Fragment 5.III.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what passed between the sages Isidem and Nunc-bïdi Hyûm in the Garden of Contemplation as they nibbled some biscuits under a dead plane tree. I swear its accuracy upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

Nunc-bïdi Hyûm: These biscuits are dry.

Isidem: Do you not want yours?

Hyûm: Ha, you rascal. All I meant was that I could use some tea. Or a beer, now that you mention it. What time is it? I am suddenly visited by a powerful thirst.

Isidem: This is just what I’ve been trying to tell you. The senses can’t be trusted. It’s too early for beer.

Hyûm: Maybe yours can’t. I’ve trusted my senses these many years and never found a more reliable guide. And mine are telling me it’s time for beer. What say you, my friend?

Isidem: I say you’re the rascal and a dunderhead to boot. Look, I’m not saying the senses aren’t credible or couldn’t offer us a guide to food pairings, or even to something far more important, namely, what is. I’m simply saying that sometimes the senses mislead us, and that only a fool puts his absolute trust in a guide that is prone to deception.

Hyûm: So what can we trust if not our senses, smartypants?

Isidem: I’m not wearing any pants, as you can plainly see. This type of robe is the very latest fashion. As is this elegant turban.

Hyûm: Hmm. You were saying?

Isidem: Yes, well, one day I realized that our senses, while they may help us judge biscuits in our daily lives, are unable to impart to us any certain knowledge of the world. We all recognize that we’re mistaken about things we perceive sometimes, as when a straight stick appears bent when dipped in that pond over there. However, we only recognize the mistake when we later confirm the truth of the matter, when the straight stick belies the impression of our eyes. If we didn’t pull the stick out and have another look, we might well go around believing it was crooked all the time. But what if they’re all that way?

Hyûm: All the sticks are crooked?

Isidem: All our impressions are crooked, or false, but we just don’t know it. What if we are in fact deceived about everything and have no way of recognizing our error. It’s like your dreaming mind mistakes sleeping visions for reality, and only discovers the error upon waking. What if we’re all asleep, all the time? This is the doubt that set on me one day.

Hyûm: That’s a doozy! I think I’m going to need that beer.

Isidem: Oh, it’s much worse. Not only did I doubt the truthfulness of all my primary impressions, but that doubt immediately cast the entire edifice of my beliefs into confusion. Indeed, it is obvious that many things I once believed were false after all. So what if all my beliefs, like false impressions, merely appeared true to me in my ignorance? It appeared that absolutely everything in my head was full of such doubts, and so I decided to question it all to see if I could find anything beyond all doubt whatsoever. Though my old opinions kept creeping back in through force of habit, I came up with a way to work myself into a properly critical attitude.

Hyûm: A strange endeavor. However did you keep yourself from assenting to your own opinions?

Isidem: Systematic doubt, Hyûm! I willed myself to doubt absolutely everything using the following clever technique: I imagined that some malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning was using all his energies to deceive me about the world. According to the story I told myself, earth, sky, colors, shapes, sounds, all have been set out to ensnare my judgement and lure me into error.

Hyûm: That seems like a lot of trouble for the demon. Hasn’t he got better things to do with his time?

Isidem: That’s beside the point, you dolt. My purpose was to cast myself into such a slough of doubt that my reasoning could only extricate itself from ignorance by identifying some truth beyond all doubt whatsoever. Only then could I construct a system of beliefs by which to safely form my judgements. I had to face the demon in order to trust the power of my own mind. But, like Archimedes, I hoped that if I could find a single point that was firm and immobile, I could move the entire globe. Or, in my case, construct a picture of the world upon sound and certain foundations. And if I couldn’t, at least I would know that nothing could be known for certain.

Hyûm: And did you slay the demon, or does he haunt you still?

Isidem: At first, he seemed invincible. Radical doubt means nothing, nothing at all could be taken for granted. I had to doubt absolutely everything. That was a dizzying experience, to hang suspended above the abyss like that. Not only my belief in my impressions, but even my belief in external bodies, motion, extension, and place I supposed to be merely fictions of my mind. The very body I’ve always taken to be myself I cast into doubt.

But that terror, that oppressive doubt, which nearly smashed my sanity proved the light by which I found my way out of the infernal darkness. For I said to myself,

“I think, therefore I am.” No matter how mistaken I might be about all the things of the world, no matter how powerful the demon was, nothing he could do could remove my awareness of my own doubt, angst, and reflection. But if there were some doubter, some being anxious in the extreme, some thinker reflecting upon these great and terrible mysteries, than that thinker, that I, must exist.

But what am I? A thinking thing, as I said. But what is a thinking thing? It is a thing that doubts, understands, conceives, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, that imagines and perceives.

It’s no small thing, if all these properties belong to my nature. But don’t they? Aren’t I the very being who now doubts almost everything; who nevertheless understands and conceives certain things; who affirms just one thing as true, and denies the others; who desires to know more of them, and does not wish to be deceived; who imagines many things, sometimes despite his will; and likewise perceives many things, seemingly through my senses? Are none of these as true as my own existence, even if I am only dreaming all the time, and although he who created me employs all his ingenuity to deceive me? Is there also any one of these attributes that can be properly distinguished from my thought, or that can be said to be separate from myself? For it is so obvious that it is I who doubt, I who understand, and I who desire, that it is unnecessary to offer further proof. And I am also the same being who imagines; for even if nothing I imagine is true, still the power of imagination exists and forms part of my thought. Similarly, I am the same being who perceives certain objects as if through the organs of sense, since, in truth, I see light, hear a noise, and feel heat. If you claim that these impressions are false, and that I am dreaming, I won’t argue with you. Still it is certain that I seem to see light, hear a noise, and feel heat; this cannot be false, and this is what in me is properly called perceiving and sensing, which is simply a kind of than thinking.

Hyûm: That’s a mouthful!

Isidem: It’s a mindful! But if I experience all these sensations, even if they are the misleading tricks of the demon, then I, at least am real. I exist. That cannot be denied.

Hyûm: My head hurts. My real head, not my mind. I can actually feel it hurting. Come on, let’s see if the Lamplight Inn is open yet. These biscuits really are very dry.

[At this point noble Isidem shrugged and acquiesced to Hyûm’s repeated demand for drinking. The two set off together for the Lamplight Inn, where witnesses overheard the two discussing proofs for the existence of the gods]

~

The character of Isidem is based upon the Seventeenth Century French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, whose influence on Western thought has been so profound that most scholars date the birth of modern philosophy to his works. The ‘mouthful’, as Hyûm describes it, is more or less taken from his Meditations, the text which lays out the cornerstones of Cartesian thought.

Descartes’ most famous insight is generally expressed as cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.” His revolutionary situation of metaphysical certainty in the subjectivity of the individual consciousness shattered Medieval ideas of the cosmos and sparked a series of debates that would define the next three and a half centuries of philosophical inquiry.

On Dwarven Names

– From Notes Regarding the of the Foundation of ToadChapel by the Dwarves of the Big Mountain 2.19 (Ysidor, dwarven chronicler)

~

Naming conventions in ToadChapel and similar dwarven satellite communities display a consistent patronymic format.

When a dwarf is born, he receives a name of his own by which he will be almost universally known. It is quite rare that a dwarf shares more than his given name with those outside his own community.

When using his full name, however, as on important ceremonial occasions, his personal name is written and spoken second, while the patronymic comes first. Thus, the name of the infamous Tù-bïdi Herling can be understood as ‘Herling, son of Tù.’ His brother, or perhaps half-brother, the hero Tù-bïdi Tùrmundd, shares a father with Herling, and thus shares his patronymic first name.

It is possible by recitation of a string of patronymic names for a dwarf to trace his lineage back as far as memory will allow, and many dwarven families place great importance on the oral memorialization of the generations of their ancestors.

A True Discourse Upon the Character of Tù-bïdi Herling of ToadChapel

Fragment (spurious) 1.1.II.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

[this apocryphal fragment appears to have been written much later than Nuddle’s account. It may originate from a marginal note or accompanying commentary to A.M. 1 which has crept into the text.]

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what what two merry and sober men said when old Nuddle gave his first speech to the people of ToadChapel. I swear its truth upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

Friar Barpholemeu*: Herling’s full of himself, ain’t ‘ee? Puffed up full of hot air. I wouldn’t spare him the fleas in my bed.

Iterin: Nor I, friend. And who be he?

Friar Barpholemeu: That’s Herling, cock-o-the-walk and a climber, to boot.

Iterin: Don’t like the look to him. Not very merry for a dwarf. I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Iterin, ex-vizier to the satrap of Mynos.

Friar Barpholemeu: Greetings, friend! I am called Barpholemeu, friar of the Bufonian Order of Peripateia.

He’s spoilt. Mother gave him everything he ever needed and much else beside. The tackle on that bow’s solid silver**!

Iterin: Hot dog pie on a plate! A silver bow out here, shooting roe deer for the dinner table? That’s a weapon fit for a king! A great merchant, at least.

Friar Barpholemeu: You may have a point there. Damn thing’s near useless in a hunt.

Iterin: Well, I don’t like the look to him, nor the sound of him from your tale, good sir monk. Now, I see you carry around your waist a keg of some godly brew. Say but I have a fearsome thirst…

* Friar Barpholemeu is known to have arrived in ToadChapel only after Herling’s unsuccessful attempt to strike a devil’s bargain with the goblin shaman. The author has presumably chosen Barpholemeu and Iterin for the legendary virtue of each.

** This, at least, is true. As ToadChapel was a small and self-sufficient agrarian community, precious metals such as silver and gold, lacking utility, were comparatively scarce. The silver bow Herling received from his mother is well attested in the scholarly literature, though it has been lost for over 600 years.

A Debate Concerning What Sort of Thing a Mind Really Is

Fragment 1.II.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what was said between the esteemed sages Holos and Nunc-bïdi Hyûm as they conversed beneath a dead and ancient tree in the Garden of Contemlpation. I swear its accuracy upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

[Nunc-bïdi Hyûm]: … Don’t you see, my long-lived friend? By now you ought to have grasped the main idea.

[Holos]: But all there is is the main idea. I grasp it, like the whippet grasps the hare. On the doorstep of eternity, I grasp it clearer and clearer.

[Hyûm]: Don’t speak in riddles! And don’t speak of eternity, either. You’re not that old, and you’re assuming a lot there. The rabbit might still slip from your jaws.

Put it this way: the dog is nothing more than an observer. Before him sunlight and shade dance across a vast meadow. The meadow, like some gay and riotous garden, blooms with many flowers of all colors and shapes. Birds and bees, butterflies and gnats fly through the blossom-scented air. The wind’s blowing creates billowing waves of grass, sends seeds sailing across the green, and rattles even the trees, which are now pushing forth new buds. Yet the dog sees only the rabbits nibbling the tender grasses. He searches for a rabbit he can catch. The meadow is nothing to him, there is only the rabbit. So: does the dog have keen eyes or not?

[Holos]: Now who’s speaking in riddles?

[Hyûm]: Who, me? It’s a metaphor, and you put me up to it. But answer the question. Do we grasp reality through focus, or by the tug of wind on our beard, the sound of birds flirting, the smell of — what’s that?!

[Holos]: I believe I’ve stepped in some sizable beast’s fresh dung. This is exactly the sort of thing that ought not to be tolerated in the Garden. In here there’s too much dirt and not enough contemplation.

But you see this meadow you picture does not exhibit beauty per se, but a sort of lovely and attractive chaos, which ensnares our mind’s eye…

[Hyûm]: Watch your step! More droppings! There really are a lot of them.

[Holos]: The keen eyes of the coursing-hound, like the mind of a true sophotaster…

~

The sages of ToadChapel, of whom there are many, are loosely based upon figures from our own history.

Holos, the most venerated of all the sages, shares some of the views of the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Plato has exerted such a dramatic influence over the last 2,500 years of thought that one 20th Century thinker declared of the European philosophical tradition that “it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” Plato advanced a view of the world in which true reality lay beyond our powers of observation, the human mind was often led into error by the demands of the body, and the objects of perception were poor copies of perfect ideals.

Nunc bïdi-Hyûm, a merry dwarf with a hearty appetite, expresses key tenets of David Hume’s philosophy. Hume was an 18th Century Scotsman who contributed a great deal to many fields of study. He reminds us that our immediate experiences cannot be reasoned out of our ideas altogether, and argues that our minds are, ultimately, nothing more than bundles of perceptions.

Herling’s Speech to the People of ToadChapel

Fragment 22.I.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what was said in the village square of ToadChapel on the morning after the theft of three of farmer Meddard’s chickens. I swear its accuracy upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

[A man]: I seen three strangers on the road yesterday!

[A man]: Ah, Whent, we ain’t had three strangers in a month of Sundays!

[A woman]: I saw a man slinking around in the evening, before that ol moon turned red. He was trying to avoid someone’s notice.

[A woman]: Must have been John Mus!

[A man]: It was that boy GaGa keeps along with his sister! They blew in rotten and they’re sure raisin’ Cain around here now!

[A man]: He’s right, I seen that boy Gramm chasing Med’s chickens half the afternoon. How do you argue with that?

[A drunken man]: I saw a pair of wicked little goblins did it! There was a two of em, skinny and ugly, with long noses, long arms, and short legs. And there was a big one behind em, past the treeline. Biggest goblin I ever heard of.

[A man]: Fuddle you’re drunk! Your grandfather never saw a goblin and neither did you.

<murmurs>

Herling: Good people of ToadChapel, will we sit here and debate these details of local history? This man’s chickens <gestures to Meddard> are missing. They’re very unlikely to be found alive. Think of your own chickens! Think how your children will cry when you bring home cold straw from an empty coop!

Now, it seems that multiple witnesses saw Gramm, ward of GaGa, attempting to abduct the very chickens which have gone missing. He’s a well-known roustabout. We barely know him or his sister, they just popped up one morning like mushrooms after that terrible storm.

The evidence is undeniable. But our inaction is worse. It’s time we start asking the hard questions. Who are these strange children? Where did they come from?

I’m going to pay Ga-Ga a visit and see what she knows. She’s knows more than she lets on. And the town of ToadChapel deserves to know who’s living among us!

[A man]: Do you need help? What if she runs?

Herling: No, we can’t just pound on GaGa’s door and accuse those children of chicken theft and worse. I’ve got to build my case against them. I’ll draw her secrets out with cunning and catch those two wild rabbits in my net of words.

Luckily for us all, GaGa can scarcely resist my charms and blandishments. Why, I’ll expose those young scamps and offer their lovely guardian a shoulder to cry on when their misdemeanors have been exposed!

You all see about locating those birds. Track them down! Something’s got to be done!

[A man]: Get the dogs!

[A man]: Don’t you think they roasted em by now?

[A man] Roasted the dogs? Barbaric!

[A man]: Or stewed em. Pot pie, mayhap.

<murmurs>

The Problem of the Two Children

Fragment 21.I.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what was said between the assembled sages of ToadChapel after the goatherd brought the strange children to the village square. I swear its accuracy upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

[The goatherd, whose name I did not learn, brought the children to the village square. The children were very dirty and seemed to have been buffeted by Fate. Nevertheless, they seemed more curious than afraid. For instance, I saw them curiously eying Nunc-bïdi Hyûm’s jelly doughnut for some time. The goatherd had approached most august Holos and the learned Isidem and engaged them in conversation as if they were old friends. As I moved closer, this is what I heard the surprised sages say]

Holos: …Well what are we to make of all THIS?

Isidem: And what’s This then, Holos? It’s not like you to shout.

Holos: These little ones. They’re so… unpredictable.

[The goatherd wandered away and seemed to gesture to Nunc-bïdi Hyûm and the remarkable Dr. Immanuel Cannott. Their conversation then drew the attention of Holos and Isidem, who turned to see what was all the commotion. The strange children now huddled behind the stammering goatherd, who seemed to have recognized how venerable these great men truly are.]

Stammering Goatherd: Here be 2 tiny humans. Never seen em before. No names. Hungry.

Nunc-bïdi Hyûm: Haha! tabula rasa! tabulae rasae!!

Now we shall see! Ahahahaha!

Cannott.: Have you been at your cups already, Nunc?

Nunc-bïdi Hyûm: Me? What, me?

It never hurts to keep a full glass and a positive attitude.

Cannott.: Yours are the easy manners of the morally incompetent. Why, next you’ll say…

[At this point the goatherd and the strange children drew apart to eat a light luncheon. Though reluctant to miss the learned discourses of the assembled sages, at this point I hurried off to the Office of Records to register the arrival of two such new and utterly unknown persons as these storm-blown orphans.]

ToadScholars

Square in Ephesus

ToadScholars are the most learned men of this world.  They alone pursue truth free from the intellectual limitations of other men.

Only the most gifted, dsiciplined, and rigorous neophytes from within the ranks of the ToadScribes dream of ToadScholarship with any hope of realizing those ambitions.