Ponderer of the Ivory Cup
Ponderer of the Ivory Cup
Hoojiro, a member of the organization
|Other Names||Thinker in the Eibon|
|Species||Unknown (Most likely Outside World humans)|
The Ponderer of the Ivory Cup (象牙の杯を酌む者 Zōge no Hai wo Kumumono), also the Thinker in the Eibon, is a mysterious organization that studies and experiments with the universe's unknown mechanisms, which they call "Black Boxes".
The organization's namesake and central theme of contemplation is something referred to as the "Ivory Cup" (象牙の杯 Zōge no Hai), a cup which is "filled from the abyss accumulated at the base of a spring of wisdom, deep-rooted at the pith of the world". It appears to be a term the group uses to refer to the world's many unknown mechanisms, which they simply call "Unknowns" (未知 michi), or "Black Boxes" (ブラックボックス burakku bokkusu), systems whose internal workings are not understood, but can still achieve results based on inputs and outputs. The organization seems to be interested in understanding and making use of these unknowns, and to this end performs experiments with and on them.
Despite seemingly being a conceptual object, it is said that someone has seen the Ivory Cup before and that it is mug-shaped according to them.
- Hoojiro Shitodo - Only known member
- Tsubakura Enraku - Speculated, Unconfirmed
While Tsubakura being part of Thinker in the Eibon is unconfirmed, it's possible that they are, given their close ties to Hoojiro and their research into the workings of Mugenri. In addition, given Haru's disinterest in who once saw the Ivory Cup, Tsubakura may in fact be the one who saw it as well.
The verb used in the title, kumu (酌む), is a Japanese verb that has a number of varying meanings. Complicating the identification of the definition under use here is the object on which it acts, the "Ivory Cup", a term which itself acts as both a physical cup and a conceptual metaphor for the unknown.
In A World That Isn't Fantasy, Hoojiro makes use of the verb kumu three times during her introduction and explanation of the organization and the Ivory Cup to Haru:
- Hoojiro first used the word in protest to Haru's use of "philosopher" (哲学者 lit. person of philosophy) to describe her profession. She instead uses the verb's definition of "to think, guess, hypothesize, contemplate, etc. about something" to make "ponderer" (酌む者 lit. a person who ponders/thinks/considers), which can be seen from Haru then refuting that the change of wording makes no difference.
- Hoojiro next uses the term when talking about the Ivory Cup, in which the cup is the subject in her sentence which acts on the "abyss accumulated at the base of a spring of wisdom", an action in which the verb kumu is used to describe. Here the cup could be said to be "drawing water" from the abyss, under the definition "to fill a vessel (with liquid, typically saké)"; or to be metaphorically "drinking" from the abyss, under the definition "to drink (typically saké)".
- Hoojiro finally uses the term when introducing the organization itself as a part of the organization's name. Here the organization is the subject of her sentence that acts on the Ivory Cup in turn, an action again described by the verb kumu. Here, all three previously mentioned definitions are applicable, the group "ponders" the unknowns that the Ivory Cup represents; they metaphorically "drink" from the cup, partaking in its mysteries by both making use of and experimenting on them; and they "draw water" from the cup, which is said to be from a "spring of wisdom", representing the knowledge they reveal and obtain from studying the black boxes.
It can in fact be said that the organization's Japanese title is "Ponderer(s) of the Ivory Cup", "Filler(s) of the Ivory Cup" and "Drinker(s) of the Ivory Cup" all at once, as the word choice was likely deliberately precisely because it is able to convey all three of these meanings at once. However, comparing it to the English title of "Thinker in the Eibon" (in which "Eibon" seems to correspond to and serve the same purpose as "Ivory Cup"), the translation "Ponderer of the Ivory Cup", with the subject in the singular, was chosen.
The "Ivory Cup" makes reference to the Magic: The Gathering card of the same name, while the alternate name "Thinker in Eibon", makes reference to the fictional Lovecraftian magician "Eibon of Mhu-Thulan", first mentioned in the Hyperborean Cycle by Clark Ashton Smith. The most famous artefact pertaining to him being the Book of Eibon, which contains the magic spells he practised, records of the area he lived in and historical accounts of other mages. When H. P. Lovecraft adopted the character and the book into his own writings, he wrote that the book was translated from its original lost language of "Hyperborea" into several other languages, notably as Liber Ivonis in Latin and Livre d'Ivon in French. Here, "Ivon" and "Ivonis" is meant to conjure up the image of ivory white, as opposed to the ebony black "Eibon" alludes to, both referenced in the title of the organization. However, there seems to be nothing that ties either Eibon or his book to a cup.
A World That Isn't Fantasy
Thinker in the Eibon was one of Haru and Hoojiro Shitodo's conversation topics in the short story of the "A World That Isn't Fantasy" booklets, where Hoojiro explains to Haru what the organization is and the origin of its name.