The time has come to call a close to this year’s Dothraki haiku competition. Nice job this year! Too good, in fact. It was really hard to choose a winner. I’d feel more conflicted if winning came with any sort of prize. Thank goodness it doesn’t!
I received eleven haiku, all intriguing. Since there were so many, I’m going to choose one from each author to discuss. First, from our newest Dothraki reader, Meghan, we have a haiku from which came the title for today’s post. Here it is:
Ez qoy asshekhi.
Which translates to:
The palomino gallops.
Found today’s blood.
Very, very nice! Meghan basically just started working with Dothraki, like, a few weeks ago, and already she’s putting together long strings of text—and using one of my favorite words (qahlan) that rarely sees the light of day. Athdavrazar, zhey Meghan! The best haiku paint a picture, and this one paints a good one.
Next we have a haiku from Hrakkar:
Fonat ma adakhalat
And the intended translation is:
The lions are ready
To hunt and to eat
This is close, but there are two issues (one my fault. Sorry!). Here the verb hethkat should be used, in which case it should be hethki not hethke. Next, though I gave everyone the adjective hethke, I never gave the verb, and never said how you’d say “ready to” or “ready for”. That’s my bad there. In fact, you say hethkat ki. So if you wanted to say “they’re ready to hunt and eat”, you’d say hethki k’athfonari ma k’athadakhari. Of course, the last three words would be way over seven syllables, so that wouldn’t work. I really like this idea, though. After all, the Dothraki Sea is a place where horses and lions roam. It stands to reason that the lions would hunt those horses the way lions in our world hunt zebras. That’d be pretty cool to witness.
Next we have a poem from ingsve:
“Hethkas she oakah” ma
“Hethkas she khado”.
And my attempt at a translation is:
The scouts’ motto
“Be ready in your soul” and
“Be ready in your body”.
Very clever! It took me forever to figure out what was intended by the first line, and I eventually needed to seek out ingsve’s help. Turns out he was using an off-brand word for “scout”. I’ve got tihak for “scout” (in the literal sense: someone who serves as a lookout), and I’d probably use that for the “boyscout” version of “scout”. Using oakah for this version of “mind” is interesting (I translated it as “soul”, but the original calls for the English word “mind”). Nice work!
Next is a haiku from Zhalio, which is brilliant:
Vo sanneyos vort
Zhavvorsoon fin nem azh.
And this is the translation:
Don’t count the teeth
Of the dragon that was given (you).
Say “thank you”.
In High Valyrian. Ha! I gathered he’d try to work that in, and he did it well. This is a great version of the English phrase “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, and works perfectly. I was also quite pleased to see the correct usage of the negative imperative. And, adding to its worth, I think it sounds better in Dothraki than any translation I can muster in English, which is just awesome. You can hear Zhalio reading it aloud here (brother got some bass in that voice! Nice reading!).
Alas, there can be only one winner, and this year, as with last year, our winner is Qvaak. He did it again. Here’s his winning haiku:
Rhaesh ath hethka.
Oqoe ven vash memof
And my translation:
The dry land is ready.
A great noise reverberates like a stampede
From the sky.
Worthy of Eliot. An initial draft of this poem had a grammar error, and when he fixed it, it called for a radical reorganization of the syntax of the second line. The result harkens back to the old days of Dothraki, with the verb in initial position. Furthermore, by putting memof, the subject of the sentence, at the end, there’s a curious type of enjambment (if that’s even the right term in this case) which allows one to read memof asavvasoon as a single noun phrase. In fact, memof is the subject, and the phrase asavvasoon modifies the verb phrase. Semantically, though, the great noise (memof) actually is coming from the sky (asavvasoon), so it’s still semantically felicitous. Just awesome. There’s been a decent amount of material written in Dothraki, but this may be the best thing ever composed. And for that, Qvaak has earned this year’s Mawizzi Virzeth: The Red Rabbit!
That’s two years in a row, zhey Qvaak! I think we’re going to need to start giving you a handicap of some kind…
Thanks so much to everyone who submitted haiku! It was a tough choice this year, and you did incredible work. I’m already looking forward to next year. I also think that (regarding the experiment) I’m going to keep the challenge word as optional only. If it were a requirement, we wouldn’t have seen some incredible haiku (e.g. Zhalio’s), and I wouldn’t want to inhibit that. So I’ll include a challenge word as a possibility to get folks jumpstarted, but it won’t be a requirement. Thanks again for the incredible work!
I’ll try to abide Zhalio’s teaching, even though I see no teeth not to be counted: Kirimvos!
It’s certainly a bonus, that asavvasoon works as modifier for the verb phrase. I would not have trusted that it would. Even though I read it in my head more as a verb modifier than a noun modifier, I did not really never conciously analyse it that way.
There’s some really great material here, from everyone. And a lot to learn from what people (myself included) did right and did wrong. Ingsve’s ‘boy scout’ haiku really stood out for me; it was different from anything else anyone posted. It says something about the flexibility of the Dothraki language.
One of the really wonderful things about this community (that is largely missing from the Na’vi community) is the challenges we get to actually apply the language.
So athdavrazar! to Qvaak (who really does need a handicap next year ) and everyone else for their great haikus!
Is the /r/ in “kirimvos” actually a trill? Can’t wait to see what the grammar of High Valyrian looks like
Actually in that position, it’d just be a tap. At the beginning or end of a word it’s a trill.