I was surfing through Pixabay, which offers public domain images, for some header backgrounds to use on my weblog, when I came across some graphics by a German artist, whose Pixabay userid is Anaterate. Some of his characters struck me as being good representations of how I visualize some of my characters in Shadows and Stars. His conceptions give me little nuances to add into the characters’ description that I had not imagined that will make them come to life for the reader (hopefully) and give them more depth. Here is an example:
This image is described solely as “man-5350603_1920” on Pixabay. I visualize him as a character named Sato (pronounce the a as the a in father), who is a reclusive monk living in a remote section of jungle. The belief system/philosophy he studies is called Pravojeco, which translates to something like The Ancient Way. This is similar to early taoism as found in the writings of Lao Tsu and Chuang Tze.
In particular, Sato studies the ways of the jungle: the balance of life, the roles of violence and birth, the creation of the world through the conflict of opposites, the relation of a person to the universe and his/her role in it, the possibility of an afterlife and/or reincarnation, and other topics of a metaphysical nature.
Sato does not think of death as an end, though he concedes that might be a possibility, but as a transition back to the forgotten world the spirit inhabited before birth. Sato sees reincarnation as a possibility for the spirit. though he concedes no one knows with any certainty what awaits for us in the afterlife or even if there is an afterlife. If reincarnation exists, in Sato’s mind the spirit is not limited by time and space. Someone may be reincarnated in the past or present as well as in the future. A person may also be reincarnated on another planet as a person or as an animal or as an insect or as any other life form. He/she might be reincarnated as a completely different life form in an entirely different universe or dimension.
Although Sato is not a sorcerer per se, he does seem to know things that he should not know. Sato is also not a warrior, but the monks of his order are known to be vicious fighters who mimic animals in their ferocity, mercilessness, and techniques.
Although Sato is a recluse, most of his home planet of Dagal knows of him, because one of his former pupils pilfered some of Sato’s writings when he left and published them. On occasion, some of the other characters may be seen reading The Musing of Sato the Recluse.
I had originally visualized Sato as an old man and mostly like Caucasians. Being Caucasian myself, this is my instinctive bias. However, upon seeing this photo, I thought why not go against the cliché? Sato could be a dark-skinned, young man. This would raise the question about how could such a young man become renown as a sage? I haven’t yet come up with a good reason behind the scars/tattoos. They might be a family or tribal tradition or they could have a philosophical reason. They might represent the elemental forces that afflict or benefit humanity. They might represent the winds of fate buffeting the individual. They might represent the metaphysical forces, like the Oriental chi or ki (similar to the Force in Star Wars), flowing within a person.
The Dagalian race that most resembles Caucasians is called the Sazhanoi (which is the plural of Sazhano). In appearance they differ primarily in their pupils being vertical slits like the eyes of cats or snakes. This is a distinguishing feature of all Dagalians regardless of race. Their color differs widely from albino to melanistic (pure black). Hair color also varies widely with many Sazhano dying their hair according to the prevalent fashion or their family tradition. Facial features, body shape, and other physical attributes are more or less Caucasian.
Tattoos are common among the Sazhanoi. In fact, instead of wedding rings to symbolize marriage, the Sazhanoi have an ornate ring of whatever design the couple chooses tattooed around the left wrist. The ring is tattooed before the wedding and traditionally covered until it is revealed immediately after the wedding vows. If the couple are separated by death or divorce, a black ring is tattooed above the wedding ring. The violent death of a spouse is sometimes indicated by a solid red ring.
All these characteristics of Sato and the Sazhanoi play out in some fashion in Shadows and Stars.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to post more about Dagal and its inhabitants. Stay tuned.