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  • Bolor Amgalan

7in7 Day 4: The Knot Children, a story

For my Day 4 project, I decided to focus on storytelling. Having decided to frame my project as a live performance celebrating the process of creation - the creation of masterfully handcrafted digital artifacts that only exist in a virtual world - I am now in need of an engaging story to complement this performance. I began looking for inspiration that relates to traditional textile techniques, specifically weaving, knitting and macrame and found many historical examples, both real and fictitious that can be used as starting point. Of the many examples I came across, I found the story of the Gordian Knot to be the most interesting with much potential to inspire an intricate and meaningful narrative.

The legend of the Gordian Knot

The Gordian Knot is a legend describing events that took place in the city of Gordium of Phrygia - an ancient kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia (now Asian Turkey).

At a time when the Phrygians were without a king, an oracle had declared that the next man to enter the city driving an ox-cart should become their king. A poor peasant named Gordias then drove into town on an ox-cart and was immediately declared king by the priests. His son Midas dedicated the ox-cart to the Phrygian god Sabazios (whom the Greeks identified with Zeus) and tied it to a post with an intricate knot of cornel bark (Cornelian cherry), which became known as the Gordian Knot. The knot was later described by Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus as comprising "several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened".

As the story goes, in 333 B.C., at a time when Phrygia had been reduced to a province of the Persian Empire, the Macedonian (disputably) conqueror Alexander the Great arrived in Gordium with his army and saw the ancient ox-cart with its yoke still tied to the same post. By that point an oracle had declared that any man who could unravel its elaborate knots was destined to become ruler of all of Asia. Many had tried to untie the knot without success and it is described that, the impetuous Alexander was instantly “seized with an ardent desire” to untie the Gordian knot. After wrestling with it for a time and finding no success, he stepped back from the mass of gnarled ropes and proclaimed, “It makes no difference how they are loosed.” He then drew his sword and sliced the knot in half with a single stroke. In an alternative version of the story, Alexander loosed the knot by pulling the linchpin from the yoke.

Alexander cuts the Gordian Knot by Jean-Simon Berthélemy (1743–1812)

Alexander later went on to conquer Asia as far as the Indus and the Oxus, thus fulfilling the prophecy, while the Gordian Knot became a metaphor for an intractable problem (untying an impossibly-tangled knot) that is solved easily by finding an approach to the problem that renders the perceived constraints of the problem disputable.

Gordian Knot in Shakespeare's Henry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47:

Turn him to any cause of policy, The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose, Familiar as his garter

Inspired by this story about the Gordian Knot, below is a short story I'm beginning to develop:


The Knot Children

Long time ago, there used to be five wise wanderers known as the Knot children. The Knot children were two men, two women and the fifth wanderer was all of their child. The wanderers were all skilled knotters; but only one of them, the youngest wanderer, could untie all knots known to man.

The wanderers traveled far and beyond; on foot and on wheels. They answered calls from every corner of the world, tying their knots to bring comfort and fortune to those who call for them. One by one they would tie a knot and then two, and then three. They knotted shelters, harnesses, tools, dresses, quipus and many more items to please their callers. They protected those both at sea and on land.


To be continued...


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