Since I’m busy doing a site redesign (read: I finally got myself ftp access to the server after much procrastination) for the Orbivm forums, and since we’ve been discussing the naming of the different MP eras on said forums and what the logic should be behind those names, I’ve been reminded of this topic which I thought about a while ago but never, if I recall correctly, made a post about.
The concept of metanarratives is a simple one – put as concisely as possible, a metanarrative answers the question, what is the moral of the story of history? What gets complicated is applying metanarratives to mythopoeic fiction. I have said before that the world of the Orbis Terrarvm is meant to have no preset philosophical interpretation. But it often gets difficult to craft a fictional world that doesn’t have a metanarrative.
I mean, look at Middle Earth – the metanarrative is obvious. It’s one of decay, coupled with occasional redemptions that never bring the world back up to its original glory. As the final words of the Silmarillion say,
Here ends The Valaquenta. If it has passed from the high and beautiful to darkness and ruin, that was of old the fate of Arda Marred; and if any change shall come and the Marring be amended, Manwë and Varda may know; but they have not revealed it, and it is not declared in the dooms of Mandos.
That’s Middle Earth. The Orbis Terrarvm is different. It’s a collaboration, many of the contributors have (extremely) varying views on religion, history, etc, and so it’s obviously better to avoid a clearly religious metanarrative like that of Middle Earth. Well, really, what we want is a world where such a narrative would be plausible, but not the only option – just like in this world the Christian understanding of history is not the only plausible one (even if it is, IMO, the true one).
So, when outlining the broad strokes of our fictional history, we have to be careful. The names we choose for the eras have a lot of importance…