Saturday, June 09, 2007

History of the Island of California

The island of California got its name from the first glimpses sailors in the early 1500s had of waves crashing against its rocky shores with the golden 12' wingspans of the California Griffin soaring above: Kalli - "beautiful" ornis-"bird". They were Spanish sailors, but at the time they were reading a lot of novels which named things using Classic Greek, so the Greek was given a spanishized spelling and pronunciation and became "california".
At the time, only women lived on the island. They were Amazons, descended from the beautiful and powerful Queen Calafia. Queen Calafia had commanded an army which included 500 griffins. Although the number of griffins in royal service were much fewer by the time the island was discovered by the Spaniards, they were still a powerful force, and the Spanish sailors were not allowed to land.
But when they went back and told the story of the beautiful women they had seen on the shore, wearing armor made of gold and pearls and very little else, more ships were sent. Cortez' ship got lost and went to South America. They thought they had found the land of the amazons, and so even named the major river there "The Amazon", and they wandered around for a long time looking for gold, while the gleeful native inhabitants directed them this way and that, always with, "It's just over the next hill!", "You're almost there, only one more day's march!", and other misdirections.
A few other ships actually made it back to California, and were able to land, by power of numbers. The Amazons fought them with their skilled archery, their javelins, and with the help of the lean and powerful griffins. The sailors had brought guns and cannons. With covering fire from the ships, some of them rowed to shore and made their way inland. As they came round a hill they spotted a magnificent city, which they described in their words, "castles of enchantment- grand towers, temples and edifices that seemed to rise from the water, all constructed of stone and mortar." They were looking at what we now know as the capital city of San Francisco.
But they weren't destined to get any further than that, for a large force of galloping centaurs, led by the famous Lord Garlante charged down on them, killing most of them before they could load their weapons.
The survivors made their torturous way back to the ships, and thence back to Spain, with even more glorious tales to tell.
Queen Isabela was fascinated by a country ruled by women, and didn't want to pursue a military campaign against it. Tempted by tales of women and gold, many men tried to get further than the rocky shores, but it took a man who had taken a vow of chastity to finally accomplish it.
Father Junipero Serra landed in San Diego in 1769. This was far south of the most inhabited part of the island, and there was no gold that far south. He brought silks and linens and items made of steel to trade and give as gifts and made his slow way up the western coast of the island until he reached a camp outside San Francisco. (The Amazons called their city Falka, but the Spanish name of it has stuck.) There he met with Lord Garlante, who was now quite old (centaurs' lifespans usually being around 200-300 yrs), and the Treaty of California was forged.
This treaty allowed human men to live on the island for the first time, opened trade with foreign nations, and allowed prospectors to obtain Prospector's licenses (for a hefty fee plus a tax on any gold they find) from the ruling monarchy of California. This was in 1772.
There were several wars going on in other parts of the world, so no one besides the Spanish really started arriving until the 1800s. Then they came in droves. American and English gold prospectors came in the great gold rush of 1849. Chinese saw the business opportunity and started flooding in right after them. Irish, who were finding very little to eat, came over, and loads of leprechauns smuggled themselves on the ships, lured by the promise of gold.
What these people found out after they'd purchased their expensive prospectors' licenses, was that pretty much all the gold in the mountains had already been mined by the griffins, who had been there for 2000 years, were expert miners, and lined their nests with gold. Whatever gold wasn't in the nests of the griffins was worn in the official armor of the amazon rulers. None of the prospectors hit a mother lode, and they all were too broke to pay for a ship back home, so they stayed.