SM says the Denali girls are from what is now Slovakia, but she also a) gave them Russian names (other than Kate) and b) mentions that Tanya has a slight Russian accent in MS. At the time the Denali girls were born, Slovakia was under the rule of the kingdom of Hungary, and the Slovak language more closely resembles Polish than Russian. But let’s talk about their names and the cool Russian style of nicknames. I like to think the sisters use these kind of nicknames for each other.
IRINA is the Russian form of Irene, meaning ‘peace.’ Possible diminutives included Ira, Irochka, Irishka. In Slovak it’s Irena, with diminutives like Irenka and Irchka.
TANYA is not a full name—it’s the common first level diminutive of Tatiana. So likely Tanya’s ‘real’ name was/is Tatiana. Tanya is the nickname. A further, more affectionate nickname might be something like Tanechka or Tanyushka. In Slovak, it might be Tana or Tanichka.
KATE is obviously not a Russian/Slovak name, and neither is Katrina. That’s Dutch/German actually. I think SM was going for Ekaterina, which is the Russian form of Catherine. The first level nickname is generally Katya, and further diminutives might be Katyushka or Katenka. In Slovak, it’s Katerina, with nicknames like Katka, Kachka, Kachenka,
SASHA is a nickname of Alexandra/Aleksandra, which was probably her real name. A more intimate nickname would be something like Sashenka. Sasha is also the Slovak nickname for Alexandra.
Male names have common nicknames too. Sasha’s immortal child was named VASILII, his nickname would likely be Vasya, and further endearments would be Vaska, Vasenka, or Vasyok. In Slovak, it would have probably been more like Vasil.
Keeping Up With the Cullens - Episode 2, pt 4 - Denali
SM addressed this a bit on her website:
”Bella has a very private mind. She can’t be touched there. What Edward and Aro do is clearly a mental thing; Jane, also, works inside the head (Jane doesn’t actually inflict pain on anyone’s body, she just puts the illusion of pain inside her victim’s head. It’s a very effective form of torture). Conversely, what Jasper does is no illusion. He affects the physical body, slowing the pulse and upping the endorphin levels to calm someone, for example, or raising the pulse and pumping out the adrenalin to excite them.”
Now, that’s the official explanation. That Bella is immune only to mental gifts (because of her private mind that becomes a mental shield when she is turned) and that since Jasper’s talent is physical, it still works.
I do have a few questions about this though. Because Bella is also immune to Kate and Alec, and their gifts are given a physical dimension—not just in the movie (which I would understand was necessary for a visual medium), but also in the book! In the movie Alec’s mist is a very noticeable black, but in the book it was STILL a mist, it was just see-through. How is a mist a mental power and not a physical power? A mist is a physical thing in the world, right? Not an illusion? Likewise Kate’s current on her skin. A current is a real thing, not a mental illusion. I’m not sure what SM’s explanations are here.
And re: Jasper, I get how his gift works… on humans. But how is he able to use it on vampires, who don’t have a pulse or a circulatory system to push endorphins and adrenalin around the body? I feel like there is something lacking in this explanation, or at least in our knowledge of vampire anatomy. Does venom serve the purpose of blood in this regard? But if the vampires don’t have a heartbeat (and they don’t), how is the venom circulated? How can Jasper raise or calm a pulse that doesn’t exist?
One major thing in the Guide which was different than what I was expecting was how the Cullens and the Denali met. Because in 2008, SM gave an interview to Italian Twilighters and talked a little about the Denali clan:
Carlisle ran into the three main sisters earlier on, but they were just sort of looking into the vegetarian thing. They didn’t start out that way, for years and years they were the reason behind the myths about the succubus.
They really like human men, but those humans were meals after all. After awhile they started to develop a conscience, it didn’t seem right to have them as food, so they sort of evolved into vegetarian, whereas Carlisle was always that way.
From this, it sounded like Carlisle met them before he had a family, and maybe helped them on their path to vegetarianism, since he met them when they were “just looking into it.”
But the Guide tells a different story, in which Tanya discovered vegetarianism herself, totally independent of Carlisle’s discovery, and they didn’t meet at all until the 1930s and the Denali were already experts at vegetarianism when they met.
I have to say I like the first version better. The idea of innocent, pious Carlisle hanging out with a trio of highly-sexualized succubi really amuses me.
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BD2 Commentary - Mental Powers
I agree with him here—there really wasn’t any way NOT to do it, otherwise it would end up looking really ridiculous with all these physics just staring at each other intensely to convey using their ~powers. But it does take away a bit from the idea that Bella’s shield only protects from mental attacks. There really was no good way to go about it.
Well male back story is easy: Carlisle. His back story is the reason he’s my favorite and he’s my favorite because I think he’s the most interesting. (I like Carlisle/Esme and I’ve thought Facinelli was gorgeous since I saw him on Six Feet Under, but neither of those things are why I love Carlisle. They’re just nice bonuses). He was my favorite when I first read the books. There’s some significant history fail (London didn’t have sewers then
but I have a fix for that), but just the whole idea that he was essentially a devoutly religious vampire-hunter yet hasn’t spent eternity as a miserable, angsty wreck and instead used his ‘curse’ to help people just makes him endlessly fascinating to me and such a breath of fresh air after all the “woe is me, I hate myself, I am cursed to forever stalk the night, sadface” good vampires I keep reading about.
In terms of back story, Alistair is probably a close second. In terms of coolest/most interesting power … Aro. I think that’s why Aro is insane honestly. Vampires have perfect memories and he hears every thought a person has ever had. So he has not only his own 3000+ years of memories, he has everyone else he has ever touched too. I can’t even imagine that. No wonder he is bonkers!
Favorite female back story… I’m going to go with Kate, only because what SM wrote in the guide was king of what I was imagining anyway. I sort of imagined Kate had been a female warrior-type and to find out she had been a bodyguard to a princess of her clan was pretty close to what I had in mind. Siobhan’s is interesting too although the rape and kidnapping, ugh, but I liked the idea that her father trained her to be a blacksmith and when he died she took over. That’s pretty cool.
For female powers, hmm, I dunno. Corin’s is kind of interesting with the addictive aspect. I could sort of see that springing from her being in her human life just one of those people it felt good to be around and the dark vampire twist on that is that it makes you feel bad to be away from her. I like when the downsides of powers are explored or at least hinted at rather than just like YAY X-MEN POWERS!! Like if Kate couldn’t touch Garrett without zapping him then maybe it would be more interesting to me lol (and it would be like the opposite of poor Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies. Sort of).
Edward and Alice could stay the same, I guess. Bella could keep her shield but she couldn’t project it—that was too convenient. Maybe she can protect only a certain radius around herself or something, but not everyone on the field. Jasper’s power never really made sense to me—being charismatic doesn’t mean you make others people feel how you want. I’d give him something more the the traditional vampire ~charm that sort of makes people compelled to obey. Like being hypnotized, he can’t make you do something you wouldn’t normally do, and it doesn’t work on some people with strong wills, but in general he could persuade and influence people to a slightly supernatural degree.
I’d give Rosalie something like Heidi’s power. I think strength is fine for Emmett. I think Carlisle is happy not being able to do anything X-Men-ish and he’s thankful for “compassion” but I’d let him have speed over Edward since he was the one who chased down vampires in his human life. Likewise I don’t think Esme would necessarily want anything super amazing, but if anyone deserves a shield that can protect everyone she loves, it’s Esme.
Kate’s would be like Jane’s but requires touch. Take out the electric current on her skin aspect and just make it giving pain via touch and we’re good. She’s from an era that predates electricity, it’s a strange power to have. I mean how did she describe it before tasers existed?? Benjamin… I don’t know. He was basically a street magician, right? Vampires already can move so fast I don’t know how sleight of hand would help him… maybe he has a power for distraction? That’s what magicians do basically, make you focus on this while they are tricking you with that.
BD2 Commentary - Denali
I think the climax would have been more effective if these character had been introduced in earlier books/movies somehow. Why not have tweaked things and have some of these friends show up for the wedding in BD1 along with the Denali? Maybe not the nomads, but the more civilized covens could have worn contacts. Peter and Charlotte could have been introduced in Jasper’s flashback in Eclipse, etc.