Vol. 2 | Chapter Two: Cabals at the Demonic Capital (iii)

Even as Guiscard enacted his own personal battle against his royal brother, the archbishop, and the Knight Commander, Hirmiz left the Parsian nobleman’s estate that had been allocated him, his footsteps leading him to a single residential building toward the back of the grounds…


Notes under the cut:

Warning: this is another post with a lot of nerdy tl;dr.

1. So this plot development is why I decided to go with “Saam” over “Salm” way back in the first book. (Well, also because Tanaka doesn’t seem to transcribe elongated vowels in place of the “ar”/”al” sound as is sometimes the practice.) Salm in the Shahnameh is a cowardly/jealous figure; Saam is one of the major heroes. Our Saam clearly still has a role to play… and as the narration reminds us, was one of the more heroic side characters from the previous book.

He initially uses 汝 [nanji] for “you” in this exchange, by the way, which I wasn’t quite sure how to translate at first. It’s an archaic “you” — basically the go-to pronoun to make someone sound all formal and old-timey. This isn’t the first time it’s been used (I can’t recall exactly who else used it, probably the elder in gray and one or two of the royals), but it’s interesting to me that he chooses to address Hirmiz this way. It’s a form of distancing, but not necessarily outright insulting (IRL historical usage it’s pretty neutral). In context it’s basically just posturing, probably because directly insulting someone who did technically save your life is kind of petty, even if you think they’re with the enemy. In contrast, Qaran goaded Saam with the blatantly rude “kisama” back during their encounter, as did Hirmiz when facing Dariun and Andragoras. I think it says a little something about Saam’s nobler personality that he only switches to “kisama” after Hirmiz makes his bold claim, and very swiftly swings back to formality when he starts to piece things together.

While I’m here, I also want to point out that Hirmiz is really more blunt than arrogant, which I’m not sure I managed to convey very well; it’s a little subtle, but this scene in particular comes across as a deliberate show or challenge on his part (he postures right back at Saam by sticking coolly to the casual-but-only-rude-depending-on-context “omae” throughout the entire exchange, which provides a natural contrast with the more respectful “onushi” he uses for Zandeh later on [and Qaran in the past]).

Anyway. Normally “nanji” is translated directly as thou/thee/etc., but since I’ve been seriously abusing that as a shorthand for extreme formality, I had to go with something a little different. If I remember my Shakespeare correctly, “sirrah” almost exactly approximates the dynamic going on here. Thank you, Shakespeare.

2. The Huma/Homa is a symbolic kingmaker, much like the Chinese dragon horse or the qilin (used explicitly this way in The Twelve Kingdoms)*. It’s often compared to the phoenix (Greek in origin with possible Egyptian basis), though the bird I more commonly see equated to the phoenix is actually the related Simurgh. Either way, the association with fire and rebirth is obviously deliberate in context.

* I believe the similar association of the Fenghuang with divine mandate is a much later development and probably influenced by the Huma, but don’t take my word for it because I’ve only studied this informally.

Speaking of mythological birds, here’s a link to an older abridged translation of The Conference of the Birdshttp://sacred-texts.com/isl/bp/bp01.htm

Here’s a (much more reader-friendly) annotated translation into prose: http://persian.packhum.org/persian/pf?file=02602030&ct=28

The Huma said he was gifted with the power to confer sovereignty on those over whose head he flew.

I’ve read the modern translation in the past as well (published by Penguin), which I recall being also quite readable.


3. Zandeh = ザンデ. There’s a character in the Shahnameh named Zindeh/Zendeh* (who dies almost immediately after he’s named — there’s precedence btw for certain vowels in standardized English spellings getting swapped with other vowels in Japanese, not always in the same direction: Gorgin/Gurgin -> Gurgan, later on Aghriras -> Igriras or Idris/Edris -> Adris; unrelated but along the same lines, one English version that lists the character in question as “Zendeh” also spells Tahmineh as “Tehmina”…). There is also a Zand dynasty (ザンド). Zand/Zend is also a term referring to Avestan commentaries. I don’t think it’s obvious which of those he’s named after, if any, so I just picked a reasonable compromise.

*I have also traced this to Zendeh-rud -> Zindeh-rud -> Zayanderud, which I think is fair game since like Ruknabad, it’s referenced in Hafiz‘s works/by Guy Le Strange, who I’ve previously mentioned. (see also: Zindah Rud/Zinda Rood)

Another possibility is Xande as a shortened form of Alexander, but honestly, I don’t like this take on it because the Persian for Alexander [the Great] is Sikandar -> Iskandar (and is in fact recorded in the Shahnameh as such). Although Tanaka does use Greek/Latinized forms of names sometimes (notably Timur -> Tamerlane -> Merlane, or Narses instead of Narsi/Narseh), Sikandar/Iskandar are both Japanese-friendly. A future character is in fact named Sikandar — which still doesn’t totally discount the possibility of “Xande” because Tanaka does quite happily reuse name variants like Khosrow/Osroes/Husrav.

On one hand, it’s probably more likely for the character to be named after Alexander than the obscure dude above, but to shorten it to “Xande” of all things is a weird choice to me. (It also bugs me because pronouncing “X” with a “Z” sound is pretty culturally specific.) On the other hand, Zendeh appears in the same section Hojir does (and mostly heroic Hojir from the Shahnameh turns into a slimeball with minimal redeeming points in Arslan), so it’s not unreasonable for Tanaka to pick the name that way I guess.

… There are some other possibilities, but I think the above options/explanations have the most support.

eta 12/6/2016: Zandeh is correct, see comment.

4. Hirmiz tells Zandeh to call him 銀仮面卿 [gin kamen kyou]… and so “-kyou” rears its head yet again. In the past this has just been translated by other people as Lord Silvermask, which is obviously what I decided to go with too. Imo it comes across considerably less cheesy in Chinese/Japanese where multiple names and in particular allusive pseudonyms were historically a thing.

That said, I actually thought about whether I should use “sir” to be consistent with my previous takes on -kyou (sigh I knew this would come back to bite me, I also started wondering if I should go back and rethink the way I’ve been differentiating -dono and -kyou, except I’d run into problems no matter how I deal with it…). The thing is, I interpret this particular usage of “-kyou” not so much as a title/honorific but as part of the full nickname, something more literally like “The Silvermask Noble.” Maybe that’s too subtle of a difference and maybe I’m totally off the mark, but eh. At least I can take comfort in the fact that no one ever really knows how to translate these allusive names even in historical contexts, see also: Heian court ladies. 😛

(I do kind of regret using “Silver Mask” as shorthand for “man of the silver mask” to avoid clunky wording a few times in the previous book though. Someday I might go back and see if I can come up with a workaround.)

5. Still haven’t figured out the earth sorcery term (check back here for original discussion on it), but like I said previously, there is precedence for this sort of magic in RL texts.

The next and final section of the chapter is very short and is mostly translated already, so you can expect another update soon (or I might just space it out to next week and see if I can get ahead with a buffer again).


One thought on “Vol. 2 | Chapter Two: Cabals at the Demonic Capital (iii)

  1. M.A.KH says:

    wow two updates.
    thank you

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