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A first view of Skifander

The Lost City of Skifander, “the Warrior Queen's Hidden Jewel”, is primarily known as the homeland of Zeetha, Daughter of Chump. It is otherwise so mysterious that hardly anyone (nowadays) in Europa has even heard of the place, and unless otherwise noted, everything listed below has been passed along by Zeetha at one point or another.

Sociology[]

Skifander is a matriarchal polytheistic society[1] currently ruled by Zeetha's mortal mother, Queen Zantabraxus. We haven't heard any other details about governmental structures,[2] except there once existed a class of influential priestesses called Yajeena who had four arms, until an internal power struggle led to their all being killed.

Its current matron goddess , head of the Skifandrian pantheon, is Ashtara — goddess of love and "she who controls fertility". Other goddesses exist, some of which, including Eshkigax, are less benevolent.[3] Legendary figures such as Gwangi are also invoked in oaths.[4]

As can be seen in the accompanying picture, the city's buildings are constructed of some red material, with gold trim and a great deal of green vegetation.

Skifander has its own language called Skiff.

Skifandrian warriors use a pair of swords, one of which is forked. According to Lucrezia Mongfish, there are "blade Sibyls" who are especially adept at swordplay.

One ancient artifact of the city is/are the Brek'kah Stones, a pair of glowing, morphing fist-sized objects, one of which is mounted over Zathabraxus's throne; the other somehow ended up in a sealed catacomb on Big Rat Island. It is implied they were created by the gods of Skifander in the very distant past.

Fafflenarg beasts are a ongoing problem for the city, or at least are regularly killed by the Queen and her army. A popular eatery serves them as food.

The Skifandrian culture holds a negative view of twins.[5] Twins have a special place in many mythologies, both negative and positive aspects.

History[]

Again according to Zeetha, Skifander's original inhabitants came to settle the city via one of the Queen's Mirrors. The whole timeline of events remains unclear, but at some point the city came to be ruled by Queen Luheia, who was a member of a society of similar immortal and unaging women, who communicated with one another extensively via the Mirrors. Roughly 5000 years ago, the Mirror system went dark, cutting Luheia off from her fellow Queens, followed by her death while thwarting an attacking menace remembered as The Gray Witch. This left the city in the hands of her mortal successors.

While it still hasn't been explicitly revealed in the actual comic, it's been pretty clear for some time now that Skifander is where Lucrezia sent Baron Klaus Wulfenbach to get him out of the way after her acceptance of Bill Heterodyne's marriage proposal. Another semi-revealed fact is that Klaus was known as "Chump" during his stay in the city, and so, yes, he married Zantabraxus and he is Zeetha's father.

On a related note, it has been officially established that the city's resident Mirror, now bearing Luheia's name, is in fact not completely dormant.

Knowledge in Europa[]

And so.. at the start of our story at least, characters with apparent first-hand knowledge of Skifander include Zeetha herself, Klaus, Lucrezia, Barry Heterodyne and Queen Albia of England. Agatha and the members of Master Payne's Circus Adventure have all heard about it second-hand. Additionally, the Italian professor Guylian Consolmagno was evidently able to figure out where the place was, and successfully lead an airship expedition there, leading to Zeetha accompanying it on its ill-fated return to Europa. The expedition was financed by the English noblewoman Ariadne Steelgarter.

Klaus reacts strongly when he sees Zeetha for the first time. Lucrezia, by contrast , just sees Zeetha's Skifandrian roots as another thing to be exploited — as usual. Lucrezia has apparently in the past spent enough time in Skifander to become well-trained at using the Skifandrian swords, or so she says .

Shurdlu the Geisterdamen also recognizes Zeetha on sight as being from Skiff, and appears to relish the thought of facing (and beating) her in unarmed combat, though the language barrier leaves some ambiguity. Albia is saddened to learn of Luheia's death, but claims despite her previous contact with Skifander, she does not know where it is located. We don't know anything about Barry's views, except that he used to tell Agatha stories about the "Warrior Queen's Hidden Jewel" . Professor Consolmagno is sadly no longer available to offer his opinion, while Ariadne feels a pressing but as yet unexplained need to covertly learn Skifander's exact location.

An expedition to Big Rat Island leads to Agatha and Co. finally seeing (if not yet visiting) Skifander through the island's partially functioning Mirror. It appears to be one of the subterranean cities which is presumably why no one has ever been able to find it.

Footnotes in the fourth novel imply that communication with Europa will be established during or after the events of the main story - the professoressa will publish a work on Skifandarian customs, and fafflenarg beasts (or at least their meat) become a popular import.

Characters from Skifander[]

Novelization[]

In the novelization, Olga is more specific about the hallucinations Zeetha had when traveling to Europa: “Floating around, furniture on the ceiling—wild stuff.”[6] Also, when answering Zeetha's initial question about having heard of it, Agatha adds an additional title for the place, as told to her by Barry: "Guardian of the Red Mountain." Carson von Mekkhan does not recognize Zeetha's background specifically, but when she shows disapproval of Mechanicsburg's status as a town full of minions, comments "..you yourself are obviously from some proud, warrior culture somewhere that hones its fighters and insists on things like honor and self-reliance. It's hardly unique. But I'm curious- who carts away your night soil? Your rulers? No, I thought not."

The Works[]

In addition to Zeetha and Zantabraxus, The Works contains a card showing a fairly young girl, Noopta, dressed in a manner consistent with what little is known of Skifandrian royalty.

Possibly relevant outside information[]

"Skif" is a Russian word for Scythian[1] — militaristic, semi-nomadic tribes that ruled the Eurasian steppes in antiquity. It can also refer (again, in Russian) to a supposed ancestor, Scythes, a son of Hercules in a legend reported by Herodotus or a son of Zeus in a legend reported by Diodorus Siculus. In passages 4.28.2-4 to 4.28.4 of Diodorus Siculus's (partially surviving) work of universal history, Bibliotheca Historica ("Library of History"), the Scythians join forces with the Amazons (a nation of all-female warriors, in Greek mythology) against Theseus. The Amazons that survive the battle renounce their native home and return to Scythia to live among the Scythians. [2].

The Scythians occupied the Pontic-Caspian steppe between 8 and 4 BC. According to the Kurgan Hypothesis, (in 2021, the most widely accepted) this is the homeland of the Proto-Indo-European-speaking people whose language went on to take over the world, as it were.

According to wikipedia:Taboo, "Albert Schweitzer wrote a chapter about taboos of the people of Gabon. As an example, it was considered a misfortune for twins to be born, and they would be subject to many rules not incumbent on other people."

Lost matriarchal cities are common pulp and Victorian fiction tropes - H. Rider Haggard's Kôr and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Opar are good examples.

The eponymous individual in the film The Valley of Gwangi is an Allosaur or Tyrannosaur (sources differ) who puts up an impressive defense of his valley. Skifandrians might well think of the beast as a quintessential Noble Warrior. Or, y'know...Human sacrifices. Whatever.

Questions and theories[]

Quite a bit more has been hinted at than actually spelled out in canon. For example, as noted above, it has been confirmed in an interview[7] that this is where Lucrezia sent [8] [9] Klaus; this renders the hidden city the presumed birthplace [10] of his son. (The same interview confirmed that the protagonists will indeed travel to Skifander.)

Baron Wulfenbach's statement that he "kept [Gil] alive" hints at the old story that Amazons (to whom the tribeswomen of Skifander bear more than a passing resemblance) kill all of their male children. Whether this is accurate, of course, would be known only to Zeetha, to whom the question has not yet been put. Klaus has been shown in flashback grimly crashing through a Mirror gateway with an infant in his arms, indicating that for whatever reason his departure from Skifander was not a peaceful one,

See Forum:Gil's mother for further discussion of what effects Skiff blood may have.

Zeetha’s reported “hallucinations” in the novelization suggest that at least part of her “fever” was due to motion sickness in a low-gravity environment, implying that Skifander may be extraterrestrial, cf. The Heterodyne Boys and the Dragon from Mars . (Another fictional hint is the list of possible hoped ancestries for Gil "Holzfäller", which includes Martian prince .)

In addition to Zeetha's "hallucinations," Skifander was (re-)discovered by one Professor Guylian Consolmagno, who is likely based on the Jesuit astronomer and physicist Guy Consolmagno. This may lend extra weight to the theory that Skifander is on another planet. Lucrezia and the Heterodyne Boys could have accessed it through the monolith/mirror under Mechanicsburg. We may never know how Prof. Consolmagno got there and back, though the unusual vertical propellers on his zeppelin are suggestive.

References

  1. Reddit Ask-Me-Anything, 30 May 2013: 'Kaja: It's a matriarchy.'
  2. Reddit Ask-Me-Anything, 30 May 2013: 'Corgi: What sort of ruling class do they have? Does the Queen share power with, say, a high priestess? Or is it more like War Queen/Civic Queen, as the Amazons allegedly had? Kaja: How interesting you would suggest such a thing.'
  3. Zeetha: 'Back then, there was a high priestess who was really into Eshkigax. She's one of the goddesses that's sort of… well… Well… she's not very nice, okay?'
  4. From a Reddit AMA: 'Phil: There are other gods. Gwangi is a figure of legend.'
  5. Reddit Ask-Me-Anything, 30 May 2013: 'Phil: They don't like twins.'
  6. Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess, p. 30
  7. TGT Webcomics Podcast, Interview: Phil Foglio @ 12:00
  8. immediately before: Vol. IV, p. 34
  9. Lucrezia learns of his escape: Vol. V, p. 92
  10. Klaus thinks Zeetha is there to kill Gil: Vol. VII, p. 61
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