The Mythic Well IV: Comparison List

by Annie Hamilton

General Note: The following extract is from an entry in Robert Foster's highly recommended The Complete Guide to Middle Earth. Foster exhaustively details the characters and places from The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, The Silmarillion and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Unfortunately, his excellent work does not cover Unfinished Tales or The Book of Lost Tales etc. The only difference between his extract and the following list is that I have arranged the dwarf characteristics in a numbered column. The parallel discussion on the Narn (at least for the first 33 characteristics) is matched by number within the text itself. After the end of those general points, specific characters will be examined, as well as some of the language. Unlike Minbari, I find the etymology of the Narn language to be extremely difficult, though there are a handful of prefixes and suffixes that readily yield of translation. Further compounding the problem is the ubiquitous apostrophe in Narn names, since it is impossible to be sure of what the missing letters are. Again, erring on the side of caution, I've looked at all logical possibilities and listed as many as make sense. As before, a triple asterisk denotes a possible fourth season spoiler.

The Dwarves

"Intended by Aulë to endure the power of Melkor, Dwarves were:

  1. short (four and a half to five feet tall),
  2. stocky, strong,
  3. resistant to fire,
  4. and hardier than any other race.
  5. Unswerving and proud, Dwarves
  6. could not be dominated by evil
  7. and never forgot a wrong
  8. or a debt;
  9. They went to war frequently
  10. and wielded axes.
  11. They were fair
  12. but not over-generous,
  13. honest
  14. but secretive.
  15. As the Children of Aulë
  16. Dwarves were attracted to substances,
  17. to the depths of the earth
  18. and to crafts;
  19. they were great miners and craftsmen
  20. and worked wonders with stone, metal and jewels.
  21. Although never very friendly with other races,
  22. they got on well with the Noldor...
  23. Their greatest flaws were a tendency towards wrath,
  24. possessiveness,
  25. and gold-lust.
  26. Dwarves lived about 250 years
  27. and married about the age of 100.
  28. Although they sometimes flourished,
  29. the numbers of the Dwarves waned through the ages.
  30. They suffered heavily in their many wars
  31. (caused as often by their own pride as by the greed of others for their treasures)
  32. and were the especial target of Sauron who resolved to destroy them when he found he could not dominate them...
  33. The Dwarves had their own language, Khuzdul, but it was a secret tongue. In public, the Dwarves used the speech of their neighbours..."
  34. The word for dwarves in dwarvish is Khazad. The frequent use of the apostrophised prefix `Kha' in the Narn language seems likely generally mean Narn, in precisely the same way that Khazad meant dwarves. However, it may also be used as a indication of stone or prominence in position, in the latter case its essential meaning being prime (as in commander or prime minister; and as in capital or prime city). The etymology of the word, Narn, itself is probably from the Latin or modern Italian, `nano' (meaning dwarf, and pronounced `narno'.). The prefix `nano' is in quite common current use in such words as `nanosecond' or `nano-technology'. Other possibilities include modern French, `nain' (dwarf), or the Sindarin Elvish word for dwarf (or stunted), `naug' or also the old Norse word `nar' which meant corpse and which was used in reference to dwarves. Scholars suggest that the reason for this is because dwarves allegedly dwelt underground, as did corpses!!! That being as it may, Tolkien used Nar and other old words for corpse as the names of several of his dwarves. Narn is also a Sindarin word for tale or story. `Nar' itself is a stem which means fire or sun.
  35. The Book of Mazarbal was kept by the dwarves who returned to their ancestral halls, Khazadum. It was a history of their colony and its dealings with the forces of darkness - the orcs and trolls, the watcher in the water and the drums in the deep. Mazarbul is dwarvish for records.
  36. Because of the hunting of the Petty Dwarves by the elves and the death of the elf king, Thingol, at the hands of dwarves, a deep and mutual distrust built up between the elves and the dwarves. An exception to this estrangement was the abiding cooperation between the dwarves of Khazadum and the elves of Eregion. These Noldorin elves (led by the maker of the famous Elven rings, Celebrimbor) shared with the dwarves a love of jewel-smithing, metal-working and the devising of wondrous items of technology. Working together, they made doors whose opening mechanism only activated when the word `friend' was spoken, as well as other marvels of communication and technical skill. The Noldor - in general - were the most war-like of the Three Kindreds of Elves.
  37. The names of the main dwarves of Lotr are Gimli and his father, Gloin. (Gloin - when met by Frodo - was looking distinguished in white with a finely wrought medallion on his chest.) Gimli is Old Norse meaning lee of flame or highest heaven. Other dwarves mentioned in The Hobbit, The Silmarillion etc. are Nain (ON: corpse), Dain, (ON: corpse), Nar (ON: corpse), Oin (ON: fearful), Ori (ON: raging one), Thorin Oakenshield (ON: bold one with oak shield), Thrain (ON: obstinate), Fundin (ON: found one), Durin, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Nori, Dori, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Azaghal, and Mim amongst others. Many of thse names come from the Icelandic Prose Edda, which happens also to contain a dwarf called Gandalf (ON: sorceror elf). A number of scholars have suggested that the meaning of the name was what prompted Tolkien to transform a dwarf into a wizard.
  38. ***Friendship was such a serious business to the dwarves that it was sufficient motivation for irrational undertakings. In Unfinished Tales, Gandalf tells his version of the first meeting of Thorin Oakenshield and Bilbo - an account markedly different from that of The Hobbit. Thorin was absolutely livid that Gandalf had set him up with such a fatuous bumbling idiot as Bilbo and could only conclude that Gandalf had a secret agenda that involved humiliating dwarves in the process. Gandalf, flustered after hours of argument with the furious dwarf, happened to indicate that Bilbo was his friend. Thorin's suspicions were immediately and almost completely allayed: to him, as a dwarf, friendship and gratitude were enough to explain all Gandalf's mysterious actions.
  39. The other serious business to dwarves was vengeance. It was as much a duty as an emotion. As The Quest of Erebor in Unfinished Tales explains it, one of Thorin's reasons for proposing the expedition to Erebor was because his sense of honour was eating away at him: "...his heart was hot with brooding on his wrongs, and the loss of the treasure of his forefathers, and burdened too with the duty of revenge upon Smaug that he had inherited. Dwarves take such duties very seriously." Smaug was the dragon who had invaded the ancestral halls of The King Under the Mountain and seized the dwarf treasure. Smaug was a cunning, murderous brute who seems to have been the last of his kind.
  40. Although the dwarves suffered copiously from gold lust, the great tragedies of their race seemed centred around silver and jewels. In the case of silver, it was the mining of mithril (truesilver) which led to the unleasing of the monstrous Balrog in Khazadum. And it was the desire for mithril that drew them back to Khazadum, despite the danger. In the case of the jewels (both light-enclosing, of course), it was an incident with the Arkenstone which factored in Thorin's death. Centuries before that, the whole unpleasant business of the Nauglamir (The Necklace of the Dwarves) led to the death of the Elven king, Thingol, and to estrangement with the elves. Dwarf artisans were employed to set a star-jewel, a Silmaril (the very Silmaril, in fact, that Beren once lost in Carcharoth's maw) in the centre of the Nauglamir but the beauty of the jewel was too much for them. They desperately desired it for themselves and the result was tragedy, including - once again - the loss of the Silmaril for a time. Eventually, it went back to Beren and Luthien (Beren now being back from the dead), passed to their son, Dior (translation: beloved) and finally to Eärendil who wore it on his brow as the Morning Star. You want to know what David means? Of course you do. As a Minbari word, it probably means battle renewer. From the original Hebrew, it means darling or beloved. As for wearing a Silmaril on the forehead, where else would you wear a third eye?

The Narn

  1. The Narn were all sizes - certainly not particularly short. They were strong (2) as evidenced by G'Kar's breaking of a stone table. His time trapped in the lift with Londo is evidence of his resistance to fire (3). He once offered to carry a wounded Minbari as far as it took (4). Once set on a course of action, he did not deviate (5) unless there was good reason (for instance, an apology by the Centauri emperor). He was proud (5), but did not allow that to rule him (6) if he believed a higher principle was at stake (for instance, when he decides not to take Londo's life or when he initially bows to N'Far's authority). The Narns did not forget the wrongs done to them, particularly by the Centauri (7) and G'Kar was both determined to repay the debt (8) he owed Garibaldi and adamant that Sheridan repay the debt owed to the Narns and keep his word about a seat on the War Council. They maintained a state of war readiness, sold weapons, and went to war (9) quite often from Ragesh 3 on in their axe-shaped ships (10). In Na'toth's dealings with Alisa Beldon and G'Kar's dealings with Garibaldi when the latter was on the run, they made very fair (11) but not generous offers.(12). Garibaldi gives G'Kar the information to establish an arms supply line, because of his honesty (13) and the Narn are obviously secretive (14) when it suits them - for instance, they plainly didn't tell anyone about the dangers of Sigma 957 before Catherine Sakai went there. Nor do they allow their technology to be used without a `technical provider'. Their principal god appears to be G'Lan (15) and they built their homes and quarters out of sturdy raw rock (16/17/19/20), unlike the crystal-carving Minbari or the decadent Centauri. Their clothes seemed partly of metal plate, adorned with jewelled inlays (such the prominent `eye' on both G'Kar's and Na'toth's early costumes) and rich fabric (18/19/20). They had no strong allies (21), but they cooperated well with a group of the Minbari Warrior Caste (the WindSwords) at one time (22). When G'Kar got angry, it was not by half-measures (23) and while he doesn't have any apparent gold-lust, ordinary everyday lust (particularly for human females) does feature amongst his main flaws. The Narn may be marsupial, since they have referred to `pouch-brothers'. The fortunes of the Narns varied, their numbers diminishing particularly once the Centauri invaded (28/29/30) and once they felt the need to regain lost territory (30/31). The Shadow forces completely destroyed the telepaths amongst them (32-ish). They have their own language (33), but use common speech as a general rule.
  2. Taking a tangential step from tale or story, my instincts have always inclined towards translating Narn as people of the book long before I knew that People of The Book is a reference to the Jews. While I personally don't see particular Jewish overtones, I know quite a number of people who do, especially in terms of the persecution by the Centauri. The only other real possibility is, I consider, people of the sun, which may not be so unlikely given Londo's early complaint that the Narn were savages, always worshipping their sun.

    Examples of use of the prefix `Kha': Kha'ri: group of (prominent) dwarves The Kha'ri were the ruling body of the Narn Regime. Kha'mak: high lord of the dwarves Kha'mak was the member of the Kha'ri who ordered G'Kar to seek sanctuary on Babylon 5. Kha'tok: dwarf blade The Kha'tok was the sword that could not be sheathed without drawing blood. G'Khamazad: ...?... forge of the dwarves A city on Narn.

    Please feel free to mentally substitute Narn for dwarves in the translations above. Note also that the only mention of nano-technology to date occurs in The Gathering where Sinclair lies to G'Kar about the contents of his drink. A dwarf in a dwarf - now that's a really criminal pun.

  3. The Book of G'Quan was a record left by the great Narn spiritual leader, G'Quan, dating from one thousand years previously. It left detailed information about Soldiers of Darkness and the destruction of the Narn telepaths by the Shadows. G'Quan has several possible meanings: stone history, dwarf history, glorious historian, glorious spirit or death to the shadows.
  4. Delenn's distrust of G'Kar seems unjustified. Certainly he insulted the Grey Council (accurately as it now seems) and she made sure using her gravity rings that he didn't do it again. Apart from that, he conspired to get a member of the Warrior Caste aboard Babylon 5 without being observed and tried his best to get Sinclair deported to the Vorlon homeworld. Hardly the stuff of which feuds should be built. Her later awkwardness and antagonism seems to be based mainly on guilt, her patronising statement "you've changed" completely hypocritical when the full extent of the death and destruction she personally has been responsible for - by action in one case and inaction in another - is revealed.
  5. It's possible that Ta'lon means highest haven. Ta'lon is the Narn who, like Sheridan, was captured by the Streibs. When he returned to B5 with N'Far, he offered to become Sheridan's bodyguard. He's the one with the sword that cannot be sheathed without drawing blood (a Samurai tradition shared by the Fremen in Frank Herbert's Dune novels). Because of the apostrophe and the attendant missing letters, it is difficult to be certain what the translation of G'Kar is. However, on the basis of a certain bandage, I am inclined to make a correspondence between him and Thrain II who was tortured in the pits of Dol Guldur and there lost one eye. (And if Thrain is correct, I lean also because of the linguistic similarity to Thorin Oakenshield, since after all, this is a triple-encrypted code. We need three, not one.) However, by the time the fourth season rolls around, G'Kar seems to have picked up a fair chunk of Gimli's storyline - he's looked for a couple of hobbit-like personages now. Though why he quotes Gandalf, I'm not quite certain. He uses a well-known line of the Grey Wizard's when he leaves a message for Na'toth as he heads for Z'Ha'Dum: "Expect me when you see me." Na'toth herself (like her predecessor, Ko'dath) is difficult to place definitively in any dwarf hierarchy. Again it's that apostrophe. However, their names share a possible meaning: wise battlehost. It's a strong likelihood that they were both a point of comparison to the hobbit, Meriadoc Brandybuck (aka `Merry') as well as being the original `Gimli'.
  6. ***Because of his friendship with Garibaldi, G'Kar leaves the safety and sanctuary of Babylon 5 to go searching for him after he's taken by the Shadows Everyone else is so caught up (maybe even obsessed?) with Sheridan's loss that they don't even think to mount a search party. Zack Allan (and possibly Marcus Cole) may be exceptions to this widespread indifference to Garibaldi's fate.
  7. Na'toth nearly kills Jha'dur - Warmaster of the Dilgar - because of the blood oath of Shonkar which her family had sworn. Vir's betrothed, Lyndisty, is the target of a Shonkar also because of her sadistic involvement in the massacre of many Narns. `Shonkar' appears to translate blood hand, rather than literally as blood oath. `Dilgar' means dark dragons and while the apostrophe in Jha'dur's name again proves a problem, there are two matching elements between her name and Smaug's and two with that of Ancalagon, the black dragon. She was a vicious, amoral scientist with yellow slitted eyes, who claimed to have discovered the secret of immortality and seems to have been the last of her kind.
  8. Michael's been holding out on us. But then we knew that. He was the one (as Straczynski has admitted) who pro-grammed the White Star for that plunge to Z'Ha'dum. Which means he understands Minbari - extremely well, it would appear. But this is beside the point. In his hand, so to speak, Michael's got the B5 equivalent of a Silmaril - that rare, precious jewel of tragedy. It's highly likely he's also got the B5 equivalent of mithril - that rare, precious metal of tragedy. The key to the story of Babylon 5 is not The Lord of The Rings, although that helps us to find the right street in the right universe. The key isn't The Silmarillion either, that just gets us to the right door of the right house. The key isn't the Beren/Luthien story either, but the entire history of the Silmarils right through to the days of Lotr. The key's in the lock - let's turn it. `Sil' is an Elvish fragment for silver. So is `telep'. `Mith' may loosely be used as silver, and `mar' for shadow. `Ath' is an alternative stem for shadow. It also means people. So does `rim'. Combining: Silmaril = telepath = mithril (= telekinetic??) A thousand years previously, the Narn lost the vein of `mithril' for all time when their telepaths were destroyed by the unleashing of the Soldiers of Darkness. This awesome coincidence of language (Silmaril/telepath/ mithril) is the alchemist's stone which enables the epic fantasy novel to be transmuted into the epic science fiction series. But how do you quest for a lost telepathy? This is specifically why, despite the massive parallels of plot and character, Straczynski can still legitimately say "there's no quest here" - neither for his counterpart to the Silmaril, nor - as we shall eventually see - for that which corresponds to the One Ring.