Tellarites, Andorians, Vulcans: Trek Lit and alien family structures.

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Deranged Nasat, May 18, 2014.

  1. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral


    It was noted by Sci in the "Members of the Federation" thread that the Tellarites have thus far gotten the short end of the stick regarding what we know of their political structure. Compared to that of Earth, Vulcan or Andor, we know comparatively little. It occurs to me that we also know little of their family structure.

    First off, I must of course note that different Tellarite cultures might do things differently, and that this is dealing in generalizations. That said, Trek lit has offered a few potential hints as to how it works.

    We know that Tellarites take singular mates - Tev's parents, etc - but the nuclear family's relationship to wider family circles and society as a whole is uncertain.

    In Articles of the Federation, an interesting exchange between Councillors T'Latrek and Gleer hints that Tellarites might not practice divorce, or at least don't recognise that a mate can become an ex-mate in any legal or significant social sense. When Gleer points out that Councillor Krim of Bajor was assigned the role by the Bajoran First Minister - "his wife", T'Latrek corrects this to "ex-wife". Gleer asks if there's a difference, and T'Latrek comments "maybe not to Tellarites". It's not clear how we should interpret this - T'Latrek might be making a pointed remark about the Tellarites' insistence on not letting little things like fact and accuracy get in the way of their belligerence, but equally we might assume that she is speaking truthfully, and that among mainstream Tellarites, to be mated is to, in some sense, always be mated.

    In Watching the Clock, a mated pair of Tellarites have a very similar middle name - Rif jav Balkar and Sagar bav Balkar. Perhaps the Tellarite middle names, which seem to draw from a relatively small pool, signify the standing or position of an individual within a given herd or family? In which case, a jav-bav might signify a mated pair at one particular point on a family tree?

    Added to this, and drawing on canon, we have the beard debate. Do female Tellarites have beards? The answer is actually quite important to understanding how these people work. Star Trek Online and the comics seem to have decided on "no", whereas the novels haven't yet made a decision, so to speak. If only male Tellarites are bearded, then Enterprise has revealed something about the Tellarite social structure after all. Since all of Gral's delegation were bearded (as were all the Tellarites at the Coalition talks), then either diplomacy is a well-defined masculine role or a male ambassador travels only with other males. Given that female Tellarites have six teats (Enterprise novels established this), I can imagine traditional Tellarite culture having the female suckling a litter at home while the males went out into the world. (As an aside, my personal fanon interprets those metallic things all over the diplomats' outfits as coins, with the idea that in the past the wealthiest Tellarite males in a community represented their people to outsiders).

    More information is needed!

    What do we know of the family structures of the other founding races?


    We know that the Andorians are clan-based, and that their four-sex biology has led to an interconnected web of family affiliations; given the Andorian tendency to passion and vengeance, I imagine that keeping the whole thing from descending into a mass of blood feuds is the work of the Council of Clans, which has been mentioned as an authority apparently distinct from the Parliament Andoria. The Eveste Elders, who oversaw bonding issues prior to Bashir's Miracle, might be the leaders of this Council?

    Andorian family structure is well documented. The gender which receive the traditional virtue of “strength” in Andorian mythology are the zhen, the nursing sex - the zhavey is outright stated to be the traditional "primary caregiver" for the children. My interpretation is that enduring childbirth in the dangerous conditions of frozen Andoria, caring for offspring and installing in the children the basic lessons needed to further the fortunes of the clan required, in Andorian terms, strength - first biologically (for the strain of childbirth, and given a four-sex paradigm I assume they were giving birth a lot), and culturally/spiritually. Indeed, if we consider what we see of Andorian family life in Trek lit, I think we might make a case that traditional society on Andoria is matriarchal, with zhavey considered the head of the family and the model for political authority. The books suggest that children take the zhen’s family name most of the time. (As a happy serendipity, Pava Ek’Noor Aqabaa becoming sh’Aqabaa where her mother is Undeieela zh’Noor offers an "retcon" explanation for her unusual form of Imperial Name - ek’Noor is in there, perhaps, because she didn’t take her zhavey’s surname. Perhaps she needs it in there in another fashion, because family lineage is read in a matrilineal fashion?) If we consider characters like Charivretha zh’Thane and Sessathantis zh’Cheen, then the implications seem to be that the matron of the clan - the leading zhen - is still at least unofficially the most powerful political presence.

    Paradigm introduces the traditional clothing of the sexes - for the two “female” genders a variety of dress, where chans wear “warrior’s attire”, and the thaan wear chain-mail. We know that Andorian civilization developed as partly subterranean around hot-springs (both Jarman’s DS9 Andorians and Enterprise Andorians established this prior to the two approaches’ reconciliation in later novels). The clan Keep is traditionally (in part at least) a warren of tunnels. The chans, according to Thelin in “The Chimes at Midnight” are the sex traditionally least involved in child-rearing - and if they wear warrior’s attire we can assume they were the hunter-gatherer/war-makers who operated outside the keep, so this makes sense. Their value in the religious mythology is “wisdom” - the wisdom of the hunter-tracker, learning to read the signs of the natural world as he moved through it, outside the safety of the caves and the keep? After all, his gender's Guardian is the Star Guardian, and the Tale of the Breaking insists he uses the stars as his guide.

    Then, the other default “male” sex, the thaans, were perhaps closer to home and so more involved in family life, and formed a defensive perimeter perhaps (hence the chain-mail?). Their value is “passion” - the passion of standing their ground and fighting in direct defence of their family within the keep? I guess maybe thaans also performed close-to-home labour professions. Their Guardian is associated with Fire - the fire of passionate defence AND of the forge?

    Maybe some of this type of labour was performed by shens too (as Andorian “females” are apparently as tall or taller than “males” and we don’t know how physical power works for them, beyond the fact that the novels have always agreed that Andorians are strong, stronger than they look. Note that Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures features an Andorian POV that declares a muscular strength as characteristic of the shen). Either way, as we go further in, we have the shens, who I guess maintain the home (that strength used to dig and maintain warrens, to build and repair while the thaans forge?) and keep the supplies running between the “males” on the edge and the zhen and young deep inside. This makes sense - their Guardian is the Water Guardian, their virtue Blood. They are the flowing life-blood between the zhen/children and the males, the currents connecting it all. Like water, they are both powerful and subtle, strong and swift.

    Then, deep in the centre of the keep, are the nurseries and schools, and the zhens caring for the young - with the zhens also having political authority because it is their strength that allows them to succeed in the child-birthing nurturing role. The zhen, of course, have the Earth Guardian, strong protector - as they, who embody strength, are buried in the earth, at the heart of the subterranean keep?

    Tale of the Breaking:

    From one, there shall be four. To one shall be given wisdom to be a protector - the cunning warrior who shall fight for the future. To another shall be given strength, providing a foundation upon which the others can build. One shall be given blood, the river of life that shall flow among the others, providing nurture and sustenance when the flesh longs to yield. And to the last shall be given passion, for the flame of desire will bring change to the others and warm them when the chill is bitterest”.

    So Thirishar became four: Charaleas became wisdom; Zheusal became strength; Shanchen became blood; Thirizaz became passion. Together, the four are the First Kin.

    Uzaveh banished the four to the farthest reaches of the kingdom and upon seeing them there, so far from the Thrones and utterly alone, appointed for each a guardian. For Thirizaz, the Fire Daemon fed the soul-consuming passion. Loving Shanchen became a vessel for the Water Spirit, forever bound to the Eternal love flowing from Uzaveh’s Throne. For strong Zheusal, Earth became protector. For wise Charaleas, the Stars became guides, their light defying darkest night.

    Finally, I note that one of the Corps of Engineers stories establishes "Zhutanii" as the polite form of address for a quad as a whole. It begins with "zh", reinforcing the idea that zhen are the strong foundation on which the Whole is built.

    How it all hangs together is a bit of a mystery, given how interconnected the clans must be in an age where mating and breeding was determined by genetics. I personally wonder if the Council of Clans is to Andorians what the Vedek Assembly is to Bajorans - sure, the Parliament/Chamber is the government, but the really important decisions are made by the Council/Assembly.


    Vulcans are an interesting case - tribal, with strong clan identities and a history, even into the modern era, of defining themselves by family - not too dissimilar to Andorians, in fact. T'Pau, Sarek, etc, are of one particularly prominent clan which has practically defined Vulcan culture to the people of Earth in particular and the wider Federation in general.

    There have been quite a few references in Trek lit to a matriarchal basis to Vulcan culture - Reed explicitly defines them as such in Beneath the Raptor's Wing, yet it seems to me that the nuclear family and other smaller divisions have, if anything, a patriarchal structure. My interpretation is that the clan as a whole is led by the matrons - a number of elder females (reference, "Eldest Mother" as an ancient title of leadership) - and that they delegate political and familial authority to males of their clan, with practical matters of politics, finance, war, etc, being left in the hands of these males and the matrons taking a more distant, spiritual oversight. On the level of the lower branches, elder males traditionally take charge; on the higher level, elder females are the unifying aspect. The title "Ruling King", used apparently across Vulcan, seems an odd one - isn't that what a king does? Well maybe it means something akin to "the designated authority for the people, who rules but who is, in some vague and possibly pointless sense, a stand-in for the Eldest Mother?"

    I consider also the te-Vikram of Vulcan's Soul. We know explicitly that all leadership and political positions in this Vulcan warrior culture were male - save one. The Old Mother of Fire seemed to be symbolically among the most powerful members of the tribal culture, at least in theory. In practice, clearly less so, but it reinforces for me the sense that the Vulcan way was traditionally for certain males to lead and govern on the authority of clan matrons - and that even the te-Vikram apparently retained the symbolic sense that a male leader's authority over the people came in some manner from the spiritual authority of the eldest mother. We also know from Vulcan's Soul (in the Karatek/Surak chapters) that there is a tendency among Vulcans to respond to uncertainty and dangerous times by reverting to a set-up of "males as warriors and guards", with females retiring or retired from visible posts - something happily supported by Enterprise season four, where all of V'las' council are male.

    So...thoughts on the Federation Founding Families? :)
    Last edited: May 18, 2014
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Re: Tellarites, Andorians, Vulcans: Trek Lit and alien family structur

    In a feudal system, there could be multiple kings of various tiers. I guess the ruling king would be the highest-ranking one.
  3. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Tellarites, Andorians, Vulcans: Trek Lit and alien family structur

    Hmmm, good point.

    I suppose that does, though, reinforce the idea that Vulcan politics/clan structure was never a straightforward affair, and that authority was vested in different ways on different levels of clan/tribal identity.
  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Mar 2, 2002
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    Re: Tellarites, Andorians, Vulcans: Trek Lit and alien family structur

    I'm about 90% certain that the novel Prime Directive (by future ENT writers Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens) establishes that female Tellarites do have beards, but I'm not sure.

    Personally, I've always liked the idea that they do, and that in fact male and female Tellarites are visually indistinguishable -- maybe smell is the only thing that sets them apart, and only to one-another's noses? -- and that they have the same timbre of of vocal ranges. So the only way a non-Tellarite would know would be to ask! That's just me speculating, though; I just like the idea of a founding Federation member whose gender roles all read as "masculine" by contemporary American standards.
  5. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Tellarites, Andorians, Vulcans: Trek Lit and alien family structur

    I've been partial to that idea myself, but I guess it'll wait until the novels finally confirm it (that said, it is just my imagination or was Titan's resident female Tellarite, Evesh, described as bearded in Seize the Fire?). Either way, it's interesting, because Enterprise season four more or less forces us to either decide that there are clearly defined gender roles among Tellarites, at least unofficially (with diplomacy or political representation to outsiders apparently a male role), or there isn't anything in the way of obvious sexual dimorphism. Either is quite interesting. Personally, though, I think it's a shame that Star Trek Online, etc., seem to have decided that female Tellarites are beardless - it seems a knee-jerk assumption or just a slightly lazy way to distinguish the sexes.

    Along similar lines, I feel the same way about Mass Effect introducing a distinct female turian model. In the original games, (for budgetary reasons I think?) they only had the male turian model, and there was a lot of speculation as to what the female form was like (and eagerness to include it). Given that turians pretty explicitly have no real gender-specific roles or occupations, though, and on top of that aren't mammalian, I never understood why it wasn't decided that turians aren't sexually dimorphic and half of those we saw were female. There, easy fix. Eventually introducing a distinct model just damages the immersion factor - where on Palaven have the women all been?