On the Gnomes of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
Date: Mon, May 19, 2003
Topic: Peoples & Culture
In part three of his series of dispatches on the demihumans of the Flanaess, the Brother of the Cruel Summer speaks upon the people known as the noniz...
On the Gnomes of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
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Respected Iquander and Respected Sir Pluffet:
Part three of my chronicles concern the short race known as the gnomes, or the noniz, as they are referred to in the Flan tongue. This entry indicates a good deal of information about gnomish society that has not been previously mentioned in canon...
SOCIAL MORES AND PRACTICES
Gnome society tends to be one of contrasts; their earthy humor and wisdom contrasts their fierce protection of themselves and their culture, their talents for illusion magic contrast their talents for "technology", their strong clan rivalries contrast their general cohessiveness in times of need (for the most part), their love of the treasures of the oerth and mining contrasts their love for the great outdoors and the treasures of nature, and the roles of men and women.
Long known as being full of humor and pranks, sometimes on the dark side of humor, gnomes are indeed full of mirth and earthy wisdom, their deities representing such. These pranks often come through in harmless ways during festival-days and the first of every month, known as Garl's Day for the pranking that goes on.
On the other hand, they can become strong and militaristic when necessary (such as during the Hateful Wars, or against the hordes of Elemental Evil, and the gnomes of the eastern Flinty Hills, for instance). Some gnomes can react very strongly to perceived paternalism from humans or dwarves, as these two races tend to have a superior view of themselves.
Gnomes are divided into clans much like the dwarves, but unlike the dwarves, where each large clan tends to have its own kingdom, many gnomish clans are organized into confederacies that band together under councils of elders and/or kings and queens. The rivalries between gnomish clans are strong as concerns matters of gem trade or political prestige, but such things rarely come to blows, as they do with the dwarves, for instance. A basic friendliness exists, while Flanaess dwarves sadly tend to let their desire for power and/or wealth get in the way of racial unity.
As far as matters of magic and "technology" go, it must be said that these are the same thing among gnomes. Garl Glittergold's love for trickery enticed gnomes to follow the path of the illusionist rather than the standard wizard long ago, and their "technology" was also asserted by Flandal Steelskin.
(A small note must be made here-gnomes do not use "steam power", "fossil fuels", or even that highly reactive substance known as gunpowder, which was dismissed centuries ago as being far too dangerous to use. Gnomes rather tend to use complicated machinery such as sophisticated rock drills in mining, water purification systems with dikes and pressure, highly elaborate traps and locks on treasure chests and cell doors, mechanics in toys, music boxes, clocks, and other little bits and pieces that can run on gears and leverage principles. The gnomish skill at technology is unrivalled, and indeed much of their racial magic is involved in it. Other races-and this includes humans in particular-simply cannot use technology in the way gnomes do. Every attempt to replicate gnomish technology with any vestige of success has failed miserably.)
Gnomes love both the gems and precious metals of the oerth, and the beauty of the outdoors. Rock gnomes are the ones who have the tendency to live more in hilly, moutainous regions, while forest gnomes are the ones who choose to live in more forested regions, although this type is much rarer. The presence of both industrial deities like Flandal Steelskin and natural deities like Baervan Wildwanderer are yet another contrast in gnomish society.
Finally, there are the exacting roles of men and women in gnomish society. Men are responsible for trade, war, and interaction with outsiders. Women are responsible for organizing social events, the general intraclan life, food, and other such niceties that maintain the general social and cultural life within the clan. In individual clans, clan elders of men, headed by one chief, are ostensibly responsible for government, but they cannot act without the support of the women, who are continually called on to give their opinions on matters dealing with the health and welfare of the clan. Women also select the men who will represent their clan at meetings of all the gnomish clans before speaking to the king of that region.
Gnomes usually live in wooden stockades within hills, that are constructed on top of tunnel warrens that lead into mines and such. Stone forts can also be built in more violent areas, or areas where the supply of wood is not suffiicent for building. Gnomes both garden, hunt, and trade for food, gathering water from nearby rivers, glaciers, and underground streams. While dwarves purify this water with magic, gnomes use their pumping and filtration systems to do so.
As concerns relationships with other races, gnomes get along best with halflings, who often share their sense of humor, down-to-oerth approach, and general affability. Humans and dwarves often form deep friendship with their gnomish neighbors (such as in Verbobonc, the Yatils, and Ratik) but elsewhere (such as in the Lortmil Mountains) rivalries are strong, and gnomes tend to resent the paternalistic attitude they feel they receive from both races. As for elves, gnomes tend to keep separate from their elven neighbors, though there is no animosity.
Gnomes have had a less turmoil-ridden history than the elves or the dwarves, and perhaps they perceive this as a good thing. After gnomes spread from the wooded highlands of the north, where they dominated, the first great gnomish kingdoms were established in the Lortmils, Verboobonc and the Kron Hills, and the Flinty Hills, as in other regions dwarves tended to dominate. In most of these places, gnomes got along generally well with their neighbors, although during the Great Migrations, there was a notable split between the western Flinty Hills gnomes ans their eastern brethren. The eastern gnomes were fiercely independent, not wanting to deal with the Nyrondese men who were coming into the Flanaess.
When their western kin were slaughtered at the Battle of a Fornight's Length and forced to accept Aerdy rule along with the men of Nyrond, they felt it only confirmed their attitude. Gnomish lairds and chiefs would recognize other races, but those of the eastern Flinty Hills remained stubbornly independent. Since then, gnomish history has been tied to many of the other races. They would often assist the people of their territories in chasing Aerdy rule from their lands, or in dealing with other aspects of evil, such as the Horde of Elemental Evil, Iuz, barbarian raiders from the north, or what have you.
Political conflict came about between gnomes a few times, such as during the first part of the Age of Great Sorrow (when gnomes first debated seceding from the kingdom, and great arguments erupted because of that), the imperial phase of Keoland (when imperialist gnomes again wanted to support their Keoish neighbors, while isolationists did not), the attempt to rectify the damage done to the Flinty Hills community through a peace process, and finally during the Hateful Wars, when gnome and dwarf often turned on each other with unfortunate results. This last example was the most damning of all to the gnomes of the Lortmils, who to this day are enemies of some dwarven clans in the region.
INDIVIDUAL GNOMISH POPULATIONS AND KINGDOMS:
The Mounds of Dawn/the Sepia Uplands: The gnomes here are militaristic, although friendly to outsiders who prove themselves. Being near to the evil of the Horned Society and/or Iuz, they have been forced to develop into a society of strong warriors. They are not part of the grand alliance of good in the Furyondy region, preferring their solitude, and to stay with their allies in Perrenland, who currently are distrusted by the Velunese and Furyonds for their "neutral" stance towards the evil in the north.
The Lorridges: In keeping with the region, the kindly, affable folk of the Lorridges are again some of the most open and friendly of their kind, which extends to those in the eastern Yatils. Only half-orcs arouse their ire, and any other race, particularly those of Velunese or Furyond origin, are well treated.
The Kron Hills: Everyone knows of the secession these gnomes have made from Verbobonc proper. As a result of their terrible treatment, they are not inclined to view humans with anything other than suspicion, and are likely to turn a cold shoulder to requests for aid. Neither do they trust Greyhawk, and even less the people of the Wild Coast. Even outsider gnomes are nowsuspected as being in league with Verbobonc. They get on well with dwarves and elves, but prefer to keep themselves to themselves.
The Lortmils: The gnomes here are unfriendly to all dwarves except those from the clans they recognize as friends, friendly to halflings and other gnomes, and neutral to humans and elves. The social problems here have yet to mend, and so they too prefer to keep to themselves.
Geoff and Sterich: Gnomes live in the hills in the western regions of these nations. Geoff's encouragement of friendship and harmony for all races has made the gnomes there as good and gentle as any towards other goodly races, although fierce fighters against the giants that can and do come down from the west. Sterich's more dour and grim character means its gnomes have the same attitude, but they are by no means unfriendly. The fighting among the humans in Sterich has made many of the gnomes even more cynical.
The Cairn Hills: Although this region is dominated by dwarves (who are typical of those in my dwarven article) the gnomes here are themsleves isolationist, trading guardedly with Greyhawk and more openly with their dwarven allies, always prepared against the region's many hazards.
The Flinty Hills: The gnomes of the west pledge allegiance to Nyrond, sending critical mineral welth to Rel Mord via a long road of guarded caravans. Honest, loyal and brave, they show themselves as valuable allies to the Crown time and again. Those of the east tend to have a disdain for all those, including gnomes, that pledge allegiance to any outside power. They do not trust Nyrond, Ratik, North Kingdom, any reclaimed part of Bone March, or even the people of the Adri, only the local hillmen winning their trust. Relations between the two regions can be strained sometimes over the loyalty the western gnomes have to Nyrond.
Ratik: The gnomish lords in this region are the same as any other of the locals: strong, doughty, brave, and open. Their kin in the Blemu Hills are the same way, although they are much less trusting of outsiders, having been surrounded by humanoid enemies since 563 CY. The Ratikkan gnomes are pledged to work with their allies in a spirit of mutual aid against barbarian or North Kingdom raids, although they are not pleased with the way Lady Evaleigh is ruling Ratik.
The Hollow and Hestmark Highlands: Gnomes here are good, honest and true, always ready to welcome an ally against the evil of the Spine Ridge, the Vast Swamp, or Ahlissa. Like all the other peoples of the region, they do not give their friendship easily, and are suspicious of allies at first, but once they give their friendship, it is for life.