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Timmain, Spirit Hacker


I love SFF with magic-is-science qualities, and I love those "the science of..." books that seek to unravel their mysteries. Sometimes these can be didactic impositions of an inappropriate and winnowing consistency. And sometimes they expose intrigue in areas that seem obvious or trivial. As you've likely already guessed, I'm going to do one of these two things to a story right here in this post!

I'm talking about souls in Elfquest.

Now, a lot of smoke has gone into my theory over the years, and I'm still kinda vague on the details. But I'm pretty sure the Final Quest is imminently going to deal with (and obliviate) my speculations. So its time to share them, while the predictions are still hot!

I hope it's fun. Don't take it too seriously.

Before we start, though, a recap of the context:

The elves of Elfquest are really evolved descendants of space-faring, post-singularity shapeshifters. They took an elfy form in order to impress mankind on a primitive, Earthlike plant, but they screwed up and got stuck there, their vessel ruined. Trapped in their comely but meaty mammal forms, these aliens underwent generations of hardscrabble adaptation.

But they still have magic. Elfquest's magic is not the hocus pocus of high fantasy: it is cast in terms of the paranormal. Telekinesis and telepathy, operating quasi-scientifically, obedient to inverse-square law.

The elves all dream of their lost, ruined palace ship, tech so advanced it may as well be magic.

Finally, they all, unambiguously, have souls that exist independently of their bodies. These manifest in myriad ways for the living, and are seen to remain sentient and communicative after death—at least the ones who enjoyed embodiment enough to remember its ways.

Now, what have we been shown about how it works? Here's just a few things we know about the palace, elf magic, and souls:


Elf powers are regularly depicted as having an effective range.

Male and female elves sometimes experience Recognition, an overwhelming psychic urge to procreate.

We know that the closer they are to the palace/ship, the stronger their powers.

The palace's own power increases when more spirits are within it.

We now also know that the palace's field, the medium of its soul-stuff, is a sphere.

Elf spirits can move anywhere in the palace's field -- another recently-confirmed fact! -- but not beyond it. Wolfrider souls, though, can go anywhere.

Which is all to say, whatever elf magic and soul-stuff is, it seems to behave like it's made of electromagnetism.

Finally, the palace itself is depicted as responsive to elves' needs and demands, if it has sufficient power to do so. It does so directly, in that it can be made to fly about, change form, subdivide itself, and so on. But it also behaves mysteriously or unpredictably when confronted by an ambiguous psychic directive.


Here goes!

Full-blooded elves: all their magics and all their souls are manifestations of the palace itself. Though autonomous, they are dependent on the palace, subject to the palace's direct influence, and only innate insofar as the palace put it there. The elves' souls and powers represent fractions of the palace's power, an ecology of embodied investments in its own survival. But without the palace itself--the hub of the network--it all goes away.

In other words, elf souls and magic work like software: they rely on the hardware (the palace) and the network (the medium) to do anything. Empowered by it, but confined by its limits.

In this view, when elves souls "go out," for example, they traverse a spiritual field projected directly by the palace. When elves send or heal or glide, they exploit the palace's field and its power, in addition to whatever part of it is invested within themselves. When elves Recognize, it is a "decision" of the palace, making the most of the genetic material available to it, ensuring a well-adapted vessel fit to host a new slice of its magical potential.

The consequences of this would be disturbing. If the palace was truly destroyed or otherwise not in existence, there would be no unifying field, no spiritual plane to access. Whatever flicker of native spirituality might remain in elves could be so weak as to be nigh-useless, like a disconnected cellphone.

Consider too some other things we've observed: the Palace emerged from a retreating ice sheet just prior to the beginning of the story, and both the Wolfriders and Sunfolk are seen to have enjoyed population booms as a result. Later, when the palace disappeared, there appear to have been no recognitions and births to any elves other than sun folk families living in immediate proximity to a tiny piece of it left behind. It's as if the presence and influence of the palace is a critical mediator in all recognition-related goings-on.

Which all leads to another question: Are its decisions the execution of dumbly self-serving tech, or the intentions of a guiding, implicit intelligence? Is the palace itself sentient? But first ...


There is one huge exception, of course, to the palace's control and field of influence: the Wolfriders.

We know that their souls, unlike other elves', are completely free to roam. We also know that there's going to be conflict between the palace and the Wolfriders, and that it will center around how proximity to the palace has made their lives too cosy. And it's been hinted that their wolfblood will be a factor, too, in the brewing trouble.

But how?


It's canonical that Timmain manipulated her elf self at a genetic level to breed with the native wolves, thereby ensuring her tribe's survival.

But maybe that was the lesser counterpart to a more significant achievement: making it so that the elves spirituality, as well as their biology, was no longer dependent on what came out of the palace.

In other words, she took the palace's "soul network" and ported the software to run on a new machine: the world of two moons. Timmain didn't just put a bit of the world's nature into the elves, to ensure their survival, she also put a bit of the palace's nature into *nature*.

As a result, her descendants, the Wolfriders, are the only elves whose whose souls operate totally independently of the palace. To extend the cellular analogy, the wolfriders are like a small, peer-to-peer network that doesn't need the hub anymore. They've been hacked to run in the wild, body and soul.

Perhaps this explains the Wolfriders' need for soul names,too: with no palace hub to moderate and manage the psychic goings-on of the species, and a network so small that its members are permanently interacting with one another, they need "encryption keys" to protect their individuality and integrity, to prevent implosion into some kind of collective hive mind.

This wild wolfrider spirit nexus got to operate entirely independently of the palace for thousands of years. It had no contact with it at all! But then Cutter heads off and meets Leetah, and these two independent but fully compatible spirit nexuses came into contact with one another again. What might the consequences of that be?

Cutter and Leetah sorted things out, but behind the scenes, in the ebb and flow of the spiritual medium, maybe not all is well.

But we already know two consequences of that initial contact: Ember and Sunstream, the offspring of the recognition that resulted. In this biological and spiritual interaction, we know that embryonic Ember called only the wolf blood to her—and that Sunstream called "something else."

He's been described as a bridge between all the elves, but maybe that's not just a metaphor for his immense telepathic potential. As the first offspring to result from the interaction of the OG spiritual nexus (created by the palace) and the native spiritual nexus (created by Timmain), he's unique indeed.

Given the hints we're gotten about a coming conflict between these two spheres, maybe Sunstream's about to do something really *dangerous.*

Maybe the palace has some deterministic need to control and repair the whole, and maybe sees this wolfy pirate copy as a problem that needs to be fixed.

Maybe it's been working on cracking those soul names for a very long time.


P.S. If the palace's and its software is itself a sentient force, an awareness that may be hostile or friendly or intelligently indifferent, what of the replica Timmain put in the wild to ensure her children's survival? An untamed viral sentience of unlimited telepathic and telekinetic potential, might it slowly expand to become one with the entire universe? Perhaps all it needs is a more aggressive symbiont...)


Ain't sayin' nuthin', nope, not a word... 8-X


I can't figure out how to quote on my phone but my buzzing mind is already turning this over....

Well thought out hypothesis and very intriguing indeed. After reading it several times and once out loud to try and get it to sink in....I counter with a couple thoughts:

You mentioned that the palace seemed to be innately controlling recognition, perhaps all of them. But then the Wolfriders have been experiencing thousands of years without the influence of the palace. Including recognition. Unless....in their own collective hive, the Wolfriders have recognition hardwired/programmed into them and it operates independently of the palace. And then the two mutual "programs" of Cutter and Leetah matched enough to recognize each other's code.....and resulting in Sunstream (which now I can't stop thinking of as a virus!).

Timmain said that the world of two moons had a draining effect on the powers of the elves - this was before their ship fell to ruin so it really was the world's influence and not just because of ruination. Timmain's hacking really did help the survival of her offspring because they belong to the world or it to them. Seems like then they can be the strongest on the world of two moons?

What if Winnowill had puzzled this (hypothesis) all out and this is why her disgust/hatred of the Wolfriders for not being "pure"?

I feel like the palace maybe indifferent if sentient but hasn't it also been expressed about the love and kindness of the spirit world and palace itself throughout the story?

I feel like I'm not wording my responses as well out loud as compared to what is in my brain... but then again I've had only twenty minutes to mull it over, not years. ;)


.....i cannot help but love how you put all of this into computer and networking terminology. XD really. it's a bit beautiful. and makes sense to me! hmm...i actually can't help but think what they mean by Sunstream being the "connecting to all"..i rather think of him operating as a translation code.

a bit like how binary can be translated to words and vice versa, if that makes sense. maybe we should ask Sunstream to do a system compile and see what/who we end up with...XD


That is a super-fascinating theory, Rob. Kudos!

RichardPini said: Ain't sayin' nuthin', nope, not a word...

Double negative=a positive. Word.


Cool theory! B-)

Few more thoughts about some "special cases", mostly "bridge children" (Warning, rambling will occur!):

I'm going to assume that wolfblood = access to "native spiritual nexus", and that at least part of that "nexus" refer to the heightened senses of the Wolfriders.

:-j : Wolfblood, soulname. Has access to the "Native Spiritual Nexus", has the "Encryption Key" (Soulname)

:-S : No wolfblood, soulname. Partial access to "NSN" - has the "wolfrider instincts" but not the wolf senses, has "EK"

:> : Had wolfblood, soulname. Lost the heightened senses bit regarding the "NSN", but retains his instincts. Keep "EK", possibly out of old habits.

Windkin: Had wolfblood, unknown if he has a soulname. Lost the heightened senses part of the "NSN", possibly still has the wolf instincts. Unknown whether or not he still has the "EK"; Unlike Skywise he was very young when he lost his wolfblood, and may therefore not have "gotten used to" having a soulname the same way Skywise might have had, in fact we don't know for sure if he has a soulname as the only time it was mentioned was a single time during the NB story dealing with his birth.

Yun: Wolfblood, unknown if she has a soulname. Has both the heightened senses and the instincts, part of the "NSN", don't know if she has an "EK".

:o3 : Wolfblood, unknown if he as a soulname. I'd say it's very likely he has the senses, has the instincts enough to transform into a wolf, and when he's in wolf-form I'd be surprised if he hasn't got the wolf senses, so why shouldn't he have them when in elf-form? Don't know if he has an "EK".

Serrin: Wolfblood, seem to not have a soulname. There has been nothing to clearly indicate that she has the heightened senses, on the other hand there hasn't been anything indicating that she hasn't either, doesn't seem to have the wolf instincts, though that might simply be due to never having been (shown) in a situation in which she'd need them. Seemingly no "EK", when she and Dart recognized he didn't seem to learn her soulname. However, this could simply be a mistake on the part of the writer, who might not have realised that Serrin, being part Wolfrider, should've had a soulname.

Bowki: Wolfblood, no clue whether or not he had a soulname. Only seen very briefly, so it's hard to say whether or not he had the heightened senses, was trained to hunt but can very well later have taken up a regular life as a "village farmer". "EK" status completely unknown.

Teir: No Wolfblood, no soulname. Doesn't have access to the "NSN" but might have inherited a bit of the instincts from his sire, or else his upbringing gave him the instincts (or similar ones) from another source. No "EK".

Sust: Unknown if he has wolfblood, unknown if he has a soulname. May or may not have the heightened senses, seem to have the wolf instincts, but it could simply be a matter of nuture rather than nature since he was raised as a wolfrider. Unknown if he has "EK".

Korafay: No wolfblood, unknown if she has a soulname. No heightened senses, may very well have the instincts, if only in the sense of living life freely. Unknown if she has "EK".

Hypothetical child of Ember and Teir: Will likely have wolfblood, will likely have a soulname. Maybe what happened when Ember and Teir recognized was not only a case of them being a good biological match, and it being the "right time" for a Recognition, but also the "forces behind Recognition" deciding to "right the wrong" that happened when Windkin (Teir's sire) lost his wolfblood and therefore his access to the "NSN".

If the above (Recognition "making up to" lost wolfblood) is true, then Windkin may very well end up recognizing Someone with Wolfblood. Sure, Ahdri might be a bit sad about this, but... they can threemate!


BRB porting the spirit nexus to javascript, we just upgraded elfquest.com to the latest xeon CPU


Okay... this may not be entirely related to this. But... if a Wolfrider's soulname is their "EK", does that mean that our passwords on this site are our soulnames?


oh god, then i have one of the stupidest soulnames ever. XD

but what about Venka! as Kahvi's daughter, she surely has some trace of the wolfblood from her mother! she must have a very good air conditioning system to be so calm all the time ^-~ same goes for Tyleet.

and now i cannot help but think the "you must love to use the palace" thing the Wolfrider's did at the end of Shards is basically them imputing some of their nexus into the palace's, and i think it's acting rather like a firewall now at this point. PRESS THIS CRYSTAL TO RUN A PALACE WIDE SCAN


Vaeri said: oh god, then i have one of the stupidest soulnames ever. XD

I think we all do...

Vaeri said: but what about Venka! as Kahvi's daughter, she surely has some trace of the wolfblood from her mother! she must have a very good air conditioning system to be so calm all the time ^-~ same goes for Tyleet.

But Kahvi seemingly lost her wolfblood long before Venka was born.


RedheadEmber said: I think we all do...
I've always thought my password IS sort of a modern soulname for me - soulname enough that I'll better don't reveal it. I'd have to protect so much afterwards. XD And it's not stupid ... could actually go as a (too long) soulname. ^^

Interesting thoughts, Rob ... still a bit too much tech speak for me.


RedheadEmber said: Okay... this may not be entirely related to this. But... if a Wolfrider's soulname is their "EK", does that mean that our passwords on this site are our soulnames?

I kinda like mine. :)


Well,but Cutter and Leetah certainly are not the only pair (wolfrider+pureblooded elf)....


Okay... this may not be entirely related to this. But... if a Wolfrider's soulname is their "EK", does that mean that our passwords on this site are our soulnames?

I keep forgetting my soul name and having to write it down.


Zeina said: I keep forgetting my soul name and having to write it down.

=)) Just don't leave it where anyone else can find it!


Right. Don't pull a Dewshine.


lunakat said: Right. Don't pull a Dewshine.

So... what happened there (with Tyldak accidentally spilling Dewshine's soulname to Winnie) was the same as when one of us writes down our password to someone and that person then idiotically reads it out loud.

Heather said: =)) Just don't leave it where anyone else can find it!

If Someone else were to find it then they'd have total control over Zeina ('s account)



I've never understood this whole thing with elves actually speaking soul names out loud. I think it's only been non-Wolfriders that let it slip. First Leetah and she was all OOOOPS when she did it but then Cutter was like, No it's totally cool because Skywise knows my soul name too! And then with Dewshine Tyldak was all, Lree! I can't hurt you! ... and Winnie's like, I can, heeeheee! At least Brill had the sense to muffle her little mouth when she almost uttered Sunstream's soul name.

Honestly, I'll bet Wolfriders never realized the perils of branching out and recognizing other tribes, because it's been really dangerous.
Then again, they never did before, until Cutter. Soooo....yeah.


Wait, Willowgreen also called it out that one time. Silly girl. Never mind.


Zeina said: At least Brill had the sense to muffle her little mouth when she almost uttered Sunstream's soul name.

Makes me wonder; how did she know she wasn't supposed to say it out loud? Basic knowledge from the Recognition?


She wanted recognition so badly, maybe she intrinsically knew :P


RedheadEmber said: Makes me wonder; how did she know she wasn't supposed to say it out loud? Basic knowledge from the Recognition?

Sure- maybe. She'd also been communing with Sunstream for a long time at that point- sharing information about their respective cultures. He may have discussed it with her.


RedheadEmber said: Makes me wonder; how did she know she wasn't supposed to say it out loud? Basic knowledge from the Recognition?

I don't think non-Wolfrider elves know what soul names are until they say or hear them out loud. Consider this:

Leetah Soul Names

Winnowill seemed to immediately grasp that the name Lree was Dewshine's soul name. It could be that Tyldak mentioned something about it to her without actually saying the name, because it would have been an alien thing to the Gliders. Leetah herself reached out to Nightfall to try to understand what a soul name was. Even if he didn't, there's no doubt that Winnowill would have identified that Strongbow had such a lock on his deepest self when she was torturing him. So there's a good chance she was already in the know when she heard Tyldak say Lree out loud.


RedheadEmber said: Makes me wonder; how did she know she wasn't supposed to say it out loud? Basic knowledge from the Recognition?

Leetah had the same reaction. She didn't understand the word "Tam" and how it had gotten stuck in her mind. I think it's just instinct.


Can you imagine if she actually got to finish her sentence to Nightfall initially? And it was different? "Nightfall, what's a soul name? What's a Tam?"
But obviously all realize that there's something special about it and instinctually know that it's something unique and very private.


Maybe recognition gives you an instinctive understanding of what it means... ?


With all this being said...I can't help but wonder about this child Ember and Teir will have. He/She will be beyond special, maybe even more then Sunstream.


What I'm wondering is, if elf souls are a finite resource (it seems, canonically, they don't get reincarnated; they just fly around with the tribe, if Wolfriders, or get stuck in the Palace, if immortal), where do new souls for elf babies come from?


Recognition between two souls sparks a new soul that waits in the beyond until recognition is fulfilled and a new body is made. Then the new soul goes into the baby.

I get it from Winnowill's words to Rayek in Siege at blue mountain : "this isn't the joining of two souls to make a third".

The waiting in the beyond part comes from the story about the Tricksters clan in Botc 5, where Zarhan fights against recognition to Cheseri for ten years.
both parents could feel her screaming in the beyond with anger and frustrasion while she waited.


are you sure about the Zarhan thing? i looked and couldn't find it...it was the swordfoot issue.


I'm talking about the last Botc book, the fifth one called Dark hours. The story is called Starting over, and is written by Lynne Abbey.

The swordfeet story is in the second book, I dont remember its name.
Its the one where Rahnee has been trampled and is believed dead by all wolfriders but Zarhan, who feels Rahnee is still alive and goes looking for her and end up finding her and the Tricksters clan.


ah. i guess maybe that one didn't get added to the online comics...? guess i'll have to take your word for it.


Online Comics? travelbug is talking about the Blood of Ten Chiefs prose novels.

The Blood of Ten Chiefs
Coming of Age
Plague of Allos
Tale of the Snowbeast
The Deer Hunters
Tanner's Dream
The Spirit Quest
Lessons in Passing
Night Hunt

Love and Memory
The Search
Dreamsinger's Tale
Summer Tag
Stormlight's Way
A Very Good Year for Dreamberries

Winds of Change
Wind Warning
A Friend in Need
Song's End
The Flood
At the Oak's Root
The Fire Song
The Phantom of the Berry Patch

Against the Wind
The Good Summer
Court and Chase
Ties That Bind
Season of Sorrows
Howl for Eldolil
The Changeling
Hero Worship

Dark Hours
In Memory Green
Starting Over
Personal Challenge
Riders of the Storm
The Naming of Stonefist
The Long Hunt
Five-Finger Exercise


ohh, the novels...okay then yeah, that wouldn't be added to the online comics.^^0


travelbug said: The swordfeet story is in the second book, I dont remember its name.
Its the one where Rahnee has been trampled and is believed dead by all wolfriders but Zarhan, who feels Rahnee is still alive and goes looking for her and end up finding her and the Tricksters clan.

Is that the story that's being briefly shown/alluded to in BoTC 1 (the comic) where Zarhan is sitting alone by a fire and meets Timmorn who tells him that Rahnee "Needs mate more than father, now." or something like that?


Yes, Botc comic #1 briefly touches that story too. There are elements taken from a few of different novels.
I think its Coming of age, Love and memory and Colors.


Which came first, comic or prose?



The one I have at hand (BotC #2 - Wolfsong) is from 1988 while the BotC comics are released 1993 to 1995.


I actually like that way better. :x



I like this hypothesis. It jibes well with my pet theories.

Immediate questions: So are Leetah and Winnowill hackers as well? They both removed wolf blood, or did they merely manipulate the physical, leaving the networks in place? So Windkin and Skywise would still be plugged into the NSN (to adopt Red's terminology.)

Redhead Ember also brings up a good point about all the other cross-network Recognitions and offspring. The networks must not be standalone, or one network has found a back-door to the other. I guess that makes sense with the theory. The palace is hacking the wolfrider network, and those represent the instances were it was able to get through the encryption. Sorry if I'm repeating obvious points, still working it out in my mind.

Good theory.


Starting to wonder if the term wolf instincts in my initial post was a bad way of putting it, I'm referring to the ability/desire to go out there and face life. In fact I'd say it's something that can be acquired; the sunfolk for example.


Sorry, I'm gonna kind of hi-jack this thread for my own stream-of-consciousness ideas from this concept.

Thinking about it more, it reminds me of the Matrix (of which, I only saw the first movie, so I don't know the whole story of what it was about) with the Palace standing in for the Matrix and where the Wolfriders would be the rebels fighting to break free. Which, of course, leads to the line about humans being a virus. If the Palace was the virus, then it's function would be to spread, but it would seem that it relies on it's biological host to incubate the new spirits that are produced by the joining of two spirits. So, without biological hosts, it can't grow.

We know that the Palace's sphere goes beyond the planet and out into space, we also know that a large amount of spirits are currently in the palace, but we aren't seeing many recognitions, so maybe those new spirits and new recognitions are happening elsewhere, say on another planet within the palace's sphere? Which keeps taking me back to the Never-Ending and the warning about being careful about what you wish for when your quest is "To find and unite all the lost children of the High-Ones."

But then I remember that the Palace supposedly flew through space for eons and there didn't seem to be a huge population explosion, unless it was just regulated by limited resources and it's crashing on a planet was like inoculating a petri dish.


Matrix, yeah. A closer correspondence might be found in the numbered Cylons' relationship to their Base Stars in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica (though elves aren't seen to reincarnate or duplicate. The latter seems obscene. Reincarnation has not been depicted, but seems conceptually consistent and would allow intriguing possibilities if you start thinking about the native spirit nexus and the possibility of it 'infecting' other species )

I imagine the palace being limited and formal in scope, interacting with its established symbionts (the elves) as it would have been designed to do, and taking no interest in anything else except to preserve the integrity and wellbeing of itself and elves.

Timmain's network, however, seems implicitly viral, being hooked into nature instead of the palace. She would have wanted it to have the best chance possible of survival. Even if she wanted to prevent it from being too conspicuous or dangerously expansive, she might not have had a choice.

Here's a thought: maybe it's her creation, the wolfriders' spirit nexus, that will be the troublemaker! We assume that the palace is going to go "robot nazi" on the wolfriders or somesuch. But maybe it will come under attack from the dangerously unpredictable collective spirituality of the wolfriders. If the palace is sentient, maybe the "native nexus" could become sentient too -- AND BE THE BADDIE.

Think Madcoil, but on some larger, more abstract level.

I always figured there were many eggs; other refugees from the home world.


Very interesting analysis by Rob.

Now figure ANOTHER elfin population, one we the readers do not know about, that once reached the Palace, forced their rule to the trolls, but did not manage to re-activate the Palace, and eventually ended chased away by Guttlekraw's trolls.

I'll try and draw Rob's attention to some key points :

Remember what it took to re-activate the Palace ?

Remember Timmain's reaction to Rayek's abuses against the Go-Backs ?

Remember how Winnowill's spirit, having finally reached access to the Palace through a crystalline fragment, was DENIED access ?