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I am translating an epic to English. In the original, it has the phrase

He wields his godly lance, the lance full of souls of people who died of injustice.

"He" is the protagonist. He is described as the strongest, the most handsome, the bravest man in the world. He would overcome many obstacles and achieve wonders.

The phrase "souls of people who died of injustice" in the original language has only 2 words. As it is repeated a few times in the epic, I would hope that the wording I use would also be concise.

More than shortness/utility, this phrase reflect an important point of their moral view of wars, justice. This view is consistent with other philosophies in the epic about human, humanity, human rights. So I hope it would be concise and memorable.

Words I don't think can be a good fit:

These words have been discussed in comment section and then moved here by a moderator. I believe some suggestion are excellent by its own right, none of them are "bad" or "wrong". However I considered them to be not a good fit into the story as a whole. Future readers should also consider these words in their particular case.

"Martyr" seems to assume some kind of posthumous validation/recognition. I don't think any positive implication is appropriate in this case. Also "Martyr" have a strong link to religious belief. These souls are simply victims of war, also no religions are identified in the epic.

I feel "souls of the oppressed" is a little bit specific in a direction that introduce new meaning. The epic does not have any significant oppression angle. Being oppressed is a consistent state of rights-stripping actions, usually within a directional policy. Injustice could refer to one or many unrelated/related actions that are unjust. You could live your whole life as a privileged person and still died of injustice like a robbery or being framed.

I don't feel "Souls of the slain" is clear enough of the judgement aspect. Injustice means it's judged to be wrong. This epic often made it clear what's right and wrong

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"souls of people who died of injustice"

"Wronged souls" = souls who have been wronged; souls who have had wrong/a wrong/wrongs inflicted upon them.

OED:

To wrong (v.): I. transitive.

1.a. To do wrong or injury to (a person); to treat with injustice, prejudice, or harshness; to deal unfairly with, withhold some act of justice from (some one).

1860 Ld. Tennyson Sea Dreams 168 His gain is loss; for he that wrongs his friend Wrongs himself more.

Wrong (n.)

II. A wrongful or unfair action, and related uses.

9. A wrongful, unjust, or unfair action; a violation or infringement of one's rights; an injury received or inflicted; a mischief.

1795–6 W. Wordsworth Borderers v. 2071 He forgave the wrong and the wrong-doer.

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  • I upvoted this answer. However, I feel that 'wronged souls' may simply refer to souls that were wronged when alive then collected in the lance. It doesn't necessary imply the nature the deaths themselves.
    – Tam Le
    Mar 10 at 11:29
  • Is there a way to improve this wording?
    – Tam Le
    Mar 10 at 12:02
  • @Tam Le It is not possible to "die of/from injustice". You can certainly die because of (an) injustice. -- A soul cannot be wronged after death, therefore the wrong must have been committed on them before they died.
    – Greybeard
    Mar 10 at 20:10
  • you comment address none of my point, resolves nothing as well as add nothing.
    – Tam Le
    Mar 11 at 1:55
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How about the unjustly dead?

The <adjective> is short for the things/people who/that are <adjective> and in this case it's modified by an adverb so it's saying the people who are dead as a result of injustice. The context of an epic poem about a magical lance suggest that the dead are present in a magical way (souls) rather than the lance literally being full of corpses.

Adverbs and other words ending in -ly stand out a bit and having two in proximity could be a problem so maybe change godly to something else like divine. Just because I think it makes for better rhythm to the line, maybe consider took up instead of wielded

He took up his divine lance, filled with the unjustly dead.

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  • I feel quite strongly agree with the adjective 'unjustly'. However dead could be refer to the physical body. There are instances of weapons forged from bones, blood in literature and history. In case of epic, there are case where the weapon is literally a god itself. Maybe "unjustly died souls"? died seems redundant? Without died it seems like omittance.
    – Tam Le
    Mar 10 at 10:06
  • In your suggestion, you also replace 'full of' with 'filled with'. It seems to me that 'filled with' imply the restriction of existence space to within the lance's body itself. The lance is the container of souls. I believe that the lance is the attached rather than a containment.
    – Tam Le
    Mar 10 at 10:13
  • @Tam Le If dead is the objection here, how about the unjustly slain? Unjustly disembodied (which implies souls)?
    – DWKraus
    Mar 11 at 4:16
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I think @smithkm is on the right path with "unjustly," but "dead" is too passive and neutral. "Slain" is more poetic, but "slaughtered" really makes the wrongness of the deaths vivid and immediate.

He wields his godly lance, the lance full of souls of the unjustly slaughtered

However, this makes it sound like he's killing people unjustly with his lance, and that it's then drinking their souls which doesn't sound like the hero you were describing. So, assuming he's fighting on behalf of the unjustly slaughtered (and not the one unjustly slaughtering them) I might tweak this a bit more:

"His lance blessed by the passion of the unjustly slaughtered"

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  • I don't think "blessed by" is the proper meaning. It was never hinted that his weapon was enhanced by the souls. I think it merely pointing out that his lance, as godly strong as it is, killed many innocents in his quests/missions. The wording itself I am still considering the appropriateness.
    – Tam Le
    Mar 11 at 2:01
  • In that case the construction seems like a contradiction --he's a godly hero who has nevertheless killed many people unjustly, and filled his lance with their souls? I think "unjustly slaughtered" works either way, but he's sounding more like a demonic villain at this point. Maybe it's a cultural difference... Mar 11 at 2:14
  • That's the great thing about this epic, it fascinates me. It views the complex morality as it is. You can be the protagonist doesn't mean you are not judged for things that you have done. Just because you are doing the right things doesn't mean you are doing things right. People can be slaves but they are meant to be free. Your wife can hate you doesn't mean she doesn't love you. If you have too much ambition you will die. But dying doesn't mean forfeiting. Fighting should not mean killings. Etc.
    – Tam Le
    Mar 11 at 2:24
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harrowed souls

To hell and back (the righteous; wounded warriors); the aggrieved, seeking justice (synonymously) and wielding...by proxy or by imbuing or attaching to...a spike? Holy Harrow! Manifestation!

I like it.


Definitions/word origin:

  1. Harrow (Collins)
  2. Harrow (M-W)
  3. Aggrieved (M-W)
  4. Harrow (Online Etymology Dictionary)
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  • I like the feel of this choice.
    – Tam Le
    Mar 11 at 3:31
  • @Tam Le - That's what I thought. The word harrow alone has so many layers...and on a practical note, it is synonymous with aggrieve, in a sense.
    – KannE
    Mar 11 at 4:30
  • I would point out that with "harrowed souls", the harrowing would take place on the souls, not on the living. "Aggrieved souls" is fine but carries no sense of a powerful injustice.
    – Greybeard
    Mar 11 at 15:31
  • @Greybeard - The living...who? Ichabod Crane? Wrong story. He wasn't dug up from anywhere, if I remember correctly. And "aggrieved souls" doesn't carry the same weight as (souls of) the aggrieved, for example. The the makes a big difference. Oh, I didn't make up harrowed souls, you know? I just applied it.
    – KannE
    Mar 11 at 17:13
  • @KannE "The living" - "living" adjective used as a noun = "living people". I am aware that you have not "made anything up". I am also aware that the OP seems to think that there is a two-word phrase in English that will exactly encapsulate his idea -- there isn't and his idea is poorly expressed - we are offering close approximations. The OP objected to "wronged" as " It doesn't necessary imply the nature the deaths themselves." - and neither do "harrowed" or "aggrieved." I'm sure you agree "aggrieved" weak for the context.
    – Greybeard
    Mar 11 at 17:39
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I doubt that we have a unique term for these unfortunates. I suggest one possibility that parallels well the concepts of these who died through injustice: the mortally oppressed fits your definition.

Mortally = severely enough to cause death

Cambridge

Oppressed = governed in an unfair and cruel way and prevented from having opportunities and freedom (and as a noun to describe such people)

”oppressed minorities”

”the poor and the oppressed”

Cambridge

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  • I feel 'oppressed' is a little bit specific in a direction that introduce new meaning. The epic does not have any significant oppression angle.
    – Tam Le
    Mar 10 at 9:08
  • You have the advantage of knowing the whole tale. Perhaps oppressed strays from that knowledge but. in the context of your question and of dictionary definitions, those who are oppressed are victims of injustice.
    – Anton
    Mar 10 at 9:36
  • Sure, if the story is about the oppressed, I would not hesitate to use it. In this tale, most people feel quite strongly about their freedom. Like I said, I didn't say using 'oppressed' is wrong. It just introduces new meaning where there should not be.
    – Tam Le
    Mar 10 at 10:18

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