A Child’s Guide to the Nations:


A very long time ago, in the age of the First Caesars, there was no magic and no creatures of the Wild. You may find that hard to believe, but it is so.

But what about centaurs and harpies and the like? Even at the time, educated Romans knew that these were merely legends, like stories about the buce or the Carrotfinger Man, used by parents to chastise children and by poets to decorate an epic. Nothing more.

I can hear some of you protest that Rome had laws against sorcery, which must prove there was magic, for who makes laws forbidding things that do not exist? To which I answer: the Romans did. There were superstitious Romans just as there are superstitious people even today (do you have a lucky rabbit’s foot?), and they were ready to see magic in all sorts of perfectly ordinary happenings. But there was no magic.

This all changed in 1131 AUC, a date you have all memorized, I am sure, or else you have paid even less attention in school than I did. A goblin Horde descended upon the Eastern Empire and very nearly knocked it over. Every one of my readers knows the story of Julian and Inglena, so I will not bore you with its re-telling. We are concerned with what came after: orcs, kobolds, ogres, trolls, dragons, giants, drow. I leave aside creatures such as wights or bugbears, for these are mere animals and have no proper history.

In the pages that follow we shall visit each of these peoples. We will ask where they came from, where they principally lived, what (or whom!) they ate, how they lived, and what they looked like. So many legends and romances have been told of each, without a doubt some of you have at least some wrong ideas on at least some of these points. Believe me when I say the reality is far more wonderful than the stories.