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‘When the Trees Spake’
Koshtra Pivrarcha: Chapter Twelve of the Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison


Of the coming of the Lords of Demon land to Murna Moruna, whence They beheld the Zimiamvian Mountains, seen also by Gro in years gone by; and of the Wonders seen by Them and Perils undergone and deeds done in their attempt on Koshtra Pivrarcha, the which alone of all Earth’s Mountains looketh down upon Koshtra belorn; and none shall ascend up into koshtra belorn that hath not First looked down upon Her.

In true Arthurian style, all the underlings have died and only the lords survive, this being one way in which myth keeps faith with history, decreeing that only the high and mighty survive in the collective mind.

The way leads into a vast enchanted wood, with Eddison equal to Tolkien and Lovecraft in painting a horrific word picture of the forest beauty that has forever reminded Civilized Man that he is but a domesticated dog to his ancestral wolf and has laid his fears bare whenever he set foot in virgin forest.

Mivarsh, their guide, still survives and is a more well-rounded character, actually possessing fears that the higher lords do not, who see everything as a boys’ adventure. Mivrash retreats into stoic resignation.

“In the depths a carpet of huge tree-tops clothed a vast stretch of country, through the midst of which, seen here and there in a bend of silver among the woods, the Bhavian [River] bore the waters of a thousand secret mountain solitudes down to an unknown sea.”

The mythic quality of the sylvan experience seems influenced by the reaching theosophistic thinking of the age in which it was written. Also, the spell of the adventure taking place on Mercury has been broken, this world an alternative earth, accessed through the heavenly body named for the “escort of souls.”

The little martlet, the black bird without feet, is then introduced as an actor in the story line, revealing that the bird is the narrative presence, the martlet and Lessingham, whose dream walk this story, symbolizing the writer and the reader.

Further reflecting on the age in which the book was written was the alpine obsession with scaling great peaks, which was to flower in the following decades into a worldwide mania among the elite of the English Speaking World. Yet the fact that a higher mountain must be climbed, from whence the climber might look down upon the Goddess Mountain represented by Koshtra Belorn speaks to spiritual traditions of a universal sort, including the ascent of Moses up Mount Sinai and the mania for pyramid building across the world.

The entire Yule season is spent in the cloak of the forest realm before the great climb, which is rendered in tensely lyric prose.

“…the eastern ridge, where the towers, like dark gods going down from heaven, plunge to a parapet which runs level above a curtain of avalanche-fluted snow.”

The mountain trek sees the heroes faced in the main with the stark, uncaring scale of their world, but also with a well-wrought monster, which evokes Humbaba of the Gilgamesh epic, a great leonine creature, a guardian of the Old Gods.

Finally, after scaling the unscalable and defeating the creature most evocative of primal human fear, with Mivarsh Faz following meekly in their steps, the Demonlords stand above the Goddess mountain of Koshtra Belorn and Brandoch Daha, declared to his king, “Behold thy bride, O Juss.”

Diction Notes

-Fell, in as “they slept on the fell”: an area of cleared timber, fallen by wind or axe.

-Escarbuncle: a heraldic charge consisting of a center ornament with eight decorated rays to represent the precious stone carbuncle —called also carbuncle.

-Effulgent: bright, shining, radiant

-Spate: a large number of similar things or events appearing or occurring in quick succession, or a sudden flood in a river, especially one caused by heavy rains or melting snow.

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