Character Study: Nahadoth

Continuing the theme on the character studies, next up is our boy, Nahadoth. He’s a complicated man, and no one understands him but his — actually, wait, no, she doesn’t get him either. Cue the “Shaft” theme anyway. RIP Isaac Hayes. And cut for spoilers.

So, Nahadoth. He’s the firstborn of the Three, and the first of them that I thought up, twelve or thirteen years ago when the idea for this story first came to me. (Took me awhile to write it, since I was in grad school at the time, plus just not a very fast writer back then.) So it should come without surprise that he’s the nearest and dearest to my heart — or at least, he started out that way. At the time I was very enamored of dark-haired, dark-magic-wielding, just generally dark characters of a certain type seen often in anime/manga; see Vampire Hunter D and Ashura-Ou from Rg Veda as examples (a more recent example is Hagi, from Blood +). Was also very fond of dark-natured (though not necessarily -haired) anti-heroes in Western fiction, such as Gerald Tarrant from C. S. Friedman’s Coldfire trilogy, Tarod from Louise Cooper’s Time Master trilogy, and Azhrarn from Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth stories. I’m not sure why characters like this have such enduring power in fiction on both sides of the pond (the, uh, Western and Japanese pond, apparently), but regardless, Nahadoth was the natural outgrowth of all this.

But he changed — deepened — as I developed the whole cosmology. None of the gods really have a gender, or a body for that matter; they can be whatever they want, including species and sexes we’ve never heard of. But because my own gender programming refused to accept the idea of Enefa (the originator of life) as male, she got locked into “all female, all the time” in my head. And naturally Itempas — domineering, paternalistic, resistant to change — felt “all male, all the time” to me. Nahadoth, though, felt flexible. In most (though not all) cultures, the Moon is characterized as female. It also seemed perfectly natural to say that he’d birthed the substance of the universe, though this too seemed like a generative and thus feminine role. So Nahadoth became the pivotal member of the Three, in the quite literal sense in that he — or she — shifted to meet the demands of nature, or the expectations of his partners. (Gonna stick with “him” for ease of writing, and because that’s the role he plays for most of the time we see him.) It made far more sense for the two “static” members of the triad to compete for his affections, rather than the usual two guys fighting over a woman. And since gender was only one of the ways in which he changed, thus was born Nahadoth’s constantly-changing face, schizoid personality, and drifting, shapeless cloak of night.

Once I’d gotten a handle on Nahadoth’s nature, however, I found that it was tough to get a handle on him in any other way. He constantly defied my expectations. For example, he was the father of the other three Enefadeh — yet his role within their group was follower, not leader. (Inasmuch as they had one, as Sieh mentioned; I imagine leading the Enfadeh was rather like herding cats. Mean cats.) I’d initially intended for him to be the leader, but then it occurred to me that this was a very bad idea. You don’t put the guy who can’t follow rules and usually chooses the most irrational solution to any problem, in charge. So while the other Enefadeh respect him and fear him a little, they also find him exasperating. He tells Yeine about the Enefadeh’s sooper seekrit pact to use her and kill her, for example, when he’s really not supposed to. He did it because he felt she ought to know, but also because he’s just not very good at doing what he’s told. Bottom line: Nahadoth isn’t exactly Mr. Reliable and Trustworthy.

It’s because of traits like this that Nahadoth slipped a little in my esteem; he’s not my favorite god-character anymore. Sieh became my new fave somewhere along the way, to the point that book 3 will be all about him. (Unfortunately, that means I won’t be doing a Character Study of him for some time, to avoid spoilers. Sorry!) I still like Naha; he’s not my favorite, but he’s definitely the most fun to write. Remember Chapter 5 of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, in which Nahadoth destroys a continent? I’m not much of a metal fan — drum ‘n’ bass and hip hop are more my speed — but I wrote that scene while listening to Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” on full blast. For that matter, Naha’s got his own (short) soundtrack on my iPod: “Bodies”, “Would Be Killer”, and “Little Light of Love”. Yeah, I don’t get that last one either. Sometimes I’m just the messenger, ya’ll.

Of course, I haven’t discussed Naha — Nahadoth’s daytime form. Frankly, he deserves a character study all his own… but I can’t do that one for awhile either. (Yeah, I guess that’s a hint.)

Anyway, so, that’s Nahadoth in a nutshell.

12 thoughts on “Character Study: Nahadoth”

  1. OMG!

    Just seeing the words:
    Character Study: Nahadoth
    gave me the chills!

    I think that Nahadoth is the hottest and coolest character I have ever read in my entire life.

  2. “He’s the firstborn of the Three, and the first of them that I thought up, twelve or thirteen years ago when the idea for this story first came to me.”

    This was really good for me to read, because every time I come back to an idea that’s been sitting around for a while, I feel like my imagination is failing me.

  3. I forgot to ask: How did you come up with the name Nahadoth?

    I like both the formal name Nahadoth and the abbreviated Naha as Sieh calls him endearingly.

  4. Hi ML,

    Same way I came up with the names of all my characters: picked it out of nowhere. Basically I just kind of… I don’t know. Try different syllables until they fit together, and add more, and listen to them, until something sounds right.

  5. Really interesting stuff. I don’t think Nahadoth was my *favorite* character, but in a lot of ways I think he was the best, and I am so, so intrigued by the idea of gender as one of his fluid, changing aspects (and was curious about the mostly-male-identified deity being associated with the moon, so I’m glad you mentioned that).

    I just finished the book and am still digesting a bit (loved it, btw, obviously *g*) but although the romance in and of itself wasn’t my favorite part, I think the single most powerful idea/scene/line for me was Yeine telling Nahadoth to do what he wanted with her. That really cemented so much about both of their characters for me.

  6. I’m absolutely delighted that we’re going to get a lot more about Sieh – he is pretty firmly established as my favourite, although that’ll probably change with re-readings and with mood. I’ve always been completely fascinated with trickster types, and his planetary playthings are a wonderful concept. :D

  7. Thanks for the character study, I felt that Naha was one of the most interesting characters I have read. I loved your book and the names you came up with.

  8. Hearts and major squee – Nahadoth was absolutely, hands-down my favourite character. Possibly it’s just the Pisces in me, but there’s something about his fluidity and creative/destructive potential that turns me on in a major way (intellectually!). I’m fangirlishly grateful for this study of him because a. I love seeing inside authors’ heads (hello!) and b. I feel like I just cannot read enough about him.

    So, you know. Thank you for being an awesome author, and creating such rich, deep, provocative characters, and for sharing them with the great wide world.

  9. “Vampire Hunter D and Ashura-Ou from Rg Veda” — OMG, that was EXACTLY the way I’d been imagining him! Maybe not Ashura-Ou (Senior) exactly (he does have an odd cut to his hair, doesn’t he?), but definitely some kind of huge, kingly CLAMP guy with cascades of hair all wafting about him as his night cloak undulated. I think maybe Zagato (Magic Knight Rayearth) is the closest thing to what I was imagining, but yeah–if I were to draw fanart (which I badly feel the itch to do for your book), I definitely would’ve gone with Zagato with a bit of Sephiroth and VH D thrown in for good measure~ ^^

    Nyaa, it’s really exciting to learn (confirm?) that you’re an anime fan, because so much of my aesthetic taste comes from anime/manga and I definitely felt like it resonated with a lot of your characters~ Okay, fanart is definitely a must now. XD

  10. Very very belated, sorry. I chose Ashura-Ou (over the genderless Ashura) because I think of Ashura-Ou as a manipulator and seducer — though this may be more the result of RG Veda fanfic I’ve read than anything in the source text itself. Also because, even though Ashura is the destroyer of all things, Ashura-Ou has that darkness in him too; it just manifested in different ways. But Zagato + Sephiroth + VHD would certainly fit too.

    And yeah, screaming manga fan, especially shoujo. :) I’d love to see the fanart!

  11. Biligum,

    Who or what is — ::Googles:: Holy crap, no. That’s unbelievably creepy and now I can’t unsee it. Going to have to sleep with one eye open tonight. Thanks, dude. ;)

    The closest urban legend to Nahadoth is Bloody Mary. That’s where “Never whisper his name in the dark unless you want him to hear you” comes from — I figure any culture is going to have some variation on the “don’t go calling out to scary things” behavioral archetype.

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