“Lemma the Librarian – A Rock and a Hard Place”


Published: January 21, 2012


This one is… unusual. There’s no book involved, just a magic artefact (hypnotic, because what else do you expect), and Lemma loses. She usually (always) gets mc’d, but also bounces back at the end (mostly with Iason’s help). Here, she gets a debilitating curse stuck on her (can’t resist mind control, in this universe, ouch). It’s… not quite “frustrating”. Unfinished-feeling, maybe? (Although the story obviously is as self-contained as it is supposed to be.)

Hragulf is apparently as much a doofus as Steve was – does he really need Lemma to walk him through How To Properly Use Your Irresistible MC Device? – but much nastier, which also makes it a little more uncomfortable of a story. Brinksmoor was also an asshole but Got His; Hragulf walks away. From a longer perspective, the story is clearly setting up Hragulf to return later, and Lemma to have a new weakness to struggle with for while, but – I dunno. It does what it needs to but I just don’t find it as fun* as the stories before or after it.

*Ok, this does have probably the best iteration of the “Lemma is vain and doesn’t like Tin Islands beauty standards” joke yet. Broadly, my point stands.

When The Fuck Are We? 🤷

After three stories in plausibly Celtic-named places, we arrive in Mercia, and the 1200 BCE theory has a apoplectic fit and dies. Mercia is, of course, a real place, and a real kingdom. It lasted from sometime in the ill-documented early era of Anglo-Saxon settlement in Britain, mid-6th C CE or so, down to its incorporation into the newly unified England c. 900 CE. Those dates, one might notice, are closer to the present day than to the Bronze Age Collapse. 

Way back in the prologue, there’s a mention of the “Seven Kingdoms” of the Tin Islands. (The phrase will be used more, sporadically, through the rest of our time here.) In a British context, that phrase brings one thing to mind immediately*: the Heptarchy, the traditional seven-kingdom division of England under the Anglos Saxons. I use the word “traditional” advisedly: modern historians basically disagree with its use- or truthfulness as a concept. All seven of the kingdoms were real, mind you; there was just never a time when they divided England. In the early Dark Ages there were dozens and dozens of tiny little statelets, squabbling over the post-apocalyptic wreck of post-Roman Britain, and by the time Hwicce and Wihtwara and Rheged and so forth had been absorbed into the big boys (Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, and Wessex), so had several of the “official” Heptarchy kingdoms** (Sussex, Essex, and Kent, which is to say the weaker little south-east kingdoms). Modern historians usually just refer to “Anglo-Saxon England” instead.

So for the next little while, let’s see what happens if we look at the Tin Islands as Dark Age, rather than pre-Roman. It fits the tech level a bit better (not great, chimneys fer goodness sake, but better) and the settled towns and farms and literacy and cloistered religious orders and suchlike. The villain’s name here, Hragulf, doesn’t seem to be a real one but is definitely Germanic rather than Celtic – also fitting the Middle-Angle Mercian setting. The ethnic divisions (Anglo-Saxons in most but not all of modern England, Celts elsewhere) also line up. Mercia is described in the next story as the most powerful of the seven kingdoms, which real Mercia was, from 633-825 CE; we can pick 650 CE as the date for being a round number and for matching religions (more on that later). I kinda wish I could swing 775 CE, though, because I like the Mercian king of the time, Offa***.

All that and this is the first story to use the word “iron” explicitly, to emphasize the inability of non-Lemurians**** to work it properly, because, unlike the iron-using Anglo-Saxons, the Tin Islands are in the late Bronze Age. It’s like @midorikonton is trying to drive me nuts… 😉

*Of course, Westeros is basically Britain, so nowadays you probably jump there first, instead. But my guess is Martin’s “seven kingdoms” crib off the same history originally, too. 

**It’s actually somewhat unclear what the Seven Kingdoms of the Tin Islands are. We know five for sure: Kyrno, Breizh, and Mercia, and later stories will take us to Thumbria [Northumbria] and Munn [the Isle of Man]. There are three other named polities in the Tin Islands visited later as well: Kymri [ie Cymru, Wales], Yri [ie Eire, Ireland], and Alba [ie Alba, Scotland]. Alba isn’t one of the Seven, since it’s north of Thumbria and that’s explicitly the northernmost; so in theory that gives us seven. My suspicion, though, is that Yri, like Alba, is its own thing, and Kymri and an unnamed seventh that Lemma never visits (East Anglia?) are the others. Note that unlike the real Heptarchy, which pointedly excluded the Britons of Cornwall and Wales and Scotland, there’s a mix of ethnic origins here: Mercia and Kyrno are both definites.

***True story: Offa was a Christian but minted coins that had the shahada (in smudgy Arabic) on them. The coins in question are copies of Abbasid dinars: the most likely explanation is that Offa, minting the first gold coinage in England, decided reasonably to copy the highest quality coinage he could – which is to say, the Abbasid one. In doing so, he put “OFFA REX” on the one side, but on the other retained as many of the “decorative” elements as possible, which included, apparently unbeknownst to Offa, the Arabic text of the shahada. One of those “truth is weirder than fiction” moments, and why Offa is my favourite Mercian.

****Lemuria is behind a “Gate” or Gates, we discover. No context for that yet, but keep it in mind for a while…


Next time: Vampires and a chat about religion.

Part of why it’s a little vague which the Seven Kingdoms are is because, between writing the Prologue and finishing the series, I lost all my notes and maps twice. Part is because it’s vague for the real world, so why not fantasy world?

Of course, Westeros is basically Britain, so nowadays you probably jump
there first, instead. But my guess is Martin’s “seven kingdoms” crib off
the same history originally, too. 

Almost certainly, though somewhat complicated by the fact that he’s also clearly writing the War of the Roses (w/ice zombies and dragons). I will say that yes, it’s where I got it.

It’s like @midorikonton is trying to drive me nuts… 

Well, not you specifically, but yes, at some point I decided to start trolling anyone who did start working out the times/places I was drawing on. It’s like Tolkien and potatoes.