Ornate 'T'he Languages of The Oerth Cycle:


The Oerth Cycle takes place on Oerth, a world populated by the "six races of Oerth" (seven, if one counts the Mus, though they were created later). These races are all anthropomorphic animals - primarily Mice (and their relatives, the larger and carnivirous Mus), Mustelids, Felines, and Canines. There are also two mute, telepathic races; the Horses (whose 'speech' is usually accented with asterisks, as it lacks sound), and the "Dark One", which is a communal name for a race of gator-like creatures living far to the south in vast swamps.

Of the language used by the Mus, there is a lengthy discussion of both it's spoken and written forms in "Children of the Last God" and it's basic sounds are given in all three books, but very few examples are given, simply because the series is written in English, a language that the Mus couldn't possibly speak even if they tried. As is mentioned in "Children of the Last God":

While the mice had about forty vowel sounds (including diphthongs) and a bit over twice as many consonants, the mus had only five vowel sounds in their language, and about two hundred consonants that formed several hundred unique speech articulations, many of which could only be properly pronounced by the rumbling, growling throat of a mus.

In essence, the language of the Mus is a completely alien tongue, spoken and written by a completely alien people. Yet, because of the origins of the Mus (their bodies, minds and culture were a gift of The Last God), it's easily seen that it's written form was intended to be reminiscent of Chinese and Japanese, in keeping with the overall culture and mind-set that The Last God saddled them with.

Of the Language of the Little People of the Wild Wood, more of the sounds and structure are known from the books. Their word for greeting, "Hoyo", is explained in "Children of the Last God" thusly:

"As I doth recall, the word did yet come from their ancient and ancestral tongue, long forgotten, now. It was yet from a longer phrase, 'Hoyo-chu-doto-kami-no', which did mean 'Happy in seeing you my heart is', or as we might say it, 'my heart is happy in seeing you.' Howe'er, e'en by the time my ancestors did yet meet theirs, it had been abbreviated to simply 'hoyo.'" Smith grinned. "Thus, 'hoyo' doth mean 'greetings' and 'welcome' and 'I am happy to see you', and certainly when we do yet speak the word, that be quite what we mean by it - but, in sooth, in their ancient and forgotten tongue, the 'hoyo' of the longer phrase did yet mean 'happy'. So, they did literally greet each other by calling 'happy!' - e'en as do we, today."

Language plays an important part in all four books of the Oerth Cycle. The obstacles the characters face in overcoming language and cultural barriers in gaining a greater understanding of each other are prominent in the first book, and continue with equal prominence in all of the books of the series. However, rather than burden the reader with words they simply do not understand or belabor the finer points of a language which has no existence other than as a series of notes and a short glossary, this author chooses to simply define "Little People" as being equivalent to "English" for the point of view of the stories, and when characters speak in languages other than "Little People", their words are translated into English (or a pidgin thereof, depending on the context and the speaker's skill), and noted in italics. As a side note, the character Jendara in "Children of the Last God" originally attempts to communicate with the Mus using what her people remember of their language from eight centuries prior - however, the language of the mus has so dramatically evolved since that time, she is literally reduced to babbling. In the book, this is represented by her using a sort of "Pidgin Old English." Only the fact that their more 'formal' written language has remained nearly the same allows her to communicate at all, through writing notes. Later, when she meets up with Smith (the father of Tinker from the first book), it's discovered that the language she speaks as her native language is an ancestor to "Little People" - and Smith understands her quite readily. In the book, their conversations in this archaic language are represented using 'Shakespearian" English, replete with "Thee's", "Thy's" and "Thou's."

Future works in this series will have even more detail on these imaginary languages - but, as story is far more important to this writer than lengthy discussions on imaginary languages which have no living speakers, a full glossary and lexicon are not planned for the immediate future.

Jim Farris,
Published Professional Author and Composer