Friday, February 17, 2023

MSF: Growing Up in The Hespermont

"The first breath ignites the soul. Hear the infant's war cry against this unjust world!"

The path through life is a thing of infinite fractal complexity, and anyone who says there is only one means of traversal between birth and death is a fool. And so this is only a general summary of one corner of the world, but it will suffice for our purposes now. I will be referencing Pen & Tam and their lives throughout.


You arrive in the world in the typical manner - screaming your lungs out. This will be at home, under the watchful eye and careful hands of the local midwife or witch. The latter will be able to provide more intensive care and is called in to assist with more difficult births (a caesarean section is called a witch's door for this reason). Thanks to thousands of years of refinement in the midwife's craft, complications are rare and mortality for both infant and mother is low.

The first name you'll be given is a temporary one - something intimidating, ugly or unpleasant, so as to scare away any demons that might be lurking around the home. Tam's birthname was "She Bites Off Fingers" and Bo's was "Rotting Meat Heavy With Maggots", for example; Pen never got one, as the practice isn't held in Pelai and she was several months old when she was adopted.


Seven days after you're born, you'll have your naming ceremony. This will be held either at home, the local church, or at the town lodge, and will be presided over by the community priest and one of the local folkway practitioners. Naming marks your initiation into the Great Dûn (the manudûn; the kinship community encompassing of all humanity) and the Compact (the agreement between humanity and the Folk). Naming records are typically held in the parish of your birth with a copy kept and at the county seat, though in more remote rural areas they will be hard to come by (as we saw with Maggie).

There is typically a large party in celebration.


Your early years will be spent under the watchful eyes of a network of parents, grandparents, extended family and family friends. Multigenerational households are common, and it's expected that at least one of the children (and sometimes more) will take on the home and care for their aging parents. It is common to find elephants employed in childcare (at least, when there are elephants around), as they are infinitely patient, good at leading herds, and forget nothing (We see a glimpse of this with Pen and Tam, where there is reference of Waterseeker bringing a band of children around for storytime).

Schooling - Even in rural regions it's an expected thing for everyone to have some basic literacy and numbers. Schooling is not nearly as rigid or formal as what we are put through here in our own world: the teaching-storytelling tradition of the Hespermont is extremely robust and so those who never set foot inside a schoolhouse will still find themselves on a solid foundation. Generally, pedagogy focuses on helping students understand the connections among aspects of the world, and views such knowledge as holistic instead of a series of differentiated subjects - to understand the history of a place you need to know the people of a place, the soil and the spirits and the water and the plants, and the care of it all. And to understand any of those topics, there is even more to learn.


At 11 or 12 or so, you are considered a youth - no longer a child, but not yet officially an adult. It is a time of greater responsibility and you'll undergo two major changes in your life.

First will be the official beginning of your apprenticeship - while you've likely helped out with the family trade before, this is when you are officially taken on in training, whether by your parents or by a mentor. The actual specifics of an apprenticeship vary with the trade, but whatever the field this is a period for developing skills and knowledge.

Secondly, you will be able to accompany a parent or other adult family member to meetings of the local lodge. You won't have an official vote, but you do get to participate in the discussion and you may serve as a representative for your family if no one else is available.

(Additionally, those who feel the call of Tongsi and wish to change their bodies may present themselves at the temple to begin the process.)

There is typically a large party in celebration. Your apprenticeship and schooling will continue, sufficiently blurred so that there is no real border between, for the next several years. 


As the beginning of your apprenticeship marked the transition between childhood and youth, its end now marks the arrival of adulthood. You will be charged with completing a sizable task, chosen by your mentor(s) according to what is deemed a fitting challenge for your skills (though you will generally have a hand in proposing it). For those in crafting trades this will be a capstone project, for those in other fields it will generally be working without any outside aid or guidance. The task doesn't have to be completed alone, though if it is a multiperson job you will have to take a leadership & planning role.

At completion, there will be a final appeal in front of a board of judges (your mentor, plus other adults from the community who can properly judge both you and your work.) You will make your case and answer their questions to satisfaction, you're sworn in as an adult. A party commences.

(It is possible, though uncommon to fail at the task, in which case you can re-apply after half a year to a year. The task might be repeated, a new one might be done, or the original might be continued and improved. The task itself, and even its outcome, is of lesser importance to how you conduct yourself during it - if your capstone work is a failure, but you show that you understood how the failure happened during the appeal, you will be judged satisfactorily.)

(I don't know what Tam did just yet, but Pen went out and hung out with the spirits in the deep woods.)


As an adult you may now form or join a household, marry, and have a vote in the proceedings of your local lodge. But before all of that, you are probably going to spend some time traveling around. These are the wandering years, a time to see more of the world and find your place within it.

There are generally three ways to go about it

First is the simplest - even if only for a summer, you pack a bag, take the cash your parents saved up for you, and head out. Sometimes by yourself, sometimes with a friend or two. It's often used as an opportunity to go on pilgrimage to the shrine or temple of a god you favor, or just to do a bit of touring. You'll do odd jobs to support yourself on the trip (and thus often find yourself in the company of the hobaretori

For those with a trade to practice, it's expected that you'll go and learn from masters out in the field and practice your trade on your own.

The third way is through enrollment in a university. University education is highly specialized and often tied into magical arts (not full wizardry, but certainly beyond what most people practice), and contains the least amount of travel (though most programs will involve field study of some sort).

(Pen did a pilgrimage plus some folk-work field practice, Tam did a program on wizarding studies at the university in Bensael.)


Marriage in the Hespermont is an incredibly complex topic, and in trying to write this section I find myself diverging almost immediately into discussions of tax collection, inheritance law, views on sexuality, and religious traditions. I will save all that for an upcoming post on social worldbuilding, and focus here (briefly) on the interpersonal aspects.

Marriage in the Hespermont does not have much of an economic or legal role (more on why in the forthcoming post), and is instead nearly entirely geared towards the realms of the personal, social, and spiritual.

On the personal level, it's simple as it tends to be; human beings long for emotional and physical intimacy and build ways to celebrate that on a broader social scale.

On the social level, its a function of family / clan / tribal dynamics - these things were vital in the past and are still very important in the modern day. Marriages form and strengthen alliances between groups, and increase understanding between them (exogamy has traditionally been common for this very reason - it's practical to be on good terms with the clan over the hill when the swine-things start attacking.)

On the spiritual level, marriage is tied to the gods; those getting married are assuming the mantle of the gods (usually Lu and Tubalkhan, but there are many different patrons available for those who are spiritually drawn to different dynamics) To act like the gods is a core part of the worship of the gods, and so marriage is part of this.

There's always a party. Folks in the Hespermont love having parties. 


These are the first four age-grades of your life - infancy, childhood, youth, adulthood. When your children have themselves grown to adulthood, you will be an elder, and when their children are grown you will be among the great elders.


  1. Generalities and background stuff, but I have been on a social worldbuilding kick of late.

  2. What about people who absolutely don't wish for marriage, neither official nor common law, who simply have no need for such intimacy?

    1. They get to go about their business as they see fit: people who feel particularly affiliated to that life have some patron gods to get blessings from, if they so choose.

      I'll get into this more in the upcoming social worldbuilding post

  3. Since there is a chance (not a great one, but a chance) of never passing your test, does that mean that there's a chance that a person who isn't really good at anything could never become an adult?

    1. Since the test weighs your maturity more than your skill (if the barn goes up without a hitch and you're an ass to the other workers, fail. If the plow you made is unusable but you deal with the failure with grace and maturity, pass), failure is considered a correction/teaching opportunity and it's unlikely that anyone will fail it more than once or maybe twice. Anyone who would fail forever would drift out (or get kicked out) of the community pretty quickly.

      As the tasks themselves are geared towards what is challenging but doable for the individual, they can be scaled to just about everyone's personal circumstances, as far as difficulty goes.

  4. It's fair to say I want to live in the Hespermont. Is that how you put it together? Looking at a world you'd rather live in or was it something greater? Really curious into the process

    1. Yep, that's the core of it, plus a healthy helping of "well, if I want it done I'll have to do it myself." Then just apply time to regularly adding and exploring elements and it starts to become self-reinforcing and easier to build on.

      Blogger ate the good version of this post, but the short form is that when i was starting the blog I was coming down off of a multi-year popular fantasy binge and found most of the books, in hindsight, to be unsatisfying because none of them resonated on a lasting personal level, and most of their worlds were either miserable or sterile. This combined with everything else going on in my life / the world at the time, you can see the need for a better outlet. So I started with some basic pieces and themes ("what if the gods were good, actually") and gradually added more material to it, and used that material to reinforce the themes of the project (ex. MSF lacks systematic religious/racial/sex-based violence outside of Hell because I want to write a world freed from those systems, but just leaving it at that isn't creatively satisfying for me. So I wind up making in-universe reasons, such as we see in this post and will see the next one)

    2. Thank you so much Dan. We've interacted on Discord if you ever want to send me the previous version of the post, but either way a lot of useful stuff to unpick . I honestly get it, going though job and housing stuff at the moment, I could use a paracosm myself. Like an outlet, the problem is just starting.

      I'm hoping to draw on childhood journeys across Australia. Seeing a totally different hemisphere I feel changed things. Along with my own love of frontier stories but hatred of colonialism. Almost want to find space for my love of the recent Planet of the Apes films and their presentation of non-human societies.