The Seal Maiden & The Spirit Cage; or, The Crow Of Coribahn

The Seal Maiden & The Spirit Cage; or, The Crow Of Coribahn (2019, PDF booklet) by Kaiter Enless | short story | fantasy


Synopsis: A mysterious wayfarer chances across a isolated tribe and is tasked with freeing a young woman from a shaman’s curse.


 

Crafting Names For Fictional Peoples By Geography & Ethnos

In fiction writing, it is quite difficult to come up with a name for a group of people, whether they be a tribe, kingdom, nation or empire. Yet, even if you come up with a good name, the meaning of the name bares some consideration for culture-building within your fictional world (ie. when the named polity reflects back on their founding, will you as the author be able to have them describe why they are called what they are?).

For example, if you come up, in a think-tank secession, with the name ‘Daedalion’ for a fictional kingdom, you may well find that it ‘sounds good’ or ‘rolls off the tongue’ but what does it mean, why are these people called Daedalions? Or are the people called something else and it is only the Kingdom which is called Daedalion? All these things must be accounted for (if inter-world culture building is to be the goal – if not, then not, as might be the case in short story concerned principally with conveying a message through parable or analogy).

In my own writing I have discovered two techniques which make the name process quite easy: geography and ethnos. By geography, I mean I consider where the people live, so, for example, in my current novel-in-progress (Tomb of the Father) there is a group of tribal desert wanderers who factor importantly into the plot, yet, I came to trouble coming up with their name, until, that is, I recalled that loesses (calcareous silt or clay deposits) are partial to certain mountain desert regions and hence came to call them ‘Loessians’ – the loess, of course, denoting that they came from a region where silty, clay deposits were common.

A further example: the main bulk of the story in Tomb of the Father revolves around a fictional group that lives in moorlands filled with ancient tors or kopjes (large, free-standing stone outcroppings) and hence, I named them ‘Torians.’ The suffix, however, need not always be -ian(s), as I could just as easily have named them Torites, Torels, etc, or more simply, The Tors (Torian simply best rolled off the tongue).

With the geographical tactic out of the way, let us turn our attention to ethnos (which means ‘people of the same race or regionality who share a distinctive, coherent culture’). For this naming method I do not look to regional terrain and instead focus upon the character of the polity/ethnic group itself.

For example: a seafaring peoples in my novel exhibited skillful mercantilistic ambitions and were extremely guarded concerning their financial affairs and transactions and so I named their province ‘Tyvault’ as a play on words (ie. tie-the-vault → tie-vault → ty-vault) and hence the people came to be known as the ‘Tyvaultians’.

When both the ethno and geo naming methods are plied together, I have found that it simplified naming to a significant degree while at the same time, not detracting from, but indeed, adding too, the depth of meaning of a fictional polity.

The Opposition Identity of the Anti-Tribe

I’ve long been skeptical of the negation crew, the “anti” crowd, those individuals or groups who when asked who they are and what they stand for reply, “I am against X!” There are the “skeptics” who are wholly against all and any religions; the SJWs who are wholly against anything that they perceive as masculine, aggressive, racist or sexist; there are the puritanical religious – the deniers of the body – who gasp and flail at the faintest stirring of erotic passion; then there are the “new ageists” who are perhaps the epitome of the skeptic foil, those who languish in a jellied slush of “mystical” half-measures, neither a creature of faith nor truly one of hard verticality. There are also the anti-statist who, like Rousseau, seek to see man placed outside the grasp of “The Tyrants,” who pervert his very nature by their iron programs and thus stymie his ability to live in the rightful state of peace and freedom. Then there is the ironycel, who wages total war on forthright meaning and serious (“I was just joking – don’t take everything so seriously, bro…”) and also the hedonist who stands in total opposition to any and all impulse restraint. The list could go on and on; reams upon reams, enough to fill up the center of the earth, with enough left over to blot out the sun.

It is not for our purposes to trace the origins nor map the structures of any of the aforementioned groups – rather it is to remark upon the one thing they all share – they are all, without exception, defined either largely or entirely by what they oppose. Theirs is a identity of opposition. They are reactive, rather than proactive. Defined by circumstance rather than defining it. For stable construction, in any serious political sense, such tribes can offer one nothing, for they have nothing but derisive jeers – hardly the solid stuff one should be seeking. They have not the glue to hold a body politic together for they do not themselves know who they are nor what they stand for all that they know is that they are not what they oppose. They are NOT X, but not necessarily Y or Z.

What defines a body politic is its identity, this also drives such entities to oppose others; that is to say, when tribe X’s culture (the manifestation of their identity) finds itself incongruent with tribe Y, it behooves tribe Y to push back against it and make X conform (at least to some more desirable degree) to their outward expression of collective self. Failing this, there can be naught but war. But the anti-collective – the group who knows not who they are, nor what they stand for, nor where they are going – can not take the path of reprisal for they can not form a coherent political body (and even if they could they could only keep it so long as “the other” whom they opposed remained a active and present force, whether actually or mythically). The ephemeral formalism of the anti-tribes, useful for short-span guerrilla combat of the mind, is wholly useless for times of peace (and there should be little distinction made between peace from real-world combat and combat of a more ideological persuasion) as they do not have internal structure to their various, tangentially related collectives (often they have no reason for being a collective at all once their “threat,” their pet-problem, is removed). Due to the fact that the anti-tribes persist only so that X,Y & Z shall not, when another problem arises that is falls not within the purview of their own problem-set, they are like to ignore it or sublimate themselves to it (the case of the modern American Christian who constantly wails about Muslim “invaders,” but shows little to no concern about Zionist radicals destabilizing his nation).

It is, for all these aforementioned reasons, pertinent for those who are seeking a more stable ordering to things to treat the anti-tribes with the greatest of caution. For, as the old adage goes, it takes but one rotten apple to ruin the entire barrel.