions behinds. It’s a very barbaric and annoying habit this ownership thing.
Of course, if Kemender was using the crystal at the moment, then that would be different, it would be rude to simply take it. It would also be rude to take something that a person uses regularly, for instance my favorite sling. Another halfling would not take it without a very good reason or asking first.
Another disgusting habit you have is that of taking each other as slaves. Do you see other species forcing members of their own race into servitude? How are elves supposed to advance as a race when they destroy themselves from within. It is a very foolish thing you do. Now, I can see using other races for your benefit, that is the way of the Green. Creatures use others for food, for protection, for anything that will advance their species. You keep kanks for their honey and transportation and this is good for your species. We also occasionally keep other species for their use, such as those that provide milk or meat.
Remember that caravan we passed, I am puzzled, how can you bear to see other elves in slavery? A halfling would do anything to free another halfling from that fate. You have asked me why halflings will starve themselves when captured. It is this simple my friend, suppose the kank provided you with no benefits, would you continue to capture them? We have seen what happens to species who are valuable as commodities and have no wish to join their ranks. Even creatures a powerful and intelligent as muls are more often than not kanks because of their value as commodities. A halfling seeing another in slavery sees herself and her race in jeopardy. The drive to protect one’s race is powerful, it is testimony to the perversion of your races that you are able to overcome it at will.
I would say, in general, we halflings will slay slavers out of hand if possible as they who would traffic in their own flesh are abhorrent to the nature of the Green and distasteful to the Good.
Friend Disnomos, have you notice the pride that I carry my spear with? It is because you decorated the shaft and head with elven runes and the story of how we met. It has meaning to you and I and it’s value is something that can never be traded, it is something you and I will carry forever, truly priceless eh? Remember how we escaped the thri-kreen raid on the caravan and you carried me into the desert with a swiftness that left me breathless? You told me the reason that you saved was because two might stand the trials of the desert better than one and you had heard many things of the Ringing Mountains and wished to learn more of them. It was then that I knew you were an outstanding member of your species, practical and inquisitive. Truly you carry the seeds of civilization for your people. Shortly after that we discovered the silvery metal and you were excited and puzzled that I had no interest in it. Silly elf, what use would a fifth of my body weight in metal do me in the middle of the desert? You said we could trade for this and get that and do this, but, that metal is now long gone and those memories endure. This spear is symbolic of those memories and tells the story of our meeting in your language, to me it is very valuable. The trading value of a gift is nothing, it what the gift symbolizes, if it can be traded then it is not a gift, but a barter.
I would only give this spear to my daughter or son and then only as a symbol of my Good towards them. They would value it as much as I do even though a steel spear might be better for fighting. This spear is not a barter for our friendship, nor is it a weapon except in form, it is a symbol of our friendship and so is as valuable as our friendship.
You have been often confused at my reluctance to share your pursuit of metals and gems to the exclusion of other things. I can assure you that your confusion matches my own of your behavior toward metals and gems. You believe that these things can bring you happiness, can lead you to the Good I would say. You are wrong, they cannot. Remember the feeling we enjoyed after battling the defiler, the sensation of struggle and triumph? What coin can buy that feeling of life? Remember when we thought Bhalt dead and yet he managed to cling to life long enough for you to heal him. How many coins would you sell that experience for? What do you think of the spoiled human who sits in an estate and is surrounded by gold and never experiences that feeling? Would you trade lives with him? We do not crave mold because we know it is worthless next to the Good. I think you know that also, but you forget sometimes, that is why I must remind you dear friend.
Trade with halfings
We are not completely alien to you in terms of trading and things of value, we simply have a more clear view of an item’s worth. What might you trade to a halfling? We are great connoisseurs of any kind of art as you know by my appreciation of your carving skills. We also really enjoy cooking. I know of an elf who was a guest of our clan for almost two weeks, each night he prepared a new meal and shared his secrets. He left the Ringing Forest with a halfling escort and well supplied, he was a civilized creature and while we might have eaten him in leaner times, we did not. We felt he was more a benefit to the Good and the Green as a learner and a teacher than as part of the food chain. Similar incidents have happened with Rangers, Bards, Gladiators and Preservers. Most Priests and Druids are often given special consideration in regard to their strong link with the Green. Still it is important to remember my friend, simply because a creature is beneficial to the forest does not mean it is unpleasing to the palate.
We also trade for eminently practical items such as rope, skins, maps and other things. In fact, King Hamanu trades obsidian for the services of halfings. It was partly the stories from my friends who served there that encouraged me to leave the forest to explore. Basically, we are a people willing to trade for items or services that are useful or pleasing, after all, we are civilized.
Hiring a halfling
How might you hire a halfling? I think you might already have realized how, simply offer us something we would like. If I haven’t made the point already, never offer a halfling gold for a service, this is a grave insult. For this is implying that we would trade the Good for some metal, it is an offer to sell ourselves into slavery. Sure it might be a limited time, but is not all slavery limited in time by one’s mortality?
Some might think to capture a halfling, as I have mentioned, halflings will refuse to eat or drink. Fundamentally, creatures that do poorly in captivity are not worth capturing and we intend to do very poorly in captivity.
Probably the best way to work with a halfling is to simply explain how whatever service appeals to the predator and explorer within her. If what you to do cannot appeal to these instincts, then you will have to trade a great deal. There is a story of a halfling raid and subsequent feast upon an elven tribe. This tribe was harassing the traders of Urik and then retreating to the base of the Ringing Mountains. The information and the benefit to both the halflings and Hamanu did more for his bargaining position than any amount of silly mold.
As you can see, we are an eminently civilized peoples. Another indicator of this is our relatively low level of crime. We have no theft because we all realize that we only use things, not have some metaphysical bond with them. We are considerate and never use something that another is using as that would be rude. We like any creature protect our species against others and because we are more cunning, able to enjoy the Good in addition to living within the Green. Still my friend, there is illness even within our species. I have heard tales of halflings who have fed on the flesh of other halflings. What did we do? Well, how would you perceive an animal that decided to eat it’s own instead of it’s natural prey? Obviously it is very ill and a danger to the entire species, we do also. We have no incidence of defilers, something you should remember before you start pointing fingers and making claims to being civilized.
Meeting my people...
So friend Disnomos, now we come to the point of all this, how might you be able to deliver my story to my people and continue to live. In general I would suggest you take this point of view. Suppose a wild and dangerous, though very intelligent creature approached you? You would evaluate it’s danger, how it might benefit you in terms of trade, or nutrition and then make a decision. Suppose you were hungry and a lizard approached and offered to trade you something you did not need, what would you do? Same here, we would not be hungry much longer. Along these lines, you might make yourself more dangerous than they are hungry. For instance if I were alone, hungry, weaponless and encountered a sloth. I would have to be very hungry (or much more schooled in the Way), to try to make a meal of the sloth. Fundamentally, you want to be worth more alive and happy than you are as a meal, what could be more simple than this?
Yet one more way might be to attach yourself as being of use to another halfling. me explain, suppose I sent you with an important message to my clan chief and you were to return with his reply. He would not eat you unless things were very bad indeed as that would very rude of him, after all, I am waiting for his reply. If he did eat you though, I’m sure it would be for a very good reason. This is similar to using and possibly eating the erdlu another person is depends upon regularly.
I have asked you to take my story back home should I join the Green before I return. You have agreed, and so I give some very specific advice should this happen. You are my friend and I do not wish for your life to end before it has explored all that it should. When you meet my tribe, explain that you carry a message from me, and I wish it read before you are eaten. it would be rude of them to ignore that. In my message, I have told a great deal of you and our clan here in the desert. I fervently hope that they will recognize you as being almost civilized as I have and will realize your value as an artist, storyteller and teacher. You have much to offer the world Disnomos, it is a pity you prostitute yourself for metal. I realize that if you try to find my clan yourself, you might end up lost or stumble into another clan or all sorts of bad things might happen as you explore the forest. I would suggest you travel to Urik and find the halflings who serve in King Hamanu’s army. Show them the quipu you carry for me and ask their advice. Most likely you can travel up with some of them during the regular change of forces. The halflings escorting you up should be able to assure your safety. However, times might be lean and you might just want to give the quipu to them and ask them to deliver them further.want to meet you in person.