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Bahnavri (Gal dia: chanted dance)

The word ‘Bahnavri’ is traditionally a term for all types of Galadhrim dance. Despite this many believe it to refer specifically to that part of Galadhrim dance where the males are at the front of the group physically performing the actions to the song with their women folk to the rear giving vocal support.

Bahnavri is more than just a dance form. Traditionally it is an activity that is an integral part of welcoming and entertaining guests. It is used to summon courage for those about to engage in battle and to instil fear in the hearts of their enemies. Galahdrim view Bahnavri as a symphony with the various body parts being the different instruments.

In Bahnavri the the hands, arms, legs, feet, voice, tongue, eyes and the body as a whole unite their individual aspects to convey a message. The challenge, anger, happiness, welcome, joy or whatever emotions are being expressed are articulated by every part of the body. There is no instrumental accompaniment. Bahnavri is an expression of the spiritual and psychological, using every element of the physical.

Bahnavri is thought by many non-Galadhrim to be only a dance of war. There are several Bahnavri where war is their expressed outcome. However, there many more Bahnavri which all have their places in Galadhrim cultures. Being metered out to the rhythmic cadences of Bahnarvi lightens many of their repetitive tasks, such as plaiting, grinding or polishing.

The three main types of Bahnavri considered war dances are Dakavri (‘Dragon dance’), Ridvyn (‘Spear Storm’ or ‘Spear Song/Music’) and Llynin (‘Wolf/blue Rite’). Each of these Bahnavri have traits which distinguish it from the others. All are fearsome spectacles to watch, aimed at showing the performer’s prowess and physical conditioning and instilling fear in the enemy.

The war Bahnarvi all involve the carrying of weapons. The notable feature of the Dakarvi is a regular high leap off the ground where the legs are tucked up under the body. The Ridvyn also involves jumping, although is from side to side as opposed to up and down. The Llynin involves no jumping but a fairly constant stamping of one foot.

Another Bahnarvi style (of which the well known Azrahoth [Gal dia: ‘dance of life’] is the prime example) is called Banahoth (Gal dia: ‘Song and Dance’ ie “a lot of fuss”). This particular style is performed with the aim of adrenalising, hardening and physically preparing the performers. Banahoth Bahnarvi normally do not have particular set movements, allowing the performers freedom of expression in their actions. Banahoth Bahnarvi are generally performed without weapons.

Taparahi Bahnarvi are normally performed at funerals or other ceremonies associated with death. It is similar to Banahoth Bahnarvi in that it does not prescribed forms for the movements and is done without weapons.

Brecilosnapi (Gal dia: ‘Words of Power’) are Bahnarvi designed solely for the purpose of expressing hatred. All of the fifteen nations have had Brecilosnapi composed about them by one of the others at some point. Every tribe has composed them about another and every tribe has been the object of such a composition. Over time, to have become the subject of a Brecilosnapi has become somewhat of a honour. As the decades and centuries pass after one of these has been written, it is often the tribe about which the Bahnarvi has been written who retain it as a part of their repertoire.

There are other types of Bahnarvi, but they occur so infrequently that many Galadhrim themselves would be hard put to place them. In traditional Galadhrim culture, females played a major role in the performance of Bahnarvi. They were involved in Bahnarvi where they supported their male kin as well as in solo performances. The legend of Tinirau and Ketaurben has only females in what is accredited with being the first Bahnarvi;

Tinirau lent his pet whale to Ketaurben, a neighbouring chief, to ferry him home. Upon arriving home, Ketaurben refused to alight from the whale, which eventually became stranded, whereupon he was eaten by Ketaurben. When his pet whale failed to return, Tinirau realised that Ketaurben had slain it and plotted his revenge.

He gathered the best (female) performers from his tribe and sent them to capture Ketaurben. They did not know what Ketaurben looked like, but were told that they would recognise him by his missing teeth.

The troupe of performers made the crossing to the other tribe’s lands and began entertaining them all, all the while watching for someone with a gap in his teeth. They performed a Bahnarvi so good that it made everyone who saw it smile and laugh, thus exposing Ketaurben by the missing teeth.

The women then placed a spell on Ketaurben and lured him back to Tinirau, who then slew him in revenge for the death of the pet whale.

Female Bahnarvi plays a large part at ceremonies and entertainment in tribal life. The reputation of a tribe is in part based on their performance of the Bahnarvi. The entire tribe could be involved and therefore all are required to be accomplished performers. The female role in many situations seems to be in the background, harmonising to provide a balanced sound. Having said this it is not unusual to find female Galadhrim in the forefront, giving their all, this is especially so when they are performed spontaneously, both within their home forests and abroad in strange lands.

Bahnarvi of course play a huge part in the way in which the fifteen nations conduct war. In ancient times their (almost internecine) skirmishes amongst themselves were always conducted within a set area by pre-agreed forces and formally begun and ended with specific Bahnarvi. All of this was designed to prepare them for more serious wars, to in some measure get the warriors and the tribes used to taking casualties but of course to limit losses and provide a useful pressure valve for the tribes.

Bahnarvi also form part of the fifteen nations procedures when embarking on Hoyuno (Gal dia: ‘Battle/campaign/war’) The tribe will seek to confront their foe, in considerable force, and declare war by means of Bahnarvi, even if their immediate intention is then to withdraw to considerable depth. Once Hoyuno has been joined there is then no need for any more Bahnarvi, especially if your main tactics are ambush and missile fire from concealment.

The last time on Oerick that there were armies from all fifteen nations in one place was at the Jukpûdhar at the end of the Dagor Tarsil (in which they had just fought). The mourning had gone on for eleven days and the Galadhrim had stood solemnly and patiently whilst the empire undertook its various rituals. By arrangement Taparahi had been performed on several occasions. The occasion as a whole has drawing to a close. The Empire’s warbands were formed up and stood to attention, the ‘Wings’ of ilin lined the low hills of the valley. The emperor turned to the Galadhrim chieftains first and extended his thanks, on behalf of all free peoples everywhere, for their aid. Their part was done, they could go home. The fifteen chieftains glanced at each other and dropping their weapons, stripped off their shirts.

Taking their lead from their chiefs, all the Galadhrim cast down their shields, spears and bows and followed as their chiefs led them through Azrahoth. The Bahnarvi to end all Bahnarvi. The ground literally shook, more than it had at Laru’s footfall. Their feet stamped up the dust. People openly cried as they watched. The warbands stood amazed and moved at the spectacle. It took a while for the emotions to die down, no-one wanted to leave. A lot of people just sat in the sunshine and took in the atmosphere.

Fingorn Gwathlo was heard to say to the chief of the Nostiketaur, “I’d though that we were the same, one kin, from one stock. But what I’ve seen today has given me cause to doubt that. And right now, today, if I had a choice? I’d be Galadhrim.”


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