While OWL TOTEM is certainly packed full of information that’ll help you understand the world in which it is set, there may be some aspects of said world that are not made clear in the text, or may seem confusing or contradictory. Some of this is due to the third-person limited narrative structure—with emphasis on limited; I wrote in such a manner as to put myself in the characters’ shoes, complete with their biases, knowledge gaps, states of mind, etc., such that the narrators are sometimes unreliable. Other times, there was simply no way to convey the information without disrupting the flow of the story too greatly, especially in cases where it was not absolutely necessary (such as the size of various landmasses or measured distance between two points—you should probably be able to deduce from the text, for instance, that Dearviél isn’t very big).
Well, if you’re left with some burning questions, fear not! I’ve got you covered. In this article, I’ll attempt to clear up some of the pieces missing from the text. If you’ve got any further questions, don’t hesitate to shoot me a message (using the contact form on my main website) and I’ll add it.
Note that this article will contain some minor spoilers for OWL TOTEM.
Q: The characters seem to travel from place to place fairly quickly. Just how big is Dearviél?
A: The island of Dearviél is roughly the size of Ireland, upon which it’s quite obviously based, or the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Travel is made expedient, particularly in the western part of the island (the regions of Cernadur/Denawyld and Heithlean) which are mostly flat, by a reasonably well-planned and maintained network of roads.
It’s helpful to remember here that members of the Vacid sacred guilds, such as the Mana sisters, are accustomed to long travel on light provision, and would be able to traverse the island significantly faster than ordinary sedentary Vacids. Nonetheless, the distance between Linnot Annavian and Dúingreath, for instance, is only about fifty miles, and even less travelled Vacids could probably make it in good time.
Q: Caileigh mentions that it never snows in Dearviél. Is that true?
A: No, but snowfall south of the Dúlmeannath is rare, except in the higher elevations and in the sliver of land between the west coast and the southern range of the Dúlmeannath, due to a combination of the mountains, which affect weather patterns and keep the snow confined mostly to the region of Gamhranda, and warm sea currents that flow around the island. Vacids are prone to hyperbole, so saying “it never snows” is more akin to saying “I’d put money on it not snowing this month.” That having been said, winters in Dearviél are infamously dreary, and ice and hail are common.
Q: How far is Dearviél from Stenvandë? Leara, Andrin, and company seem to get there awfully quickly.
A: Again, roughly speaking, the journey from Leivenheim to the southern settlements of the Winterisle is slightly longer than that from Belfast, Northern Ireland to the Faroe Islands. It’s not a great distance at all, especially when sailing to Stenvandë from Dearviél, as the prevailing winds blow almost directly between the two islands, so the journey can indeed be made in three days with favorable winds. Getting back to Dearviél is a different matter entirely, as the winds shift slightly westward just south of the Winterisle, and mariners are often forced to sail hundreds of miles west before catching a southerly wind again, and the trip back is often thrice as long.
Q: Is Fallenorn truly the “uttermost north”? It doesn’t seem very far from the settlements of Stenvandë.
A: If, by the “uttermost north” we mean Balad’s equivalent of the North Pole, then the answer is no, and both the Northmen and Leara almost certainly know this. To reach the northernmost point of Balad, they’d probably need to travel several more months—and would certainly freeze to death!
The mountain called Fallenorn is, however, the uttermost northern point of land in Balad; the rest is all frozen sea, at least as far as anyone in Balad can tell. The northern seas have never been explored, as the peoples of Balad lack the means to endure the harsh conditions, and, quite frankly, it’s unlikely that anyone would be compelled to brave the frozen wastes just to see what’s up there!
Q: Both the Vacids and the Winterborn tell tales of a Great World-Serpent. Are the Vacids’ Naiherah and the Northmen’s Jildur Grömunir the same thing? Did one culture adopt the other’s mythology? Who came up with it first?
A: This is a very difficult question to answer, as the world-serpent is a motif found in various legendaria throughout Balad. (Another such belief that is prevalent throughout the known world is the concept of celestial strings binding the material world and all life within it to the heavenly realms—what Northmen call the Web of Fate and Vacids call lastaí bielthé is found also, in varying forms, in the beliefs of the peoples of the Achyanak, the Khadagan, and even the Vorowongo nations.)
The biggest difference between the two depictions of the serpent is that Jildur is given a male gender while Naiherah is described as female. There are many other tales of a great serpent encircling the earth; mainland Kintaroi such as the Belochyar refer to it as Meset, the Accursed; the Vraçii tribe names the serpent Iašte ua Nemha-Targhal, “Queen of the Poisoned Tongue,” and account her the mother of all dragons, though they refuse to speak that name aloud, referring to her only as the segemet (adversary), as she is sometimes considered the antithesis of Rasu, the tribe’s singular god.
Jildur and Naiherah are similar in that both are agents of destruction and godly vengeance; however, in other tales, such as those told in the west and in some southern Kintaran nations (namely the Duchai and Vihichai), the serpent is equally associated with the act of creation, resembling more the Mesopotamian Tiamat than the Norse Jormungandr or the Biblical Leviathan.
Q: Speaking of Jildur, Andrin’s description of him differs from the one given by Ëlfë; in the first, he breathes poisoned fumes, while in the other, he’s a more typical fire-breathing dragon. Is this a thing, or did the author just mess up?
A: Believe it or not, the author did not mess up, and deliberately gave two differing Winterborn versions of the Great World-Serpent! (Though I did consider adding a sentence denoting that there are indeed variations in the story among the Winterborn, even within the same clan.) As the Winterisle has probably the lowest population density in Balad, it’s not inconceivable that the people of the different settlements might tell the tale differently.
So, why is Jildur a poison-tongued wyrm in one tale, and a fiery wyvern in another? In a word: dragons. It’s generally believed among learned folk that the world-serpent tales were inspired by sapienkind’s encounters with dragons in ancient times. Two distinct species were known to exist: the Fire-Drakes and the Poison-Tongues. The former were huge and indeed breathed fire; the latter were much smaller, eerily beautiful with their iridescent scales, and secreted invisible clouds of poison, which made them all the more terrifying. As the mainland Northmen dwell close to the Súrnfellath (their name for the Achyanak), where the dragons first awoke, they would have encountered both species, and would have told tales of both. In fact, some Winterborn bards tell of Jildur breathing fire and poison!
Q: So, dragons are really extinct in Balad?
Q: What do the Fae look like?
A: They are beings of Light and Song; their “physical” forms are an illusion, and can take whatever form they wish. When traversing the material world, they will often take forms that are comprehensible to sapienkind—after all, sapienkind was made to resemble the forms that the Fae themselves preferred in the World-Beyond. However, they may also take on forms utterly alien to the eyes of humans, or be invisible altogether.
It should be noted that terms like “Elf” and “Dwarf” are used solely to differentiate the Fae based on the habitats they choose; Elves are ethereal Fae, Dwarves are chthonic, Gnomes arboreal, and Sprites aquatic. As such, these Fae may appear quite different to the depictions of similarly named beings in the mythologies of our own world—for instance, Dwarves in Balad seldom appear short in stature.
Q: Speaking of Elves, if they are indeed beings of Light and Song, why do they need wings to fly?
A: They don’t. Their wings are simply part of the forms that they take, in order to appear harmonious with their environment and acknowledge the physical laws of the material world. (And because wings look cool.)
Q: Just what are “Light” and “Song” anyway?
A: The Light Everlasting and the Song Immutable are forces both primordial and profound; the source of all Knowledge, from which emanated the demiurge gods who in turn formed the material world. They are concepts not meant to be fully understood by the human mind, but, put as simply as possible, they are the foundational elements of consciousness, which were then corrupted into a thing of ignorance in the form of the material world. The Light is the static aspect, governing such powers as memory, knowledge, and most of all, wisdom; the Song is the kinetic part, responsible for, among others, conscious thought, most emotions, and most vitally of all, free will. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification; the mortal mind is simply unequipped to comprehend Light and Song, and it is such that no language of the living tongue can adequately convey its mysteries.
Q: If the Vacids believe that the material world is inherently corrupt, then why does Leara pray to the spirits of nature?
A: The Vacids’ relationship with the material world is complicated. While they indeed view matter in a negative light, due to its finite nature and its inherent frailty, they understand and accept that they are reliant upon it as long as their mortal forms endure. They believe that, just as the Light Everlasting and the Song Immutable are in every person, the primordial spirits reside also in the material world, trapped in a prison of matter just as the spirits of sapienkind, but able to manipulate that matter to beneficial ends. So, when Leara prays to ciascheal, for instance, she isn’t praying to the water itself but invoking the otherworldly forces that govern its flow. That’s it in a nutshell.
Q: Why does Leara suggest that the Winterborn word eutúllië refers only to Elves, when the guide on this site says that it refers to all Fae?
A: In this instance, Leara is using her own vernacular, particularly since Andrin relays the myth that the Spallvardi clan live in trees, and in the material plane, Elves are simply Fae who have the capability of flight, and these are said to make their abodes in treetops. Eutúllië, meaning “Hundred Lives,” refers specifically to any Fae (which are considered lesser gods in the Northmen’s beliefs) present in the material world; in their natural habitat in the Otherworld, they are called olemë. (Also, the Winterborn word eutúllië is usually [and somewhat inaccurately] translated into Belochyar as stara-domajan, meaning “old sky-dwellers” and referring specifically to Elves/Winged Gnomes.)
Fun fact: in the elder Winterborn tongue, Fae/gods within the material world were called joldhinna, which is also the word for “firefly.” Thus, we can deduce that the ancient Northmen believed that fireflies were gods.
Q: The scene at Brantivien and Stormraven's tale of King Atli suggest that Balad was a much more technologically advanced place in the time of Daran Ravenhelm. Is that true?
A: Little is known of the history of Darandiné, hence the widespread belief among learned folk that Darandiné never really existed, so speculation on what the realm may have looked like is as rich as the human imagination allows. Fortunately for you and me, we are omniscient, and know that such an empire did, in fact, exist, and was indeed technologically superior to even the most advanced civilization as of T.D. 824 when OWL TOTEM is set. (Note: the Tareas Darandiné timekeeping system is of dubious accuracy; due to the precipitous decline in scientific knowledge after the empire’s fall, no one knew for certain when Darandiné ceased to exist, and scholars determined much later, and quite arbitrarily, that one hundred years had passed. Most “Darandiné as historical fact” proponents agree that this estimate was far off, possibly by several centuries.)
Now, were the Darandingaí as technologically advanced as we are today, even more so? Perhaps; some things are better left to mystery. Indeed, the depiction of the “dragon” at Brantivien seems to resemble a modern aircraft. The Belochyar refer to the gods as “cosmic mariners,” so perhaps their distant ancestors did indeed bear witness to some kind of extraterrestrial technology. What we can be certain of, however, as confirmed in OWL TOTEM, is that, at the very least, the Darandingaí had learned to create a primitive form of electricity.
Q: How closely related are the Vacids and Therecoi? Why do the latter speak a different language?
A: If one were to conduct a genetic analysis of Vacids and Therecoi, they would be virtually identical, as they tend to be in appearance. Some folklorists attribute the difference in language to the Lay of Fearhan and Fionna; the Therecoi are thought to be descendants of Mokan’s tribe who stayed in Dearviél when the antecedents of the Belochyar fled to mainland Cildana. (An alternative theory is that, while lowlanders had their language taught to them by Gnomes and Elves, the Therecoi learned theirs from the Dwarves.) Other scholars think that, as the Therecoi lived relatively sequestered from lowland Vacids for many years and their language simply evolved until it was unrecognizable from the lowlanders’. The Therecoi language is said to resemble the mainland Kintaran tongues, though it isn’t mutually intelligible with any of them; while this may have to do with the incorporation of a number of loanwords adopted when Belochyar settlers arrived in Dearviél, the Therecoi speech is said to resemble more the western Kintaran tongues (those of the Duchai and Vihichai).
As an aside, it should be noted that Sivísyún, the name of Fearhan’s sword, is actually of the Belochyar language (though in a Therecoi dialect, as denoted by the accent marks over the vowels, which are seldom found in transliterations of mainstream Belochyar words), likely because the Therecoi smith who forged it had never learned the language of his ancestors and spoke Belochyar by default. It is, however, consistent with Therecoi naming conventions for weapons, as explained in the text by Lyecca Siska.
Q: Is it true that speaking the Vacid language is outlawed in Belocharas?
A: This is an exaggeration, though one that most Vacids have come to believe is true. (And, indeed, some Belocharan kings have attempted to outlaw the speaking of languages other than Belochyar, both in Dearviél and other parts of the kingdom, though such edicts were seldom enforced.) The belief that speaking the native tongue of the Feacthengead is “illegal” is due to Belochyar being the kingdom’s official tongue, used in all matters of politics, law, commerce, and diplomacy. As such, the ancestral language is used only in domestic situations, and even then, most Vacids are simply so accustomed to speaking Belochyar that they use it even at home.
The Vacids’ understanding of the ancestral tongue can be likened somewhat to the way that many Muslims in non-Arabic-speaking countries can recite the Qur’an in Arabic, even though they don’t speak or understand the language and may not be able to read the Arabic script. While some Vacids, particularly nobles and guild members, are indeed fluent in the mother tongue, most peasants will know only a few key words and phrases. Which leads us to...
Q: In Chapter 15, Leara notes that she can't read the Vacid letters, but seems to speak the language well. What's going on here?
A: In truth, most Vacids, even those fluent in the native language, cannot read the ancestral script. After the Winterborn invasions of the second and third centuries Tareas Darandine, most adopted the Northmen’s runes as their alphabet, as said alphabet has nearly the same number of characters as the ancient Vacid one. (Recall how Ëlfë tells Leara that Winterborn runes can transcribe Vacid words very accurately, much more so than the Belochyar alphabet, which has only thirty-five letters versus the forty-six of the Winterborn and forty-eight of the Vacid.) So, as things stand in T.D. 824, many literate Vacids write and read their native language in Winterborn runes.
Basically, while the ancestral language of the Feacthengead is not a dead language, its original alphabet, for all intents and purposes, is. Leara is fluent in her ancestors’ language, but she’s used to reading it in other scripts, and, while it’d be an exaggeration to say that she can’t read it, she’d probably spend most of her time trying to remember which letter is which.
Q: In chapter 29, Leara tells Torken that “Vacid” is a Belochyar approximation of “Feacthengead,” the tribe’s name in its own language. Unless I’m mispronouncing something, these words sound nothing alike! Is she right, or is this an instance of Leara being an unreliable narrator?
A: The latter. “Vacid” is a colloquial form of Vachedoi, meaning “Owl Clan,” which is what the Belochyar call the Feacthengead and is how they are recorded in the kingdom’s official documentation. It should be noted that the Vacid word for “owl”—feacha—is quite similar to the Belochyar word for “owl”—vache. They sound much more similar than an English speaker might assume. In fact, as with those of Irish Gaelic, the pronunciations of Vacid words will surely cause much frustration for English speakers (as they do with Belochyar speakers and the Winterborn).
Q: The Vacids and Belochyar really don’t like each other very much, do they?
A: The relationship between the two peoples separated by a narrow strait is complicated, and tends to change based upon circumstance, but throughout their history, they’ve been on amicable terms far more often than they’ve been at each other’s throats. OWL TOTEM just happens to be set in a period in which the Vacids are in dire straits, and they blame the king of Belocharas—and, by extension, the tribe that said king comes from—for their situation.
In better times, however, the Feacthengead and Belochyar have historically seen each other as natural allies. The Belochyar claim descent from the same forebears as the Vacids, and even though Sacathar and his supporters were exiled from Dearviél, they generally do not harbor any resentment for the Vacids at large—and, if any Belochyar should ever conjure up such feelings, it’s usually done with a political motive. Vacids were instrumental in earning the realm that would become the Kingdom of Belocharas its freedom; even before the high king Hamath Eirendranga led a massive force to the Forks of the Celedoz to aid Amandric’s rebellion, huge numbers of Vacids sailed to the mainland on their own volition, usually under their cathbrand’s aegis, largely due to their affection for the Belochyar.
That having been said, there’s a “love at arm’s reach” quality to their relationship. Their cultural differences, particularly in religious practice, have often led to discontent and even conflict between Vacids and Belochyar, particularly when large numbers of the latter returned to Dearviél during the Ganhar invasions. That didn’t stop Vacids and Belochyar from intermingling, even intermarrying; in addition to the significant number of Belochyar still living in Dearviél, mostly as craftsmen in the independent towns or client farmers on nobles’ estates, many Vacids, even nobles (particularly those from minor houses), have some Belochyar ancestry—very likely including our heroines! Yeah, Leara, ya might want to dispense with the xenophobia…
Q: Is the Golden Owl completely useless? Why would any Vacid want to be elected when he seems to just sit around and do nothing?
A: Under Belocharan rule, the High King of the Feacthengead, known as the Golden Owl, is pretty much just a figurehead, though his role has evolved (or devolved, depending on your perspective) over the course of Dearviél’s time as part of the Kingdom of Belocharas. Some kings have employed the Golden Owl much the way the current administration in Haragrund uses the two earls in Dearviél (particularly Vranaric Drakharion, Battle-Lord of the Westlands).
Prior to the island being annexed into the kingdom under Sacatyer II, however, the Golden Owl truly was a powerful force—though not an absolute monarch; his power was only absolute in times of war against an outside aggressor, leaving the cathbrainead to largely manage their own affairs, only intervening when disputes between landlords spiraled into armed conflict (historically, most wars in Dearviél have been internal). Thus, while a cathbrand would likely not seek the Oakenthrone as his/her power would be somewhat diminished (Uileamh Caragrinda, the first Golden Owl, being a notable exception), the title was not always as empty as it is in T.D. 824.
Even under the current system, being elected Golden Owl carries a great degree of prestige, and many Vacids long for a future in which the Golden Owl is indeed their true king, hence the continued interest in campaigning for the title.
Q: What’s the difference between a fortified Vacid family and a “minor” house?
A: Well, first, we should note that calling the fourteen most prominent Vacid families “fortified” is a bit of a misnomer; they certainly are, but all Vacid households beyond those of subsistence farmers are fortified in some fashion. The “fortified” families’ cathbrainead reside in large, heavily defended fortresses, whereas a minor lord (as well as lesser landowners on a fortified estate, such as the cathbrand’s next of kin) likely dwells on a modest plot within his/her landhold surrounded by a ringfort made of stone, wood, or even earth. (Most cathbrainead’s ringfort walls are of sturdy stonework.)
The fortified lords, who are the descendants of the fourteen clan chieftains gathered at the first tir-carima (which is the name given to any gathering of Vacid nobility, not just elections of the high king) are effectively liege lords to the minor houses. Minor lords who are vassals to fortified estates serve as that cathbrand’s bannermen in times of war (i.e., Cathanda Mana would answer Cathanda Meada’s call to arms). Fortified lords’ responsibilities to minor houses include sending military aid if those houses are attacked from outside (or arbitrating a cessation of hostilities if the conflict is between two houses under the fortified lord’s aegis, instead of letting the matter escalate to the extent that the Golden Owl must intervene) and supplying financial and material aid in thinner times, though minor lords are often loath to petition their lieges for aid, knowing that something will certainly be demanded of them in response. Under Belocharan rule, the fortified houses are tasked with collecting taxes and harvest quotas from the minor estates for the crown, in addition to paying their own share.
Q: How does one become a cathbrand? Are the cathbrainead the only landowners in Dearviél?
A: Vacid inheritance law is complex and often confusing, and I do have around six thousand words of notes regarding the legal and political system of the Feacthengead that’s quite dull (but was essential for me to write for the sake of the integrity of the story), and maybe in the future I’ll publish it as an article here, but, simply put, the cathbrand is the master of estate for each family, a title that is passed down through direct succession to the cathbrand’s oldest child, regardless of gender, with exceptions for various situations. The cathbrand is accountable for all that happens on his/her landhold, but others in the cathbrand’s family have plots of land of their own which they manage with relative sovereignty under the master of estate’s aegis. These landlords are given the title branda, roughly translated “master.”
Technically, subsistence farmers, the poorest of all Vacids (but, in times of plenty, certainly not destitute), are the masters of their own lands; these small plots, however, are considered the property of the cathbrand of the estate upon which they sit, and are offered to subsistence farmers more as an act of charity upon the landlord’s part (though, since the farmer pays a small annual tribute in harvest to the landlord, it’s more of a lease than a gift).
Q: Do members of the Vacid sacred guilds take vows of poverty, chastity, etc.?
A: Vacid guild members swear no vows of austerity; however, in some itinerant guilds, such as the Horned Owls and Snowy Owls, marriage is either strongly discouraged or outright forbidden, mainly on grounds that the guild member is constantly traveling, and having a family is seen as an impediment to the guild member doing his/her work.
The bylaws of the guilds are based on pragmatism rather than prudism; for instance, while Snowy Owls are discouraged from taking husbands, many have mothered children. The guild provides resources for looking after said children in the mother’s absence.
Q: One of the Belocharan king’s titles is “Lord Regent of the Nine Nations.” Why is this?
A: While the king of Belocharas is an absolute monarch, the kingdom itself is a confederation of the nine legally recognized constituent tribes/nations: the Aratanni, the Belochyar, the Duchai, the Kirlanni, the Ornaznya, the Urichoi (Öreacha), the Vachedoi (Feacthengead/Vacids), the Varsakh (Varsakians), and the Vihichai. Each nation has (ostensibly) equal legal standing within the kingdom.
Q: If Belocharas is a union of nine tribes, albeit under a singular king, then why is it named only after the Belochyar?
A: While “Belochyar” and “Belocharas” come from the same root word—beloch, the Northern Kintaran word for the metaphysical phenomenon of Light—and the Belochyar language is the kingdom’s official speech, the official answer is that Belocharas is not named for the Belochyar tribe, but simply means “Luminous Realm” or “Luminous Kingdom.” That having been said, many kings throughout Belocharan history have displayed a clear favoritism for their fellow Belochyar, leading to the confusion, not to mention much resentment, from other tribes.
Q: In the book, we learn a bit about what’s west of Dearviél, but very little about what’s to the east, aside from the rest of Belocharas, of course. What’s over there, anyway?
A: The mountain range known as Achyanak by the indigenous clans (the Ayunyeri’un, anyway; these mountains are heavily inspired by the Caucasus, and similarly have dozens of ethno-linguistic groups living there all calling them their own thing), Har-Kizir by the Belochyar, and Súrnfellath by the Winterborn marks the northern border of the Kingdom of Belocharas; beyond the mountains are vast forests and open tundra beyond, home to the Istrilads and some other Winterborn clans. The range known as Har-Caras, which intersects with the Har-Kizir at the source of the river Celedoz, separates the lush forests and plentiful fields of Belocharas from the Khadagan, a vast, mostly flat expanse of grassland. Some smaller hills, for which none west of the Har-Caras yet have a name, form a barrier between the steppe and the desert region to the south, which is geographically still part of the Khadagan and was historically home to ethnically Khadagani nomads, but is now the merchant state of Khodryzh. Despite its inhospitable landscape, the main trade route across Cildana runs through Khodryzh—a sort of “Silk Road” of Balad, with the Khodryzhe capital of Amlakhan being this world’s equivalent of Samarkand.
Beyond Khodryzh, however, the map of Cildana is less clear, even though Belocharan merchants are among those to be found in Amlakhan. (Their business seldom takes them farther east; they typically exchange their goods for pay or trade, using Amlakhan as a halfway hub.) It is said that the mercantile states on Cildana’s eastern coast are extremely wealthy due to trade both with other Cildanian nations and with Darakhast and the Vorowongo kingdoms of Sordana, but these regions have yet to be explored in depth by the Kintaran, so knowledge of them is limited and tainted by sensationalism. (For instance, travelers speak of a “Corpse Coast” north of the merchant cities: a craggy, sea-beaten wilderness littered with the carcasses of ships and their crews who’d sailed astray.)
The southeast of Cildana is also home to the fabled Ha’oha Kingdom (or Hósóta Ha’oha), an archipelago of several hundred islands; while most of said islands are small and uninhabited, the larger ones are said to be extremely hot and home to a highly militarized seafaring civilization. Attempts to reach the Ha’oha for purposes of commerce have often been hindered by treacherous tides around the southern end of the continent, though rumors abound that it was not the sea that defeated Kintaran explorers but the inhabitants of the islands.
Q: How do you say “My hovercraft is full of eels” in Vacid?
A: Well, considering that a hovercraft would be a rather anachronistic concept in Balad at this point in its history, you probably wouldn’t say it at all. But, as languages go, I’ll admit I’m no linguist. I’ve dabbled in Irish Gaelic and Russian a bit (meaning a very small bit), but I’m purely monolingual—about which my guide in Georgia (the country) spared no opportunity to tease me—and the “languages” consist of a dictionary of single-word translations and some basic linguistic rules that I could use to build names and short key phrases. If anyone would like to attempt to create actual, functional languages out of them, be my guest!
Q: Why do some Winterborn use the old names for the gods when they speak one of the more “contemporary” languages (that spoken by the Alandrim, for instance), or use a mix of the old names and the new?
A: There’s no real profound reasoning for this; it’s merely a quirk. One explanation for the mixing of names within the same clan is that the Winterborn clans living in Dearviél tend to be comprised of Northmen from different mainland clans who had formed new ones upon their arrival in the place they call Vihvilten; as such, some of their prior clans had probably named the gods in the old tongue while others had adopted the newer names. (It should be noted, however, that no one calls Keriel by her ancestral name of Skelda, and very few Northmen use the contemporary name of Mormene for Eythelga. Also, while Korinkatë is technically the “new” name for Vardi, it’s usually tacked onto her ancestral name as an epithet by the Alandrim and others.)
Of course, this mixing of names is common even in established clans such as the Alandrim—as much as Andrin scolds Baldor for it! Note that our Alandrim characters (we are assuming that Hagall is Alandrim, but who knows for sure where he’s from?) use the name Hlodi for the goddess of music, though this is her ancient name and she should rightly be called Arkenvanë, or Gryndir for the Lord of Storms, whose Alandrim name is Túlvarin. Why? That’s a question for the philosophers!
If you’ve got more burning questions about the nature and peoples of Balad, fret not! This article will be updated regularly with more good stuff.