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Reading and Scribing

As I write this blogpost on my laptop computer, I have been musing on the ways in which we, in our world, read and write, and how it compares to the worlds of Oramia and Kashiq and how they compare to each other. The internet has one important prerequisite for use - the ability to read and write. We do this all day long, whether its writing a web address or scribbling notes or a shopping list, or reading a website description of something we want to buy or our favourite newspaper online. Most of us take it for granted. As an ex-teacher, I spent a lot of my time teaching small children how to read and write, and the process has always fascinated me because if its implications. Just think, I can write down exactly how I, or a character, Talla for example, is feeling and what they might say or do in a certain context, and you read it and then it comes alive for you. That communication is such a precious thing.

In Oramia we learn that being able to read and write (scribe) is reserved only for a very few people. Each Temple has a Reader who is also a Scribe and who is responsible for scrolls used in the Choice ceremony, and for reading and scribing the Scrolls of Permission which certify the travel of Priestesses from one Temple to another and to communicate between the Temples and the OutForts and the Queen's Court. The OutForts similarly have Reader Scribes, as does the Queen's Court. We do not yet know how The Readers of the Temples are taught, nor who by, but it seems likely that they are chosen for the role and then taught by an older Priestess in readiness to take over the position. Talla teaches herself how to read and how to scribe by listening and carefully observing in the Temple where she lives. However, most of the population do not read or scribe. We learn from Ambar in The Orange of Kashiq that the OutRiders often use coded messages sent using different boxes and contents to one another, and we also learn in Flammeus that the OutRiders have their own silent sign language which is their preferred means of communicating, and which Talla is resolved to one day learn. Talla realises the great power of reading and scribing when she realises that a person who reads and writes where most people do not wields great power. In Oramia, scribing is done on parchment made from goat skin, and is done using an ink pen with either a reed or metal nib and inks made out of berries and charcoal. Talla also uses long charcoal twigs like pencils.

In Kashiq, many more people can read and write. Reading is seen as a positive skill which can be used for learning which is highly valued. The Kashiqis have found how to make plant parchments, out of a reed like river plant, like papyrus. We learn that there are many poets and storytellers in Kashiq who write down their tales and rhymes, just like Finzari. When Talla arrives in Arbhoun, at the Tower of the Wise, she has her scribing and reading tested by the Scholars before she is allowed entry. If you can read and write, you are entitled to attend the Tower of the Wise and its huge repository of wisdom and literature. Ravin accesses scrolls about how things are made in order to learn from them. In Kashiq, writing materials are readily available in the markets and being able to read is not unusual. In the Kashiqi pantheon, one of the Gods, Rao is the Guide for learning, reading and scribing. In Kashiq, writing is used much more for the sharing of feelings or for teaching a lesson or illustrating a point whereas in Oramia it is used as a means of communicating information or conferring status.

We learn from the interactions between Ambar and Talla and Ravin how much power the written word can hold over those who cannot read it, and how they must trust in those who read it for them. The same is of course true of the Temple, where the Maids are read the words of Ashkana in her Aphorisms so that they can learn them off by heart. But we cannot know if all these words were indeed written by Ashkana, or who she meant them for...

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