Literature: Green-Sky Trilogy
aka: Below The Root
After the End
, two scientists and a shipload of war orphans left Earth That Was
and traveled to a new planet. Generations later, their descendants have split into two separate and distinct cultures. The Kindar live in a Tree Top Town
, have Psychic Powers
at an early age (which are fading), and have no knowledge of violence whatsoever, and the best they can express of unhappy feelings is "unjoyful."
The other group (Erdlings) is what happened when those who believed the kids should be brought up being told what violence is so they will want to avoid it were trapped by the other group into living Beneath the Earth
. Kindar are taught that the underground caverns are inhabited by Pash-shan
monsters who steal and enslave (or eat) Kindar, especially orchard workers and children who fall out of the trees.
Protagonist Raamo is a young Kindar who is elevated to the ranks of their society's elite priesthood, keepers of the ancient secrets and the ones responsible for exiling the Erdlings. Things get shaken up when an Erdling named Teera escapes and is discovered by Raamo, and becomes BFF's with Raamo's sister Pomma (an Ill Girl
), subsequently triggering massive upheaval in both societies.
This young-adult trilogy (Below the Root
, And All Between
, and After the Celebration
) was written by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. It spawned a video-game adaptation called Below the Root
, which is considered canon
- Actual Pacifist: Your character, in the game. If you're facing a hostile that wants to kidnap you, normally the only thing you can do is run away. Late in the game you can find a machete that's supposed to be used for cutting through undergrowth. You can go on a killing spree with it, though, if you don't mind watching your mana go poof and the game becoming Unwinnable by Design.
- Agent Mulder: Neric. The closest thing to a cynic this society has, he's been questioning the social setup and working on breaking the big conspiracy from inside the Ol-Zhaan for a couple years before Raamo and Genaa come into the picture. Green-sky society has a strict social class system called "honor ranking". By this system, Neric is trailer trash. His parents were "wasted" Berry addicts living on charity. He was Chosen to become an Ol-Zhaan believing he'd be so grateful that he would never question anything.
- Agent Scully: Genaa. She has no psionic ability, accepts Ol-Zhaan privilege readily, and has a burning hate for the Pash-shan she thinks stole her father. It takes a while to convince her of the extent she had been lied to. Her father was Director of the Academy, an inventor with an extremely high rank, and she's used to a high-class life.
- All Your Powers Combined: The thought-dead power of Uniforce, two or more people using their Psychic Powers in concert.
- Ambiguously Brown: the Erdlings, which is kind of strange considering that they've been mostly cut off from sunlight for generations, while the Green-sky folks presumably should have caught more sunlight, but tend to be pale.
- Partly explained as that the only spots where the Erdlings get any sun or food are spots where the trees have been cleared away or don't grow while the Kindar spend their lives in the shade of the grunds.
- Kindar think that Erdlings speak in "softly slurring" accents; Erdlings think Kindar voices are "curiously crisp", "sharp and sudden".
- The Atoner: D'ol Falla
- Awful Truth: (several of them)
- Batman Gambit: D'ol Falla had intended Raamo to be a Reluctant Ruler. The only one who could set things right was someone who wouldn't be caught up in the trappings of power.
- Big Good: D'ol Falla and (in the backstory) D'ol Neshom.
- Bilingual Bonus: Many of the "alien" terms are German, French, Latin, or Hebrew.
- Brain Drain: Implied. Genaa's dad is one of many highly intelligent people who disappeared after getting too curious about the true nature of the "pash-shan". While she never comes right out and says it, Erda has many craftsmen and engineers who are described as creatively brilliant; the architectural genius of the Kindar, seen in their temples and public halls, belongs to the distant wistful past. Many banished Kindar become teachers in the lower world even if that wasn't their profession before. And math is one of the most important school subjects.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": A rabbit is a lapan, a monkey is a sima and at the very end D'ol Falla says "we should all be the Zhaan, the people" (les gens). Snyder simply says they are descendants of a colony from another world, but it's pretty clear that world is Earth and the colonists were primarily German and French. There is a bit of Hebrew in the mix as well, with people named Neshom ("soul"), Teera ("enclosed") and Kanna (Chana, "beautiful"). She does a fairly good job of demonstrating linguistic drift over many centuries.
- Chekhov's Gun: very literal version
- Crapsaccharine World
- Disappeared Dad: Genaa is on a search for hers.
- Disney Villain Death / Heroic Sacrifice: Raamo, ironically suffering a villain's usual death as his heroic sacrifice.
- Double Speak: Most notably, the Kindar lump all negative emotions under the heading of "unjoyfulness" (which is to be avoided).
- Earworm: The Answer Song. Its irregular rhythm, Word Salad lyrics and goofy melody delight children and drive Raamo crazy. Raamo, asked to meditate and reach out for psychic clues, can't stop singing it. There's a clear implication that he is picking up a message from the late founder D'ol Nesh-om. Because only the Kindar have the song, Nesh-om may even have written it before his untimely demise.
- Elves Versus Dwarves: In a lot of ways. Although it's also plain that they once were one people.
- Emotions vs. Stoicism: The Erdlings versus the Kindar, although the Kindar are less stoics than just repressed. This divide could actually be traced back to the Erdlings' ancestors being dissidents who wanted to teach the full, ugly history of their ancestry, and the concept of "negative" emotions whereas the Kindar were descended from those who stayed ignorant - willfully or otherwise.
- Empire with a Dark Secret: The Ol-Zhaan hierarchy.
- The Evils of Free Will: Inverted and on display. Essentially, the layers of complex ritual, meditations, and the embarrassing stigma of "unjoyful" emotions did a pretty good job of getting the Kindar to a place where any kind of questioning their place or path was unthinkable. This is outright shown to be stifling their Psychic Powers and world in general.
- Expy: Anyone who has read Snyder's earlier work The Changeling will recognize not only The Land of the Green Sky, but Martha Abbott and Ivy Carson.
- False Utopia: Played straight at first, and then cheerfully Subverted. Yes, the Kindar society was perfect on the surface, rotting from within, but the pacifist foundations of both Kindar and Erdling society made things much smoother than they could have been. By the end of the third book, and certainly at the end of the game, the society is certainly on its way to ditching the "false" label.
- Fantastic Honorifics: "D'ol," which turns out to be a corrupted form of "Doctor."
- Fantastic Racism: There are tensions between the dark-skinned Erdlings and the pale Kindar, although that's more cultural than ethnic. For example, the Erdlings are hunters and the Kindar are vegetarians, and the Emotions vs. Stoicism debate. There's also the fact some Erdlings resent the Kindar for their exile beneath the ground (Befal and followers want violent retribution), and (as one Rejoyner put it) "[Some Kindar] try to think 'Erdling,' but they feel ' Pash-shan ' [the mythic monsters fabricated to keep Kindar away from the ground]."
- Fantasy Contraception: The "youth wafers." A shrub grows in the higher branches of the city-trees, is pressed into wafers, used by the Kindar for birth control. Because a similar herb isn't available among the Erdlings, they end up suffering from overpopulation issues.
- The Game of the Book: Came out in 1984 and is probably the oldest example of this trope being used as a canonical sequel for a book.
- Genius Programming: The game, which was made in 1984 and was one of the earliest games to put in concepts now taken for granted in CRPGs. It was perhaps the first to offer a choice in your race, gender, and age of avatar, have certain game elements work differently based on avatar (an example is that Kindar take a hit to their "spirit skills" if they eat meat, and Erdlings are hit much harder by Wissenberries), have NPCs react differently based on said avatar, and be the Canon sequel to something written for another media.
- Get It Over With: Neric, the closest thing the series has to a cynic and Deadpan Snarker, all but challenges Salaat and Regle to go ahead and set off the bomb at the end of the second book.
- Government Drug Enforcement: Wissenberries, a "sacred" herb that is widely used as a narcotic; even to the point of passing them out in school to keep the kids docile. Neric's parents "wasted" to death on them.
- Growing Up Sucks: Former generations kept inborn Psychic Powers into adulthood, but by the time of the story most children lose them at six or even earlier. Everybody goes around wondering why the kids are losing their ESP so young. It didn't used to be this way, did it? Have another Berry and don't worry about it. The Ol-zhaan will figure it out, right? But even they haven't made the connection (or maybe some of them have) that the ESP goes off just about the time kids start eating a lot of Berries to suppress illegal "unjoyful" emotions. They also learn mindblocking to protect others from said emotions.
- Happiness Is Mandatory: Unless you like living in caves for the rest of your life. In the back-story anyway — by the time of the novels every non-conformer had been long since weeded out.
- One of the first things we learn, though, is that more and more Kindar are being "taken by the Pash-shan". Genaa's dad is "taken" while investigating the disappearances.
- Humans Are Psychic in the Future: Kindar and Erdlings alike. The spirit skills have been fading among the Kindar, but they remain at a common baseline among the Erdlings. Most people retain some mild empathic ability. Genaa is actually considered a bit odd for having no psionic ability at all, which makes her the most difficult character in the game adaptation.
- Lightworlder: Green-Sky's gravity is gentle enough that a toddler falling from the treetops is merely injured. The Kindar are generally "willowy and light-boned" as a result, although we see some overweight people. The Erdlings, due to their generations underground, are "sturdy" and stockier. This also factors in as a game mechanic, as you cannot fall to your death.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Totally averted in the game. Walk into someone's house, or find a named object, and you have to ask the object's current owner in order to obtain it.
- Knight Templar: Most of the Ol-Zhaan in general. The Geets-kel in spades.
- Living Lie Detector: Your character once you learn telepathy. That guy kindly offering you a place to sleep for the night may be thinking "The reward is mine!"
- You can also detect people's auras by pensing their emotions. If said person's aura is "Untrustworthy" or "Malicious" GET OUT OF THERE.
- Magic by Any Other Name: "Spirit skills" in the game. The Psychic Powers were expanded to things like growing plants instantly (in the book, "grunspreking" takes a bit longer).
- The Magic Goes Away: Practically the first thing we learn about the decline of Kindar society is that children are losing their Psychic Powers instead of retaining and increasing them with maturity. In the third book The Magic Comes Back.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. (D'ol) Wissen is outright named to have endorsed some shady stuff, and implied to have a hand in a lot more.
- Never Say "Die": The Kindar, being pacifists, tend to use "dead" as a verb instead of saying "kill." (And cringe while doing so.)
- New Speak
- Nude-Colored Clothes: Teera's rescuers weren't sure if she was wearing clothing until they approached. She had on a jacket and trousers made of rabbit fur — and they thought it was hers. The fact that the "Pash-shan" monsters are supposed to be furry beasts contributed to this perception. For a split second they must have wondered if she were the offspring of a Pash-shan and a Kindar captive.
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The tool-of-violence is built in a way that would be extremely dangerous if dismantled. The society decides to enclose it in a lead-lined urn and drop it down a deep underground hole.
- Not So Different
- Not Quite Flight: The planet's gravity is light enough that it's possible to glide by wearing a garment called a shuba (a bodysuit with built-in artificial patagia).
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: the Ol-zhaan
- Perfect Pacifist People: The Kindar, although the Ol-zhaan are more in the "technical" category. They have no qualms about sending dissenters to what they believe is certain death.
- The Erdlings are mostly pacifists, but there are a few rotten pan-fruits like Befal. An Ol-Zhaan also pulls out a "tool-of-violence", implied to be a gun or bomb, when the Rejoyners make it known they're going public.
- The Reveal: that the evil Pash-shan are really the normal human being Erdlings.
- Scavenger World: Snyder never gets explicit about this, but she does go into considerable detail about how their great public buildings, palaces and temples were all built by teams joining their telekinetic powers together to lift heavy stuff. That ability, called uniforce, has been lost for many generations. Again, as with Brain Drain, she never says this, but these buildings involve some pretty complex engineering and are all made out of wood and vine on a rainforest planet. Stuff deteriorates very fast in these environments. Who's going to do the maintenance? Fortunately, we can assume The Magic Comes Back.
- Secret Circle of Secrets: the Geets-kel are a subset of the Ol-zhaan who are totally in the know about who's been shoved underground and why.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism - Despite some of the nastier stuff that goes down, it bleeds idealism.
- Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: The cynical Neric tells Raamo that Genaa cannot be trusted and is too steeped in Ol-Zhaan privilege to be sympathetic to their plans. Not only does Neric turn out to be wrong, but Genaa turns out to be the one with the tactical savvy to pull off their scheme.
- Single-Biome Planet: It's a rainforest. Unless there's a huge ocean somewhere, the entire world as we know it is covered with gigantic trees, and it rains every night. The sky really is green and there are seven moons.
- Oceans and other bodies of water are shown in the game. And in the book, there are huge lakes and rivers underground.
- Squishy Wizard: Pomma in the game. She has a very high starting mana, and her status among Kindar and Erdling alike means she always gets a warm reception, but her endurance is terrible. She needs frequent rest and food until/unless you boost her strength.
- Stepford Smiler: Kindar do not believe in expressing "unjoyfulness." Or even in feeling it too strongly.
- Stupid Sacrifice: The ending of the final book. Raamo, a telepath, is about to throw a deadly weapon into a huge underground lake (it's enclosed in a lead-lined urn, fortunately). Accompanying him are many hundreds of people from both cultures. Many still believe the weapon should be kept "just in case." Confused by their indecision, he slips and falls into the lake with the jar in his hands, "dying for their sins". This resulted in quite a bit of mail screaming "Why not just chuck the gun in there?!" The computer game continuation was a self-admitted Author's Saving Throw.
- Stepford Suburbia: Kindar culture.
- The Chosen: Every year, two Garden graduates are Chosen as future Ol-zhaan. It's when Raamo doesn't respond to being worshipped as a demigod that Neric knows he can confide in him. He calls Raamo "Twice-chosen" for this reason.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Raamo, although it turns out that he really was Just Hiding.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Pomma is approximately eight years old and addicted to psychotropic berries. Nobody other than Raamo seems massively concerned by this.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: The original premise behind Kindar culture.
- Veganopia: The Kindar, however, are not as superior as they'd like to believe.
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment: There is a way to obtain a Wand of Befal (otherwise known as a machete). Using it on any living thing permanently lowers your mana, which can quickly render the game Unwinnable. However, Pomma can actually get away with one or two murders due to her high starting mana.
- WHAM Line: Pomma all but destroys a society when she announces "I know what the Pash-shan look like — they look just like Teera. Because Teera is a Pash-shan."
- Wizard Needs Food Badly: In the game, your character needs food and regular sleep. Pomma's high starting mana is counterbalanced by her lack of endurance. A stronger character like Neric didn't need as frequent of naps or meals.