Today is my 31st birthday, which seems like a much more frightening prospect than my 30th… But at least I have two years until my 33rd. If you’re wondering about the featured image for this post, the explanation is quite simple: Since I’m writing this post before my actual birthday, I don’t have any pictures from my birthday, which led me to go back to photos from my previous birthday, when my wife took me to Vegas, where many hotels featured displays inspired by Chinese New Year (at the time, the Year of the Rabbit), and, as a big fan of rabbits (and topiary), I, naturally, had to take some pictures. And, yes: I do have more pictures. Many more.
I was trying to figure out something fun to do for my birthday, and then…I figured it out. (I couldn’t think of a snappy way to finish that sentence. Then I started writing the last one. And now this…) Back on December 17th, I did an interview with Monique Stander for a South African radio station. The interview was at midnight, and I got a call from a station assistant a half hour beforehand to make sure I was there and ready. Once that had been ascertained, he also asked if I’d write a haiku, since they were talking about haikus on the show that day. I asked him if he wanted one in English or Dothraki, and he said English, so we hung up and I started writing a haiku in English (kind of tough to come up with a good one, but I did my best).
He then called back at 11:55 p.m. and said that, in fact, it was in Dothraki they wanted the haiku, not English. He asked how much time I had, and he said three minutes. So we hung up again, and in three minutes, I came up with this:
Sajo anni ma
Haja ma ivezhofa.
Sek. Me nem nesa.
Which is (approximately): “My horse is / Strong and fierce. / Yes. It is known.” It’s not Bashō, but at least it has the right number of syllables in the right places (something I wasn’t sure of when I went on the air!).
Since we’ve got all the time in the world here on the internet, I thought a Dothraki haiku might be a fun (and relatively manageable) translation challenge! So the gauntlet is cast. If you’re interested, write a haiku in Dothraki. For the purposes of this contest, a haiku is 17 syllables long, with the syllable counts for each line being 5, 7 and 5, in that order. If you need to fudge, we’ll set up a separate category for haiku that are 17 syllables, but maybe don’t hit the right line numbers.
Also (and this is important), since this is Dothraki, we are definitely going by syllable count, not mora count. Regarding syllable-counting, in Dothraki, a syllable is defined as a vowel plus one or more consonants on either side. A syllable cannot contain more than one vowel, which means that a word like kishaan is trisyllabic, not disyllabic.
If it helps, you may or may not contract the various prepositions that contract. So, for example, mr’anha (two syllables) is the usual way of saying “inside me”. For your haiku, if you wish, you can separate the two out, i.e. mra anha (three syllables). You can also drop purely epenthetic e vowels (so the past tense of “crush”, kaffe, can be rendered as kaff’). Feel free to play with word order and drop pronouns, as needed, bearing in mind that such language is figurative, and the reader will still need to be able to figure out who’s doing what to whom.
So, there it is! Good luck! Feel free to post responses in the comments to this post, or e-mail them to “dave” at “dothraki” dot “com” (feel free to include audio!). I’ll discuss the responses in a future post, and will possibly give my favorite some sort of (likely virtual; definitely rabbit-related) prize. If you need any help, head over to Dothraki.org, and you should find what you need.