In the second Enders Game book Speaker for the Dead the concept of the Hierarchy of Foreignness is described:

  • Utlanning are individuals who are of the same species as the subject, and are from a different region, city, or country.

  • Framlings are individuals who are recognized as being of the same species as the subject, but who are from another planet.

  • A raman is an individual recognized as a sentient being who is of another species, but with whom communication is possible. In Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide, the Piggies and the Buggers are identified as raman.

  • The varelse are true aliens: they are sentient beings, but are so foreign that no meaningful communication is possible with the subject.

  • Djur are non-sentient beings. They are capable of independent thought and action, but their mode of communication cannot relay any meaningful information to the subject because the djur itself lacks the capacity for rational thought and self-awareness.

It's an interesting characterization of species. Does this classification have any real world origin? Is it simply a literary mechanism used by Orson Scott Card to stratify his universe?

  • This should [also] be asked on Philosophy.SE (perhaps reworded version to fit them better). if you do, post a link here in a comment. Aug 22, 2013 at 14:25
  • Out of curiosity -- and I don't remember this from the books -- how do you tell varelse from djur? If no meaningful communication is possible, how can you tell if a living being is sentient or self-aware?
    – Andres F.
    Aug 22, 2013 at 21:57
  • The thrust of the argument is that you can't tell the diffence all the time. Obviously, if a species has gained the technology to travel through space, such as the virus-builders (I haven't read beyond Children of the Mind, so apologies if they have a nae beyond that) then you must be sentient, even though you may be too alien to communicate with. Aug 27, 2013 at 7:59

2 Answers 2


Yes, there are real-world roots for these terms. They are all of Scandinavian - specifically Swedish - origin. The Enderverse Wiki mentions this, for example here. While Card has never outright stated he based those words on their Swedish antecedents, the fact that the planet Demosthenes was on at the time was full of Scandinavians seems to directly imply such.

  • 3
    The Swedish words do not, however, have the connotations that Card uses.
    – ibid
    Jan 1, 2015 at 18:46

Card actually states that the language originates from Swedish. This can be found in the author's definitive edition of Speaker for the Dead. In the novel, the first description of the terms states that they come from Nordic: "The Nordic language recognizes four orders of foreignness" (Card 34). Furthermore, before the prologue, the book's section "Pronouncing Foreign Names" states that "the Nordic spoken in Trondheim evolved from Swedish" (Card xxvii).

In the "real world," Nordic language refers to North Germanic Languages, which include Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian.

Work Cited: Card, Orson Scott. Speaker for the Dead. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1994. Print.

  • Do you have a link to the cited work?
    – phantom42
    Nov 15, 2013 at 12:13

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