Gebl is an apocryphal tragic-comic figure of Brownie legend, possibly the best-known ‘folk hero’ outside his own race and culture, as evidenced by his commemoration in no less than three Tharian household words. Larger than life, sardonic and lusty, crude yet witty, this pragmatic wanderer left his mark on the human world as broadly as his own. Gebl is also often referred to as Gebl the Brownie, Gebl the Unsated, Great Gebl, Gebl the Rebel - and other less printable epithets...
There is of course a certain amount of debate, given the vast length of time
between Birn’s Civil War/Harsh Year historic
records and our modern-day "Tales of Gebl", over this
Brownie’s appearance. While legend claims
(and most artistic depictions agree) that he was a disaffected Greenbark
aristocrat, it is more likely that he was simply one of the numerous
Birnine Brownbarks who suffered greatly in the
"Years of the Knives", as the horrific Collapse of
Birn was sometimes referred to. And even to allow this narrow a choice we
must make the assumption (see Biography) that Gebl’s
most likely years of existence – if in fact he was more than an agglomeration of
wishes, tales, and fantasies – lie in that genocidal period from 10.010 b.S.
However, we shall provide you with the various evidence for both colourations and allow you to choose the face of Gebl which suits you the best... read on!
Those writers and artists who prefer the romantic view depict Gebl with softly olivine skin, green as the baych leaves rustling behind his nobly-formed head, lean and muscular with one of the traditional Brownie weapons nestled in his hand – perhaps an owl bow, a tall spear, or a mousesling – a hero of the forest and an upholder of the old ways.
Far too many other sources, however, seem to suggest a Gebl with an ample belly on a burly frame – a generously-endowed Brownie with a rolling, silent gait - broad shoulders, thick, almost feminine thighs, and a constant passion burning in his eyes. What are we to make of a sentient being who is reported to have put back twenty-two "acorns" of ale in an evening’s drinking (an "acorn" is a Browniin liquid measurement roughly equivalent to our "tot", or cup), to have spent his nights and his lust in a different bed each night, and to have wrestled wild-caught weasels hand-to-paw in a test of speed and strength?
A depiction of this latter Gebl which is a favourite of ours, though scholars should not admit to such personal prejudices, is displayed boldly on the sign of a little-known New-Santhalan inn, “The Brownie's Bottom”. Despite its provocative name, the illustration is completely safe to reproduce here, showing as it does the folk hero with beer mug (anachronistic, we feel we must put in) tipped fully upwards over his opened mouth...
We have winnowed what we could, remembering that we are giving you a picture of a character so far back in history that he is nearly legend. Most of what we can glean comes from contemporaries, of course, such as these quotes from writers of the time, but later authors have also left their mark on the Gebl biography. Read and frame your own picture in your mind's eye of the Brownie we can so clearly imagine...
Personality. The following sayings have come down to us from various sources as disparate in age as the legends of Gebl himself, sharing some light on his unique personality. The thin monograph which is popularly known as “The Sayings of Gebl: Philosopher of the Brownies” is of course a modern collation which owes as much to the various authorial inventions as to Keekoo’s authentic research. Some of the aphorisms are as old as the Kingdom of Birn itself and have doubtless been ‘ascribed’ to the figure of Gebl as a convenient authority, while others, containing internal evidence of far more recent chronology, have been labeled as Gebl’s "after the fact". Thus we have few, if any, words which we can definitely ascribe to the historical character of the Harsh Years. And of course they suffer in translation from the free-flowing Browniin into our comparatively harsh Tharian!
Again, however, it is our task to set before you a depiction in broad strokes, in which you may see a vision of the great Brownie as he may have been; in no particular order, then, here are some of the most famous of the "Sayings of Gebl".
Ale clouds the eye but
clears the vision.
The dates claimed for Gebl range widely, from as early as the Third Epoch of
Birn (approx. 13.000 b.S.) up to almost modern
times, 4.107-3.979 b.S., which would make him a contemporary of the
Great Deliverer, Keekoo. While the earlier periods are
obviously shrouded in the mists of time and aggregations of myth, certain
Brownie scholars have argued convincingly
(see “Gebl the Rebel: a Dissertation upon Public and Private Forms of Power”, by
the LLaoihrr Redbark Airr-uhoo ‘Firelight’, 1587 a.S.) that some of the many
famous deeds attributed to Keekoo were in fact
performed by Gebl, working for his own ends and the ‘cause of small-folk
However, the current consensus is that the figure of Gebl is most likely based on a Brownie who lived from approximately 10.030 b.S. through the collapse of Birn in 10.003 b.S. and may even have survived past 9.998 b.S., the officially-recorded date for the death of the last Birni and the technical end of the Kingdom of Birn.
We give you the relevant section of the history tables here:
Beginning of open Civil War (10.010 b.S.). The war between the corrupted redbarks and their followers and the few remaining uncorrupted reds and their followers.
Collapse of Birn (10.003 b.S.). The wilderness closes in. Many Birni ware eaten as Birn’s defenses disappear. The survivors scatter to the four winds, ending up as pets (or worse) of the other races.
The Harsh Years (10.000 b.S.). Traditional date for the beginning of the Harsh Years. Records say this of the "Years of the Knives": “ It... is an endlessly terrible time for the Brownie people, in which they grow few and scattered, coming dangerously close to dying out completely. Only a very few survive, living precarious lives among many of the other races. They are viewed as vermin by all. Elves ignore them, dwarves keep them near their forges in cages as good-luck charms, orcs eat them, and humans do some of all of the above. An old recipe book (was) found later that includes a recipe for Brownie pot pie that was apparently considered quite a delicacy. They fare no better among the other races, and long to be free, but are dependent on their oppressors for food and shelter, having for the most part forgotten the skills necessary for basic survival...”
The last Inhabitant of Birn dies (9.998 b.S. ). This happens after recording and concealing much of Birn's literary and cultural heritage in the Everbark fortress. This heritage is later gradually rediscovered, most notably by Keekoo and Greybark, and is used as the basis for much of modern Brownie language, culture, religion, and customs.
Importance. As noted before, Gebl was a significant part of Brownie folklore and played a role in renewing Brownie pride along with their heritage in the time of Keekoo, Greybark, and the other great Brownies of the Brown Restoration. The irreverent sayings attributed to him, the tales of daring and heroism attributed to his name, and the blunt philosophy that came to be associated with him, all are now enshrined in an impenetrable mix of history and myth which are part of the Brownie ethos. To some extent, he has also left his mark on the human race, who have enjoyed and acknowledged (though not without some discomfort at the memory of old injuries) Gebl’s import and wisdom
In Tharian he is specifically remembered for having given his name to three physical objects – appropriately enough.
A delectable mushroom known as Oheh-Gebl
The first, and probably the most famous, is the delectable mushroom known as Oheh-Gebl (and other less-printable names which a prurient imagination may easily supply for the reader) found in damp places throughout the moderate zones of Sarvonia. We give the description written by Dalmac Brandivere for his Herbal:
"An elongated edible mushroom with a bright pink cap and fleshy stem. Flavourful, long growth period, usually found in spored rings about three peds wide in the late spring. It is said to be named after one Gebl, a Brownie of extreme endowment and assiduous in his pursuit of life’s pleasures. Eating was apparently his second favourite activity, indoors or out. The mushroom has no other uses beyond its culinary application…"
A peninsula defening the Yanthian Gulf
We list second the huge peninsula defining the Yanthian Gulf, on the southeast coast of Sarvonia, known as Gebl’s Nose Cape. Supposedly it was christened so both for its shape, which upon examination of any reliable map of the area does indeed resemble an appendage of some sort, and for the fact that it is the area with the highest concentration anywhere of the delicious mushrooms of the same name. We reserve judgement.
A vegetable known as "Gebl's Head"
Finally, the gnomes grow a vegetable known as "Gebl’s Head" - which may most easily be seen in the Herbarium wing of the Compendium in New-Santhala. We turn to the notes of Dalmac Brandivere for a brief description: "It is one of the many members of the kail family, related to cabbage, brokkole, and other such green staples... A sturdy stalk springs about a forearm into the air, branching lavishly in a spiral pattern of lightly frilled leaves. The edible part forms as multiple tiny, tight spheres resembling miniature cabbages, clustered under the 'node' of each sub-branch...." In point of fact, each sphere is exactly the right shape, size, and colour to resemble a Brownie's head, given that he be a Greenbark Brownie...
Please note that this vegetable should not be confused with the familiar expression used to mean a one-san coin, or "copper". The brownish coin, which depicts the famous Keekoo, is sometimes called a "Brownie's Head" or simply a "brownie". Thus the folk saying "I'll see your brownies first" can actually be linked to the visage of Keekoo on the commonest of coins, and has no relation to Gebl.