A Summary of the Metaphysics

Gods come into the world on a certain schedule. Some in antiquity; some in the distant future; some not so far from now.
— Alan (II/IV)

The generic term for a supernatural creature in Hitherby Dragons is god. According to Tantalus, they are born to fill emptiness.

There are many kinds of gods, including the following:

Angels, who fill emptiness with hope.
Demons, who teach acceptance.
Fairies, reflecting the chaos outside the world.
Fiends, answering hurt with madness.
Heroes, who can fight monsters.
Merins, who help make sense of the world.

Please feel free to submit new candidates for definition, now or over the course of the chapter.

A person’s emptiness can create a god from nothingness. Martin says he created himself from that state.

Humans and animals can become gods. A scorpion became a god in response to blasphemy. Liril transformed both Sandy and Tainted John into gods.

People descended from gods are a special case, inheriting limited supernatural qualities. This includes the “people of salt,” descended from Lia, and the line of monsters descended from Amiel. They create gods with unusual facility and are unusually vulnerable to transcendence into godhood. Monsters and potential heroes tremble on the verge of transcendence at all times.

“When you promise something that humans can’t fulfill,” Erin says, “you don’t have to be human any more.”

“Can’t,” Branwen says. “Not ‘don’t have to.'”
— It’s Only Wounds (I/I)

Promises are very powerful. Making a promise that humans can’t fulfill can transform a human into a god. A similar technique works for gods—making a promise beyond her means, Cyane transformed herself from nymph to angel. Such promises cannot be made “from weakness.”

The impact of some promises crosses multiple generations. Amiel made a promise that bound her line to Lia’s. This promise affects all of her descendants. If they become gods, they become “bondsmen” of Lia’s line—they cannot achieve personal transcendence. The promise of the first hero, Ella, has similar effects; some of her descendants have been proto-heroes, with the heroic nature as their destined route to godhood.

“As the monster gloated of his victory,” Sabin says, “the hand of Allah struck him down. It obscured the sun. It blotted out the sky. Everything was chaos and terror. But we were not strong enough, you see. We had failed. So he cast us down too. Allah banished us from Heaven. He cast us down to earth, to live in the mud and the muck. He stripped us of our godhead. And without it, we are simply slaves.”
— People of Salt (IV/IV)

The world is severed from the influence of the gods. This separation is incomplete but still profound: for millennia, transcendence has meant death, and the techniques of god-making have been unreliable at best.

This phenomenon is fading. Most of the story features supernatural events, and at least one angel has been born since Columbine. However, the gods have not yet reasserted themselves; they are still “isn’ts,” as one fairy put it, lacking full influence over the world.

Is there anything else you feel belongs in this summary? Post!

13 thoughts on “A Summary of the Metaphysics

  1. One gets the feeling that woglies are fundamentally undefinable.

    Though this also makes “what is Martin?” an even more interesting question…

  2. When it says that heroes can fight monsters, what sort of monster is this?

    Some evidence would suggest that this is the empty sort, the kind that can evoke gods from themselves and others. Most, even, and there are several examples of this, such as Sebastian and the current Monster’s aborted struggle.

    But another hero, Sabin, the one that that fought the scorpion and such, seemed to kill “monsters” of a sort that were gods of a sort that were not of the technical monster classification. As from that entry…

    “I have a gift,” Sabin says. “I can kill monsters. And it is always nagging at my mind. If I forget myself, then I will kill you, and I will die.”

    “I am not a monster,” it offers. It sounds almost offended.

    “I use the term loosely,” Sabin admits. “But come: you stalk around on many legs killing people.”

    “I also rip out their brains and sup on their memories of self,” the creature admits. “But still. Call me titan. Creature. Beast. Not monster. I have seen monsters in my day.”

    Yet, these “monsters” seemed to fit the sort of monster that heroes fight closely enough that in fighting them he risked transcendance. He came close to it a number of times, and eventually transcended.

    Does this indicate that a proto-hero can become a god and thus, an isn’t if he fights either monsters or fiendish gods? Or is there some other principle at work?

  3. Maybe a definition of Woglies?

    What would it be?

    There’s actually at least one reader who figured it out, whom I’m hoping to lure out of the woodwork. :) If not, I’ll add the definition later.

    Hrm…

    OK, so when Heroes “switch on”, they become Gods and disappear from the universe (well, lose their ability to affect it anyway).

    Historically, they’ve died.

    As noted, the separation between gods and world is decreasing. Martin suggests that, in 2004, transcending would make Sebastien an isn’t rather than killing him outright.

    But then:

    “Monsters and potential heroes tremble on the verge of transcendence at all times.”

    So if Mr. Monster (the guy with the tie), indulges in his monstrous nature, doesn’t he then disappear?

    He went partway there in Questions and Answers (2 of 2), and this was the result:

    “There is a fire burning him from without and within, cutting and tearing at the monster’s soul
    (… A) great and terrible abyss yawns under (him).”

    And aren’t all the demons/angels/fairies/etc. also on the verge of disappearing?

    How are they able to act out their natures without transcending?

    “The fairies, fiends, and titans they
    are isn’ts yet, isn’ts yet;
    And the angels, and Mei Ming.”

    People can become gods, particularly the people of salt and the monster’s line. But the fairies, angels, and so forth are already gods.

    However hard it is to transcend, be born as a god, or survive as a god in the current day, the gods we’ve seen post-Mylitta have managed it.

    Is a promise made from weakness if it’s known to be impossible to fulfill?

    Nope!

    At the end of It’s Only Wounds (I/I), Erin makes two impossible promises. The first is from weakness; the second isn’t.

    When it says that heroes can fight monsters, what sort of monster is this?

    Good question, but I’m not going to answer it until I’ve written Mylitta’s story. :)

    Does this indicate that a proto-hero can become a god and thus, an isn’t if he fights either monsters or fiendish gods? Or is there some other principle at work?

    Yes.

    Ben and Sebastien talk a bit about what that other principle is.

  4. See now, this is why I ask, because for the most part Hitherby makes a sort of detached sense, but when it comes to Woglies my brain itches in an awkward spot that I can’t reach through my ears or nose. So I sort of need to know, in a way, although the mystery behind the concept is very cool.

    When you say somebody figured it out, do you mean they made an accurate comment on the relevant entry, and if we are so inclined we can go for a wander and find out for ourselves? Neither thinking nor wandering are very high on my to-do list right now, so I’d rather jaust sit back and wait for somebody else to do the work for me.[/quote”>

  5. Hmm.

    Woglies eat the integrity of the world. They seem to eat that which makes things be things. They convert it, though we don’t know what they convert it into.

    Martin can kill woglies.

    Martin tends to add is-ness to things, and turn things that aren’t into things that are, including himself. Does he produce this is-ness ex nihilo, perhaps by knowing about things? Or is there a conservation of reality?

    If there is… does he have to take it from somewhere else?

    Or am I barking up the wrong tree? Not everything seems to fit, as he does sometimes seem to have an adversarial relationship with the things, as when he killed the one along with Bob. But, on the other hand, he was changing his position on what to do then, as the current approach wasn’t working.

    So…

    Do woglies have something to do with Martin’s ability to turn isn’t and completely nonexistent things to real things?

  6. The world she has chosen is thin as tissue, and full of inconsistent holes. They hiss, and they wink their eyes, and the wind roars through them.

    I’ve always rather thought that that’s what woglies are – the visible manifestations of inconsistent holes in the universe, not exactly entities. They’re like the punctures in a balloon through which the air leaks out, and that’s what makes the hissing sound.

    When the punctures are small and few, the universe/balloon can survive for some time, gradually losing air/integrity. When the punctures are many great tears, the balloon/universe collapses into shreds.

  7. Granted, they may be inconsistencies, but I think they are something more.

    In the Mei Ming story, she named one Steven, and it rotated once to the left. Are woglies sentient inconsistencies? Would it be worth seeking one to keep as my own pet, so that I can love it and feed it and play with it, then when the world becomes too much to bear, I can climb through it and just be gone?

  8. Granted, they may be inconsistencies, but I think they are something more.

    In my head, I use the phrasing “Woglies are inconsistencies.” So I’m glad to see that here. :)

    Yes. There is more. They’re a very specific subtype of inconsistency—the kind that manifests as a visible, sentient entity with observable behavior patterns.

    I can’t explain why there should be such a thing. It’d be a spoiler! You have enough information to speculate, though, which is good, ’cause it’s what people are doing.

    Rebecca

  9. Yes. There is more. They’re a very specific subtype of inconsistency—the kind that manifests as a visible, sentient entity with observable behavior patterns.

    That’s all I needed to know. I don’t feel so daft calling Steven my favourite character, now. But far more importantly, I want to see what happens when one Wogly happens upon another Wogly. Do they fight? Do they rotate once to the left, repeatedly, until the other is willing to mate? Is there a Wogly language?

    I’m going to have a Wogly induced overload.

  10. I’m not one to suggest merchandising, but I would pay a lot for a wogly. I would name it Trudy, and she would make my world less regular. She would rotate to the left time and again, and someday it would destroy me, but in the meantime I could enjoy watching Trudy try to avoid my cat.

    My cat is a sleek huntress, you see. And woglies would be the kind of things she enjoys hunting. I didn’t say it was smart of her.

    Alternately, I could buy a plush wogly, stuffed with catnip, and get almost the same effect. Certainly, I know it would make my cat rotate to the left.

  11. My brain boggles to think what would happen if one was to be forcefully rotated to the right, if that is in fact at all possible.

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