Glen’s Tales: An Accidental Invention

Illustration by Daniel Schwab

In the middle of the Peaceful Age, the great king Foryon had a daughter named Studia. Hardly could you find a young princess with more spirit and adventure in her bones. At eight years old Studia and three like-minded maids commandeered one of the Kingdom’s canoes in the middle of the night, rowed down the river for four miles until they found an island to their liking, and set up camp. They spent two days on the island hunting and singing and enacting mythic stories and romances until the King’s guards finally found them and brought them back.

As she grew, she heard stories of great deeds and enormous battles and humblest sacrifices, and her heart never failed to explode into a passion of feeling, knowing that she was one day to have a story of her own with such deeds. There was just one question she could not answer: of all the great accomplishments out there waiting to be done, which one was hers to achieve?

As a second child and daughter, it was not her fate to rule the Kingdom, for in those times second children were not made kings, and neither were daughters. Yet she did not mind this in the least⁠—she did not desire the responsibility and constraints of the kingship, and knew her contribution lied elsewhere.

She would often dream that a Great Romance might befall her, the most dangerous and exciting of all adventures. Her heart would overflow at the thought that hers would be a love tale told by poets for ages to come. Yet at the end of her dreams, she always knew that this was not her truest desire, and that her life was destined to weave into a different story.

Fame in battle appealed to Studia mightily (for there may have been no ruling queens, but there were Sister Warriors), but she happened to live in a Peaceful Age, and there were no wars to be found. Yet even this did not deter her. She knew still that there was some Greatness waiting for her.

One day while she was reading, she decided! She decided that she would sit down in the public square day and night, and consider what her contribution was to be until she knew the answer. She swore to her brother, soon to be the King, that she would not move from her spot in the public square until she had decided what to do with her life.

Days passed, and the townspeople were greatly amused and amazed at the behavior of their princess. She would sometimes sit beneath a tree and just think, other times she would pace to and fro, and other times she would walk up to complete strangers and ask them what great deed they thought she should do. Sometimes they would just tell her that she should marry a rich prince (especially the lady-townfolk), but sometimes they would say something very inspiring indeed, about long-hidden treasures or unsolvable riddles, and it seemed that Studia was about leave her place in the public square right then and there. She would shout, “Magnificent indeed! The thought of such a quest!” And the crowd would cheer! But she would always conclude her reflection with, “Yet I am sure this is not fated to me.” She would leave these conversations not despairing but even more excited than before, saying aloud to herself, “What is it that is fated for me?” She was altogether baffling to speak to in those days.

Weeks passed, then months, and finally years. Still Studia did not leave the public square, but lived there night and day, cold or warm, thunder or sun.

Many travelers from far away lands heard of the inexplicable behavior of the daughter of Foryon the Fair, and came to visit her. They usually expected a sad sight of anguish or even madness, for tales told from many mouths and long distances often change in the telling, and it seems her legend had grown tragic. Much to their surprise, they were always welcomed with hearty and warm greetings from Studia, and could find no hint of morbidity in her.

They came to gawk but stayed to talk, sometimes spending days there, conversing with her. She asked about their heroes. She asked about their nations and their policies and their troubles. She asked their opinions on weighty matters that few could answer. And always, always, she would ask their advice as to her own quandary.

The travelers gave all manner of suggestions to her. They thought of great new systems of commerce, sailing expeditions to unknown lands, designs and plans for grand monuments to a figure of the past, and areas of scholarship yet undelved. And all of these things filled Studia with passion and wonder.

But with time, she would always thank the visitors for coming, turn around, and go back to sit in her spot in the square, beginning anew her wonderings.

Felix, her brother the King, would sometimes visit her, to hear how her inquiry was coming, and also merely to enjoy her company, for Studia was never anything but jolly by all accounts.

One day Felix was distressed, and decided to visit her to cheer his spirits. They talked and laughed and had a merry time. As he was preparing to leave, he mentioned to her the reason for his distress. A neighboring settlement of dwarves was being particularly rambunctious of late, and all attempts the king made to reign in their mischief were proving fruitless. He told Studia that he had tried reasoning with them, telling them that if they continued mocking the farmers he couldn’t guarantee they wouldn’t knock the dwarves’ heads in, but they always just laughed and called him “Old Frowny Crown.” Even the dwarf mayor joined in! The distraught king expressed how he was getting worried that they might go too far and seriously do harm to someone, out of jest. “I’m not even that old!” he said.

When he finished telling her of his sincere discouragement, Studia laughed! She laughed out loud, and could barely stop! Felix was wounded, and became angry at her. “What is the meaning of this laughter?” he demanded. “What I told you is a serious problem!”

“Don’t you know?” Studia responded. “This is the seventh month of the seventh year. This is the Month of Mirth in dwarven lands. For this one month they are mercilessly jolly to all around them, especially to non-dwarves. But don’t worry, it is their custom that at the end of the month, they make reparations for their merriment. Ask those farmers if they would be willing to be mocked if every joke at their expense meant another ten pennies in their pockets at the end of the month.”

Felix marveled at his sister. “How do you know of this?” He asked. “I have never heard of it before.” Studia explained that dwarves occasionally visited her, and that for the past several months they had barely talked of anything else. She was surprised he was not aware of it.

“Well is there any chance they will grow in their mischief before the month is over? I have really begun to worry.”

Studia replied again with a smile, “I should think not. The dwarves know full well that their purses are only so full. I’d wager that they can’t afford much more mirth.” Felix could hardly understand why the dwarves would give away their money like that, but somehow it just seemed to fit. He went away more confused and more relieved than he had been all month.

As time when on, Felix realized that Studia had learned many pieces of little-known lore in her many conversations. He began bringing his advisors to see her, and she would amaze them all in her ability to explain the affairs of foreign states. There seemed no question she couldn’t answer.

Her reputation began to change, and she was no longer seen as a confusing and sad oddity of a princess, but a wise and important counselor. She began to find disciples following her (much to her surprise and irritation), and she spent many days talking and pondering with them, and teaching them what she had learned. These discussions would often turn to fundamental things that no one had ever remembered asking before. She would ask things like, “What is joy?” or “When do we say that a law is just?” or “Why do people disagree?” or “How are our actions related to Truth?” When she talked of these things, it was as if nothing of value had been spoken before her. Of course, she always thought that was nonsense.

All this time, she continued to ask those she met what they thought her contribution was to be. But something had changed since she first sat down in the square so many years ago. Now when she asked, she rarely got an answer. Nobody had any more suggestions for her. They thought any answer would not be wise enough to say to her, or that she probably would have heard their suggestion before. They were too embarrassed to answer, and so they said they didn’t know. Usually they reversed the question, and asked her what she thought they should do with their lives.

And even still, she was not discouraged. She knew that one day, she would find the answer.

Things continued like this for quite some time. She would advise the king. Disciples would come and go, enriched. Travelers would visit with her. Foreign diplomats even began meeting with her, to bring back wisdom to their own lands. We the trees longed to speak with her, and we are told she longed to speak with us as well. But alas, she was bound by her oath to remain in the square until she found the answer to her question.

Studia and Felix grew old, and eventually Felix gave the crown to his son. Felix and the queen often stayed with Studia for long periods, discussing the world in which they lived.

During one of these visits, conversation had died down. The queen turned to her sister-in-law and asked, “Studia, after all this time, do you still not know what Greatness is fated for you?”

She looked at her and smiled, “I’m still not sure. Do you have any suggestions for me?” And all three laughed heartily, knowing full well that Studia had already accomplished a Greatness none of them could have imagined or expected.

Time carried on as it does, and Studia, Felix, and the queen moved on from this life. But her students remained, and continued to ponder her questions. Many of them remembered her beginning, and asked themselves what their Great Contribution was to be. They found many, many answers, most of them coming from Studia herself. She had been given hundreds of suggestions of waiting deeds in her life, and she had shared all of them with her pupils. They were not for her to do, but through her, all of them were accomplished. The great Mariner Carmen was a pupil of hers, as was Decus the Sculptor (whose artistic line included Marmo) and Volum the Scholar.

An Academy was opened on the square, where her fundamental questions were continually discussed. Learned men found themselves at this academy, from all over the world. Near the end of her life, after her King and Queen had moved on, Studia was given a vision from above of the full expanse of what was to come from her questions, and it was revealed to her that she had accomplished by accident one of the greatest works in all the history of the world: the invention of philosophy.

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