Narn

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For the J. R. R. Tolkien work, The Tale of the Children of Húrin, see Narn i Chîn Húrin.
Narn
Universe Babylon 5
Notable races Narn
Notable people G'Kar
Creator J. Michael Straczynski
Genre Sci-fi

The Narn are a fictional alien race in the universe of the Babylon 5 television series. Their homeworld is also called Narn.

Homeworld[edit]

Narn is the homeworld of the Narn and the Narn Regime. Its day is 31 hours long. Prior to the Centauri's first invasion, Narn was a healthy green planet. Now it has the look of a slightly more habitable Mars. The surface temperature can fluctuate by at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit on any given day. Before the Centauri invasion the planet was dominated by primordial jungles and forests, teeming with animal life. Craggy mountains and small, landlocked seas covered the rest of the globe. One of the most revered locations on Narn is the G'Quon mountain range which was once home to the vicious On'Vik and herds of wild Dar and horned beasts called Natok that stomp and make noise when angered or disturbed.

However, following the two Centauri occupations the Narn homeworld now is fairly barren, with a thin atmosphere and low humidity. Much of the land is a desolate rose-copper desert, as the Centauri's first occupation decimated the environment; very few areas of original forest and jungle remain. Although the Narn reclaimed much of their planet for agriculture, they managed to restore relatively small areas of forest and jungle. The Centauri's second invasion of Narn caused massive climatic upheavals due to asteroid bombardment. The current state of the planet's already depleted biosphere after the bombardment is grim, with Narn's few remaining large animal species (such as the Val) endangered. Apparently only the avian species seem to be flourishing; it seems a general consensus among the Narn and alien scientists that only heavy terraforming can return the planet to its former condition of lush forestland.

a devastated Narn building after the second Centauri invasion

Biology[edit]

Narn are tall and have a stocky build; they are bald, with a red-orange complexion, mottled with brown and/or green spots. They appear reptilian in origin. Female Narn give live birth, but shortly after birth an infant Narn is placed into a pouch in the male Narn, and they remain there until they are old enough to leave their father's pouch. As such, infant Narn are called "pouchlings".

Physically, the Narn are among the strongest of all the younger races, and can hold their own in hand to hand combat even with the Minbari. A typical Narn is considerably more athletic than a Human or Centauri. However, the Narn's relatively low level of technology compared to the Minbari and the Centauri has kept them from overpowering these races.

At the time of the second Shadow War, there are no Narn telepaths, as according to legend all telepaths were exterminated by a dark force, later recognized as the Shadows, a millennium ago (during the first Shadow War). Biologically, the telepathic gene is too weak in the current population to express itself naturally. This has led to several attempts by the Narn to buy the DNA of telepaths from other races (mainly humans) which they hope to combine with their own and begin breeding Narn telepaths.

History[edit]

Until the Centauri occupied and exploited them, the Narn were mostly peaceful farmers. Until the first Centauri occupation the Narn homeworld was not united under a single government, but was apparently divided into different clans or units similar to the nation-states of Earth. The Narn homeworld was pleasant and green, and there were telepaths among the Narn population. During the first Shadow War (corresponding to Earth's 13th Century AD), the Shadows used one of Narn's southern continents as a base. They were driven from the planet by a group of Narn telepaths, but the telepaths were exterminated in the process.

In the early 22nd Century the Centauri encountered the Narn and established relations with them. The Narn at this time were technologically primitive compared to most other alien races, including humans and Centauri; it is unclear whether the Narn had any form of space travel before this time, although G'Kar did refer to Ragesh 3 as having been a Narn colony during this century (Season 1 episode Midnight on the Firing Line). They saw the far more advanced interstellar visitors as demigods, and welcomed them with reverence. Realizing this, the Centauri quickly moved from being friends to enslaving the entire Narn population. The Narn homeworld was mercilessly exploited for its natural resources - the forests and jungles were clearcut and most of the planet's land surface strip-mined. Entire animal and plant species were driven to extinction. The Narn themselves were used as servants or manual laborers by the Centauri, who often lived in large estates worked by Narn slaves; many Narn were deported to work camps on other worlds (possibly including Ragesh 3).

Realizing that their planet was doomed unless the Centauri were forced to leave, the Narn began a lengthy guerrilla war against their Centauri masters. The Narn learned how to use Centauri technology and weapons, and turned these weapons against them. They conducted hit-and-run attacks on Centauri bases, assassinated Centauri officials and civilians, and destroyed Centauri warships and equipment. The Centauri responded to these attacks in a ruthless manner; a hundred thousand Narn were executed as punishment for the Centauri losses, and cities were bombed to demoralize the population. But the Narn persevered, and eventually the Centauri wearied of the conflict and left, around the year 2209 (a timing indicated by G'Kar when interviewed by an ISN reporter, in the Season 2 episode And Now For a Word, but contradicted by some other sources, which put the end of the occupation as late as 2229). Thus Narn regained its independence. The leaders of the rebellion formed a new, united Narn government called the Kha'Ri. It would lead the Narn Regime until its defeat in the Second Narn-Centauri War, half a century later.

Religion and society[edit]

"Soldiers of Darkness"

Most Narn subscribe to very strict personal codes of honor, though many other races in the past have tended to see the Narn as greedy, duplicitous, double-dealing and treacherous. Part of this view may stem from the influence of the Centauri and their hostility toward the Narn, but much of it stems from Narn behavior during the construction of their empire between the periods of the end of the first Centauri occupation and the Narn-Centauri War.

Narn society (both before and after their century of enslavement by the Centauri) is strictly hierarchical and based on a class system. Physical imperfections and impairments are customarily not recognized, which means any equipment to compensate for them, such as corrective lenses for visual impairment, have to come from other species' societies.

The Kha'Ri consists of 8 circles, with the royal families being First, spiritual leaders Second, government officials Third, and trainees Eighth. The ambassador to Babylon 5, G'Kar, was a member of the third circle. The Kha'Ri was based in the city of G'Khamazad on Narn. The rest of the people are divided into Skilled Workers, Plebeians, or the Lost (unemployed, criminals, and the mentally ill). Upward movement between classes is difficult for the majority. Narn cities are built in roughly concentric districts which reflect the social hierarchy.

The Narn are a deeply religious and socially conservative people. Narn have several religions and some Narn are not religious at all, but those that do subscribe to a faith take it very seriously. The holy Book of G'Quan is so revered that new copies must be hand written and identical in form to existing copies, including any imperfections in the pages, and rituals must be followed correctly or not done at all, a structure that Londo, the Centauri ambassador, takes advantage of in the Season 1 episode By Any Means Necessary. It is also considered sacrilegious to translate the Book into another language while thumping it is also frowned upon.

The Narn, like most races, also have winged beings of light in their myths (courtesy of Vorlon manipulation). These beings are similar to the angels of various human religions.

While serving an aggravated assault sentence on Babylon 5, G'Kar wrote down his thoughts and ideas on paper. During his service as Londo Mollari's bodyguard on Centauri Prime some years later, several loyal Narn combined his writings into the Book of G'Kar, which started, if not a new religion, then definitely a powerful cult. The Book of G'Kar was the first published Narn work to outsell the Book of G'Quan and is also copied by hand with all imperfections included (e.g. a coffee stain left by Garibaldi). Hundreds of Narn flocked to Babylon 5 to seek G'Kar's guidance, forcing him to unwillingly assume the persona of a religious icon.

A Shon'Kar is a Narn blood oath. The oath is sworn by a Narn against someone who wronged them or their family. An individual Narn is expected to not rest until the target of the Shon'Kar is dead. If the individual Narn fails, the family continues the Shon'Kar until the target is killed.

Narn never draw weapons unless they mean to use them. If a K'tok, a Narn sword, is drawn, then blood must be spilled before it may be sheathed (even if that blood is one's own).

Government[edit]

The Narn Regime is the government of the Narn. The regime is led by the "Kha'Ri"; it is basically a large council with different levels (called "circles") of authority. The first circle consists of the national elite who form planetary policy and handle relations with other alien races. Before the Narn-Centauri War (see below), the Kha'Ri's membership consisted mostly of the veterans and leaders of the Narn's successful guerrilla war against the Centauri, which may account for the Kha'Ri's near-obsession with constantly humiliating and defeating the Centauri. The Narn Regime is a young empire, having grown rapidly since their independence from the Centauri Republic in the early 23rd Century. Clever diplomacy, a pragmatic approach to arms dealing, and investment in building up their own military were all characteristics of the Narn Regime in the decades leading up to the Shadow War. For instance, the Narn were the only major power willing to sell effective weapons to the Earth Alliance during the Earth-Minbari War, albeit secretly considering the threat of the Minbari turning on them for aiding their enemy. The fact that their weaponry was derived from Centauri designs also raised Narn hopes that the older race might suspect their former occupiers and attack them instead of Narn.

The devastation inflicted upon the Narn homeworld left them little choice but to either accept a long, difficult attempt to restore the ruined climate and biosphere of their planet - or to establish and defend colonies that could send back resources to sustain the dying Narn homeworld. The Narn chose this latter option, resolving to expand their economy and influence as quickly as possible, and by any means necessary. They sold any technology and/or weapons of value to anyone who could afford to pay for it, including groups branded as criminals and pirates by other races. Using technology and orbital shipyards inherited from the Centauri, they swiftly built a starfleet of their own and secured several nearby planets in the first few years of their independence. The speed with which the Narn empire grew was all the more impressive given their lack of technological advancement prior to the arrival of the Centauri. In order to achieve, the Narn adopted policies that tended to emphasize ruthlessness and a pragmatic approach to diplomatic agreements. When they felt themselves strong enough, the Narn began to bully and plunder other races just as the Centauri had done to them. They were often aggressive and brutal, not hesitating to use threats or outright force to seize disputed regions or settle conflicts in their favor. Thus, it is not surprising that many races, even those who continued trading with the Narn despite their dissatisfaction with Narn policies and actions, had ambivalent or negative opinions of the Narn Regime and the Narn in general. They won few friends among the other races, even among those races that traded with them, who too often found themselves on the wrong side of perceived Narn double-dealing—a failing initially seen by the Narn as a small price to pay, until they realized too late during the Narn-Centauri War that they could not survive without allies, and that they had alienated any potential friends.

The Narn Regime at its greatest expansion, besides the Narn homeworld, also included a number of colonies and planetary systems such as Che, Zok, Dros, and Sigma 957. Narn territory also included vital border sectors with the Centauri such as Quadrants 14 and 24. These holdings made the Narn Regime a major power in the galaxy. However, this situation was not to last.

Early on in the series, the Narn government is portrayed as unscrupulous and aggressive. (Midnight on the Firing Line) A sneak attack on a Centauri outpost sets the stage for reprisals by the Centauri that ultimately result in the virtual destruction of the Narn Regime. Later episodes such as Deathwalker, where the Narn try to take custody of a Dilgar prisoner, and Legacies, when they try to buy a human telepath, do little to improve the poor reputation the Narn have for being opportunistic and thirsty for influence and power.

When the Narn find out that they cannot win the war with the Centauri they have been so desperate to start, a different side of the Narn becomes apparent. They are courageous and capable of exhibiting an extraordinary degree of self-sacrifice, such as when a Narn warship allows a group of civilian ships to escape by putting itself between Centauri battleships and a jumpgate. (Acts of Sacrifice) This courage extends beyond their own species, as with the Narn helping Babylon 5 defend itself from President Clark's forces in Severed Dreams.

Narn-Centauri War[edit]

In 2259, unknown even to the Centauri Emperor, certain factions within the Centauri Republic had arranged for a small fleet of Shadows to destroy a Narn military base in Quadrant 37, killing 10,000 of Narn's finest warriors. The Narn were unable to discover who had destroyed the base, and a few months later another Shadow fleet - again acting on a request from Londo Mollari, the Centauri ambassador to Babylon 5, attacked the Narn's largest colony at Quadrant 14, destroying its defences. This time a fleet of Centauri warships arrived after the Shadows to occupy and secure the planet. They were quickly discovered and attacked by a squadron of Narn fighters. Upon learning of this, the Narn Regime, being unaware of the Shadows or their covert alliance with certain Centauri officials, officially declared war against the Centauri Republic (Season 2 episode The Coming of Shadows).

Over the next few months, the Narn steadily lost their defensive war with the Centauri. While the Narn spacefleet had looked impressive before the war, it had mainly been used in hit-and-run attacks on poorly defended Centauri targets. When it came to an all-out open war, the Narn found that the Centauri fleet was still much larger than their own, and that Centauri warships still possessed a significant technological advantage over their Narn counterparts. Centauri vessels were equipped with artificial gravity, which gave them more speed and maneuverability than Narn warships. Even so, the Narn's experiences with the Centauri allowed them to compensate for some of these problems, and in several battles (such as the one near Babylon 5), the Narn heavy cruisers were able to destroy or at least heavily damage their Centauri opponents before being destroyed themselves. What really doomed the Narn to defeat was the secret assistance the Centauri received from their Shadow allies; had the Centauri not been helped by the Shadows the Narn might well have successfully held back the Centauri forces for years. However, the Narn fleet was no match at all for the ancient Shadow vessels; a single Shadow vessel could easily destroy an entire fleet of Narn warships.

After losing the previous 30 years' territorial gains in only six months, the desperate Narn High Command decided to launch an all-out strike against the main Centauri supply base at a planet called Gorash 7. The Narn hoped that by uniting most of their remaining warships into a single armada, they could destroy the Centauri supply base and force the Centauri to temporarily halt their advance. This would give the Narn time to regroup and rebuild their forces. The danger of this plan was that, in order to create a fleet large enough to make the assault, the defenses of the Narn homeworld were severely depleted, thereby leaving it open to attack if the Centauri discovered the Narn's plan. Unfortunately for the Narn Regime, the Centauri did indeed learn about the Narn strategy by intercepting and breaking their coded transmissions, and planned a decisive counter-attack to end the war with a massive assault on the Narn homeworld itself (Season 2 episode The Long, Twilight Struggle). Ambassador Mollari relayed the information to the Shadows, and so five Shadow warships were waiting for the Narn fleet at Gorash 7. Although the Narn fought heroically, in a battle lasting only a few minutes the entire Narn armada was completely destroyed, and hundreds of Narn heavy cruisers and fighters were lost. Not a single Shadow vessel was destroyed (although one did receive minor damage).

Meanwhile, the main Centauri fleet was free to advance on the Narn homeworld, virtually unopposed save for a skeleton defensive force. When Ambassador Londo expressed his fear that the Narn would fight ferociously to defend their own homeworld, and that any invasion force would be "up to its neck in blood, their own," Lord Refa, his ally in starting the war, told Londo not to worry. Refa had developed a plan that would avoid major Centauri casualties by not landing an invasion army on the Narn homeworld; instead, a Centauri fleet would bombard the planet's surface with large meteors fired from mass drivers attached to Centauri warships. The meteors would simply "flatten" Narn cities and civilization, and the Centauri could then land and take over whatever ruins were left. Following Refa's plan, the Centauri fleet began to bombard Narn from space using the mass drivers illegally fitted to their battleships (mass driver bombardment is considered the equivalent of using Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Babylon 5 universe, with every major race having treaties against it). The mass drivers rained huge meteors down onto the planet's surface, reducing most of Narn's cities to rubble, killing millions of Narn civilians, and effectively shattering the Narn's infrastructure and defensive abilities. As an act of simple survival, the Narn Regime agreed to an unconditional surrender to the Centauri, who then re-occupied the Narn homeworld with military forces and enslaved the Narn people once again. The leaders of the Narn Regime, the Kha'Ri, were arrested and/or executed, and Narn became a "protected colony" of the greater Centauri Republic. The only member of the Kha'Ri to escape was G'Kar, the Narn Ambassador to Babylon 5. Although ordered to surrender to the Centauri by Ambassador Londo, G'Kar had asked Babylon 5 commander John Sheridan for sanctuary on the station, and Sheridan agreed. However, G'Kar was stripped of his title as ambassador and was not allowed by the Centauri to officially represent the Narn on the station, although he continued to do so in an unofficial capacity. The younger Narn blamed their defeat on the fact that their leaders had used Centauri strategies. The older Narn, who remembered the first Centauri occupation and enslavement of their world, believed that they were defeated because they had not been more like the Centauri. As a result of the Centauri bombardment, the Narn homeworld underwent major climate change, as dust blown into the atmosphere reduced the planet's sunlight, lowered the global temperature, and created near-constant windy conditions around the planet.

Centauri occupation[edit]

During the brief second Centauri occupation, the Kha'Ri was dissolved with most members arrested and/or executed. The newly hardline Centauri leadership, predominantly Lord Refa and the insane Emperor Cartagia, were determined to keep the Narn in subjugation and prevent them from becoming a threat ever again. Therefore they treated the captive Narn populace with great cruelty: millions were herded into work farms and concentration camps, as expendable slave labour used in rebuilding the planetary infrastructure. Five hundred Narns were executed for every Centauri killed by any Narn. Millions more Narns were slaughtered as a genetic cleansing program, intended to eliminate the potential for aggression from their gene pool - many whole communities were destroyed in this process.

Despite all this, an active Narn resistance continued. The resistance was organised by cells on Narn itself and offworld, procuring weapons, food, and other resources. Former Ambassador G'Kar was the most prominent figure in this struggle, and indeed he came over time to symbolise not just the desire of the Narn to be free, but of all peoples in the galaxy. Remnants of the Narn starfleet not destroyed or interned by the Centauri eventually joined the struggle against the Shadows led by John Sheridan, the heavy cruiser G'Tok in particular playing a pivotal role in an early engagement in 2260. Once the Shadows ships' vulnerability to telepaths was discovered, they could be destroyed - thus the surviving Narn vessels were able to avenge their lost sister ships in some measure.

Narns also served with distinction on Babylon 5 by supplementing its security forces, most notably helping to repel Earthforce marines loyal to President Clark; as a police force on the station, they curtailed crime and even handled the local Centauri in an effective and professional manner. Consequently, while the Narn Regime no longer existed, the Narn remained a visible part of the struggle against the Shadows (and later the Vorlons as well).

Narn liberation[edit]

Due to G'Kar's assistance in the assassination of Emperor Cartagia, which saved Centauri Prime from destruction, Narn was liberated early in 2261 (Season 4 episode The Long Night). The Centauri withdrew their occupational force from the Narn star system and closest colonies. It was apparent that the majority of Narn in a position to influence the future of their nation tended toward a desire for revenge rather than reconciliation; at this point, however, they were in no position to threaten anyone, with most of their industrial base destroyed and only a few fugitive ships remaining of their fleet - enough perhaps to defend the homeworld, but not to wage a war. G'Kar refused an offer to become leader of the new Narn Regime, insisting that he would only take his place in the reconstituted Kha'Ri. Narn ships gave logistical support to Sheridan and his fleet in their ultimately successful bid to oust President Clark and return power in the Earth Alliance to its people, but for most of this year the Narn concentrated on rebuilding their shattered world.

In 2262 the Narn military became more numerous and active again, most notably in a joint strike with the Drazi against Centauri Prime in response to a series of attacks on Interstellar Alliance cargo vessels, but as much for revenge as anything else. Bombarding the Centauri homeworld with conventional weapons, they inflicted considerable damage to its urban areas and tens of thousands of fatalities - only a token repayment for the global carnage wrought by the Centauri upon them, but enough to humiliate the Centauri and help persuade their fleet to stand down without further reprisals.

After the formation of the Interstellar Alliance, the Minbari wanted to atone for their inaction during the early days of the Shadow War. They provided Narn with advanced technology to repair the damage done to its climate by the Centauri mass drivers.

Narn Future[edit]

The Vorlons have often been heard referring cryptically to the Narns (and the Centauri) as a "a dying race, we should let them pass". No further explanation of this was made in the series itself; J. Michael Straczynski eventually clarified the point to fans by saying that the Narn species, like the Centauri, will not evolve into noncorporeal beings as the humans and Minbari eventually do (in "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars"); the Narn and Centauri don't die out, as such, but rather remain as flesh and blood beings.