Around six months ago, as you might remember, [personal profile] ljc posted an excerpt from From The Terran Coyote to The Klingon K'Ortar: Tricksters of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants by M. Thadiun Bodner, which contained accounts of three of the earliest surviving Vulcan mythological tales involving T'kay, the Vulcan trickster.

I was quite intrigued by the stories, but was disappointed that the text-only archive version of From The Terran Coyote to The Klingon K'Ortar that she'd recovered had only descriptions of the illustrations, rather than the original color plates.

So, since I live in the area and have access to the library at Starfleet Academy's Annapolis campus, I offered to search the collection of the art library there to see if I could find other images of the objects in question and reconstruct, as far as possible, the original pages.

It took a fair amount of looking - and I'm not entirely sure these are the exact same artifacts the original article referenced - but I believe I have, finally, found them all, or close facsimiles thereof, and with [personal profile] ljc's permission, I'm sharing them with you.

How T'Kay Stole Fire
[Insert - Illustration: Fire Escapes The Glass Bowl, tapestry fragment dating to the 8th Century BCE]

"Fire Escapes the Glass Bowl", tapestry fragment, approx. 4" by 3", synthetic-fiber embroidery on synthetic pile-weave cloth, approx. 700 BCE (Vulcan Old Dating 6500), Lesser-Sea region, artist unknown. On loan from the Lesser Sea Museum of Craft and Industry.
This fancy embroidery was mostly likely a practice piece for the daughter of one of the lesser High Houses during the Third Industrial Period on Vulcan. Though the heavily fluctuating atmospheric dust and radiation levels throughout that millennium make most methods of quantitative dating questionable at best, the materials, style and content all point to a date of approx. 6500 Vulcan Old Dating. The variety of simple embroidery stitches, and the impractical backing-cloth used, place this firmly in context as a young woman's teaching project from a period when wealthy daughters were expected to limit their energies to politics (often lethal) and art (slightly less often so.)

The embroidered tapestry fragment depicts the key moment from a popular Vulcan creation myth, in which the Goddess T'kay was said to have spilled volcanic fire over the planet, resulting in the desert that most of Vulcan history was built on. This design contains largely conventional imagery, including the circular glass bowl viewed from above, just at the point of spilling; the night-black and blood-green sleeves visible as part of T'kay's traditional dress; and the stylized flame pattern emanating from the bowl. However, this design has incorporated much of the scientific knowledge that was becoming widely disseminated during the period, including the discovery of the ancient solar flare that had caused the devastation which the myth of T'kay attempted to explain. In the long Vulcan tradition of blending scientific and mystical concepts seamlessly, the lava in the bowl has been replaced by a semi-realistic main-sequence star at stellar maximum, including sunspots and prominences. The concentric lines emanating from the fire may also be an attempt to depict the stellar magnetosphere as a decorative element.
(Excerpt from the catalog of "Weaving the Stars: Astronomical Imagery in Pre-Federation Textiles", 2213, curated by LateiRan sh'Thalj and Nadya Chavaz. This was a special exhibition in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Federation flag, at the Solar Museum of Interstellar History on Starbase One, part of the Smithsonian Institution of the United States of America. It sounds like a truly interesting exhibition: I wish I'd been born in the right time to see it. One of their Terran artifacts was "'Mickey Mouse Sorcerer's Apprentice Light-Up Hat', LEDs, polyester fabric and fill. On loan from Disney World 20th Century Historical Park, Orlando, Florida.")


How T'Kay Cheated Death
[Insert - Illustration: Death at the River, fragment of undated bowl, private collection]

LEMATYA LAUGHING
Shheva Culture, South Forge Vulcan
Approx. 10,000 BCE [-2000 Vulcan Old Date]
Copper-glazed "bloodware" pottery, fragment
H. 3.2 cm
Anonymous private collector
In most cultures on the planet Vulcan, the lematya - a solitary wolflike predator of the deserts and riversides - personifies Death. In later years, lematya became the symbol of S'hariel, the deathgod, who fluidly changed form between Vulcan man and lone lematya. In the very earliest and most primitive surviving depictions, however, Death was simply a lematya itself, the always-hungry and never tamed sudden killer of the wilderness. He was both the ultimate outlaw, and the ultimate law that no person could escape; in early stories he is often shown laughing at the contradiction.

This pottery fragment is copper-glazed "bloodware"; the clay used was carbon and copper rich and heavily oxidized both before and after firing, giving the distinctive slaty patina, and the glazes are always entirely copper oxide based. Metal-poor as early Vulcans were, the copper for the glazes was traditionally said to be distilled from the blood of defeated enemies. Bloodware is from one of the earliest Vulcan cultures from which there are surviving artifacts, from a period where the rainforest paradise of Chakariy was still vividly present in Vulcan racial memory. The flowing water and luxurious vegetation show that, here, Death as the Lematya stands even in Paradise and laughs.
(From the catalog of "The Universal Werewolf", 2341, curated by Lana Mitchell, a temporary exhibition at the Anne Rice Memorial Museum of the Creatures of the Night, New Orleans, Earth.)


T'Kay and the Chief's Son
[Insert - Illustration: T'Kay with Saya, architectural detail of the frieze showing the trickster T'Kay with a circular pitcher of saya, recovered from the ruins of the P'Jem Monastery, Epsilon Indi III]

Okay, this is the reason it took me six months to finish: I couldn't find any photographs from P'Jem whatsoever, which I eventually realized was because the P'Jem monastery did not allow any modern technology, including cameras, on-planet before its destruction in 2152 CE (8661 VOD). I finally found an image of what might be the correct frieze in, of all places, a collection of mathematical reminiscences entitled On Beauty Bare (Sulan Isenson, Mandela University Press, 2148 CE). He apparently visited P'Jem early in the 2140s at the invitation of a Vulcan colleague who was taking a sabbatical there, and in the title essay (about the prevalence, on Earth, of erotic metaphors in higher math1) reproduced in passing a watercolor sketch he had made of an architectural detail on the exterior of one of the monastery buildings. I am not certain this is the same carving reproduced in Bodner's book, and Isenson never identifies the subject as T'kay, but context seems to make it likely.

Most Earth students with any natural aptitude for finding the beauty in mathematics notice, in early adolescence, the resemblance of the cartesian graph of the six basic trig functions to a scantily-clad and obviously mammalian humanoid female, and titter about it for several weeks. The Vulcans, in their inimitable way, have turned it into an architectural motif. This was particularly noticeable as most of the decoration in the monastery was deliberately not representative, and yet the frieze around this particular building appeared to have even been, at one time, painted to emphasize the apparent female figure drawn by the sines and tangents and secants.

Sivek was even more uncommunicative than usual when I asked him about the significance of the carvings, saying only that it was a very old tradition involving a woman carrying a jar of soup, and intended to remind adepts that all worldly joys are founded in logical truths. The building itself, and its purpose, he would not elaborate on; it was one of several parts of the complex I was forbidden entry to, and when I tried to research it upon my return to Earth, I found the entire subject to be under one of the unbreakable Vulcan privacy restrictions.
1I had assumed "On Beauty Bare" was a reference to the Millay poem, but Isenson, apparently, actually prefers the Zelazny version.

ETA: Oh! Also, while I was hunting down these illustrations I found a kids' xenoanth book that had three more illustrated T'kay stories; would anybody be interested in those being posted here eventually?
ljc: (Default)

From: [personal profile] ljc


OMG this is so AWESOMELY COOL. I am blown away and humbled and I just want to hug you til you squeak. Seriously.

eta: I have now pimped at my El Jay, for to share the glee.
Edited Date: 2010-03-06 12:54 am (UTC)
rhivolution: David Tennant does the Thinker (lost in a good thought: DW/DT)

From: [personal profile] rhivolution


Really lovely and fascinating work! Thank you so much for sharing it.
garryowen: (enterprise)

From: [personal profile] garryowen


How much do I love this fandom?

These are wonderful. I especially love the first with its rich colors and tidbits of story.
ladyvyola: classic Star Trek symbol on a gold and blue gradient (classic/reboot OTP!)

From: [personal profile] ladyvyola


Oh! Also, while I was hunting down these illustrations I found a kids' xenoanth book that had three more illustrated T'kay stories; would anybody be interested in those being posted here eventually?

Doooooo eeeeeeeetttt!!!!!

For science!

(Amazing post, by the way. The art is cool and the "context" is breathtaking.)
skywaterblue: (art school perverts)

From: [personal profile] skywaterblue


Radical! I love Vulcan art history. Too bad we all weren't alive to go see "Weaving the Stars: Astronomical Imagery in Pre-Federation Textiles", that sounds really interesting.
minoanmiss: (Default)

From: [personal profile] minoanmiss


Wow. I love artifacts that make a fictional world real, and you have outdone yourself with these.
beatrice_otter: Zachary Quinto's Spock (Spock)

From: [personal profile] beatrice_otter


ETA: Oh! Also, while I was hunting down these illustrations I found a kids' xenoanth book that had three more illustrated T'kay stories; would anybody be interested in those being posted here eventually?


OMGYES!
.