In the Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix (comprised of Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen) certain magical swords bear inscriptions (The Abhorsen's sword and Nehima in particular). These inscriptions change throughout the book. The reason for this is never explained, neither is the characters' strange inability to remember the sword saying anything else. Is there any given reason for this? I can only assume it is akin to The Book of the Dead, where readers never remember the entire book (and indeed, cannot actually read its entirety in one go as the contents change) but recall needed information whenever it is required. But that does not explain the purpose of the sword's inscriptions.

Any thoughts?

  • Made a tag for this series for you.
    – hairboat
    Jul 2, 2012 at 18:44
  • @AbbyT.Miller Thank you very kindly!
    – acolyte
    Jul 2, 2012 at 18:49

3 Answers 3


My interpretation of the changing sword inscriptions was that the swords (being important magical treasures in their own right) are reacting to the situations their wielders (Sabriel and Lirael) find themselves in, and change their inscriptions to help them, or at least reflect the situation. The Disreputable Dog implies that Nehima is named after one of the forgetten foundational spirits of the Old Kingdom (the more well known spirits giving their names to the bells that Necromancers and Abhorsens bear: Belgaer, Kibeth, Saraneth, Dyrim, Astarael, Mosrael, and Ranna), so it's possible that some intelligent or at least reactive element of Nehima remains in the blade that Lirael bears.

  • Hmmm, interesting. So you're saying Nehima might have been another brightshiner? One who remained neutral and hidden during the conflict(s) with Orraniss, or was some form of lesser, yet still powerful, being? In that case, however, wouldn't the combined power of the bells/pipes, the bloodlines, and kibeth itself PLUS Nehima be enough to bind Oraniss without the help of Yrael?
    – acolyte
    Jul 2, 2012 at 18:52
  • 1
    @acolyte From what I understand, the Nine were the strongest. Nehima would have been weaker than Yrael and not sufficient to bind Orannis, given the trouble they had. Oct 15, 2012 at 22:08

Late as heck here, but my two cents: Five of the Seven became the bloodlines. The Wallmakers represent two of the great charters (three and five) and the Abshorsen one (the second spirit).

From what I recall of the series, this means that bloodlines that individuals who have somehow inherited various combinations of the five can have somewhat different capabilities and affinities. Sameth for example is a Wallmaker, while Lirael is a Rembrancer. At some point in the books they talk about the fact that some of the Wallmakers (artificers) gave their lives to create named Swords.

"Nehima," read Lirael. "What does that mean?"

"It's a name," said the Dog blandly. Seeing Lirael's expression, she cocked her head to one side and continued, "I supose you could say it means 'forget-me-not.' Though the irony is that Nehima herself is long forgotten. Still, better a sword than a block of stone, I suppose. It's certainly an heirloom of the house, if ever I saw one," the Dog added. "I'm surprised they gave it to you."

Consider the last inscription. "The Clayr saw a sword and so I was. Remember the Wallmakers, Remember me."

Nehima is possibly one of the greater of the Wallmakers, lost to time and history.


My two cents worth is that, it is most likely that Nehima is a distant ancestor of Lirael also potentially a remembrancer. I find it hard to fit Nehima as a bright shiner as the was she was spoken about was more as an Abhorsen who spent most of their time doing something other than laying the dead back to rest.

  • This is years late, but as I look back at these books—every other Abhorsen mentioned in the books has a name ending in -el, even the ones who don't know they're connected to the line (like Lirael). Which makes me think that "Nehima" wasn't one.
    – Draconis
    Aug 3, 2019 at 5:01

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