Blog Archives

Silent Crows

Well, well, well! We had some mighty fine entries this time around. I had a hard time deciding on who the winners would be. Nevertheless, decided I have, so announce them I shall!

I don’t have time for a big long post this time around, but I very much enjoyed reading all the entries, which you can find in the comments section here. A big thank you to Char, JLategan, Joel W., KuraiHeka, Smoya Targaryen, Tim, and Zhalio for submitting haiku this year.

A couple honorable mentions. Our very first haiku was by Zhalio, who had an amazingly topical haiku about my current bird feeder problems (which, by the way, have not been resolved. The birds won’t go anywhere near the damn bird feeder). It’s a High Valyrian haiku, and here it is:


havondo lentrot


Here’s the intended meaning:

May many a bird

at thy gen’rous feeding house

alight and tarry

Tickled me to death, this one. Unfortunately, there are a couple small issues. First, you were looking for tīkorto for the first word, not tīkorzo. The subject of a permissive imperative must be in the dative. [NOTE: As was pointed out in the comments below, Zhalio was looking for a simple third person command rather than a permissive, in which case the vocative is appropriate. My bad there!] Also, given that I just have the one small bird feeder, lentot would be more appropriate than lentrot. Clever solution for “feeding”, though! I like the idea of a little food hamlet.

Next, two honorable mentions for Dothraki. I will say, the Dothraki competition this year was the tightest. Three of the best Dothraki haiku I’ve had were done this year. One of them was Tim’s, listed below:

Zir zhokwa kazga
Ovetha oleth olti
She felde hafi

The intended meaning is below:

Large black bird
Flies over hill
On quiet wings

This is nearly perfect. Rather than she felde, though, I would do ki feldi. Tiny error, but, as I said, competition was stiff this year.

Next is JLategan’s outstanding haiku below:

Charo! Chaf chafki
hola hoyale hafa
ha haqakea

With the intended meaning below:

Listen! Autumn’s wind
is blowing a quiet song
for those who are tired

Nothing at all wrong with this grammatically, but the winner was too good to pass up. All the same, I love this haiku. Wonderful imagery.

Now for the winners! First, winning the Dothraki haiku competition for the second year in a row, congratulations to Zhalio for this gorgeous haiku:

Az ahhaf yera.
Fin vahhafa athnithar
mra zhor anhoon?

A blade silenced thee.
Who shall now silence the pain
left inside my heart?

Athzheanazar! I absolutely love it. As the winner of the Dothraki haiku competition, Zhalio has earned the coveted Red Rabbit!

2016 Red Rabbit Winner Zhalio

Now, for a first time winner, I’m pleased to announce that Joel W. has won the High Valyrian haiku competition with this excellent haiku cycle:

mērī iōrtes

Pār pȳdza
va bantī

Se elēna
lāruno tolmiot

In the mist
alone it had stood
still waiting

Then leapt
the prey
into the night

And the voices
of some distant crows
were screaming

Very well constructed! I’ll note that I would not use the form pȳdza (it should be pȳdas), and also might not use va bantī, but it certainly works. You were spot on with your use of the instrumental passive in ahīghilis, which I thought was inspired, and your construction for “prey” was likewise praiseworthy.

As the winner of the High Valyrian haiku competition, Joel W. has earned the Golden Owl:

2016 Golden Owl Winner Joel W.

Congratulations to the winners, and to all those who entered! We’ll do it again next year, and I’m sure things will go much more smoothly on my end (Meridian will be more than a year old! That’s easier than two months, right?). Geros ilas ma dothras chek!

Asshekhqoyi Vezhvenagain!

Looks like it’s my birthday again. I’ve had 35 of these things now and they show no signs of stopping. Bleh. So be it!

For those who follow me elsewhere, you’ll know that the last year has brought some major changes and challenge. The short version: new house, new shows, new book, and new child. Erin and I welcomed our first child Meridian Victoria Peterson last month, and the level of effort required to maintain her comparatively spartan lifestyle is as advertised. It’s stretched us to our breaking point and left us little time for anything else.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t do us a proper Dothraki haiku competition!

It does mean, though, that I don’t have any haikus of my own to share, or new rules to debut. It’s too much. Per last year, though, there will be a Dothraki competition and a High Valyrian competition, and each competition will have its own winner.

We can certainly still do challenge words, though. Always time for challenge words! The challenge word for Dothraki will be haf (an adjective meaning “quiet” or, with respect to pain, “dull”). For High Valyrian, the challenge word is the noun lāra, which means “crow” (lunar noun, regular Class IA declension). For the full set of rules regarding the haiku, see below.

(Oh, by the way, I generally don’t choose a winner until submissions stop coming in. Some time in February. Winners will be announced February 15th!)


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, go for it, but I will weight exact syllable counts more highly.

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.

For Valyrian: Long vowels count as two mora, and a vowel with a coda counts as two mora, but a syllable will not have more than two mora. So a long vowel plus a coda consonant will still be two mora, for the purposes of the poem. If you can’t do the poem using mora, do it with syllables, but I’ll weight those done with mora more highly. This will make it more like a real Japanese haiku. If you need a particular word in a particular number/case combination or a verb in a particular conjugation, please let me know and I’ll give it to you.

Addendum: Falling diphthongs count as two mora (i.e. ae and ao); rising diphthongs count as one (e.g. ia, ua, ue, etc.). Also, word order is certainly freer in poetry than it is in everyday speech, but the rules about adjectives still apply (i.e. you use the short forms if the adjective appears directly before the noun it modifies; otherwise they’d take their full forms). And, finally, word-final consonants are extrametrical. Thus if a word ends in -kor, that counts as one mora, not two.

Shieraki gori ha yerea! Fonas chek!


Sasquan is coming up, and I’ll be there! Here is my schedule:

  • We Won: How SF, Fantasy and Comics Have Taken Over TV
    • Time/Place: Thursday, August 20, 5:00 p.m., Bays 111B
    • Description: Not very long ago it was hard to find any SF on TV, let alone good SF. But today, every night has multiple shows. Some of the most talked-about shows on TV — Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead — are genre shows, Doctor Who is a worldwide phenomenon, and even shows that started as thriller shows like Person of Interest are clearly SF. Agents of Shield, Grimm, The Flash, Gotham, Orphan Black… the list goes on. And what about the shows that start off promising and collapsed quickly (Twelve Monkeys)? Is the zombie-takeover of TV starting to peter out?
    • Participants: Darlene Marshall (M), Annie Bellet, David Peterson, Andrea G. Stewart
  • Basics of Creating a Language
    • Time/Place: Friday, August 21, 10:00 a.m., Bays 111B
    • Description: Conlanger David Peterson is the creator of Dothraki and will help you understand how to get started creating a language.
    • Participants: David Peterson (M)
  • Moving Beyond the Books: Speculations on the Future Directions of Game of Thrones
    • Time/Place: Friday, August 21, 4:00 p.m., Bays 111B
    • Description: What happens when this popular TV series moves beyond its source material?
    • Participants: Priscilla Olson (M), Alan Boyle, Julie McGalliard, David Peterson, Jason Snell
  • Autograph Session
    • Time/Place: Saturday, August 22, 10:00 a.m., Hall B
    • Description: General autograph session. I’ll sign Living Language Dothraki, A Song of Ice and Fire books, napkins, warrants…
    • Participants: Jeffrey A. Carver, David Hartwell, Esther Jones, David Peterson, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Sara Stamey
  • Alien Linguistics
    • Time/Place: Saturday, August 22, 12:00 p.m., Conference Theater 110
    • Description: Science fiction and fantasy often deals with alien or made-up languages. What makes a convincing language? What can we learn about creating such languages from the diversity of human languages?
    • Participants: David Peterson (M), Annalee Flower Horne, Stanley Schmidt, Lawrence M. Schoen, Julia Smith
  • The Best Video Games Ever!
    • Time/Place: Saturday, August 22, 5:00 p.m., 300D
    • Description: Halo? Tomb Raider? Mass Effect? Pac-Man? What are the best video games ever?
    • Participants: Joy Bragg-Staudt (M), Caren Gussoff, David Peterson, Andrea G. Stewart
  • Kaffee Klatche
    • Time/Place: Sunday, August 23, 1:00 p.m., 202A-KK1
    • Description: Kaffee Klatches allow attendees to sit down and chat with a program participant for an hour. (Follow the link to sign up!)
    • Participants: David Peterson

Also, on a personal note, things have tipped over the edge for me. I’ve gotten so busy that I’ve been forced to let things slide everywhere—and many of these happen without my realizing it until it’s too late. Consequently, I haven’t been able to be as attentive to this blog, or a lot of other things. I expect this to persist for a while. We’re moving into a new house that we’re also renovating, and I’m knee-deep in translation for Game of Thrones and The 100—plus I’ve unwisely taken on a number of new language creation process, and those take a lot of time and energy. Going to WorldCon at all was probably not the best idea—especially as I’ll be leaving immediately after recording the audio book version of my upcoming book The Art of Language Invention—and that will be happening days after moving in. It’s going to be roughest on the cats. :( Plus, if you haven’t heard it elsewhere, my wife and I are expecting our first child on or about December 2nd.

So yeah, aside from the fact that there’s no Game of Thrones going on at the moment (or, there is, but not publicly), I haven’t had any time for this blog, or a lot of other things. I do plan to continue working on it, though. There’ll be quite a bit to talk about next season. Until then, probably not so much. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading!


UPDATE: It appears that all comments are being moderated, for some reason (it’s usually just new commenters that get moderated). I’m not sure why that’s happening, but I’m looking into it. As long as your comment gets into the moderation queue within a week that counts for the contest.

Another year, and another season in the books! The finale happened yesterday, there are a number of important characters who are now dead, and I’ve got a book to give away (more details on that at the end of this post!), but I first want to talk about something that happened in episode 509.

With the Sons of the Harpy closing in around her, Daenerys’s goose looked cooked, until Drogon showed up from the sky and started blasting everybody. With Drogon getting hurt (poor dragon!), Dany mounted Drogon’s back and told him, “Fly!”, and then she took off. At least, that’s what I heard when I saw it, and I didn’t question it. Later on I started hearing from people that she said something different, which I thought was weird, because it sounded and looked like “fly” to me. I dismissed it, until I saw something extremely bizarre: In the closed captioning, the word “VALAHD” had been added, as shown below:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

I found this utterly baffling for a number of reasons. For starters, she obviously does not say “valahd”, unless it’s a French word with a silent “d” (I have accepted that she does say something “v”-like at the very least, even though I didn’t catch it in my initial viewing). Second, “valahd” is not only not a word of High Valyrian, it’s not a word in anything (or so I thought, though more on this later). It looks like gibberish and its inclusion confounded me—especially as I had some behind-the-scenes information about this scene.

Initially, I had translated the High Valyrian command “fly” for this scene, and that’s what was in the materials I sent off (the word is Sōvēs!, which you can hear in my official recording here—and, in fact, it already appeared in the series in episode 310, albeit in the plural: sōvētēs). This wasn’t a pick-up line or something added in ADR: It was a part of the script whose translations I sent off last August. For whatever reason, though, that line didn’t make it into the recording that day, and what Emilia Clarke did say was “Fly!” in English. (It happens sometimes: Scenes get busy, lots of activity, sometimes a word gets forgotten and that take turns out the best, etc.)

Many months later when they were doing ADR for that scene, they decided to try to add the High Valyrian back in. I sent the post-production folks the original line and MP3, but there was a problem: Dany’s mouth didn’t match the word sōvēs, as what she said was English “Fly!” They asked me for something shorter, so I offered Jās!, High Valyrian for “Go!”, and they said they’d try it.

Anyway, I guess that didn’t work, so we got “valahd”, and I was wondering where the heck it came from—until I found it.

Dothraki has about 4,000 words, many of which are quite obscure and would never make it into a scene (nhizokh, “raven plumage”? I mean, maybe…?). I’ve probably forgotten over half the words I created—especially as I haven’t translated into it recently. I was looking through the dictionary, though, and came across an entry I’d forgotten: valad.

Valad is the word for “horizon” (among other things), but I came up with it initially when I was creating a bunch of horse commands for the Dothraki. The reason is that I wanted two different words for “giddyup”. We already have hosh or hosha, which is used to urge a horse on (usually when it’s already going), but then there’s this expression: Frakhas valad! That translates to “Touch the horizon!”, and it’s used at the outset of a journey. The interesting thing is the note I added to the end of the definition, which is “often just valad“. And that makes sense: You typically don’t speak in full sentences to horses when you’re riding. Valad! is a much better horse command than Frakhas valad! But yeah, basically it’s just a word that urges the horse to get going.

Back to our “valahd”, here’s what I think happened. Everyone on the production has access to all my materials. I think they just went through and found something that fit Emilia’s mouth movements that seemed like it was close to the original meaning. And hey, if the Dothraki rode dragons, I could imagine them using Valad! to urge them to take off. And it is pretty close to “Fly!”, aside from the final d. So overall, pretty good!

Some open questions, though: Why the “h”? I’m guessing since this didn’t come from me directly, someone was trying to sound it out and spelled it that way? Works for English speakers! Why Dothraki, though, instead of Valyrian? I think it was because of the similar meanings and the mouth movements. True, the dragons are supposed to only understand High Valyrian, but I mean Drogon probably got the gist of it. Plus, he’s named after famous Dothraki speaker Khal Drogo, so maybe he’s got a little Dothraki in him. He’s probably heard Dothraki a bunch growing up, too. And what better reason to switch to Dothraki than when riding a dragon like a horse? I’m still confused as to why the closed captioning was even added. Is that usually done with the languages? Wouldn’t the subtitle that’s already there convey well enough what’s being said? Was it for foreign audiences…? I don’t know—there’s a lot I don’t know about that process. Either way, our “valahd” appears to be Dothraki valad, and it works, in context, so all’s well that ends well.

Regarding the finale, I did want to make one Valyrian note. For this episode I got to translate one of my favorite exchanges, and I wanted to show you how it worked. When Tyrion, Missandei, Grey Worm, Jorah and Daario are left awkwardly in charge of Meereen (I loved this scene. They’re all sitting there like, “So…”), Missandei begins saying something in Valyrian and fumbles over what to call Tyrion. This is because she knows what she would say, but feels awkward calling him krubo, “dwarf”, as he’s standing right there. She ends up calling him byka vala, which literally translates to “little man”. Tyrion jumps in and helps her out, though, saying the following:

  • Krubo. Nyke pāsan kesor udir drējor issa? Munna, nya Valyrio mirrī pungilla issa.
  • “Dwarf. I believe that’s the word? Apologies, my Valyrian is a bit nostril.”

You know I love translating intentionally ungrammatical stuff. A better translation of the above would be “Dwarf. I do believe that is the correct word? Sorrows, my Valyrian is a little nostril.” Missandei then corrects him with:

  • Mirrī puñila.
  • “A little rusty.”

The English dialogue above is exactly as it was written, so I got the chance to create this near-miss. I started with “nostril”, which is actually formed from the word pungos, “nose”, via a suffix associated with byproducts. After that it was a matter of creating a word that had a pronunciation that was kind of close to that. What I came up with was the adjective puñila, which means “worn” or “weather-beaten”—and also, when used in conjunction with a skill or a language, “rusty”. I figured this would be a good pair for a non-native speaker to confuse. First, a double ll vs. a single l would be tough for a speaker who isn’t used to doubling consonants. Second, ñ is a non-English nasal consonant somewhere in the vicinity of the nasal you get when pronouncing ng. Although ñ will just come out as n before i in casual speech, it would be taught as something different from plain n, meaning that it would be remembered by a second language learner as something different from plain n—thus giving rise to the possible confusion, in this context, between puñila and pungilla.

So, I found that fun! Thank you for indulging. I love doing stuff like this, so I was delighted when I saw it in the script!

Posts here have been infrequent, I know, but I have been busy! Today I’m happy to announce the launch of my new website I’ll still have posts to add here, but I’m moving full speed ahead as I’m preparing to promote my new book The Art of Language Invention, which you can preorder now. As a part of that promotion, I would like to give away to a lucky commenter here a galley copy of The Art of Language Invention. Can we get a shot of those galleys?

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

There we are! A bunch of galleys being lorded over by little Roman, my feisty feline!

Now, as this is a galley, it isn’t a final copy of the book, but that makes it quite unique. I’ll sign the book and write something in Dothraki or Valyrian and mail it off to you for you to keep! All you need to do is leave a comment below (if you can’t think of something to write, tell me your favorite flavor of ice cream or sorbet). Leaving multiple comments doesn’t count as multiple entries, so I’ll choose one random commenter among each unique commenter and contact them. In order to be eligible, you have to leave at least one comment here that wouldn’t get screened out via my usual screening methods (so nothing offensive, no rants, etc.), and, if you win, you have to be willing to send me a mailing address. The deadline is one week from today. Otherwise, that’s it! Thanks for reading, and geros ilas!

Notas Shekhaan…

majin zanissho varthasi irge yeri. That was the phrase I was asked to translate for a tattoo by Youyou. The French she gave me was Tourne toi vers le soleil et l’ombre sera derrière toi, which I translated as, “Turn yourself towards the sun and the shadows will be behind you” (I suppose it technically ought to be “and your shadow will be behind you”, but I interpreted it loosely). The translation into Dothraki was Notas shekhaan majin zanissho varthasi irge yeri, and Youyou recently sent me a picture of the completed tattoo, which you can see below:

A back tattoo with Dothraki

Click to enlarge.

Athdavrazar! Tremendous work!

I also wanted to share my Norwescon schedule. I first attended Norwescon two years ago, and I’m happy to be returning this year, where the guest of honor will be none other than George R. R. Martin. Consequently, this will likely be the biggest Norwescon in recent memory. Norwescon is in Seattle, and will be held April 2-5, which means that I won’t be at WonderCon this year (which is too bad, because it’s awfully convenient. I could almost walk there!). If you happen to be in the Seattle area and you’re interested in seeing me at Norwescon, you’ll have more than a dozen opportunities—literally. Check out this schedule (note: my re-printing of this schedule should not be taken as a personal endorsement of 24 hour clocks, of which I disapprove):

  1. Thu 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Cascade 3 & 4
    Creative Insults
    David J. Peterson (M), Marta Murvosh, S. A. Bolich, Pat MacEwen
  2. Thu 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Cascade 3 & 4
    Why Can’t They Get It Right?
    Matt Hammond (M), Bart Kemper, Keffy R. M. Kehrli, Loretta McKibben, David J. Peterson
  3. Thu 9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., Cascade 2
    Speaking Amongst the Stars
    David J. Peterson (M), G. David Nordley, B. D. Kellmer, Dr. Ricky
  4. Fri 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m., Cascade 9
    How Are Games & Gamers Changing the World?
    Donna Prior (M), Elizabeth Sampat, David J. Peterson, Jonny Nero Action Hero, C0splay
  5. Fri 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., Cascade 3 & 4
    Ask the Experts: Biology
    Dr. Misty Marshall (M), Alan Andrist, David J. Peterson, Stephanie Herman
  6. Fri 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Cascade 13
    The Languages of Game of Thrones
    David J. Peterson (M)
  7. Fri 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., Cascade 12
    The Languages of Speculative Fiction
    Gregory Gadow (M), David J. Peterson, Kurt Cagle, Eva Phoenix, Nina Post
  8. Sat 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m., Cascade 1
    Reading: David J. Peterson (I’ll be doing a reading from Nina Post’s The Zaanics Deceit, for which I created the Væyne Zaanics language!)
    David J. Peterson (M)
  9. Sat 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., Cascade 10
    SF & Fantasy Themes In Metal Music
    Lilith von Fraumench (M), David J. Peterson, Christian Lipski
  10. Sat 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., Grand 2
    Autograph Session 2
    Jeff Sturgeon, Django Wexler, Randy Henderson, G. Willow Wilson, Kristi Charish, Frog Jones, Richard Hescox, Darragh Metzger, David J. Peterson, Esther Jones, Jeremy Zimmerman, John (J.A.) Pitts, Kevin Radthorne, Laura Anne Gilman, Michael G. Munz, Rhiannon Held, Leannan Sidhe, Steven Barnes, Tim McDaniel
  11. Sun 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m., Cascade 10
    Collaborative Writing
    Frog Jones (M), David J. Peterson, Nina Post, Steven Barnes, Esther Jones
  12. Sun 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., Cascade 9
    Be Your Own Agent
    Kristi Charish (M), J. E. Ellis, Amy Raby, David J. Peterson
  13. Sun 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., Cascade 3 & 4
    Alien Communication
    Eva Phoenix (M), G. David Nordley, David J. Peterson, Luna Lindsey, Sar Surmick

So…yeah. I’ll be busy. But that’s what I asked for. Load me up! I want my voice to be throaty and unrecognizable by Sunday! I want to be singing Johnny Cash!

In the interim, I’m going to be giving a talk at APOGEE in Pilani, India, in case you’ll be in the neighborhood, and I’ll also be heading to Nacogdoches, Texas to give a talk at Stephen F. Austin State University (that’ll be March 3rd). If you’re nearby, I hope to see you! Otherwise, I’m on Twitter, etc. World’s a small place.

Hey, guess what! Coming tomorrow, Game of Thrones season 4’s on DVD! And that means it’s just a couple of months until season 5! Eyelke jada!

Update: My schedule for Norwescon has been updated. No panels have been deleted or added and no times have changed, but I did them with a 12 hour (a.k.a. normal) clock, added room numbers, and changed some of the panelists.

We Have a New Winner

I said in our last IRC chat that today would be the deadline for submissions, and since Qvaak has not submitted a haiku, we will have a new winner this year! But who will it be? First, let’s take a look at the contenders. Starting with Dothraki…

First, we have this entry from Zhalio:

Khal vezhven akka
laz drivo ki zisoshi
kash me vos villo.

The intended meaning is:

Even a great king
could succumb to a mere scratch
when his wisdom failed.

I don’t see how the last line works… It literally translates to “While he isn’t wise”. I would have used arrek for “when” rather than kash, but that would’ve exceeded the syllable count. I think kash could work in this way. Nevertheless, a nice reference to the untimely death of the mighty Khal Drogo, felled by a zisosh (or, maybe, a maegi).

Next, we have an offering from first-time haiku submitter vaqari:

Javrath aranas
fansa zin fredrilates
yer chir chafaan

It’s tough to understand, but I think what’s being said is, “Drop the reins! Let the dapple continue to gallop! You will nearly be the wind!” If that was the intended meaning, first, punctuation would’ve helped, and second, though a little unorthodox, I would’ve recommended Yer achafoe. That kind of turns chaf into a verb, but I think it works. I’m trying to wrap my brain around whether or not this works, but I very much like the aesthetic.

Now for High Valyrian, the number of entries of which absolutely dwarf Dothraki this year. What happened?! A lot of people turned in themed haikus, or multi-part haikus. I’m still looking for the best one, though. Let’s see what we’ve got!

Starting with Danny, check out this poem:

Gevives aōhon
Iderēpta issa
Ābrar bē.

The intended meaning is:

The beauty of yours
It is chosen
By the people.

Close! It should be aōho (the genitive of the second person possessive pronoun aōhon), although this technically could work as a kind of “Oedipus the King” construction. That’d be more “The beauty yours”. So yes, you’re good there. The second line, though, should really just be a verb. The “to be” plus participle strategy really isn’t done in High Valyrian, though it remains a plausible strategy for languages descended from High Valyrian. “It is chosen” can be done with a single verb form. Also, I know there are problems with the whole applicative thing. Let that lie; I’ll take care of it. I like your use of ābrar for “people” (it’d mean more “humanity” rather than “populace”), but I haven’t seen used for the reintroduced agent of a passive verb. That’d be new territory for High Valyrian. Innovative, though!

Next, let me turn my attention to what I’m calling Zhalio‘s Fig Cycle. For those unfamiliar, I gave a talk at Google where I talked quite a bit about dried figs, for which there is a word in Dothraki (kemis). For the record, I spent a year in my youth in Fresno, where my step-grandmother and step-grandfather owned a house on which were kept many, many fig trees. The smell of rotting figs is…unmistakable. So is the joy of not having to ever eat figs. What an ugly word: fig. It’s like “pig” plus some dirty word that starts with “f”… Anyway, playing on the theme of figs (the word, for which, in High Valyrian is rōbir—one of the earliest High Valyrian words, oddly enough), Zhalio produced this brilliant quartet of haikus:

yne sȳngus daor,

Relgot ñuhot
Dārenka jeme
ynot kessi.

Dōnykton ynot

«Sparos», limā,
«Rōbir angotas?»
— Nyke gōntan.

His fanciful English translations are even better than their comparatively spare High Valyrian counterparts:

Your unsightliness
Doth nothing to deter me,
O figs, fruit of gods!

Upon my palate
adorned in kingly splendor
you shall seem to me.

Hard-won victory
How much sweeter is your taste
Than all the world’s figs.

«Who», I hear thee wail,
«did bite this fig, mine by rights?»
— ‘Twas no-one but I.

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say. This transcends brilliance. There is a word for “ugliness” in High Valyrian, but Zhalio‘s use of qringevives I think adequately expresses the ambivalence a fig lover must have upon viewing the mawan that is a fig. Gevives (the High Valyrian challenge word) means “beautiful”, and qrin- is a kind of pejorative prefix. It doesn’t mean “un-” precisely, it’s more like “mis-” in “misinformation”. Very well chosen. Also, I love sȳngus supposedly from sȳngagon, which isn’t a word. I may add it as a backformation. The word for “royal” is actually dārōñe, but everyone would understand dārenka. There is a verb for “seem”, but the translation you chose works well. Masterful use of the instrumental collective of “fig”. I knew that case/number combination would come in handy one day. And finally your use of the independent pronoun in the nominative in the last sentence of the last haiku in conjunction with the regular conjugation of gaomagon was marvelous. Very well done! Truly better than figs!

Zhalio also gave us this non-fig-based haiku:

Valar iāris
hae jesot jelmiot
keso glaeso.

The fanciful translation is below:

All men must needs fly
like dust in the fickle winds
of this vengeful life.

In this case, though, I like the Valyrian better. Much sparser; to the point. Very nice poem. I also really like the use of the verb iāragon. Nice job!

Moving on to Joel W‘s submission, first we have:


Which is:

continue to see ourselves
in all beauty

I think the English translation of this one is clumsier than the Valyrian, which is good. I also like how “in all beauty” was put at the end; it’s a better capper for the poem than the verb. Very nice poem! Here’s the next:

The next is a cycle of poems called Zaldrīzero bē, “On Dragonkind”. Here they are:

Zaldrīzero bē

iā perzenka;
skorion issa?

Gīmin daor
Kostilus lantra
iā daorun

Yn otāpan
lo mirre drēje;

And here is the intended meaning:

Like flesh
or like fire;
which is it?

I don’t know
Perhaps both
or neither

But I think
if either is true:
what great beauty!

This is a great idea, but there are a few problems here and there. The first is the first verb should be gīmion (subjunctive), and the second is that I swear there’s a “to be” verb missing in the second half. Maybe it could work? The meaning would be “Perhaps both or none”, though. I think that works. The same is true of the next sentence, with a missing “to be”. In truth, the haiku format is simply unsuited to High Valyrian; it’s not as economical as Japanese. There are no null copulas in High Valyrian, so sometimes you just have to go without, and the result is a little clunky. I really like your use of the vocative in the last line, though! I’m not sure if that’s something I’ve done before (i.e. “what a x” or “such a x”, but I like it! I may add that to the official grammar. I like the first of these haikus the best. I think it works the best as a haiku and works the best grammatically. Excellent job!

To close, let’s look at Papaya‘s 12 (yes, 12) haikus. The first four were presented in a group, though they’re not thematically linked. Nevertheless, I will present them together, to make things easier on myself:

bantī gevives
jēdro gō.

Iosr’ issa
se sōnar māzis.
Skoriot ilā?


Se pikīptan
Raqan lī tembī
Se geviar udra.

The meanings are:

Your eyes,
beauty in the night
under the sky.

It’s cold
and winter is coming.
Where are you?

We fought
We were victorious.

And I read
The pages I love
And beautiful words.

Some notes: As Papaya realized, the fourth poem breaks the mora count, because what was initially lua should indeed have been . All good, though! The first and third are my favorite. I like how simple the third one is. It just takes an idea and expresses it. Very nice! By the way, after you had composed this poem—and for a totally unrelated reason—I created a new word: ēbrion. It refers to the sky specifically at night. Of course, ēbrio gō still works!

Up next is an epic eight haiku cycle called Embro gō, “Under the Sea”. Here they are:

Embro gō

Embar kesor
Dekossa rizmot

Embār glaeson
Dōnon ynot

Vestris hae
Dōnot averoti
S’ynot morghon

Tolmiot jagon
Se morghūljagon.
Kesir jaelan.

Kirine iksan
Yn iosre tolī
Embro gō

Yn skoriot iksan?
Kempr’ iēdro gō
Gīmion daor

Yn sparos iksan?
Zōbrȳr embro
Gō nyk’ ilan

Ñuhor lōgor
Ojūdan embrot
se qrimbughen.

And here are the intended meanings:

This sea
Kisses my feet
In the sand

Like silver
A life in the sea
Would be sweet for me.

It seems like
Sweet grapes
And death to me

To go far
And to die.
That’s my wish.

I’m happy
Although too cold
Under the sea

But where am I?
Under this heavy sea,
I don’t know

And who am I?
I lie
Under this dark sea.

I lost
my ship in the sea
And I sink/drown.

Wow. Stunning. Unless I’m missing something, these are flawless. A lot of nice choices made here. Some of the elisions are a little rough (in the sixth poem in particular), but they work! Excellent job.

And now the heavy burden falls to me to choose two winners. As I said before, from now on there’s going to be one winner for Dothraki, and one for High Valyrian. Competition was, uh, niqe for High Valyrian; not so much for Dothraki. First, then, I shall award the Mawizzi Virzeth—the Red Rabbit—given to the annual winner of the Dothraki Haiku Competition. This year’s winner is Zhalio!

Red Rabbit 2015 Winner Zhalio

Hajas, zhey Zhalio!

And now announcing a new award: The coveted Golden Owl (Āeksio Atroksia), given to the annual winner of the High Valyrian Haiku Competition. This year’s winner of the Golden Owl is Papaya, for his second haiku from the “Under the Sea” series!


Rijes aōt, Papayus!

It was tough to choose a winner for the High Valyrian side, but I thought that haiku of Papaya‘s was perfect, even apart from the greater context.

Fantastic work this year! Perhaps some of these may end up in the Game of Thrones Compendium? Here’s hoping!

(Note: I’ll still do recordings, but I’ll have to do them later today and add them. No time!)

%d bloggers like this: