Sung Duels Tradition / Ritual in Symbols of Power | World Anvil

Sung Duels

In the Merthiornite tradition, proper, brave adults will resolve their conflicts by meeting on a public place, usually a tavern but sometimes the town square, a well-known crossing or another place that allows for the public to be present, and discuss their differences by rapping:
  They will take turns stating their position in the matter in verse form, and the other side will counterattack as fast as possible, always in verse.
While it is extremely difficult to track down the origins of this traditions, scholars pin it down to around eight to ten centuries ago, through which the aspects and details of it have been adapting to the fads and changes in musical style without losing their meaning.
Much to the contrary, time only served to make people take the sung duels more and more seriously especially in the lower classes, with the results of a match being taken as the final resolution of the discussed topics.


While the tradition has acquired and forgotten rules and customs over the centuries and some may vary from place to place around the island, the basic details remain in place and some of them are taken almost as sacred rituals.  
"I am citing Vinter of Goldwaste on The Burning Lie, on Vhasix 10 an hour before midnight, to discuss the issue of their fucking stakes on the construction of the hospital building"
— A public calling for a sung duel, recorded in a document about the issues pertaining said hospital.
The required person did not assist to the duel.
  In general, a contender will publicly call out the other one indicating the general topic to discuss, the location and the time, in a manner in which the news can be spread enough for the public to attend the meeting. Usually, the person will do so after privately sending the request to the other party and receiving a reply, as not coordinating the time with the rival is considered rude.

Trelis by Naelin

The duel of the Eaten Orchard

One of the most emblematic sung duels was known as the Duel of the Eaten Orchard. It took place around 2784 E.Alz on a well-known tavern past midnight, where a dog woman and a wolverine man reunited a big public to duel around the wolverine's accusation that the dog's pet had eaten his orchard.
The duel devolved from verses to fists as a drunken friend of the wolverine decided to try to punch the dog and ended up on a 30 people fistfight on the streets.
An oddly specific law was created around this altercation, which was the start of the series of regulations that turned the tavern tradition into a proper sport.
The contenders will meet in the agreed-upon place and, if the place is a tavern or inn, both them and the public will have at least one rounds of drinks and some finger foods before starting. Alcohol is prohibited for the rivals after the duel has started.   Then, a third party (or the one that called for the duel, if no one else is available) will briefly detail the accusation in prose form and simple terms and will indicate once the duel starts.
  The person that received the call for the duel always starts and does so by defending themselves against the accusations. Simple musical accompaniment is used to help the rhythm.
Then, both parties will take turns replying to each other, always in verse, without delay, and directly answering to what the other person said before them.   These duels can go on for hours, and usually involve plenty of inflammatory language, double entendres, and rapidly changing topics. The duel will end either when one of the contenders cannot reply to the other, or when the vast majority of the public decides that one of the sides has lost.
  The losing party will be considered to have lost the discussion, and to be in the wrong. A lot of embarrassment and shame for the loser is also involved in many sections of society.

Officialization as a sport

Sung Duels themed around livestock and pets are forbidden from taking place in taverns and inns past midnight
— Old merthiornite law, never vetoed.
Through the centuries, different incidents surrounding sung duels prompted the kingdom to slowly add up rules and regulations to the activity.
  Eventually, the guard that was required to be around for duels surrounding some sensitive topics turned into a specialized referee that took an active
part on the decision making for the duel's result, and soon enough, people started finding the potential of being a well-known rhymer.   While the sung duels continued to be used as dispute solvers among the general population, people started learning to rhyme and rap for entertainment, and locations started to be opened to turn into duel grounds. The activity started to bring in lots of money to places that offered duels with the best rhymers, which started selecting impersonal topics, philosophical arguments, or made up conflicts that could even turn into an entire theatre play.

From the bottom of the barrel to the highest of society

Today, seven years after the fall of the nation that saw its birth, sung duels are the most popular tradition in the newly risen Kingdom of Thaur.
  Entire amphitheatres have been built to hold the most popular duelers and most entertainment buildings, except for Houses of Pleasure, have song duelers somewhere in their repertoire. Oratory schools have been created to train people on rhyming while maintaining the coherence of their discourse. Betting has become commonplace for the bigger organized events, though there is much discussion about the actual battles being staged and rigged from the start, a topic that, comically, has prompted its own history of duels on it.
The musical accompaniment for the duels also became more specialized, with people learning to play instruments specifically to create new and more exciting rhythms for the rhymers.
  This escalating trend does not appear to be anywhere near stopping, and recently the sung duels have started creeping into the political circles, with well-known politicians and noble folk (which were until then the most reluctant to participate in such a "peasant" activity) rapping to discuss important state and economic issues.

Cover image: Merthiorn Banner by Naelin


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Dec 30, 2020 23:36 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

I love the weirdly specific law! That's such a fun thing to find in real life, and I love you have one in your setting. This sounds like a sport I'd actually enjoy watching, haha. :D

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Jan 5, 2021 23:07

I spent an entire day researching real-life stupid/oddly specific laws for the article about that law lol   Thanks for your comment Emy <3

Jan 2, 2021 16:43 by Cassandra Sojourn

I really like this idea as a sport. I'm a fan of the rap battle. I especially enjoy how it has begun taking on a political nature to talk about important issues and maybe begin changing some laws in the process.

Choose your poison:   Phasmatum: An Afro-Solar-Fantasy world created for my epic novels.
Adazuri: A shonen-inspired magitech fantasy world home-brewed for 5e.
Jan 5, 2021 23:08

Thank you so much for featuring my article!   Who knows, maybe one day a war can be prevented thanks to a rap battle!

Jan 5, 2021 22:37 by JRR Jara

Ladies and gentlemen, you could have been anywhere in the world tonight But you're here with us in the Kingdom of Thaur Are you ready for a cabinet meeting, huh?

Creator of Hanzelot and many more.
Jan 5, 2021 23:09

What are you talking about, I was TOTALLY not listening to Cabinet Battle as research for this article. Not at all.

Jan 5, 2021 23:17 by JRR Jara


Creator of Hanzelot and many more.
Jan 7, 2021 15:10 by TC

Gosh these sound fascinating to watch! I remember some comics I read as a kid that featured something similar to this, so this brought back some fond memories. I love that Oratory schools were created especially for the tradition, and I also just noticed this was written for the no-contact game man thats an original answer to the prompt. Great article!!

Creator of Arda Almayed
Sep 25, 2021 09:00 by Simo

I know you were thinking about rap battles here, but to me it's uncanny, in particular in regards to their evolution, the resemblance with our 'poesia a bolu'. if you want a taste :)