Of Darwin and the Thief-of-Faces

Not exactly a timely theory, but here it goes. I believe the Thief-of-Faces once mated with an ape.

Now that I have your attention, onto the evidence.

What we know for certain so far: The Thief-of-Faces is a child of the flukes and a powerful shapeling. He is the father of all snuffers and he did a horrendous act to the the Mountain of Light to also father Mt. Nomad. We also know the Elder Continent is inhabited by all manner of beasts and other creatures, and that snuffers call themselves cousins to humans.

Here’s where things start to not add up. The Thief-of-Faces descends from flukes, humans most definitely don’t. The word cousins implies a common ancestor. Here’s where Mr. Darwin comes in.

There are references to the theory of evolution in Fallen London, there is no definitive word on whether it is real in this universe, although it most likely is. Now, according to the theory of evolution, humans share a common ancestor with apes. Here the dots start to connect.

Let’s look at the Pentecost Apes, in Sunless Sea, they live in the verdant yet deadly Empire of Hands. In Sunless Sea it can spawn anywhere on the East edge of the map, but its verdancy makes me thing that it probably should be close to the Elder Continent. The name &quotPentecost Ape&quot also nudges me in this direction, as both Pentecost and Presbyter are obscure-ish christian terms that have been appropriated into Elder Continent lore. This makes me suspect that Pentecost Apes were originally from the Elder Continent, where you can find many other animals with human features and personalities (put a pin in that).

Now let’s look away from Darwin, at Eden. The Garden in the Elder Continent has strong deliberate parallels to the Garden of Eden (yet another christian reference), which leads many to suppose that humans originated in the Garden. I myself like this theory, as it would explain the name &quotElder Continent&quot. The term &quotOld Continent&quot refers to Europe, usually in contrast to the &quotNew Continent&quot America. The idea being that humans migrated from Europe into America at the time of the colony (disregarding the people already there). In this context, the term &quotElder Continent&quot makes complete sense if humans migrated from it into Afro-Eurasia.

How does this relate to Darwin and the apes? Well, the idea that man evolved and that man came from the Garden are often thought to be in conflict, but I don’t see why they have to be. In the Elder Continent we find all sorts of animals with human features, and even rocks and trees. Stone seems to have a preference for the form of humans. I believe what happened is that humans evolved from apes in the garden, under Stone’s light.

Which brings us back around, finally, to the snuffers, the cousins to humanity. We know snuffers are adept changelings and that they have a great natural strength, one might say, an ape-like strength. The final claim of this theory, which I’ll admit is more speculative than the rest of it, is that the common ancestor of mankind and snuffers was an intelligent ape. At some point, an ape mated with the Thief-of-Faces to create the snuffers, &quotwhy can they steal human faces, then?&quot I hear you ask, well, they can actually steal faces from rats as well, so their abilities are far from human-only. Later on the Snuffers were cast out of the garden because of the crimes of the Thief-of-Faces and so were all non-flying creatures, including, by this point, humans, some of which returned to the surface, likely through the travertine spiral, and the rest is history.
edited by NotaWalrus on 5/13/2020

It was mentioned in Flint that life on Earth was produced in one of Stone’s experiment and later spread everywhere and to the surface, and she continues to make new life-forms (not shapeling arts or red science - she’s half-Judgement and can make them legally).
Natural selection or not, in this model humans can be derived from apes - either &quotnatural&quot evolution or simply modification. No problems here.

Pentecost apes are named such because they learned to steal souls and imbue themselves with them.
Presbyterate - it’s a reference to &quotLand of Presbyter Johann&quot, one of Medieval versions of Paradise-on-Earth legends.

Snuffers’ flesh is closer to wax than to meat, and they’re sustained by memories of wax, and they die for good when killed. Not really a contradiction, just additional info.

Now to the main question.
Beings of such a caliber do not have to mate (and most of their forms may even lack, ah, equipment) to produce offspring. Flint again mentions that snuffers were created as a weapon, then abandoned. It sounds more like Thief-of-Faces kidnapped a bunch of humans/apes, mixed them with wax instead of amber as a source of vital essence, and stirred until it was satisfied with result. Then it grew bored or achieved main goal and simply dumped them in the Elder Continent. Or was captured, while snuffers were declared fugitives, cannot remember.
edited by Aro Saren on 5/13/2020

Where do we source that Snuffers are cousins to humans specifically? I’m familiar with them calling each other &quotcousins&quot in general, but not that the cousin-hood refers to humanity.

Alright, so my theology is a little weak. But since there’s a bunch of Christian theological parallels/references around the Garden and related topics, let’s talk about the distinction between humans and apes, and what that means for Snuffers.

It is my understanding (and I’m not an expert, so forgive me if I’m misrepresenting your sincere beliefs) that according to some traditions (primarily Catholic), evolution is accepted as explaining the development of animals. But, the step from Ape to Human cannot be merely the procession of a natural process, but requires the attention of the Divine. Specifically, the existence of an immortal soul, which humans have and animals do not.

This is the part where playing Sunless Skies would have been useful, because I don’t know how souls work in Fallen London.

Still, this relates to two things: First, apes in Fallen London don’t have souls of their own (they can acquire them from elsewhere). Second, Snuffers die permanently. So, if the rise of humanity involved Divine (Judgemental) attention, the origin of Snuffers and apes predate that. And Snuffers’ permanent death is a side-effect of not having a soul. (Another explanation is that Stone shuns them and prevents her light from affecting them.)

I’ll speculate that Apes were created/bred/whatever for the purpose of housing a soul. They excel at it, and it seems to be unique to them compared to other fauna of the Neath. The nature of humans to have an innate soul is a refinement of this property. If this purpose of the Garden was to accomplish this, that seems plausibly compatible with both Fallen London cosmology and Christian theology.

Also I’ll point out that Snuffers can mate with Humans and produce offspring. We met one in an Exceptional Story. I’m still not entirely sure where Snuffers and the Thief-of-Faces fit into this. I guess my biggest question is whether the Thief’s actions had an effect on the development of humans. The creation of life seems to have been one of this goals, but I don’t believe the nature of his crime was purely theft.

I find it highly dubious that the reason snuffers don’t come back is because they lack a soul, seeing how you can come back while soulless. In Sunless Skies we see that the soul is separate from the individual that houses it, since shades can give us their souls no problem. More likely the reason snuffers don’t come back is that the mountain shuns them for the sins of their father.

So, in the Sunless Skies in the Blue Kingdom there’s a place called the House of Days with a Logos Pansekritis presiding over the bureaucracy that determines whether a Shade can change its caste. It has different Courts for different kinds of souls and different types of appeals, added as needed whenever a different need appears. Humans belong to the Court of Apes (which also deals with other apes and monkeys, as well as some humanoids), the Court of Oaks deals with vegetation (which means that plants have souls) and long-lived beings, the Court of Mayflies deals with the small and short-lived (whether by nature of circumstances), the Court of Mules deals with hybrids and processes appeals to other Courts. There are also mentions of Courts for underwater creatures and those born in volcanoes.

So what this tells me is that all animals do, in fact, naturally have souls of their own, although the ability of Apes from the Empire of Hands to steal souls is indeed interesting. The only other creatures that can do that are Devils.

Souls seem very weird to me. They can be extracted, and while sometime it results in a broken psyche, other times people are fine, maybe a little bit more hedonistic or depressed, which means that souls and minds of people are different things with different degrees of connection between them. You can die without a soul in the Neath and still return from the dead. Judgements eat souls. The Shapeling Arts make a soul useless to the Devils’ interests. The Devils use souls to create new Laws for themselves, and also served as cooks for Judgements. The Devils also take souls for themselves, but their nature means that a Devil’s soul will randomly change nature (it would seem, for the worse). More exceptional souls are prized more - some are even more valuable than something like a Judgement Egg (which are also souls, hence why Judgements can also enforce Laws), and it seems that a particularly rare kind of soul is a sort of delicacy for a Judgement.

Actually, spirifiers are normal humans who can steal people’s souls. It appears to be a matter of technique and equipment.

As for the Blue Kingdom, while we see that plants and animals certainly have shades, I don’t think it’s so clear that they have souls. We see that human shades have their souls and trade you for them, but if I recall correctly we never see reference to animal or plant souls, just shades.

Yes. What makes Pentecost Apes special is that they can put more than one soul in themselves without apparent adverse effect, iirc.

And what makes humans special is, I expect, simply matter of the Mountain’s Law.