Monthly Archives: May 2012


One episode left. The season sure does speed on by, doesn’t it?

Sunday’s episode was, I think I’m safe in saying, the episode that everyone’s been waiting for since the series got the green light. I’d say it was worth the wait. There’ve been a ton of superlatives heaped on “Blackwater” so far, so I won’t bother adding to them. I would like to add a comment or two about one specific omission.

A couple of friends of mine who’ve read the books had been bugging me leading up to Sunday, “So are we going to see the chain?” The answer, as we all saw now, is no. No chain! So it goes. But this raises a non-trivial question: Does it matter? What exactly was lost with the loss of the chain? In my estimation, little. In A Clash of Kings, the chain has a three-fold function, as I see it (one literal; one figurative; one textual). Those functions are:

  1. Literally, the massive chain is there to prevent Stannis’s ships from retreating as they’re doused with wild fire.
  2. Figuratively, the construction of the chain is a massive effort on the part of the blacksmiths of King’s Landing. As it plays such an important part in the victory, this is a way to give the people a real stake in it—something to point to and be proud of.
  3. Textually, it serves to further showcase Tyrion’s mental acumen.

In the show, the literal role the chain would have played is minimized. As we follow the battle, we see a decoy ship sent out in “defense”, where Stannis is expecting a fleet (a fleet smaller than his, of course, but a fleet nonetheless). The visual explosiveness of the wildfire when lit (via Bronn’s arrow) renders the potential for escape rather pointless. To me, the thing looks less like a fire than a nuclear bomb. The effect is instantaneous and devastating, so escape wasn’t really an issue—and furthermore, Stannis decided to keep pressing on, anyway, so the function of the chain in the show would have been theoretical, more than anything.

Without the build up we see in the book with the slow construction of the chain, the importance of Tyrion’s speech to the troops is rather elevated. What we see is a group of soldiers who have no real stake in the fight and no will to continue, and Tyrion rallies them. He does the same thing in the book, but here without the chain, I think his speech is slightly more impressive.

Finally, something that has happened in the show which didn’t really happen in the books is Tyrion as a character has been thrust to the forefront—largely in response to Peter Dinklage’s excellent portrayal of him in season 1. We see this happen in television shows all the time: One character becomes more popular or impressive than the others, and so the writers “write them up” (one clear example that comes to mind is The Simpsons. When the show started, everyone tuned in to see what shocking thing Bart would say. By season 4, it was clear that Homer was the star). As a result, well, Tyrion didn’t need to be any more brilliant. He’s had it in spades this season—and will likely continue to. His character doesn’t need the extra acclaim that the chain would bring him, so omitting it hasn’t really affected his character all that much, in my opinion.

I think it was a wise decision on the part of Dave and Dan to have George R. R. Martin write this episode (for a number of reasons), and I think he did an excellent job in writing the chain out. I think the proof of this comes from any fan of the show who’s never read the books. Their reaction: What chain? The logic of the battle, though scaled down, works well enough as shown, and it doesn’t feel like anything major is missing. Those who’ve read the books know, but show qua show, I think it stands up remarkably well.

Oh, but this is the Dothraki blog, isn’t it? As you may have noticed, there was no Dothraki in episode 9. Not that that should be a surprise, now that the episode has aired. Unlike any previous episode (and perhaps unlike any future episode…?), “Blackwater” focused on one single event. There were different points of view, yes (Sansa, Davos, Tyrion), but it was all the same narrative, and all the same timeline. So, of course, there was nothing from Qarth, and also nothing from beyond the Wall, nothing from Robb’s camp, etc. Given the scope of this episode, that was probably for the best, and one wonders if any other event might warrant a similar treatment. (Those who’ve read the books may be able to think of at least one, but even that one’s iffy.)

Today’s post came out a day late because I was up at BayCon for the weekend. It was a smaller event than WorldCon, but good fun! In addition to moderating a couple panels, I got to meet up with our very own khaleesi Daenerys and her boyfriend Crown of Gold. We had a wonderful dinner with my wife and Juliette Wade and her family, and then when we went for gelato, which was delicious. It was truly a red letter day. San athchomari, zhey okeosi!

And now for some disappointing news. Many will have noted that last week went down. This is actually because the site is hosted on the same server that the Na’vi community is hosted on, and it went down. It came back up on Sunday, but, unfortunately, went down yet again, and the problem appears to be more serious now. was the best resources on the net on Dothraki (I used it myself), and if it’s gone, that leaves this blog, which is a blog, and not as useful as, say, a wiki that can simply list tables, vocabulary, etc. There are a number of potential solutions, but it’s not clear what’s going to happen moving forward, so in the meantime, we just have to hang tight. On the bright side, sunquan has put up two more Dothraki tutorial videos on YouTube. Check them out!

And next week: The finale of season 2 of Game of Thrones. Lot of loose ends to be tied up. Can’t wait to see one of my favorite episodes from the books: The House of the Undying. Anha laz vos ayok!

Khalakka Haji Winterfell

Well, there was some Dothraki in Episode 8 originally, but given that we only got one scene from Dany’s storyline, I have a feeling the lines (and the accompanying scene) were pushed back to either next week or the week after. We shall see.

In this episode, we see Robb and Talisa kind of coming full circle (I imagine it’ll probably fully play out over the next two episodes). I’ll have more to say when the season’s over, but I can return to a point I was trying to make in a previous post now that one of the events I was alluding to has played out. (Note: If you haven’t watched the most recent episode yet, now would be a good time to navigate away from the site. I did say early on that everything that’s aired is fair game, so fairly warned be ye says I!)

As I mentioned, George R. R. Martin does this thing in the Song of Ice and Fire books where something happens and the explanation isn’t revealed until later. In A Clash of Kings, for example, the reader is led to believe that Bran and Rickon are dead: killed by Theon. It’s a number of chapters later that we find out that the corpses are those of the miller’s sons, and that they were dipped in tar and disfigured so that they would be unrecognizable. The order of the revelation of these facts allows the reader to experience what the rest of the Northmen experience in the book. This was preserved in the show (because it could be: the episode break provided a convenient way to allow the audience to fret over the deaths of Bran and Rickon while not cruelly putting an entire season in between the ruse and the revelation), but similar events (such as the one I was referring to in the previous post) could not be.

This episode had possibly one of my favorite Arya moments: Her shrugging her shoulders when Jaqen H’ghar suggests she’s less than honorable. Priceless. Maisie Williams is just terrific.

Since there’s nothing else going on, I wanted to spotlight some excellent tutorials on Dothraki on YouTube. They’re all being done by YouTube user sunquan8094, and I have no idea who he is (in fact, I don’t think any of the folk know who he is, either). Some of the early videos have a couple of minor errors, but in style and content, I think they serve as an excellent introduction to Dothraki. The most recent video was posted a week ago, so I believe sunquan8094 plans to keep on making them, which is fantastic!

Unfortunately, the videos haven’t gotten a lot of exposure and have very few views. In addition, it looks like some gregi is being totally uncool and hitting “dislike” on all of them, so I’m hoping we can fix that. All the videos that are up at the moment are linked below. If you have a YouTube account (or even if you don’t), go hit “like” on all of them so we can get the videos back in the green and give sunquan8094 a little encouragement!

[Note: The playlist that houses all the videos can be found here.]

For those in the Bay Area, I’m going to be doing a Song of Ice and Fire panel at BayCon this coming Sunday (11:30 a.m., Ballroom A). Stop by, and I’ll give you a free M’athchomaroon! Otherwise, I’ll see you all here next week to discuss “Blackwater” (the one we’ve all been waiting for).

Mahrazh Oma Chomokhoon

No Dothraki this week—in fact, everyone around our khaleesi seems to be dropping like flies. And no dragons! Things are looking grim.

Speaking of today’s episode, it was awful quiet around the internet today. Or was that just me watching the episode late on account of Mother’s Day? Anyway, I thought this episode was outstanding—perhaps the best of the series. There were some changes, but I liked all the changes that were made. A controversial highlight for me was Jaime killing Alton. What a scene! First we get all this backstory and rapport, and then he busts out on Alton like a trained serial killer. I liked this, because, quite frankly, Jaime was too likable. We’re supposed to dislike him up to this point (at least a bit). Even pushing Brann out the window the dude was likable! This was a good twist.

Oh, but a note on realism: How’s he going to surprise somebody in a cage that’s visible from the outside?! How are we supposed to believe he hid from that guard who came in in plain sight? Did he forget he was there? Those Northmen…

Since we’ve got nothing else going on today, I thought I’d go over how names work in Dothraki. There’s not much to it, as I wanted to remain maximally faithful to the books. We’ve got a handful of male Dothraki names and, unless I’m missing one, two female names (Irri and Jhiqui) that come directly from the books. Of those names, the male names end in -o and the female names end in -i. I took these as male and female name suffixes, respectively, with names becoming animate nouns. But what do they suffix to?

This is where I got to have some fun. The name suffixes are kind of like the agentive -k suffix, only with a bit of a broader interpretation. Using the male suffix as an example, -o will mean something like “He who is x“, “He who does x“, “He who is characterized by x” or “He who is similar in some way to x“, where x is a root.

One thing I picked up directly from the book, though, is the preference for names stressed on the second syllable. By naturally reading the names, most that are three syllables long are stressed on the second syllable, and one way this is achieved is by doubling the last consonant (part of what inspired the stress system of Dothraki), as in “Cohollo”. As a result, even though a doubled consonant ordinarily makes a difference in meaning, in names a doubled consonant is often used purely to get the stress on the second syllable of a name with more than two syllables. The practice is so common, though, that doubled consonants are used even in disyllabic names just because, at this point, it makes the name sound like a good name.

So let’s look at some names we know and how they’re formed:

  • Drogo < drogat “to drive” (i.e. “he who drives”, or “driver of beasts”)
  • Irri < irra “trout” (i.e. “she who is like a trout”)
  • Kovarro < kovarat “to stand” (i.e. “he who stands”)
  • Qotho < qothat “to be loyal” (i.e. “he who is loyal”)
  • Jommo < joma “salmon” (i.e. “he who is like a salmon”)
  • Zollo < zolat “to be exceptionally small” (i.e. “he who is exceptionally small”)

That’s about the long and short of it. Dothraki don’t shy away from names that refer to one’s physical appearance or temperament, and also take names from animals or objects whose characteristics a parent desires their child to emulate. Here are some potential Dothraki names:

  • Hliziffo < hlizif “bear” (i.e. “he who is like a bear”)
  • Halahhi < halah “flower” (i.e. “she who is like a flower”)
  • Qanno < qana “black stork” (i.e. “he who is like a black stork”)
  • Tehinni < tehin “breed of horse” (i.e. “she who has reddish/brown hair like a tehin“)
  • Vrelo < vrelat “to leap” (i.e. “he who leaps well”)
  • Zali < zalat “to hope” (i.e. “she who hopes”)
  • Chako < chakat “to be silent” (i.e. “he who is silent”)
  • Emi < emat “to smile” (i.e. “she who smiles”)

Those with doubled consonants above can be made into singletons, and those that are singletons can be doubled. Anyway, that’s about the run of it. You can use the strategies above to create your own Dothraki name, if you wish, or (even better) Dothraki names for your cats, accompanied by pictures of them looking ferocious! To get some more roots, take a look at the vocabulary list over at

Next week, Episode 8! Boy, this season’s going to be over in the blink of an eye…

Vojjor Ershe ma Sashi

Another week, and another blow to the Dothraki speakers of Essos. This week we lost a big one: Dany’s handmaiden, and the one with probably the most Dothraki lines in the show, Irri. Her death probably came as a shock to those who’ve read the books, because Irri lasts a whole lot longer than that in the books. Upon reflection, I think the effect of unexpected deaths like this on fans of the books is amusing. After all, the book series itself is known for killing off main characters—even the good guys. Fans of the books got to sit back and snicker as new fans of the show were shocked by Ned Stark’s death back in season 1. But now what, book fans?! Not only are your favorite characters not safe from George R. R. Martin—they’re not safe from Dave and Dan!

Seriously, though, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the wonderful work of Amrita Acharia. Not only did she do a great job in the role of Irri, her Dothraki was my favorite. She spoke fluidly and had a convincing accent. If anyone saw the episode of CNN’s The Next List on Dothraki, you will have seen some interview footage with Amrita Acharia, which I was grateful for (she didn’t have to take the time, but she did). Not only that, but she delivered a line she had memorized from season 1. Think about that. Season 2 was already done filming, and she was able to reproduce from memory a full Dothraki line from season 1 (the episode “A Golden Crown”, to be specific). Just outstanding. So to Amrita, thank you so much! You did a terrific job. I can’t wait to see you in something else.

Apart from that shocking discovery, there was also a shocking lack of Dothraki dialogue. Odd, since you’d think Talisa would speak Dothraki (I mean, since we’re making stuff up for her anyway, why not?). But, of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Dany’s story does kind of take a back seat in A Clash of Kings. Those who’ve read the book, though, know that some good stuff’s coming (I can’t wait).

About the rest of the episode, I do have some thoughts on Talisa (and on similar types of events), but it crucially depends on scenes that are coming, so I’ll have to hold off. Suffice it to say, though, I know the pressure the writers are responding to, and I think they’re doing as good a job as can be expected. George R. R. Martin has this habit of introducing events that have happened in the books, with explanations coming chapters and chapters later—and for the books, that’s cool. I don’t think it can translate directly to a television show, though. It will help to be able to work with a specific example (and I have two in mind) to illustrate just what I’m talking about, but the scenes in question haven’t aired yet, so I’m going to have to hold off until they have. But trust me. I’ve got a good explanation right up my sleeve…

Since there’s no Dothraki dialogue to discuss, I figure I may as well tell the story behind the Dothraki word for “friend” (something Daenerys has been asking for for a while now). It does exist, and it almost made it into the show, in fact. When the call came to translate dialogue that ended up in last week’s episode, I saw one of Dany’s lines in there was, “Thank you, my friend”. You may, in fact, remember this line from last week and that it was in English. That was no accident.

Not wanting to disappoint, I did, in fact, translate the line (in fact I gave a couple options for it), but I reminded Bryan et al. that we’d made kind of a big deal about Dothraki having no word for “thank you” in the premiere. I let them know that we could translate it as san athchomari (which, as those working with Dothraki know, isn’t really the same thing as “thank you”), but that if anything was subtitled as “thank you”, undoubtedly every fan in existence would point it out and be all like Ki fin yeni?! So I gave them options. I said they could go with that, or they could have her say “thank you” in English, and follow it up with “my friend” in Dothraki. I also suggested that the entire line could be in English, and they went with that, which I think makes sense. After all, if you don’t have a word for something in the language you’re speaking, it’s common to drop in the word you want from another language. And if Dany starts in English, she’s just as likely to finish in English rather than switch to Dothraki, if not more likely. And so the word for “friend” didn’t make it in.

There is a word for “friend”, though, and there’s a story behind it. I gave quite a bit to thought to just how the concept of friendship would translate to Dothraki culture. It seems like one wouldn’t have a friend the way one has one in our world. There’s one’s immediate family, of course, then there are the members of one’s khalasar, which is like an extended family. Whether related or not, another member of one’s khalasar is like a cousin or relative. The question, then, was whether there were relationships beyond this.

Then it occurred to me that there’s the perfect model for such a relationship: a khal’s bloodrider. Though the khal commands the entire khalasar, he has only three bloodriders, and they owe him a special debt above and beyond what’s expected of an ordinary rider. They’re also accorded more respect and are privy to the khal’s council. That model, then, can easily extend to every Dothraki. A dothraki has their khalasar and their immediate family, and they also have one or two of these others—ones who owe them a debt, who will have their back in battle, and who will take care of their family should they fall. I was satisfied with this definition for “friend”: I just needed a form for it.

At the time that I was coming up with vocabulary like this, it was early 2010 and I was translating material for the first season of Game of Thrones. It was kind of a tough time: My wife and I had just moved into our first condo; the press release about Game of Thrones and Dothraki hadn’t gone live yet, so I had to keep explaining to my family that I was busy, but I couldn’t say why; my car was stolen (I got it back [which is good, because we need that old thing])… About the only things that were good were my wife and my new cat.

See, I’d never had a cat before (I’d always been allergic). I had a dog growing up, but I’d always wanted a cat, and this cat (that we got in January of 2010 from Cats In Need) was our very own. My wife was working long hours, so every day I’d work on expanding Dothraki and translating dialogue with my cat by my side, and at night he’d curl up with me and we’d watch One Piece or Dark Shadows. He was my little friend and kept me company as Dothraki grew.

In retrospect, I should’ve spotted that something was wrong much earlier than I did. I wasn’t an experienced cat person, though, and both my wife and I were shutting out the warning signs. Little by little, though, our cat became less interested in eating. At first he just wasn’t eating as much as he had been. After a while, he wouldn’t eat by himself any longer. We were in and out of the vet’s office every other day, each time with something new to try, always thinking that the new solution would be the solution. But it never was. It was when he could barely walk that we finally skipped the vet and went to an emergency pet clinic. We turned him over to their care that night hopeful, but as it turned out, we would never see him again.

He was extremely young (about 7 months), and from what the emergency vet was able to figure out, he had a congenital liver problem. In the short time we’d had him, though, I’d grown to love him, and I was utterly devastated. When I was finally able to work out of my depression, I decided one way to honor him would be to work his name into Dothraki. Since I still hadn’t come up with a word for “friend”, though, I decided that Dothraki “friend” would get its root from my own dear little friend: My first cat Okeo.

And so the word for “friend” in Dothraki is okeo: an animate noun. As it happens, his name has its origins in a Kamakawi word which I coined just for him based on his old name when he was still at the shelter. His name was “Oreo”, but it was spelled in all caps, and my wife pointed out that on the tag it actually looked like “Okeo”. And so Okeo he became.

I still miss him all the time, but I am feeling better now. Dang. I just realized this might be kind of a downer to read (hopefully not as much of a downer as it was to write), so to make up for it, here’s a video of two adorable kittens meowing at each other. Enjoy!