Sunday, June 27, 2021

Dark Sun: The Lion of Urik

Supreme over other kings, lordly in appearance,
he is the hero, born of Uruk...
- The Epic of Gilgamesh

I am Hamanu, King of the World, King of the
Mountains and the Plains, King of Urik, for whom
the roaring winds and the all-mighty sun have decreed
a destiny of heroism...
- Dark Sun Campaign Setting (1991)
Urik's name was no doubt inspired by the ancient Mesopotamian city-state of Uruk. It's Sorcerer-King Hamanu likely got his name and love of law and order from the Babylonian king Hammurabi, but I think his character is a bit more analogous to the Sumerian, mythic hero Gilgamesh. 

Hamanu is the most heroic of the Sorcerer-Kings. Not in the modern sense of being a noble or a fighter for good, though. He is neither. Rather, he is a hero more ancient sense: a doer of mighty deeds. While the Dark Sun campaign setting perhaps intended Hamanu more as a brilliant tactician and military strategist rather than a man of arms, I feel likely he's much more interesting (and differentiated from the other Sorcerer-Kings) if he is a mighty-thewed warrior, imbued with magical might. I envision him something like the titular Exalted of the any edition of the Exalted rpg, or perhaps Solomon David from Kill Six Billion Demons:

A side issue (but an important worldbuilding one, I think): Hamanu's banner. We are told in multiple places that Hamanu's (i.e. Urik's) troops care a "lion banner." The novel The Crimson Legion once describes it as a "lion that walks like a man," but nowhere where else gets this specific. The novel later has Hamanu assuming or projecting a monstrous, leonine form. 

This would suggest Athas, a world with beetle-like draft animals and reptile-bird mounts, has mundane lions. To be fair, Athas has mundane humans, so it's not impossible. It's also possible lions died out back before the cataclysmic times that changed the world from some more typical fantasy setting to its current state and exist now only as semi-mythical heraldic beasts. That's not a bad explanation, but I prefer my Athas to never have been a standard fantasy world, favoring a more Planetary Romance environment. I assume "lion" is a translation--like "Barsoomian lion" is sometimes used for "banth" in Burroughs's Mars series. In fact, I say just choose your favorite depiction of a banth and that's your Athasian lion.


Dick McGee said...

"The novel The Crimson Legion once describes it as a "lion that walks like a man," but nowhere where else gets this specific."

That could be a reference to a common heraldic style, with the war banner carrying a lion rampant, ie standing on its hind legs.

Or maybe Athas has bipedal lions. Weirder things have happened. :)

Claytonian said...

Athas has horned lions, IIRC