Monday, August 3, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: Gnolls and the Starving Father

A short post, #Crux related on Gnolls.  My attempt at adapting a monstrous species into something grey rather than the black and white.  Here are Gnolls, children of the Starving Father.  

Gnolls
We came to Ith from Maliph.  Our people have adapted to this place, but we are still different.  We are the Gnollseklun, the Children of the Starving Father.  But to the humans, we are a race of monsters.  Even our cousins the Ursyklon shun us and our ways.


But we survive.  We obey our Alphas, and in our own ways, we've adapted to this place.  Even our children know this law, how the strong must devour the weak in order for us to survive.  We teach this law to the others, in the hope one day they might embrace such truths for themselves.

Some, like the Ramelin and Maliphi already accept this.  Others refuse, too proud to even consider a new view.  But we are willing to teach, even if they call us monsters.

The Starving Father.
Gnollish cults tend to center around a figure they call the Starving Father (Gn'nashmuki). This seems to correspond with the Ursyklon Church of the Wolf-Mother. The Ursyklon have a similar figure, a totem they call the Starving One or Urnaneg'al (which is not the same as the Hungry One or Urnanemoki). The Starving One is a Hyena, or something that looks like a marsupial version of that animal.

Gnollish myth claims that the Starving Father is the consort to the Wolf-Mother. But long ago the Wolf-Mother punished her husband for daring to create the Gnolls, forcing him to starve. Gn'nashmuki grew so hungry he would consume his own children, the gnolls ravenously.

Gn'nashmuki struggled to not eat this own creation. But then one day, the youngest gnoll pups offered themselves up for their creator. Thus was born the tradition of the Law of Starving. Once a year, the youngest and weakest gnolls would be taken, slain and eaten by the rest of their pack.

Thus they keep their Father satiated, at least for a little while.

Other Races.
Among other races, Gnolls would apply this rule to other species as well. In melting pots like Crux, they take the weakest and youngest of whatever the dominant species is, rather than their own kind. For the gnolls, this is their "adoption" of that culture as their own. But for outsiders, the practice remains the same: cannibalism.

Worse, Gnolls still claim to be cousins to Ursyklon. Ursyklon refuse this claim, but the Gnolls insist that they were a servant race to the conquering Ursyklon when they first came to Orphos. The Ursyklon gave them the lands of Maliph for their own, hence why no Ursyklon nation ever settled there.  Their languages share what seem to be similar roots.

There are beings who refer to both races as Children of the Wolf-Mother. These ancient entities don't explain themselves, but the statement remains out there for those who seek it.

Assimilation.
Not all Gnolls believe or embrace the classic beliefs and cults of their people.  They can, and do embrace other views.  These Gnolls, the Na'neklun: the Packless.  The Na'neklun deal with racial tensions, most often in Ith and Othebea, where their kind are regarded as cannibals first.

Most Na'neklun become vegetarians.  They turn from their people, embracing alternate ways to live their lives.  The best known example of them in Crux are the Janissaries of the Spice Khan.  Taken as pups to be raised as loyal soldiers to the Spice Khaqn, these Na'neklun are converted to worship of the Twins and rarely look back at their own people.

The packless aren't shamed by most Gnolls.  They see the Packless as having been lost, orphaned and unable to embrace their people's true ways.  Some Gnolls take it upon themselves to rescue such packless, to kill and return their essence back to the people via butchering.  Others avoid such tactics, seeing them as distractions from the potential gains of having some of their kind accepted by other species.

Culture.
Gnolls value loyalty.  It is their foremost virtue.  This loyalty can extend outside their own family and packs.  The concept of pack is a fluid thing, as they can even accept non-Gnolls as alphas.

This idea of alpha extends to marriage as well.  Polygamy is a basic conceit among them.  Other species, especially humans and Ursyklon, have trouble adapting to the idea.  Often packs are centered around one husband or wife.  Gnolls tend to prefer a dominant female alpha, but it is possible for males to ascend to the role as well.  The idea of strong varies, sometimes it means magic, sometimes it means raw muscle.

Like Ursyklon, Gnolls are marsupial and capable of altering their sex via rituals.  Unlike the Ursyklon, however, Gnolls only use the ritual in times of extreme need.  They frown upon same-sex couplings, as a outgrowth of sharing most of the same views as the Maliphi: any form of sex that doesn't result in procreation is something to be ashamed of.

Gnolls give birth to litters of six to eight.  Only half of these survive to live past infancy, often eaten by their own siblings while still in the pouch.  Gnoll children are raised to perform harsh labor, intended to help teach them strength from an early age.  The older a gnoll becomes, the less work they take on.

Those unable to help the pack or work, become fodder to be devoured.  They are weak.  The weak must be eaten for the sake of the pack.

Culture Aspects: Packless Wanderlust; Loyalty of Gnollseklun; Survival of the Strong; Children of the Starving Father; Honor the Pack First