Friday, March 13, 2009

Left Hand of Darkness Glossary

Here is the list of key terms, people and places we created as a class on Wednesday. As these definitions each group's interpretations, I encourage you all to think of this as an ongoing discussion. If you think something needs to be added to or changed in a definition, please leave a comment in the comment section of this post (this is a great way to earn participation points). I also added a few links to terms which have information on wikipedia.

ansiblea communication radio rhat does not involve radio waves or any form of energy. It produces a message at any two points simultaneously, anywhere.

androgynous—being both male and female, meaning having both genitalia

Arek of Estre—Saves Therem of Stok from the cold. He warms him up and then the two kemmer. Bears a kemmer child with Therem of Stok. Brings baby to Lord Harish rem ir Stokven; the baby is Therem of Estre

Ashe Foreth—a Foreteller and the kemmering of Estraven and they also had a son together. There is also something going on between Ashe and Estraven that caused Estraven to be angry with him. Ashe also gave money to Estraven although he knew the risks of helping a traitor.

bisexual—a society which has two separate sexes

celibate—someone who doesn't participate in kemmer (i.e. Ashe Foreth); a job as a Foreteller—wears a gold chain

the Commensals—Thirty-three (33) heads of the Orgota government

commensality—regions of Great Commensality of Orgoreyn; similar word structure as “community” or “communism.” Root means “to eat together”—all Orgota government and institutions

domain—a vast amount of land, territory with borders. There are many domains. A very big neighborhood (domain)

dothe—a phase when your body goes through exhaustion and deep relaxation of your muscles; “hysterical strength” (59) a.k.a adrenaline

Ehrenrang—the capital city of Karhide; the king that ruled Ehrenrang was pregnant and after he gave birth the baby died. It has a parade every year, to celebrate.

Ekumen—an alliance of planets—the people of Ekumen want to recruit everyone in Gethen (Planet Winter)

Estraven—Lord of Estre

Fastness—a prayer house that people can go to for a brief period or longer

Faxe—the Weaver of the Foretellers at Otherhord

female—a certain phase in the kemmering process; a female animal

foray gun—a gun that fires pieces of metal

the Foretellers—people that are vested with the power to see into the future; followers of Meshe

Genly Ai—main character; human from Terra serving as Envoy or representative of Ekumen in Aether. Tries to persuade King Argaven to join the union but ends up going to Orgoreyn as Tibe takes over.

Gethena city that has Gethenians that inhabit Gethen that have no defined gender

the Hainishthe experimenters that created the planet Winter. They eliminated different sexes.

Handdara—discipline of the presence; self-enlightenment

hearth—another place (karhosh was built like hearth, but not completely). They have genealogical stability—maybe meaning they have perfected their kemmering

hieb—type of clothing, possibly a coat

Karhide—state of Gethen

karhosh—an island that houses the greatest part of the urban populations of Karhide. There are 20 to 200 private rooms and inhabitants take communal meals. Some buildings are hotels, some are cooperative communities, some are a mixture of both.

kemmer—Gethenian sex cycle; specific part of the cycle entered on the 22nd and 23rd day whereupon a person becomes sexually active

kemmering—a partner after one vows kemmering; similar to a husband or wife in our society

King Argaven—King of Karhide

kyorremy—the upper chamber or parliament, which Estraven used to head (Estraven being prime minister). Now his position is with Tibe. The kyorremy position is also under the king.

Lord Harish—father of Therem (of Estre); grandfather of the character we know as “Estraven”

Lord Tibe—King Argaven's cousin; current ruler of Karhide

Mesche—all powerful, supernatural “being” (Orgoreyn religion?); center of time; Foreteller who can see the past, present, and future

Mishnory—a busy port; a city whose main livelihood is based on shipping and fishing or business that relies on the sea

mother—the person who carries the child from kemmer

NAFAL ship—spaceship on which Genly Ai travels, presumably method of travel by Ekumen

nusuth—“doesn't matter,” “no problem,” “no matter,” “whatever”

Oedipus/myth of Oedipus—myth in which a child has a psycho-sexual relationship to his mother or father; myth originated with a kind who thought his son would kill him so he sent him away and abandoned his own child (popularized in psychology by Sigmund Freud)

Orgoreyn—state with 33 substates or districts. The state is feuding with Karhide over land. Orgoreyn is also corrupt because Tibe says he learns to lie from them.

Otherhord—the main temple of Foretellers located in Karhide

pervert—one who has permanent gender/sex

rem ir—“son of”

shifgrethorrelated to pride, prestige, self-esteem. A type of faรงade.

Sinoth Valley—area of dispute between Karhide and Orgoreyn; claimed by Argaven's grandfather but never recognized by Orgoreyn (fenced off and hard to enter)

somer—sexually inactive part of the kemmer cycle

Stabiles—the individual nations within the Ekumenical alliance

Terra—land, Earth, place where Genly Ai lives/comes from

Therem Harth rem ir Estraven—Former Prime Minister of Karhide. Exiled for treason, but details are unclear. He moves to Orgoreyn after he is exiled.

Therem of Stok—Saved by Arek of Estre. Kemmers with him. Killed by a group of men from Stok.

vow kemmering—an oral contract between people to only kemmer with one another and no one else; like marriage

xenophobic—afraid of strangers


  1. I think the "Arek of Estre" and "Therem of Stok" definitions are incorrect. From what I read, it's the other way around.
    Therem of Stok was the one that saved Arek from the cold, and Arek is the one that is murdered.
    Their baby is sent to Lord Sorve of Estre by an unnamed man.
    For the definition of Arek of Estre, I think you could also include that he was the original heir of Lord Sorve of Estre.

  2. Also your definition of Androgynous could be incorrect, an hemaphradite has both female and male genitalia. Androgynous is supposed to be idea of being sexless so neither male or female (David Bowie as Ziggy Stat is an androgynous character, some would say that Grace Jones is androgynous too

  3. That's true with regard to the real world meaning of the term, but I believe that for the purpose of this novel Le Guin uses it to mean what we would normally think of as "hermaphrodite" (or really, "intersex," as there is no such thing as a hermaphrodite).

  4. I think it's Therem who saves Arek; you have it backwards.

  5. I think it's Therem who saves Arek; you have it backwards.

  6. I also think your definition of bisexual is problematic. In our culture, it refers to being sexually attracted to both sexes. In the novel, it means that one person can be either male or female, changing as a result of kemmering.