Tlan was the gtaz or emperor of the Sumë from about 1950 to 1992.
It was a custom for the gtaz, late in life, to commission a recital of his life, written in the first person; it was performed at a great feast and memorized by the tribe’s singers. So long as the story was told, his soul would have certain privileges in the spirit world. (The story of Ȟmeŋ was maintained by a similar oral storytelling tradition.)
Tlan’s recital was recorded some centuries later by an Uytainese scholar.
The life of Tlan
I am Tlan, emperor (gtaz) of the Sumë, great conqueror of the tribesmen and the plainsmen. In every direction I cast my eyes, I see lands I have mastered, which I leave as an inheritance for my sons Ga-Tlan, Kataz, and Ruŋ.
My father was Jir son of Töȟö, of the Najan clan, who was a great warlord (önip), acknowledged as lord by many chieftains (müŋ). He married Idga of the Ndaz clan, who bore him five sons, whose names were Ga-Jir, Ȟnikrab, Tlan, Drun, and Nüsam.
But the spirits chose to test me; my father died early, when my brothers and I were children. The chieftains fell away from us, and even the Najan raised their chins so as not to see us. There was none to walk at our backs; we were alone. My mother Idga raised us and taught us to care for the herds, to track animals, and to fight.
None could match me with the bow, nor were any fleeter of foot.
When he reached the number of a man, my brother Ga-Jir went to the men of Najan, claiming the title of müŋ. But they mocked him, saying that he was hardly more than a child, bow-clumsy, nothing like his father Jir.
He challenged the strongest of them, chieftain Jagon. Jagon refused to fight him, but in the night he sent men to find him. They ambushed brother Ga-Jir and killed him.
Because of this I and brother Ȟnikrab swore to avenge Ga-Jir. We tracked the men who had murdered brother Ga-Jir and killed them. We tracked Jagon, but he hid from us in the tent of chieftain Tüȟi. I and my brother appealed to Tüȟi who had been one of our father’s chieftains; he should not be our enemy. Chieftain Tüȟi gave his ear to us and opened his tent and sent Jagon out to us, and I struck him down with the sword.
We walked with others who were alone, men without lords, and they joined with us. My brother Ȟnikrab was older than me, and mighty as a tracker, but weak in speech; the men would not give him their ears. When I reached the number of a man I challenged brother Ȟnikrab. We wrestled and I defeated him. I did not send him away, but he became my right hand.
We raided the plainsmen and the Bürs, and my band grew because of our success, and because I freely gave of what we captured. Now we went to the men of Ndaz, the clan of my mother, for Najan marries Ndaz. I and my mother spoke to the chieftain Ga-Kpë and reminded him of this, and asked if he would be an ally or no. He chose to twin our bows and gave me his daughter Dlön, a girl perfect in body and appearance, fleet of foot, with a strong hand for the bow.
Now I was becoming mighty among the Sumë; I was müŋ of Najan clan. Some joined with me of their own heart; some leaders I defeated and their men drank blood with us. But the men of Jagon, now led by his son Büle, still raised their bows against me. Yet Büle did not fight me under the sun, but shot words against me, and intrigued with the Bürs against me. When my armies continued to grow, chieftain Büle by a ruse captured brother Ȟnikrab.
When I heard this I ran and did not stop, but hurried to the camp of Büle with many men. I did not rest. When I came close I saw that Büle stood near brother Ȟnikrab with his knife extended, so he could kill him immediately. We were not yet at the distance when men draw bows, but I drew my bow and shot, and chieftain Büle fell dead. Two more arrows felled the man of his right arm and that of his left arm. Now we fell against the men of Büle and defeated them, and rescued my brother.
Now I fought a war with warlord Da-Jiv of the Bürs, because he had plotted with Büle. They were defeated, but moved away lest I destroy them completely. They left much treasure, which I did not keep it for myself, but freely gave it to my lieutenants. After this I was called önip. My mother Idga died at this time, and I and my brothers mourned for a year to placate the spirits.
Now I went to each of the clans, and I asked whether they would lift or twin their bows. None dared to oppose me, but many had misgivings in their hearts. But at this time Da-Jiv broke treaty and came against me, and I fought another war with him, defeating the Bürs utterly and killing warlord Da-Jiv. The misgivings of the clans was now silenced.
I had brought all the clans under me, but the plainsmen did not fear us. I led the warriors into their valleys, burning the towns which resisted, but showing mercy to those which surrendered. In this way I conquered the plainsmen, something no Sumë had done before me. Because of this I took a new title, gtaz (emperor), which none among us had borne.
Now we raided the Pirthunswiʔ valley, and the plainsmen who lived there were afraid. I told them, I will be your ruler and you will be safe; or if you do not like this, we will fight. But they were not willing, for they were rich and proud; they lived in cities and were very numerous, and did not want to be ruled by herdsmen. But what I say I do; no man can say that there was a time when I said I would do a thing, and did not do it. Therefore we fought, and the men of Pirthunswiʔ resisted fiercely. But Sumë was stronger and prevailed. Many plainsmen perished for their arrogance, and they lost their great wealth, and their women were taken, for they do not let their women fight.
My people were content, for I had made them a great people. But some wondered, is not Tlan becoming an old man, and perhaps we should follow one of his sons instead? Because of this I looked to the Rabbit people, who are herdsmen like us but do not speak like us. I led the warriors into their lands, killing many rabbit men and bringing vast lands into my empire.
Dlön bore me three sons, Ga-Tlan, Kataz, and Ruŋ. These grew up as strong men and warriors, worthy successors to the empire I built. May the gods favor them that our people will long be the greatest of this world.
|Preceded by: |
| Tlan |
| Succeeded by: |
Plainsmen (ge-mum)— the Sumë term for the Uyram (including those of the highlands, easy terrain by Sumë standards)
Najan— ‘whale’; the persistence of maritime animals in Sumë mythology, belonging to a region none of them had seen, is a clue to their origins in Mnese. This was by no means the leading clan among the Sumë before Tlan, but it remained so ever after.
Önip— title of one who has won the allegiance of many clans. The leader of a clan is a müŋ.
Ndaz— ‘raven’. One could not marry within one’s clan. It was the custom for Najan men to marry Ndaz women; as Sumë women were near equals to their men, the Ndaz thus had great influence over the empire; Ndaz queens several times served as regents for their minor sons. (Note also Idga’s strong role in Tlan’s life.) Tlan was probably born around 1920.
Nüsam— ‘lively’. No more is said of Nüsam here, but he became one of his brother’s lieutenants. More than three centuries later, a Mnese tribe claiming descent from him took over the Sumë empire; they’re better known under their Uyseʔ name, Nyuam.
Spirits (karz)— These were similar to the spirit animals of the Mneseans, as seen in the story of Ȟmeŋ; but they had been consolidated— e.g. there was just one Dnüz (bear) spirit. Each clan was dedicated to a spirit, but individuals patronized several spirits, according to their personal and family history. As the story indicates, Sumë spirits were often associated with negative events such as death and disease; shamans were all the more feared for associating with them.
The bow— this was the paramount weapon of the herdsmen, its range, and the speed which their light armor and long training gave them, were their advantages against the plainsmen’s infantry. Tlan was not simply boasting; his accuracy with the bow was legendary even among Sumë. Many metaphors are derived from archery: lift the bow = oppose; bow in hand = ready, or wary; bow-clumsy = weak or inexperienced; bow broken = defeated; bows held high = triumphant, celebrating.
Number of a man— i.e. eighteen, the number of a man’s fingers and toes.
Ga-Jir— ‘son of Jir’. Eldest sons often did have a name of their own but were usually known by their father’s.
Ȟnikrab— ‘crafty’. Primogeniture was not Sumë tradition; a müŋ was supposed to be succeeded by the worthiest among the next generation. At the imperial level, this was an invitation to trouble, and Tlan’s story shows a concern to inculcate the idea of inheritance instead.
Bürs— ‘foxes’, name of another Mnesean tribe (the singular is purus). Before Tlan the northern Mnesean tribes did not have a united identity, and not all called themselves Sumë.
Dlön— ‘meadow’. The description could almost be used for a male (though a male’s fighting prowess would be lauded). Sumë women marched with their men and defended their camp; some fully participated in attacks. In effect almost the entire adult population of a Sumë tribe were trained warriors— a great advantage against the Uytainese, whose infantry was a fraction of the male population.
Büle— ‘little arrow’.
Under the sun— i.e. openly, in daylight, like an honorable opponent. We would say ‘face to face’, but attacking at range was honorable (indeed, sensible).
Shot words— another archery metaphor, but always used negatively.
Right arm, left arm— i.e. Büle’s chief lieutenants.
Gtaz— from ga-taz ‘son of the spirit realm’, i.e. ‘godling’. The conquest of northeastern Uytai took place in the 1950s.
Pirthunswiʔ— i.e. the Smë rift valley, then held by Uyram colonists. They are described as numerous, but they were not greatly so compared to the Sumë, and they were now cut off from Uytai. The conquest (c. 1960) was therefore particularly brutal— as many as half the Uyram were killed.
Rabbit (Pač) people— the Kemic people of the upper Nikrit valley; they called themselves Gleŋ. That they had an animal spirit at all was a recognition of their similarity to the Sumë, as herdsmen; but of course rabbits are weak and make no noise (i.e., they can’t speak Sumë). They were conquered in the 1980s.
Ga-Tlan— ‘son of Tlan’, acknowledged as the next gtaz. In the early 2000s he conquered the upper Ħomtso as well as Siad βo, the civilized realm south of the Sumë. The sons divided the empire among themselves; Ga-Tlan took the newly conquered areas, adjoining Uytai. But the Uytainese rallied and the Siadese rebelled, killing Ga-Tlan in 2012.
Kataz— ‘fine’. He received the Sumë heartland; with the death of Ga-Tlan he became gtaz. He pursued the war against Uytai, advancing as far as Twot, and presided over a grand empire, larger than his father’s realm; but his strength was not yet enough to prevail against the huge, well-defended cities of central Uytai.
Ruŋ— ‘fearless’. He received Pirthunswiʔ and the upper Nikrit; but as the Sumë concentrated on Uytai they were pushed out of the Nikrit valley by the Gleŋ, and Ruŋ’s inheritance was just Pirthunswiʔ.