OT: The Island of the Sun

on May 12, 2009 in Other Tales

Editor’s Note: The following is a portion of a tale that’s part of the cycle of Bill Springstep stories known as “The Boat Tales”, which are regarded as apocryphal by wide swaths of the gnomish community, or else attributed to Springstep’s less respectable cousin, Maury Springstep. These stories have a long history, though, among those gnomes who ply the waterways of the Mother Island, and most folklorists regard “Maury” as a later invention in order to distance the legendary hero from his more scandalous exploits. Serious scholars all agree that “Maury” is in fact the same figure as Bill himself.

The codex this tale comes from, the Westbook of Redmarch, has been rather poorly treated by previous owners. Whole passages have been excised or scraped raw to be written over with later works of more questionable value. Even the original stories that remain were not untouched… certain words and phrases were lifted clean from the page and replaced for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Where it’s been possible to identify such alterations, the substituted words have been marked in bold. We can only speculate what the original version might have said.

The Island of the Sun
A Tale of Bill Springstep

Once upon a time when the world was considerably newer and old Bill Springstep was not so old as he is now, he found himself with a great yearning to see what lands there were on the other side of the water. His feet had already carried him as far as they could go in any other direction, and they were not yet tired.

For Bill, doing a thing was often as simple as deciding to do it, and so in a little more time than it takes to say it at a moderate pace, he got himself a boat. The story of how exactly this came about has been told dozens of times and hundreds of ways, but the important thing was that he did it, and he christened it the Goodmorning.

Now, old Bill was more clever than most at many things, and as clever as any at most things, but he had never once been out on the water before and so when it came to sailing he was no more than a talented beginner. That is to say that he knew enough to keep his little craft on the right side of the waves more often than not, but decisions on which way to go and when had to be made in committee with the wind and the tide, and more often than not, they both voted against him, and they seemed to want nothing more than to bear him to the east.

Thus it was that Bill could only watch longingly as the boat drifted past islands and continents that were no doubt very interesting and perhaps quite pleasant in their own way. He consoled himself by noting that he could always walk back if he felt like it, when the Goodmorning finally came to a stop.

But the boat flew stubbornly onward, further and further to the east until there was no land in sight in any direction. Bill’s boat was tossed for week upon week upon the endless empty sea, until he had all but despaired of ever seeing so much as a grain of sand… and then came a morning that was very good indeed, for as the sun rose it seemed to have a dark shape silhouetted in front of it, like a lady’s fan held in front of her face… there was an island, to the east, and Bill and his boat were headed straight for it.

“I wonder what land that is,” Bill thought. “It can’t have a name… I must be further east than anyone has ever gone.”

But as the Goodmorning sped eastward, he saw he was mistaken, for upon a sandy beach he spied a number of other craft, and a collection of creatures there. Old Bill being a natural mediator by nature, he was not surprised to see that they were quarreling, for natural mediators find quarrelers as easily as bees find sweet flowers.

They were, he noted as he drew even closer, the strangest assortment of creatures: there was a Cat, a Fox, a Rabbit, a ridiculous looking thing that was not quite a Dog and yet not quite a Raccoon, and a very regal-looking Dragon. He couldn’t begin to guess at the sum or substance of the arguments being made, but it all seemed very heated. The Dragon, who was quite easily three times the size of any of the other creatures, was keeping his silence but looked more and more impatient with each passing moment.

“Good morning!” Bill said, announcing his arrival as his tiny boat drove itself into the beach like an arrow into a tree, and the assembled creatures barely noticed him. “Good morning!” he said, a bit louder, and this time they all jumped to attention.

“Whoever you are, you’re too late,” the Fox said.

“Late?” Bill said.

“I agree,” the Cat said. “I don’t agree with anything else but I agree with that. Quite a bit too late.”

“I assure you, I came as swiftly as I could,” Bill said.

“Yes,” the Rabbit said. “If anybody is ineligible to be emperor, it’s someone come late to the party.”

“Emperor?” Bill said. “What an idea! But is that what you’re quarreling about?”

“Of course,” the ridiculous Raccoon-Dog thing said, and Bill couldn’t help but notice the creature had enormous gumption. “This is a new land and it must have an emperor.”

The Dragon, which Bill could now plainly see was easily five times as large as all the largest of them, said nothing.

“Have you considered…” Bill started to say, his eyes on the enormous beast, but he was cut off.

“An outside mediator?” the Fox said.

“An impartial judge?” the Cat said.

“A neutral party?” the ridiculous Raccoon-Dog thing said.

“A fair arbiter?” the Rabbit said.

“Well,” Bill said. “Perhaps if you would care to present your cases…”

“I am Fox,” the Fox said. “I am noble and wise, full of magic and wit. I am certain you will make the right decision, and if I am not selected as emperor I shall have to amuse myself by making mischief and madness.”

“He’s certainly full of something,” Bill thought to himself, but he politely held his tongue.

“I am Cat,” the Cat said. “I am lucky and welcoming. I bring good fortune and ward off disaster. Of course, Emperors are better at warding off disasters than Cats… who knows if I’ll be able to protect your ship from harm without a throne behind me?”

“Many’s a fool who’s lucked into power, but rarely for the good of any but himself,” Bill thought to himself, but he politely held his tongue again.

“I am Rabbit,” the next applicant said. “Swift and strong of foot, and many in number. None shall extinguish my line, for if you slay all my sons I will get a thousand, thousand more. Not so many as to overrun a modest palace or overtax a modestly supported granary, but perhaps too many to be supported by the gardens of those who would prefer my children run wild in the world.”

That was as dire a threat as Bill had ever heard, but he was not one to be bullied or to answer rudeness with rudeness, so he held his tongue and turned towards the fourth claimant.

“I am some sort of Ridiculous Raccoon-Dog thing,” that one said. “And I am clearly best suited to be emperor because of my great courage. If you do not accede to my wishes, I shall be forced to crush you with my enormous allies.”

“Impressive,” Bill thought to himself, “but perhaps he’d be a bit busy to be emperor. Him and Rabbit both.”

He turned to the last claimant, who had not yet spoken a word and was clearly at the end of his patience. He had also drawn himself up to his full and proper height, which Bill could now see was easily eleven times the size of all of them.

“Begging your pardon, your imperial majesty,” Bill said to him, “but if you would be so kind as to state…”

Fie on you,” the last one said. “I’m a Dragon.”

“Well,” Bill said, “it is clear that there can only be one choice.”

Editor’s Note: The text ends here, unfortunately, leaving us with no clear indication of who Bill picked to rule as the first emperor of that nameless land far to the east. We can surmise, from later stories in the cycle, that he was able to solve the problem of his boat only sailing eastward, as other stories feature him being drawn inexorably westward in a renamed Goodevening.

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8 Responses to “OT: The Island of the Sun”

  1. Nigel says:

    Fie on you, and Fie on your mother. Fie on her right in the face, you Mother-Fie-er.

    -good for a laugh πŸ™‚

    Current score: 1
  2. Rio says:

    LOL at the tanuki and his “gumption”…hahahaha

    Current score: 4
  3. Kavoir says:

    Dragons continue to prove they are the best race in these stories. Apparently they are so awesome that even their Youkai Counterpart wins. He must have won because “your imperial majesty”.

    Current score: 0
  4. Anthony says:

    Some sort of ridiculous racoon-dog thing? Did Two write this tale?

    Current score: 2
    • Aran says:

      Where it’s been possible to identify such alterations, the substituted words have been marked in bold. We can only speculate what the original version might have said.

      What indeed. πŸ˜›

      Fie on you, I’m a dragon

      Fie on you, I’m an anteater.

      Current score: 0
    • Loki says:

      Sounds like a tanuki to me.

      Current score: 1
  5. Jechtael says:

    The “ridiculous Raccoon-Dog thing” with huge [strikethrough]balls[/strikethrough][b]gumption[/b] certainly sounds like a Tanuki. And don’t forget, it was Hazel who phrased the things in dreams that are not quite one thing and not quite another as “some sort of ridiculous Owl-Turtle thing”.

    [b]Fie on[/b] the ridiculous Raccoon-Dog thing until his [b]allies[/b] fall off.

    The dragon’s comment makes me thing of the snowclone phrase, “[Statement about how I appear strange]; Your argument is invalid.” See also the lovely http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/fck-you-im-a-dragon

    I wonder if the immortal god-emperor of Yokan is a true dragon, and not a dragon Yokai.

    I also wonder if Bill solved his boat problem by naming a boat the Goodnight or the Goodday. No matter which direction he goes, East, West, North, South, and several others, he would be heading for [night/day].

    Current score: 0
  6. AB says:

    Racoon-dog seems like a one piece reference to me, though not further relevant to the story

    Current score: 0