What is truth, and what is magical thinking? In Episode 12 (Part 1): “Spray and Pray,” our heroes start to explore this theme, and the answer is subtler than you might think.
Most fantasy universes have a system of superpowers or the supernatural, and “Milhamah: Fighting Words” is no exception.
Blessed truth, cursed deception
At the end of Episode 11, Deli speaks an Akkadian shoresh root (based on birth) to repair the hole in his face. And now he uses another root to fire water cannons.
In “Milhamah,” the Bavel Empire (or “macrostructure”) corrupts and twists languages in order to replace them with nonsense. Their motive is to assert control and manipulate reality for selfish, destructive ends.
Deli calls this “magic,” but Tiqwah calls it lies and manipulation. In terms of worldbuilding, she’s right. Bavel seeks to impose its will to power through its quest to destroy the Holy Tongue.
On the other hand, the Holy Tongue is associated with candor, accuracy, and “telling it like it is.” In this episode, Etgar sets his alfon to use the dalet-bet-resh (דבר) root. He sends out a roaring speech bubble to destroy Deli’s magic.
Under the Holy Tongue’s authority, our heroes use speech as a prophetic rebuke, speaking truth to power.
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
One more thing: Etgar mentions the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. This provides the scientific explanation for why the “Milhamah” can use the shoresh roots to enhance their alphabet abilities.
As the link explains:
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the theory that an individual’s thoughts and actions are determined by the language or languages that individual speaks. The strong version of the hypothesis states that all human thoughts and actions are bound by the restraints of language, and is generally less accepted than the weaker version, which says that language only somewhat shapes our thinking and behavior.
Read more on the topic here. But basically, the “Milhamah” characters’ thoughts, words and outlook determine their reality and destiny. Those who prize truth and goodness turn their Holy Tongue alphabet powers into blessings. Likewise, characters who use language to enslave others perform magical curses.
And in that context, think of the curses that lurk in the background of our own real lives. What hells are often unleashed by the quick fix, the empty “something for nothing” promise, the slick corporate marketing pitch, or the focus group-tested political sound bite!
All of this only scratches the surface to how language shapes the “Milhamah” world. Now that we touched on truth, we’ll see how faith shapes the Holy Tongue Society in the next episode. Hope you’ll join us and keep reading!