I’ve been looking forward to building the Hieladan for some time, and when I finally got around to it, it was a job of pure joy.
I love creating, because yeah, of course I do. I also don’t know enough about biology to know exactly how this kind of thing would work. The one thing that made the most sense to me, is that a Naga’s organs wouldn’t be isolated to the humanoid body cavity. Why would they be? The creature’s body is so much larger than that small space and they’re a much larger creature. They’ll need larger stomachs to process the food they eat when they eat it. They’ll need larger organs to break down the things they get from that food. I needed to do some research, but how do you research a mythical creature?
Turns out, there are actual resources.
But before I get into that, there were some fundamental decisions I chose about Adalth and the Hieladan in the early stages of writing. One, was multiple hearts. Adalth is over forty feet long. It made sense to me that his circulatory system would need a relay of hearts in his body to keep the blood moving powerfully and evenly. So Hieladan have three hearts.
The second is a diversified brain system, rather like the octopus. I knew his tail would have a certain autonomy, but there were biological reasons for this as well.
The first of those is about hormone function and reflexes. In developing this, I used humans for comparison, we’re going to go into a bit of a biology lesson here, sorry. It’s a tangent, but it’s all about love, so I hope you’ll bear with me.
Did you know you have brain matter in your heart? It helps to regulate hormone releases from your heart which in turn regulates heartbeat, but it does something else as well.
There is a reason the heart is the centre of our emotional core. The little brain in your heart, this yellow section right near the top, secrets various hormones that help with heart regulation. Adrenaline for example is that hormone that leaves you feeling overstimulated when you’re angry or upset, and oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that makes you feel love for your family, for your partner and your children. When a woman gives birth, that rush of love, that happens after, sooner for some than others which is completely natural, (pregnancy is quite traumatising for the body,) that’s oxytocin flooding your system. Love is a hormone and our bodies are utterly subject to hormones. That doesn’t make the love you feel for your partner, or your children any less real. To my mind, it does the opposite. The hormone is quantifiable. You can point to it on a lab's hormone profile (if they checked for it) and say there, that is scientific proof that love is real.
Did you know your heart emits an electromagnetic field? Our whole bodies do, but the heart’s electromagnetic field is powerful. It extends outside of our heart for a foot in any direction. When we’re near other people, our bodies can sense their electromagnetic field, this is where the idea of ‘personal space’ comes from. When you hold your partner close for around 15 seconds, both your hearts release a burst of oxytocin into the blood, to deepen your emotional bond. The same when you hug any person you love for around that length of time. The heart is an incredible thing, but so is love.
So, back to Adalth. I wanted him to have a diversified brain system so that his body can react quickly, moving away from danger by reflex. So I popped a brain in each of his hearts, and a couple more besides. His tail is such an offensive and defensive weapon that it made sense to put a little brain there, attached to sensors that make Adalth’s tail the second most intelligent thing on him, meaning it can make decisions. It figured out Adalth’s feelings for Sakura a long time before he did. Pretty much while he was unconscious in the hold when Sakura fell asleep next to him!
Now, for the research. One of the methods of research was, of course, using the Earth bound snake. I researched their rib cages, their locomotion, their reproductive organs, because… you know!
But I needed an idea of how an actual Naga’s interior would work. I’m a person who needs to get an idea of how something should work before I can put my own spin on it. This reddit thread in particular was extremely helpful with ideas, as well as this picture created by Sugarpeep in 2004 of a Naga’s internal system.
That gave me the basics, including a comment in this subthread of the Reddit thread about muscles on the back to support the upright posture of the naga. After that, it made sense that Adalth had booty. Our gluteal muscles support our back muscles, which support our spines to keep us upright, so it only makes sense that Hieladan have this feature too.
One thing I didn’t want to give them were clear cut hip bones. In my head, Hieladan evolved upright posture as a later adaptation, and in response, some of their ribs fused to create hip bones, with muscles filling in the gaps.
I wanted Adalth to make complete sense, biologically. A part of that was the reproductive system. I considered having it down near the tail, which would have made some sense and given Adalth the opportunity to wrap his coils around Sakura whenever they made love, but at the same time, it just didn’t feel right. So I took the playground away from the cesspit, as it were, and placed his organs around the same place it would be on a man, and his cloaca down near his tail. A part of the reasoning for this was the womb. I just couldn’t imagine a naga/Hieladan would have a womb they dragged around behind them. The pressure of keeping the body upright would put too much stress on the lower body and pregnancy is already such a stressful state for the body; it seemed dangerous. So I decided to place Hieladan sexual organs higher, meaning much of a Hieladan’s upper body cavity can be made available to grow her young. Hieladan young are smaller than human babies because they give birth to clutches of five or six at a time, but a Hieladan female’s body has evolved so that most of her other organs can press down into her lower body as her young grow.
Finally, there’s Adalth’s mouth and that seam that runs to his jaw.
Obviously, snakes are like pez dispensers, with the snake able to dislocate their jaw to swallow prey whole. I really wanted this to be a part of Hieladan biology, which of course dictated the way they only eat on occasion. It also allowed me to put Adalth through a speed recovery during his dormant stage so we could get a proper description of him as a sexy, muscular male. During this period, his body will shut everything down but the reparation and regeneration ability of his body. Snakes do actually have something like this, but not for this reason. Basically, there are snakes whose bodies can stand long periods of time without food. Years, in some cases. When they eat, their dormant digestive system turns back on, regenerates and digests the food before going dormant again.
This is a substantially better system than one Redditor claimed, saying that every time some snakes eat, their bodies will digest their entire digestive system along with their food and they go dormant while their body rebuilds it from scratch every damn time. That may still be true, but I can’t find any information on it, so I’m taking it with a hefty dose of salt.
I hope this gave you some insight into the Hieladan and maybe a little into my process.