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The Vagrant (also known alternately as “Skitnik” and “Putnik” among many other names) is a cultural hero and character who appears in many of the legends of Tesman. Various contradicting sources about his origin and appearance exist, but all of them seem to agree on his wily cunning. Some sources say that he was a god himself, while some say he was the first mortal man and others yet say somewhere inbetween. He is often depicted as an unusual breed of centaur, with the hindquarters and antlers of a northern elk rather than a draught horse, though like almost every aspect of his character, this is open to interpretation.
The Vagrant is a folk hero of Tesman who, while not worshipped or deified, is revered in the oral history of the country. His primary achievement, the stories say, was tricking the gods into bestowing their gifts upon mortals. How he does this varies with every re-telling but almost universally, he tends to appeal to the gods’ hubris and vanity while at the same time using clever wordplay to disguise his real meaning.
- The Tale of the Stolen Sun
In the early times, the gods were capricious and whismical, and for a long time did they refuse to share their magnificent gifts with mortal men. The fabled thing that mankind longed for more than anything was the Sun that the gods were so proud of. They heard the gods gloating about its pleasant, warming light and could do nothing but envy it. In those days, you see, the world was a dark and cold place, and mankind lived a meagre existence. But then along came a man named Skitnik. A trickster by his very nature, Skitnik decided that it was not right for the gods to keep the Sun to themselves and devised a scheme to force them to share it. He had a box made of the darkest oak wood and banded with cold iron. He paraded around the towns and villages and laughed loudly, proclaiming that the contents of his box were far more magnificent than the gods’ Sun, that by merely opening it, its brilliance would blind every mortal man for miles around. The gods overheard this boasting and, as they are fickle beings, came down to speak to Skitnik. “Well,” he said to them. “I might be willing to give you my box if you gave me something in exchange.” They offered him wealth and power, but Skitnik turned these gifts down, saying that nothing they had was worth the contents of his box. The gods, driven almost mad by their curiosity, finally agreed to give Skitnik the Sun that they held so dearly if they could just get their hands on the box. Skitnik agreed, and brought the Sun back down to Earth. In its light, the land prospered and its people grew strong. As soon as the gods opened Skitnik’s box, however, they became furious at finding it empty and stormed down to Earth to try and take the Sun back. But Skitnik was clever, and every night he would hide away in the western mountains with the Sun, only to bring it out again the next morning when the gods abandoned their search.