Thursday, January 12, 2012

E is for Eldest

"Tell me what you want."
In the end, there is only one choice he can make.
"I will be Eldest of Southlands," he says.

The Eldest of Southlands has been a position of ruling since the most ancient times of Southlands' history. Through the course of Veiled Rose, we get a brief glimpse of one of the very first Eldests during Rose Red's journey through the Netherworld. A portrait hanging in the gallery of the Eldest's House depicts Panther Master, who ruled Southlands in the age of the Wolf Lord. It is a romanticized portrait of him, painted several hundred years after his lifetime. But it demonstrates just how old the office of Eldest is.

Back before the Eldests ruled a unified Southlands, the land was broken up into various warring tribes, ruled by tribal elders. But that was long ago, back when Southlands was cut off from the rest of the world, hidden behind its ringing mountain range, secluded and isolated. Since then, roads have been carved through the mountains, and Southlands began to trade with other nations and to assume more of the cultural norms of their more powerful nations. The surviving elders, now united under the Eldest, became barons instead.

But the Eldest, though called king as well, retained his ancient title.

At the time of Veiled Rose, Southlands is ruled by Eldest Hawkeye, Lionheart's father. At his right hand stands Queen Starflower, however, and one cannot help but wonder how much power she actually holds over the nation, possibly as much or more than her husband. For the last many generations, the Eldests have all been men. This (as we will learn in a later book) was not always the case. Long ago there were female Eldests, powerful sovereigns in their own right.

The concept of the Eldest was one I toyed with back in my sophomore year of college. For a creative writing class, I wrote a short story version of Starflower (now set to release in novel-length form this October), and invented the title "Eldest" for that story. Since then, the history and culture of Southlands has expanded significantly. But I maintained the office of Eldest over time. It's interesting to me seeing the kings of a far more contemporized Southlands called by the title of their ancient tribal rulers. It shows a proper spirit of connectedness to the past.

But will Prince Lionheart succeed in gaining his dream come true and step into that honored office, succeeding his father to the rule of Southlands? We will have to wait and see . . . .


Clara said...

Lionheart is probably my favorite character (apart from Sir Eanrin:). I can't help but like him; there are so many flaws in his character, but he truly wants to do what is right. He just won't. I can't wait to find out what happens to him!

Kessie said...

Ack! I just read Heartless, went looking to see if you have a blog, and find that I am well behind the times! I'd better read Veiled Rose at once or I'll have the whole thing spoiled for me on here. :-)

(Also, dragon recommendation: Temeraire!)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Kessie: Oh, yes, belated SPOILER ALERT! You definitely don't want to read these most recent posts until you've had a chance to pick up VEILED ROSE.

You know, that's a great dragon recommendation, except I haven't read that series yet. I only JUST learned about it recently. What's the name of the first in the series? Because that really looks like one I would enjoy!

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Clara: I really love Lionheart too for all his issues. He was a very real character for me to write, and while he sometimes annoyed me, I came to truly care for him!

But . . . Eanrin's still my favorite too. :) He gets a bigger role come MOONBLOOD, and is one of two main characters in STARFLOWER, so keep your eyes open for him!

Eszter said...

Your "Eldest" people remind me of the Judges that governed the Israelites before they had a king. Its very cool-I've never read any other book that does this. I can't wait to read Moonblood! Although I DO have to wonder if Lionheart will be king. After all, didn't the people feel like he abandoned them (we know he didn't-the dragon shape shifter did)? Thats a strong opinion. I can't wait to see how Lionheart overcomes it.

Anonymous said...

I liked that moment where he choose to be the Eldest because he could so easily choose to be ...nobody. He doesn't have an easy choice. He is growing up a little here.