Tad Williams, The Witchwood Crown, and the Gardenborn calendar

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arly this morning, Tad Williams released the latest edition of his newsletter, where he talks about his writing, specifically with regard to The Witchwood Crown and the Gardenborn calendar.

Readers of Williams’ classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series (comprised of The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower) will remember that the Gardenborn are the elder, elf-like race who sailed across the seas to Osten Ard from a mysterious eastern land known as Venyha Do’sae, the Garden That is Lost. The Gardenborn clans, composed of Sithi, Norns, Dwarrows and Niskies, settled in Osten Ard and established rule over a land empty of men… until centuries later, when mortal men arrived from across the western seas.

In “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, Williams had previously developed calendars that were used in most of the mortal realms; the main calendar closely resembled our own (Gregorian) calendar: months with alternate-reality names like Septander, Octander, Novander and Decander. The months July and August were named Tiyagar and Anitul, after the Nabbanai imperators Tiyagaris and Anitulles. (An interesting aside: although they are never mentioned in the text or the appendices, a careful reader can infer (even though readers are told to “avoid assumptions,” we’ll risk it here) that there are old Nabbanai gods named Jonevus (or similar) and Marris based on the Erkynlandish months named Jonever and Marris, and also likely an old Nabbanai god named Satrinus, based on the Erkynlandish day named Satrinsday).

Despite Williams’ detailed work on the mortal calendars of Osten Ard, the full calendars of the long-lived Gardenborn were never revealed in the original Osten Ard novels. However, with the upcoming release of the new “The Last King of Osten Ard” sequel series, the focus has turned to the Norns, according to the author, and their calendar now plays a part in the new books.

Mr Williams gives some insight into his creative writing process as he talks about how the Gardenborn calendar developed in the writing process. He also gives some insight into how important it was for him that the new books match up with the old books when it comes to continuity. Williams writes:

So a few weeks ago I’m working my way through the 1st novel of the new trilogy, The Witchwood Crown, in final rewrite.  One of the many things that happens during my final rewrites is that I crystallize a lot of the smaller details, or sort out confusions and inconsistencies and commit to a final version of troublesome bits of the history/plot/etc.  In this case, I decided I needed more references to calendars for the “immortals”, especially since in this book I’m actually spending a lot of time with the Hikeda’ya — aka, the Norns.  One of the things that we learn in the new books is that the name of the Norns and Sithi when they were still one people was “Keida’ya” — “Witchwood Children”, because of the importance of that tree and its products to their civilization going all the way back to their old home, the Lost Garden.

There’s already some built-in complexity because of their old calendar from the Garden and their way of counting years — a Keida’ya Great Year is a bit more than sixty years in length (and why that’s true is another story for another newsletter) but they’ve been living in Osten Ard, which is more or less like our world, for thousands of years, so they have to have developed some kind of calendar that matches our world.  The most obvious markers for such things are the stars, the sun, and the moon.  The stars feed into the Great Year idea and others, so I concentrated on moons as the source of the calendar, as they are (roughly) with most real-world societies.

Williams states that during the writing of The Witchwood Crown, he conceived of months with names like Mother, Father, Child, Flower, etc. Eventually, however, he discarded these names entirely when he realized a partial list of months might potentially already exist in the later chapters of Stone of Farewell, in the magical song that Aditu sings when she brings Simon to Jao e-Tinukai’i, the Gardenborn settlement hidden deep in the ancient Aldheorte Forest:

"Memory, Sorrow and Thorn"

Aditu and her brother Jiriki, cover of To Green Angel Tower

I realized that I already had the beginning of what could be a symbolic lunar calendar back in Stone of Farewell, when Aditu the Sitha leads Simon “from winter into summer” — from the rest of the world, in the grip of the Storm King’s winter, into Jao é-Tinukai’i, a place where the Sithi hold sway, which is at least temporarily immune to the Storm King’s magic.  When I thought about all these evocative characters that Aditu mentions as she takes Simon from one season into another, it suddenly made sense that she should be invoking the names of things or powers or spirits or gods or whatever pertaining to different times of the year — in other words, her journey through seasons should be in part evoked in the names of the moons from different parts of the year.

The character names that Aditu invokes in this passage (the Serpent, Wind-Child, Tortoise, Cloud-Song, Otter, Stone-Listener, Lynx, and Sky-singer), then temporarily became the basis for the Gardenborn calendar in Williams’ draft of The Witchwood Crown, providing an explanation for Aditu’s invocation of those names in the novel. Williams then added four additional names (Ice-Mother, Wolf, Raven, and Fire-Maiden) to the already existing names to bring the full number of months to twelve. Then the author ran into a major problem:

I made this list and was all happy and pleased with myself — I even went back to the Witchwood Crown manuscript and put these moon names in various places where I’d left a blank space waiting for a date-name, especially in the Norn sections — I had a horrible recollection.(Horrible because it would mean more work.  Thank God it came to me before the book was finalized!)

Anyway, what I remembered was that when Simon, Binabik, and Miriamele entered into the deserted Sithi city of Da’ai Chikiza by river (and the city will almost certainly feature in the new books) they passed under a succession of bridges, called “Gates”, that had something to do with moon cycles.  So I went back to The Dragonbone Chair and looked it up and damned if Binabik didn’t specifically say “These gates represent cycles of the moon”.  So immediately my most recent moon calendar turned out to be wrong, because TDC mentions several “gate” names, and none of them correspond with Aditu’s incantation.

So there I was.  I either had to say Binabik was mistaken (which goes clear against my principles, unless it’s in a minor, minor mistake that can be easily explained) or I had to throw out everything that didn’t match, which would mean that the new Da’ai Chikiza stuff would wipe out my (still unpublished) second version based on Aditu’s incantation.  Which would be a shame, because I really liked the connection, and it brought a little quasi-historical light to a magical section of the old books.

The author then decided to merge the two draft calendars together to create one unified calendar:

Thinking about it, I decided that what seemed quite realistic to me was that each patron spirit (or god or ancestor, or legendary hero/heroine, or whatever) might have both attribute names and animal names — that both could be ways to describe them, but neither would be the patron spirits’ actual NAMES.  So then the problem was to make the two lists match up somehow.

Williams’ letter not only sheds light on his creative writing process, it also reveals how deeply committed he is with establishing a continuity between two series of novels (“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” and “The Last King of Osten Ard”) which were written thirty years apart. It is clear that Williams has been working diligently to avoid major continuity errors.

The Dragonbone Chair, book 1 of Memory Sorrow and Thorn

The cover of The Dragonbone Chair shows Simon, Binabik, and Miri traveling through the ruins of Da’ai Chikiza

Hidden in Williams’ text is another (small, but important) revelation: that the lost Sithi city of Da’ai Chikiza, Tree of the Singing Winds, will also feature somewhere in the new series. Da’ai Chikiza is the ruined city depicted on the cover of The Dragonbone Chair; what remains of the city are the old Sithi ruins through which the main protagonists, Binabik, Simon, and Miri, travel as they attempt to escape the Queen’s hunter Ingen Jegger and his deadly white hounds.

The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” series, is set for publication in April 2017, to be proceeded by the shorter Osten Ard novel The Heart of What Was Lost in January 2017, and to be followed sometime thereafter by three more long Osten Ard novels (provisionally titled Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, and The Shadow of Things to Come).

To subscribe to Tad Williams’ mailing list, and for regular updates on the publication schedule for the five new Osten Ard novels, click here.

 

 

 

 

Reader arranges, performs “Cathyn Dair, by Silversea”, MS&T song

“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” reader Sebastien Barwinek has posted a YouTube video of his performance and arrangement of “Cathyn Dair, by Silversea”, a song Princess Miriamele sings in To Green Angel Tower, Book 3 of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. Awesome!

Lyrics:

In Cathyn Dair there lived a maid
In Cathyn Dair, by Silversea,
The fairest girl was ever born
And I loved her and she loved me.
 
By Silversea the wind is cold
The grass is long, the stones are old
And hearts are bought, and love is sold
And time and time the same tale told
In cruel Cathyn Dair.
 
We met when autumn moon was high
In Cathyn Dair, by Silversea,
In silver dress and golden shoon
She danced and gave her smile to me.
 
When winter’s ice was on the roof
In Cathyn Dair. by Silversea,
We sang beside the fiery hearth
She smiled and gave her lips to me.
 
By Silversea the wind is cold
The grass is long, the stones are old
And hearts are bought, and love is sold
And time and time the same tale told
In cruel Cathyn Dair.
 
When spring was dreaming in the fields
In Cathyn Dair, by Siiversea,
In Mircha’s shrine where candles burned
She stood and pledged her troth to me.
 
When summer burned upon the hills
In Cathyn Dair, by Silversea,
The banns were posted in the town
But she came not to marry me.
 
By Silversea the wind is cold
The grass is long, the stones are old
And hearts are bought, and love is sold
And time and time the same tale told
In cruel Cathyn Dair.
 
When Autumn’s moon had come again
In Cathyn Dair, by Silversea,
I saw her dance in silver dress
The man she danced for was not me.
 
When winter showed its cruel claws
In Cathyn Dair, by Silversea,
I walked out from the city walls
No more will that place torment me.
 
By Silversea the wind is cold
The grass is long, the stones are old
And hearts are bought, and love is sold
And time and time the same tale told
In cruel Cathyn Dair …

 

New characters and old familiar friends

Tad Williams recently posted a partial character list for his new novel, The Witchwood Crown, Book One of “The Last King of Osten Ard”. There hasn’t yet been much analysis of this list in the blogosphere, so we at OstenArd.com are going to do some analysis.

Also returning are the Sa'onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

Also returning are the Sa’onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

Several of the names that Williams released are returning characters. Among these are Jiriki and Aditu, son and daughter, respectively, of the House Sa’onserei, the ruling house of the immortal Sithi. Conspicuously absent, however, are the names of any of the other Sithi who dwelled in Jao e-Tinukai’i during “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”: there is no mention on the list of Likimeya, the queen of the Zida’ya; her brother, Khendhraja’aro; or Kira’athu, the healer. These three characters played important (albeit secondary) roles in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. Their absence indicates the possibility that the Sithi city of Jao e-Tinukai’i will not appear in “The Witchwood Crown” (other important Sithi characters included Amerasu, Shima’onari, Ann’ai and Kuroyi of Anvijanya, but these characters had passed on by the end of To Green Angel Tower).

Hakatri, son of Amerasu and Iyu'unigato, may reappear in the new series.

Hakatri, son of Amerasu and Iyu’unigato, may reappear in the new series.

The only other “returning” Sithi character on the list is Hakatri i-Sa’onserei, son of Amerasu Ship-born and Iyu’unigato the Erl King, and brother to Ineluki the Storm King who played a major role in the destruction of the mortal world in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. It is not certain that Hakatri will return in the new series, or if he is simply a character mentioned in passing. However, even the possibility of Hakatri’s return sets the stage for a possible major conflict between the humans and the Gardenborn once more. Hakatri’s doings were legendary even among the Sithi. But Hakatri was badly burned a thousand (or so) years earlier, and has apparently not set foot in Osten Ard for centuries. Attempts by the Sithi to reach Hakatri via the Master Witnesses have all failed, indicating that he was far away from Osten Ard, or possibly no longer even alive.

With Jao e-Tinukai’i likely sidelined, the focus of the Gardenborn part of the story seems to be Nakkiga, the frozen city of the Norns, in the far north above Black Rimmersgard. In fact, Williams has stated that the immortal Norns will have an important role to play in the new series. Two of the names on the published character list are Utuk’ku the Norn Queen and Akhenabi, both of whom were antagonists in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. Utuk’ku is expected to be a major antagonist in the new series, as one of the few major villains left at the end of the original series. The part that Akhenabi will play is as yet unknown; the embittered Norns were defeated and seemingly broken at the end of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, leaving interesting possibilities in the new novels, set thirty years after the end of To Green Angel Tower.

No other previously-seen Gardenborn names appeared on Williams’ new character list. Because the name of the third novel in the new series was announced as The Navigator’s Children, it seems likely that the Dwarrows and Niskies will have some part to play in “The Last King of Osten Ard”, but the names Yis-fidri, Yis-hadra, Sho-vennae, Imai-an and Nin Reisu, all Dwarrow or Niskie characters from “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, do not appear on the new character list.

Many new names on the list, however, do appear to be Gardenborn names. Among these are Nezeru, Takeru, Tsoja/Tsoji, Saojemi, Viyeki, Rinan, Khibi-Ya, and possibly Kulva, Jhesa, Ommu, and Makho. The names Rinan and Khibi-Ya follow formats similar to Niskie and Dwarrow names, respectively. Names ending with a -u and -a are likely to be female Norns. Names ending in -i and -o are likely Norn males. Alternately, the character names ending in vowels may be new Sithi characters. Some, including Kulva, Jhesa, Ommu and Makho, may be non-Gardenborn names.

Simon and Miriamele return in "The Witchwood Crown".

Simon and Miriamele return in “The Witchwood Crown”.

Among the returning mortal characters will be King Simon and Queen Miriamele, who have apparently ruled Osten Ard for the last thirty years. Count Eolair of Hernystir, Duke Isgrimnur of Rimmersgard, Jeremias, Binabik, Sisqinanamook, Tiamak, Prince Josua and Lady Vorzheva also appear on the character list, indicating that they will return in the new series as well. Hyara (Vorzheva’s sister) and Pasevalles (the young boy in Nabban) also appear on the list.

Notably absent are Rachel, Father Strangyeard, Sludig, and Josua’s twin children Derra and Deornoth. However, the original press release has indicated that Derra and Deornoth will have a role to play in the new series. Also not mentioned are Count Streawe, Duke Varellan, Lector Velligis, Queen Inahwen, and March-thane Fikolmij, who were the rulers, respectively, of Perdruin, Nabban, Mother Church, Hernystir, and High Thrithing thirty years earlier. It remains to be seen who now rule these lands.

The names John and Pryrates also appear on the new list. These two characters are likely only mentioned in passing, since they died thirty years earlier.

One “new” name on this list, Morgan, was announced in the press release in April. Morgan is the prince of Erkynland, heir apparent to Osten Ard. He is likely either the son or grandson of Simon and Miriamele. It seems likely that he is their son, named in honor of Doctor Morgenes, Simon’s long-dead mentor.

Little can be deduced from the remaining new names, save that Jarnulf is likely a Rimmersman; Qina and Ommu may be Qanuc; Little Snenneq is definitely Qanuc, and is probably the son of Snenneq, who appeared in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”; Olveris, Drusis, and Saluceris are likely Nabbanai; Tylleth and Etan may be Hernystiri; and Grimbrand and Osric are probably Erkynlanders. Fremur may be a Rimmerman god. The remaining names — Astrian, Drojan, Goh Gam Gar, Hugh, Idela, Lillia, Narvi, Porto, Udrig, and Unver — are hard to classify. It has been revealed that Narvi is a baron, but where he lives has not yet been revealed.

Williams has stated that more may be revealed soon, sometime after he begins the second draft of The Witchwood Crown. At some point, he will conduct chapter readings for fans. The book is tentatively slated for a Spring 2016 release.

 

Tad Williams Does AMA Interview on Reddit

International bestselling speculative fiction author Tad Williams conducted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) interview with fans on entertainment site Reddit.com on Thursday September 18th. Fans were invited to ask questions, which Williams would later answer.

Many of the questions regarded Williams’ upcoming Fantasy series “The Last King of Osten Ard”, a sequel to his bestselling classic trilogy “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. The first volume of the new series, The Witchwood Crown, is expected to be published sometime late in 2015.

Here are some of the answers Williams provided for fans during the AMA interview:

Drojan: On reread I noticed how young the protagonists were, especially Simon and Miriamele. Will the new series focus on young protagonists, or focus more on the (now) older cast?
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Tad_Williams: Both. We will see many of the old characters, who will be middle-aged, but there will be a ton of new protagonists (and antagonists) as well.

Jay239: Tad, after the Lord Of The Rings films became huge did Hollywood approach you about making Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn into a film series?

Tad_Williams: Nobody’s actually come to me with a solid idea of making a film about MS&T. I’ve had an option and lots of nibbles for various projects, but no real progress except for the Tailchaser animated film, which is still under construction but I feel sure will happen.

I’m ready to sell out, damn it! Why won’t anyone tempt me?

Tgho: When’s the MS&T film coming out, and who should be in it? Also, how many books will be in the sequel? And is it set immediately after?

Tad_Williams: I never know enough young actors to suggest Simon and Miri, but Tobias Menzies (Outlander) would make either an excellent Elias or a wonderful Josua. I’d also be happy to have Hiddleston. Beyond that, I’m not sure. Probably Mark Strong would be an easy bet for one of the brothers, or else as Pryrates.

There will be three books (don’t laugh). The titles will be:

The Witchwood Crown Sea of Grass The Navigator’s Children

[Editor’s note: in previous discussions, the title of the second book has been called Empire of Grass; it’s unclear if the title has changed, or Williams misspoke during the AMA.]

Gathrin: Is there any specific line or scene in the series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, that you are especially proud of. A line or paragraph that made you step back and shake your head in wonder and pride? I was always on the edge of my seat during Dragonbone Chair, always wondering if things would turn out well for the characters!

Tad_Williams: I think I’ve said it before, but my own favorite parts are ephemeral things, Simon’s journey through the underground and his discovery of the monk’s bible in St. Hoderund’s. That’s the stuff I work hardest to capture, things that can’t quite be put into words, but we try to do it anyway.

Ylvs: Hi Tad, here are some related questions from the TLK-thread on your board: do Sithi have baby teeth and if yes when do they lose them? Do Sithi women have periods or more broadly: how do they reproduce?

Tad_Williams: I haven’t thought too much about Sithi baby teeth, to be absolutely honest. However, Sithi reproduce very much like humans, albeit they conceive much less frequently, and the gestation is probably a bit longer. Now you’ve got me worried about baby teeth…

The full interview is available on Reddit.

Updates on “The Last King of Osten Ard”

Over the summer, a number of fans have visited with Tad Williams, and coaxed out some details about his new fantasy series, The Last King of Osten Ard. The first volume in this highly-anticipated new series, The Witchwood Crown, is expected in 2015. Reader alert: there are spoilers in the news listed below.

New characters and old
The original press release mentioned familiar characters Simon Snowlock and Miriamele, the granddaughter of old King Presbyter John. The pair have now been king and queen of Erkynland, respectively, during the last thirty years.

In addition to these two beloved characters, the press release also mentioned Miriamele’s cousins, Prince Josua and Lady Vorzheva’s children, Derra and Deornoth. Other confirmed returning characters include Utuk’ku Seyt-Hamakha, Queen of the Norns, who is expected to be a major antagonist in the new series; and Akhenabi, the Norns’ spokesman at Naglimund. Both Utuk’ku and Akhenabi were antagonists in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”.

Among the returning mortal characters will be Eolair, Count of Nad Mullach; Isgrimnur, Duke of Elvritshalla; Tiamak, a Wranna scholar; and Binabik, the Singing Man of Mintahoq Mountain; and presumably his wife, Sisqinanamook.

Among the new characters will be a female Wranna servant, and a female Norn; neither characters’ names have been revealed. Other new characters include Binabik and Sisqi’s daughter and son-in-law (whose names also have not been released); and Prince Morgan, Simon and Miriamele’s “heir apparent”. In addition to Binabik’s new family, Binabik will be riding a new wolf, after the death of Qantaqa.

More news will be published when it’s available.