Friday, January 27, 2012


And it came to pass that Atlantis had need of heroes. But some had made themselves as unto gods, and hence disqualified themselves; and some had feet of clay, for they were idols; and some disdained the very idea of heroism, preferring other terms more quantitative and less qualitative.

Most disdainful were those who themselves wrote heroic tales, for they pointed out how easy it was to invent heroes and tell stories about them, and thus argued that all heroes were likely invented, and their fabled heights were but storeys. And this was only too easy to believe, for Atlantis is indeed a many-storeyed land.

But yet, the Gnome.

The Gnome, unlike Black Diamond (who succumbed to the temptation of naming heroes), claimed to dream no dreams. Indeed, he denied having any visions, for he said he was no dreamer. He did not think of himself as a hero, and he was suspicious of that label, for he was a pragmatist.

And so, the Gnome.

The Gnome was of the gods on one side (or at least, the Celestials, for that is what his people called themselves) and of the giants on the other (or at least, the Wanderers, for that is what his other people called themselves). He did not like the glare of the spotlight or the boom of the thunder, but he did not mind harnessing the lightning in order to bring fire to mankind.

But then, you might say, being a titan should have disqualified him too.

The Gnome, though he bestrode Atlantis like an invisible colossus, did not think much of titanes. But he was a hero of the kind one hardly thinks about.

You see, while striving not to be a dreamer, he created visions. While avoiding heroism, he made heroes. And while doing his job parsimoniously and unromantically, he sat in the middle of the web and coordinated the efforts of others in making a better life for many.

For many? Not for all?

No, not for all. The Gnome, in his words to a range of audiences, was always careful to point out that you could make life better, but not for all. There would still be those who won less, who earned less, who became losers relative to whatever winners there were. He himself just went on, doing project after project, spinning narrative from his busy spinnerets.

He made the birds fly. He brought music to the hall. He was master of weapons and maker of shields. He was patron to muses and horses. He educated the masses and massed the educated. He was taskmaster and mentor, cryptic sage and determined reader.

He was a pantheon unto himself. And that is part of why he was heroic, epic even.

But the last part of why he was a hero was that he was flawed. Like Achilles, or the Hooded Man, or any other hero, he had a weakness hiding amongst his many strengths. And in the Orwellian year, he went away from the thunderbolt and into the slow evening of his long day.



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