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The D'ni are the most-prominently featured culture in the Myst series of video games. They originated from a world called Garternay, where they were known as the Ronay. They developed their own language and numerals, but perhaps most importantly they had knowledge of how to access ("link to") alternate worlds ("Ages") through special books; they called this knowledge "the Art of Writing".

The concept for the D'ni kingdom and the word "Dunny" came from a novel that Myst creator Robyn Miller was writing about a cavernous underground empire and a boy who discovers that this empire is actually his long-lost home. The book was called Dunny Hut. It was never completed; as Robyn and Rand designed Myst, they decided to mine ideas from the Dunny Hut novel to aid them as they created the back-story for Myst.

D'ni is properly pronounced /dˈn̩i/ (d'NEE), but is more often pronounced as /ˈdʌ.ni/ (dunny), even by characters in the games (see Spelling and Pronunciation).

Term and usage

The term is peculiar since the name itself can refer to the place, the people or the language, or be used as an adjective, according to context.

For example 'In D'ni' refers to the Cavern, 'two D'ni' refers to two persons of the D'ni people, and 'I speak D'ni' refers to the language. 'D'ni vehicle' is an example of adjectival usage although some fans also use 'D'nian'

One should note the similarity between the word "D'ni" and the word "Dine" (pronounced d'NAY). The Dine are more commonly referred to as the Navajo Nation. Although Rand Miller has not stated that he drew the name for the D'ni from the Dine, it is easy to speculate that he may have, especially because the opening to the D'ni cavern is in New Mexico, part of the Navajo Nation.

The people

Although they originated on another world, the Ronay are physically very similar to the indigenous inhabitants, or "surface dwellers", of the world they called D'ni. They do carry several distinguishing characteristics, or genetic markers (at least after 10 millennia living in the Cavern), including:

  • greater than average height
  • slender build
  • fair complexion (lighter than Caucasian average)
  • eyes described as "pale"
  • extreme photosensitivity
  • extremely prolonged lifespan, averaging over 300 years, possibly as long as 800.
  • limited fertility: D'ni women are able to conceive only during a space of thirty hours every seventy-two days (no information has surfaced on how long D'ni sperm remain fertile)

It should be noted that the "surface" of D'ni turns out to be a fictionalized version of our own Earth.

And yet even with these differences, it is clear that the surface dwellers and the Ronay share a genetic heritage. Notably, the two races are interfertile -- and perhaps even more significant, they produce fertile offspring. By any reasonable standard, surface dwellers and the D'ni are one species. The D'ni are also able to intermarry successfully with the humanoid species of the world called Riven. However, it should be noted that the majority of D'ni were aggressively xenophobic, racist, and elitist and considered any child with blood outside specific "pure" D'ni lines to be a lesser being.

The exodus

Over ten millennia ago, the Ronay discovered that Garternay would soon become uninhabitable. They wrote several Ages to escape its destruction; one of these refugees was the great Ronay Writer Ri'neref, who believed that the Ronay had become too prideful in their mastery of the Art. Most Ronay Linked to the paradise Age of Terahnee, but Ri'neref and his followers fled to an age written by Ri'neref. He named it "D'ni" (meaning "New Start" in the Ronay tongue), and the newly founded D'ni people began making it their home.

A growing population made the D'ni learn to adapt quickly, and adapt they did. An early concern was their limited supply of fresh oxygen; they found geothermal electricity sources with which to operate gigantic ventilation fans. They later developed advanced mining technologies, carving out new space for their growing population and refining the displaced rock into useful materials.

As the civilization grew, the D'ni cavern settled into two main sections: Ae'gura (The Island) and The City Proper. Ae'gura is the largest island on the cavern lake. It is the center of D'ni, both literally (the basis for D'ni's cylindrical coordinate system, The Great Zero, was founded here) and figuratively (as it was the first place the refugees settled, many major sites of commerce, religion, and state affairs are located here). It is overlooked by the most famous and grandiose D'ni landmark, the giant Arch of Kerath. Human archaeologists originally mistook Ae'gura for the main residential area of D'ni, and grew to call it "The City." However, they discovered later that most D'ni lived in another area, which they now call "The City Proper". The City Proper is located on a steep incline up the sides of the cavern, forming a perimeter to the lake. The City Proper is where the D'ni neighborhoods were located. The neighborhoods were small, compartmentalized residential districts, with their own residences, schoolrooms, auditoriums, entertainment venues, and public transit stations.

The fall

Around AD 1740, D'ni was beset with a great catastrophe that led to its fall. A woman, Anna, came down into the city from the surface and married a D'ni, Aitrus. Veovis, a conservative D'ni lord, became furious about this, and with the help of a disgruntled excommunicated guildsman, A'Gaeris (aka The Philosopher), destroyed the D'ni city--and most of the life in it--with a huge poison cloud (Myst: The Book of Ti'ana; Myst: The Book of D'ni). Again the D'ni had to escape to other Ages, leaving their great underground city in ruin; in most cases this proved fruitless, as A'Gaeris and Veovis sent the cadavers of the D'ni victims into these ages as well, reminiscent of the wars of Medieval Earth, wherein soldiers would catapult victims of the plague over enemy cities to vanquish their enemies. However, Anna and her 8 year old son, Gehn, escaped to the Cleft, which is near the volcano over the D'ni cavern. Veovis and A'Gaeris died during the attack, but not before "linking" the diseased bodies through to the "Ages" causing the disease to kill more than a million escaping D'ni.

As an adult, Gehn met and married a human from the surface named Leira, whom he called Keta (in the D'ni speech). Keta died while giving birth to their son, Atrus. Miserable and unable to cope, Gehn ran away to the D'ni caves, leaving his son in Anna's care. Some 14 years later, Gehn came back and took Atrus away from Anna to teach him how to Write Ages. Over time, Atrus discovered his father had become mad with power (Gehn believed that he created the Ages he wrote, instead of creating links to already existing Ages). Eventually, Atrus decided to escape, but Gehn locked him in the K'veer basement (the last area the player visits in the Myst game), with the Age of Riven as his only way out. Atrus went to Riven, met Katran (Catherine), and fell in love with her. Together they trapped Gehn in Riven by destroying every book leading out of the Age and escaping with the last book (the Myst Linking book) through the Star Fissure (Myst: The Book of Atrus). Atrus lost the Myst book in the fissure, and the book eventually came to Earth, where The Stranger found it and used it to go to Myst Island, where they found Atrus' library (beginning the events portrayed in Myst).

Catherine and her people were freed by the stranger at the end of the Riven game and Catherine went back with Atrus to D'ni. However they chose not to live on Myst again and they make their new home on the Age called Chroma'Agana. From there they gather all the D'ni survivors that they can find and settle them in a new Age called Releeshahn (Myst: The Book of D'ni, Myst III).

Years later, Atrus & Catherine abandon Chroma'Agana and travel up to the surface of Earth, building a home near the Cleft they call Tomahna.

Modern rediscovery and restoration efforts

The City of D'ni, The Art, and D'ni's Ages were rediscovered by a human, John "Fightin' Branch" Loftin, in 1987. Loftin's discovery began with a place in New Mexico now known as The Cleft. The Cleft is a large chasm near the edge of an inactive volcano. As it is described (and later seen in Uru: Ages Beyond Myst), the Cleft has rooms carved into each side of the cleftwall, with several rope bridges spanning the gap. The caldera of the volcano itself houses the entrance to a long series of tunnels, eventually leading to the D'ni cavern. Catherine's Journals, one of our most important early discoveries, later told us that The Cleft was in fact Atrus's childhood home (see the Book of Atrus).

Elias Zandi, a friend of Loftin, founded the D'ni Restoration Foundation, with hopes of restoring the D'ni cavern. When he died in 1996, he left his son Jeff the land on which The Cleft is located. The task of restoring D'ni was left with Dr. Richard Watson, who founded the D'ni Restoration Council (DRC). The DRC continued its restoration effort steadfastly, and opened the cavern in November 2003. However, the DRC was quickly losing funding, and in February 2004, three short months after allowing the general public down, the restoration effort was supposedly cancelled indefinitely.

However, a new source of funding has been secured and restoration is again underway. The cavern was reopened on February 15, 2007, but was scheduled to be closed again on April 4, 2008.

While the Myst games and novels are our main sources of knowledge of the D'ni, some events and principles are not portrayed as they "actually" were. For example, we learned from Cyan (and now also from Myst IV) that the Prison Books in Myst and Riven were actually regular Linking Books to complete Ages. The Prison Books were an element of artistic license, introduced to simplify gameplay.

In the D'ni canon, the games (except Uru) and novels are historical recreations of past events made by the company Cyan Worlds (who in real life created the franchise). The games are re-tellings and may have historically inaccurate information in D'ni canon as a result of artistic license. In Uru, you can even wear Myst and Riven T-shirts. Uru itself, however, takes place in the present day; as such, it is not historical, and current D'ni canon.

D'ni Culture

The D'ni culture was based upon a number of Guilds, which were responsible for almost every aspect of society. The 18 Major Guilds known to have existed at the time of the fall of D'ni were the Guilds of: Analysts, Archivists, Book Makers, Cartographers, Caterers, Chemists, Engineers, Healers, Ink Makers, Legislators, Linguists, Maintainers, Mechanists, Messengers, Miners, Stone Masons, Surveyors, and Writers.

In addition, at least the following Minor Guilds existed at the time: Actors, Architects, Artists, Bankers, Educators, Illusionists, Musicians, and Sculptors.

One of the most important guilds in the city of D'ni was the Writers Guild. The purpose of the writers guild was to train the people of D'ni in all aspects of the writing of Ages. Writing safe and stable Ages required great skill and mastery. One would have to be able to describe the Age in immeasurable detail to be sure that the linking book safely linked to the described world.

The Guild of Maintainers was also a very important guild in D'ni culture. In the process of use, the linking books that led to other Ages could sometimes become unstable. For example, a page may have fallen out, or the Age itself may have been destroyed in a supernova. Any number of things could happen to make the Age unsafe for visitors. It was the job of the Maintainers to enter all Ages that have been written and assess the safety of each. They used a special suit designed to take samples of the environment, and allow the Maintainer to get a brief glimpse of the age. The suit would protect the Maintainer from everything, except a supernova. It was illegal for a linking book to not bear the seal of the Maintainers.

D'ni Religion

The D'ni Religion (also called D'ni Mythology or Myst Mythology) is the belief in the Maker, Yavo, who was believed to have created all Ages in Terokh Jeruth, the Great Tree of Possibilities. Indeed, writers of D'ni did not think they were creating ages, but merely linking to ages best suited for what they had described.

Basic concept of D'ni Religion

  • Children (by D'ni standard, those under the age of 25) were not accountable to Yavo for their actions and decisions.
  • The D'ni had laws and commandments against adultery, which were often ignored, especially by kings with affairs.
  • D'ni religion spoke of angels that could take people away [to heaven?].
  • D'ni society had an “official” church (references to “the Church” in DRC notebooks) that apparently followed the ideas of Ri’neref.
  • Through the grace of Yavo, healings and miracles were possible (the cults said this came from nature, their leaders, or Yavo).
  • The power of Writing Ages was a gift from Yavo.
  • The D’ni believed that when one dies, his soul is brought to the Judgment Age to be judged for his conduct in life. If the person is good, he is brought to the Perfect Age (equivalent of Heaven). If the person is bad, he is brought to Jakooth’s Age (equivalent of hell; Jakooth was the devil in D’ni religion).
  • taygahn (tégan), “to love with the mind,” was a chief cornerstone of D'ni belief. The word implies a close, personal relationship with and knowledge of another person. While in a religious sense taygahn implied a relationship with Yavo, the same word was used to describe a relationship between spouses. The concept of taygahn had grown more important in later years, with some believing that only taygahn with Yavo was needed to go to the Perfect Age, and that following Yavo’s commands was not needed.

Text taken from

The Watcher

Sometime before the Fall, a religious figure known as The Watcher appeared. It's unknown just how large of a following he gained, but it can be assumed he came to have significant influence, as his writing was well known to the last Guildmaster of the Writer's Guild. According to his writings, The Watcher was blinded by a star on the 625th month of his life, and the Maker spoke to him and told him that he would one day reveal great knowledge to him. After many years, his sight was suddenly restored, and he was given a prophesy in the form of 5 sections of 125 lines each, being given one line of each section every day.

The writings of The Watcher predict a great deal of the events in the Myst universe, and appear to have affected Yeesha's (Myst III: Exile and Myst IV:Revelation) beliefs to a large extent.

Spelling and Pronunciation

In the original game Myst, the word "D'ni" never appeared written within the context of the game (e.g., in journals). However, in the credits and some of the filenames, it was spelled "Dunny" (based on the original "Dunny Hut" story, see above).

The spelling was changed to "D'ni" for the Book of Atrus and the game Riven, and also updated to the new spelling in the original game's remake, realMyst. The change was explained as a shift from an anglicized pronunciation to a more authentic one, although fans speculate it may be because "Dunny" is Australian slang for "toilet".

The pronunciation of the word has been a much-debated topic, complicated by the change of spelling and the deliberate variation in pronunciation across characters and actors,which led to a fictional dispute of the pronunciation within the D'ni universe. This is similar to how J.R.R. Tolkien referred to fictional etymological variations in his invented languages.

Under the original spelling "Dunny", the word was invariably pronounced as it would have been were it an English word (/ˈdʌ.ni/). When the spelling was changed to "D'ni" in Riven, the actors did not change their pronunciation, nor did they in Myst III: Exile or Myst IV: Revelation.

However, in Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Yeesha and Dr. Watson pronounce it as "/dˈn̩i/" (d'NEE), a more natural pronunciation given the new spelling.

Further to this, however, in Myst V: End of Ages a new character, Esher, pronounces it with a strong (presumably D'ni) accent as /dəx.ˈni/ (duch'nee, where ch is pronounced as in Chanukkah or in the Scottish loch). Since this pronunciation does not reflect the pronunciation described by Richard A. Watson (RAWA), it should probably not be considered standard. RAWA considers this to be a speech defect of Esher, however the defect affects only the word D'ni. Esher also has the advantage of having lived in the actual city of D'ni.

Nevertheless, Atrus and Rand Miller who plays him still continue to pronounce it the "old" way.

External links

D'ni Information Websites

Other Myst Related Websites

Myst series
Myst | Riven: The Sequel to Myst | Myst III: Exile | Myst IV: Revelation | Myst V: End of Ages
Ages of Riven | D'ni | D'ni Ages | D'ni Restoration Council | D'ni numerals | D'ni wildlife | List of D'ni kings
Spin-offs & Remakes
Uru: Ages Beyond Myst | realMyst | Myst Online: Uru Live

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