Worldbuilding & Wonder Exploring Umara: Lollardum

Umara is the fantasy world created for the ‘Battle for Umara’ series of novels. It is an expansive world ruled by Gods, mythical creatures, and magic. Stuck in the middle are Mages, sworn to protect the Innocent and to uphold the Gods’ Will. By the time the novels take place Umara is on the brink of collapse. The ‘Worldbuilding and Wonder’ series showcases the who, what and where of Umara. And includes tidbits of the inspiration behind them.

Lollardum

Located on the western coast is Lollardum, the largest and most densely populated kingdom of the continent. With its deep harbor and multitude of factories, it’s the self-proclaimed trade capital of Umara. Main exports include steel, iron, and weaponry. Their mass-produced weapons changed warfare throughout the kingdoms. For the right price, any army can become a cutting-edge fighting powerhouse.

However, the rise in wealth and industry critically impacted the surrounding environment. The most noticeable is the air pollution hanging over head twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year. Next is the harbor, the second most talked about trait among any traveler. The body of water once had thriving sea life but is currently polluted by the runoff from the steel plants. Officials don’t recommend swimming or eating any (unfortunate) creature from the harbor.

But Lollardum has many things to offer a would-be traveler. The kingdom hosts the largest markets of all the major kingdoms. Most merchants are there all year while the summer months bring in new seasonal booths. Spices from the desert regions are all conveniently located in one place.  As well as exquisite beads from the southern tropical kingdom of Sherseas. Of course, there are local flavors for anyone looking for utility over opulence. The markets provide easy access for both rare and common items.  Which makes it a popular location for travelers requiring new supplies before their next adventure.

For this reason, it is easy to imagine that most of the population consists largely of immigrants. Unlike kingdoms like Alexanderia, Lollardum does not embrace outsiders. They’re not given the same opportunities as those who’s forefathers built the kingdom’s crumbling walls. However, a meek outsider would fair better than an outspoken one.

Inspiration

Ask any citizen in Lollardum and they would say the kingdom was the center of the Umara. But their industry is built on the back of the working poor.  It is the proper place to start a business, marry rich acquaintances, and of course die in a gutter from disease. Despite the bleakness the society creates, there are lots of colorful characters calling the hovels home. Both classes have their share of people who feel imprisoned by their circumstance. And will do anything to experience a taste of freedom.

The kingdom’s concept comes from two unique places. First and foremost, Victorian London. The literature of the period has a blend of morals, social expectations, and human desire all in conflict with each other. Strict societal rules masking a darker underbelly fascinate the imagination. The essays demanding social reform, and the poems of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, all help carved a piece of Lollardum.

Dante’s poem “Jenny” is about the speaker reflecting on the prostitute he had spent the night with. He’s conflicted by the sympathy he feels for her and society’s rejection of her choices. Another poem, this time from Christina is “Goblin Market”. This poem is colorful and full of sensual language as it describes the Goblin’s nightly market. Although the darker repercussion is clear; two children are taken by the Goblins, one is cursed after she eats the fruit, while the other desperately tries to save her. The language paired with a supernatural danger offered the starting point of Lollardum’s framework.

But it was Charles Dickens who played a critical role in the world building. It went beyond Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol. His outcry of political/social reform and distrust of organized religion curated the Lollardum of the series. The kingdom provides a backdrop for scrimmages between the faithful and the non-religious. To put it simply the Mages and Innocents. Although their views are intricate it boils down to fear of the other’s culture impeding their own.

Which leads to the second inspiration for the kingdom; the name, Lollard. According to Wikipedia:

“Lollard… was the popular derogatory nickname given to those without an academic background, educated (if at all) only in English, who were reputed to follow the teachings of John Wycliffe in particular, and were certainly considerably energized by the translation of the Bible into the English language. By the mid-15th century, “lollard” had come to mean a heretic in general.”

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, Lollardy’s interpretation of the Bible, removed practices like the Eucharist, communion, baptism and confession. They considered them unnecessary for salvation. In other words, (and an oversimplification) reading the Holy Word and acting in Good Faith was enough to grant access to heaven. The Church prosecuted them, declaring them as heretics which drove the movement underground. Lollardy was later absorbed by Protestantism during the Reformation.

The war of religion, and race, play out in the streets of Lollardum. Much of the population have abandoned the old ways. Instead, they embrace industry, wealth, and the freedom for “carving their own path” in a form of individualism. While the Mages, faithful to the Gods and their Holy word, scrape a small existence in the shadows. The word Lollard carried a heavy meaning throughout the 16th Century, and its existence here is intentional.  But which group is the heretic in the world of Umara, is left to the reader to decide.

Must See Locations:

Merchant Market, Crown and Cock Inn (best Golden Ale that side of Alexanderia), and the Douma Cathedral.

Traveler’s tips:

Keep your purse close, leave the children home, Mages enter at own risk.

Recommended to visit:

3/5 stars.

Explore Lollardum in The Thief’s Wager