Majipoor inhabitants

Majipoor inhabitants

Robert Silverberg's Majipoor series is set on Majipoor, a giant planet. This planet is populated by several species of intelligent beings. At the time the novels are set, the population of the planet is about 20 billion.

The planet is inhabited by ten species of intelligent beings, seven of which are extraplanetary (not native to Majipoor) and three of which are native to the planet. Almost all inhabitants (with the exception of vroons and perhaps hjorts) are warm-blooded mammals of generally humanoid build, with variations such as egg-laying or two heads. All the intelligent species are capable of speaking the main language of Majipoor, which may originate with the first human settlers on on Majipoor.

Malipoor has not been completely explored by the non-native species, despite millennia of inhabitation, and knowledge of the past is not complete. In Alhanroel there are ruins of ancient cities, whose builders are not known; they may have been built by human settlers, piurivars, or some space-faring race lost to history.


Biological species


There are three intelligent species native to Majipoor: piurivars, forest-brethren, and sea dragons. Piurivars inhabited all continents of the planet before humans arrived, about 14000 years prior to the time the novels are set, but were not able to compete with the more numerous and technologically superior invaders. Forest-brethren are aborigines inhabiting the tropical rainforest of central Zimroel, biologically not related (or related very distantly) to piurivars. The sea dragons — giant aquatic mammals looking similar to whales — were not regarded as intelligent until the time of Lord Valentine; prior to his reign, sea dragons were considered not-intelligent animals and hunted for meat, hides and other commodities.


Piurivars (autonym, also metamorphs or shapeshifters) were the dominant intelligent beings on the planet before the arrival of extraterrestrial species. Piurivars' natural form is a slender long-legged humanoid with pale greenish skin, very sharp cheekbones, small nose, and slanted eyes without pupils. They have a chameleon-like ability to change form due to skin cells which can change color and texture, and have an unusual flexibility. Piruvars can mimic other creatures very convincingly, and can only be differentiated from the original by subtle differences in behavior, habits, speech or by other indirect methods. In the story “The Soul-Painter and the Shapeshifter” (“Majipoor Chronicles”) a metamorph imitated a young woman and even had intimate relations with a hermit artist who settled in the jungles of Zimroel close to the piurivar reservation. The piruvars' capacity for imitation is limited only by their physical size.

Majipoor's other intelligent inhabitants are hostile towards Piurivares and tend to avoid contact with them. Piurivars live apart from the others and seldom leave their reservation, although they are free to move about Majipoor. Their culture, traditions, and beliefs are mysterious to the other species.

Forest brethren

Forest brethren are a primitive aboriginal tribe inhabiting the rainforests in central Zimroel which evolved independently of the piruvars. They resemble terrestrial monkeys, in that they have prehensile tails and are arboreal, but are hairless. The forest brethren are, however, a fully sentient species: they have a complex language equivalent to that of the Majipoorean humans, an organized religion and use tools and weapons, though their material culture is very primitive. Forest brethren are hunters and gatherers and have lived in the tropical rainforest from time immemorial. Piurivars hunt them as game animals as they consider the forest brethren's meat a delicacy and will sacrifice the forest brethren during their religious ceremonies. Whether such relationship between two native intelligent species of the planet existed from the ancient times or was formed only after piurivars resettlement in the reservation is not known. The books do not mention whether the forest brethren live outside of Zimroel.

Sea dragons

Sea dragons are aquatic mammals, whose intelligence was not widely known until the book “Valentine Pontifex”; throughout much of human history on Majipoor, they were hunted much as whales are on Earth.

Sea dragons are egg-laying mammals, but unlike Earth’s platypus their eggs are developed and hatched inside the body; calves emerge able to swim and are fed with milk. A dragon may be up to 100 m (300 ft) and grows throughout its lifetime. They are called “dragons” because they have giant wing-like fins, but they cannot fly. They are omnivorous, but prefer plant food. Male sea dragons have tusks, used primarily to fight other males during mating season.

Sea dragons constantly migrate, and their migration route runs between Suvrael and Zimroel on the west, then bends north and runs along the east coast of Zimroel up to the Isle of Sleep. The dragons pass this island and navigate southward between Alhanroel and Suvrael, then leave the Inner Sea for the outer ocean on the east. It takes several decades for a sea dragon to circumnavigate the entire planet, but there are multiple herds of dragons migrating separately along the same route, and as a result, a herd of dragons pass inhabited coasts each year. This route is closest to the coast near the Piliplok on the east coast of Zimroel. Piliplok harbors the great hunting fleet and is the planetary center of trade in sea dragon meat. The government of Majipoor issues quotas for sea dragon hunting to preserve the population.

Every part of a sea dragon body was used in one or another way in industry and economy. Dragon bone was used in construction as they are quite strong, and thus valuable on metal-poor Majipoor. Medicines were made from sea dragons' eggs, and their milk was a powerful aphrodisiac.

The piruvars were terrified of the sea dragons, and called them “water-kings”. A central part of piruvar history in the pre-colonial era took place when they sacrificed two water dragons in their spiritual capital, Valalizier. Piurivars believe that the invasion of Majipoor from space was divine punishment for this sacrilegious act.

In “Valentine Pontifex” humans discover that sea dragons are powerful telepaths, and piurivars use them as biological transponders and amplifiers of telepathic signals to communicate throughout Majipoor. Valentine uses his telepathic abilities and a dragon’s tooth to contact one of the sea dragons. This dragon tells Valentine that the sea dragons allowed themselves to be sacrificed by the piruvars in ancient times, and do not regard this action as crime or sacrilege. Also, they do not object to being hunted by Majipoorians because they are convinced that this is a natural process and “one of the facets of the Whole”. Dragons consider themselves gods of Majipoor, but this concept is not developed any further in other books of the Majipoor series.

Immigrant races


Humans are the most numerous Majipoor inhabitants. They are the first alien species to arrive on Majipoor and founded a colony some 14000 years prior to the start of the books. Other species came 9000 years prior to the start of the novels. Humans spread to all three continents and dominate most parts of the known planet, although other species do form a majority in a few places. Only humans rule the planet, and they hold most upper level government positions.

In the multi-species Majipoorian society, racial differences between humans no longer signify; differences between the species are so wide and so important that human distinctions are no longer relevant.


Skandars are large, powerful, hairy beings about 2.5 m (7.6 feet) tall which resemble Terrestrial bears. They have two pairs of arms and are known for their strength, quick reactions and good coordination. They originated on an unspecified cold planet and are often uncomfortable on tropical Majipoor. Their fur ranges in color from various shades of light-blue through shades of gray to pure white.


Ghayrogs are a race of intelligent reptilian humanoids. Their skin is scaly and they have hair tendrils which writhe much as the Greek gorgons' did. Their forked tongues flicker as do Earth lizards and snakes; these hair and tongue movements are unconscious and reflect the owner’s emotional state. Ghayrogs also emit aromas as emotional indicators and non-verbal communication between individuals. Despite a superficial resemblance to reptiles, ghayrogs are mammals; they lay eggs, which are developed in special incubators afterwards. After they hatch, the offspring are nursed.

Ghayrogs do not sleep on a diurnal cycle, but hibernate for 2–3 months of the year. Ghayrogs are therefore more likely to form racially homogenous settlements as their life cycle is incompatible with other species on Majipoor, though this is forbidden by Majipoor laws.


Vroons are small (under 1 m [3 ft] tall) octopus-like beings with long tentacles and a beak for a mouth. Vroons are natural telepaths and telekinetics; some of them improve their natural abilities by special training and becomes practicing wizards.


Liimens are short humanoids of uncertain biological origin, with flat “hammer-like” head, three eyes and seven bony fingers on each hand. They are generally employed as unqualified manual laborers, farm or mine workers, street vendors and hawkers. They are considered dullish and simple-minded by other races of Majipoor.


Hjorts are plump frog-like beings. They decorate their pebbly gray skin with spots of color. Hjorts are skilled in accounting, bookkeeping, and financial calculations and as a result are well represented in lower levels of state bureaucracy.


Su-Suheris are a race of two-headed, tall, slender blue-skinned beings. They are much less populous than the other races, so are still regarded as exotic in many regions of the planet. Su-Suheris always have hyphenated names, with one name for each of their heads.


Majipoor is somewhat isolated from the rest of the Galaxy, but interstellar communications have never been broken altogether. There is a spaceport in Alhanroel, although its location is never specified and off-world species do visit the planet. In the story “Lord Prestimion” mentions a colony of a few hundred extra-planet visitors in Sippulghar city in the southern Alhanroel.

“Lord Valentine’s Castle” mentions one such visitor — Khun, who came from Kianimot, a stellar system relatively close to Majipoor. Khun is a humanoid with dark-blue skin, large mournful purple eyes, wide mouth with thin lips, long legs and exceptionally dexterous hands; he is a typical representative of intelligent inhabitants of his world.

There is no mention of significant off-world immigration after Lord Melikand invited members of six alien races to settle on Majipoor some 9000 years ago. Government policy on immigration or emigration is never directly mentioned, nor even travels by individual Majipoorians to other planets. Majipur does not seem to possess interstellar or intraplanetary space travel capacity.

Settlement patterns

Majipoor population is distributed through planet’s surface unevenly; settlement patterns are defined by natural and climatic conditions as well as by development of social infrastructure, distance to the centers of power and history of population expansion.

Alhanroel is the most densely populated continent of Majipoor. Two of the four Powers of the planet reside on this continent: the Coronal and the Pontifex. The most urbanized region of Majipoor embraces Castle Mount — a giant geological formation more than 50 km (31 mi) high; its summit protrudes far beyond the limits of atmosphere. There are climate control machines on the Mount which create an artificial atmosphere and maintain the temperature at that of a mild Terrestrial spring, and its summit is occupied by the Castle where the Coronal resides. The Fifty Cities of the Mount, each populated by more than ten millions, are scattered up the mountain's slopes. The lowland around the Mount is a wide agricultural region which provides the Cities of the Mount with food and other materials. Large urban agglomerations exist in other places of central Alhanroel and on its west coast, where great port cities maintain overseas trade with Zimroel and the Isle of Sleep. Pattern of urban areas alternating with rural supply regions is common for all densely populated provinces of Majipoor and most evident in Alhanroel.

Zimroel was colonized much later than Alhanroel and population density here is much lower; urban/rural alternating pattern is apparent only in the most productive and densely settled localities, such as Dulorn Rift. There are a few megalopolises but the majority of the continent is still wild. The piruvars' reservation, Piurifayn, is in the jungles of Zim.

Most of the southern continent of Suvrael is covered by the Desert of Stolen Dreams. Suvrael is sparsely populated; considerable urban centers exist only on its north coast, by the foot of the coastal mountain range which separates the desert from the sea. Beyond the mountains, on the rim of the desert, there are stretches of grasslands able to support intensive pastoral husbandry. Outside of the coastal ports and pasture region, the continent is virtually uninhabited.

Interracial relations

Settlement of the six non-human alien colonists took place about 9000 years ago, and although true assimilation between different biological species was not possible, Majipoorian society became culturally and linguistically homogenous. All races speak the common Majipoorian language. All colonists practice a common faith — belief in the nameless Divine; and all of them worship four Powers of Majipoor: Pontifex, Coronal, Lady of the Isle, and King of Dreams. Members of all seven immigrant races experience the feel of uncontrolled ecstatic elation at sight of the Coronal in the course of his Great Procession; all Majipoorians receive mental messages from the Lady of the Isle and the King of Dreams when sleeping. Although formally all seven intelligent races are equal, positions of the four Powers are traditionally occupied by humans. This tradition has never irritated the other six races because concepts of democracy and sovereignty on Majipoor are unknown, and self-government is rudimentary.

Despite cultural uniformity, relations between biological species are not always unclouded. Differences in body structure, appearance, lifestyle and behavior are too profound to be easily dismissed, and domestic xenophobia exists in various, though in most cases not very significant forms.

Majipoor laws forbid creation of racially homogenous settlements and mandate biodiversity in each community. This is not always possible, as their diversity renders some species, such as the ghayrogs, unable to live easily with others; the species' sleep patterns are so different that they cannot do business or socialize with one another.


All races speak the common Majipoorian language. There are dialectal differences, but all dialects remain mutually intelligible. There may be some standard of the literary language, but it is not clear by what means this standard is imposed: books of the series do not mention any general education system; mass media, whether global or regional, are not mentioned, either. The Lady of the Isle of Sleep may maintain an influence over the planet's inhabitants to keep the language standardized.

The books mention “ethnic” languages, Skandar and Vroon in particular, but their usage is limited to the respective racial communities and are internal languages; they are not taught or studied as 'foreign' languages. Majipoorian society may be regarded as monolingual. The novel, “The Mountains of Majipoor”, mentions human tribes in isolated mountain valleys who speak an unintelligible language, but studying foreign languages seems an alien concept to the main characters of the book.

Forest brethren and piurivars have their own languages, but all piurivars who interact with non-piruvar characters in the books are fluent in Majipoorian. Of the language of sea dragons (and of their way of communication in general), almost nothing is known, but it is probable that they do communicate with each other telepathically.

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