Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Forgotten Lands: New Bretton & Gurye

(These "Forgotten Lands" seem kind of obscure...)

New Bretton
Population: 12,493 (2001 Census)

Economy: Fish, Optical Equipment

When Newfoundland voted to join the Canadian Federation in 1949, the local vote on the fishing island of New Bretton was strongly against union. One week later, the island’s local government invoked an unusual provision in its original royal charter – dated 1678 – guaranteeing it the right to dissociate from any colonie, or other lands of ye king, or any conjoining to these at will. Initially dismissed as an anachronism, the clause was ultimately found legally binding by the Newfoundland courts. New Bretton thus became one of the world’s smallest independent entities.

Although they rely on Great Britain for defense and representation in world bodies, New Brettons are a fiercely nationalistic people. “Never call a New Bretton a Canadian,” goes the local joke – “and the bigger he is, the more important that you don’t.” Though to the outsider there might seem to be little cultural distinction between New Bretton and the Atlantic provinces around it, to the natives there is much substance in small differences.

New Bretton is spared many of the Northwest Atlantic region’s economic woes due to the presence of New Bretton Scientific, a leading world manufacturer of precision optical equipment. Occupying a bluff overlooking the capital and only real town, the company’s production facility employs one of every five New Brettons, many in highly skilled and well-paid positions. Local entrepreneur Brian Redham founded the company in his basement in 1962, and is now thought to be comfortably among the world’s richest 100 people.

Flag: A red St. George’s cross is evidence of the English ancestry of most islanders. The white background of the English flag is replaced by blue, however, on New Bretton’s banner. No symbolism is attached to the blue; a typically pragmatic New Bretton once told the author that “they had to pick something besides white, else it would still be the flag of England.”

Kingdom of Gurye
Capital: Baracet
Population: 16,550,000 (2001 est.)

Economy: A relatively underdeveloped industrial sector produces mostly for the domestic market; major exports include bicycles, agricultural equipment, and solid wood furniture. Agricultural exports include pears, almonds, oats, and hay.

At its peak in the Seventh Century, the ancient Guryean Empire stretched nearly 1000 miles from the An Pûr River on the western border to the Arkravian Mountains on the east. Modern Gurye, unusually, shares no land in common with its classical ancestor state. Weakened by infighting among aristocratic clans, each with ambitions to the imperial throne, the Empire contracted and finally dissolved during the Eighth and Ninth Centuries. Beset by the nomadic horsemen of the expansionist Empire of Tyr, the Guryeans migrated westward across the An Pûr to their modern homeland on the Ailandian Plan.

Ratash, the language of Gurye, has changed so little over the centuries that modern Guryens are able to read the epic poems describing these events in their original form. Most citizens are deeply invested in their national past; Ghandi, who studied law in Gurye as a young man, held that “in a Guryen you find a man who knows more about the events of the Ninth Century than of his own.”

A lack of either geopolitical ambitions or strategic importance allowed Gurye to escape the upheavals of the 20th Century with only minor changes to its borders. The capital and largest city, Baracet, boast a quietly thriving tourist district in the beautifully preserved mediaeval town center. Halberd-wielding soldiers in full regalia still walk a vigil on the walls of the massive castle, now the national museum, around which Baracet was originally built. Potential visitors are warned, however, that the city offers little resembling night life, and after sundown the streets have a distinctively abandoned feel to them.

Flag: Two lions menace each other on a yellow field framed top and bottom with a horizontal stripe of maroon red. The banner dates to the Twelfth Century; the lions represent two competing families that, after decades of contending for the throne, unified themselves in a political marriage in 1184. It was originally the private banner of the emperor whose accession was made possible by this event, but gradually came to represent the nation as a whole over the course of his long and successful reign.



Anonymous said...

If I didn't know better, I'd think our informant on the Forgotten Lands had been reading a little too much Borges. The Kingdom of Gurye especially reminds me of the mysterious encyclopedia entry on Uqbar: "Reading it over again, we discovered beneath its rigorous prose a fundamental vagueness. . . The note seemed to fix the boundaries of boundaries of Uqbar, but its nebulous reference points. . . " etc. That's it, I'm going to run out and get you a "Proud to be a Tlonista" bumper sticker. Obscurely yours, mrs.5K.

Anonymous said...

Though I kind of like "boundaries of boundaries," the repeated phrase is, naturally, a typo.

Anonymous said...

These are so fun. New Brettons seem perfect. The reason for the blue cracked me up.

Gurye could pass for real in man on the street type quizzes. If the man on the street read blogs.