1 (edited by Ralin Drakus Monday, July 6, 2009 7:19 am)

Topic: KT's Star Wars Insider 86 article

As many of you probably know, I've recently been working on a Revision and Review of KT's SW Insder 86 article that dealt with her interpretation and assertions reguarding the Mandalorians and her vision for them.

However, I feel it is only fair to offer a fresh and unbiased look at KT's original work in it's own thread, untainted by my own personal notes and comments that, admitedly, are slightly hostile to her ideas.  So, for those who wish to see KT's vision for our favorite SW culture, here is what I have copied so far from her first ever published work on the Mando'ade.

Any errors or typos are probably copying errors on my part.  If you could point them out for me, I'll check them out and repair any mistakes ASAP.



Copied from SW Insider 86


THE MANDALORIANS

By Karen Traviss

In five millennia, the Mandalorians fought with and against a thousand armies on a thousand worlds.  They learned to speak as many languages and absorbed weapons and technology and tactics from every war.  And yet, despite the overwhelming influence of alien cultures, and the absence of a true homeworld and even species, their own language not only survived but changed little; their way of live and their philosophy remained untouched; and their ideals and sense of family, of identity, of nation, were only strengthened.  Armor is not what makes a Mandalorian.  Armor is simply a manifestation of an impenetrable, unassailable heart. 


ORIGINS

Mandalorians are people of contradictions.  They have an unmistakable identity, yet they’re not a true race.  They have no country in the conventional sense and are scattered across the galaxy.  These feared warriors have a savage reputation but they cherish family life and will adopt children orphaned by war, rather then kill them as other species might.  This odd blend of tough pragmatism, brutality and affectionate family life makes them a mystery to many.

And they’re probably not even the original Mandalorian race.  Anthropologists disagree about their roots; did they begin as humans or, as a few academics still claim, a gray-skinned non human species?  Whichever theory you find most convincing, they became a species of predominantly human nomadic warriors.

For the vast majority of species, culture is the unique expression of their being.  When species are overrun by other cultures, and adopt their beliefs and practices, they still retain something of their old ways.

But the Mandalorians are an exception.  They adopted a culture and became totally defined by it.  Their nearest parallel, ironically, is the Jedi – with whom the Mandalorians have had so much antagonism and conflict.

Whatever drove the first humans to adopt Mandalorian customs and language, they remain a people who accept anyone willing to follow their code, and non-human species are welcomed into the community.  Mandalorians believe that you are what you do, not what an accident of birth dictates. 

But they’re still predominantly human, and a large percentage of the population shows genetic markers typical of the peoples of Concord Dawn and nearby planets.  Although there is no true Mandalorian ethnic type, the prevalence of common gene indicates that specific populations were either absorbed by the Mandalorians or joined them. 

Concord Dawn is a good example.  Jango Fett, one of the icons of Mandalorian history, was adopted.  And yet his genome already shared many markers with his adopted community, without deliberate planning, Mandalorians nevertheless selectively bred themselves for certain traits that are now considered their defining characteristics; discipline, close family bonds, extraordinary physical fighting skills, and intense loyalty.   




WARRIOR NOMADS

Nomadic peoples prize portable skills more then possessions, and this aspect of the Mando mindset still underpins their society even when settled on Mandalore.  Even when living in settled communities on Mandalore, their nomadic warrior ethic remains. 

Inevitably, a nomadic warrior race with no fixed territory to defend becomes associated with mercenary activity.  For centuries the Mando’ade --- or children of Mandalore, as they call themselves --- have been seen as little more then bounty hunters, assassins, and mercenaries.

But not all Mando’ade spend their lives as hired soldiers.  Their mercenary history is very recent and relatively brief, and they have other trades related to soldiering that earn them a living when they aren’t at war. 

Many, scattered across the galaxy in small communities, earn their living as weaponsmiths, bodyguards and other occupations that the host population finds too dangerous or too dirty.  Many remain in the Mandalore sector, working the land or laboring in factories and workshops.  All of them, though, are capable of becoming an army at a moment’s notice.

Over the centuries, some have questioned the Mandalorian compulsion to cling to nomadic ways despite having a home world in Mandalore.  The practice, though, is more then attachment to tradition.  Mandalorians spread themselves to avoid presenting enemies with a convenient target.  Despite repeated attacks that were thought to have wiped them out, the resilient Mandalorians keep coming back.

While they have earned their living more recently as soldiers of fortune, most of the Mandalorians’ history has been spent fighting for their own purposes, not others.  But although they’re a ruthless enemy, they display an unexpected gentle side in warfare by adopting war orphans. 


What Makes A Mandalorian

Geography has played a nebulous role in Mandalorian identity.  Although Mandalore is regarded as their homeworld, many Mandalorians were not born there and many have never even seen the planet.

Their society places no emphasis on birthplace, species, or citizenship, and so Mando’ade have not “state” as modern galactic politics understands it.  They ignore rank and status and prefer to judge by actions and achievements, true meritocracy; the Mandalore, or leader of the clans, is the nearest they have to a head of state.  And yet nobody mistakes Mandalorians for any other people when they see them.

Mando’ade regard the following six acts --- known as the Six Actions, or Resol’Nare --- as central to Mandalorian identity: wearing armor, speaking the Mandalorian language, defending themselves and their families, raising their children as Mandalorians, contributing to the clan’s welfare, and rallying to the Mand’alor when called to arms.  Anyone who practices them is considered Mando’ade.  The emphasis is on carrying out these acts daily, not simply paying lip service to them.

For a people who appear to have little interest in rank or hierarchy, Mandalorians are extremely co-operative in combat.  The rugged individuality so marked in their approach to most things is set aside to reach a common goal, and they’ll do whatever it takes to achieve their objective.  Their fighting forces settle into informal command and not personal ambition.  This instinctive flexibility is also what makes them superb mercenaries. 

Because they’re self-selecting, they attract and retain people with the same mindset and genetic predisposition, which reinforces these traits.  The more that soldiers are to inclined to co-operate on the battlefield, the more likely they are to survive and produce children with the same characteristics.   


Mandalorian Society

There is no gender in the Mandalorian language.  This mirrors the equal status of men and women and the general flexibility of societal roles, despite what appears to many to be a traditional division of tasks along gender lines.

Men are expected to be warriors and to raise and train their sons to be the same.  Women maintain the home wherever the nomads happen to travel, and raise the daughters.  But women also are expected to have the combat skills of a man in order to defend the homestead when the men are away.  Women also fight alongside men on the battlefield.  If they have no dependent children to care for, they’re expected to share the responsibilities of defense and warfare.

Not surprisingly, the Mandalorian femail ideal that men respect is not fragile and graceful physically strong, enduring and gritty.  The word laandur (delicate), is a common insult among women.  If you imply that a Mando woman is a bad mother, a poor fighter, or a landur (weakling) you’ll find out the hard way that she’s none of these things. 

Marriage is expected to be for life --- which is sometimes prematurely short for warriors –- and usually takes place soon after Mandalorians turn 16.  A couple enters into a legal commitment simply by making the following pledge to each other:


    Mandalorian        Translation
    Mhi solus tome        We are one when together
    Mhi solus dar’tome                          We are one when parted
    Mhi me’di                              We share all
    Mhi ba’juri verde                          We will raise warriors


Despite their emphasis on fidelity and chastity before marriage, Mandalorians are surprisingly forgiving and relatively unconcerned with parentage.  As they prize action and pragmatism above words and intentions, they take the view that aliit ori’shya tal’din (family is more then bloodline).  It’s the daily affirmations of the family life that matters to them, which explains their propensity for adoption and even welcoming adults into the Mando fold.  With many widows and orphans in the Mandalorian community, suitable foreign adult males are not only welcome but also necessary. 

The adoption process, like marriage, is a simple statement of intention: the gai bal manda (name and soul) takes its place in the declarations ni kyr’tayl gai sa’ad (I know your name as my child).  That, and the ongoing adherence to the six tenants of Mandalorian life, is all it takes to become Mandalorian.

Just as it’s possible to become a Mandalorian, it’s also possible to lose your Mandalorian status, renounce it, or even have it taken from you.  Exile is a rare but feared punishment.


The Mandalorian Family

”Their definition of offspring or parent is more by relationship then birth; Adoption is extreamely common, and it’s not unusual for mercenaries to take war orphans as their sons or daughters if they impress them with their aggression and tenacity.”
(Mandalorians: Identity and Its Influence on Genome, published by the Galactic Institute of Anthropology.)

In exceptional circumstances, such as abandonment or a failure to live up to responsibilities, partners and divorce each other simply by declaring that they are shuk’la riduurok (a broken love).  Children may also disown their father or mother by declaring them dar’buir (no longer a parent).  This is rare and usually only follows abandonment or an act of cowardice that shames them family. 

If the first child is a son, parents may wait eight years before having another child so that the first is old enough to accompany his father and be trained as a soldier for five years until he reaches adulthood at 13.  Then his father is free to train a younger son.  At 13, both girls and boys undergo a rite of passage in military and survival skills that makes them legally adults. 

If the firstborn is a girl, the couple may try for a son soon afterwards.  A daughter will usually stay with her mother until she marries.  But if a couple has only daughters, the girls will be trained as warriors by their father exactly as boys would be.  Boys learn their earliest lessons from their mothers before the age of eight, so her fighting skills are critical; a couple pledges to raise warriors, and this is a joint commitment.

Women are expected to train their daughters in combat skills, but fathers also take part in their daughter’s education.  Despite their fiercely masculine reputation, Mandalorian men play an active role in raising their families.  Most have a strong parenting instinct, one of the reinforced genetic traits from absorbed populations. 

The parents’ duty is to train their child in survival skills and Mandalorian culture and language, and to prepare them for raise the next generation of warriors.  Elder imbue children with the essential Mandalorian ideals of loyalty of clan and family, personal discipline, courage, and respect for their heritage.

The Mandalorian way of life is a dangerous one and widows and orphans are a fact of life.  Families never hesitate to adopt orphans, and unmarried men and women regard is as their duty to take widows and widowers as spouses.


Religion and Spirituality

Mandalorians were once intensely religious but disillusionment with the old fanaticism and worship of war itself gave way to a far less supernatural belief system among modern Mandalorians.  They now regard creation tales, such as Akaanati’dar’oya (The War of Life and Death), as parables to illustrate a deeper philosophical meaning rather then literal supernaturalism.  The stars were mythologized as fallen kings of Mandalore, and there are tales of the mythosaurs, but the pragmatic and skeptical Mandalorians look for allegory in these stories.   

The manda---best described as a combination of the collective state of being, the essence of being Mandalorian, and an oversoul--- is not viewed as a literal heaven.  Traditionally, the Mando afterlife is seen as a plane of spiritual energy in constant conflict between stagnation, and the opportunity for change brought about by destruction---a parallel with modern theories of cosmology.  In Mandalorian myth, this conflict is symbolized by the eternal war between the sloth-god Arasuum---the personifecation of idle consumption and stagnation---and the vigorous destroyer god Kad Ha’rangir, who forces change and growth on the universe. 

Every Mando warrior who dies is said to add to the army of the afterlife, defending wives and children living in its permanent, peaceful homestead---the only place Mandalorians believe they can ever reach a non-transitory state of existence.

The Concept of Dar’Manda

Mandalorian spirituality has its roots in pragmatism.  Living the Mandalorian way and believing in the community’s ideals are all that keep a nomadic people together and preserve its identity.  Without a commitment to those principles, the community either perishes or is subsumed into the host population.  In the absence of a single species, ethnic heritage, and fixed territory, only values and culture survive to pass from generation to generation.  If they are not rigorously maintained and reinforced, the community is doomed.

Traditional Mandalorians regard being a dar’manda---someone ignorant of their Mandalorian heritage---as the worst fate imaginable.  It’s a difficult concept for non-Mandalorians (aruetiise, which can mean anything from non-Mando to enemy) to grasp, but it’s the equivalent of having no soul and no afterlife.  The obliteration of personal identity mirrors the real obliteration that faces a people who lose their defining culture.  Although few Mandalorians believe in a literal afterlife, they do believe in the manda.

To be part of the manda, the communal spiritual state of being Mando’ade, a man or woman must understand the basics of their culture and embody the ideals of the Mandalorian kar’ta---the heart, or in this case the soul.  This means responsibility for the next generation, loyalty to their people, and a fighting spirit.  Without this, a person is considered lost for eternity. 

The duty to ensure children know enough of their heritage to be part of the manda motivaged the Cuy’val Dar---the Mandalorian instructors recruited to train the clone troops for the Grand Army of the Republic---to educate their men in Mando customs as they would their own sons.  The instructors believed that even if the troops died in combat and never lived in the proper Mando community, they would have an eternal place in the collective consciousness. 


Daily Life-and Death

The Mando concept of home (yaim)describes the sense of safety and comfort that can be found even in temporary settlements.  For a Mandalorian, a home is where the armor lies. 

Some nomadic races carry tents, but Mando’ade prefer either to build temporary structures, known as vheh’yaim, from woven green wood and mud, or to take over the homes of enemies defeated in combat.  “Temporary” can mean any period of time from over night to years.  The only certainty if that the Mando soldier or family never expects any home to be a permanent one.  They’re ready to move at a moment’s notice.  Settled races usually derive their annual festivals from the cycle of the seasons on their home world, but because the Mando’ade travel from world to world, they have often become disconnected from these cycles.  Those from Concord Dawn---Traditionally a farming community---do still mark the end of the harvest by the world’s calendar, but generally the life-cycle events---birth, coming of age, marriage, death---have become the only ones celebrated.  The uncertainty of nomadic warrior existence means most Mandalorians celebrate life whenever they get the opportunity, enjoying ale, communal singing, and relaxing with their families and clan.

For professional soldiers, sudden death is an occupational hazard.  But Mandalorians don’t take it quite as calmly as aruetiise might imagine.

Burial is unusual---Mand’alore and other people of national importance are exceptions---because nomads traditionally had no cemeteries.  It’s also impractical to carry dead bodies with the army when men die in combat.  Communities cremate their dead if they can recover the body, scatter the ashes, and keep one of the deceased’s possessions as a memorial.  This is often the whole suit of armor, which is valuable.  In cases where the armor can’t be recovered or kept, parts such as helmets, gloves or buckles will be taken instead.  Mando’ade recite the names of dead loved ones and their comrades each night before sleep as a conscious act of keeping their memories---and so their existence---alive.

There is a single Mando’a word, aa’han, which describes the state of mind when Mandalorians savor a peaceful moment with family and comrades and also grieve for those who’ve died.  The nearest Basic translation is “bittersweet,” but it hardly comes close to defining what a significant concept it is for Mandalorians.  The emotion’s duality is very much in keeping with a people who are a mass of contradictions. 


Food and Drink

Soldiers and nomads both need their food to be portable, nourishing, and preferably to require little cooking.  Mandalorians are no exception.  They have a few distinctive dishes that are, at best, and acquired taste but that fit the need for food that’s more like field rations.     

Gihaal is a dried fishmeal mixture like pemmican, a nutritious blend of fat and protein that lasts for years without refrigeration but that has a pungent, clinging aroma that many find offensive. 

Aruetiise find some other Mandalorian foodstuffs more acceptable.  Uj’alayi (uj cake) is a dense, flat, and extremely sweet cake made from ground and crushed nuts, dried fruit, spices, and scented uj’jayl syrup.  Tihaar is a strong, colorless spirit made out of any fruit that’s available, like an eau-de-vie.  While Narcolethe is often seen as the quintessential Mandalorian alcoholic drink, many Mando’ade prefer net’ra gal (black ale) which is a sweet beer very much like stout or perter.  Shig is any infusion of herbs or spices drunk hot, and is often made from a quick-growing citrus-flavored herb called behot.   


Armor

Ask anyone what they associate with Mandalorians, and they’ll probably say armor.  The Mando’ade call it beskar’gam, which means iron skin---an indication of how central it is to their life.

Armor, especially the distinctive full-face helmet with the t-shaped visor, is the enduring image the galaxy has of the Mando’ade.  Armor is prized, especially if it’s made from the near-impervious beskar (Mandalorian iron), a metal that gets its remarkable strength not only from its natural properties but also from Mandalorian metalworking techniques.  The addition of carbons in the foundry creates a molecular cage structure---lighter then normal metals and yet still remarkably strong.  It’s still regarded as more desirable then durasteel and even cortosis.

Armor is often handed down between generations, especially the beskar type.  It’s intricately customized to suit the wearer’s needs and tastes and is worn by both genders.

Armor colors and markings can indicate many things, from the clan or family to more ephemeral concepts such as state of mind or a particular mission.  Sand-gold represents a quest for vengeance; black, for justice.  Mando’ade will often repaint their armor with new colors if they’re on a particular task or have changed clans.  With the exception of the Mandalore, markings never correspond to fixed rank---a concept they find hard to accept. 

Sometimes, though, colors on armor simply express personal preference.  Blue and green are especially popular.  While other soldiers opt for camouflage, Mandalorians seem not to care about being conspicuous: “It’s one thing to see us coming, and another to do something about it” is a common Mando saying.

Sigils---symbols painted on the helmet or chest-plate---often identify the wearer’s allegiance, lineage, or loved ones.  But they can also be marks of honor, such as the jai’galaar’la sur’haii’se (shriek-hawk eyes).  Jaig, as they’re better known, are bestowed as awards for bravery by some clan leaders.

But howevr central armor is to the Mandalorians’ culture and self-image, they never forget that it’s what lies beneath the armor that makes a soldier.  ”Verd ori’shya beskar’gam” (a warrior is more then his armor) is a popular Mando saying. 

Mando’ade are a frugal people, and many amass sizeable fortunes.  Although modern banking practices mean most put their credits into shares and savings, they still invest much of their wealth in their armor and their weapons.  Jewlery, when worn, is plain and functional.  It’s often a heavy belt of precious metal---a very portable form of currency---or a collar.

Ear piercing is especially frowned upon because earrings can be torn off in a fight, causing injury.  If you ever encounter a Mandalorian with pierced ears, and they remove their earrings, run for it.  It’s a sign that they plan to fight.


Mixing With Mando’ade 

Mandalorians are much more sociable then generally supposed.  Most aruetiise encounter them at the point of a blaster, but if you meet them in a more peaceful setting they’re usually gracious hosts and honest business associates.  As long as you observe the following rules, you need never discover their aggressive side.

- Say what you mean
- Never refuse the offer of a drink or a meal---for nomadic people, who live hand to mouth, this is the greatest compliment they can pay a guest
- Never make a pass at a Mando’ade of either sex unless you intend to offer marriage and become Mando
- Look them in the eye or, if they’re wearing helmets, look straight into the horizontal section of the visor.
- Take off your boots when entering their home
- Pay your debts immediately
- Make a fuss of their children
- Treat elderly Mando’ade with reverence.  Any Mando who survives to a venerable age must be an exceptional warrior, and will still be capable of making you regret your lack of respect

Some aruetiise find the Mandalorian character and culture so appealing that they join them.  This life is not for the faint-hearted, but those who value loyalty, commitment to family, and a passionate zest for life will find the Mandalorian way irresistible. 

After all, aliit ori’shya tal’din---family is more than bloodlines.




End Copy from SW Insider





This is the heart of KT's artical.  There are two more pages that I'll copy over when I can, but they only deal with Mando'a and its workings.  Since it's the history and KT's idea of cultural background that I was primarily interested in working with in my own projects, this is the only part I was focused on putting up for display.

Please leave any comments regarding your opinion on her through process and whether or not you agree with her conclusions.

---RD

"You set a code to live by.  I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted...I won't be laid a hand on.  I don't do these things to other men, and I require the same from them."