Remember the very first blog post I made? Probably. not, but it was centered around Māori mythology and the idea of primordial parental figures. In all honesty, the post was meant as a basis for a thread of connections I’m currently trying to unpack. There were times where it might have seemed contradictory or lacking, so I’m here to explain somethings before I start. I said that Jemisin takes inspiration a lot of different cultures. This inspiration isn’t appropriation, but rather a reference point for growth. Her blog post about creating races clearly states she isn’t interested in using other people’s beliefs or traditions for personal gain. See the rest of my findings as a plausible origin for what we’ve read instead of a concrete backstory.
As I mentioned before, the idea of primordial figures is already present in Jemisin’s work through Father Earth. But we rarely speak about what comes after. The basis for the entire trilogy has been “everything changes in a season” but what occurred to cause that shift? We know Father Earth’s child was hurt by orogenes, causing the start of seasons. This revelation confused me at first since I always thought of orogenes as children of the earth themselves. Their connection to humanity has always been limited. To focus back into the possible reference to Maori mythology, people were not created by the earth but were rather a product of Father Earth’s decedent. Rangi and Papa produced many children, including Tū the god of war. He was by far the most malicious, under pseudonyms such as the one who incites, who tears apart and the most memorable: that who destroys mankind. Tū even suggested the murder of his parents during the plot for his escape from within them. This sense of aggression made me think about what mankind’s purpose could truly be if this was the creator? It was said that “the primary influence of Tū on the Māori way of life was to shape the human mind and body for war and battle”. Jemisin’s description of the perception of orogenes is almost identical in the sense that they were merely tools.
For a race that so desperately wants to cling onto their humanity, it’s almost against their nature to do so. In fact, Patrick touched upon the topic a few weeks ago in class when he said something along the lines of “it’s sad that they are raised to be anything but human”. In a way that’s true, humanity was never an option for this race. There has always been the debate of biological vs moral humanity but the core sense is that humanity equals empathy and reasoning. Human-beings are deserving of certain inalienable rights and respect. However, this was never applicable to the people at hand. In fact, they were made to be weapons, not humans. This sense of ‘breeding warriors’ is consistent throughout. Tū’s creations were bred from malice so it is easy to perceive them as destructive. They’re extensions of the earth taught to not restrict it. Yet instinctively, the warrior within them drains the earth’s life force for substance.
I never saw Essun or any other orogene as particularly threatening despite their displays of strength. In fact, it only reinforced the idea that they were ‘fixtures of the earth’. But just imagine the feeling of becoming one with the world around you while simultaneously being the very thing that divides you both. Let me explain, Father Earth’s resentment towards all life stemmed from the mistreatment of him and his child. Orogenes were responsible for the creation of seasons, they were responsible for the depletion of the earth. Whether intentionally or not, those actions have caused the originally paternal figure to turn defensive. It’s a sick form of irony that the only place to which the orogene race can find a connection to is the very thing they were created to destroy.
Nevertheless, all this rambling basically comes down to the same question Essun has been asking herself throughout the trilogy. Was she created to be destructive? Was she the monster the world had classified her as? At this point, we know how her story settles out but I open the discussion up to you all. What do you believe is the purpose of the division of the races in such a way? Was dividing the orogenes from humanity based on ability or did it reveal more about them?