How to tell if you're Verdurian
A few people have mailed me asking why I don't have one of these...
so, here it is. Compare to the culture tests for America,
Brazil, and other lands.
For more on Verduria wend your way to Virtual Verduria.
These statements apply best to the people of Verduria province.
There wouldn't be much variation in (say) Zeir or Šerian, but the southern provinces
are a good deal more feudal. The test would also look fairly different if I concentrated
on Verduria city; but I thought this would be misleading when the country is still 90% rural.
If you're Verdurian...
- You believe that different religions have a right to exist,
so long as they're orderly. You expect that some people will have
some very odd beliefs and practices... some of them, like that Čurmey fellow,
should probably be locked up.
- You're familiar with the holy books of your religion (probably the
or the Book of Eleď), as well as a wide range of folk tales.
You like stories about Maranh the hero, Koleva the warrior woman,
Ervëa the emperor, Lago the sprite, and Bardinó the coyote
(who you think exemplifies the sharpness of the Verdurian character).
If you live in a town, you've been to the theater to see the spectacles;
if not, you've certainly watched roving entertainers, with their mixture
of music, playlets, poems, and comedy routines.
- Unless you live in the city, you don't watch games, you play them.
You grew up playing boďpila, kicking around a ball of rags or a pig's bladder;
as a teenager you spent long hours mastering bütî,
where you throw a metal ball at a small wooden target.
You know a number of dice and card games; but the nobles' game of ecuni (knights-and-kings)
eludes you. If you live in the city, you may go to watch the races and athletic competitions.
- You work hard, six days a week (plus holidays, which come about once a month).
You will very likely never travel more than a few cemisî from your
birthplace, unless it's to move to a bigger town to find work. Perhaps once in
your life, however, you'll go to visit a notable shrine or other place of pilgrimage.
Everyone's entitled to their false beliefs
- You believe in God or the gods-- everybody does, except a few lunatics and foreigners.
The existence of the spiritual realm is obvious and everyday: mere physical things
like blocks of wood can't see and talk, can they? If you're pagan, you find it normal
that other places have other gods, though you wish they'd stay there and not interfere
with Calto and Enäron and the rest. If you're Eleďe, you regard the pagans with
a mixture of pity and frustration; can't they see that the most advanced creatures
on the planet, the ilii, themselves taught men to worship Eleď?
- You eat almost all your meals at home-- festivals are an exception; then the
whole village or neighborhood eats together. If you have to travel, you take your meals at an
inn, at a common table; you eat what the innkeeper provides, though there's a choice
of drinks. In the city there are places called lesteoi where rich people
can pay a fortune to have a meal they could have had at home for free. Rich people
are inscrutable like that.
- The comforts of home all require hard work. To heat the house, you need to chop
firewood... thank the gods Verduria has a mild climate. Meals involve killing
the animal, fetching water, cooking, and washing up.
Excrement has to be taken out to the fields or, in town, to a waste cart.
- You don't consider insects or cats to be food-- too small. Rats and male dogs
can be eaten in a pinch, but they're dirty food. Female dogs are palatable.
Mesocricoi (hamsters) are a delicacy.
- You love the water; if at all possible, you bathe every day, in a river or creek
or pond if necessary. You dream of having a galináe in
your house, with a big bath the whole family can relax in. (Of course you
wouldn't have a toilet there; how disgusting!)
Not easy to phone home
- If you have to communicate with someone far away, you find someone going there
and entrust them with a letter (the local priest or headman will write it for you if you can't).
Government officials and nobles can use a system of fast couriers. Magicians are also
said to have ways to speak directly to those in far places.
- To get around the province (not that you're going to), you could use boats, carriages,
wagons, horses, or your own feet. Magicians have the power of teleportation-- but you're
not going to bother the sorceror for your commuting needs, are you?
- The king rules the country, but substantial power is wielded by the Esčambra
(Parliament). You think this is the best form of government: republics are too contentious,
and absolute monarchies don't listen to the will of the people.
The government worries about taxes and charters and courts and armies and things, but the
agency you're most likely to encounter is the Agriculture Ministry, which takes care of
the farmers in bad years and buys some of the crop in good years.
- Human beings (uestî) are only one of the Thinking Kinds--
though they're probably the only kind you've ever seen. You know about the ilii, who live
in the ocean; the elcari, who live in the mountains; and the ktuvoki, the demons who
control Dhekhnam. If you have seen beings of another Kind, it was probably a flaid--
tall, big-headed fellows-- ugly, but fairly agreeable, really.
- Most of the people you know are brown-skinned, with black or dark brown hair.
Foreigners sometimes look very different, but that's only to be expected-- they're
foreign. Some people in the city are of foreign descent and have lighter or darker
skin or different color hair, but if they grew up here, they're just as Verdurian as you are.
- You think the world is as it is and no one's going to change that.
But if there's some sort of practical problem, the sharp mind of the Verdurian can solve it.
- If you have a dispute with someone that can't be resolved by talking directly with them,
you get together with your whole family and go to talk to their family. The local headman
or priest and a good deal of wine and food may be necessary to find a resolution.
The well off may take to the courts instead. That's a good way to end up
a good deal less well off.
The real names of things
- Shockingly, some people don't speak Verdurian-- there's just nothing you can do with them.
If they speak it badly, you can at least understand them, but can you trust them?
You can easily tell what province or country a person is from by how they speak; often, what town.
- You've heard Caďinor, the language of the ancient Caďinorians-- most often if you're pagan,
since the Aďivro is written in it. It sounds a lot like Verdurian, and you can understand
bits of it, but it has a lot of difficult words and the word order can be confusing.
It certainly sounds grand and holy, however. Even in places that don't speak Verdurian,
priests and magicians and other learned people will know Caďinor. The true name of a thing
is its name in Caďinor.
- You don't get to keep all you produce; some of the crop has to go to the local noble,
or the village, or someone else who has that right. In return, you expect protection against
barbarians or bandits, help in times of distress, assistance in resolving disputes,
and the occasional public feast.
- You've probably had a few years of school, where you learned some writing and counting,
as well as some poems and some stories about Verdurian history.
If you practice a trade, you learned it in an apprenticeship, starting at age 12 or 13.
Rich people have a lot
more school, and there are formidable people called šriftomî who studied
at a university until they were almost middle-aged, in their twenties--
they're a kind of magician, you think.
- If you live in the country, you don't buy any food,
except for bread and some small and expensive things: spices, fish paste, salt, tea.
If you live in a village, you may buy your meat, milk, cheese, and beer from
a farmer, but you raise your own chicken and grow your own vegetables.
If you live in town, you may buy these things too.
- Dates are written like this: néronden 10 olašu Z.E. 3480.
As everyone knows, years are counted from the founding of Žésifo.
Z.E. means 'year of the south', which is kind of funny since Verduria is
in the north of the Plain.
- Your country hasn't been involved in a major war for almost two centuries.
That was the war against Kebri, which was certainly necessary, since they
were getting too powerful. They actually invaded Zeir and caused a lot of
destruction. They're still a little cocky, and it's not good that they
maintain relations with Dhekhnam, which anyone with any sense knows is
preparing to invade the Plain. Well, they'll get a hot reception when they do.
Have you met my fiancé? I hear he's cute
- Young people will play around and fall in love, but such youthful foolishness
shouldn't get in the way of marriage, which is a serious business that involves the whole
family, and an opportunity to form or cement alliances with other families.
The families will exchange gifts, and the young man is expected to come up with
a substantial gift to show that he can support a family. Marriage is solemnized
by a priest, and attended by the families and by friends as well.
Like all decent people, Verdurians can marry only one wife.
- Some people do marry for love, and that can work out if they find someone
appropriate, which young folks don't always have the sense to do.
But it's really putting the wagon in front of the horse. Marry the person
your family has found for you and the love will follow.
- Some men sleep with other men; that's rather deplorable, though tolerable if
they nonetheless get married and do their duty to the country by raising children.
Girls fall in love with other girls, but there's nothing wrong with that--
it's better than getting involved with boys before they get married, after all.
- How to address someone is exceedingly complex.
If you don't know them, however, it's safe to say that you can't just call them
by their first name.
- You're also careful with the second person pronoun le; persons higher
in status (and some equals as well) should be addressed with the indefinite tu instead.
- It's no big deal for a woman to show her breasts-- they have to nurse, after all,
and how else would they go bathing? Well, except for noble and bourgeois
women, who are so careful about covering themselves that you rather wonder
if they look different from ordinary people naked.
- If you ever happen to stay in an inn, you certainly wouldn't expect to use
the innkeeper's galináe. In the higher class of establishment,
however, they'll bring a pail of hot water to your room.
- If you have business with the government, you don't expect to have to pay bribes...
but sometimes it doesn't hurt.
- If you hear that a statesman has been cheating on his wife, you're not
particularly surprised. Marriage is business for these people, even more than
for ordinary folk.
You're a mead person, aren't you?
- You pay for things with coins (or perhaps trade goods). You've heard that
rich people pay with pieces of paper, but you've never seen such a thing.
- If you go to work for someone, they are something like a lord.
You expect them to protect you, treat you familiarly but honorably,
and not to dissolve the relationship lightly. Some of the new keďnáî,
"factories", are dirty and nasty and crowded places to work, but they pay very well.
- There's beer people, wine people, and mead people... sometimes called the
strong, the smart, and the crazy.
- You love Verdurian dance music. In most cases, if you want to hear music,
you have to make it yourself.
You probably know how to get on tolerably well with at least one musical instrument.
Professionals do come through town; you'd go out of your way to hear Ismaîn music,
with those bulbous guitars of theirs. You also like to listen
to the sad songs of Lacatur-- so long as the Lacaturians don't stick around too long
after they stop singing.
- Poems are lovely as well... you may know how to
construct a sulirul (a half-line) yourself,
but you have no idea how they make them alliterate like that.
- If you get sick, you call in the priest, a local wise woman, or, if you have a bit
of money and a good deal of optimism, a doctor. Sickness is part of life, and it's
likely that one is going to take care of you for good one of these days.
You would consider someone in their sixties to be quite old.
- You know about the Caďinorian emperors, especially Ervëa, who defeated
the demons. If you're pagan, you can probably name about ten more, all heavily
featured in the Aďivro. You know the first three kings of Verduria-- Caleon, Ževuran,
and Estdorot-- as well as the last two, Alric and his father Vlaran,
but are shaky on the ones in the middle, except for Andrea Eleďe, the one who
disappeared. There was a wizard or two in there, too-- bad ones.
Oh, and there was Mëranac-- when was he again?
- If you live in town, you've seen soldiers marching somewhere or
roistering in the taverns, but you haven't had anything to do with them.
War is mostly for the upper classes, anyway-- or for roustabouts who have
no other life available.
- Long ago, the demons invaded and took over the Plain. The Caďinorian people
suffered mightily, and eventually threw them out; but it could always happen again.
This must never be forgotten.
How do you keep a Viminian wondering?
- You are probably a farmer. If you're not, you're probably a small-scale craftsman.
- Few roads are wide enough for one vehicle to pass another.
If two vehicles approach each other on the road, the bulkier one generally stays where
it is, leaving the more maneuverable one to find a way around it.
If two bulky carts meet on a muddy day, you let the gods decide, by picking
straws or using counting games. They say that Viminians won't move into the ditch
for anything, so if two Viminian carts cross each other, the drivers stay there forever.
- You consider the flaids up in Flora to be pleasant, solid people. You'd think twice
before taking advantage of them-- they are awfully big.
- The Ismaîn are high-strung and effeminate. They're best known for
their music and their cuisine, rich in seafood. They speak a strange language,
mostly through their noses.
- You consider the Barakhinei to be barbarians, really. They treat their women
as slaves, and enjoy nothing more than drinking and brawling (in that order, and then
back again). Their language sounds like gargling.
- Folks from Žésifo, to the south, are incredibly pompous;
they think that their little town is still the capital of the
Caďinorian Empire. King Caleon conquered them a few centuries ago,
to teach them some sense, but the place just isn't worth enough
to hold onto.
- The bigger towns have cilî (police) who help keep order.
The first time you went to a town, a wise elder told you that you would
only be safe at a relative's house, an inn, or next to a cilu.
And that goes double at night.
Oh, Mama, I'm too thin!
- If a woman is a bit plump, that's to the good-- it means she's healthy.
- The biggest meal of the day is at midday.
- There are jokes told about all sorts of people, but the best ones are about
the Viminians. Those people are truly dense.
- Nobles are like women-- some are kind, and some are insufferable.
May Bunori grant you to deal only with good ones. You're likely to have better feelings about
the king; he helps keep the nobles from getting too overbearing.
- If you've had occasion to compare notes with a foreigner, you've
been surprised to hear that wages are lower and prices higher outside the province.
The gods know that falî are hard to come by and easily spent.
- One of the most important things to know about a person is what family they come from.
- When a couple dies, the normal thing is for their land to go to the eldest son.
Anyone can see that if the land was broken up, there will be nothing left of it
after a few generations.
Daughters will be taken care of by their husbands. Extra sons traditionally worked
for their brothers or were sent out as apprentices; these days they often end up
in the city.
And you can count on both types to drink a lot
- The biggest holidays are week-long celebrations near the summer solstice:
Cuéndimar for the pagans, the Cuenda Creise for the Eleďî.
- The king worships the old gods-- if you're pagan you think that this is only right
and proper; if you're Eleďe you fondly think of Tomao and his successors, Eleďî
who ousted the wizards and ruled the country-- if Andrea came back they'd have to make
her queen, wouldn't they?
- You know the names of the larger countries of the Plain, but you can't be expected
to know their rulers.
- If you find yourself in exceptional trouble, you'd expect your extended family to
take care of you; if they can't or you don't have one, you'd throw yourself on the mercy
of the lord (or of your guild, if you have one); if their mercy is shallow, about all
you can do is move to the big city and look for new opportunities.
- There are special, rather secretive schools for people like doctors, lawyers, and alchemists.
You don't consider these people to be scholars, more like fancy guildsmen.
- There sure are a lot of people milling about in the big towns with no evident occupation.
© 2000 by Mark Rosenfelder