The Summer Heroes
“The Compendium” is the name given to the enormous work by the enigmatic author known simply as Lydia the Confessor. The Compendium is considered the longest single text in the known world and frequently requires at least four separate volumes to contain its entirety, unless magical means are employed to house the whole work in one book.
The Compendium is enormously popular with the clergy of Auravandil, the god of knowledge, though systematic study of it is uncommon is outside Auravandil’s church due to its extreme length. Despite this, elements of the Compendium have made their way into popular religious culture; of particular note is the Litany Against Omniscience, a mixture of prose, poetry, and prayer that outlines the vulgarity of the belief that any single being— mortal or divine— can or should know everything. This work has, at its heart, a kind of humility in the recognition of the limitations of mortal (and immortal) minds, and has been adopted by Auravandil’s church as a sort of unofficial creed and frequently appears in the religious ceremonies of other churches and temples.
The Compendium is divided into two main sections: the “historical” accounts and the theological discussions. The theological discussions form the latter half of the work and, aside from the Litany Against Omniscience, vary in nature and in tone, though they recount numerous myths that are commonplace around Illuvién, including the Jewelsong and the tale of The God Who Knew Too Much, as well as origin stories for various other gods. None of these is regarded as having anything new to add to the generally-accepted “canon” of theology that cuts across the different churches and temples of various gods, though they are usually acknowledged for the high quality of their prose.
More controversial are the historical narratives found in the Compendium, which contain descriptions of and references to vast lands that do not exist— or, at least, are unknown to the people of Illuvién. The Compendium is notably absent of discussion regarding Orem, Sargon, or Penwith, and this has led many historians to dismiss the Compendium as a fanciful document with little real historical relevance or import. Alternately, the tales in the “historical” section are viewed as extended metaphors or allegorical tales, though the morals of these purported metaphors are often difficult to discern.
Origins of the Compendium
Very little is known about the author of the Compendium, Lydia the Confessor, aside from what can be gleaned from the sections of the work that appear to be autobiographical or semi-autobiographical, and even the dates of Lydia’s life are not known.
The earliest surviving complete version of the Compendium itself dates to -781 BR, the date of the publication of a translation of the work into High Imperial by the couple known only as Bernard and Yvera, a married priest and priestess of Auravandil. Bernard and Yvera lived in the city of Ctesiphar in western Sargon, though the original copy of their translation now resides in the city of Soren. This copy contains scribbled notes from the translator-pair, including a post script that insists the translation is unfinished; in -785 BR, a fire swept through the city of Ctesiphar and destroyed the library where Bernand and Yvera were working. This fire supposedly claimed several other chapters that are now lost, but this is unverifiable.
Controversy over the Compendium
The changes in tone and language throughout the work, as well as the sharp dichotomy between the historical and theological writings within, initially divided scholastic and religious opinion following the translation’s publication in -781 BR. The controversy was exacerbated by in -667 BR, when Brother Sigamund the Heretic published his work, “A Tract Against the Compendium: The Lies and Horseshit of Lydia the Confessor”. The tract was incendiary and extremely divisive, and Sigamund was expelled from the Church of Auravandil for heresy (the expulsion was later posthumously retracted, but the nickname “the Heretic” has stuck).
In the Tract, Sigamund contended that Lydia’s histories were so outrageous that they could be considered little more than the ravings of a madwoman (“Whoever heard of elves that needed light, as plants do, to survive? The very notion is beyond ridiculous.”)- or, at best, the fantasy life of someone with far too much time on their hands. Sigamund denounced the histories as worthless and frivolous, and asserted that the theological portions were therefore dangerous and un-salvageable (“However pious the sentiments may seem, why should we turn to some crackpot mystic for our theology, when her other writings are so consistently deranged?”).
Sigamund went on to assert that the Compendium had at least four identifiable authors, but in the final chapter of the Tract, Sigamund insinuated that the entire Compendium might simply be the fabrication of Bernard and Yvera, and so was at best a fantasy and at worst a forgery. Following the Tract’s publication, several other scholars attempted to buttress Sigamund’s claims with a more academic analysis and entitled the potential authors of the Compendium “Lydia”, “Deutero-Lydia”, “Trito-Lydia”, and “Quarto-Lydia”.
The debate sharply divided Auravandil’s clergy, partially because Sigamund was giving voice to some misgivings that had been quietly been put forward about the work in the years before. In an attempt to avoid full-on schism, the debate was papered over by the upper echelons of the church’s hierarchy with the issuance of a series of essays that discussed— without mentioning the Compendium or Lydia by name— how truth could be derived even from falsehood; that the value of truth was not necessarily diminished by the method used to uncover it; and that, just as a person’s life ought not be judged simply in the context of one transgression, it would be erroneous to assert that someone who produced something fantastical might also not be able to produce something of deep theological import.
In -559 BR, a little-known priestess-scholar in the city of Soren named Tatiana published an extensive work entitled simply “On Lydia”. In it, Tatiana traced the history of the Compendium and the debates surrounding it, and then— more importantly— undertook a serious linguistic analysis of the entire Compendium. Tatiana concluded that the historical and theological sections bore subtle but distinct stylistic and terminological differences which indicated two authors for the work. Tatiana deemed the author of the theological works as Lydia the Confessor, and called the author of the historical works Pseudo-Lydia.
In this, Tatiana neatly side-stepped the truth-from-falsehood debate and offered opponents of the Compendium a way out— namely, by simply dismissing the historical accounts as irrelevant because of their differing authorship. Tatiana’s “On Lydia” went beyond this, however, and also undertook a study of Bernard and Yvera, their translation of the Compendium, and the possibility that they were the true authors. She concluded that such a massive forgery would have been tremendously difficult and that the styles of Lydia and Pseudo-Lydia are so radically different from Bernard and Yvera’s other published works that their ability to undertake such a deception (to say nothing of the lack of motivation) was basically nil.
Thereafter, the Compendium largely ceased to be a divisive force within Auravandil’s church and assumed a relatively untarnished position within the church’s theology. Tatiana’s exhaustive review of the Compendium has proved a formidable academic work and her resolution of the controversy made her one of the most influential members of Auravandil’s church in recorded history. Since Tatiana’s “On Lydia”, the anti-Compendium faction within Auravandil’s clergy has contented itself with interpreting the historical accounts as allegory or metaphor, and even the most pro-Lydia members of the church rarely undertake to insist that Pseudo-Lydia’s descriptions of fantastical lands are grounded in truth.