Tamoachan Revisited - The Olman/Touv Wars
Date: Sun, August 28, 2005
Topic: Greyhawk Gazetteer
The Olman are identified with real world MezoAmerican cultures in The Lost Shrine of Tamoachan. The Touv are introduced in The Scarlet Brotherhood and are a "black-skinned" pseudo-African people. The Olman and the Touv. Two peoples culturally distinct from the pseudo-European Suel and Oeridians who dominate the Flanaess. Both the Olman and Touv are then in turn alleged to be "dominated" or "conquered" by these same pseudo-Europeans after they are made to fight one another in prehistory. Some "fantasy." Some "canon."
What's the deal with the the Olman/Touv Wars? Two groups of "primatives" slugging it out to make the World of Greyhawk safe for the mock "caucasians?" Reduced to footnotes in the Flanaess? Hardly.
The "canon" treatment of the Olman and the Touv in The Scarlet Brotherhood and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer is "canon" unenlightened by and ignorant of the prior canon of the Lost Shrine of Tamoachan. Seems the Olman conquered an empire. Seems the Touv taught the Olman the limits of empire. These aren't the "dirty savages" some "canoneers" would have them. Its time to better understand the Olman/Touv Wars and both peoples in the process. Its time to once again return to Lost Tamoachan for a lesson is canon. The Olman and Touv are not primatives waiting to serve the Suel or anyone else. They are empires on the rebound. If "canon" says otherwise, its not "canon," just ignorant of Tamoachan.
Tamoachan Revisited - The Olman/Touv Wars
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
As Skreyn accurately recounts in The Brotherhood of Scarlet, the history of the Olman and the Touv is one of warfare. Skreyn relates that the Olman, who he erroneously claims originated in Hepmonaland (See Tamoachan Revisited - The Origins of the Olman), were driven out of Hepmonaland by the Touv. This is true but it does not tell the full story. That story is told within the Hidden Shrine at Tamoachan, to which we return.
Tableau D of the Vault of Chicomoztoc
The Central Diorama and Tableaux of the Vault of Chicomoztoc, within the Hidden Shrine in Tamoachan, recounts the journey of the Olman people from their original homeland in Chicomoztoc to the founding of Tamoachan. (See Tamoachan Revisited - The Origins of the Olman). Tableau D in the Vault specifically relates the first, violent encounter between the Olman, having pushed to the coast of the Amedio Jungle and beyond, and the Touv of Hepmonaland.
Tableau D depicts warfare between red warriors and black warriors. The Olman are a “red” race of humanity, much as the Touv are a “black” race of humanity. Tableau D then depicts conflict between the Olman and the Touv. Following the progression of the tableau from the Central Diorama, the conflict is that which occurs as the Olman invade Hepmonaland. This conclusion, as well as the subsequent history of the conflicts between the Olman and Touv, is further developed in the central complex of the Hidden Shrine.
The Court of Cemanahuac and the Great Hall of Frescos
Within the central complex of the Hidden Shrine, one comes to The Court of Cemanahuac, which is located directly adjacent to the Tomb of Hurakan. The Olman, after establishing Tamoachan, journeyed over the water to Hepmonaland, or as the Olman named it - Cemanahuac, “Place Entirely Surrounded By Water,”sacred to Hurakan, God of the Flood. In Cemanahuac (Hepmonaland), the Olman established far flung outposts of their Amedio empire and there they came into contact and conflict with the Touv. While this initial contact is recounted, in brief, in Tableau D of the Vault of Chicomoztoc, the full story of the conflict between the Olman and the Touv is set out in the Great Hall of Frescos, close by the Court of Cemanahuac.
The Great Hall of Frescos within the central complex of the Hidden Shrine at Tamoachan relates the story of the Olman strife with the Touv in vivid color. The frescos depict the Olman nation questing for a new land and the subsequent conquest of northern Cemanahuac (Hepmonaland). The Olman journey is depicted as beginning in their mountain home (Chicomoztoc). They then sail across sea - the passage to Cemanahuac (Hepmonaland). Once arrived, they are guided by their gods in battles to keep their new lands free from those who would take them. They build great cities and pyramids and the sun (Tezcatlipoca) shines down on their lands. However, black skinned peoples (Touv) attack and invade the lands of the Olman in Cemanahuac (Hepmonaland). The end is inevitable, if unrecorded in the Great Hall.
As Skreyn accurately relates, the Touv would eventually force the great majority of the Olman to flee back to the Amedio. When the Olman settlers of Cemanahuac (Hepmonaland) turned from Hurakan to Tlaloc, the God of Rain, they became corrupted with tragic consequences. The Olman attempted to bargain with Tlaloc for power and inadvertently unleashed the curse of the yuan-ti. The Touv had then had enough of the Olman conquerors and gradually drove most of the Olman unaffected by the curse into the sea.
Interestingly, the frescos of the Great Hall, not only chronicle the Olman’s history in Cemanahuac (Hepmonaland) but again confirm the origination of the Olman in the mountains of Chicomoztoc, in the Amedio and the southern reaches of the Hellfurnaces. Certainly had the Olman originated in Hepmonaland and made a water passage to the Amedio, they would have not there met the “black-skinned” people of the frescoes - the Touv. Only the reverse makes sense - a crossing from the Amedio to Hepmonaland, the home of the “black-skinned” Touv.
The Master of the Outsiders
To better understand why the Olman entered into such a terminal conflict with the Touv, one needs to understand the Olman practice of slave taking and ritual sacrifice. Slavery is not uncommon among the Olman, particularly as regards war captives and conquered peoples who have refused to bow before the Olman. The Olman also ritually sacrifice such slaves to their gods in bloody ceremonies carried out atop the stepped pyramids for which they are famous. The Olman hold to these practices, whether their opponents are Olman or non-Olman.
In the Hidden Shrine at Tamoachan, one of the tombs belongs to Tloques-Popolocas Yohualli-Ehecatl, the Master of the Outsiders/Others. He is depicted as a dark skinned man, fighting a snake. Tloques was the slave master or slave taker of Tamoachan and a priest of Zotzilaha. His position was to see to the slaves of the Olman of Tamoachan, particularly those of the ruling elite or those to be sacrificed. The Master of Others was part slave taker, part slave master, part policeman and part high priest. The prominence of Tloques’ tomb reveals the esteem in which the Yohualli-Ehecatl was held in Olman society.
Doubtless, the Olman treated the Touv no differently than they did any people with whom they came into conflict. However, in this case, the conflict occasioned by the Olman conquest of parts of the Touv homeland was worsened by Olman slaving and the practice of ritual sacrifice. The conflict would eventually come to a head when the Olman of Cemanahuac (Hepmonaland) turned from the more benign worship of Hurakan to that of Tlaloc, and brought down the curse of the yuan-ti. This proved the last insult before the Touv began a coordinated and ultimately successful effort to drive the Olman from lands they saw as more rightfully theirs.
The Child of Zotzilaha
An interesting side note to the conflict between the Olman and the Touv is the role apparently played by the Suel refugees of their shattered empire.
Incongruously appearing in the Hidden Shrine at Tamoachan is the so-called - Child of Zotzilaha. She is pale and blond. Her enclosure is found between the Court of Cemanahuac (and the adjacent Tomb of Hurakan) and the Great Hall of Frescoes that relates the conflict between the Olman and the Touv. This positioning suggests that the Child of Zotzilaha had some relationship to the events in Cemanahuac (Hepmonaland), and likely the eventual expulsion of the Olman from that land by the Touv.
But who is the Child of Zotzilaha? Rather than an actual person or a literal demi-god - a “child” of the god of the underworld, Zotzilaha - she is likely a conceptual representation. She is a “child of evil,” a “child of the underworld” or death - and she is pale and blonde. While there is no more to identify her as a representation of the Suel, none is really needed. The physical characteristics of the Suel are well known, as it their diaspora. No other conclusion is as likely as that the Child of Zotzilaha is a representation of the Suel, a pale and light haired people, who also harried the Olman in Cemanahuac (Hepmonaland).
Within the central complex of the Hidden Shrine at Tamoachan, then, is revealed the further history of the Olman, and the Touv, beyond the founding of Tamoachan related in the Vault of Chicomoztoc. The two accounts are consistent and further the understanding of the Olman.
Author’s Note - Reading The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan and The Scarlet Brotherhood together, it is startling how easily the former can account for the latter. That Sean K. Reynolds did not take advantage of the obvious “red” and “black” imagery is unfortunate, for such would have greatly enriched the depiction of the Olman in The Scarlet Brotherhood. Indeed, the imagery of The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is so obvious and available that one must conclude that Reynolds did not read it, or perhaps but barely skimmed it, before writing The Scarlet Brotherhood.
Had Reynolds a greater acquaintance with The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, he would not have made the grievous error of attributing the origin of the Olman to Hepmonaland. The imagery of The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan and its progression suggests just the contrary - the Olman originated in the area of the Amedio and Hellfurnaces. Worse, the imagery of the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan cannot be reversed or “read backwards” to support Reynold’s attribution of the Olman to Hepmonaland. The imagery reads but one way with a natural ease.
What then to conclude of The Scarlet Brotherhood as it relates to the Olman? Mildly, it is a problematic source to be taken with a grain of salt. Less generously, Reynolds simply made a mistake or just got it wrong. In either event, the “canon” status of The Scarlet Brotherhood, as it relates to the Olman, is highly dubious.
It will remain for future canon authors to sort out the mess. That they should do so with the greatest regard to and for the details of the Olman set out in The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is obvious. Of course, intelligence and discernment has never been an absolute prerequisite for published Greyhawk authors. Wouldbe “canon” authors who would address the Olman and enshrine Reynolds while denigrating or dismissing The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan do so at their own risk.