June 8th – Singersnight: The Festival of Very Old Songs

Unlike the epic poems of the Helicans, nobody wrote down the sagas of the Clan of Talmuirud, not once during the thousands of years in which they have been performed. The Clan, one of the few Escotolatian tribes still in existence today, has instead passed their stories down the generations orally, and refuses to allow any permanent record of them to be made. Tonight is Singersnight, the night when all the Talmuirud will gather in their Roundhouse to keep their oral traditions alive.

There are several reasons why the Clan has outlawed the transcription of their poems and songs, but contrary to popular myth none of these reasons are because they believe that the process of writing will somehow strip the words of their power or magic, nor that it will steal their collective soul. The Talmuirud write things every day as part of their active contributions to Buentoilliçan society; they are not some stunted group, out of step with the modern world.

The reason the Talmuirud will not write down their stories is because, they believe, that is how you lose their meaning; they have watched over thousands of years as similar Escotolatian tribes have written their stories down and in the process stopped performing them, and then forgotten all about them entirely, the intricacies of the performance which help convey meaning lost. ‘We think it sounds like this,’ they might say, whereas the Clan know. In some cases the written copies are lost or destroyed altogether, and the ancient culture which made them is lost too. It is much harder to lose your culture if you are still part of it, still practise its traditions every day.

This adherence to reciting the stories at least once a year may even be why the Talmuirud have survived so long, and why they are considered a distinct ethnic group within the City. Other reasons that have been proposed are their community cohesion, and their belief in a single Talmuirud soul, shared by all current 1463 members of the Clan. Whilst a sense of belonging is instilled in Clan members when they are very young, there is little hierarchical structure, or even many rules or observances to uphold, so few feel the need to rebel against their upbringing.

One of the few things which all Clan members have to do is attend the Roundhouse tonight, and at the very least listen to the tales which are told. The Roundhouse is a large construction on the eastern outskirts of the City, made from exquisitely carved wooden posts and beams, exposed stone, and an enormous conical thatched roof. Inside it is something more akin to a theatre than the ancient dwellings on which it’s based, though it still has an enormous fire pit in the centre and an opening at the centre of the roof for smoke to escape from, just like those originals.

In the central space the singers will stand, five of them at once, each reciting perfectly in time with their counterparts, facing outwards to the circular, raked seating that surrounds them, like a full circular amphitheatre. A traditional strong wine made from plums called Svitglam is distributed between the assembled Clan members, and any guests they might have this year. Non-Talmuiruds are permitted to tonight’s performances, after they have been searched to ensure they have no recording equipment, and after all the Clan members have been allocated a seat. Tonight is the biggest event in the Talmuirud calendar, so spirits are usually high, and the crowd normally chants well-loved verses from The Singer and the Adversary, or The High Council Brought Low before singers begin singing.

Due to the pace of modern life, many Clan members are unable to meet up frequently, and tonight might, for some folk, be the only night of the year they have to see their fellow Talmuirud’s properly. No Clan members live in the Roundhouse, unlike the traditional structures where the festival would have been held in ancient times. The man who maintains and lives in the Roundhouse, Leif Stomm, is not actually a member of the Clan, but an ex-Litanchan who is very enthusiastic about the space itself; there’s something about not living in a square, man. It makes your head less square.’ He receives a small stipend for his labour keeping the building in good condition, and is given residence within it, an arrangement which seems to work well for both parties.

For obvious reasons no section of the songs can be written here, but what can be said is that the entire First Saga, which covers the early days of the Clan, their formation and the adversities and monsters they fought off, will be performed tonight, along with a number of other miscellaneous works. The songs focus in on the exploits of individual heroes (including exploits martial, cerebral and emotional), and explain how these individuals came together in life and death to form the essential character of the Clan of Talmuirud, the ‘soul’ which they all share and have shared over thousands of years.

Other festivals happening today:

  • A Day of Discussion and Research on Oral Tradition – No Pens Please
  • The Squid Tentacle Festival
  • The Festival of the Broken Hand of God