Astronomy, Biology, Psychology and Culture of the Gelfling
In this article we shall briefly examine the main characteristics of Gelfing biology and culture, starting with their planet of Thra.
Thra is the world of the object formerly known as the Dark Crystal. It is a type-M planet, meaning capable of supporting humanoid life. It is similar to the earth in size, with an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere and a great abundance of life forms. Thra circles three stars, one the "dying sun," a red dwarf star near the end of its life cycle. the second star, the "rose sun" is a class M red star. The third member of this stellar trilogy is a type G1 star, slightly larger than our own type G2 star.
Although inhabited planets orbiting triple-sun systems are quite rare due to the complexities of orbital mechanics, Thra is one of those rare planets where the complexities work out just right to allow the planet to maintain a relatively constant surface temperature.
The planet has three major continents. Alpha continent is the location of the Crystal Castle. Beta continent is located to the east, while Gamma continent is located to the west.
There is a relatively wide variety of biomes present, although the slightly warmer temperatures on Thra do not allow the presence of the Arctic-type biomes as found on earth. Swampland, Tropical Rain Forests, Temperate Deciduous Forests and Grasslands are the major biomes found on Thra. There is a season which approximates Earth's fall, but no winter season is present.
The vast majority of the planetary surface, some 83%, is made up of ocean. This compares to Earth's 75%-25% mix.
Gelfling and Podling life forms arose on Alpha continent through normal evolutionary processes. Gelfling stand, in adult size, between three and four and a half feet tall. They possess four digits on hands and feet, a warm-blooded circulatory system and all other typical characteristics of intelligent humanoid life forms.
Examination of fossil life forms show an interesting lack of any large land predatory species such as the dinosaurs as found on the earth. Other than that major difference, Thra evolution has produced an extremely wide variety of life forms, perhaps even more different kinds then have been discovered on the earth.
Since the Gelfling society is based on a more harmonious living with their environment than Terran society, Thra has not suffered the ravages of wide-spread deforestation and massive building construction as has been present on the earth, nor has it suffered from any major pollution. Both these reasons have contributed to the continuing wide variety of life forms and the relatively low level of extinction on the planet (other than during the Dark Millennium).
The Gelfling possess a relatively low birth rate. They do not become capable of bearing children until they have reached their forties. Generally after bonding there would be a period of ten to twenty years before any children would be born. After that several children would be born within the next couple of decades; after that the rate of births tends to fall off. Typically a Gelfling female can bear ten to fifteen children during her life span.
The exception to the general rule was that of the Queens who, for some reason yet unknown, generally were able to bear children for a much longer period of time than the "average" Gelfling female; hence, some Queens had over twenty daughters.
Overpopulation has never become a severe problem with the Gelfling. It seems that the Gelfling live extremely close to the planet itself. A sort of feedback mechanism has been hypothesized between the environment and the female Gelfling which tends to limit the number of children born to a number that the environment can adequately feed and house.
Any period of widespread plague or disaster, for example, reduces the population considerably; consequently, there is always a considerable increase in the birthrate for a short time until the overall Gelfling population once again
Fertility is controlled by the female Gelfling in some manner apparently intimately linked to the environment. When the environment alters in either a positive or a negative way, Gelfling fertility either increases or decreases. The exact mechanism behind this is not known at this time.
Sexual activity is quite common among Gelfling, yet unwanted births are virtually unknown, again indicating that the female has some form of control of whether or not she will become pregnant no matter how frequently she has sexual activity.
The Gelfling possess a light bone structure, the females somewhat moreso than the males. The ability to fly, of course, would be impossible if the Gelfling possessed a heavy bone structure, so it is believed that the light bone structure and flying ability evolved together during the earliest part of Gelfling evolution.
The ability to fly is possessed only by female Gelfling. During the early years of Gelfling history females could make unassisted flight. During the Dark Millennium this ability to fly was gradually lost, resulting in the females being capable only of gliding. After the healing of the Great Crystal the ability to fly quickly returned.
Flight has two primary advantages to the female. First, the mating ritual involves an aerial dance and other activities in which the female performs a particularly sensuous aerial dance, enticing the male and generally leading to sexual activity and a strengthening of their bonding.
The second advantage is tactical. Females can explore wider areas, search for new food sources and, in some instances, actually do aerial artwork. The physical advantage over the male Gelfling was never exploited by the females, however, Such an exploitation was not within the real of thought for any Gelfling.
The mating dance as the most intense sensual and sexual experience that a Gelfling can feel. It occurs only between deeply bonded pairs, and the female determines when the dance will occur. The female performs a preliminary dance during which she gradually removes her clothing. The normal pheromones the female produces increase strongly during this activity. After disrobing the female becomes airborne, performing an aerial ballet for her mate. During this activity the mate is virtually spellbound. After the aerial ballet the female lands, mounts her mate and begins actual sexual activity.
The session of sexual activity continues for a period of hours after which the mate ritualistically gently strokes the female's wings and both Gelfling fall asleep. Pregnancy as a result of the mating dance is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 93%, so a link between the dance and the reproductive drive is considered likely.
The average lifespan of a Gelfling is from 350 to 400 years. The ability to reproduce begins during the forties and extends for the next several decades, although having children even in later years is not totally unknown. The Gelfling remain physically vigorous and mentally alert until shortly before their death. Gelfling can somehow sense when their natural lifespan was near an end and they tend to approach their deaths with calm dignity.
There are several levels of bonding, varying in intensity and length of effects. One level of bonding is through the process of dreamfasting. This can be done between two Gelfling or between a Gelfling and a Podling. This level tends to temporarily increase the psychic awareness of the bonding pair, establishing a mental link between them that will gradually decrease over time unless a deeper level of bonding is obtained.
The strongest level of bonding results in a bonding that will last throughout an entire lifetime. This can, on rare instances, begin during the first dreamfasting episode, as it did with Jen and Kira. The psychic bonds formed are intense and permanent and present in virtually every level of activity. A strong degree of telepathy is often established and, during the most intense sexual sessions a virtual unification of the minds of the two Gelfling takes place.
An extended familial bonding can also take place, increasing the strength of the family relationship in Gelfling society. This bonding also tends to last the entire lifetime of the individuals involved.
Should one of the two members of the strong pair-bonding die, some elements of the bonding will still remain, but a new bonding can still take place so that even the eldest of the Gelfling are still usually in some high level of pair-bond relationship.
Dreamfasting is an important means of communication amongst the Gelfling in that it allows a very deep sharing of personal experiences between them, taking place on a non-verbal level. Dreamfasting also varies in strength and can take place between two Gelfling, a Gelfling and a Podling, and perhaps between a Gelfling and Aughra, although no written evidence of this has yet been found. It is not a prerequisite to the strongest level of bonding but can lead to that level. It is an instinctual activity and cannot be "taught" or "improved upon." It helps to increase the ability of Gelfling to understand each other for, by understanding the background of the other Gelfling in such intimate detail, conflicts end up being minimized.
The Gelfling are extremely family oriented. Once permanent bonding has taken place and the raising of a family has begun the close family structure becomes even closer. The Gelfling possess an extended-family structure and thus one tribe might be made up of a dozen or more families, each family with several generations of members.
The familial units have not led to any sense of territoriality, however, as happened in early human evolution. No one family is considered superior to another; delight is taken in differences of thought and abilities. Quarreling between families in general and family members in particular is virtually unheard of in Gelfling society. Care of children is seen as a family project in which Gelfling of all generations and both sexes take great delight.
General Gelfling psychology
The Gelfling are a very peaceful race that lives in complete harmony with the planet. Their greatest pleasures are in music, food, fun, love and sexual activity. No concepts of tribal superiority, sexual superiority or age superiority are present. The Gelfling considered all their surroundings to be alive and to be treated with the greatest of this respect. In this matter some of their behavior is not unlike that of many of the earlier Native American tribes.
Female Gelfling are extremely sensual in nature and are in some manner strongly psychically linked to the planet. Only females are healers and the healers could calm emotional disturbances as well as heal physical ills.
The "emotional disturbances" referred to problems arising from the loss of a bondmate and similar problems. No true "psychotic" Gelfling remained so for long, as several healers together, sometimes even involving the Queen as chief healer, would be able to restore the Gelfling to mental harmony. Even the worse of the psychotic cases that arose (and these were extremely few) realized, on an instinctual level, that they needed the aid of a healer and sought out such aid as soon as possible.
The abilities of the Gelfling males in the field of music are exceptional, and virtually all music is performed by male Gelfling.
The vast majority of the Gelfling bonding relationship occurs on the nonverbal level, and a description of their deepest psychological traits is beyond the ability of mere words to express. Much of Gelfling life is on a "felt" level rather than on a rational/logical level of understanding.
The Gelfling are an intensely sexual race, using sex as much as a means of communication as anything else. Sexual activity begins for the Gelfling when they enter their twenties. Until permanent bonding takes place sex can be with a wide variety of partners. Never during this time, however, is the mating ritual performed and no female Gelfling ever becomes pregnant before permanent bonding takes place.
Once permanent bonding has taken place sexual activity tends to be only with the bondmate. Sexual activity is quite frequent, both before and after bonding, and is considered one of life's greatest pleasures.
All Gelfling are mildly telepathic at birth. Gelfling who have permanently bonded have the highest level of telepathy, but all Gelfling remain telepathic at least at a basic level for their entire lives.
Gelfling Art and Music
Two of the major delights of Gelfling are their art and their music. both have been developed to a very high degree; musical artifacts dating back nearly to the very beginning of Gelfling history have been found.
Although both art and music were highly developed, there was never a sense of competition amongst the Gelfling as there is with humans. Gelfling artists and musicians took great delight in teaching their crafts and even greater delight when one of their pupils turned out to be a master at the craft.
The vast majority of the music was limited to oral tradition; therefore, in the great purges carried out against the Gelfling much of this was lost forever. Only a few songs were ever recorded in written form; a few of those managed to survive the burning of the Music Academy.
A wide variety of crafts is practiced by the Gelfling. Flower arrangement, jewelry crafting, carpentry, dancing and limited use of metals are all practiced, although never on a massive scale. Objects produced are made in numbers sufficient for immediate use, and emphasize beauty of form and structure. The tendency to want "possessions" so common in humans is not present in the Gelfling. This has helped to hold down the number of "objects" produced and minimizes damage to the environment.
The Gathering of the Tribes
The purpose of a Gathering of the Tribes is to select a new Queen. If a Queen ended her reign and none of her daughters wished to become Queen, or if it was "felt" by the Gelfling that a new Queen from another tribe was needed, then representatives of all Gelfling tribes would meet in the capital of Tarakendal. The representatives, both male and female, would hold hands and engage in a mass dreamfasting session, after which would follow a period of meditation. The name of the individual that was to become the Queen would then become known to all the Gelfling in a process that cannot be analyzed or expressed in words. The Gelfling so chosen would be crowned and recognized by all Gelfling tribes as the "rightful" Queen.
At no time during Gelfling history did any female "campaign" for Queen, nor did any tribe attempt to put forth a candidate. Such thoughts were alien to the Gelfling psychology.
Healers were inevitably female. They were born with the ability and would be trained by other healers. A healer had the ability to heal both physical and emotional illnesses. In severe cases the serves of more than one healer was used, sometimes as many as four healers working on the Gelfling at the same time.
For some yet unknown reason, when a female Gelfling became Queen she found that her healing abilities were increased substantially.
Gelfling society is matriarchal in nature. Only female Gelfling become Queens or healers, and females control the times of their fertility. This does not mean, however, that the females were considered dominant or superior to the males, for such thoughts were foreign to Gelfling psychology. The matriarchal arrangement was accepted by all Gelfling without any qualms. Whenever a situation arose in which a male Gelfling had to assume command of a tribe temporarily, a great deal of unease was felt, and the leadership of the tribe was turned over to a female Gelfling as quickly as possible.
Gelfling society is not biologically equal, of course, since it is the female Gelfling that possesses wings and controls the fertility level. Again, however, this does not mean that the males are considered subordinate to the females. There are, in fact, no words in human language to describe the detailed arrangement of Gelfling society and how it functions since attitudes of dominance, aggression and control are not part of Gelfling psychological makeup.
Meals are always taken communally. At least two families if not more will eat their meals at the same time. The preparation of meals is done by the female Gelfling, with children of proper age being allowed to "assist." This form of communal dining is evidenced by the construction of Gelfling castles which also contain a single large banquet hall in which all the individuals staying at the castle take their meals together.
The Gelfling are almost entirely vegetarian in nature. Food is gathered by male and female Gelfling alike and then taken to the communal kitchen.
Before the meal begins there is a short period of grace during which thanks are given for the food. This grace generally consists of an apology for the taking of the life of the plants involved and a since wish that, through the death of the plants, new life would be created and would serve the planet well.
Pictographic writing was developed early in Gelfling history. It is believed that it was introduced by Aughra around 3325 BDM. Almost all history and records were kept in this format. Pictographic writing became an art form unto itself and resulted in the decoration of many castles with pictographs that described the history of the tribes forming the castle family. The ability to read pictographic writing, for reasons unknown, is limited strictly to male Gelfling.
The written language is used infrequently and is believed to have also been introduced by Aughra. Only males are capable of using the written form of language for some unknown reason.
Religion is a very personal experience for the Gelfling, and there is apparently only one form of religion present amongst the tribes. A single Creator is worshiped, the worship consisting primarily of the Gelfling living their lives the best way they can in the closest harmony with the planet and all other life forms that they can achieve.
No formal churches or religious artifacts ever arose amongst Gelfling. There is a firm belief in an afterlife in which the individual goes to another dimension in which he or she finds themselves on another Thra but at a very young age, allowing the individual to live another full life. A series of such events is postulated, but no "goal" of "eventual purification" is ever stated or implied.
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