Girl Genius
Girl Genius

Eotain and Shurdlu are the names of a couple of Geisterdamen who make repeated appearances in the story. Since they always appear together and are difficult to tell apart (in fact, often[1] it's not even clear which is which), they're treated jointly in this article.

Crossing Paths with Agatha[]

They make their first appearance as they patrol the boonies of Europa aboard their trusty giant spiders Bwoosee and Pojee, when they encounter the unsuspecting Agatha and Lars. They don't think much about this encounter at the time, dismissing the two as "actors," which in fact they are. (Not until much later do they get a hint that there may be more to Agatha than they realized at the time.) This episode gives us our first exposure to Geisterspeak, which they use in all subsequent encounters until, well, see below.

The next time they appear, they're sacked out somewhere in the bowels of Castle Sturmvoraus, to be awakened when Tarvek Sturmvoraus and Anevka Sturmvoraus imprison Agatha and Lady Vrin until they can figure out what to do with them all. (Why Eotain and Shurdlu are being treated as captives remains unclear; it's also interesting to compare their almost friendly curiosity with Vrin's grim amoral stoicism.) When Agatha puts on her glasses, which she'd been hiding, the Geisterladies recognize her as one of the "actors" they'd encountered earlier. They're left behind with Vrin when Tinka shows up to conduct Agatha to a tete-a-tete with Tarvek, only to reappear when they and Vrin crash the party shortly afterward. In the craziness that follows, as Agatha is implanted with the mind of The Other, it's fair to say that Eotain's and Shurdlu's attitude toward her undergoes a certain ... change .

Eotain and Shurdlu 2

Greeting their goddess

Beyond this point, things get messy, as more Geisterdamen seem to proliferate out of the woodwork, and since we can't tell them apart, we can't figure out which ones are Eotain and Shurdlu, if any.


The duo finally prove that they survived events in Sturmhalten by re-appearing in Paris during Agatha's visit to that city. (We know it's them because they're nice enough to go out of their way to use each other's name the moment we lay eyes on them.) Confronting Agatha and Co. at a barricade in the city's revenant-infested streets, they order all the possibly-wasped citizens in the vicinity to capture her. In Eng.. er, French no less; whether they could always speak the language or have been boning up is unknown. It should also be noted they are or were sort of undercover, having dressed in fairly human garb, identical to their compatriot Madame Velix.

When Agatha and friends take to the rooftops in their multi-legged conveyance, the two chase after them on Bwoosee and Pojee, announcing their presence by impaling Smoke Knight Malek through the chest with a grappling hook and yanking him away. A running battle then ensues, with (evidently) Shurdlu recognizing Zeetha as being from Skifander and then battering her unconscious in unarmed combat before taking an incapacitating (if not fatal) dart to the head thanks to a vengeful Varpa. Meanwhile, Eotain loses Bwoosee (and her coat) when Dimo unintentionally chucks a large and heavy chunk of pilfered machinery right on top of the unfortunate mount. During that battle, we learn that Eotain and Shurdlu are clearly no mere rank-and-file Geisters, as first Eotain is seen actually rallying other Geisters (who adress her by name) after her in pursuit of Agatha, and later on the Geisters are seen clamoring to avenge the fallen Shurdlu. (Their exact rank and/or position in the Geisters' hierarchy is still unknown, however). Eotain seems to disappear at this point, as no coatless Geister (re-)appears among the swarm who once again come spewing out of the metaphorical woodwork and attack the assembled protagonists at Grandmother's now-infamous Party before being killed by the Master of Paris or the subsequent cleaning operation of their hideout organized by his daughter and replacement Colette; however, it is heavily implied that she was the one Geister that got caught by Agatha and was shot and believed dead right after Voltaire killed all other Geisters in Paris' streets. If that's the case, it explains the mystery of how Eotain survived the massacre, but raises the mystery of where she found a new coat.[2]

Twitter Adventures with Othar[]

In the Twitter-based adventures of Othar Tryggvassen (Gentleman Adventurer), Our Hero visits the now locked-down and Colette-controlled Paris searching for his time-lost love Oslaka. He instead finds Eotain, hiding and scavenging in the lowest pits of the Parisian underworld. She's in pretty bad shape, but he manages to smuggle her out of the city and gets her medical attention thanks to the Corbettite monks. When she recovers and learns who he is, and that he can speak her language, she's willing to talk, starting with telling him her name, which is when we learn it as well. She goes on to reveal that Shurdlu did die in Paris, though it's not clear if it was from the dart or the later Voltaire family crackdown. She also claims that Shurdlu was the more pious of the two, while Eotain herself often suffers crises of faith. She willingly accompanies Othar as he goes to investigate events in Holfung-Borzoi, displaying fear at seeing the moon,[3] and bitterness at the lack of information doled out to her during her time serving The Other; an entire cadre of Geisters being sent to (probably deliberately) die in Paris does not help with this attitude. In response to her sisterhood's poor reputation, she spends some time disguised as Othar's "sister", complete with slit-goggles and sweater.[4] Othar's twitter ends (for now) with she and him being "guests" of The Shrike in Holfung-Borzoi.

Eventually the comic confirms (at least in broad strokes) the events described above. We haven't learned yet how this escapade ends, but back in the main comic,[5] she and Othar eventually return to Paris with a handful of other rebellious Geisters, and join a briefing with Colette and the leadership of Gil and Tarvek's anti-Polar Ice Lord expedition. We eventually learn that not just Othar, but also Eotain has been personally preaching to her fellow Geisters how The Other is actually evil, and that it has caused crisis of faith in them similar to the ones she suffered herself.

Two Geisters, two personalities, one article[]

Eotain and Shurdlu may (or may not) be indistinguishable, but they are not in any case identical; they have separate memories and reactions. One of them is amused that they at first mistook Agatha for a mere actor, the other is dismayed. One finds Dingbot Prime delightful, the other is disgusted. Whether it is the same one with the more carefree attitude in each case and which has which name has not been stated at any time in the comic proper.

However, in a certain Othar twitter, Eotain states Shurdlu was "the more pious one", able to "talk her through her moments of doubt". Two tweets before, Othar states that Eotain is "a person who likes to talk". And later on, in a battle in a restaurant, Eotain says she had a fine time, and really liked the waffles. Based on that, it is reasonable to assume that the one who always laughs at things would likely be Eotain and the one who takes their mission maybe a tad too seriously would be Shurdlu. That is further reinforced by their actions during the fight on Paris streets, where Eotain is explicitly the one to remember Agatha as "actor" (sic) and Shurdlu is the one willing to charge alone, maybe a bit too fanatically.

Of course, following the events of the battle, telling them apart became a no-issue. (See footnote 1).

Close partners[]

There's no doubt that Eotain and Shurdlu aren't just "two random Geisters that happen to appear often together". They are shown, all along the comic and right from their introduction, to be close partners. For starters, the very first thing we see them doing is to crack jokes at their respective skill (or lack thereof) to spot "actors" , something (the joking among them) that no other Geisters have been shown doing. The next time we seen them, they're shown to be close enough partners to share a prison bunk , much like Agatha and Zeetha sometimes do. The next time we see them, Eotain gets extremely upset, shouting for revenge when Shurdlu is (most likely) killed (something she doesn't do when other Geisters fall in combat). Further on, in a very informative Othar twitter, Eotain explicitly defines Shurdlu as "her partner", says that Shurdlu would "talk [her] through her moments of [religious] doubt" , and even goes into deep grieving for her (this time confirmed) death, actually breaking into tears when Othar sings the Song of Memory for her.

Possibly Relevant Outside Information[]

Doubtlessly the names have as their orginal root source "ETAOIN SHRDLU" — which were the characters, in order, on the first two columns of keys of the Linotype hot-type slug setting machines. Wikipedia has an interesting read on this subject.

Perhaps more pertinently, however, Etaoin Shrdlu is a classic science fiction short story written by Fredric Brown concerning a Linotype machine that attains sentience - a story that the Foglios are surely familiar with, and one that has appeared in several science fiction collections, making it quite likely that this was a stop on the etymological route from slug writing to bug riding . SHRDLU is also the name of an actual early Artificial Intelligence program by Terry Winograd, although this is less likely to have influenced the Foglios.

In addition, the cartoonist Walt Kelly, creator of the political comic strip Pogo, had a character named Mr Etaoin Shrdlu, depicted as a bookworm. The Foglios, being cartoonists, may have intended this as a tribute to Kelly, whose work was greatly respected.


  1. Except when they're calling each other by name, of course. Until after the point when we know the living impaired one is Shurdlu and the other is Eotain.
  2. In the very likely case that Eotain, who we saw re-mounting Shurdlu's spider Pojee and rallying the Geisters after Agatha right before Shurdlu's death, is still the Geister leading the others while clamoring for revenge right after that, the answer to that question simply becomes "in Shurdlu's stuff in Pojee's saddlebags". The answers to the follow-up questions "why Shurdlu would carry a spare coat in her saddlebags" and "why Eotain took the time to put on a coat before avenging her partner" are surely fascinating, but have not been adressed at any point in the canon.
  3. Selenophobia. Eotain is terrified of the moon.
  4. Ha! A touch of make-up, a spare pair of snow-glasses (always stylish), a sweater, and people will believe that she is my sister!
  5. 2021-08-20 (Friday)