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An Overview of Traladaran Culture and Customsby Jennifer Guerra
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 Ronu, a scholar born in Mirros, wrote of this concept. Ronu 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 and identity, which has been stolen in some personal way by the conquest (even a century later). Kopul has written that in the years immediately following that invasion of AC 900, there were as many as 1500 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 the merchant, but the shrewd man measures his own flour."
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 directly 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 a lifestyle 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. [Note: Though the Traladaran culture is based heavily upon Hungarian and Romanian cultures, I have relied here upon a mix of Eastern European and Russian words, with a few changes to make the words unique.]
I Ja You (singular, familiar) Ty You (plural) Wy 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, movi 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 Bread Chleb Beverage Napoj Water Woda Beer Piwo Wine Wino Meat Mieso
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/privy? 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