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Traladaran Culture: A Brief Overviewby Jennifer Guerra
Traladara has been a land torn by constant invasion, occupation, and war for over 2,000 years. Traladara was once the land of the Traldar, tribal peoples who also settled in the lands that would become known as Darokin. Traldar culture flourished around BC 1200. Traldar culture and society at its peak was most comparable to that of the modern-day people of Minaea, or of the collapsed Milenian civilisation of the southern continent.
But the invasion around BC 1000 of the beast-men (probably gnolls) brought an end to the golden age of the Traldar. King Halav, leader of the settlement at Lavv (modern-day Kelvin), led the Traldar to victory over the invaders, though he perished in the battle. Very few of the Traldar survived; those who did reverted back to a simple agrarian lifestyle in order to survive. Communication between communities became infrequent, although the epic of King Halav continued to give the people a sense of unity. Meanwhile, limited contact with newly-arrived Callarii and Vyalia elves lead to the establishment of trade with a very few villages.
The Traldar (now called Traladarans) began a slow climb back to civilisation, although efforts were hampered by constant humanoid invasions and plagues of vampirism and lycanthropy. Marilenev (now Mirros), the major city of Traladara, was a thriving trade village of 5000.
But then Thyatian forces entered Traladara in AC 900 and quickly conquered the undefended territory. Since then, Traladara (called Karameikos since AC 970) has suffered at the hands of a small Thyatian minority, which dominates politics, trade, and the upper echelons of the military.
The Traladaran people, for the most part, follow the teachings of the Church of Traladara, which exhorts followers to live a good life and to do no harm to others. Clerics provide advice based on the examples provided in "The Song of King Halav." The Church of Traladara honours the Immortal Halav, as well as his companions Petra and Zirchev. Traladaran clerics also perform marriages and officiate at other ceremonies, preach the church philosophies, and promote good will. They may also fight in order to save lives or to defeat evil. Roughly 70 percent of the population of Traladara belong to the Church; most are of the common people, although members of the important Traladaran families in Mirros follow the Church philosophies as a matter of protest against Thyatian rule. The current Patriarch of the Church of Traladara is Aleksyev Nikelnevich (also known as "Father Niki").
Many Traladarans (5 to 10 percent of the total population) belong to the Thyatian-dominated Church of Karameikos, while small minorities follow the Eternal Truth of Al-Kalim, the teachings of the elven Immortals, other faiths, or none at all. The Traladaran people are very open-minded and tolerant, and will permit people of nearly any religious creed (excepting evil faiths) to live among them. But Traladarans are also highly-resistant to conversion of any kind, and resent people who question their personal beliefs.
CULTURE AND ATTITUDES
Traladara is noted for its rich folk and liturgical music, stone carving, and architecture. Traladaran architecture displays a remarkable originality in design, seen especially in Traladaran churches and shrines. These churches are often small and simple, with external sculptures and reliefs.
Traladarans are a warm and generous people known for their hospitality; a guest of a Traladaran host, rich or poor, will never leave hungry! (Traditional foods are detailed below). Besides eating, Traladarans enjoy a number of cultural pastimes, such as the greased pole contest, where contestants try to climb a twenty-foot tall smooth wooden pole soaked in fish oil and slathered with lard (the first to make it to the red flag at the top wins a prize, usually a cake). Another pastime is the pancake race, where up to eight contestants try to cross a distance to the finish line while flipping a pancake on a large wooden "spatula." Pummelling and wrestling remain popular sports as well.
One of the more interesting things about Traladarans is their attitude toward romance. Romance is deeply entrenched in the Traladaran culture, and plays a very important role. Traladaran romance is an old-fashioned concept (many of these concepts went out of fashion in other parts of the world a century ago), essentially preserving the concept of courtly love, wherein the woman is elevated as an object of adoration, and in which the man serves her virtue without expecting favours in return. Lukacs Renyo, a popular writer born in Mirros, wrote of this concept. Renyo writes that the ideal of Traladaran romance is about the male proffering love, not receiving it. Traladaran men kiss the hands of their ladies; they enter a tavern or restaurant before the lady so that she should not be exposed to any unseemly behaviour which might be taking place within; they walk on the outside of the street (on the lady's left) so as to be able to draw their swords in defence of her honour. Consequently, Traladara can be a very romantic place for a lady to be!
But there is also an unfortunate side to this romantic attitude. While Traladara has a wonderful reputation for romance, it also has a reputation as being the "gloomiest" nation in the Known World (aside from Boldavia in Glantri, which is populated by Traladaran emigrants). Indeed, Traladara sadly has one of the highest suicide rates in the Known World. Many experts believe that this has something to do with the Thyatian occupation. Sage Bela Kopul, an expert in such matters of the mind and the heart, says that many Traladarans see suicide as a brave attempt to restore their dignity which has been stolen in some personal way by the conquest (even a century later). Kopul has written that in the years immediately following the invasion of AC 900, there were as many as 4500 reported suicides in Traladara.
Indeed, this attitude of hopelessness and desperation manifests itself in many aspects of Traladaran culture, especially in song. One popular song shows both the romantic spirit and the despair of the Traladaran people:
"Little white flowers won't wait for you,
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you;
Immortals have no thought of returning you--
Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?"
CUSTOMS AND SAYINGS
Traladarans have many important customs. Perhaps most important among them is the Shearing. The Shearing is the time in which a Traladaran youth, approaching adulthood, leaves home and sets out on his or her own (for many young Traladaran women also take part in this custom). At a dinner celebration attended by all the family and friends, the parents dress their child in travelling gear; the bottom of the cloak is sheared and left ragged, symbolising that he or she is an impoverished traveller. From that time, the sheared youth is considered a friend of the family, but not part of it. He (for example) must go out into the world and survive until he has proved himself worthy to be asked back into the family, at which time he is considered a full adult.
The Shearing takes place, of course, only once in any Traladaran's lifetime; however, many Traladaran customs are an everyday tradition. Manners and etiquette are an example. Traladaran manners are similar in some ways to typical manners anywhere else. But there are still many differences, particularly in the host-guest relationship: in Traladaran homes, the host defers to the guest (rather than the other way around). This results in some interesting situations, among them a host offering a guest his bed in which to sleep if there is none other available.
Traladarans not only have interesting customs, but also interesting sayings. A few common examples follow:
"Better poor and honest than rich and corrupt." (Also heard as ". . .than Thyatian.")
"If a man returns evil for good, then from his house evil shall not depart."
"Better a dish of herbs where love is than a fatted cow and hatred with it."
"A simpleton believes everything, but the shrewd man measures his steps."
FOOD AND DRINK
Traladaran hospitality extends to the table where one should be prepared for a feast that lasts several hours (if the host has the means). The typical Traladaran commoner's diet is heavy on vegetables and dark breads, with some meats (mostly birds and pork) and (near the coast) fish. In the countryside, grain-based dishes, such as porridge and oatmeal or potato cakes, are common. Among the meza (appetisers) are items such as spicy dried meats called basturma, stuffed vegetables and fruits called dolma, tasty meatballs, and home-cured olives (especially near the coast). Other popular dishes are plaki, a vegetable or fish stew containing tomatoes, onions, and olive oil; fluffy pastries, bourek, filled with meat and cheese or spinach; kasha, a sauté of onions, mushrooms, and simmered wheat kernels; paprikas burgoyna (potatoes paprika); cabbage stew; and spicy sausages called sudjuk. Traladarans often sip raki, an anise-flavoured drink. Beer, cider, and wine are, of course, always popular.
Although most Traladarans belong to a formal religious organisation (mostly the Church of Traladara), some older customs have persisted. For example, in ancient times, Traladarans considered trees to be sacred plants with the power to grant special favours and requests. By tying strips of cloth to a tree, one could ask for help or heal sick relatives and friends. Some Traladarans continue this practice today. To the never-ending chagrin of many, the Traladaran people have retained many other old superstitions. These range from belief in lucky numbers and tea leaf readings to always approaching a shop from the front (to bring the owner prosperity).
Of course, like everyone else, Traladarans rely heavily on magical healing. When a healer cannot be had, however, home remedies prevail. Medical beliefs among Traladarans fall into two general categories: religious and folk medicine. Religious Traladarans often believe that illness is caused by the Immortals, and so rely mainly on incantations and prayers for relief. Others rely on folk healing. For example, for the healing of wounds, the victim is instructed to clean the wound with wine or another strong spirit, then hold the wound closed with both hands and chant three times, "In the name of Halav Red-Hair. The wound is red, the cut deep, the flesh be sore, but there will be no more blood or pain." Then the wound is bound in a poultice and a clean cloth.
Although the Traladaran people are all one people, there are many subcultures among them. The most populous Traladaran subculture are the mixed-blood Traladarans--those of both Traladaran and Thyatian parentage. Other subcultures are not as highly visible, but are nonetheless there. Many other Traladarans of mixed blood exist, including those of Ylari, Hin, Elven, and Darokinian descent.
The Darine are full-blooded Traladarans, although they live by an ancient code of living that most Traladarans have left behind in these late days. The Darine are a travelling people, and a visit from one of their vardo (wagon) caravans means certain entertainment, with dancing, magic tricks, and fortune-telling. The Darine have bad reputations among the Thyatians of the cities as thieves and tricksters, but the Traladarans of the countryside know them to be an honest, albeit mysterious, people.
Following is a brief dictionary of Traladaran words and phrases useful to visitors and newcomers. (This is of particular interest to DMs, who can use it to "spice up" signs and encounters.)
I = Ja
We = My
You (singular, familiar) = Ty
You (singular, formal) = Pan (m); Pani (f)
You (plural) = Wy
They = Oni
Wife = Zona
Husband = Maz
Daughter = Cyerka
Son = Syn
Mother = Matka
Father = Ojcjec
What is your name? = Jak masz na imie?
Nice to meet you = Milo mi cie Pana (Pania) paznac'
How are you? = Jak sie, masz?; Jak sie, pan(i) ma?
Good = Dobrze; Horosho (emphatic)
Bad = Z'le; Ploho (emphatic)
So so = Tak sobrie; Jako tako
Yes = Da
No = Nyen
Thank You = Dziekuje; Hvala (informal)
You're welcome = Nie ma za co Prosze
Please = Prosze
Hello = Dzien dobry; Zdravo (informal)
Goodbye = Do svidaniya
So long = Na razie
Good Morning = Dzien' dobry
Good Afternoon = Dzien' dobry
Good evening = Dobry wieczor
Good night = Dobranoc
I do not understand = Nie rozumiem
How do you say this in Traladaran? = Jak to sie, mowi po traladrsku?
Thyatian = po tyazay
Darokinian = po daro
Lalor = po lalsku
Ylari = po jlrielsku
Makai = makeisku
Elvish = po calariye; po vyalja; po elvskiu
Shopping and Dining
What is this? = Co to jest?
Do you have. . . = Czy pan ma. . .
Open = Otwarte
Closed = Zamkniete
How much does this cost? = Ile to kosztuje?
I'll buy it = Kupieto
A little = Troche
A lot = Duzo
All = Wszystko
Breakffast = Sniadanie
Lunch = Drugie sniadanie; Obiad
Dinner = Obiad; Kolacja
Bread = Chleb
Beverage = Napoj
Water = Woda
Beer = Piwo
Wine = Wino
Salt = Sol
Pepper = Pieprz
Meat = Mieso
Beef = Wolowina
Pork = Wieprzowina
Fish = Ryby
Poultry = Drob
Vegetable = Warzywa
Fruit = Owoc
Potato = Ziemniak
Where is. . .? = Gdize jest. . .?
Where are you going? = Gdize mergi?
I am going to. . . = Jos katrik vo. . .
Where do you live? = Gdize stai?; Gdize locuiesti?
Inn = Oslriye
Room = Camrya
Are there any vacancies for tonight? = Avetie camere trieko?
Where is the outhouse? = Gdzie jest toaljta?
Guard station = Mlitsiya
Healer = Bolnitsa
Fortune Teller = Manusa
Store = Magizan
Restaurant = Yjetrie
Lending House = Kansa zakupy
Street = Ulitsa
Tower = Bashnya
Bridge = Most
Mountain = Gora
Woods = Skhtaro
Ocean = Okean
River = Reka
Zero = Nol
One = Odan
Two = Dva
Three = Triy
Four = Chetyre
Five = Pyat
Six = Shest
Seven = Sem
Eight = Vosem
Nine = Devyat
Ten = Desyat