The Lesson of History in the Domains of Koryphon

A recent discussion in this space touched on the topic of how, before there is one sovereign power to hold all tribes, tongues, and nations in awe, the conquest of land over generations is a tragic reality human law cannot ameliorate.

I mentioned in passing that the urge to deracinate the current landholders to return terrain to descendants of older claimants is an urge with no appeal to me, nor has been since my youth.

For better or worse, my first impression of the topic was informed by, of all things, a science fiction novel by the underrated and unfairly neglected grandmaster Jack Vance. I have seen no reason to revisit the issue. The attempt to effect a restitution for evils that befell before the current reign and realm of a prince or parliament was established is in vain, and, moreover, is pernicious if the attempt engenders evils equally as great.

Here is a quote from the Jack Vance science fiction book published as THE GRAY PRINCE, later, republished under the author’s preferred title THE DOMAINS OF KORYPHON.

A word of background: On the planet Koryphon, layers of colonists, conquerors and immigrants people the continents. The Mull represents the wealthy urban elite, who have recently voted the northern land-barons to surrender their ranches and plantations to  and earlier group of natives, the tribal Uldras. These warlike tribesmen, in turn, had conquered the nomadic wind-riders in centuries past, and drove them into the northern steppes.

The plot of the book consists of the political considerations that drive a wedge of hatred between two childhood friends, and the discovery of the prehistoric past of Koryphon.

For it is not until the end of the novel, that the protagonists discover that the ancestors of the wind-riders, who were the first human invaders of the planet, displaced and enslaved the erjin, a bearlike race of monsters, used as steeds by the Uldras, now discovered to be intelligent tool-users.

In turn, the erjin in prehistoric times had conquered the swamp-dwelling morphotes, a race of sadistic man-eaters, now preserved on fenced-in reservations.

This scene takes place once the wealthy elite discover that their fine real estate sits on ancient sites once claimed by the blood-drinking morphotes.