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The Legend of Stigr

The legend of Stigr serves as an origin story for the status quo of The Revolving Sea, detailing the origin of many practices that came to define its culture.  

Synopsis

  According to the stories, the Revolving Sea was once a place of complete chaos and constant war. Not only did the different isles constantly wage destructive war on each other, but the people of each island would frequently rob and murder each other. There was no loyalty or honor.   Stigr was an orphan who had grown up amidst the chaos. Although he was a skilled warrior, he had grown tired of killing. Yet it was impossible to stop, for he had to defend himself when others came after him.    Some versions go into greater detail on his backstory, but they all lead to the point where Stigr resigns himself to a life of miserable conflict. Then one day, the sea spoke to him.  
"If the ways of people do not change, they will become extinct by their own hand. You must seek out Atdan and find a new way for the people."  
-The Sea
    As the sea spoke, Stigr saw a vision of all the islands barren and covered in blood. To prevent this from coming to pass, Stigr began preparations to set sail. He knew that Atdan, the creator of life, could be found on the first island, Atuaheim.   In order to learn how to reach Atuaheim, Stigr sought out Helga, a wise woman. She advised him to build his boat with certain materials, and she would sing a song on board the boat. Stigr was hesitant to trust Helga, but reasoned that a wise woman understood the importance of the vision.   After setting sail, Stigr and Helga passed through thick fog and ended up in the Primordial Sea. From there the story details various episodes on islands that Stigr and Helga came across. Many feature Stigr exploring the island alone, encountering a monster, and having to fight it before setting sail once more. Stigr often makes an escape after wounding the monster, just barely avoiding death at its hands.   Ultimately, Stigr and Helga successfully arrived at Atuaheim, where they met the various Atua. After sharing word of how the people fare and making offerings, Stigr and Helga were unknowingly put through a trial.    Summer and Winter approached the two separately and offered them immortality if they would sacrifice their traveling companion. Both Stigr and Helga refused, and refused once more when offered immortality for killing a stranger in ritual combat. In reality this was a test of their character, and Atdan was pleased that they passed.   Stigr is then gifted a new kind of weapon, the macuahuitl, which can both kill and incapacitate. The Atua train Stigr in its use and how to take the enemy captive rather than kill them. Atdan hands down new laws, giving Stigr the laws governing relationships between islands and combat, while Helga receives laws governing the people of each island and the household.    Atdan decrees that Stigr will return to his island as the first khan and marry Helga, so that they can spread the new laws. It is explained by Atdan that the laws were given in parts to remind them of their dependence on others, that Stigr's new title is meaningless without others.   The return journey is another area where episodic events are featured, in this case often featuring a return to islands visited during the journey to Atuaheim. These episodes feature Stigr triumphing over the monsters he fled from or relied on luck to best earlier, either through his new fighting style or by learning their weakness. When he takes a monster as a thrall there is often a speech about the importance of order and life and why the new ways are superior.   In the final section of the story, Stigr and Helga return home and call for an assembly of all the people of the Revolving Sea, using a horn gifted to them by Atdan. At the meeting Stigr and Helga recite the new laws granted to them by Atdan, which includes the creation of peace and war seasons, war focusing on captive taking, a new form of government, and the implementation of thralldom.

"No more shall there be a singular king of each island. Instead the islands shall be led by a council of those with the most mana. And the greatest among them shall be known as a khan. When a singular leader is needed it is the khan who will step forward. When they are not needed they will wield no more power than their fellow council members."  
-Atdan, and later Helga, in several versions of the stor

 

Variations and Episodes

  The core arc of the story: Stigr receiving his vision, traveling with Helga, the meeting with the Atua, and the return home, is consistent across versions. Only the details and the episodes in the middle of the story change. Even then each episode itself also remains fairly consistent across different tellings, it's simply a matter of which ones are used.   The most well known and consistently appearing island episode begins with Stigr disembarking to search for supplies. On the island he meets a tribe of people called the Haradakali, who are all master sorcerers that can alter their shape and conjure illusions.    Once Stigr enters their cave as a guest they reveal their true form, where they resemble humans but with four arms, the horns and tusks of an orc, the tail of a lizal, the claws of a talpman, and can change their skin's color and texture like a cephal. This is because they were the first creations of Atdan before he decided to separate their traits between the five mortal races.   Stigr is forced to face Brytthofthi, one of the sons of the Haradakali king in ritual combat. Although Stigr wins, it turns out that he had been fighting an illusion, and the true Brytthofthi attempts a sneak attack. In the chaos Stigr breaks out of the cave, taking supplies with him, and returns to his boat, which immediately takes off.   On their return from Atuaheim, Stigr and Helga are forced to stop at the island of the Haradakali to avoid a mighty storm. The storm was actually an illusion conjured by Brytthofthi, who seeks to fight Stigr once again. With his new fighting style Stigr defeats Brytthofthi in earnest. The Haradakali king offers to adopt Stigr as his son and new heir once Stigr finishes off Brytthofthi, but is surprised when Stigr refuses to kill Brytthofthi.   Instead Stigr declares that Brytthofthi shall return with him as a thrall, making a speech about how a truly skilled warrior does not kill their foes. Brytthofthi's mother then grants a prophecy, that Brytthofthi shall reform the practice of ritual combat, earn his freedom, and become father of the Radakali.   Naturally, the Radakali tellings of the story place a great emphasis on Brytthofthi. The island of the Haradakali is positioned as the closest island to Atuaheim so that it is the last episode of the voyage to Atuaheim, and more importantly the first episode of the return trip. Brytthofthi is heavily focused on for the return trip, more than Stigr and Helga, who only come back into focus for the final section in the Revolving Sea.   Other episodes include an island where Stigr and Helga speak with the dead and those yet to come, an island with warriors caught in an unceasing cycle of death and resurrection (which Stigr breaks by introducing his new fighting style), and a variety of fantastical tribes and strange creatures, ranging from fish that steal voices to a turtle large enough to be mistaken for an island.   Later versions tend to add to the section featuring those yet to come, if it is included. Some recent ones have added foreshadowing for the birth of Hákon and say that the Haradakali also had the wings of a dragon.  

Cultural Reception and Significance

  Everyone in the Revolving Seas knows the story of Stigr, it is a foundational story of their culture. Naturally, the Radakali have a particular fondness for the sections dealing with Brytthofthi, with several retellings focused on him and other stories expanding further on the origin of the Radakali.   It is likely that the section with Summer and Winter offering immortality, as well as the Haradakali, was specifically about an old practice of sacrifice by ritual combat. This is reinforced by stories of Brytthofthi establishing the modern model of gladiatorial combat, which makes a point of forbidding fights to the death and lists a variety of harsh punishments for any who bring death into the arena.   People outside the Revolving Sea aren't as interested in a story where the hero spreads the practice of slavery.
Royal Origins
  In many versions of the story, Stigr is given the backstory of having been a prince. His father was killed while he was still only a child, due to his youth and inexperience he failed to properly lead his father's men and they abandoned him.
Inconsistent Islands
  Which island is Stigr from? Everyone will tell you that it was their island. It has become an accepted feature of retellings that they will almost always give the storyteller's home island as where the story began.
Mother Sea
  While her exact name varies by the island, a primordial mother sea goddess is a consistent feature across the mythologies of the Revolving Sea. The islands themselves are said to be her children.

Fog Doors
  There is a common motif in the mythology and folklore of the Revolving Sea of people passing through fog and ending up in some sort of fantastical place, often the Primordial Sea. Having some sort of command over where the fog takes you by singing is another recurring theme.
Seasonal Twins
  Summer and Winter are another two constants across the stories of the Revolving Sea. While their genders change, all versions have them as twins, and their personalities remain consistent.   Since the Revolving Sea is known and named for its rapid shifts between summer and winter, it only makes sense that the personifications of those seasons would play such a major role.  
A Story Told Again and Again
  As an important story to the Revolving Sea, there are countless works of art in different mediums adapting, retelling, referencing, alluding, and expanding on the story. When puppet theater found its way to the Revolving Sea, one of the first performances made was an adaptation of the story of Stigr.  
Unknown Race
  Stigr and Helga's race is completely unmentioned in the earliest known versions of the story, adding to the ambiguity of which island they lived on. Visual mediums tend to go with whatever suits the artist or is more convenient. Some versions attempt to keep the ambiguity as much as possible.  
Connected Stories
  There are a variety of other myths, legends, and folklore that build upon Stigr's story. Some notable ones will be listed below.   -A story detailing the establishment of the new social order, effectively serving as a sequel or epilogue that exchanges the fantastical episodes for political battles. It calls back to and relies upon several of the episodic events in Stigr's story, such as the Haradakali and Stigr speaking with the dead.   -In Vethsmärholm one myth states that Helga was responsible for negotiating the arrangement between Summer and Winter that led to the island having a different season on its two sides.   -There is a prophecy that should the Revolving Sea fall into chaos once again, Stigr will return and once again establish a new, more stable order.   -A variety of stories focusing on Brytthofthi, dealing with the birth of the Radakali and the establishment of the gladiatorial arenas.   -Some episodes get adapted on their own, expanding on what happened before Stigr appeared and between his two visits to the island.
The Tam'ral
Document | Oct 1, 2022
 
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Comments

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Grandmaster Gillymaya
Gilly-May Hartill
15 Jul, 2021 11:16

Such a detailed article! I love the variations you add to the myth because it adds realism to the telling of oral history. The layout is beautiful, especially the use of the sidebar, which makes the article more reader friendly on the whole. Good work, well done!

Gilly Hartill   Fantasy world builder, aspiring author & lover of all things RPG.
5 Aug, 2021 06:31

Thank you. Using the sidebar has really added a lot to my articles.