“Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me” (Hamilton, The World Was Wide Enough). As Alexander Hamilton says this it provokes the thought of “how do we create history?” In N.K. Jemisin’s work she addresses how history is kept alive and what it means for us to remember it.A few of my classmates and I have already addressed a form of this in our collaborative blog post in the form of how stone eaters look like sculptures, or art, as a means of preserving history, but I wanted to expand on that more.
Jemisin addresses the challenge of preserving history with the existence of the lorists and their stonelore. The lorists “came only from a race called Regwo–Westcoasters who had sallow-reddish skin and naturally black lips, and who worshipped the preservation of history the way people in less-bitter times worshipped gods” (The Obelisk Gate, 2). As time went on and this race of people were destroyed, lorists kept existing and tinting their lips black in memory of the people of Regwo, though they eventually forgot why.
The theme of forgetting why a civilization does something — or has something–is repeated throughout the series. Hoa describes this same theme with the obelisks. He says,
“In tens of thousands of years, after people have repeatedly forgotten what ‘engines’ are and know the fragments as nothing but ‘obelisks,’ there will be a different name for the thing that rules our lives now. It will be called the Obelisk Gate, which is both more poetic and quaintly primitive. I like that name better” (The Obelisk Gate, 49).
The lorists’ jobs are preserve history and spread the stories to the rest of humanity. Danel is a lorist that tells Essun, “Those of us who come out of the old Lorist families train in hand-to-hand, the arts of war, and so forth. it makes us more useful during Seasons, and in the task of defending knowledge.” She also says, “Soldiers might get a comm through a Season, but storytellers are what kept the Sanze going through seven of them” (The Stone Sky, 221). The lorists are successful in keeping essential knowledge alive to keep humanity alive along with it. They are not successful, however, in keeping the reasons the knowledge exists intact.
Jemisin provides a thoughtful insight into what preserving history looks like and why it should happen. If we lost our history, we, as a people, could not look towards our ancestors as examples of what not to do as a means of survival.