“And then the Lady of Esel, Finbardin’s confidant and the author of this plot, brought out Bangal the Rainbow Lord, named for his dazzling cloak, so bright the glow all but hid his features. And lo, unlike the others, no warrior born was he. His glance was soft and gentle and could see into the hearts of men, to sift the good from the bad. Mercy was writ upon his brow, but he suffered little the fool’s glib tongue or false penitence from the unremorseful.”
Bangal (ban-gahl) Master of the Halls of the Dead, the Rainbow Lord. God of the Dead, Mystery and Wisdom.
What’s that expression? A square peg in a round hole. That fit Bangal the Rainbow Lord beautifully. He was different from his siblings in many ways. The Vanara were conceived (in thought, not in copulation) as a new breed of gods with two primary purposes, one mundane and one divine. At a mundane level, by which I mean of concern to the mortal world, they were meant to inspire Man in ways the Craeylu could not. Man was different than the Elder Races preceding them. They lived brief, but passionate lives, in a world with dueling day and night that made the Necessity strong. The Vanara would inspire them.
In terms of the divine, the Prophecies of the Ages heralded the Vanara as the gods to stand against the Dark Lord in the final battle. As avatars of the power of Three, they would possess the capability to stand against the legions of the night.
Against this backdrop entered Bangal the Rainbow Lord. The other four Vanara were warriors born, strong of sinew, bold, and full of valor. He bore not the look of the champions. He hid his face in the bright glow of his rainbow cloak so that that none could gaze upon his visage. Compare that to his siblings – war gods girt for war. Glorianna the Rose carried her swords, Love and Heart, and her bow Beauty slung o’er her shoulder. Beldar the Bear’s mace, Skullcrusher struck fear into the hearts of Dark Ones. Pugnar the Lion’s broadswords danced above his head and Vitale, the Lifter of Oppression, his very brightness a spear to strike deep, but the Rainbow Lord wielded no weapon save the weighty voice of judgement which was his curse to bear. Next to these titans, Bangal was the runt of the litter.
It was more than just physical differences that separated Bangal from the other Vanara. It was purpose as well. The four bright Vanara were gods of war, yes, but they were also shining inspirations to Man. Bold and brave, they authored deeds sung to the stars and back, but Bangal walked upon a different road. Man’s short life span and large numbers meant that their dead would overwhelm the Outermost Heavens. Man’s spiritual frailty, compared to the Elder Races, meant that some would die with sins upon their soul. Clearly, an answer was needed.
The Blessed Realms was the solution. A beautiful new realm of Heaven, the Blessed Kingdom would house the spirits of Man’s dead. But a gatekeeper was needed and this is where Bangal came into the picture. One of the Vanara had to sit for eternity in the Halls of the Dead and judge the worthiness of Man’s spirits. Bangal drew the short straw. Well, I’m joking of course. No straws were drawn. The nature of each Vanara was pre-determined as part of Celetran’s scheme.
It is a bit ironic, I’d say. The Vanara were conceived in part to inspire Man. Bangal inspired them all right, but in an altogether different way than his fellow Vanara. They inspired with bright honor and glory. Bangal inspired with fear, though that wasn’t his choice. He thought of himself as a dispassionate protector of the Blessed Realms. Sifting through the spirits of the dead was a weighty responsibility, but one from which Bangal did not shirk. It was the task for which he’d been born, yet Man feared death and so they feared the Rainbow Lord.
Their fear always troubled him. He did not want to be a figure haunting their dreams, but there was nothing he could do about it. Fear of death was as ingrained in them as a bird’s need to migrate south. When a spirit completed the Long Walk and came before Bangal’s discerning eye, the Rainbow Lord peered into the soul and rendered judgment without forethought or malice. He never pre-judged, never opined. He let the spirit’s actions and intent speak for themselves. It is important to note that intent entered into the Rainbow Lord’s decision. He could easily detect motive, allowing him to forgive unintended consequences and to punish those without remorse. Any spirit of noble purpose had naught to fear from the Rainbow Lord, but those who sought to deceive with false testimony ought to quake with fear, for they were always banished to the Spirit World. Bangal was like the sorting hat used at Hogwarts. When new students came before that magical cap, it could sniff Gryffindor from Slytherin. Bangal could tell the worthy from the unworthy in much the same way.
Yet even for those spirits, Bangal was not without mercy. Some used their time in the Spirit World to learn from their mistakes, to shed the sins which kept them from the Blessed Kingdom. Those spirits came before the Rainbow Lord again and opened their hearts to him. If they were truly repentant, Bangal would allow them the Short Walk into the Blessed Kingdom. Those who failed his test were sent back to the Spirit World.
Bangal was ever apart from the other Vanara, in temperament and purpose, and even proximity. He sat alone on his throne in the Halls of the Dead, always judging the spirits of the recently departed. It was a demanding job. Never a day off, lots of overtime, and rarely any gratitude. While Bangal toiled in the Halls of the Dead, his fellow Vanara lived a life of luxury in the Crystal Palace, yet he was never jealous. He knew his purpose and embraced it.
One of Bangal’s biggest regrets was that his job didn’t allow time for visits to Sangrar. The other four Vanara would visit the mortal world, for fun and fisticuffs, for romance, for adventure or just for the joy of traveling the world, but Bangal was denied this pleasure. His job required 24/7 attention. The dead never took a day off and so, neither could he. If Bangal had ruled over a netherworld, like Hades or Hel from Greek and Norse mythology, the tedium might not have been so bad. But, the Rainbow Lord’s realm was small, even though it was infinitely long (ponder that paradox on your own time). His domain consisted of a hallway lined with columns, that’s it. The scenery never changed, only the faces on the spirits waiting on his judgment. I give Bangal a lot of credit. It’s not a job I could have done without losing my sanity. The thought of spending eternity in Halls of the Dead, without ever having a change in scenery … it’s enough to make me shudder.
In some respects, Bangal had a more difficult job than the other Vanara. At the end of days, they would be called upon to lead the Heavenly Hosts against the Dark Lord’s legions, yet until that day arrived, their only responsibility was to inspire Man, a vocation they pursued with great liberty. Bangal, on the other hand, had to punch the clock each and every day. The dead offered no respite, yet Bangal was up to the challenge.
I’ve often thought about why Bangal was so different from the other Vanara and have come to believe that love was the answer. Of all the Vanara, only the Rainbow Lord was a product of love. After the birth of Bangal, Celetran and Sudnar remained a couple, living together in Belecontar. No other Ealar/Elehu couple stayed together one minute longer than necessary. In fact, the four Vanara not named Bangal suffered from parental neglect. Davyrma could not stand to look at Beldar the Bear because he reminded her of being spurned by Umbar. Norath the Seeress could not abide Glorianna because the Huntress stole her youth. Spollnar would have nothing to do with Vitale because she felt guilty about betraying the Laughing God. Garruth and Dracory neglected Pugnar, the child of deceit. Bangal the Rainbow Lord, however, was loved and nourished by his parents. That love gave him the strength to withstand the rigors of his job.