See the History of Elwynn for the history of the Elw.
As late as 1550, the year of the "White Lily Revolt" , Elw national identity had not really been formalised, the tribes of Elw remaining wedded to their clans and septs as primary expressions of identity whilst the political life of the Duchy remained in the hands of Shirerithians, the Raikothlin and the various immigrant communities. Elw nationalism received its first true stimulus from the House of Kalir which sought to foster a sense of national identity in the face of the Imperial programme to destroy the ancient duchies of the Imperial Republic, a policy which finally rebounded with terrible force in the declaration of independence in 1567. Popular stories then are those which were propagated at the same time as the Elw language was codified and taught, they are localised myths and legends which were standardised and taught at a national level. The Ken-Li and the Book of Orchids are now universally considered by every member of Elwdom to be authentically and eternally Elwynnese – in spite of there being no shortage of evidence to the contrary.
Elw nationalism experienced a resurgence during the reign of King Noah when the culture was sidelined and marginalised by the Elwynnese Monarchy and its agencies, following the House of Ettlingar Freyu's fixation with propagating the Froyalanish and Vanic systems of belief.
With the Auspicious Occasion of 1651, the desire to rescue the Elw identity from oblivion exploded forth in uncontrollable anger - a fury that exceeded even the anti-Babkhi pogroms at the end of the Kai Aphmyarkaiph - and resulted in the destruction of many Vanic temples and monuments and the expulsion of members of the Froyalanish community westwards into the wastelands of vastly-bloated Amokolia.
The Elw identity suffered conflict during the First Elwynnese Civil War (1660–1669), but the events leading to the Kalirion Fracture, as well as the establishment of an Elwynnese Republic, has led to a strengthening of both Elw and Elwynnese identity, and the proud use of the Elw language.
There have been complaints of state sanctioned persecution directed against the Elw in the aftermath of the Second Elwynnese Civil War, but this reflected the generalised policy of reprisal against the defeated rebel bailiwicks of Upper Elwynn which were majority Elw, rather than a specific policy against the ethnic group on the part of the Benacian Union.
The essential notion is that the average Elw, conditioned by state mandated liberalism, multiculturalism and democratic idealism, is as meek and mild mannered a fellow as you are ever likely to encounter, far far removed from the cudgeller archetype which requires a very particular sort of character. The Elw male in particular lives out eleven of the twelve months of the year in a state of polite, pointedly tolerant, conformity but then, as independence day approaches, the country grinds to a halt as every self-respecting red-blooded Elw abandons the cities and heads north into the wilderness in order to go absolutely mental in every way imaginable.
Traditional folk songs are sung, if at all, in an ironic sense for most of the year, usually late at night as the pubs are closing, as an accompaniment to last orders at the bar. However during Roqpin they tend to be sung with a sincerity and vehemence, if not a ferocity, that would startle the unacquainted visitor who is more used to the stereotype of the placid Elw. Beneath the surface calm of the Elw lies a deep brooding ancestral anger and during the weeks of high summer it is no accident that they retire into the remote fastness of the High North and the wilderness to give vent to their worst instincts - the ones most contrary to the staid liberal manner in which they conduct themselves through out the remainder of the year.
An Elw of Leisure
Can there be any sight more profoundly unmoving than that of an Elirian sales executive or accounts manager in the fullest flood of patriotic verve and humbug?
You must know the type – for eleven months of the year he remains dutifully bound to his job in middle management and to that status symbol family, fruit of his virile loins now calcified into a loveless marriage; the morning chaste peck on the cheek from the wife of twenty years being the very height of intimacy baring any accidental contact during the course of setting out the dinner table. His abode is a comfortable and well appointed one up one down semi-detached house in one of the Senate Mandated New Estates with its fine connecting routes to the capital, the ring road, the river, the aerodrome and the transoceanic blimp hangers linking Eliria to Natopia, Ocia, Alexandria and sweet merciful heaven forbid that you actually ever have to go there, Babkha.
Our man however doesn't travel much beyond the daily commute into his offices 'in town' wherever they may be. The software developed by Elwynn High Technology (EHT) and sold to 'you know you mustn't mention who' for their Panopticon Suites revolutionised video conferencing and data streaming within the confines of existing hardware, wherever you are in the world and whoever you are talking to it is just like you are able to peer over their shoulders. And there were those who said Virtual Reality was a fad and a busted flush but what nonsense that is when we see our man from his very cubicle discussing with the denizens of some far of sanct the practicalities of vacuuming up gold dust from the sea bed floor. It's just as good as being there, better in fact as it comes without the perils of sea sickness.
For cultural pursuits, the Elw of leisure, being a liberal and sophisticated gentleman has a wide range of choices, Ashkenatzim literature, foreign language films from Batavia (subtitled naturally), Natopian sculptures of goodness knows what for the mantelpiece, and perhaps even a little lick of Qainaktara to relax once the children have done to sleep. Nor is fine dining neglected restaurants specialising in rich Alexandrian fare and spicy challenging Babkhi dishes proliferate. Native cuisine, being more homely fare, tends to get less of a look in for modern sophisticates looking to experience a night on the town.
Then once a year for a period of thirty days, the Elw of Leisure, a delicate and sensitive soul, concerned for his family and his career and very much of a mild disposition, takes leave of his sensibilities in favour of his senses which have suddenly become oh so very visceral.
The Elwynnese summer, being short, is almost religiously intensive. When the tundra in Cape Farewell and northern Iserdia melts, the swampy existence bring so much life to flowers, mammals, birds and many others including, for many the only negative with the summer, mosquitoes. But compared to the frozen darkness much of the rest of year, the summer, full of light and no darkness at all, brings out the Elw youth to the wilderness. Living in tents, getting to know each other and themselves, they hunt fish in the streams, catch another hungover owl, unique to Elwynn and very tasty for an owl, and have the endless barbecues, laughs and songs.
Singing folk songs, which for many Elw is considered unnecessary geeky for the working year, is a mandatory part of the summer existence. Songs such as Ken Li, which no one really understands, makes all hearts beat in communion. They bring out the love, the hugs and sometimes the kisses and the sharing of sleeping bags.
This life, without electricity and running water, is for what so many a young Elw lives for in the dull, liberal multiculti existence in town. He or she starts making plans for the next summer just as the first powder of snow reaches his town. In the north, earlier than in Eliria or Araxion. Further south than these cities, there are no "true Elw" in the young Elw society, they are all Babkhanized, Shirerithianized or -ized in other ways. They are a lost cause. But the north is the freedom, it is the hope of the year and the reason why the young Elw, north and brave, puts up with the mundane squeeky clean existence of the rest of year.
Because it is as they say, what happens in Roqpin stays in Roqpin (unless of course the sharing of sleeping bags goes to sharing the condo in town). Nine months later, by Fasmas, when the Babkhi and Hyperborean new years are celebrated, the maternity wards in all hospitals in Elwynn are full. Children just seem pop out from nowhere. But at Fasmas, few ask "who is the father?" compared to all other months. What happens in Roqpin stays there. In fact, even if she did know the father of her new child, how could she be certain? It's not as if she subscribes to the patriarchal notion of belonging to one man. No, she is free, her body is hers and her enjoyment is her enjoyment and her prerogative. And then she returns, maybe to a boyfriend or a husband (or indeed a girlfriend or a wife), back in her condo. They all know that Roqpin sex is just that, going back to the roots, being part of nature, becoming one with nature and with all other Elw. For the rest of the year, monogamy, not so much for reasons of conforms as for practical reasons, becomes the norm and deviance from it is hardly something encouraged.
Roqpin. Mention that month to the ears of an Elw and he or she will start smiling, maybe even blush, and a great longing for the summers of the north, where all is still and young and wild, primeval yet so intense, comes upon him or her. After the conversation is ended, he or she will put on the interactive glasses and check, just to be sure, when the hike begins.
Getting leave from work during Roqpin is not difficult at all. Though many still remain in their rowns, the holidays are just free and still. In Eliria, for example, the great capital of the union, everything seems to go at a much slower pace. The libraries have Roqpin times (11-16 seems to be standard) and hospitals are suddenly staffed with southerners and with doctors surnamed Khan. The shops, stores and supermarkets are suddenly filled with youngsters from Amokolia and Alalehzamin working their holidays in the big city. You see, the hourly rate for work during Roqpin seems almost to be three times the rate for work the other months.
This is also exploited by some Elw of the North. Having their annual month-long outing to the wilderness in the polar night is just another experience.
Views on reproduction, sexuality, and marriage
Historically, the Elw placed great value on reproduction. It was seen as a duty to one's family, tribe, nation and humanity to reproduce, preferably within the family unit. A human's worth was also based on his or her potential for reproduction. Not reproducing, despite having the medical, financial and community resources necessary to do so and to rear a child was considered a crime worthy of exile.
Marriage was never a concept of great note in Elw society prior to the Shirerithian takeover in the 1400s. Elw society, which was generally monogamous in that those joined in a household chose to commit to one another and build a household with one another. This did not preclude sexual relations outside the household (or marriage, if you will). Indeed, in nomadic Elw communities, it was sometimes desirable to bring "fresh blood" from a traveller or guest. A guest, regardless of gender, would be invited to spend the night in the household of the community, where the opposite-sex partner would be invited to bed him or her. This tradition would later merge with the almost extrajudicial nature of Roqpin, during which the social mores of household and commitment would be suspended until the harvest begins.
Elw "marriage" could be explained in 3-rung hierarchical ladder:
First rung: Betrothal/Trial/Loose
When two persons are ready to leave their respective parents' household, they will, before establishing a household (or real marriage) of their own, swear their fidelity to one another. This is similar to the Nazarene tradition of betrothal. There was no particular ritual to this, rather, it was simply announced to the community that these two would try out life together. There was usually some kind of contract, usually oral than written, regulating the nature of the relationship. For example, what would happen to any children born during it (as they would not be part of a household, as a household had yet not been established), how to fund their mutual outings, whether they would establish a "trial household" (i.e. have their own cabin, tent, etc.), and how to fund that, and share in labour.
Second rung: Household/Marriage
The second rung indicates the creation of a formal household. This is the closest analogy to a marriage. The household is similar to a joint-stock company, in that the household is given a legal name and personality, and that the owners of it are the couple running it. As such, in an Elw "marriage" there are at least three legal persons: two physical ones (the couple) and one corporate (the household).
Children would belong to the household until they had established their own household. A household could be established independently (i.e. without a spouse), but this was more common for wealthier single persons who could afford staff in the household, or for widowers/widows.
A household could also be established by more than two people, usually a set of sisters and a non-sibling man, or a set of brothers with a non-sibling woman.
Households could also be established by siblings (there remained however a taboo on sexual relations between siblings), and these households were generally established to consolidate the estate of a deceased parent. At times, two or more brothers may join one non-sibling woman in establishing a household, or two or more sisters with a non-sibling man.
Furthermore, a household could be established by same-sex partners.
Finally, a household, as it is a legal person, could enter into first-rung relationships, i.e. swear an oath of betrothal to another individual. This practice developed to the concept of catamites and courtesans, persons who were asymmetrically joined into a household without belonging to it. This was common for younger individuals who sought protection outside their household of origin.
A household could always be dissolved at the mutual agreement of its owners; it was always more complicated when one of the partners did not want it to be dissolved, and arbitration in the local community was usually necessary in these circumstances.
In the third rung, the owners of the household extinguish their private property, thus pooling all their resources into the household.
Views on crime
Historically, the Elw dealt with crimes in a number of ways. One way was retribution. If person A's property was stolen by person B, then B would have to restore to A any losses A may have suffered from the loss of the property. Secondly, if one has a long history of antisocial behaviour, the community would simply correct the behaviour, first by beating him or her lightly (send a message that words have failed to do, but physical abuse remained taboo, even in these circumstances). If this failed, repeatedly, then the community would exile the person from the community into the wilderness.
The wilful causing the death of someone was dealt with differently. Although a taboo in society, the communities tended to view certain murders more mitigating, sometimes even desirable, than others:
- infants (modern academics refer this practice as "post-natal abortion" as it was not considered a murder until a child developed object permanence, as a child was not regarded as a person before that point)
- people with mental, intellectual or physical disabilities (this was considered a mercy killing, it remained a crime however, but not as bad as other murders)
- people who had children, especially older children (they had already reproduced, as such, their genes had the potential to live on after death)