Thursday 31 May 2007

I don’t know how interesting or how germane this is, but since I am revealing the elves’ castes on the bio pages, I should probably give a short characteristically long-​​winded description of their caste system. If nothing else, it will give those of you who are so inclined the occasion to find out what caste the babies would have if certain elves married certain others. ;-)

Caste Chart

To find the caste of a child, start in the row containing the father’s caste in the leftmost column, and go across until you find the column for the mother’s caste.

    khórrón laítón síkhón ksaltón éyótón yótón tshaítón ksattón tshatón
khórrón khórrón khórrón laítón síkhón ksaltón ksaltón ksaltón yótón tshaítón
laítón laítón laítón laítón síkhón ksaltón ksaltón ksaltón yótón tshaítón
síkhón laítón laítón síkhón síkhón ksaltón éyótón éyótón tshaítón ksattón
ksaltón síkhón síkhón ksaltón ksaltón ksaltón éyótón éyótón tshaítón ksattón
éyótón ksaltón ksaltón ksaltón éyótón éyótón éyótón tshaítón tshaítón ksattón
yótón ksaltón ksaltón éyótón éyótón yótón yótón tshaítón tshaítón ksattón
tshaítón ksaltón ksaltón éyótón éyótón tshaítón tshaítón tshaítón tshaítón ksattón
ksattón yótón yótón tshaítón tshaítón tshaítón tshaítón ksattón ksattón ksattón
tshatón yótón yótón ksattón ksattón ksattón ksattón ksattón tshatón tshatón

So, for example, a ksaltón father and a síkhón mother would have a ksaltón child, but if the father were síkhón and the mother ksaltón, then the child would be síkhón.

In general, the relationships are either symmetrical or favor the father, with the result that good blood on the part of the father can sometimes “redeem” the lesser blood of the mother and give a child of a higher caste.

The Castes

There are two broad groups of elves, as Vash told us long ago. The first are the khírrón, which name means literally “The High”. These are effectively the elven nobles. They are colored with shades of blue in the chart. The second, colored from yellowish to red in the chart, are the kisór, or “The Low”. As you might guess, the dark blue are the highest, and the dark red are the lowest.

Baraqiel just gave us reason to believe that this caste system is something more than an artifice. There are indeed two races here, and the original caste system was created out of a desire to keep the blood of the more powerful race pure. However, it has developed and become ritualized over the years, giving many gradations of caste, and leaving the blood of many of the elves less pure than they think it is.

The Khírrón

The Khórrón and the Laítón

The ruling caste is the khórrón. The name is similar to khírrón because it means something like “the highest of the high”. However, the khórrón are actually included as part of the laítón caste, which name means “the pure”. These were, originally, the first race.

All of the elven rulers have been khórrón–at least as far back as anyone remembers. You will notice that this caste can only be inherited from the father; a khórrón mother and a laítón father will only have laítón children. See Ósh’s sister Madra for an example of this.

This is a bit of a problem, since the Khóra, or queen, must be khórrón as well. This is why Kív already knew that he was going to be the father of Vash’s son’s wife. Vash, his father Sórín, Paul, and Ósh are the only khórrón males alive today. Ouch.

The Síkhón

The síkhón are, somewhat grudgingly, included as part of the khírrón nobility. Their name means “the rising”, and in the beginning they were the children of ksaltón half-​​bloods and a laítón parent, making them 34 laítón in terms of blood. Nowadays they often have more than that, and some of them have purer blood than laítón elves who outrank them.

Many of them never have children, and they tend to be seen as last-​​chance spouses for higher elves. Míría’s brother Lór once reflected:

If the woman Catan lived too long, his beautiful sister would be bound to some síkhón choral singer or candle-​​lighter [instead of Kív], and her children would be the lowest of the high – a nursemaid, perhaps, and a guard, instead of the wife of the next Khor and the father of the next Khir’s wife.

So we see that síkhón elves tend to end up with gracious but menial jobs, usually having to do with religion. The children of a laítón and síkhón will be laítón, of course, but “the lowest of the high”, and they would have jobs such as nurses or guards to the rulers – duties too intimate to be trusted to lower-​​caste elves, but still not very noble.

The Kisór

The Tshatón and Tshaítón

Originally, when there were simply two races, everyone was either laítón or tshatón. From the perspective of the laítón (who obviously created the system), the tshatón were little better than wild animals. Their name means “the stinking”. They are the wild elves of the forest.

Some of them were taken as “servants”, however, and there was soon seen to be a difference between the wild savages and the somewhat civilized slaves – who often had some good blood mixed in with theirs. This led to another caste, something of a play on words: the tshaítón, which means “the dirty”. (I guess that was supposed to be a step up.)

However, this somewhat arbitrary, non-​​blood-​​related distinction, when combined with practical questions of ancestry, produced a multitude of castes within the kisór, as we are about to see.

The Ksattón

Their name means “the behind”, which is not a pun in their language. :-P Originally it meant that they were “behind” or lower than the slaves, since they were a crossing of slave elves back with wild elves.

The Yótón

The yótón were originally the result of a relation between a wild male and a noble female. You can imagine in what various contexts that might occur. But, however it happened, the male was usually killed as a result of it – hence the name, which means “the red”, as in “the bloody”.

Later it also became a caste slightly above the tshaítón for the children of noble males with ksattón mothers.

The Éyótón

This is another caste resulting from a pun. The name means “the neglected”, and was originally intended for the children of a yótón parent with an elf of somewhat better blood.

The Ksaltón

The ksaltón caste originally consisted of elves with one khírrón parent and one slave (tshaítón) parent. Their name literally means “the halves”.

Notice that a laítón and a wild tshatón elf will have children that are tshaítón instead – effectively only “civilized” enough to be slaves – so they still have a bit of social climbing to do.

However, the ksaltón, especially the females, occupy a privileged position among the kisór. Léna is one of these. They are favored concubines since their children with a khírrón male will be khírrón as well. Therefore their chastity is quite closely guarded when they aren’t “in use”. They also don’t do any real work. As Paul once said of Léna:

“She doesn’t know how to cook. She doesn’t know how to do anything except sing and dance and be pretty.”

The Inspiration

I am surely crazy enough to think up all of this myself, though maybe not clever enough. However, I am more than happy to admit that I was originally inspired by the caste system of 17th century Latin America.

You will see some similarities if you look at the Wikipedia article, although I did have to change and make up a few things, particularly since I am only dealing with two races instead of three (Spanish/​Portuguese, African slaves, and Native Americans).

Also, being a computer scientist, I could not rest until I had a deterministic algorithm for any arbitrary combination, giving the chart you see above. :-D

Now, the only uncertainty remaining – to me and to the elves – is what caste do the children of Iylaine and Malcolm have? Or Cat and Paul, since we know them to both be pure… something…

View of SimPE

(Obligatory titillating elf-​​related picture.)