Thursday, March 7, 2013

Greyhawk: Origins of the Oeridian People

Can you guess where this is heading?
We know from the history of Eastern Oerik that the Oeridian peoples came to the Flannaes from the west, sweeping across the eastern portion of the continent, pushing aside Suloise and Flannish peoples alike to dominate the region politically (The Great Kingdom), linguistically (Common Tongue), and even calendrically (C.Y.).   It's possible that their dominance even gave name to the continent (Oerik) and the planet (Oerth) of which the Flannaes are a part.  But we don't really know for certain where these fierce peoples came from.

We do know that, harried by the humanoid mercenaries employed by the Bakluni in the Baksulian Wars, the Oeridians began migrating eastward from their homelands somewhere west of the vast mountain chains that separate the Flannaes from western Oerik.  Thanks to the chronology in the Gazetteer, we also know that this migration peaked in 187 O.R. (Oeridian Reckoning, subtract 644 to determine C.Y dates). But official sources are somewhat vague about the actual source of the migrations.

If we take the map of migrations in the Gazetteer as accurate, see figure 1, it would appear that the Oerid people originated in the environs of the Dry Steppes.  However, the text describes the Dry Steppes as the once-fertile homeland of the Bakluni peoples, rendered inhospitable by the Invoked Devastation.  No mention is made that Oeridians ever occupied this area. 
Figure 1. Map of migrations to Flannaes, Gazetteer (1980)

Perhaps addressing this very concern, the map of migrations in 1983's  A Guide to the World of Greyhawk moves the label of the Oeridian migratory arrow to indicate that maybe the Oeridians came not from the Dry Steppes, but from Ull [see figure 2].  The Guide describes the area as being the homeland of "a strong tribal clan of Paynim nomads."  Again, no mention is made of the Oeridians ever having lived there.

Figure 2. Guide map (1983)
It is conceivable that the Oeridians were completely uprooted from their "native" lands.  But the question it raises is why wouldn't the cataloguer who compiled the Guide and Gazetteer--who betrays an Oeridi-centric worldview elsewhere in the tomes--have mentioned the significance of these lands to the Oeridian people when the map indicates that the two are inextricably linked? 

To further obfuscate the matter, the Old Oeridian language is described as:
"A younger language, totally free of outside influences until a few centuries ago.  As a result, its linguistic components are unique and translation into any language except Common is all but impossible." (p. 8, Gygax 1980) 
This works well with the chronology which sets the Oeridian Reckoning of years as the most youthful calendar in Oerik--other than the Aerdian Empire's conflated "Common Year" of course--by 1500 years.  But how could a people whose homeland was in such close proximity to another, older culture--the Bakluni--develop a language so alien from their neighbors?  And what happened 1220 years ago that made these people start a new calendar? 

On our planet this would be a mystery indeed.  But Oerth is, happily, a fantasy setting where all sorts of cool stuff goes down.  It's entirely possible that the Oeridians were gated in from another plane; possibly by some deity or even the powerful wizards of the Bakluni; these were, after all,  the same dudes who brought down the Rain of Colorless Fire.

But there's another, more bizarre, explanation for how these foreigners arrived in the Flannaes; an explanation that has its roots in the body of  Greyhawk literature if not the Gazetteer: they came from space, Battlestar Galactica style.  This would explain the foreignness of their language and the evasiveness of their chroniclers regarding their national origins.  It might also explain the recency of their calendar: it marks the year that they arrived on Oerth.  But, best of all, there is already a history of alien landings in the area: we all know about the spaceship that crashed into the Barrier Peaks which are, conveniently enough, between the Duchy of Geoff and the land of Ull.
Take that you Suloise mo-fos!

That's right, the Oeridians came from outer-freakin-space.  At least one of their ships crash landed in the mountains, many, many others apparently landed safely on the fringes of the Bakluni lands. And perhaps they melted down their space ships to make swords and plowshares.  Or they are still hidden somewhere; perhaps in an incomprehensibly vast underground hangar--I smell a megadungeon!

Anyway, the new arrivals established commerce with the nearby Bakluni peoples and, in order to facilitate such, a mutually agreeable language developed.  This language would provide the basis for the Common Tongue that would be spoken throughout the Flannaes in centuries to come.  That they call themselves Oeridians and  inhabit the continent of Oerik on the planet Oerth is either an attempt on their part to fit in by adopting the name of their new home, or it's the great irony of the Greyhawk saga: the planet is named after its alien infiltrators.

Bibliography
Gygax, Gary. The World of Greyhawk Gazetteer. Lake Geneva: TSR Inc. 1980
Gygax, Gary. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Lake Geneva: TSR Inc. 1980
Gygax, Gary. A Guide to the World of Greyhawk, Volume III: A  catalogue of the land Flannaes, being the eastern portion of the continent Oerik, of Oerth. Lake Geneva: TSR Inc. 1983

7 comments:

Brendan said...

Great theory/discovery! I think it might be fun to run a campaign based on this sort of idea. All the characters come from a group of travelers that have landed/crashed on a medieval fantasy type world. They might start out with some technological advantages, but these would be in very limited supply.

Timrod said...

Hmmm, now that you mention the technology aspect of it, if the Bakluni were dealing with an alien culture with advanced technology, the Rain of Colorless Fire gains whole new meaning. Probably it was some sort of Death Star-type satellite unleashing its death rays from 10 miles up.

Zenopus Archives said...

Very interesting. Were they were from our world, and Oerth = Earth?
Perhaps from New York ... Gary on the pronunciation of Oerth: "Say it as "Oi-th" as if you were from Brooklyn, and that's the way I pronounce it."

Timrod said...

Nice! Oeridans are probably the scions of the Corleone family--who used profits from their crime syndicate to fund an extra-terrestrial expedition in order to avoid prosecution, the zombie apocalypse, or perhaps just to find affordable real estate.

Patrick Halter said...

You're right. I smell a megadungeon too. One that starts in the Barrier Peaks, then continues with a "treasure map" of landing coordinates found in the information banks of the crashed space-ship (extracted with magic, naturally).

Extra points if that's where magic came from, Jack Vance style.

Murph said...

L.E. Modesitt wrote the Order and Chaos series with space folks whose technology and energy weapons create a path to an alternate universe. Some of the new space folks can access (physics-based magic, though most can't and none of the natives can. After their technology runs out, they are left living the fantasy life. That's a very general summary of 20 or so books; the background info does snot show up until a dozen books into the series which is not in chronological order.

Timrod said...

Typical Modesitt; took him ~20 books to say what a normal person could say in a few sentences.