gvdammerung writes "
"Mind your Boccanegra." It means, "Mind your manners." Of course, you knew this because you are a literate resident of the Flanaess in more than a mere technical sense. Oh. Well. Fear not! Read on and you will become aquainted with the earliest, and still among the most popular and influential works of popular literature in the Flanaess. They are entertaining stories but also serve as models for behavior. Simply everyone who is anyone has read them. And even some who are not.
Literature in the Flanaess: Early Popular Literature
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
Posted with permission. Do not repost without obtaining priorpermission from the author.
Popular literature is difficult to find in the early modern Flanaess. While there have always been folktales and popular stories, such are not literature. They do not speak to a wide audience or experience, being more purely local. They are often either broadly humorous or cautionary in the extreme, lacking any sense or sensibility beyond the directness of the telling of their tale. All such are the province of simple bards as tellers of these kinds of tales.
Literature speaks to every reader, having something to say about the human condition that, if not timeless, is at least widely recognizable as holding some truth or observation within its storytelling that may be generally accepted or acknowledged. Such stories need not have secondary meanings but this is not uncommon. Literature is distinguished more by a fine craftsmanship that, by one means or another, transcends the mere telling of a transitory tale. Over time, literature will out. When less fine works have fallen away, literature remains, having proven somehow of enduring worth and remembrance.
While not universally true, literature also tends to be a written art, distinguished from purely oral stories or tales.
Prior to the Migrations, only the Suel had a definable body of literature, excepting the Baklunish because their impact on the Flanaess has been so regionally confined. Almost all Suel literature was lost, however, as a consequence of the Rain of Colorless Fire and the subsequent Migrations. Practical considerations of survival left scant room for the transport of purely literary works. The progress of a true literary tradition in the Flanaess thus had to begin from almost nothing. That the preoccupation of early writers was history did not appreciably help the cause of popular literature.
When the earliest literary works of significance did arise, they appeared where courts first blossomed as more than centers of government. In Aerdi and in Keoland, courts first became centers for the arts and culture, as well as administrative centers. With the example of the Aerdi courts and that of Niole Dra, literary culture eventually spread. Today, literature is patronized in many courts, although not universally and often next to the folk tales and stories traditional to the itinerant bard.
The following four works are the foundational texts in the popular early modern literature of the Flanaess. They are widely known, and universally so among the educated.
by Gironi Boccanegra (1 Volume)
1st Edition - 110 CY
Note - This volume has grown sufficiently famous that it is often referred to as simply, the Boccanegra. Later editions after the 4th often bear only this title.
Goodmonth presents fifty-eight short stories concerning all manner of affairs: love, heroism, loss, comedy, manners, courage, piety, perseverance, cowardice, loyalty etc., that have become common parables for proper behavior. The short stories are presented within the context of a framing story. The city of Hexpools is beset by plague. This forces commoners, nobles, merchants, wizards, soldiers, clergy, thieves etc. to all seek refuge in a local monastery until the plague can be contained. To pass the time, everyone tells a story. The fifty-eight short stories show society at all levels, and how people of various classes see themselves and others.
Goodmonth is the first true example of popular fiction as literature in the Flanaess. It is also a book that captures the rich interplay of culture and society. In this latter capacity, the Boccanegra is something of a guide to manners as the stories feature idealized representations of different cultures and classes. The book remains as popular today as when it was first published. To be considered cultured anywhere in the Flanaess, one must have read and be familiar with the Boccanegra. It is a slight if it is said of some that, he or she, "doesn’t know their Boccanegra."
The Courwood Travelers
by Geohegan Chaute (1 Volume)
1st Edition - 223 CY
Note - Only 6 copies of the 1st Edition are known to exist. Three of the copies are held by the great libraries in Greyhawk, Rel Mord and Niole Dra. The others are in private hands.
The Courwood Travelers owes its existence to the success of Boccanegra’s Goodmonth. While the contents are distinct, the basic premise is the same. The titular characters are all on their way to a healing spring in Courwood. To pass the time, each tells a tale. The tales encompass a variety of topics and are sixty-two in number. The structure of The Courwood Travelers is, however, much looser than that of the Boccanegra. The tales are also less idealized in their characterizations. Whereras the Boccanegra was equal parts a book of manners as much as a book of fiction, The Courwood Travelers is predominantly more a work of fiction, however iconic.
Along with the Boccanegra, The Courwood Travelers is considered required reading by anyone seeking to be deemed literate in more than just the most technical sense. The short stories are immensely popular and, along with the earlier Goodmonth, are the foundation of all subsequent popular literature in the Flanaess. Bards, and precisely troubadours, make liberal use of the stories in both volumes, setting them to music or simply reciting the tales. In this regard, The Courwood Travelers is perhaps the more popular volume. Even if they are not aware of the source, most people in the Flanaess have at least some acquaintance with the stories in The Courwood Travelers as they have been retold or sung at fairs and in taverns.
by Aryo Gervillus (1 Volume)
1st Edition - 268 CY
Note - No copies of the 1st Edition are known to exist. All known copies were confiscated and banned by later Overkings in Rauxes.
The Satyrial is a book of social and political satire that takes for its subject the Great Kingdom of the Aerdi. The excesses, frivolities and trivialities of the nobility are mercilessly lampooned and the royal court is shown populated by every sort of disreputable or comic figure. A careful reading between the lines reveals the author to be a witty observer of government and each of the 23 episodes, as the chapters are called, is in reality a sly commentary on how governments should function but often go wrong. Such subtle commentary is, however, lost amidst the general riotousness of each episode to all be the most astute reader. Not surprisingly, the book has been repeatedly banned.
While not as widely known as the Boccanegra and The Courwood Travelers, the individual episodes of the Satyrial are ready barbs in practically every bard’s arsenal. Certainly, The Satyrial is infamous and enjoys such popularity as that status confers. It is, however, among courtiers and the more unaffected nobility that The Satyrial enjoys its greatest popularity and is required reading among the former, being habitues of the courts of the Flanaess. The distinguishing characteristic of The Satyrial is that its episodes are sufficiently archetypical that they have never gone out of style. Feudal governments continue to be beset by the same sorts of difficulties, ineptitudes and hangers-on that first brought The Satyrial its notoriety.
The Fey Queen
by Wardode Pencyr (1 Volume)
1st Edition - 197 CY
Note - The author, a half-elf, published The Fey Queen in simultaneous 1st Editions in Dyvers, Enstad and Niole Dra. The Enstad 1st Editions are the most precious, followed by those of Dyvers and Niole Dra.
The Fey Queeen is an epic poem, distinguishing it from the other works previously discussed. Seven books of multiple cantos, or sections, comprise the work. The story is that of the Queen of Celene and those whose highest purpose is to praise and serve her. These worthies endeavor to uphold the highest standards of chivalry, proper ethics and morals in the Queen’s name. They are elves, humans, half-elves, gnomes and even a dwarf. They are called upon to complete a variety of quests and face a raft of unsavory or duplicitous foes.
The Fey Queen is not a book of manners, save by the example of the protagonists. The text does not preach and contains no obvious subtext. Yet, The Fey Queen has had a pronounced affect on the development of chivalry in the Flanaess, all the same. The cantos are written in sometimes flowery and oblique language that has led some to suppose that there is a mystical secret contained within the verse, but this is unproven. While the least widely popular of the works discussed, The Fey Queen is notable for the impetus it has given poets and poetry in the Flanaess. While rhymes have always been popular, poetry has not been so popular, at least not in written form. The Fey Queen first altered this dynamic, becoming greatly popular among the ladies of various courts. A cultured person will now know how to compose and recite poetry; often enough, it will be something from The Fey Queen.
Author's Note - The author would like to express his gratitude and thanks to Scott Casper for his groundbreaking work in Dragon 253 from which Goodmonth and The Courwood Travelers are adapted.