Comparison: The Elves and the Minbari


  1. The following comparisons detail general correspondences and contrasts between the elves and the Minbari as a whole. The numerous specific counterparts of individual characters are glossed over almost completely with only a few being mentioned in passing. The same is true for the vast number of linguistic parallels between Elvish and Minbari. In total, the set which follows constitutes approximately one-eighth of the close parallels I have found so far between the Elves and the Minbari (up to and including most, but not all of, the fourth season).
  2. Obviously the Minbari culture has a considerable number of parallels with Japanese culture. The choice of Japanese in this situation does not appear to be arbitrary, however, but rather linked to a particular curious and serendipitous circumstance: one of the possible derivations of `Minbari' from Elvish is people of the (land of the) rising sun.
  3. The Sylvan (or Silvan) elves will be dealt with separately in a later article. Along with the elves who have one of the Elvish fragments for silver in their names. These elves find their counterparts apparently exclusively amongst the human telepaths. (See Mythic Well VI)

The Elves (Part 1)

  1. The elves of Middle Earth called themselves - Quendi, the Speakers. They were also known as The Firstborn The Firstborn of Ilúvatar The Elder Children of Ilúvatar The Elder Kindred The Elder Race The Fair Folk The Merry People The Folk of the Wood At first, all elves were referred to as Eldar, but splits later occurred. The Eldar were also called the High Kindred, the Three Kindreds, the People of the Stars and the People of the Great Journey.
  2. Over time, there came about amongst the elves three main kindreds - the Vanyar, the Noldor and the Teleri. The Vanyar were fair-haired and the most religiously-oriented of the elves. They scrupulously followed the teachings of the Valar. The Noldor were the most war-like of the elves, they were also skilled in combining fine arts with immense technology. The Teleri were the third kindred of the elves - they lagged behind in the trek to the Sea and the Undying Lands beyond. Some of them eventually made the journey and making their own city by the sea, became great shipwrights, but others turned aside from the journey to stay and live in the woodlands and build the first towers and kingdoms of Middle Earth, such as Doriath.
  3. Originally all elves were Eldar, then two main divisions arose - the Eldar and the Avari. The Eldar were those elves who accepted the summons of the angelic guardians to dwell with them in the light of the Two Trees, while the Avari, largely through circumstance, turned aside during the journey to the Undying Lands. The Eldar became the High Elves and the Avari, in general, became Sylvan elves. These two divisions were sometimes called the Light Elves and Dark Elves. However, after a time, the Sindar people became so numerous, that a third division arose - the Grey Elves. The Light Elves were so called because they had seen the Light of the Two Trees in the Undying Lands, the Dark Elves were those who had not.
  4. The elves had three languages - the two main and most well-known ones were Quenya and Sindarin. The elves of the woodlands used a Sylvan speech. According to elven history, when the very first elves awoke by the shores of a hidden lake, they looked up into the darkened heavens and, in wonder at the light of the stars, spoke their first word `Elé!', which meant behold, but also came to mean stars. To the elves, (who called themselves `the speakers') speech was a wondrous gift, which had come from the stars.
  5. In The Book of Lost Tales, the elves were divided into clans (such as the Inwir).
  6. The elves were immortal in the sense that they could not die of disease or old age. Nevertheless they could be killed by injury or grief. In the latter case, they would go to the place where they wished to die and, presumably starting a death-fast, there choose to lay down their lives.
  7. The elves believed in re-incarnation (for themselves, but not for men or dwarves). They believed that, once they had died, they would go to the halls of the angelic guardian, Mandos, there to sit and contemplate their lives until it was time to return. They could also go wherever else they chose in Valinor, the Undying Lands, but could not return to Middle Earth until the appointed time.
  8. The elves believed that they could recognise a returning soul - as in the case of Glorfindel of Rivendell, named after Glorfindel of Gondolin who fell to his death while battling a monstrous Balrog.
  9. The elves believed that mankind (whose fate after death was different to their own) was their estranged kindred: together elves and humans were the Children of Ilúvatar, the elves being the Firstborn and men being the Afterborn.
  10. The elves were guided throughout the early part of their history by the Valar, who taught them many arts, crafts and technological skills. Eventually, the Noldor under the leadership of Fëanor - who was determined at any cost to retrieve the Silmarils stolen by Morgoth - revolted against the Valar, rejected their teachings and left the Undying Lands.
  11. The elves in general had a difficult and complex relationship with the dwarves. There was fault on both sides - the dwarves had killed the great elven king, Thingol, in order to steal the Nauglamir, while the elves for their part had hunted the Petty Dwarves almost to extinction. The exception to this rule of mutual loathing occurred between the Noldorin elves under the leadership of Celebrimbor and the dwarves of Khazadum.
  12. The elves were frequently arrogant. Thranduil's treatment of the dwarves was a notable example.
  13. The elves killed orcs as a matter of course. Orcs and elves, however, both dwelt in the forest of Mirkwood. Orcs and elves were natural enemies - though orcs were, in fact, originally bred from elves by Morgoth who put them in pits, performing genetic experiments on them. Orcs did not like light and had difficulty adjusting to it.
  14. The elves were on constant guard against the Black Riders - the shadowy Ringwraiths who, wrapped in black robes, scoured Middle Earth for the One Ring desired by Sauron.
  15. The elves were helped, in times of great peril, by the eagles.
  16. The elves rode with the Rangers - in particular the sons of Elrond accompanied the Rangers of the North in their difficult task of patrolling the land and gathering information about the movements of Sauron's forces. The Wandering Companies of the elves also were on watch and would look out for particular travellers likely to be in trouble, such as the hobbits on their way to Rivendell.
  17. The elves got on well with certain Houses of men, with whom they had alliances, but did not trust all men. In particular, they did not favour the Black Numenoreans who allied themselves with the Shadow of Mordor.
  18. The elves had a special regard for trees, and a centuries-long relationship with the Ents and Huorns.
  19. The elves formed the backbone of the alliance against the forces of darkness - together with (at various times) men, dwarves and eagles, they sallied forth in various conflicts against Morgoth (Melkor) and his deputy, Sauron.
  20. The elves were ceaseless in their opposition to Melkor and Sauron over many centuries - a few singular traitors helped the forces of evil, but there was never a situation where, in contrast to men, whole clans of elves served the darkness.
  21. The elves fought mightily against the dragons (though it was the dwarves who bore the brunt of dragon-fire in battle). The great worm, Glaurung, was able to seduce individuals to his will with his mesmeric eyes.
  22. There were three famous marriages between elf women and human males - those of Luthien and Beren, Arwen and Aragorn, Idril and Tuor. From these came those called the Half-Elven, the most famed of whom was Elrond the healer.
  23. The elves used stones called `elfstones' (or elessar) to indicate such things as safe bridges to cross. These were green stones, usually beryl or emerald. Eärendil and Aragorn both had such green stones, set in gold or silver, which they wore on their chests. One setting was the elessar surmounting an eagle with outstretched wings.
  24. In The Silmarillion, Elves did not kill elves (as, in The Lord of The Rings, `hobbits do not kill hobbits'), until the time of the great Kin-slaying at Alqualondë. Here the warrior Noldor slew the ship-building Teleri. In later times, remembering this, the Teleri would not fight at the side of the Noldor, even in the War of Wrath, where the most they would do was provide transport for the warriors.
  25. After the Kin-slaying, a group of elves under the leadership of Fingolfin crossed the Grinding Ice where many of them perished.
  26. The elves had a particular love of poetry and singing. They had numerous specialised forms, amongst them the Aerlinn - the sea songs. As noted in Mythic Well II, `sea' and `stars' seem to be used interchangeably on a frequent basis. One of the finest singers of Middle Earth was Maglor who was branded by a Silmaril and wandered off singing mournfully.
  27. The elves had an especial reverence for living things.
  28. The elves were especially prone to feeling the `call of the Sea', a desire which lay dormant within them until awakened by a sight of the ocean or suchlike circumstance. Thereafter, they experienced an almost irresistible compulsion to set sail beyond the horizon, hoping to reach the Undying Lands. This was a journey from which there was no return.
  29. The elves had an affinity with the stars and with Varda (Elbereth Gilthoniel), the angelic guardian known as the Star-Kindler. (See Mythic Well I for the parallels between Varda, Kosh and Valen.)
  30. The elves liked wine and no apparent ill-effect was ever mentioned.
  31. The elves were fond of tinkling bells.
  32. The elves had hair - indeed, some of the kings and nobles had such glorious manes of hair that it was continually mentioned in their names: Fingolfin, Finarfin, Fingon, Glorfindel, Curufin, Curufinwë and so on. (A very important point to be noted now for future reference: `fin' is the Elvish word for hair. The nearest spelling to this is `firn', Elvish for mortal or dead.)
  33. When elves left Middle Earth, they sailed away in their swanships along the Lost Road to the West which took them beyond the circles of the World. The way to the Undying Lands took them from Earth, either into space or to another dimension.
  34. When the elves set out on this final journey, they headed out beyond the barrier of the Shadowy Seas to the Undying Lands, to the place where no shadows fell.
  35. The elves built cities which were carved straight out of the rock, as well as elegant white towers and fortresses.
  36. The elven king, Finrod, built the tower and fortress of Minas Tirith. It had a capacious dungeon. Later in the history of Middle Earth, the human kings of Gondor built their spiral-chambered fortress city of Minas Tirith. This is Pippin's sight when he first comes to it: "...the Tower of Ecthelion, standing high within the topmost wall, shone out against the sky, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, tall and fair and shapely, and its pinnacle glittered as if it were wrought of crystals ..." Minas Tirith (Chapter 1 of The Return of the King - Books V and VI of The Lord of The Rings). The Tower of Ecthelion means the tower of the fountain. The original name of the second Minas Tirith (the tower of guard) was Minas Anor (the tower of the sun).
  37. The elves created such refuges as Rivendell, which was to be found hidden in a cleft carved out by a rushing river.
  38. The elves of Middle Earth were isolationist until around the time of the War of The Ring, pursuing a policy of keeping themselves to themselves.
  39. According to Robert Foster in The Complete Guide to Middle Earth, it was likely all elves were telepathic: "The Eldar, and perhaps all Elves, could talk directly from mind to mind without words." (Entry on Elves.)
  40. The elves were secretive, and kept their own counsel, even when their advice might have helped others understand the dangers inherent in a situation - for example, Gildor declines to explain to Frodo exactly who the Black Riders are.
  41. The High Elves (those who at one time or another had dwelt in, and seen the light of, the Two Trees) lived - in a sense - simultaneously in two dimensions. They could see and be seen in the twilight world of the Black Riders.
  42. The elves created the great Rings of Power: the three elven Rings, the nine Rings for mortal men, the seven rings of the dwarves. Cirdan, the Lord of the Grey Havens, had Narya (the ring of fire) for a time before handing it on to Gandalf; Gil-galad had Vilya (the ring of air) which he passed to his herald, Elrond, and Galadriel had Nenya (the ring of water).
  43. Before creating these rings, they made numerous essays in the craft, devising rings of lesser power.
  44. The elven jewelsmiths were especially fond of gold and silver in their craftsmanship.
  45. The elves were a strange paradox: they could assume an attitude like that of aloof and eons-old kings, and they could be merry pranksters, loving laughter and games.
  46. The attitude of the peoples of Middle Earth varied towards the elves. Widely varying opinions, ranging from suspicion to awe, were to be found even amongst men and hobbits. One hobbit who was enthusiastic in his desire to see elves and profoundly complimentary about them when he finally met some was Sam Gamgee.
  47. According to J.E.A Tyler's The Tolkien Companion in the entry Calendar of Imladris, the elves preferred to reckon in sixes and twelves. The hobbits, of course, are famous for the use of eleventy, making it clear that their number system has a base larger than 10.
  48. The elves had a number of prophecies about the return of Sauron e.g. the reforging of the sword, the walking of the Paths of the Dead etc.
  49. Simbelmynë (evermind) was a white flower known to the elves as Uilos. It grew on the graves of the kings of Rohan in all seasons, sparkling with starlight and glittering like Elven eyes.
  50. The colour emblem of the Vanyar was white. It was used on their banners.
  51. The colour emblems of the Noldor (at least the House of Fingolfin and the House of Fëanor) were blue and silver.
  52. The colours of the Laiquendi (the Green elves or Sylvan elves), who were a remnant of the Teleri, wore green and brown. (See also Mythic Well VI for more on the Sylvan elves and colour).
  53. The elves contributed leadership to a number of Councils of the Wise - for example, the White Council and the Council of Elrond.
  54. The elven leaders gave precedence to Saruman as leader at a number of Councils of the Wise.
  55. The elves fought the allies of the Darkness, among them, the trolls.
  56. Hobbit poets, rightly or wrongly, had a view that elves could dance on the surface of water as in the whimsical poem from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Princess Mee. Professor Randel Helms in Tolkien's World suggests that this fairytale view of elves was preferable in hobbit mentality to the thought of ancient mystery hanging about the numinous creat-ures who passed through the Shire from time to time.
  57. Elves greatly revered the part-elven, part-human, part-Maian mariner, Eärendil, who sailed to the west, crossing the Impenetrable Barrier of the Shadowy Seas, obtained the aid of the angelic guardians (who had not helped the elves before in their conflict with Morgoth) and, accompanied by eagles, returned to Middle Earth in the nick of time in his ship (which had been given the power of flight) to save the elves from certain defeat in the War of Wrath. Eventually Eärendil became the Morning Star, and an enduring symbol of hope for the future. One of his titles was `Star of Hope'.
  58. Elves dwindled as time went by - few were born, and as the Fourth Age moved into full swing, their power began to wane.
  59. The rings of power created by the elves with the help of Sauron (in his fair guise as Annatar, Lord of Gifts) were distributed for the greater good to men and dwarves - however, Sauron created the One Ring to rule the others, and the nine kings of men who had received the nine rings fell beneath Sauron's sway and became the nine Ringwraiths (or Nazgûl). When the hobbits are attacked on Weathertop, Frodo slips on the One Ring and sees the Black Riders (the Ringwraiths) in their own dimension. They look quite different: the `pale king' is no longer attired in black wrappings with a dark cloak, but in a long grey robe. When he uncovers his face, he has a crown on his head like a carved helm, and his eyes are gleaming cold and mercilessly.
  60. The horses of Valinor were modelled after Nahar, the wondrous horse of the Valar, Oromë. The true descendants of Nahar were, however, considered to be the Mearas, the swiftest horses of Middle Earth. It was said that Oromë himself had brought the first meara to Middle Earth. They were so fast that the best of them, Shadowfax, could outrun the black steeds of Nazgûl in full speeding flight. The mearas were strong, swift and intelligent, silver-grey or pearly white, and they became the greatest horses of Rohan, allowing none but the king or his sons to ride them. (Shadowfax made an exception for Gandalf.)
  61. The elven queen, Galadriel (lady of light), on allowing Sam to glimpse the future in her Mirror, (which was really a basin of water), warned: "Remember that the Mirror shows many things and not all have yet come to pass. Some never come to be, unless those that behold the visions turn aside from their path to prevent them. The Mirror is dangerous as a guide of deeds."
  62. The elves fought against humans but never actually went to war against them. They were in constant conflict with Melkor and Sauron, in which they were sometimes aided by humans and sometimes betrayed by them - for example, the Easterlings at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. They fought Sauron in order to halt his complete domination of Middle Earth after the creation of the One Ring. Later, they fought him again, when he arose as the Lidless Eye, seeking the One Ring to restore his full power.

The Minbari (Part 1)

  1. The word `Minbari' could derive from several possible Elvish fragments, and mean any of the following: people of the towers of the sun, people of the rising sun, people of the land of the rising sun, people of the tower of the rising sun, firstborn people. In addition, it is my considered opinion that `ari' or `ary' is the Minbari element for three in one. Thus I would add also to the list above these further possibilities: firstborn of the three in one, three in one people of the rising sun, three in one people of the towers. (In view of the fact that Ilúvatar is Tolkien's Judeo-Christian God-figure, any allusion to three-in-one may well constitute another match). It is, in fact, not particularly necessary to choose between all the possibilities above as to which meaning is ultimately the `definitively' correct one. What is not similar in terms of name is descriptively accurate for either the elves or the Japanese (the people of the land of the rising sun).
  2. A thousand years or so previously, Minbari society changed and three divisions were brought into being: the Religious Caste, the Warrior Caste and the Worker Caste. The Warrior Caste was made up of the Fire Wings, the Wind Swords, the Night Walkers, the Star Riders and the Moon Shields. It was the Warrior Caste who, at the start of the Earth-Minbari war, came forward with new marvels of technology (in the devising of which they had apparently been aided by Jha'dur). The Worker Caste was responsible for building and construction on Minbar and do not appear to have formed part of the intelligensia of that society.
  3. Before Valen re-organised Minbari society, the three caste system which was current at the time of Babylon 5 did not exist. Neither did the Grey Council.
  4. The Minbari have three languages: Adronato (the language of the Religious Caste), Feek and Lenann. Deriving them, as usual, from Elvish, they would have meanings as follows - Adronato: very high human/ elven (is Valen responsible for this language, I wonder?); Feek: speech; Lenann: gift of the stars. I presume that Feek is the language of the Warrior Caste since it contains the Minbari element `ek', meaning weapons. Indeed, it has a profound connotation of speech as a concealed weapon and perhaps therefore embodies the concept that the pen is mightier than the sword. This, of course, means that by systematic elimination, Lenann is the language of the Worker Caste. Lennier mentions at one time that there are over 90 dialects of Minbari.
  5. The Minbari were divided into clans, at least some of which appear to cross caste lines. The Third Fane of Chu'domo numbers amongst its members Lennier of the Religious Caste, Lavell of the Warrior Caste and Ashan of the Worker Caste. On the other hand, the episode Legacies seems to imply that the Star Riders clan is solely Warrior Caste.
  6. The Minbari (such as Delenn) are obviously extremely long-lived. (They do not, however, appear to be immortal in the same way that Lorien claimed the First Ones were. They, like the elves of Middle Earth, could not die of so-called `natural causes' but could be injured and killed.) When Delenn believed she had been responsible for Sheridan's death at Z'Ha'Dum, she was so stricken by grief that she began a death-fast.
  7. The Minbari believed that, after death, their people would eventually be born anew into another generation - unless they were lost to the `world-soul' by being captured by a Soulhunter or migrating across to the human race.
  8. The Minbari believed that, using a triluminary, they could recognise whole and part Minbari souls returned in human guise, as happened when they examined Sinclair at the Battle of The Line.
  9. Lennier says that humans and Minbari - `the two sides of our spirit' - need to work together to overcome the Darkness.
  10. The Minbari were - at least occasionally, and perhaps often - guided by the Vorlons for nearly a thousand years. Eventually, they form part of the alliance which, under the leadership of Sheridan, rejected the `shepherding' of both the Vorlons and the Shadows, and caused them to go beyond the Rim.
  11. The Minbari do not get on particularly well with the Narn, if Delenn's relationship with G'Kar is any indication of general sentiment. She threatens to kill G'Kar with a gravity ring for daring to speak the truth about the Grey Council, she makes no effort to support him when he tries to warn the Advisory Council about the awakening of the Shadows, nor does she even counsel him to remain quiet - and then she has the patronising audacity to say later "you've changed" when he is understanding, if not forgiving, of her sacrifice of his world. This is after it is necessary for him to be forceful in his insistence that she and Sheridan keep their promise to him about joining the War Council. On the other hand, when we first see G'Kar, he is in the process of trying to get a warrior Minbari of the Windswords off a Narn transport - this may indicate that the Narns got on better with the Warrior Caste than they did with the likes of Delenn.
  12. The Minbari were frequently arrogant - Delenn with G'Kar, Delenn with Neroon, Ashan with Delenn and so on.
  13. The Minbari don't get on particularly well with the Centauri, but they don't not get on with them either. While Delenn can say to Londo, "we never really talked", indicating that they were not friends, nevertheless, there was not anything inexplicable in her attitude towards him (where there was a lot in her treatment of G'Kar). Londo, at least, had difficulty in observing `light' in the form of the revealed Kosh.
  14. The Minbari maintained the Anla'shok (the Minbari Rangers) for many centuries as a constant guard against the return of the Shadows.
  15. The Minbari - in particular, Draal, Delenn and Valen - were helped in times of great peril by Zathras (contains `thra' from `thor', Elvish for eagle).
  16. The Rangers (bear with me for a moment - I know it's not Elvish, but if it was, it would mean wanderers of the stars) had both human and Minbari members. Although they were trained to fight, their main task prior to the Shadow/Vorlon war was to gather information about the movements of the Shadows. They also took care of particular travellers who were in danger, such as Dr. Mary Kirkish en route to Babylon 5.
  17. The Minbari decided against a trade relationship with the Lumati (from the Elvish, men of the shadows). Corellimurzon, the Lumati ambassador who came to Babylon 5 had an aide named Taq - a name that means quite simply Black Numenorean.
  18. The Minbari worked with the Brakiri, a race with gnarled faces whose name derived from Elvish means people of the branches and who came from an area of space dominated by green nebulae.
  19. The Minbari formed the backbone of the alliance against the Shadows. They provided the White Star fleet but they were not alone in the conflict - they were helped, in the alliance, by humans, Narns and many other races.
  20. The Minbari were constantly on the watch for the return of the Shadows since fighting the war a thousand years in the past. They might not have always been as vigilant as some would have liked, but they were never in a position where they had members actively cooperating with the Shadows - unlike the position on Earth where government members were working in consultation with Morden.
  21. The Minbari were opposed to the Dilgar - however, the Windswords of the Warrior Caste were seduced by the technology Jha'dur could offer and hid her for many years.
  22. Delenn (part human, part Minbari) married the human warrior, John Sheridan.
  23. The Minbari of the Anla'shok (the Rangers) wore the isil'zha - a green stone which was originally (in the time of Valen) in a plain setting of gold and silver fashioned to resemble the outstretched hands of a Ranger. This later changed to a setting with a human and Minbari figure on each side.
  24. "Minbari do not kill Minbari." That is, until the civil war when the Warrior Caste, under the leadership of Shakiri, devastated much of Minbar. The Worker Caste suffered particularly in this war.
  25. During the civil war, some Minbari were forced from their homes, and had to cross an arctic wasteland to reach safety. Many of them died on the journey.
  26. The Minbari esteem poetry - Shaal Mayan was a celebrated poet and a practitioner of a form called Tee'la - star songs. She was branded by Homeguard and although she could have had the scar removed, she chose not to, keeping it as a poignant reminder of the traumatic event. She continued her tour to Earth and later seems to have returned to Babylon 5.
  27. Delenn is, at times, deeply compassionate. She demonstrates a reverence for life when she goes to comfort the Markab who were dying of drafa plague.
  28. Some Minbari, such as Draal, felt the `call of the Sea' and they went into space to assuage that Call. Straczynski had this to say about Draal's comment in Voice in the Wilderness: Re: going to the early Minbari history, pre-space flight, when someone felt he had outlived his usefulness in his own society, he would set sail beyond the horizon, hoping to bring his knowledge to another place which could use it. These were voyages from which they would never return. With the arrival of space travel, the range they could travel was greatly expanded. jms
  29. The Minbari seem to be the earliest of the younger races to reach the stars and they had a special relationship with the Vorlons and in particular, Kosh Naranek whose last name has one possible translation from the Elvish: fire-kindler.
  30. The Minbari, according to Lennier, go into homicidal rages after drinking alcohol.
  31. The Minbari appear to be fond of chiming crystals.
  32. The Minbari have no hair. Thus no linguistic correspondence exists between any Elvish names containing the fragment for hair and any Minbari names. Fortunately, Joe Straczynski hasn't claimed any expertise in linguistics - because even a rank amateur knows better than to choose the nearest spelling.
  33. The Minbari appear to be the earliest space-faring species (discounting the Older Races - that is, the First Ones, Vorlons and Shadows). During the skirmish with the Shadows a thousand years in the past, many of their starships were destroyed, along with their Starbase.
  34. When Delenn is preparing to enter the chamber where the Markabs are dying, she tells Sheridan that, if they do not met again in this life, they may meet again in a place where `no shadows fall.'
  35. Delenn in And Now For A Word describes the cities of some of the cities of Minbar as being carved directly from the crystal bedrock with spires that catch the light and make breath-taking displays at certain times of the year.
  36. Beneath one of the main cities of Minbar, there is a dungeon-like chamber, surrounded by viewing galleries, and above which there is an opening which can expand to let in the Starfire Wheel. One of the possible meanings of Minbar as derived from Elvish is tower of the sun. Above this place, there is a plaza with an art deco style spike, apparently of crystal, in the middle of a fountain.
  37. Delenn's friend, Draal, has gone to Epsilon 3, where in a hidden cleft, the Great Machine was found to be functioning.
  38. The Minbari Grey Council pursued a policy of isolationism, despite Dukhat's desire to get to know more about the humans.
  39. There are probably quite a few more Minbari who are (at least slightly) telepathic than would be apparent at first sight. Set and production designer, John Iacovelli, who gave an interview to Sci Fi Universe's Kevin Stevens, revealed: "...the White Star's Minbari technology demands that the ship be run partially by Minbari crew and thus by telepathic command." (Volume 2, Issue 15, 1996, p.23)
  40. The Minbari were secretive and kept their own counsel: Delenn is evasive, declining to explain to the investigator Endawi about the Shadowships and she is tight-lipped about her knowledge of the return of the Shadows, even when such advice might have helped G'Kar and his people.
  41. When first approached by Morden, Delenn's triluminary implant begins to glow and she can see and sense that the Shadows are with him. Much later, Sheridan briefly sees the Shadows while Zack is adjusting the frequencies of the monitor in Morden's cell.
  42. The Minbari had three triluminaries - one of which Hedronn (lord of the shadowed havens) passed on to Delenn. Draal (lord of the trees) appears to have had another, since the triluminary taken by Sinclair into the past came from Epsilon 3 via Zathras. Thus it would appear that a position swap has occurred - the point of comparison to Cirdan has passed the counterpart of Narya to the point of comparison to Elrond, while the point of comparison to Gil-galad has passed on Vilya to the point of comparison to Gandalf. (Straczynski's comment about Draal being a point of comparison to Tom Bombadil, notwithstanding. I agree entirely, but I also regard Draal as a point of comparison to Gil-galad.) As for the counterpart of Nenya - check out Mythic Well VI.
  43. Delenn had a cabinet in her room which contained a number of rings, one of which - a gravity ring - she uses to threaten G'Kar.
  44. One might have thought that a space-faring race would have got beyond gold and silver as their most precious metals - but no, the Minbari still use gold and silver in their craftsmanship, in such items as the isil'zha.
  45. Delenn tells Sheridan that the Minbari feel that no race can be truly intelligent without laughter and that members of the Religious Caste spend a year in temple learning to appreciate humour.
  46. The attitude of men varied towards the Minbari - some like Knight One and Two were profoundly suspicious, while others wanted peaceful relations. An overtly enthusiastic response to Minbari culture was that of Vir Cotto, who practically went `native' on being assigned there.
  47. In The Quality of Mercy, it would appear from Lennier's remarks about his eleventy-fifth year in the temple that the Minbari use base 11. Indeed, David Bassom in The A to Z of Babylon 5 assumes this is the case. However, when quizzed about this (and its obvious echo of Hobbit usage of the same term `eleventy'), Straczynski revealed that the Minbari actually use base 12.
  48. The Minbari had a number of prophecies about the return of the Shadows.
  49. Delenn gave Jinxo a substance to place on the grave of Aldous Gajic. This, she said, when crushed would glow every night for a hundred years.
  50. The Religious Caste (for example, on the White Star) wear predominately white.
  51. The colours of the banners used in Branmer's funeral procession were predominately blue and silver.
  52. The colour predominately worn by the Worker Caste of the Minbari seems to be brown.
  53. The Minbari (for example, Delenn and Lennier) contributed leadership and advice to the War Council.
  54. Delenn gave precedence to Sheridan in the War Council.
  55. Delenn, Lennier and Forell were lucky to escape with their lives from the Drak.
  56. The manoeuvre used by the White Star to escape from the Drak was known as `skin-dancing'.
  57. See Mythic Well II for an extended comparison and contrast of Eärendil and Entil'zha.
  58. According to Lennier, fewer Minbari are being born and those that are do not seem equal to those who have died. This loss was attributed to the discovery that Minbari souls were migrating to humans. It's difficult to say whether or not the Minbari as a race are waning in power. I wouldn't even hazard a guess here as it is clear that the history of the Babylon 5 universe is not following the same arrow of time as that of Middle Earth, but rather is spiralling backwards in cycles through similar events to those of Tolkien's creations, in particular, The Silmarillion.
  59. The Minbari have a Grey Council. No parallel exists with the elves. However, there is a marked resemblance to the hall of the Máhanaxar, the place of Council and Judgment of the Valar. The Máhanaxar was also known as the Ring of Doom. The appear-ance of the Grey Council, however, is more in accord with that of the nine Ringwraiths. The Grey Council wear grey robes, they cover their faces - no doubt, Sinclair when he first pulled back Delenn's cowl thought he was looking at a pale alien with a bony carved helm-like crown, whose eyes were glinting fiercely and coldly.
  60. The White Star was a vessel built using Minbari-Vorlon organic technology. It was so fast that it was capable of out-running a Shadowship, despite Delenn's assertion that nothing could get away from them. Special Effects designer, Ron Thornton, of Foundation Imaging said, "I came up with a way of giving the surface of The White Star a sort of `pearl' feel, so it's got a weird refractive quality. It looks extremely pretty, but at the same time somewhat animalistic, which fits with the idea that it's a blending of organic technology with Earth technology." SFX Number 9, p.26.
  61. The Centauri seer, Ladira (lady of light) shows Sinclair a vision of the future on the surface of a liquid in a cup. She warns Sinclair that this is a possible fate of Babylon 5, cautioning him against taking the vision as a future certainty. Now it's either a mistake or else Straczynski made a late change in storyline (altering Ladira's background), but the first Babylon 5 Entertainment Utility (computer wallpaper and screensaver) identifies Ladira as a Minbari seer, not a Centauri one.
  62. The Minbari conducted a three-year jihad against the human race after Dukhat was killed during a first encounter misunderstanding. In this, we might find a non-trivial difference between the elves and the Minbari (let's face it - lack of hair and an inability to tolerate alcohol doesn't really cut it in the major contrast stakes), but for one extremely significant thing. The point of comparison to Sauron is human.

Japanese Culture

There are a number of examples of Japanese influence in the Minbari social structure, from the layered clothing of Delenn to Valen's re-organisation of society many centuries previously. Since one of the possible translations of `Minbari' from Elvish is people of the land of the rising sun, perhaps this should not surprise us at all.

Firstly, it should be noted that the clothes of the Minbari are, in some cases, multi-layered and of luxurious textured cloth. The style is very reminiscent of Japanese attire, in particular, the kimono. On the other hand, not all Minbari are so costumed - many wear long gowns and robes that might come from any of several cultures, including some fictional ones. The Minbari show honour and deference by lowering the eyes, bowing slightly and forming a triangle with their hands - similar to the way that the Japanese show ceremonial respect by pressing their hands together. The Minbari also have another gesture of obesiance - that of placing their hands over their hearts - which is exactly the action of Balin the dwarf as he greets Bilbo in The Hobbit.

The Japanese tea ceremony is long and ritualised - similar in some respects to the Minbari meal attended by Sheridan. Before the meal started, there was a time of silence in honour of Valen. This may be also a reflection (though in a sitting position) of the Standing Silence observed in Middle Earth in the realm of Gondor before meals. Diners stood and faced the West, whence Eärendil had sailed on his mission to the Undying Lands and whence the elves sailed when they left in their White Ships, never to return. Amongst Minbari foods is a small red fruit used in the marriage/rebirth ceremony - reminiscent of a large cherry or a small plum, both of which are trees particularly admired in Japan.

Japanese culture was for many centuries strongly isolationist like that of the Minbari (and also like the elves). The Japanese people were members of clans, like the Minbari (and also like the elves in the early part of their history). Valen seems to be re-organised Minbari society into three divisions in such a way that - whether it was his intention or not - the caste system became very rigid. In this way, he may be likened to Hideyoshi, who endeavoured to stabilise Japanese society during the 16th century by making the class structure rigid. (Perhaps this tribute may have been signalled in the first season of B5 by the appearance of the character, Senator Hidoshi.) However, it is worthwhile bearing in mind that the elvish caste system, consisting of the Vanyar, Noldor and Teleri was as rigid as they come. The Noldor, for instance, were banned from King Greymantle's realm of Doriath (in which dwelt elves of the Sindar) - but the king sometimes made exceptions on the basis of, say, maternal heritage which was not Noldorin.

Religious caste Minbari take matters of the spirit very seriously. The majority of Japanese are regarded as practising Shinto (a cult based on ancestor and nature worship) and the majority of the Shinotists also claim to be Buddhists. In the 19th century Shinto became the state religion (a position which lasted until 1946) and it stressed worship of the emperor as a divinity and the racial superiority of the Japanese. This latter characteristic was shared by both the Minbari and a fair few elves of the ilk of Thranduil, ruler of the woodland realm of Mirkwood. The Minbari, however, while reverencing Valen, do not appear to worship him. In this they accord more with the attitude of the elves towards Eärendil, the Star of Hope, than they do with the ancestor worship of Shinto.

The Japanese use symbol and art to great effect in such landscapes as stone gardens. Delenn is particularly appreciative of the symbolism in the Zen Garden at Babylon 5 which expresses to her a message of the ability of one mind to change the world. Perhaps, in addition, she has a tendency in common with the elves to rest her mind in waking dreams or by gazing on beautiful things.

The Japanese have many forms of poetic expression, amongst them, the tanka, renga and haiku. Similarly, the Minbari have tee'la, while the elves have the poetic modes of composition known as aerlinn and linnod (amongst others). I do not know of any Japanese poet who was wounded in a similar way to the branding of Shaal Mayan in the episode, The War Prayer. However, the elf poet and singer, Maglor, composer of the Noldolantë, was wounded by a Silmaril which burnt and scarred him. Unlike the elves or the Minbari, the Japanese do not have three distinct languages. It may be possible to derive a few Minbari words from Japanese, but not those couple of dozen I've tried. On the other hand, it is almost absurdly simple - given the smallest amount of linguistic knowledge - to derive Minbari from the elven languages, and to find matches of names between the characters of Babylon 5 and those of Middle Earth.

Thus, in the end, I am left with the strong impression that, while there are quite a few aspects of Japanese culture evident in Minbari society, they pick up to a large degree in those areas where there is a congruence with the elven kingdoms of Middle Earth anyway, they are not nearly as numerous as those similarities between the elves and the Minbari, nor do they correspond with the same degree of specificity and detail as individual elves do to individual Minbari.

And so it is not to a fantasy version of Tokyo that I think Straczynski has taken us when he has allowed us a glimpse of Minbar - but somewhere else entirely. Perhaps his own words regarding the episode Signs and Portents express it best: "Like Tolkien, and Jonathon Carroll, whose wonderful books start out looking very nice and comfortable ... and gradually take you someplace strange and dark and unique... I've tried to apply a similar structure to Babylon 5."

Sayonara. Mata dozo.
Annie Hamilton