Minannon the Proud
Minanonn is one of my favourite Pliocene Saga characters.
I think there might be so much more to discover about Minanonn, and I would have loved to have read a book dedicated to him, if only the Great Maker, Julian May, had had the time and the inclination. Maybe a book that described the events surrounding the Times of Unrest, at the end of which Minanonn was deposed by Nodonn, as Tanu Battlemaster, and banished from Tanu society. Because what exactly happened during the Times of Unrest, and specifically, how Minanonn was removed has always gnawed away at my imagination.
Who was Minanonn?
We know he was a Tanu First-Comer, and the son of Thagdal and Queen Boanda, and had therefore been born in the Duat galaxy. We do not know exactly how old he was when he arrived on Earth, only that he must have been mature enough a metaphysic practitioner, and combatant, to be chosen as Battlemaster after the death of Bright Lugonn in the Great Ordeal. We know that he was one of the elder children of Thagdal, mentioned in the same breath as Eadone, Dean of Guilds, Thagdal’s eldest surviving child. Since Thagdal had been King for around 1000 Earth years prior to arriving on Earth, it is probably the case that Minanonn was under 1000 himself on arrival. Whilst Thagdal may have had children prior to his asset to Kingship, it was probably the case that he was not paired with Boanda until after this. So, this puts Minanonn somewhere in the broad age range of somewhere between 1100 and 2000 by the time the Pliocene Saga begins.
After 500 years of leading the brutal and uncompromising tenets of the Battle-Religion as Thagdal’s Battlemaster, Minanonn declared against it, and so instigated the Times of Unrest. At the close of this period (we don’t know how long it last, but I can’t imagine it number more than a few weeks, maybe even days), he was challenged and deposed by Nodonn. But rather than choosing the Life-Offering, Minanonn chose Banishment. Minanonn lived for 500 years in exile, until the tumultuous events that followed the arrival of Group Green. He refused to participate in the Grand Combat of The Golden Torc, even to help bring an end to the endless slaughter of the Combat. After the Flood, he became a close friend (and secretly loved) Elizabeth, giving her critical aid on several occasions, which helped mould the events of the second two Pliocene Saga books, notably, twice helping her to save Aiken Drum’s life.
Although he features most heavily in the fourth book of the Saga, The Adversary, the events he participates in are mostly focused on guarding and helping Elizabeth, particularly in her efforts to cure the Black-torc afflicted Tanu and Hybrid children. Although Minanonn cannot help but participate in Aiken’s Grand Tourney (and idea originally Minanonn’s 500 year past), where he comfortably defeated the Firvulag Battlemaster, Medor.
His story in the Saga of the Exiles ends, when he departs the Many-Coloured Land for the Metapsychic Rebel home of Ocala, to help bring up a new generation of cured Black-torc operant Tanu and Hybrids, along with the remnants of the Metapsychic Rebels themselves, who with the departure of their own children back through the time-gate to the Galactic Milieu, and the departure of Marc Remillard with Elizabeth Orme to Duat, themselves wished to return to the only place they had known as home for the last 28 years.
As a member of the Tanu race, Minanonn was brought up to follow the Battle-religion and was one of the 1000 Tanu and Firvulag who attempted to enact the Nightfall War at the edge of the Duat galaxy, before they were all given an alternative by Brede Shipspouse of postponing Nightfall, in favour of journeying to a distant place to continue the practice of the Battle-Religion in a new home.
However, having succeeded Bright Lugonn as the paramount Tanu combatant of the time, by taking on the mantle of Tanu Battlemaster, at some point Minanonn began to doubt the morality of the Battle-religion. A heretical position to adopt in Tanu or Firvulag society. Minanonn helped found the “Peace Faction” along with Mayvar Kingmaker and Dionket, Guild President of the Redactors, some few hundred years after their arrival on Earth, but less than 500. How long the three developed and held their pacifist beliefs is not known, but it eventually it came to a head during the Times of Unrest, when, it seems, Minanonn broke with the secretive stance of Mayvar and Dionket, and Minanonn took the public step to trying to give the Peace Faction public legal standing. This included an attempt to change the terms of the Grand Combat, and make it a Grand Tourney, where the endless and senseless slaughter of the Combat would be transformed into non-lethal contests. This idea was later introduced by the Peace Faction to King Aiken Drum, which he adopted for the first Grand Combat under his Kingship.
Minanonn’s pacifist stance resulted in him being deposed by Nodonn, but instead of accepting the Life-Offering, as was expected of a follower of the Battle-religion, Minanonn (and his followers) instead chose Banishment from Tanu society. By the time of the arrival of Group green, Minanonn had amassed quite a population (although never quantified) of like-minded Tanu, Firvulag and Humans, living in the Pyrenees, or the Flaming Mountains as the Tanu knew them. Minanonn held on to his pacifism for as long as we are aware, that is to say, until the end of the Saga of the Exiles, and probably until the end of his days.
Personally, I find Minanonn's pacifism more than a little naïve, given the society he lived in and who must have known was likely to oppose him. Noble, but naïve all the same.
What were Minanonn’s Powers?
Minanonn held the honorific title, Minanonn of the Threefold Function. He was most powerful in Coercion (his primary metafunction), PK and Creativity. Although it is not specified, it is hard to believe that he wasn't President of the Guild of Coercers whilst he was Battlemaster, given his primary metafunction was Coercion, and on many occasions, he is described as a coercer. But interestingly he was also President of the PK guild for the 500 years since the Tanu arrival on Earth, until being deposed by Nodonn and losing everything. Indeed, when during The Golden Torc the Peace faction meets, prior to the Grand Combat, Minanonn is introduced by Dionket as:
Greetings to you all, fellow traitors and peacelovers, and especially to our Psychokinetic Brother Minanonn Heretic…
Not “…our Coercive Brother…”. This really does suggest that his PK must have been almost on a par with his Coercion, and it seems quite plausible, that both his Coercion and PK were possibly the greatest of any Tanu. Elizabeth describes, to Marc Remillard, Minanonn’s coercion as being the best in the Pliocene world, apart from Aiken’s.
His creativity is also clearly very strong too. In A Pliocene Companion, he is described as:
…primarily a coercer, but his PK and creativity were also formidable…
And in conversation with Aiken Drum:
[Minanonn]…if this unseasonable rain continues, the Field of Gold may require metapsychic roofing. In bygone days, Kuhal and his late twin, Fian Skybreaker, performed the sheltering office at the arena in Muriah. But I fear that Kuhal’s solitary effort would not prove adequate to the task of covering the tournament grounds. The job would fall to you, High King.’
‘Or you, Brother Heretic,’ the King retorted. ‘Kuhal’s not fighting in the lists. If you gave him a psychocreative hand, the pair of you could umbrella the Field of Gold against a cyclone...
It might be read that Minanonn was suggesting that Aiken would have to pair with Kuhal. And Aiken’s statement seems to suggest that Kuhal and Minanonn in combination would be much more powerful than Kuhal and Fian might have managed. And whilst I would not go as far to say that Aiken’s retort was recognition that Minanonn was as good an option to metaconcert with Kuhal as he was himself, as I believe Aiken could probably shield the Field of Gold all by himself, but it is one of the many complements of Minanonn’s power, given to him, throughout the Saga.
There is no indication, that I know of, that illustrates how powerful he was in either Farsensing or Redaction, other than the fact that we know the Tanu tended to have a broad spectrum of meta-psychic powers, especially the Great Ones, and he would therefore probably have had some skill with both remaining two metafunctions. Minanonn does remark to Aiken once, that he will watch Aiken’s reign from the Pyrenees. That may have been a metaphorical “watch”, but it may have been an indication that Minanonn’s Farsensing allowed him to watch over the events of Western Europe at least.
At the time of The Golden Torc, Minanonn was clearly still someone to be feared, even by the Tanu aristocracy and their Great Ones, given Culluket’s comments at the possibility of Elizabeth falling into the hands of Minanonn and the pair producing offspring:
‘She would be out of the Thagdal’s reach and out of ours,’ Culluket said, ‘but subject to capture by the Firvulag or even the heretic Minanonn. And this last, I submit, would be an even greater calamity than the one facing us now.’
Does this point to the possibility that children of Minanonn and Elizabeth, would be more powerful than any children engendered between Thagdal and Elizabeth? Or was it that such a union would simply serve to hasten the ongoing rise of the Peace Faction?
Other indications pointing towards Minanonn’s power include, having flow Elizabeth to the scene of the confrontation between Aiken and Felice, after Felice and Culluket had been buried under a huge landslide:
Elizabeth: Enough Minanonn. Help me now. Use your psychokenetic power to uncover the Duality for a moment so that I can erect its tomb. Then we must hurry to Aiken—
So, even if this meant excavating a tunnel of material to the buried Duality, and holding the tunnel clear, we are talking about psychokinetic power capable of shifting and holding back many, many tons of material.
But the most obvious manifestation of Minanonn’s powers, where we see his PK, creativity (and probably his coercion at work) is his tug-o-war with Medor, the Firvulag Battlemaster at the time of the Grand Tourney in The Adversary. It isn’t so much the contents itself between Minanonn and Medor, which ultimately Minanonn wins comfortably, but the conversation between the defeated Medor and King Sharn-Mes that is so telling:
‘I did my best,’ the woebegone general said. ‘But I knew I was cooked as soon as Heymdol announced that the Foe were entering the Heretic as a ringer. No one but Pallol One-Eye was in Minnie’s class.’ After a moment, he appended diplomatically, ‘Except you yourself, of course, High King.’
So, Minanonn was definitely a super-heavy weight of the Tanu and Firvulag people, and I believe the most powerful pure-blood Tanu, during their thousand-year occupation of Pliocene Europe. But having given up on the Battle-religion and having adopted pacifism, we never really get to see how powerful he really was.
How exactly was Minanonn removed by Nodonn?
I find this to be such an interesting question.
According to tradition, a Battlemaster may be challenged to defend his or her position, by an aspiring Battlemaster, at the end of a Grand Combat. Just as Aiken challenged Nodonn in The Golden Torc, before Felice's flood brought their duel to an untimely end, along with the rest of the Tanu hegemony. These contests, and it seems all the Heroic Encounters, rarely resulted in the death of a combatant, as they were all so strong, both mentally and physically. They, therefore, probably succumb to exhaustion, or yielded the combat. Given that few died in these Manifestations of Power, or duals - but the vast majority of defeated Great Ones did not seem to survive beyond their defeat - it must be the case that almost all of them, adhering to the tenets of the Battle-religion, chose the Life-Offering to the Goddess.
But there was an alternative that we know at least three prominent Tanu had taken in the past, instead of the Grand Offering. A former guild Great One put in an appearance at a Grand Combat, back on Duat, to recontest his position; Minanonn the Proud, who was relieved of his position as Battlemaster by Nodonn; and Leyr the Brave returned to content the Lord Coercer position, only to be carved up by the Host member Imidol. All three of these Great Ones chose Banishment from Tanu society, rather than being sacrificed to the Goddess.
What makes Minanonn’s removal so interesting to me, is that I don't think he was actually beaten in combat to be unseated from the role of Battlemaster. I think he left the role unwilling to contest it, and rather by choice once it was clear there was no chance of his goal being achieved. Having been removed, he then chose Banishment, rather than continuing to support the battle-religion and the practices by which it thrived and survived. He had come to hate the battle-religion, and he therefore refused to participate in any of its tenets.
Minanonn has fundamentally given up on violence, as a means to an end. He had forsaken the Battle-religion and the normal means under it that allowed one Tanu to triumph over another. This is clear from the following:
The Golden Torc, Part 1, Chapter 4
Culluket, speaking to Mayvar:
Do you deny you have long opposed the battle-philosophy? Do you deny your sympathy for the traitorous heretic Minanonn, who betrayed his office as Battlemaster by preaching that Tanu and Firvulag should be brothers in sun as well as shadow?
But what were the means of his fall? Would Minanonn have fought? Would he have refused to step down and chosen combat between him and any would-be successor? What can the Saga (and the Companion) tell us?
The Golden Torc, Part 2, Chapter 9
Ogmol to Bryan:
‘It is the most honorable course. But a few, such as Minanonn the Heretic, who was deposed by Nodonn, and Leyr the former Lord Coercer, overcome by Gomnol, have chosen the ignominy of banishment.’
The Golden Torc, Part 3, Chapter 2
LEYR THE BANISHED: Dammit – Minnie’s the peaceloving heretic, not me!
And critically from the same The Golden Torc, Part 3, Chapter 2 conversation:
MINANONN: You see me allied to your cause in the event of Nodonn’s defeat, contending against Kuhal Earthshaker for the leadership of the psychokinetics.
MAYVAR: You have the power. You were Battlemaster once.
MINANONN: Five hundred years gone, before my enlightenment. And you know me little, Kingmaker, if you think that I would sacrifice my principles now to become a killer once more.
DIONKET: For an end to killing!
MINANONN: Not even for that.
MAYVAR: If the Guild presidency might be decided in a peaceful manifestation of powers and not in battle-trial?
MINANONN: That will never happen under the Thagdal’s regime.
MAYVAR: But if our faction forces a change of the rules under a new king?
MINANONN: Then I would willingly aspire. However, until the dawn of that unlikely new day I must take leave of you, Sisters and Brothers. I fly back to my place of banishment in the wilderness. Farewell. (He goes.)
The Non-born King
The other banished Tanu present at the secret meeting was Minanonn the Heretic. Five hundred years before, he had been Battlemaster. But his pacifistic temperament was antithetical to the barbaric Tanu battle-religion, and he had been forced into exile deep in the Pyrénées. The Peace Faction hoped that, in the event Aiken defeated Nodonn, Minanonn would fight against Kuhal Earthshaker for the presidency of the Psychokinetic Guild. However, Minanonn refused to compromise his principles.
So, Minanonn refused to entertain violence ever, even if the result of him compromising his personal convictions might mean an end to wider societal violence in the long term. Minanonn’s principle not to participate in violence appears to be absolute.
A Pliocene Companion is, for me, a compelling and unique source of information. Because in it, Julian May is not telling the story, but rather is an author enriching the information available to us within the story, without the baggage of needing to keep to the stories necessarily restrictive narrative. In A Pliocene Companion, Julian May gives us some very interesting, if somewhat conflicting statements, of the conflict between Minanonn and Nodonn:
A Pliocene Companion
… Minanonn was deposed by Nodonn some 500 years later…
…He [Minanonn] was defeated by Nodonn and driven into exile…
…the Proud (MIH-nun-nah’n), called Heretic, or Minanonn of the Threefold Function, a Tanu First Corner, son of Thagdal by Queen Boanda in the Duat Galaxy. He was chosen battlemaster after the demise of Bright Lugonn and served for some 500 years. After declaring against the battle-religion during the Times of Unrest he was challenged and defeated by Nodonn. Minanonn and other members of the militant Peace Faction chose exile rather than life-offering in the Great Retort…
…Its [the Peace Faction] efforts were clandestine until Minanonn underwent a moral crisis and refused to continue in the role of battlemaster. The result was a brief civil war known as the Times of Unrest, squelched by Nodonn, as champion of King Thagdal and guardian of the battle-faith. Minanonn was driven into exile, along with certain of his followers…
Times of Unrest
…a historical period some 500 years prior to the coming of Group Green to the Pliocene, during which Minanonn and the militants of his Peace Faction actively opposed the battle-religion and the Tanu throne. Nodonn and other stalwarts of the Host put down the heresy and Minanonn was exiled.
Minanonn’s replacement by Nodonn is described by the term “deposed”, “defeated” and “challenged and defeated”. But it is also said that Minanonn “refused to continue in the role of battlemaster”.
Given the Tanu proclivity for resolving their differences with violence, there seems little doubt that Nodonn and his host (an unknown number) would have gone in guns blazing to take down Minanonn and the other members of the Peace Faction who stood with him at that time, with the goal of defeating them and sending them to the life-offering. The question is, how much mental and physical resistance would Minanonn, and his people have given? Would there have been a prolonged conflict? How many were on each side? Would Minanonn and his people merely used their power for defensive purposes?
I think it is almost certainly the case that Nodonn and his host outnumbered Minanonn and those of the Peace Faction prepare to take a public stance. The Tanu were a people who society were superior power and violence were endemic, and it would have taken more than Minanonn and the few peace-lovers who rallied to his call, to persuade many, if any, to support his cause.
I think it is also certain that Minanonn and the Peace Faction would not have used violence against the Nodonn led Throne loyalists, and so Minanonn would have been deposed, probably without lifting a finger.
As I began, I would so love to have read more on Minanonn, who I believe was the most powerful Tanu to arrive in Pliocene Europe, even if his pacifism is a little naïve for one otherwise so wise.
Thanks for reading!