Andêhostai Erelas and the Development of Thomoraii Poetry

I’ve recently been enjoying Robert Greenberg’s Great Courses video lecture series on “How to Listen To and Understand Great Music.” His method of teaching about significant musical works while also telling stories about their composers – with lots of primary sources, thank you! – has been great fun. Partly inspired by Dr. Greenberg’s style, I decided to write about Andêhostai Erelas, one of my favorite Thomoraii writers. Of course, Andêhostai’s imaginary, but that’s just too bad. I sure do wish his works actually existed. One note – all the marks on the vowels in Thomoraii words and names have meanings. I didn’t put them on just to amuse myself.

It was the Golden Age of the emperor Trusǎi in the continent of Thomorai when Andêhostai Erelas was born in 1301 MSY [Modern Sheesania Years; Andêhostai’s birth was in about 1814 A.D. our years]. All of Thomorai was at peace under the rule of Trusǎi, and the middle class was swelling as many people grew rich trading with Unia, Santa Meluna and other nearby countries. The arts were flourishing under the patronage of these wealthy middle and high classes, but most of all under the patronage of Trusǎi himself. The emperor was particularly fond of poetry, and so during his reign he supported many of the best poets in Thomoraii history.

At this point there were three main types of Thomoraii poetry. There were the folk poems: rhymes and fables and other such things, passed down by oral tradition and not taken very seriously by the patrons of the arts at this point. Then there were the epic poems, grand sagas of mythological or historical events that focused on telling great stories in beautiful language that would also teach the reader about morality and human nature. These epic poems typically featured archetypal characters and themes and were filled with abstract ideas from philosophy, psychology and other such subjects. They were not supposed to have realistic, complex characters, deal with everyday problems, or teach practical lessons. They were supposed to be grand and sweeping and inspiring rather than down-to-earth, detailed and practical.

Then there was the personal poetry, or tuôlenǎ, an art form meant just for the writer. Tuôlenǎ of this time period was typically short but very descriptive and detailed, and involved the specific feelings and ideas of the writer much more than epic poetry. There might be a story to a tuôlenǎ poem, or it might just be a description or a comment. Writers of tuôlenǎ might occasionally show it to friends or family, and indeed many scholarly families kept books of such poems that had been written by members of the family. But in general tuôlenǎ poems were meant only for the poet.

Andêhostai Erelas was born in Ôbtobâi, the capital country of the Thomoraii empire, in the golden age of the epic poem. His mother, Fidêl Truwêm, was a singer, and his father, Erelas Pǎityǎr, was a musician who worked for Trusǎi. While Erelas was not a very high-ranking musician among those that Trusǎi hired, he was quite well off and knew many of the musicians, writers and artists that Trusǎi was funding. Erelas intended for his son to become a musician, and so he began giving Andêhostai lessons in all of the major Thomoraii instruments when the boy was four. But while Andêhostai enjoyed studying and playing music, he was not particularly gifted, and Erelas realized that his son could probably never be skilled enough to get a good job in music – there were so many gifted musicians in Thomorai at this point that the competition for patronage was quite intense. So Erelas began casting about for something else for Andêhostai to study.

Meanwhile, Andêhostai’s mother Fidêl was teaching him to sing just for their own enjoyment – she liked to write short songs and she thought that it would be very nice to be able to sing duets she had written with her son, and Andêhostai, as mentioned before, enjoyed music despite his lack of natural ability in it. In the course of her teaching, Fidêl taught him bits of epic poems set to music, parts of opera-like dramas that she occasionally performed in. Andêhostai loved these poems and began writing poems and music for them himself, despite the fact that the music he wrote was rather bad. When his father saw the poetry he had written, he told his son to quit writing the music and focus on the poetry, and then he went and got him a teacher to help him. And so Andêhostai started taking lessons in writing epic poems when he was eight years old.

Andêhostai’s teacher Bêlûzdâzlai Kedê’a was a stern, grumpy old man who had been writing epic poetry for Trusǎi for decades. He was a tremendously demanding teacher, even more so when he recognized the talent Andêhostai had with words and images. He was horrified that, while Andêhostai’s parents had taught him to read and write quite well, they had not given him epic poetry to read or brought him to public performances of such poetry. So he began bringing the young Andêhostai to poetry readings twice a week, and had him read all the great works of poetry in the Thomoraii tradition over at least three times. “First time, look at the story. Second time, look at the philosophy. Third time, look at the writing style,” he said, “and if you enjoy any of it, read it a fourth time and try to look at it all.” Andêhostai later wrote to a friend, Palǎjân Ǎrazas:

I believe that I had practically memorized The Wandering of the Meshobai, The Return of Eriliair, all the works of Dûhǎlas Amjâi, The War for Kafa Monica, all the works of Thesolǎi Kulas, and all the works of Lǐshlai Lǔralai by the time I was fifteen years old. I couldn’t help it; any time I said anything at all about liking one of the poems I was reading, Qǎhai [professor] Bêlûzdâzlai immediately assigned me another reading of it. And then any time I wrote anything good at all about the poem I was reading, he assigned me another reading. And then any time I showed any signs of influence from the poem I was reading in my own poetry, he assigned me another reading. And if for any other reason he decided I needed to read it again – if he thought I had missed something, or misunderstood something, or needed to learn the lesson the author was trying to get across (this happened a great deal when I was a teenager and rather full of myself), or if he was just grumpy that day or if he thought was grumpy and needed some cheering up – and obviously more reading would do it – he’d assign another reading. I think I read Lǐshlai Lǔralai’s The Call of the Firebird sixteen times in the year I was fourteen alone. Of course, now I return to it quite often for inspiration or just for some relaxing reading, completely on my own initiative.

Bêlûzdâzlai drilled the rules of epic poetry writing into Andêhostai, forcing him to revise his poetry again and again. More than anything else, he forced Andêhostai to remove unnecessary words and details. “I had a tremendous tendency to go off on tangents of description at that age,” Andêhostai wrote to Palǎjân, “but Bêlûzdâzlai would have none of it. I would write five pages of a poem and he’d cross out four pages of it, and in the remaining page every third phrase would be crossed out. ‘Unnecessary! Unnecessary! Unnecessary! Focus on your story! Nobody cares what color the banana leaves were!’ he’d say.” Andêhostai did learn a great deal from his teacher. But the disciplined, strictly rule-abiding Bêlûzdâzlai and the dreamy, descriptive Andêhostai very often came into conflict over what was necessary and what was not.

One day when Andêhostai was twelve years old, Bêlûzdâzlai happened to mention the genre of tuôlenǎ, dismissing it as a “messy, unorganized, sentimental load of pointless mush with no rules.” Andêhostai had certainly heard about tuôlenǎ before, and had now and then tried his hand at a tuôlenǎ poem or two, but when he heard Bêlûzdâzlai’s rant a lightbulb went on in his head. Tuôlenǎ had no rules! There would be nothing to stop him from going on those descriptive tangents he loved so much! The contrary side of him, the side that always wanted to be different and always wanted to mess with the rules, was delighted. He started filling notebooks with tuôlenǎ poems documenting his feelings, his experiences, his reading and his writing. At first his tuôlenǎ poems were, indeed, messy, unorganized and sentimental without any real form or structure. But as he became more serious about tuôlenǎ, he began to apply what he was learning in his studies with Bêlûzdâzlai to his tuôlenǎ poems, and they became better and better. He became skilled at using small details to evoke a large, rich, image, to illustrate the moods of his characters, and to show people’s emotions in ways that he never could with the stock archetypal characters he worked with in epic poetry.

When he was fifteen, Andêhostai wrote a series of tuôlenǎ poems that tell the story of two cousins from a middle-class family. In the beginning, they are walking together through a plantation, discussing their lives. The older cousin tells the younger about how he fell in love with the daughter of a poor farm laborer, a gentle and sweet woman, but with no money or education. Afraid of what his family would think, the cousin married another woman from a middle-class family. As he tells his story to his younger cousin, he tries to convince him, and himself, that he made the right choice. The younger cousin listens, but does not really agree.

The scene then shifts to one right out of Andêhostai’s life. The younger cousin is being assigned by his poetry teacher to write a scene for an epic poem on the life of Raǐsh, a great warrior. The younger cousin writes the first stanza of the poem in proper epic form. Then, thinking of his older cousin’s story, he refuses to give in and write in the strict form of an epic poem. Slowly, stanza by stanza, he transforms his epic poem into a tuôlenǎ one, adding more and more descriptive images, more and more details of the characters’ feelings, and breaking the strict phrase structure of an epic poem more and more until it has become a tuôlenǎ poem, free of any particular structure and full of detail and description. It is an amazing work, but Andêhostai did not show it to anyone other than Palǎjân until years later, and it was not published until a few years before his death. But it shows how already, at that age, he had perfected the art of the tuôlenǎ poem and was already experimenting with how he could meld it with the epic genre.

When Andêhostai was nineteen, Bêlûzdâzlai finally grudgingly admitted that he had taught Andêhostai everything he could. It was now time for the debut work. Andêhostai would write a full epic poem completely on his own, without any input from Bêlûzdâzlai or anyone else. Once he was finished, he would show it to Bêlûzdâzlai, and if the teacher thought it was good enough, he would organize a time for Andêhostai to perform it for some significant poets and patrons of poetry. Hopefully the poem would be good enough that the patrons would be interested, and then they would bring various proposals for hiring Andêhostai to Bêlûzdâzlai. Bêlûzdâzlai would bargain with the patrons until they had all agreed on a few concrete proposals, which he would then bring to Andêhostai to choose from.

Andêhostai chose as his subject the myth of the hero Narâzas. In this classic Thomoraii story, Narâzas accidentally discovers that his father Fezêrlas, who his mother had always said had died before he was born, is actually alive. Narâzas then goes on a journey to find his father, overcoming various trials and making many friends and enemies along the way. But this is just the first part of the myth. At the end of this first part, he finds Fezêrlas, but then at the beginning of the next part, Narâzas discovers that Fezêrlas is actually a traitor aiding an enemy tribe. This is why his mother left his father and why his mother never told Narâzas that his father was alive. So Narâzas then goes on a quest to stop Fezêrlas’s treacherous actions and defeat the enemy tribe once and for all. Naturally, he succeeds, and in the end of the second part he becomes the leader of his tribe and marries a beautiful woman named Surila. There are further parts with more adventures, but Andêhostai’s poem focused on the second part.

Now, Andêhostai did want to write a good, solid epic poem. This was, after all, going to be his debut work; it had better be good, or else he would have a hard time ever getting a decent patron. But now that he was not under the critical eye of Bêlûzdâzlai, he wanted to experiment a bit and play with the story and the structure. Most of all, he wanted to incorporate some of his favorite elements of tuôlenǎ: the descriptive details, the emotions, and the fleshed-out characters. So for starters, Andêhostai changed the story a bit. In the original, Narâzas’s bride Surila contributes very little to the story before the marriage in the end; she offers Narâzas some advice once or twice, that’s all. But in Andêhostai’s telling of it, Surila actually dies in the finale of the first part (he begins his poem with the first part’s finale, but other than that he sticks to the second part). Her spirit then returns in the form of a red bird to guide Narâzas in his struggle against his father.

Surila was the first of a long line of female advisors, very often animals or spirits, and very often romantically involved with the hero or with some other major character, that appear again and again in Andêhostai’s poetry. Such advisors and companions do appear in other Thomoraii poetry and in Thomoraii myth, but definitely more in Andêhostai than anywhere else. Many scholars have hypothesized that these advisors were inspired by Andêhostai’s own lifelong relationship with Palǎjân Ǎrazas. This young woman was the daughter of Andêhostai’s father’s best friend, a fellow musician. She studied almost all the arts and sciences that were popular in Thomorai at that time: music, poetry, art, theater, philosophy, biology, psychology, and so on, but she never specialized. She was very intelligent, loved to analyze, and spent much time listening to music, reading poetry and watching various sorts of theatrical productions, then writing critical analyses of them in letters to friends. But Andêhostai wrote that “she does not dare create anything herself. She has a brilliant mind, a wide experience, a great ability with words and a beautiful straightforwardness, but she is afraid. I am not quite sure what she is afraid of; maybe that with her great taste she will never be able to stand anything she creates herself; maybe that all the artists she criticizes will attack anything she creates in revenge. I do not know. But I know that she is afraid, and everything I try to say to her to coax the writer, the composer, and the painter out of her does not move her resolve one bit.”

Andêhostai and Palǎjân often played with each other when they were children, and Palǎjân sometimes joined Andêhostai’s music lessons with his father and poetry lessons with Bêlûzdâzlai. She read epic poems along with Andêhostai – though she did not read them over quite so many times as Andêhostai did – and she went with Andêhostai and Bêlûzdâzlai to performances of them. Andêhostai often showed her his work for comments and criticism, and they would frequently discuss a writing assignment together to help Andêhostai get his thoughts in order before he actually started writing. When they were both twelve, Palǎjân and her family moved to a plantation in rural Ôbtobâi, and Palǎjân and Andêhostai began exchanging letters. When Andêhostai began to seriously write tuôlenǎ, he occasionally showed her some of his work, and she often suggested improvements or pointed out particularly good bits.

They were still frequently writing letters to each other and were still very close friends when Andêhostai began writing his debut work, which he was calling Narâzas and Fezêrlas. But Andêhostai had begun to fall in love with Palǎjân, and when he began Narâzas and Fezêrlas he was trying to decide what to tell her and what to do. Almost unwittingly he began to explore his relationship with Palǎjân through the relationship of Narâzas and Surila in his poem. Surila guides Narâzas but never makes any decisions herself, just as Palǎjân guided Andêhostai in his writing but never wrote anything herself. Surila and Narâzas grow and change throughout the poem, sometimes coming into conflict, but ultimately they support each other even when they disagree, just as it was with Palǎjân and Andêhostai. Most notably, Surila and Narâzas love each other, but the fact that Surila is, in truth, a dead spirit in the form of a bird presents a rather large barrier to their marriage, much like Andêhostai felt that Palǎjân’s opinions towards him and towards love and marriage presented a barrier to them ever being married.

Even though he knew that to be true to the spirit of the story he had to keep Surila in her bird form, and he had to make it impossible for her and Narâzas to ever marry, he still struggled with this decision and searched for alternate options throughout the poem. It gives Andêhostai’s Narâzas and Fezêrlas a certain very real quality that is completely lacking in the other epic poems before it. Nazâras and Surila actually struggle with their situation and try to find ways out of it. There is not the foregone conclusion, the ending that everybody knows, that there always is in epic poetry before Narâzas and Fezêrlas.

Narâzas and Fezêrlas has a number of other new qualities, too. For one, Andêhostai actually thoroughly fleshed out his central characters: Narâzas, Fezêrlas, Surila and a few others. He gave them realistic emotions; he made the good characters make mistakes; he made the bad characters do good things. Additionally, he filled his poem with descriptions, most often small details to evoke moods and feelings without many words. Such devices were all highly unusual in epic poetry before Andêhostai, and they were all things he had learned to do well in his tuôlenǎ. But these new elements aside, Andêhostai stuck to the traditional form of an epic poem. He kept the basic structure of the myth of Narâzas; he included lofty themes and philosophical ideas; and he was very careful about the sound of his words, one of the key aspects of Thomoraii epic poetry of the time. Light, happy scenes were filled with words that sounded smooth and flowing, making little use of the Thomoraii language’s deep, throaty vowels. But sad, heavy scenes were filled with pharyngealized and epiglottalized vowels and consonant clusters. Happy characters often rhymed or used alliteration; sad characters often used short, choppy words, almost as if they were speaking in between sobs. It might seem rather silly to someone used to English writing, but this was a standard in Thomoraii epic poetry at the time, and Andêhostai did it well.

Andêhostai wrote, revised, revised, revised, revised and revised his poem again for nearly a year. When he realized that he was close to finishing and would soon have to show the poem to Bêlûzdâzlai, he threw himself into another flurry of revision as he tried to make it good enough that it would be acceptable to his teacher. He was terribly worried that Bêlûzdâzlai would hate the unorthodox new elements he was including, and would be disgusted that he did not properly follow the epic poem structure. It was also frustrating to Andêhostai that he could not show his work to Palǎjân for comments – the creator of a debut work could not get outside work or advice before showing it to their teacher, and even after the teacher saw it, they couldn’t change it before performing it. But finally, just two weeks short of a year after he had started it, he made a final word change in Narâzas and Fezêrlas and then brought his manuscript of it to Bêlûzdâzlai (who was living in the same house as Andêhostai at the time). Andêhostai then sat down and wrote a frenzied letter to Palǎjân describing the moment, even though

…nothing that much happened, really…I went to his room, held out the manuscript, and said, “Here it is, Qǎhai.” He said, “Thank you, Andêhostai.” He took it, glanced at it, put it onto the stack of papers and books next to him, and looked at me. I knew I was supposed to leave so he could read it in peace. But I could not help but say, “Oh please, Qǎhai, just, if you’re worried, if you don’t know, if you – just keep reading! Just – ” and he cut me off and said, “Of course. You know what I think about how to read an epic poem,” and then he kept looking at me, so I left. But I thought as I was going into the courtyard that his business about reading something three or four times was only for a good epic poem. He also always said that if you realized something was trash, read it for another hour, and if it’s still trash, give it up.

Andêhostai finished his short and agitated letter to Palǎjân and sent it, but then he could not find anything else to do as he waited and waited for Bêlûzdâzlai to finish reading his poem. He could not stand to read another epic poem, as he usually did in his free time, since he had been “drowned” in poetry for the last few weeks as he tried to revise quickly, and he was thoroughly sick of it. He tried to practice the instruments he still played, but he was too nervous to play well at all, and, in fact, broke a string on one of them. He replaced the string, and then tried going out for a walk. But he quickly returned home when he saw how hot and sunny it was outside, and besides, he did not want to keep brooding about what Bêlûzdâzlai would think, and a quiet walk would probably encourage brooding. Finally, he decided that since he was already in “such a thin, stretched, crazy state, so nervous of Bêlûzdâzlai that any other stress would seem a relief,” he would accomplish something else that had been a stress on him for some time and would have put him into a thin, stretched, crazy state if he hadn’t already been in one: he would write a marriage proposal to Palǎjân.

Andêhostai had written her several months back about what he was thinking and feeling about her; she had responded coolly and a bit indirectly, saying that she was sure they would always be friends, but she was not so certain about love. Andêhostai had figured that she needed time to think, and besides, it was not really in keeping with Thomoraii culture for a woman to express affection towards a man before there was some commitment between them. If he proposed marriage, he would show that he was serious, and there would be enough of a commitment for her to comfortably say what she was thinking. It would also open up discussion between their parents. And besides, he did want to marry her. So trying to keep his thoughts of Bêlûzdâzlai and Narâzas and Fezêrlas at bay, Andêhostai once more sat down and wrote to Palǎjân, “I must once more write to you about something that has been on my mind for some time…”

He was almost done with this second letter to Palǎjân when a servant called him for dinner. Andêhostai, thinking that Bêlûzdâzlai would very likely come and eat with his family, went down to the courtyard where they ate in a “tremendously distracted state.” But Bêlûzdâzlai was not there. He had asked for his dinner to be brought to his room, where he was still reading. Andêhostai desperately questioned the servant who brought Bêlûzdâzlai his meal about what he had seen, but the servant could only shrug and say that Bêlûzdâzlai was looking at papers and seemed just as grumpy as usual. After dinner, Andêhostai returned to his letter to Palǎjân, and once he had finished that, he tried his best to go to sleep.

In the end, Andêhostai had to wait another full day to find out Bêlûzdâzlai’s verdict. Finally, in the morning two days after he had delivered the manuscript of Narâzas and Fezêrlas, Bêlûzdâzlai called for him to come to his room. Andêhostai wrote later that day to Palǎjân:

I entered Bêlûzdâzlai’s room and stood there in front of him. He was sitting on the floor with my manuscript in his lap. He had big stacks of papers and books on either side of him. One stack was topped by his dictionary; the other was topped by his [grammar book]…He took a deep breath and said, “Well, my son, I have read your poem. I must say that when I began I was quite alarmed. I’ve known about your…habit” (I could feel the word “bad” perched in his mouth there, passed over but kept ready at hand) “of writing tuôlenǎ for some time, despite what you might think, and I was concerned at first that you had come up with some grand idea about combining the two, epic poetry and tuôlenǎ. And you know what our dear Lǐshlai says about grand ideas” [here is a quote from The Call of the Firebird about pride, one that Bêlûzdâzlai often quoted at Andêhostai when he showed arrogance as a young man] “But…well. Your poem isn’t perfect, you know,” he said, very businesslike and stern all of a sudden, but it made me feel a little glow of warmth…because I know him very well, Palǎjân, and I know that he always does that before he praises me, because he always has to qualify any compliment he makes. That’s just who he is. But anyways, this all flew through my mind in the brief breath before he said, “but…well, then I read this,” and he quoted a piece from near the beginning, a piece that I have very much wanted to show you, Palǎjân, but which I can’t until my performance of the whole thing. Let me just say that it is a piece from the meeting of two friends, but after one has been greatly changed. [It’s from the place where Narâzas first meets Surila in her bird form.] So Bêlûzdâzlai read this piece of my poem to me, and he read it very well, and then he was quiet for a moment, and he said, “My dear son, I have been part of your life for a very long time, and I honestly do not know how you know what such a meeting feels like. But somehow you managed here to push through all my annoyance and alarm and all my fine critical capabilities, all my filters and walls and glasses over my eyes, and echoed something inside me, and so you got inside of me. And my dear Andêhostai, at the end of the day, that is all that matters in art, isn’t it? I don’t care what color the painter uses; if he can make me start and see and realize something in myself, he has done the great thing, he has fulfilled his art. I don’t care what instruments, what forms, what keys and notes and harmonies the composer uses; if his music reaches inside of me, if it gets past my mind and my cold judgment, that is all that matters, isn’t it? Now of course there are colors and instruments and so on that are superior for certain things, and your poem is not all perfect, not at all, and very often it reaches past me and over me and – ” And suddenly, Palǎjân, he leaned forward and bowed his head before me and touched my feet with his hands, and I felt like I was in a dream, and I felt like I was Tebî in Thesolǎi Kulas’s The Quests of Bêkiair and something was being offered me that was too beautiful and too grand and too humbling for the person offering it for me to accept it, and I gasped and said to him, “Please, Qǎhai – !” and then I said, “Tell me what I did wrong!” and he sat back and sighed and said, “I wish I had your [heart].” And then he swallowed and composed himself and began pointing out all the mistakes I had made. It was very thoroughly unsettling, Palǎjân, and I still feel like Tebî when I think of it. I am afraid that he thinks I am better than him at writing poetry. Maybe I know now why you are afraid to write anything.

Throughout the rest of Andêhostai’s career, Bêlûzdâzlai would often take issue with the details of how he modified the traditional epic form. But ultimately Bêlûzdâzlai was completely behind Andêhostai’s experimentation, since he believed that Andêhostai had the skill and the talent to pull it off.

Unfortunately, Andêhostai did not have the same happy outcome with Palǎjân as he had had with Bêlûzdâzlai. Three days later, as he was preparing to perform Narâzas and Fezêrlas, he received a very frank letter from Palǎjân. She said that she sincerely appreciated Andêhostai’s honesty with her, and was also very flattered and honored to be the recipient of his love. But, she said, while she very much wanted to keep his friendship for the rest of her life, she did not want to complicate it, stress it and change it with the addition of a romantic relationship. She wrote:

In the world today, the husband rules over the wife, and the wife has got to scheme and plan and be subtle and clever and manipulative in order to get a word in. I have no desire to be ruled by you or to manipulate you. I have found great joy in our status as equals and I do not want to change it…Very honestly, I don’t care if you say that you would never treat me that way, because even if you don’t want to, everyone around you is going to be expecting it. And even if you are all stubborn and full of grand ideals and ready to take on the world now, are you really going to have the same energy to defy our society twenty or thirty years from now, when you are tired of resisting everything and everyone – including me? Because I am a stubborn women, and I will no doubt frustrate you at times such that you will desperately wish you could order me to stop. And am I going to have the will to defy you when you try to assert your power over me? No. It will not work. We would destroy both ourselves and our happiness….And besides, I am not in love with you, though of course being in love has very little to do with the question of marriage in most cases. But I am just a bit nervous that you think love does have very much to do with marriage, and so if I marry you you’ll expect me to be in love with you. And at the same time, I also feel like Thesolǎi’s Tebî, I feel like the one who is offered something too grand and beautiful, and something that will, in the end, be too painful for the one who offers it for me to accept in good conscience. Yes, Tebî did accept in the end, but she was in a story; I am trapped in truth and in reality.

Andêhostai acknowledged Palǎjân’s response and withdrew his proposal. But he never really gave up hope of being able to marry her. He was, in fact, married to two other women during his life – Sonolan Alfěslǎi and Fidêl Tělěfes – and Palǎjân herself married another man and had many children with him. But Andêhostai always held out hope, however foolish it might have been, that somehow it would work for the two of them to get married. And those female advisors, so often romantically connected to the hero, but so often unable for some reason to actually be married to him, continued to appear again and again in his work.

Five days after presenting his poem to Bêlûzdâzlai, Andêhostai read Narâzas and Fezêrlas aloud in front of an audience of several significant epic poets of the day, including one of his favorite authors, Thesolǎi Kulas. The audience also included some of Ôbtobâi’s greatest patrons of epic poetry; the emperor Trusǎi himself had sent a representative, Kulas Dûhalǎs, to see if Andêhostai was worth his patronage. Additionally, Andêhostai’s family and Palǎjân were in the audience; for them, it was much like attending his graduation. The reading took about four and a half hours. Once it was done, the poets in the audience were split on the merit of Andêhostai’s poem, particularly on the merit of the new, tuôlenǎ-like elements that he included. But the patrons loved it, and by that evening, Bêlûzdâzlai had quite a number of proposals from them to present to Andêhostai.

Andêhostai ended up writing a poem on the foundation of Obtobian civilization for an army general, and a poem called The Death of Numiair, based on an old myth, for the head of the Thomoraii government’s tax department. When Trusǎi’s representative Kulas Dûhalǎs read these poems, he finally decided that Andêhostai’s work was mature enough to deserve Trusǎi’s patronage. Two years after Andêhostai’s debut reading of Narâzas and Fezêrlas, Trusǎi hired him to write a trilogy of epic poems on a mythological topic “to be decided.” The resulting works were the three volumes of Andêhostai’s classic Bêkiair Cycle: Bêkiair and Tebî, The Wanderings of Bêkiair, and Bêkiair and Kedê’a. After reading these phenomenal works, Trusǎi decided to hire Andêhostai for life.

Andêhostai continued to work on perfecting his synthesis of epic poetry and tûolenǎ until he died. At first his style was quite controversial, with some critics loving it and many others citing it as an example of the sloppiness of modern writers. But as his work became more polished and his style lost some of its alarming novelty, the critics of his day mostly settled into praise, though of course there were still quite a few that hated his writing. The patrons and readers of epic poetry, on the other hand, almost all loved it from the beginning. Printings of his poems were bestsellers, and readings of them sold out. His wife Sonolan Alfěslǎi set several of his poems to music, starting with The Death of Numiair four years after it was published, and the resulting works were also quite popular. Additionally, his Bêkiair Cycle was adapted into a opera-like music-and-drama production five years after it was first published, and this work remains a classic of Thomoraii theater today.

Much more notably, Andêhostai’s style was a huge influence on the younger epic poets of the day. They loved his way of writing description, his complex characters, and his liberal use of emotion. Expanding on this, they began to write epic poems that were not based on historical or mythological tales. One writer, Amjâi Bêlûzdâz, wrote many poems telling stories he had completely made up himself, set in the time when he lived, featuring normal middle-class characters – very unusual among the hordes of gods, nobles, warriors and peasants that filled the old Thomoraii epics. Other writers began to include more practical morals and ideas instead of just the rather grand philosophical theories that earlier epic poems were filled with. And, most of all, there was a new focus on complex and realistic characters. Old heroes and villains were reimagined with more sophisticated motivations, personalities and moralities, and many new heroes and villains were created, too.

Through his skilled combination of epic poetry and tûolenǎ in his beautiful works, Andêhostai Erelas started a trend towards humanistic realism in Thomoraii poetry. His focus on the details of life, human experience, and human emotion struck a chord with his readers and inspired many future Thomoraii poets. Today his work is some of the most classic in the Thomoraii literary canon; The Death of Numiair and the Bêkiair Cycle, in particular, are very famous and are required reading for many students. Now Thomorai’s future poets read Andêhostai over and over again just as he once read the classics of his day over and over.

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