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In a hole in the ground there lived...


The Glyphs of Okoto

Posted by Tolkien , in 2015, linguistics, Art, Bionicle Jan 04 2015 · 1,804 views

Since the release of the Bionicle 2015 media, various people have taken note of the system of symbols or glyphs that consistently appear throughout the island of Okoto. They show up in nearly every one of the story animations--on ruins, statues, the Temple of Time...even the Mask of Creation is covered in them. This has, unsurprisingly, generated questions about whether or not these symbols are purely decorative or if they in fact constitute a functioning writing system, along the lines of the G1 Matoran Alphabet. After a good deal of discussion, however, the consensus (which I agree with) appears to be that these symbols are purely aesthetic and do not carry any linguistic significance.

But even so, using a bit of creativity, it may still be possible to derive something meaningful from these symbols for use by Bionicle fans. My goal here is not to construct a complete "Okotoan Alphabet", but instead to simply take a first step in that direction and see where it leads; hopefully inspiring the creativity of others along the way. With that said, let's begin:

There are two main sources from which I will draw examples of the relevant symbols: those found on the Mask of Creation and those found in the Temple of Time. This is because these sources provide very clear and consistent examples of the glyphs, without heavy modification due to, e.g. the simplified style of the animations, and also because the primary string of symbols that can be derived from these sources shows up only in bits and pieces elsewhere (sometimes partly obscured), rather than being attested in full, as it is in these two contexts.

So, first, here is a facsimile of the symbols found on the Mask of Creation (click here for a hi-res version of the original picture).

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Next, a facsimile of the block of symbols found on the interior of the Temple of Time (see this image--specifically the symbols on the left side of the temple, middle row, far right column). The lefthand vertical column of this block is a full 180-degree rotation of the righthand vertical column, and the righthand column partially matches the central vertical crest on the MoCr.

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It’s pretty clear at this point that there is actually only one string of symbols involved in both cases. This string is modified/truncated/mirrored/rotated in various ways to fit whatever space is required. Here is the primary string in isolation (basically identical to the righthand column of the Temple of Time version, but mirrored horizontally to match that on the MoCr):

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Next, let’s focus on how this string is implemented on the Mask of Creation, since the MoCr provides good examples of repetition of specific sequences of glyphs and truncation of the primary sequence. My goal is to use whatever patterns of repetition/omition that can be found in order to decompose the primary string into individual units, which might then serve as independent “letters” (or graphemes). Here we go:

- The central vertical crest exhibits the full primary string, plus a partial repetition. I have coded the repeated segment in blue, the non-repeated segment in green:

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- The two lesser vertical crests exhibit a non-repeating version of the full string which is nevertheless truncated via removal of the largest symbol (marked in red on the original string). Note that the left crest is oriented identically to the central crest, and the right crest is a horizontal mirror of the left.

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- The two internal vertical sequences on the “forehead” of the mask include the entire segment that is repeated twice on the central vertical crest, plus one additional symbol. I have preserved the blue-green coloring from (4) to illustrate this.

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- The four horizontal crests on the lower edges of the mask all make use of the primary sequence rotated 90 degrees, but with nearly half the sequence omitted. The upper horizontal crests have one glyph more than the lower horizontal crests, which are also flipped vertically. Once again, I have preserved the blue-green color-coding to better illustrate the extent to which certain sequences are preserved and/or omitted.

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With these observations in place, here is an updated version of the full schematic of the MoCr with blue-green color-coding.

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Now, as stated previously, my goal here is to figure out which symbols are independent and separable and which symbols form “blocks” with each other in order to dissolve the primary string into its constituent units. The patterns of omition on the MoCr give some good clues about this. For example, the fact that a symbol can be omitted from the primary string on the lesser vertical crests (the symbol marked red in (5) above) shows that this symbol is a separable glyph. Likewise, the individual glyphs that are added to fill space on the internal vertical crests (see (6)) and the horizontal crests (see (7)) show that these specific glyphs are also independent and separable. All of these observations lead to the following:

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And now, to bring us full circle, we can apply the color-coding to the primary string only, as follows:

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As can be seen, my assumption here is that the glyphs that are colored identically form a unit with one another, and based on this assumption, I have broken up the primary string into 8 separate units. Note that the decision to separate 1 and 2 was my own, since, if these symbols had been combined, it would make for a very complex symbol indeed. In addition, the decision to include the single horizontal line as a part of symbol 2, rather than a separate symbol, was made based on the observation that (1) these two components are never separated, and (2) that the two components are clearly printed as a single unit on the lesser vertical crests of the MoCr.

Now the question is, where to go from here? I don’t really know. As a fun creative exercise, we could, of course, assign an alphabetic value to each of the eight “letters” represented here—preferably values that together form some significant eight-letter word without any repeating letters (assuming that this is an alphabetic writing system, similar to the G1 Matoran alphabet). A couple of ideas occur to me:

First, there is the word CREATION. It has eight letters, non-repeating. If we do the value-assignment as suggested, that would make our primary string spell out as follows (Note that, because we have no indications as to which way to read the glyphs (upwards or downwards), either way could work, and so I have provided both up-down and down-up value-assignments):

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Secondly—and perhaps more interestingly—there is the word BIONICLE, which is also eight letters, but has a repetition of the letter <i>, which makes it not quite as practical if we want to maximize the number of letters we have at our disposal. However, this problem can be partly resolved by the following observation: The word does have a repetition of the letter <i>, but both occurences have completely different phonetic values, i.e. the first <i> is the sound in “bite”, while the second is the sound in “bit”. If we can withstand this slight complication, this version might very well work.

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I will leave it at that. I hope you enjoyed this detour into possible Okotoan orthography, and I also hope that the ideas sketched out here--legitimate or not--serve to generate further creativity on the subject. Have fun.



The Prophecy of Heroes

Posted by Tolkien , in linguistics, Art, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Dec 16 2014 · 490 views
2015, so much yes

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The Prophecy of Heroes

Hear now, my son, what the prophecy says:

When times are dark and all hope seems lost,

The Protectors must unite, one from each tribe.

Evoke the power of past and future,

And look to the skies for an answer.

When the stars align, six comets will bring timeless heroes

To claim the Masks of Power and find the Mask Maker.

United, the elements hold the power to defeat evil…

United, but not one.

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Ro’o, akai deya ki vakamaja roya:

Vahi kraui-ika no taka rayase

Mangai kaitayasu, ikoronga,

Vuna no vaka naya

No ivanto-akee akuya

Ni kaitaya-ika, duni-na Toa-vahikhu kyako

Ta ai Kanohi kyase, ta ai Ekimu eleyase

Kaita, nahi vuata ki rawa maya huya…

Kaita, va nga-ru.

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Posted by Tolkien , in Bionicle, Art Mar 29 2014 · 397 views
wip wip wip wip
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Don’t Follow the Pixels

Posted by Tolkien , in Life, Bionicle, Art, BZPower Mar 17 2014 · 1,027 views

If you’re someone who remembers BZPower back before the archive deletion and downtimes (I confess, I’m getting murky) and roughly prior to '08-'09, you might know me as a different person. I mostly lurked 'round this little forum called Artwork II, which was the place where all the shops and "sprite kits" were safely hidden from the world. Back then, most of my contribution to BZP came in the form of pixel art. Yeah, it was a different time.
Well, I haven’t done any pixel art for quite a while—nothing worth posting, at least. Even so, I get the hankering every now and then. And in fact, for a long time I’ve been wanting to start something long-term: a project to fiddle with in my spare time. Pixel art is quite cathartic, I find, and it’s actually a great stress-reliever. Go figure.
Unfortunately I haven’t really had that much spare time lately. That is, until last week. It was spring break...for students, at least. =P Even so, in between the grading, I did find a few moments to get creative:
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The project is a roughly to-scale isometric map of the island of Mata Nui; 1 pixel = ~.25 kio (these images are at about x3 magnification). I find landscapes to be very enjoyable to do, and isometric pixeling suits that pretty well. The images above should be kinda familiar: the Mangai Volcano and the southern tip of the island coast. This is only a few hours’ work, so it’s absurdly rough, but you should get the general idea.
So yeah, the plan is to keep messing around with it, and maybe post some updates as things progress. I confess, even now I’m still pretty much an amateur at this, but I hope I can do it justice. =P


Hey Look

Posted by Tolkien , in Writing??, Art Feb 06 2012 · 349 views
pathetic art, the end and 1 more...

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An attempt at story illustration.

Click? Read? Comment? Maybe?


Chapter I

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"Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a blog-hole, and that means comfort."


A Short Bio of the...Author?





LEGO/Bionicle enthusiast

a total nerd


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