The Count of Years Commentary: 1    [ Text ]


The Count of Years (Rēneca sōniē) is one of the foundational works of Cuzeian religion, and one of the earliest. It's also possibly the most accessible, telling the story of the world from creation to the establishment of Cuzei, with minimal intrusions of doctrine.

Most commentators write introductions, a practice I find arrogant. If people keep reading a book for centuries, it needs no introduction, and I encourage readers to discover the Count of Years on their own. But it can be pleasant to learn more about a text.

This commentary has several intentions:

For a description of Cuzeian theism, see Almean Belief Systems; for an outline history of Cuzei see the Historical Atlas of Almea.

Special characters

I really didn't want to represent Cuêzi's frequent long vowels with colons (Re:neca so:nie:), so for the first time I've used Unicode. To view the page properly you'll need a Unicode font. The following characters should look like the (boxed) graphic:

ā ē ī ō ū Ā Ē Ī Ō Ū č ď ř š ť ž Č Ď Ř Š Ť Ž

I believe Windows users will be OK. If Mac users have problems, they should load the Central European fonts from their System disk (do a custom install and look under Language Kits).

History of the book

The history of the Count of Years is typical of Cuzeian holy writings. The earliest manuscripts are from -50 and -25, based on even earlier oral tales. Around 125 a poet, Anacūlato, reconciled these two versions, added a good number of poems and a few more anecdotes of ancient times, and greatly expanded the sections on Cuzeian history. Portions of it were reworked by other poets in the next few decades. Around 220 it was revised by a Knower (priest of Eīledan), to improve its theological correctness. A few other corrections by Knowers followed over the next centuries; then, in 500, two additional sections in the form of visions were added by a mystic. It was also customary for scribes to bring the concluding section up to date to their own times; virtually every early manuscript thus ends differently.

The final Cuêzi version of the work-- nearly twice as long as the earliest manuscripts-- was compiled in Alaldas around 1350, reconciling the proliferating versions, correcting errors, updating the language, and deleting passages deemed spurious. This became the initial section of the Book of Eīledan, the Arašei scripture. Partial Caďinor translations from about 1050 are known, but the canonical translation was made by one Ĥimauro in 1421.

A full translation into Verdurian (as the Ciröma) wasn't available until after the Union of 2987 with the Eleďî. The Book of Eleď is one of the three Eleďe scriptures, along with the Book of Iesu (our New Testament) and the Book of Mihel chronicling the arrival of the Elenicoi in Avéla.

The Count of Years has thus been read and studied for over 3500 years, a very respectable showing among Almean religious documents.

Textual sources

As this history indicates, an English translator has a wealth of versions to choose from. I've chosen to translate the very earliest manuscripts: In effect, this version aims to reproduce the source materials available to Anacūlato.

There are several reasons for this choice. From the scholar's point of view, it's useful to go as far back toward the document's origins as possible. But from a reader's point of view, this version is simply more readable: freshest in its language and freest from intrusions.

It's not far from the truth to say that, for a thousand years, every Knower who read the book wanted to fine-tune its theology; every noble wanted to see his ancestors represented (and in a good light); every poet wanted to refine the language or insert a poem or two. It's also true that few of these corrections are, to non-believers, of high quality or general interest.

(The poems in this version are all from the original manuscripts. The original compilers-- for neither CAA nor CLE can be the original source-- may have got these from elsewhere, or not: it was customary to switch from prose to poetry to enliven a description or an action passage. The same technique is used in the epics.)

My constant struggle, as a translator, has been to avoid the twin banes of Biblical or Tolkienian language. There is nothing wrong with these styles; they would even be correct for approaching the canonical versions. But they would seriously misrepresent these early manuscripts, which were not written in an archaized lexicon or a high epic atmosphere (that came later, starting with Anacūlato), but in a simple, even naïve style-- I hope I've captured at least some of the charm of the original Cuêzi. The original writers were not looking back at unimaginably remote history vested in religious awe; they were recalling events not much more than two centuries back. (Many of the events they relate are much older, of course-- but the Cuzeians had learned about them relatively recently.)

Names are an important part of atmosphere; for this reason I've used Cuêzi names throughout. Verdurian names (beyond a few unavoidable ones, like Almea) would be jarring, and are only given in the commentary. In some ways it would be more honest to find English equivalents for analyzable Cuêzi words-- e.g. Ironbender and Growingstone for Mavordaguendu and Ecrêsetomurgo. On the other hand, quite a few of the names are opaque, and this practice would create strange juxtapositions-- it would be odd, for instance, to speak of the sons of Iriand as being Ambretāu and Redson. I use English calques when an expression threatens to become too long, but otherwise simply relegated the translations, when known, to the commentary.

Phonetic guide

A grammar and lexicon of Cuêzi are available in Languages of Almea. However, some hints on the pronunciation will bear repeating.

All the vowels can be pronounced long (and with slightly raised pitch), e.g. ā. The most striking feature of circumflexed vowels such as â is a falling or low pitch (they are also slightly lengthened).

Plural forms depend on the form and gender of the word.

A few bits of morphology come up often enough to be of note.


Many readers will have a general question: did all this happen? Or, if the general movement from mythology to history is evident, when is the switchover?

The general answer is, we don't know. Until ilian sources become available, the Count of Years is itself our best source-- for better and for worse-- on the early history of Almea. Other human traditions (Caďinorian, Xurnese, Uytainese, etc.) are more obviously mythological; where they contradict the Count of Years they contradict each other even more, and when they agree with it the Count of Years is more detailed and more sober.

(Qarau monotheism also derives from iliu worship, and its stories of earlier epochs generally reinforce the Cuzeian account; but as these stories are exclusively oral, they are briefer and have suffered greater distortions.)

Biologically, intelligent life on Almea arose through evolution. The easiest conclusion is that the stories of the first members of each intelligent species are pure myth. On the other hand, there are Eleďî who accept evolution and also the Ciröma; they explain that divine creation may not work the way we expect; perhaps evolution was simply the way Eīledan created the Thinking Kinds.

Where appropriate, I'll discuss historical plausibility within each section. As a general statement, I consider the creation tales to be pure cosmology, the accounts of the iliu-ktuvok wars to be highly mythologized records of actual events, and the story of the Cuzeian conquest of Eretald to be a reasonably honest history, embellished with some legendary and anachronistic material.


First creation: Matter

The derivation of the names of the mētū (the three divine roles) is unknown, except that (Eīl)edan derives from proto-Eastern *Endanor, the root also of Caďinor Enäron and Axunašin Inbamu.

CAA and CLE do not respect the convention that personal pronouns cannot be used to refer to the mētū. This was a Golden Age convention, introduced into the text by Anacūlato.

The creation of the four worlds is found only in CLE. CAA starts differently:

To begin with, Iáinos the Lord Apart created the Uncounted Worlds, and hung Almea on the curtains of night.

It then proceeds to introduce the mētū, as in CLE.

Anacūlato added a theological note:

These first worlds were the simplest, but they were the profoundest. When man creates, he can only reshape elements which have already been made. But Iáinos conceives of elements that did not exist before he conceived them. The later worlds contained things of spirit, more like Iáinos himself.

The Cuzeians generally talked about six elements, adding life (taiggâ, the principle characteristic of living things) and spirit (landāua) to the four elements (deōni). The Caďinorians had seven elements: clay, rock, water, wood, metal, fire, and air.

The Uncounted Worlds (ataiggāri birēnui) are never really defined, and have been interpreted three ways:

Second creation: Almea and the First Spirits


Almea is Verdurian; the Cuêzi is Ataiggār = the Place of Life.

Almea's sun (V. Ënomai) is Cuêzi Sualixue 'day's eye'.

The word for planet, dunalaldas, is a transparent compound in Cuêzi, so I translated the morphemes: moving-star.

Sisticiu 'the speedy' = V. Vereon (the quickest of the planets).

Ūdinamiēi 'dawn-lady' = V. Išire (Almea's morning/evening star).

Sualilenda 'sky-maiden' = V. Vlerë.

Goxreme, from Elkarîl Ñokhrem 'light green flame' = V. Hírumor (which is from the same source, but filtered through Meť. (Mi)khirem). The elcari specially venerated this brightest of the farther planets.

Rimidête 'emerald one' = V. Imiri. Its color is not described in the text because it's given by the planet's name.

Feroivoras 'cold-flame', a calque on Elkarîl Ñokhbur; V. Caiem.

Einalandāua = First Spirit; landāua 'spirit' derives from lanêde 'thought'.

Ecaîas is of uncertain meaning, though it's tempting to relate it to Caďinor encais 'horrible'. In form it looks like a present participle, and a traditional derivation is ecāuras 'bringer'. His star Nōtuvoras = Nightflame.

The names of the other Einalandāuē are opaque.

Rōvole 'tiara' is so named because it crowns the head of the constellation known as the Maiden; the V. is Meme. Talias 'the waist', V. Iliatál, is part of the same constellation.

Agāeritar 'the place of relaxation' = V. Ažáritar.

Similgu, Simillu, Simiriu are meaningless variations on an element sim-, probably the same as silmâ 'lightning'; they have been borrowed into V. as Simižu, Similu, Simiru. Sīesimo (V. Šësimo) uses the same root, possibly reduplicated.

The Einalandāuē are organized like the Cuzeian kingdom: Iáinos is the King; the Spirits each have their own House, but come together to form a Council.

I've given this first poem in Cuêzi, both transliterated and in the Cuêzi alphabet, in order to demonstrate some of the principles of Cuêzi poetry. Each line has 14 syllables (i and u before a short vowel don't count). Moreover, each line is divided into two parts, of similar though unequal length; typically this is enough for about two content words per half-line.

The pattern of long vowels in each line is suggestive, especially if we divide the poem into three quatrains:

4 3 4 3 / 4 5 3 2 / 3 3 4 4.

The patterns in the first and last quatrains are found in other poems. The number and not the placement of the long vowels is significant (in this type of verse). The middle quatrain is not simply random; note that the total number of long vowels is 14, the same as in the other two quatrains.

Other poems in the book vary in some respects from this model. Some have a different number of syllables; the pattern of long syllables varies; in some cases adjacent lines begin with the same letter. Sometimes there are semantic rhythms, such as repetition.

Third creation: The living world

The major themes of the Count of Years are those of Cuzeian religion: creation and community. Iáinos shares the task of creation because all spirits are in essence creative. Iáinos creates; spirits sub-create.

(One remote consequence of this passage is that, when scientists came up with the idea of evolution, the Eleďî had no great religious objection to it. Iáinos is, after all, shown using intermediaries in creation.)

Another theme is the problem of evil-- why, if Iáinos is all-powerful, is there evil and death in the world? The general answer is that spirits have free will, and some choose to defy Iáinos. The deeper answer, however, is that the dream of Iáinos encompasses not only simple good (such as affection or beauty), but the sorts of good that are called forth by the presence of evil (such as love or courage). Evil is not to be desired, but it is an opportunity for good to deepen itself.

The beginning of evil; Iáinos' judgment

Second Spirits: brosilandāuē; cf. the word brosilanete 'mortal', since the Second Spirits are made of flesh.

Xlainamo, Xlainari: Shining Lord, Shining Moon (V. Iliažë)
Têllênamiēi, Têllênari: Lovely Lady, Lovely Moon (V. Iliacáš)
Sistenamo, Sistenari: Fast Lord, Fast Moon (V. Naunai)

Nari 'moon' is from PE *naghi, which underlies Caď. nahis, seen in V. (Nau)nai.

'Guardian' = maniciu 'being of power'; the word for 'power', manie, derives from manis 'hand'.

The derivation of Amnās (V. Amnät) is uncertain. (Pay no attention to Cuzeian mystical intuitions, such as 'one who wields power (manias) but who has lost his center'.)

Much as in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, evil is attributed to a rebellious archangel, who is not God's equal. Ecaîas is not considered wholly evil; some Knowers maintained that his punishment would lead to repentance and rehabilitation, or even that he had already repented.

Evil seems to intensify over time: Amnās is consistently represented as more malicious than Ecaîas, and his creation Soxāeco more evil still.

Back! Back to Virtual Verduria   Onward!