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Notes on The Keeper Of Her Soul

The Keeper Of Her Soul is one of the major thematic myths of the Western Lands, appearing as an epic poem, as a traditional folk tale, and, in modern times, as an opera. The Western Lands and Zhandivar are the two poles of Elonian mythology insofar as there can be said to be any polarity in Elonian mythology.

Barath has advanced the thesis that Zhandivar represents the masculine element with tales that emphasize quests, war, achievement and failure, and hubris whereas the Western Lands represent the feminine element with tales that emphasize being, love, mysticism, sorcery, and dragons. It is generally considered that Barath has a strange notion of femininity and that his masculinity is dubious.

In discussing the role of the Western Lands in Elonian mythology it should be remembered that the Western Lands are “real” which is to say that they are treated as actually existing rather than being mythological. Thus an Elonian newspaper (it should be kept in mind that the Elonian conception of a “newspaper” is quite different from ours) will carry a column devoted to Western Lands court gossip. Similarly, the schools offer courses in Western Land history. This is in sharp distinction to Zhandivar which always has a somewhat misty air of mythic character. In general the boundary between myth and reality is rather diffuse in Elonian culture. The reader should keep this in mind; when we speak of events in a myth being historically accurate it is never quite clear and cannot be clear as to what is meant by “historically accurate”.

The converse of this is that in the Western Lands Elonia is also granted provisional reality of a sort.

That said, The Keeper of Her Soul appears to be based on a real event. There is an abandoned dragon’s nest on Mount Merabus although it is not clear that it actually is abandoned since no one has ever entered the nest. Raiding dragon’s nests is dangerous and unpopular, particularly nests which have existed for a long time. The conventional wisdom is that when one steals a dragon’s treasure one becomes a dragon, that the treasure becomes imbued with the essence of dragon and wakens the dragon in one.

One of the recurring questions in the Western Lands cycle is the question of where dragons come from. One school holds that there are no original dragons as such, that they are all shape-shifted human beings who have forgotten their humanity. Another holds that they are not of this world at all (if one can properly use the term, “this world”), that they flew into the Western Lands from over the wall that girds the world. The Academy of Sorcerers holds that Malagius, the first and greatest of sorcerers, inadvertently awakened magic in the ancestral dragons.

Currently there is no village of Perrawanda. The nearest village to the nest is Farth-Tooking. There are ruins of a village some two leagues away from Farth-Tooking which are traditionally believed to be the remains of Perrawanda. An annual re-enactment of The Keeper of Her Soul is held at the ruins; the local villagers have been known to express the hope that Lutetia will reappear and carry off the celebrants.

There are various theories about the ultimate fate of Lutetia. It is popularly held that she became Azgeroth. The residents of Farth-Tooking firmly believe that she is still in the nest, sleeping. The ever unreliable Barath is of the opinion that she flew into the West. In one of the variants of the ballad, Lutetia becomes the jewel; this, however, is probably a confusion with another poem, The Jewel Master. The Horromean schismatics believe that she flew back through time to become Azgeroth.

The idea of placing one’s soul in an artifact is common enough both in European mythology and fantasy and in Elonian mythology. The purposes, however, are different. European sorcerers would did so to make their bodies invulnerable – they could only be destroyed by destroying the artifact holding their soul. The sorcerers of the Western Lands, however, were protecting their souls. They believed that the soul was only loosely bound to the body and that the practice of sorcery weakened the bond. They were always in great danger of their souls leaving them permanently during dreams and drifting as ghosts in the great plain.

It is notable that the prince who sired Lutetia is never named in any of the variants. There is some question as to whether he was a real human being at all.

It should also be noted that the Western Lands were fairly egalitarian with respect to sex. In particular, unlike Europe, both men and women were sorcerers. There was no warlock/witch dichotomy.

It is hard to say what the message and major themes of the poem are. The almost always unreliable Barath holds that the message is that the fear of love and dependence creates the conditions whereby love and dependence are disastrous. Lackawanny holds that the true message is that the dragon always wins. It is generally agreed that the people and the dragons of the Western Lands live within a symbiosis of meaning. Lackawanny’s interpretation rests on her belief that the dragons are the senior partners in this symbiosis.

Chilton argues that these interpretations miss the essential element of the story which is, to him, the relationship between mother and daughter. To be sure, Lutetia never knows her mother in person but it is the lack of the wanted relationship that drives Lutetia. Sealing herself into a impenetrable jewel denies forever the loss that is the focus of her personality.

This page was last updated January 1, 1999.