I have a friend (crazy, I know). Her name is Alex. Hi, Alex! *waves*. She has read my book, and she likes my book. This makes me happy, of course. Alex is a writer herself (a fantasy one, at that), and it is so lovely to have a friend who can share such things with you, who understands, and who actually knows what you’re talking about when you say ‘Sta’reghiime’, for example.
Do you know what that is? I highly doubt it.
It’s something in my book.
Which you would not know unless you have read it.
Funny how these things work…
A good while back, I was moaning to Alex about the languages I have created for my fantasy world. I wondered what possessed me to do three. Woeful. One language is simple enough, I suppose: that is Kurpian, the language of the Ilimoskus (my main language). The other two are… Well, one is the hardest thing in the world to pronounce/the biggest mouthful language going, and the other has the worst grammar. But who do I have to blame but myself? Why, Jenny? Whhyyyyyyyy? *falls upon knees and howls in despair*
But anyway. I was talking about my languages. Specifically Kurpian. Alex said that it would be cool to learn Kurpian (or something like that), to which I replied, “I’ll give you a lesson someday 😉 “
(An aside: The Kurpian language is traditionally a syllabic alphabet with limited logograms, which, in English, basically means there are symbols that represent syllables. There are always two symbols that make me smile, though, because “xu” looks like a smiley face with a massive nose, and “ly” looks like a man doing some funky dance. Behold: )
((An aside aside: Apparently one of the most ‘hated’ fantasy clichés is ‘Authors who go overboard in creating a ‘language’.‘ Oh, and also Anthropomorphism: ‘Non-human’ or sentient animal races that act, think, and socialise just like humans.’ Pffttt. Well, if that’s the case, AVOID my story at all costs. WARNING–WARNING–I tell you! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES LEST MY TERRIBLE, AMATEUR FANTASY STORY DEVOURS YOUR MIND INTO A STATE OF UTTER PARALYSIS FROM ITS SHEER ATROCITY TO THE FANTASY NAME. I love fantasy. Fantasy is my life. But I hate the fantasy ‘circle’ more than anything. It is the most critical, judgemental and contemptuous of all fandoms. Obviously, I’m not speaking for everyone here, but that’s the general vibe you get. Oh, and by the way, I actually have a very detailed explanation as to why my Ilimoskus are so humanoid, yet if I put such an explanation into my story I would be criticised for rabbiting on about information no one cares about, or for focusing too much on needless history as opposed to storyline. You can’t win, right? Which is why you should live your life true to yourself and write only from the heart. That’s my lesson for the day.))
So. There is a character in my book called Gnotsu Teeze (“NOTE-soo”, by the way – everyone pronounces it wrong). Gnotsu is the wise, wizened, wise man of the story. Obligatory in fantasy, no? A trope, not a cliché 😉 Though, if you ask me, he is more than just a wise elder: he is immensely powerful and mysterious – so much so that his kin do not even realise the extent of this. Gnotsu has dedicated the majority of his life guiding others in their greatest time of need – a carer and protector to all the sad hearts who come his way.
This is a sketch I did of Gnotsu
Due to this, I often say, “Everyone needs a Gnotsu in their life.” We do. We really do. We all need a mentor to teach us the wonders of life, of nature, of the soul. Oft times I find myself pining for a Gnotsu conversation, to be before his exuding aura of perpetual wisdom *wistfully sighs*. But, it is precisely this teaching nature of Gnotsu’s that led me to write this post. Combining both things together (Alex and Kurpian), who better to consult than dear old Gnotsu?
And so, my friends, I share with you a fictional scenario between Alex and Gnotsu as she has a Kurpian lesson. Perhaps some context is required. Let’s just pretend that Alex woke up, drowsy and bewildered, thousands of miles away from home in an English wood which just so happened to be Kaxenff (that is, the home of Gnotsu). Gnotsu, being the compassionate soul he is, took Alex under his wing and taught her the ways of the Ilimoskus (and we shall ignore technicalities within the story itself, such as humans not being able to see Ilimoskus, but sshhhhhhhhh. Alex is special. She can see the Ilimoskus, ’cause I say so 😉 ).
(To people who do not know the story: There are going to be many strange words in this piece. I shall briefly explain them at the end. Strange words shall be underlined.)
Dear Alex, I know you could do with a Gnotsu conversation. I hope you enjoy this.
Love and light to you, x
Alex rushed through the holid, swerving past the kus coming her way as they gave her an array of curious looks. She was late.
She had not slept well, awaking before the dawn, and so she had decided to leave Gnotsu’s hohot and go for a quiet stroll through the woods. It was strange to be out in the Ilimoskus’ holid when it was so silent, so deserted, but she could not deny the sense of relief that filled her, for the lack of the foreign beings – kindly as they were – watching her every move meant she could dally and inspect to her heart’s content. She had absent-mindedly watched the sunlight burn the woodland in golden fire, beckoning the Flamikus to awaken, and, while sitting on a log near Idimis, observed kus undertaking their morning duties. She had not been here long, but she had already discerned just how diligent the Ilimoskus were. She had also discerned that they were seriously nosy, yet politely so, if that was at all possible; they forever peered inquisitively over her private doings, and she caught wind of gossip about her, such as, ‘She speaks very weirdly. Do you think she has something wrong with her?’ As gossip went, it was harmless enough, and she could hardly blame them – after all, she was as good as an alien to them, and she did speak very differently to them: her accent was Canadian, and theirs was a rather curious blend of English and… Kurpian? She supposed, were she with another human, she would be gossiping about them, too. It was only when some kus passed close by her, chattering away – and, of course, giving her a lengthy perusal – that she thought about their accent again. But then it suddenly hit her. She had agreed to have a Kurpian lesson with Gnotsu at first light. Dammit! She leapt up and darted away, giving all nearby eyes even more reason to look at her.
Once she had rushed back to his hohot, she saw that Gnotsu was waiting outside, his hands clasped together. Why did that make her feel so terrible? She continued to approach, now at a brisk walk, and Gnotsu spied her from a distance; he watched her every move with a placid expression, and when she was near he bestowed a warm smile.
“I-I’m sorry, Gnotsu!” Alex puffed, stopping before him. “I forgot!”
“Indeed you did. But then you remembered. Do not fret, Nieeb, for the recollection of our minds often fails us when our hearts are preoccupied with deeper things.”
“But… What deeper things?”
“You are new here,” he kindly replied. “This is a strange place to you, and you are in the process of adapting. Do not be hard on yourself.” He turned, holding back the door for her. “Come now, let us begin.”
She pulled a small but grateful smile and stepped inside. She saw that there were two wooden chairs – or, rather, stools – positioned to one side by the unlit fire, and so she headed over and sat on one, feeling much like she was back at school and about to take an exam. Ugh. Thank the gods the Ilimoskus did not have exams as she knew it.
Gnotsu wasted no time in getting down to business, as often was his way, and as he shut the door he spoke in his gentle, yet husky, voice, “If I were to say to you, ‘Ihmoiyon’, what would I be saying?”
“Oh, umm…” Alex sat contemplating, though she felt slightly bewildered after her rush and tried to rally her thoughts into some order. Ihmoiyon. She knew that. Come on, brain. WORK. “Err…”
Gnotsu smiled at her patent forgetfulness. “Shall I help you, Alix?”
She looked to the floor, thinking it would be better if Gnotsu did not see her trying to restrain her own smile. Alix. It did amuse her, how the Ilimoskus pronounced her name. “Uhh… Yeah, that would be really helpful, Gnotsu, thank you.” She looked back at him, having banished her smile for good.
“We greet one another this way in the morning,” he simply said.
“Oh!” she cried. Duh. It was so obvious now. “‘Good morning!'”
He dipped his head ever so slightly as his indication that she was correct, then moved closer to her, but still made the point to stand. “Now, I am going to speak to you in Kurpian, and you are going to tell me what I said in Akklun.”
“You mean English,” she automatically corrected, but then felt a wave of horror wash over her. Did she just imply Gnotsu was wrong about something? Could she be any more moronic? She had only been here a short while, yes, but she knew well enough that Gnotsu was considered the wisest elder in the holid, and no one dared to question him. Though, thankfully, Gnotsu was the most serene and forgiving kus she had met, and his eyes delicately smiled as he clasped his hands together.
“Lopa,” said he.
“…Hello,” she replied somewhat warily, for ‘lopa’ was the only Kurpian word she definitely knew, and all else he said would undoubtedly send her mind reeling.
“Yestana’asko-a Gnotsu od Teeze hon,” Gnotsu continued.
In Alex’s mind, the beginning of that utterance sounded like a complete load of babble, yet it was a particular strain of babble she recognised. She remembered Gnotsu teaching it to her before, and how she had fumbled over the syllables as if it were a tongue-twister. It did not help that Kurpian was spoken quite quickly.
“Every letter ‘a’ in the Kurpian language is short, without exception,” Gnotsu had said. “Like the ‘a’ in the Akklun word ‘apple’.“
Alex tried to speak it once more. “Yes-tan-ahhhhs-ko…?”
Gnotsu grinned, and then broke the sounds down slowly for her. “Yeh-stah-nah-AHSS-ko-ah.”
Alex sighed. “It’s a bit of a mouthful just to say, ‘My name is’, isn’t it?”
“My name is Gnotsu Teeze,” Alex repeated in English, having relived the memory of trying to speak that darn word, or phrase, or whatever it was.
“What is your name?”
“Very good,” said Gnotsu with a warm smile. “Now, Alix, I would like you to repeat that Kurpian question.”
Her heart plunged into her stomach. Oh, gods. “Err…” she paused briefly, trying to allow Gnotsu’s pronunciation to echo in her mind. “Yee-stoh-nah-AHSS-ah leh.”
“Valeciivie, Alix!” Gnotsu brightly praised. “Much better! Now, I shall speak in Akklun, and you shall repeat in Kurpian.”
Oh, GODS. Why? Resigning herself to what was sure to be the inevitable butchering of the wonderful, exotic Kurpian language, spoken from her stupid tongue, she softly sighed and nodded, noticing that she was pressing her lips together unusually firmly. Perhaps this was as bad as an exam, in its own, unique way.
“How are you?” Gnotsu asked.
Damn. Damn, damn, DAMN. In world-record fashion, she had already failed. She could never remember how to say ‘How are you?’ in Kurpian. Never. It was yet another mouthful phrase, and she remembered Gnotsu saying that there are actually two ways of asking this question: a formal way, and an informal way. Not that such a recollection mattered, because she could not remember either of them. She slapped her hands to her cheeks and pulled down at them. Why was Kurpian so difficult?
Gnotsu, observing Alex’s blatant struggle, calmly offered some assistance. “Do you remember that we focused on how to say it formally? Since you are not an Ilimoskus, and to appease the unsure minds of my kin, they would appreciate hearing the formal phrase from you. It goes, ‘Aa…’.” He paused, and a hopeful light glinted in the depths of his eyes that this would be enough of a recollection for her.
Alex sat, blankly staring. She feared that his hopeful light was soon to fade, since, even with his help, she could not remember. Though, from his helpful pointer, she remembered that the formal phrase did indeed contain the Kurpian diphthong ‘aa’. Oh, how she hated that diphthong. She could not pronounce it at all – at least not properly. It was the sound of a broad ‘a’, like ‘father’, but combined with this accursed rolled ‘r’ sound. It was like, ‘aaaaaaaRRR’, and she could not roll her tongue, no matter how hard she tried. She always sounded like a growling dog, or, if she did manage to roll her tongue properly, it went totally overboard and she sounded like a speed boat engine.
Gnotsu peered at her closely. “I sincerely hope you are not becoming stressed, Alix,” he judiciously spoke.
She shifted slightly in her seat. How did Gnotsu always manage to make you feel guilty about any emotion or thought you had just by looking at you with his dark, gentle eyes? “I… can’t remember, Gnotsu,” she muttered.
“No,” he said as if he already knew. “It is, ‘Aa-vickarvee pleh?’ Repeat it.”
“ARR,” she tried to pronounce with all her might, though she knew she sounded just like a swashbuckling pirate, “-vih-kar-vee leh.”
“You are still struggling with the pronunciation of ‘aa’, but do not fret about it, Child – it is one of the more difficult letters to pronounce, and Kurpian is not your native tongue,” said he. “Therefore, to differentiate between ‘aa’ and ‘ar’, I would suggest you continue to put a greater emphasis on the ‘aa’ sound while you are still learning to perfect it.”
Had Gnotsu just told her to sound like a pirate?
“So, Alix,” continued the old kus, “tell me how you are.”
“Oh, I’m okay,” she casually spoke.
He smiled. “In Kurpian, Alix.”
“Oh! Right. Err… Fo unsc?“
He chuckled most delicately as he cast his eyes to the ground, but then he stood in silence, frozen in his stance. “Are you okay, Alix?” he asked with atypical sobriety.
She frowned at his sudden shift of temperament, as well as at the question itself. “Yes…” answered she.
He peered at her with his head angled down most discreetly.
His penetrative gaze cut straight through her and she glanced away uneasily. How did Gnotsu do it?
“What can be gained from lying to your heart?” he quietly questioned.
“I’m not…” she began to reply, but she knew that she had no sharp rejoinder with which to respond. Besides, even if she did, Gnotsu would undoubtedly know it was a lie.
With the softest of sighs, Gnotsu walked over to the empty stool and sat himself down beside her. “All hearts hold sadness from time to time, yet, for one reason or another, we believe it necessary to hold onto it continually by means of denial. This weighs down our hearts, my dear child, for the burden of denied sadness is a heavy one. There is no shame in admitting sadness in the heart, for in this weakness we discover our strength. Tell me, Alix: do you know what happens when we deny the sadness in our hearts?”
Alex was taken aback somewhat by his direct question, so intent was she on listening to his wisdom. “Um… No…”
“It tries to escape,” said he. “In its desperate plight for freedom, it seeks to flee only to discover that the heart resists and prevents it from doing so. Thus, an inner conflict rages, and our souls then intervene, calling out to the heart in an attempt to convince it to set this sadness free. But the noise of the conflict is too loud, and our quiet souls cannot be heard. And so it is our souls are weakened, and, as I am sure you will agree, nieebko, this is not good. We Ilimoskus have a word for such an eventuality: diitharedan – the conflict in the heart and of the soul.”
Alex looked at her lap, feeling overwhelmed; she felt the sadness stir within her heart, clawing at the walls in its bid to escape. She found the courage within herself to look Gnotsu in the eye, beholding his benevolent face radiating solace as brightly as the sun. “How… How do you set your sadness free, Gnotsu?” she weakly asked, blinking numerous times to ward off the watery sheen in her eyes.
He took a moment to reply as the faintest origins of a smile emerged. “Cry,” was he simple answer. He placed his hand on her knee, and Alex felt the fiery heat of his skin even through her trousers. “Tears are the silent expression of our sorrow and our grief, are they not? The sadness flows out from our hearts, and so the heart is empty, but only then, when the sadness is free, can understanding take its place.”
“Indeed, Nieeb,” Gnotsu softly spoke, clasping his hands together once more. “For when our sadness is free, the heart hears the soul once more and this harmony opens many a door for understanding ourselves and the world – this, we Ilimoskus call etalaresan. There is much wisdom in sadness, dear one. Perhaps sadness comes merely to teach us, and, in turn, help us be at peace.”
Alex indistinctly nodded, feeling her sadness swell in her eyes. “It’s a comforting thought…” she quietly said, too busy reflecting on what Gnotsu had said to be attentive to the volume of her voice. “But… if sadness brings us peace, why is it so… un-peaceful?”
Gnotsu chuckled. “We can look at the night sky and lament at the darkness while we wait for the sunrise, or, we can admire the beauty and wonder of the stars.”
“So… it’s up to us?” said she. “It’s our decision whether the process is a peaceful one or not?”
Gnotsu dipped his head so minutely Alex questioned whether he had moved it at all. But Gnotsu did not answer. There was quiet for a while as Gnotsu allowed her the time she needed.
She sighed, releasing the tension within herself. She could be peaceful. She could let her sadness be free. For in this weakness we discover our strength. But then she found herself thinking of the stars. Were they strong to shine amongst the darkness? “Gnotsu…” she said. “What’s the Kurpian word for stars?”
Gnotsu smiled warmly at this. “Ilckiido.“
“Ill-kee-doe…” she slowly repeated.
Alex stared at him blankly. “What?”
“Be at peace, precious child of the stars.”
This stirred her sadness more than anything else thus far, to such an extent that she knew she could no longer hide it, deny it. And so, looking at her lap, her eyes welled from the pain in her heart, and a tear trickled down her cheek.
Thank you for reading, my friends, I appreciate the time you have taken to reach the end.
I can only hope that you may take something from this little story, from Gnotsu and from Alex.
We can reconnect with wisdom in the subtlest of ways, if only our minds our open to receive.
Peace be within you,
Brief explanation of strange, underlined words:
Holid -> The equivalent of a city, in its way
Kus (Ilimoskus) -> The Ilimoskus are a race of elemental beings, at one with nature. The word kus is an abbreviation, but it can also mean ‘folk’.
Hohot -> The equivalent of a house, or building
Flamikus -> The folk of fire specifically
Idimis -> A place name, a location, the heart/centre of a holid (‘city’)
Nieeb – or nieebko -> Nieeb means ‘child’, but it is often used as an affectionate term of address to anyone younger. Nieebko means “my child”, and is again used as an affectionate term. The ‘b’ is not pronounced: “nee-koe”
If I’ve missed anything and you’re wondering, please feel free to ask me and I’ll add it to this list!