I am currently reading "The Children of The Sky" and I come across this word. "Anguille borkner" seems like some kind of skill. It has been a long time since I read "A Fire Upon the Deep", I don't remember anything related to this word.


3 Answers 3


Neither anguilles nor borkning are mentioned in A Fire upon the Deep. They're made-up words. Anguille is French for eel and borkner|borkning evokes broken and bork, I have no idea whether any of these resemblances are intended or coincidental. Vinge does not seem to have communicated on the subject. Apparently, it's some skill that we don't have the background to begin comprehending.

  • 5
    "Apparently, it's some skill that we don't have the background to begin comprehending." Which is kind of the point. As I recall the phrase comes up in describing work someone was trained to do in the upper beyond where things can be assumed to be very, very different from the world as we know it. Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 18:36

This is a deliberately obscure reference, I think, intended to indicate how frustrated and out-of-place the high Beyonders from Straumli are on the medieval Tine world. The fellow who had been training to be an expert in anguille borkning is just as out-of-place on the Tine world (even with the advanced tech of the Out Of Bounds II still lying around) as a youth studying to be a videographics designer would be in 1860, even though the folks then were awed by the currently high tech of steam engines, and Vinge evokes this dislocation by having the profession/skill be unintelligible in 21st century English.


If I remember correctly, that section was from a galactic BBS e-mail, and the title said that it was from a race the translators aboard the ship had only anecdotal translations for; also, it is also mentioned that since they're not in 'The Beyond', so the computers aboard the ship aren't working as best they could. For a kick, check out the Tropes website about this: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/ZonesOfThought?from=Literature.AFireUponTheDeep I think it mentions the Zones of Thought. I love the series, but how does space affect computer computation? No clue here; must not be sufficiently advanced. ;p lol

  • As far as I can tell, the phrase is not from an off-planet message. The reference I found was to how Gannon, at age 14, was as much a master of anguille borkning as any adult on the research station, and was expected to become the best at it in all Straumli Realm.
    – Beofett
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 19:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.