People say that travel is broadening, by which they mean that it expands our horizons, allowing us to see what was previously invisible, hidden by preconceptions and prejudice. The alien people that we meet in strange lands may seem like us but engage in bizarre and shocking behavior, or they may seem most peculiar and foreign yet have customs and beliefs very much like our own. Both are true of the amazing and magical land of Geltvelt. The very laws of nature are different there; the creatures are strange and magical; and the rules of behavior often surprisingly strange; yet in many ways their institutions and customs are oddly parallel to those we would find comforting and familiar.

Basic Facts of Living in Geltvelt

The creatures who inhabit Geltvelt are sustained entirely by means of a wonderful substance called MagicManna. This Manna, or MM, as it is sometimes called, is both necessary and sufficient for existence in Geltvelt. “Manna,” as the inhabitants like to say, “is life.” It is, unfortunately, highly perishable. There are many different varieties of MM, some of which will last up to a year or so, but others expire quite rapidly. The shortest-lived MM is ActiveElixer, vanishes the moment it is created. It is not really a “substance,” but rather a magic energy that emanates from the tip of a wand and disappears instantly. It is nevertheless highly valued as it performs all sorts of valuable services, from cutting lawns to repairing faulty plumbing to hair styling.

Needless to say, given the ephemeral nature of MagicManna, much of the activity of Geltveltians is devoted to producing or otherwise procuring the stuff. The production of MM requires two things:Trollstuf and shveice. There are two types of trollstuf : MannaMakers and rawstuf. Shveice may seem indelicate to our more refined sensibilities, but, to put it as decently as possible, it appears to be the constructive application of biological energy to the rawstuf. MannaMakers aid in this process—they are sometimes referred to as “shveice-savers."

The responsibility for the production of the Manna is divided between the two sorts of creature that principally inhabit the land: the Trolls and the Elves. The Trolls, while a minority, are the elite and the rulers. They have splendid, large, bulbous noses, magnificent leathery, droopy ears, amazing pear-shaped bodies, and lovely purplish-green complexions. They live in large glorious dwellings and travel in long sleek vehicles. The Elves have short bodies and pink faces, pointy ears and generally wear silly, cheerful grins. They live in hovels and walk wherever they need to go, usually singing as they do. The job of the Trolls is to guard the trollstuf and demand trolltolls from anyone who wants to use their trollstuf. The job of the Elves is to apply their shveice to the trollstuf in order to produce the Manna. They often whistle as they do this, but not generally when they pay the trolltolls.

The two types of creature, despite their great differences, are apparently related, because from time to time a Troll is born into an Elf family or an Elf born to a Troll family. There is much rejoicing when Elf parents have a Troll child, even though the child inevitably has difficulty fitting into Troll society due to its shameful parentage. An Elf born into a Troll family is generally sent away somewhere and the matter never mentioned again in the family.

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