The Mythic Well VI: Comparisons
The Telepaths ~ The Sylvan Elves; The Silversmiths of Hollin and Keepers of the Silver Ring; The Soldiers of Gondor (Rangers of Ithilien and Guards of the Citadel of Minas Tirith)
- The telepaths and the Sylvan (Woodland) Elves primarily constitute a one-to-one correspondence. However, a number of the major Psi Corps characters are part of the more general three-to-one correlation between Babylon 5 and Tolkien's Middle Earth. As I said last time, finding one of the `serial numbers' is relatively easy, two is difficult and three is almost impossible. Without a lot of help from your friends. A lot of help. The Elves, of course, in general are counterparted by the Minbari, but the Woodland Elves and those High Elves with an element for `silver' in their names find their parallel in B5's telepaths. Why is this so? I suspect it's because of one of those curious coincidences of language - one of the Elvish words for silver is `telep' and one of the Elvish words for people is `ath'. Silver people = telepath. Now it's cheating a little to include the Sylvan Elves in this equation, because `Sylvan' doesn't mean silver. But since they're there with the telepaths, they're there.
- In Tolkien's universe, Beleg the elf was best of friends with Turin the outlaw and he went to great lengths to ensure that Turin received his inheritance which included the dragon helm of Hador. The wearing of the helm kept Turin's identity a secret from everyone except the only person that mattered - his mortal enemy, Morgoth the Destroyer. In fact, the dragon helm revealed Turin's identity to Morgoth. Meantime, back on Babylon 5, I'm quite prepared to speculate that Bester's `gift' to Garibaldi might have revealed his identity to Lorien but probably also saved his life. A Level 12 telepathic block as impenetrable as a dragon helm, along with a little bit of tinkering that makes you more of what you already are. Re-inforces your identity, so to speak. Whatever that identity is. (If you haven't done so already, you should take a good long look at Garibaldi's middle name. You should also bear in mind that the Vorlon who had not the slightest compunction about blasting Sheridan, Delenn or Lyta to smithereens, went out of his way not to injure Garibaldi seriously.) Still, Bester is a problem and with friends like him, who needs enemies? And how do you deal with such friends - kill them? That's certainly what Turin did to Beleg - however, in the case of Garibaldi and Bester, I don't think it's likely to be an accident. On the other hand, perhaps it will be. Or perhaps, given the other two encryptions of his name, he will live long and prosper.
- Robert Foster in The Complete Guide to Middle Earth suggests that Tolkien implied that all elves are telepathic to some degree, while explicitly giving instances that many High Elves were immensely powerful in their mind talents. Certain members of the latter could communicate mind to mind across vast distances and there was one instance of incredible second sight - that of Celebrimbor who knew of Sauron's creation of the One Ring as it happened and whose acted immediately to hide the three Elven rings, in order to prevent their owners becoming enslaved to the will of Sauron.
- The Elvish words for `silver' are: celeb,
telep and telpe; for `silver-like':
celebrin and telperin; for `to shine with a white
or silver light': sil and thil (from which are
derived related words: for example, silme, `starlight' and
isil or ithil, `the moon'). Celeb and
celebrin have a hard `c', that is, they sound like `keleb'
and `kelebrin', not `seleb' and `selebrin'. Mith,
although it means `grey' may also sometimes be used attributively
of `silver' as in mithril (`truesilver' or
`Moria-silver'). The Grey Elves, who like the Sylvan Elves, were of
the kindred of the Teleri, the last and largest group of elves in
Middle Earth, were called the Sindar, from sin, `grey'.
The `silver' words used of the Moon, Isil and
Ithil, are regarded by some as meaning `the Sheen'.
Another word for `sheen' is wen, and for the Moon is
Rana, `the wanderer'.
Bearing these words in mind, it is my contention that the B5 words for `silver' have been derived as follows:
- Kel (as in Kelsey, Bester's first assistant) from celeb.
- Ter (as in Bester, Winters, Peter) from telpe. (If you're concerned about the legitimacy of transposing an `r' for an `l', I suggest you either consult a book on basic linguistics or else slip down to your local Chinese take-away and ask for fried rice.)
- Si and its homonyms, sy, cy and psi etc (as in Simon, Cynthia, Kelsey, Psi Corps, Psi Cops etc) from sil.
- Thi (as in Cynthia) from thil.
- Win (as in Winters) from wen.
- Ron, ren (as in Byron, Ironheart or Lauren) from rana.
- Other fragments and their meanings:
- `of the Grey Elves' - Xander, sander (as in Alexander or Sanderson) from sindar
- `power' - By, bel (as in Byron, Abby, Beldon) from bel, bal
- `hand' - Byr (as in Byron) from bor
- The name, Levitt (that of Bester's second assistant) puts me in a bit of a quandary. It can be found by assuming a construction from celeb and ithil - however, without any other examples of this, I will simply note it in passing as anomalous and perhaps opportunistic, since Levitt is the name of the actress who played the part. (By the way, examples too numerous to mention exist of `v' being transformed into `b' in the Elvish languages.)
- Of the known telepaths to date, the following contain no element obviously connected to `silver' or `grey': Harriman Gray, Alisa Beldon, Abby, and Sophie, Ivanova's mother - though it could be argued that since the `silver', `white', `moon' and `grey' words are all connected back to Telperion, the White Tree (which had silver leaves, whence its name), Sophie may well be formed from the group of which the `silver' words are a sub-set. Thus we're left with Abby, Harriman Gray and Alisa Beldon - the first of whom was merely mentioned and the latter two of whom were supporting characters in those rare, rare episodes: the ones NOT written by J. Michael Straczynski.
- There are a number of instances of the fragment, `ter', occurring outside the known telepaths: Cutter, (Amanda) Carter, Foster, (General) Netter, and Teronn. Cutter, Carter and Netter are all supporting characters in the aforementioned rare, rare episodes which Straczynski hasn't written. Foster appears in the comic, Against the Odds, which was written by Tim de Haas. Teronn is the only character in this group in an episode written by jms but as he's a Minbari, he may well be telepathic anyway.
- The Sylvan Elves were noted for carrying bows and numbered many of the finest bowmen of Middle Earth in their ranks - for instance, Beleg and Legolas. They were also noted for being astonishingly far-sighted. It is fascinating that the phrase Psi Cops - if for a moment we could pretend it's derived from Elvish - would mean `silver bowmen'. (It's even scarier to realise that Black Omega would mean powerful fallen mind-sword!) As for far-sight, it puts a whole new connotation on the concept, doesn't it? And the even more amazing thing is that if you were to translate `far-sight' into Latin -- -- -- but no, let's call a halt to the curiosities of language and launch into the comparisons and contrasts.
- *** denotes a possible fifth season spoiler.
- Some of these comparisons may seem highly dubious - indeed, some of them I would discount under normal circumstances. However, I remind you of what I said in the first Mythic Well - if Talia being shown in mirrors is the big clue to the presence of an alter-ego, then a lot of this is conceivably relevant, too. The other thing is that, way back in Season 1, Straczynski made the point of saying that fans were picking up on 40 - 50% of the clues and references. In that case, I hardly consider the following more than another small step towards completeness.
- "Be uncomfortable; be sand, not oil, in the machinery of the world." Quotation from Gunter Eich which hung (and may still hang, for all I know) on Straczynski's office wall. Don't be altogether surprised if I've taken this advice and thrown a few grains of something gritty from time to time.
Alfred Bester ~ Legolas, Beleg and Beregond
Named for the sf author, Alfred Bester, who wrote The Demolished Man, The Deceivers, Tiger! Tiger! (The Stars My Destination), Golem 500 etc. Certain ideas in B5 have obviously been inspired by the works of Bester - for instance, the `death of personality' (The Quality of Mercy, Divided Loyalties) is remarkably similar in concept to the mind-demolition undertaken in The Demolished Man, though in Bester's story there is an element of hope which B5 entirely lacks. In The Demolished Man, there is a guild of telepaths, very similar to the Psi Corps but apparently without any of the malign elements like the Psi Cops. B5 also seems to contain a large number of superficial allusions to another of Bester's works,The Deceivers - a novel with an undeserved reputation of impenetrability. There are casual mentions in this story of alternate selves, the barn, crystal worlds, divinely delicious cooking in space, Inquisitor and inquisiting, Liberation Organisations (not unlike `Free Mars') infiltrated and used by Intelligence operatives, "Psi", purple (Imperial), samovar, sporting fights, strange cats and three vicious wives (though not all of the same husband). Most notably, it has, right in the first chapter, the quote from Santayana which occurs in Infection, the first filmed episode of the entire series: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Now there could probably be two books less alike than The Deceivers and The Lord of The Rings, but it'd be tough to find them. Nevertheless, they're very alike in a particular important respect. The Deceivers is about putting the expected in plain sight to conceal the obvious. Which is pretty much the plot of The Return of the King, the last book of The Lord of The Rings. Aragorn, Gandalf and the Army of the West set out, pretending that they don't know certain defeat awaits them, in order to conceal the real plan: the destruction of the One Ring. In The Deceivers, duality and deception similarly prevail: both sides have formed the same cunning plan and they run two spy groups - the first, the unwitting expendables, to confuse and tie up the other side while the real work of espionage is done by the second group. The master spy in charge of each side has worked on the principle that the other side, having found spies as expected, is not going to anticipate that they were just decoys. This doesn't seem at first sight to be at all like The Lord of The Rings, yet on the most profound level, it is possible to extract and utilise the theme of The Deceivers and mesh it seamlessly with a plot involving the same kind of deceptions employed by the characters of The Lord of The Rings as they attempt to outwit Sauron. On to a world of two towers, two groups of Rangers, two sets of orcs serving two masters, two hobbits (twice over), two wizards, two palantir, two Hands, two sons, two Nines... it's not really that hard to impose a few more twos. Doubles and duplicity, diversions and distractions.
Lest we forget jms' first rule of Zen writing, I remind you of it at this point: use your opponents' force against them.
Use their expectation to conceal the obvious.
So we should learn to expect the unexpected.
Is the `death of personality' which so clearly is inspired by The Demolished Man all it seems? In my opinion, `death of personality' as portrayed in Divided Loyalties is far more like the thralldom of those elves who fell into Melkor's hands than it is to the fate of Ben Reich in The Demolished Man. There is a strong thread of hope in Reich's de- and re-construction, where there is none for the majority of the elves or humans who were enslaved and tuned to the mind of Melkor. Indeed, there almost seems to be a continuum here from The Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales to Divided Loyalties through The Quality of Mercy to The Demolished Man. Now, this continuum isn't straight - it's curved, and ultimately it's going to form a circle and end up back where it started. But before it gets there it's going to make one touchdown in some very interesting territory: so let's go in the right direction and jaunt straight from Bester's surreal spies to McGoohan's.
Patrick McGoohan starred in and produced the 70s cult series, The Prisoner, to which Straczynski has made numerous, but relatively sporadic, allusions throughout Babylon 5. The seventeen episodes of The Prisoner detail the events that happen to an unnamed spy (probably inspired by the character John Drake from McGoohan's previous series, Dangerman) after he resigns for undisclosed reasons. He goes home, packs his bags, is gassed and recovers consciousness to find himself in a mysterious place known as The Village. Given the number, 6, to identify himself, he pits his wits against the inhabitants of The Village in attempts to (1) preserve his right not to give the reason for his resignation (2) escape, and (3) find the identity of Number 1. The Prisoner is... well, overtly misogynistic, and is remembered for the controversy caused by its final episode which, as far as its viewing public was concerned, raised far more questions than it answered and apparently started more than a few pub arguments the day after it was aired. Episodes generally begin with the following sequence:
Where am I? In the Village. What do you want? Information. Whose side are you on? That would be telling. We want information... information... information. You won't get it. By hook or by crook, we will. Who are you? The new Number 2. Who is Number 1? You are Number 6. I am not a number, I am a free man!
Now in this sequence, we can readily see two of the most important recurring questions in Babylon 5: "Who are you?" and "What do you want?"
Other references to The Prisoner are (and here, I'm sure I've missed many, but I offer these as starters):
- "Be seeing you!" - the code and gesture used by certain individuals, such as Bester and Jack, Garibaldi's aide. (This gesture was, in fact, used by the early Christians to identify each other, the fingers originally forming a fish shape.) First seen used in Mindwar.
- Also in Mindwar, the "Why?" "Why not?" sequence between G'Kar and Catherine Sakai.
- Nelson Drake, the character taken over by the Ikaaran killing machine in Infection. Although Number 6's real name is never revealed, some knowledgeable viewers consider the character to be a continuation of the spy, John Drake, played by McGoohan in Dangerman.
- "Six to One." This throwaway line by the raider in Signs and Portents has long been regarded as a tip of the hat to The Prisoner, although strictly speaking it should be "Six of One."
- The outfits worn by the Rangers - Straczynski has said that the style is based on the silhouette of the Minbari Warrior Caste uniforms. Well, it may be merely coincidence but the inhabitants of The Village wear clothing with that same silhouette.
- On the question of clothing, coincidence and tips of the hat - well, hats! Now, you may not have noticed this, but in the year 2258 (i.e. Season 1), de rigeur in the fashion stakes for the passing parade of humanity on B5 was hats, hats, hats. And more hats. They were far, far more fashionable than the hats of the minor characters in The Prisoner. Obviously taste got the better of the B5 costume designer.
- In Comes The Inquisitor, Sebastian (formerly Jack the Ripper) asks Delenn: "Have you nothing of your own, nothing to stand on that is not provided, defined, delineated, stamped, sanctioned, numbered and approved by others?" This strongly echoes Number 6's well-known line: "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, de-briefed or numbered. My life is my own."
- "...the hip bone connected to the thigh bone..." - the extended (but not complete) verse of the Dry Bones song sung for no apparent reason, in Ceremonies of Light and Dark by the psychopathic Nightwatch goon, Sniper, who was obviously looking forward to dismembering a Minbari. This song is sung by Number 48, the rebel youth, for no apparent reason, in the final episode of The Prisoner, where it seems to be an emphatic statement of independence and individuality and has none of the disturbing overtones it is given in B5. Andy Lane in The Babylon File mentions that Straczynski has denied a connection to The Prisoner, saying: "What happened, actually, was this... I'm a big fan of the Red Clay Ramblers, a terrific group that does sort of bluegrass, but very offbeat. I was writing that episode, and I was playing with the torture aspect, and had one of their albums on. At just the moment I got to that scene, up came their rendition of "Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones". The notion was perfect, so I went back to the original version of the song, which is public domain (rather than their version of it), and used it. Synchronicity." Umm. Hmm. So the notion of combining a torture scene with a negro spiritual is `perfect'? Obviously, since the idea is repeated in And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place where the death of Refa is intercut with another negro spiritual. In both cases, the concept embodied in the gospel song is exactly the opposite of what's being presented on screen. Dismemberment is a symbolic inversion of `Dem bones gonna rise again'. Umm. You know, if you'd studied the particular area of psychology I've read everything I've been able to lay my hands on for over a decade, you'd be a damn sight more careful about using the word `perfect' in this context.
- "I'll miss this when I'm gone..." a sarcastic remark by Number 6 to Number 2. The line may perhaps be an allusion to Kosh's "I'll miss this when it's gone..." in The Gathering (new cut).
- And The Sky Full of Stars is very reminiscent in style of The Prisoner, not just because of the surreal atmosphere, but also because of the plot of an abducted individual who is subjected to a wide variety of mind-games in order to find out certain information. (This episode also contains the first occurrence of that B5 motif line from The Prisoner credits: "What do you want?", and also features characters named Knight One and Knight Two. This may be the subtlest of references to the human chess game in The Prisoner.) However, stylistically-speaking, even closer in feel is Intersections in Real Time, which even has the interrogator dressed in a dark suit with white piping, the classic Prisoner outfit. How much more obvious can it be? (Straczynski's comments about his costume designer never having seen The Prisoner, notwithstanding. Are we genuinely expected to believe the implication that she hasn't had directions?)
- Garibaldi's questions: "Who are you?" "What do you want from me?" when he's locked up and gassed after being abducted by the Shadows.
- Garibaldi's unexpected and mysterious resignation in Season 4 (for reasons not even Bester could anticipate or fathom) parallel the unexpected and mysterious resignation of Number 6. Does this suggest that Garibaldi is the ultimate individual with a capital I?
- It's possible that Number 1, the leader of the rebels on Mars, is also a reference to The Prisoner - but at the same time, this seems highly unlikely, since Number 1 in The Prisoner reeks extreme Jungian symbolism and overtones of the Shadow. Perhaps, though, hoping for a non-reference is just wishful thinking on my part.
- Andy Lane, again in The Babylon File, notes that a cunning play on Number 6's vehement assertion, "I am not a number, I am a free man!" occurs in Voice In The Wilderness Part II. A close look at the first words on nine sequential C&C screen `pages' reveals them to be `EYE AM KNOT A NUMBER AYE AMA FREE MAN'.
Now I could complete the circle quite easily here and link The Prisoner to the Lord of the Rings, (the expected being used to conceal the obvious, of course) but to do it properly would involve a discussion on the last episode of The Prisoner, the identity of Number 1 and Number 1's relationship to The Eye, the allusions to the counterpart of The Eye in B5, Jungian archetypes of the Ring and the Shadow and so on. And I think I should throw in a large dollop of Nietzsche into the mix, as well. But such a discussion would open up the entire Pandora's box which has on its lid, "Who are you and what do you want?" and, since a whole book could be written on the contents, I will draw back from the edge of the abyss, at least for the moment, and tackle something lighter and airier.
When it comes right down to it, I'd be much more convinced that there was more inspiration from The Prisoner than from The Lord of The Rings if, for instance, Earharts had a green dome instead of a gold dome. Or, if perhaps there were huge white mysterious rubbery bouncing spherical things roving in hyperspace instead of mysterious organic black ships with single riders who have virtually no minds of their own. Or if there was an over-arching theme of escape instead of serial warfare - Earth with Minbar, Centauri with Narn, Light with Dark, Minbari with Minbari and so on.
Now, this has been a very extended digression, but I really wanted you to see that there are three (what else?) major influences on B5, but the three are not independent. I think I have to say this explicitly because I have had some communication with readers who have missed the seriously cynical tone I've used any time the phrase `Arthurian legend' comes up. Let me spell it out: in B5, we have a large number of references to one of Straczynski's favourite series, The Prisoner. These references are there partly for their own sake, but mostly to conceal the excessive number of linked allusions to Lotr and other works of Tolkien. Also in B5, we have a large number of references to the works of Alfred Bester. These references are there partly for their own sake, but mostly to conceal the excessive number of linked allusions to Lotr and other works of Tolkien.
Synchronicity, so to speak.
While we're briefly mentioning Bester again, I should mention that certain repeated themes crop up in the his works: the wealthy telepath who doesn't know she can hear thoughts, the wealthy synergist who isn't aware of his talent, the wealthy telekineticist who hasn't cottoned on to the fact he can perform the one `jaunt' which has eluded the researchers for years - the telekinetic jump in free space. The last two - the synergist and the telekineticist - both have their faces tattooed with tiger markings. Umm, tiger markings... around the face, even... oh no, please, surely that's not how he got out of Grey 17!?
Let's cut back quickly to Alfred Bester, the character played by Walter Koenig in B5. As noted at the beginning of this section, his counterparts in the works of Tolkien are Legolas, Beleg and Beregond. Two out of three of these are elves of the woodlands. Moreover, Beleg and Legolas were not just elves but both were bowmen of exceptionally keen sight. Legolas, the prince from the kingdom in Northern Mirkwood, appears in The Lord of The Rings and becomes a friend of Frodo the hobbit, Aragorn the king and Gimli the dwarf. Now if you haven't guessed by now from my repeated unsubtle hints that the points of comparison to Frodo and Aragorn have been combined in a single individual, it's time I spelt it out: two of the most memorable heroes of Lotr have a single counterpart in B5. And who's Bester tried to get friendly with?
Legolas kills the Hound of Sauron (the wolf-chieftain) with a fiery arrow and shoots down one of the Ringwraiths on its black pterodactyl-like mount. Obviously, Bester has not done anything like this, though oddly enough almost exactly the opposite has happened. Bester came within a cat's whisker of being shot down by someone whose symbol is a Red Star. The Chief of the Ringwraiths' deputy was Khamûl, a name that means Shadow of the East. Khamûl's symbol was a Red Star. `Kha' in this instance means east (from `Khand' - east) , though normally it would derive from `Khazad' for dwarf or from `kano' for commander. There's some interesting words in B5 for commander - and I must admit to be a little unsure about them: I'm no longer certain whether it's `sin' for commander and `san' for commanders, or the other way round.
Now, Bester's presence on the White Star offers the first clue to the Conspiracy of Light that telepathy can be used as a weapon against the Shadows. This whole theme of telepathy as a weapon is interesting, because it's only a small step away from the idea of the telepath, rather than the telepathy, being the weapon and this is something I'll pick up on with Talia and Lyta.
But to return to Middle Earth : Beregond is the one out of this triplet of Tolkien's characters who was human - he was a member of the Third Company of the Guard of the Citadel of Minas Tirith. He killed a number of people in the Hallows, trying to prevent Denethor from lighting a funeral pyre to burn Faramir - the Captain to whom he was devoted - and whom he believed was still alive, despite the apparently death-coma state into which he had fallen. Bester is, of course, devoted to his lover, Carolyn Sanderson, and does everything he can to protect her, threatening Sheridan when there is a possibility that she has been used as a weapon aboard the Earth ships sent out by Morgan Clark. He has been responsible for a number of deaths, including members of the Black Omega Squadron which was under his command.
Beleg, on the other hand, was a woodsman and elf who was a friend of Turin. Although he was a loyal subject of the king, he was apt to interpret his orders with undoubtedly more initiative than required. As previously mentioned, he gave Turin his inheritance - the dragon-helm of Hador. He also took from the elf king's armoury, the black sword, Anglachel, to give to Turin. Turin accidentally killed him with it. Anglachel, (like Anguirel) was an apparently sentient and malicious black sword made by the Dark Elf, Eöl. From it, Turin got his nom de guerre, Mormegil, (The Black Sword). At times, its malignant sentience seemed to exert a dark influence on him, resulting in occasional rash murder.
Now were we to find a word or phrase in Babylon 5 which means sentient black sword, what should we think? Well, it's a moot point, because there isn't one. The closest we could get is black mind sword. And what, I ask you, could possibly lead us to suspect that the Black Omega Squadron is responsible for great deeds as well as rash murders?
Talia Winters ~ Arwen; Idril and (possibly) Allatar or Isildur. Also Narsil.
Let's begin by noting that Talia Winters can be derived from Elvish elements in several possible ways, of which the following are a selection. Talia: abyss end, void end, bridge end, falling end, bridge walker or elven woman's foot. Winters: silver friend, royal woman, royal friend, silver sheen or silver silver. Arwen means royal woman, Idril Celebrindal means sparkling silver foot, Allatar probably means royal radiance or high fall, and Narsil, with its connotations of the sun and moon also has overtones of red and white (silver) flame.
However, let's leave Tolkien's works for the moment and look again at those of Alfred Bester. Rogue Winter is the synergist in Bester's book, The Deceivers. What's a synergist? I can do no better than quote Bester quoting Noah Webster -
synergy (sin er-ji), n. Combined action or operation. Cooperative action of discrete agencies such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the effects taken independently.
Rogue Winter had no idea he was a synergist, but certain agencies did, and unbeknownst to him, his talent was being exploited. In The Deceivers, the opposing spy rings (oh, those last two words! the temptation to break my iron-clad rule and never consider an anagram is wavering - if only I could move that first `s' a single space!) each run more than one operation. Indeed the guys who think they're the spies (and dutifully do the work of spies) are merely a diversionary tactic. In the words of Bester's character, Odessa Partridge, head of Intelligence: "...you set up a fake ring as a decoy ring. The fakes don't know it; they think they're the only real thing. You hope that Counter will squander its budget on the expendable decoys while the professional ring works behind them, but you have to direct the phonies to keep them from blundering near the realsies. ..."
Fake ring? Decoy ring? Professional ring? They have such a ring to them, don't they? Indeed the theme of distraction of the other side meshes nicely with a similar theme in The Lord of The Rings.
But we'll look at the Rings shortly, or at least one of them - the Silver Ring.
Getting back to Rogue Winter and his exploitation, we should note that although there are hints of it in Talia's life, it actually accords more with Lyta's fate than with hers. Indeed, although I'm going to compare Talia with Arwen and Idril, there are more contrasts than parallels and that would seem a result of the actor's decision to leave and the consequent abrupt departure of her character. In the end, it was probably fortunate the word Narsil are hidden, shard-wise, in her name, because that's the fate she appears to have suffered.
Arwen Evenstar was an elven princess, married to a human. Idril Celebrindal was an elven princess married to a human. Wouldn't want you to get the idea this was common: there was only one other recorded case in the history of Middle Earth of an elf marrying a human (though quiet inter-marriage of elves and humans plainly occurred since it was clear to anyone who saw him that Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth had elven blood). Narsil was a broken sword and Allatar was a blue wizard.
Very little is known of the blue wizards, apart from the fact they journeyed far into the East with the same mission as Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown, and that they failed in their mission.
Idril Silverfoot was loved by her first cousin, Maeglin, whom she profoundly disliked (and with good reason, as it turned out). She married Tuor, was the mother of Eärendil, and was responsible for the secret underground way out of the city of Gondolin through which many of her people were saved when the massed attack of Melkor finally eventuated. She and Tuor led her father's people to safety; when Tuor grew old, they sailed into the West together to the Undying Lands. Their fate is unknown.
Talia, with Franklin, was responsible for devising a way of keeping the telepathic Underground secret. Many telepaths were saved when Bester was deluded into believing that a massacre had occurred.
Arwen Evenstar was the beloved of Aragorn, the leader of the Rangers of the North and the uncrowned king of Gondor. She was very beautiful - when the hobbit, Frodo, looked on her, he felt that his heart was pierced by the light of her eyes. She wed Aragorn after the War of The Ring and became Queen of Gondor. In doing so, she sacrificed her elven immortality for love.
Talia was loved by .... well, two someones, but one of them had a middle name, Alfredo. A name which is, of course, related to Alfred, and which has a number of possible derivations: being Old English, `fród', wise, prudent, sage or `freoda', protector, defender or `freodo' - peace and security. Oh, security! How about that! (Should we capitalise it and give it a more contemporary overtone?) All three of these possibilities are mentioned by Ruth Noel in The Languages of Tolkien's Middle Earth as possible sources of the name, Frodo.
Narsil - Elendil's sword - was shattered and its light extinguished when Elendil fell while fighting Sauron. Elendil's son used the hilt to cut off Sauron's ring-finger and with it, the One Ring. The shards of Narsil were heirlooms of the Chieftains of the Dunedain since theirs was the royal line. It was prophesied that Narsil would be reforged, which was done on the eve of the War of The Ring, when it was renamed Andúril.
The son who cut off Sauron's ring-finger was Isildur. Despite many warnings, he kept the One Ring for himself and within two years, it had betrayed him and caused his death. It was sentient, in a way, and utterly evil. It's very difficult to tell, given Talia's truncated story-line, whether she was really a point of comparison to Isildur. Talia's personality was destroyed by a telepathic sending of a codeword, but this should not lead us to think that the emergence of `Control' is equivalent to the sudden dominance of the One Ring - on the contrary, if Talia was the possessor of the counterpart of the One Ring, she'd been keeping it to herself for a long time. And like Isildur, it betrays her at the worst possible moment. In Isildur's case, it slipped from his finger making him visible to a warband of orcs. In Talia's case, it seems to have caused her to do the unthinkable and inconceivable - walk into a room full of people without keeping up her telepathic blocks. (She was expecting to see Sheridan, a man she trusts implicitly - after all, she only slapped him last time we saw her see him. For stage-managing something illegal. Something she'd refused to have a part in. Okay, maybe her blocks were up. In that case, we are expected to believe her blocks are wafer-thin compared to Ivanova's? Or maybe we're expected to think that exposure is Control's way of protecting itself?) What doesn't make sense in the episode itself, given the established parameters of the character, makes `sense' (and I use this word extremely loosely) in terms of congruence with a counterpart. This is far from the only time B5 lacks internal logic but flows perfectly along a storyline which makes sense in terms of Lotr or other Tolkien writings.
It may well be that the point of comparison to the One Ring is currently in Lyta's possession, as indeed, the shards of Narsil appear to be in their reforged form, Andúril.
Now, it may seem odd to conceive of Talia (and Lyta), not as persons, but as things - swords - but it would be well to bear in mind that all the telepaths functioned as weapons - from the time of the Narn `mindwalkers' to the dawn of the Third Age. In the war with the Shadows, they volunteered their services. In the war with Earth, they were volunteered, so to speak, by Sheridan.
Lyta Alexander ~ ......?.....; Thranduil and (possibly) Pallando. Also Andúril.
Originally known as Lyta Kim, at least according to Starlog #182. (Straczynski has complained about Starlog's article getting the spelling incorrect and so on - and they obviously did in the cases of Jackarr and Khosh - but it's a long way wrong from Kim to Alexander.) I should also mention that I think I've missed something really obvious which is why I've left a question mark in the first position. It may well be, as mentioned above, that that place should be filled with one of the most famous names in the history of the kings of Middle Earth - Isildur.
Let's look again at a selection of possible meanings derived from, as usual, Elvish.
Alexander: high weapon of the grey elves, elven weapon-gate, weapon of the high commander.
Kim: knife, many knives
Now Lyta and Talia are obviously related names: you only have to reverse the syllables to see that. Yet, apart from the possibility that both of them are points of comparison to the same sword - Narsil reforged as Andúril - there is little else they have in common. Andúril, known as the flame of the west, was Aragorn's blade and it shone with a red and white flame. Other weapons that shone (though with a blue, not a red, light) were Orcrist, Glamdring and Sting - the latter being Bilbo's short-sword which was really an elven knife.
Pallando, along with Allatar, (mentioned above under `Talia') was a blue wizard. Like Allatar, little is known about him except that he went into the East and appears to have failed in his mission. Pallando probably means wanderer abroad, since it contains elements for far-off and journey. However, B5-wise, I'd suggest it means gate of the half-elves or gate of the elf circle.
Thranduil was a king of the Woodland Elves. He was a Grey Elf who ruled mostly Sylvan Elves. He was also the father of Legolas. After searching for sometime, he established his kingdom in Northern Mirkwood. He was, of all elves, the most litigation-conscious and, at one stage, went to Erebor to demand compensation from the dwarves. (Lyta, of course, appears to be the most litigatious-conscious of B5's characters as she's the one who has threatened to sue!) Thranduil resisted Sauron's forces to the end of his strength and as a result, the underground halls of his realm were the only sanctuary against the Dark in all of Mirkwood. Orcs, spiders, queer eyes, strange insects were perils throughout the Forest everywhere save in those parts where Thranduil's elves held sway. Thranduil is the Elvenking of The Hobbit. He had a great love of jewels and riches which, as suggested by Robert Foster in The Complete Guide to Middle Earth may have been the cause of his excesses, particularly with the dwarves.
Notably, he is male where Lyta is female. This is one of a mere 19 gender changes I have noted (so far) between the characters of Tolkien's Middle Earth and their points of comparison in Babylon 5. At first, I thought the changes were random, but then I noticed a pattern to them. And as several people have instantly recognised and told me - there's a great thesis in the selective nature of those changes. I agree. Hence, I'm saying very little for the moment - either on this subject, any translation of `Lyta', what `ly' and `li' mean, or why the Hyach race seems to be female in contrast to the male of the (extinct) Hyach-do.
Lyta's role in Babylon 5 has more than once been that of a key. (In which sense, she may be like Talia, since Straczynski once described her as `a key', taking great care to differentiate this from `the key'.) She sends a telepathic code to Talia, unlocking the door to release the malign personality `Control'. She sends a telepathic signal to Z'Ha'Dum, unlocking the countdown for an automatic destruct sequence. Moreover, it may well have been she who was responsible for the unlocking of the door at Z'Ha'Dum which the Vorlons claimed Sheridan opened. Sending a telepathic message searching for Sheridan may well have amounted to knocking on Lorien's door. In this respect, Lyta may just be the Pandora of Babylon 5.
Or maybe not.
Maybe she simply possesses the B5 equivalent of ithildin - the wondrous door-unlocking substance that was made by the elves from truesilver - mithril - and which was only visible by moonlight or starlight once certain words of lore had been spoken.
Kelsey ~ Celebrian.
Kelsey and Celebrian both mean silver woman. Kelsey is Bester's first assistant who is inadvertedly obliterated by Jason Ironheart. Celebrian was ambushed by orcs on her way to Lorien and as a result of the poisoned wound she received which did not heal, she went over Sea to the Undying Lands.
***Byron ~ Celebrimbor
I know practically nothing about Byron except the name, and that he's a telepath, so the following may or may not give clues denoting fifth season spoilers.
Byron, like Celebrimbor, would appear to mean hand of silver. Celebrimbor was a telepath, indeed one of the most powerful mindreaders amongst the elves. Clearly he had superb control and didn't often use his ability - or he would have divined Sauron's intentions far sooner than he did. After looking for some time for a place of his own, both for himself and for those of like mind, he gathered together the finest talent of the age - jewelsmiths and metal-workers, the Gwaith-i-Mirdain - and set up shop in the land of Hollin. This was next door, so to speak, to the dwarf kingdom of Khazadum and it was with these dwarves that Celebrimbor established the most cordial relations. Indeed, both dwarves and Celebrimbor's elven smiths found much in common and realising that cooperation was to their mutual advantage, greatly profited by the situation. Everywhere else, distrust and discord existed between elves and dwarves. The fame of the smiths was justly enormous and they constructed works of great beauty and wondrous function: Celebrimbor was (according to one version of the making of the elessar) responsible for creating a green stone brooch which embodied Light, and his name appeared on the extraordinary gate into Moria which only opened by uttering the word `friend'. Using the rare and precious `truesilver', mithril, mined by the dwarves, the Gwaith-i-Mirdain made helms and mail, as well as ithildin (which was used on gateways), a substance visible only by starlight or moonlight providing certain words of lore were spoken. As already previously indicated, I consider a mithril helm to be counterparted in B5 by a telepathic block.
Celebrimbor was a genius, skilled in the same technical arts as his brilliant forbear, Fëanor - the da Vinci, Einstein and Alexander of the elves. However, he completely lacked Fëanor's ruthless and malign arrogance. He was more the gullible scientist, who by allowing his talents to be exploited by Sauron, was indirectly responsible for the outbreak of war. Not that it wasn't inevitable, anyway. His naïveté in cooperating and dealing with Sauron led to a number of outcomes, both good and bad. First, after several essays in making rings of lesser power, he created his pièce de résistance: the three Elven Rings which had the power to heal, restore and harmonise. His smith-colleagues also made the Nine Rings for mortal men and the seven Dwarf Rings. When the One Ring was created by Sauron to enslave and rule all the other Rings and through them, their wearers, Celebrimbor was instantly aware of what was happening far away in the land of Mordor. Regretting his own folly in helping The Lord of The Rings, he dispersed the Elven Rings to those he trusted (Cirdan, Gil-galad and Galadriel) instructing them never to use them while the One Ring was with Sauron. As a consequence, he ensured his own death when the Dark Lord went to war against him - the land of Hollin was overrun and the smiths who survived fled to elven refuges like Lorien.
Now the difficulty with a parallel between Byron and Celebrimbor is - I really cannot envisage any way that B5's point-of-comparison to Sauron could exploit or kill Byron. There are just some things that at this point in the technology of television are simply not possible... nor are likely to be for some years to come.
I suppose Byron could be killed by a "representative of Sauron". Here there are two possibilities, though neither is particularly satisfactory. The first is the Starfire Wheel. The `wheel of fire' is Frodo's description of The Eye, the only form in which Sauron was able to manifest himself during the Third Age of Middle Earth. (This accords with what we have noted previously - that Neroon is a point of comparison to Huan, the great hound who was - yes, you've guessed it! - eventually killed by Sauron.) The other possibility for a "representative of Sauron" is a character of the same ilk as the interrogator in Intersections In Real Time. Though even this possibility is not really cutting it, since the unnamed interrogator is almost certainly a counterpart to the unnamed Questioner of the dark Tower - the Barad-dûr (this correspondence screams itself to the alert viewer very early in the episode with a piece of camera-work and lighting that must have taken ages to set up so precisely) - and thus a necessary character in his own right (in the completist sense that every character of Middle Earth will pop up as a `point of comparison' sooner or later). Intersections in Real Time is absolutely beautifully and diabolically done - it looks like The Prisoner, it `feels' like The Prisoner, it has the same sort of bizarre discordant images as The Prisoner - and if it weren't for a couple of very carefully-constructed images, that's all it would be - a tribute to Patrick McGoohan's pioneering series. As it is, The Prisoner is a mask - - and Prisoner fans should know exactly what's behind the mask!
Psi Corps ~ The Soldiers of Gondor (The Rangers of Ithilien); the Keepers of the Silver Ring (Nenya)
[Psi] Y is not just a nifty trident shape on a metal badge. It is a letter of the Greek alphabet, pronounced `psi' with the initial p silent. In quantum mechancis, [Psi] Y is the symbol used for the variable `eigenvalues' in the solution of Schrödinger's Wave Equation, well-known for its apparently paradoxical explanations about cats sealed in boxes with shotguns. Though quite logical, it is superficially absurd and well deserves to be regarded as the split-personality function of physics.
However, in a less esoteric field than quantum mechanics, `psi' is used as the basis of such words as `psychology' and `psyche'. A closer look at the latter in the original Greek reveals connotations of both soul and butterfly. These two words in a B5 context are apt to call to mind `chrysalis' and having done so, to pull into the web of associations the concepts of metamor-phosis, new birth, changes, beginnings... And where have we heard these words before? Yes, in reference to the Minbari word, isil'zha. The isil'zha is, if you recall, the green stone emblem of B5's rangers. According to Marcus Cole, who told us that Minbari is a subtle language for subtle people, it has nuances of future, births, beginnings, dawn of a new age. Now I am well aware that Straczynski has recently advised us that `zha' means future as in Entil'zha hope of the future, Z'Ha'Dum, death of the future, but subtle languages have multiple associations and I'm sticking with my translation of `zha' as dawn (or if you want to be strictly literal formulation, sunrise). Indeed, a most literal translation of isil'zha seems to be the rising of the sun and moon, which in terms of the history of Middle Earth is a clear and unequivocal reference to the dawn of a new age (the Second Age, in fact). It can also mean silver and gold. However, bearing in mind the subtleties of the language I wouldn't go much past the translation, dawn of the age of telepathy.
Now isil'zha doesn't have at this point any connection with telepathy: it is, however, an emblem of the Rangers - but more than just an emblem. As [Psi] Y is an emblem of Psi Corps - but more than just an emblem. "The sign hurts us," says Bester's lover in Ship of Tears as she projects a searing blast at his ensignia. "We cannot hear the machine..."
If we ignore the two silent Ps in Psi Corps, and if we were silly enough to pretend it could be translated B5-wise from Elvish, it would mean ring of silver. In The Lord of The Rings, the ring of silver is Nenya, also known as the Ring of Water. It was made by Celebrimbor out of mithril and it was worn by Galadriel and with it, she imbued Lothlorien with enchantments of safety, beauty, `timelessness' and wonder. With its light, she was able to penetrate the darkness and perceive the designs and stratagems of Sauron at Dol Guldur, while at the same time it enabled the thoughts of her mind to remain an impassable barrier to him. "The sign hurts us. We cannot hear the machine." The sign is an impassable barrier?
Is Psi Corps the equivalent of the Nenya - that which enabled its user to read the thoughts of the darkness? This one-way street was only possible while Lothlorien was safe and the Ring of Water did not fall into the hands of the powers of Darkness, as Galadriel was well aware. Curiously, [Psi] Y is a trident-shape, symbolic of water in its own right due to its long association with Neptune, the Greek god of the sea. It also has three prongs, and I have to tell you, I'm really hanging out for all the Minbari words for `three' or `third', because I have a strong suspicion about how `Nenya' would be translated from the Minbari.
Speaking of alternative translations, let's look back at Psi Corps - it could also mean silver swords or silver swordsmen, and given the relationship between silver and the moon, I think it quite possible that a translation of Psi Corps as knights of the moon is not out of the question. Particularly since the colours of their uniforms are brown with black contrast or khaki with black contrast. The same colours as the livery of the soldiers of Gondor, the brown and green (with matching gloves) being worn by the Rangers of Ithilien - the Rangers of the land of the moon - and the black being worn by the three companies of Guard of the Citadel. (Brown and green were also the colours of those of the Sylvan Elves known as the Laiquendi.)
Now, looking first at the Rangers of Ithilien - their leader was Faramir, a charismatic leader greatly beloved by his men. He inspired devotion not just amongst his own troops, but also amongst the guards of Minas Tirith, the fortress-city where his father, Denethor, was the ruling Steward. The Rangers of Ithilien were responsible for patrolling an area of Gondor known as Ithilien - the land of the moon. It was a beautiful, largely deserted region bordering the dark land of Mordor, which was ruled by Sauron. The Rangers were, by and large, grim, hard and suspicious men, whose attitude was generally apt to be `shoot first and ask questions later'. Which made a lot of sense in their situation, since it was natural for them to assume that any stranger travelling so close to Mordor was on Mordor's business and thus a spy or servant of Sauron. As a result, Frodo, Sam and - particularly - Gollum were extremely fortunate not to lose their lives to Faramir's patrols.
Faramir was a man of poetry and peace, rather than a man of war. He was a fine and noble warrior, but given the chance, he eschewed power, having none of the aggressive instincts of his older brother, Boromir. His great weakness was, like Gandalf's, also his great strength: and this was pity.
His base camp was situated in Henneth Annun, the window of sunset. Regarded as one of the great natural wonders of Middle Earth, Henneth Annun had a stunning view of the setting sun. It was actually a refuge located in a cave behind a foaming waterfall in North Ithilien. Strangely enough, although `Zagros' is probably a Drazi word, it contains elements which, derived from Elvish, mean sun cave foam - words which describe Henneth Annun's characteristics with remarkable precision. Zagros is first mentioned in B5 when Marcus Cole escapes from it seeking help for the Rangers still trapped down there at the training base. Wounded, he makes his way to Babylon 5, secures help and then goes back to help the Rangers escape. Sheridan's remark, "Marcus, there's your window," is so clichéd that it would be ridiculous to suppose that it was a private joke linking Zagros 7 to the window of sunset, don't you think? Of course you may prefer to think that Zagros is merely a reference to Zagreus, Nietszche's epithet for the Greek god Dionysius. If so, please skip the next couple of paragraphs.
Faramir , on the other hand, leads the Rangers of Ithilien out of Henneth Annun to battle the Shadow forces at Osgiliath. He fights his way through, goes back to help those still in danger, and suffers near mortal wounds. Recovering, he falls in love with the morbidly-depressed heroine, Eowyn - the shield-maiden of Rohan who was responsible (with the hobbit, Merry) for fulfilling the prophecy that the Lord of the Nazgul would not be slain by the hand of man. Eowyn, whom Aragorn thinks of as a lily (did I ever mention what Susan means?) doesn't initially return his love, but his persistence pays off and they eventually marry. Well, it was paralleling nicely until those last nine words, wasn't it? Ahh, but then I hadn't got round to mentioning Marcus' other encryption - Amroth. Impetuous, romantic, suicidal Amroth. .But let's leave a discussion of Amroth and his love, Nimrodel, for another time.
Now Marcus is a leader of the Rangers, though clearly to have him in the right parallel spot, he should be with Psi Corps rather than where he is. The Rangers of Ithilien were men of great bravery and vigilance - protecting their land and people, in as far as they could, from further incursions of the Shadow. Like the Rangers of the North, their activities were largely secret, the vast majority of the population having no idea of the dangers lurking on their borders and what is being kept at bay by their singular efforts. As Bester intimates in Dust to Dust, the people of Earth haven't got the slightest clue what defence Psi Corps has mounted from time to time on their behalf against a variety of alien threats.
Psi Cops ~ The Soldiers of Gondor (The Guard of the Citadel)
The Rangers of Ithilien were an elite amongst the soldiers of Gondor. Yet, there was another - perhaps higher - elite: the Guards of the Citadel of Minas Tirith, who wore black tunics and close-fitting helms of mithril. I have already indicated that I consider mithril to be counterparted in B5 by a higher level of psi power - e.g. telekinesis or level 12+ blocks.
There were three companies of Guards - and Beregond belonged to the Third Company. As mentioned above, one of Bester's three points of comparison is Beregond, who was eventually exiled from Minas Tirith for the murders he committed during the War of The Ring. Later however, Faramir, in gratitude for the intervention which had saved his life, appointed him to lead the White Company in the fiefdom of Ithilien. (Which leaves Bester's fate quite open - will he survive like Beregond and Legolas or will he be accidentally killed like Beleg?)
The mithril helms worn by the Guards were originally sea-helms - indeed, the Silver Crown of the Kings of Gondor was originally simply this - a plain Numenorean sea-helm. However, the king's crown eventually became more elaborate - to the silver helm were added outstretched wings like those of a sea-bird.
On top of the building housing the Psi Corps, there is what appears to be a silver eagle with outstretched wings. Being of a suspicious mind, I wonder whether it's supposed to represent a sea eagle.