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Kahless the Unforgettable

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Kahless painting.jpg

The painting of Kahless the Unforgettable at Boreth (2369)

The painting of Kahless the Unforgettable at Boreth (2369)
Gender: Male
Species: Klingon
Affiliation: Klingon Empire
Occupation: Founder of the Klingon Empire
Sibling(s): Morath (brother)
Marital Status: Married
Spouse(s): Lady Lukara
Played by: Robert Herron (TOS: "The Savage Curtain")
Kevin Conway (TNG: "Rightful Heir")
KahlessTOS.jpg

The Excalbian recreation of Kahless (2269)

The Excalbian recreation of Kahless (2269)
Kahless redirects here, for additional meanings of "Kahless", please see Kahless.
For the female Klingon with a similar sounding name, please see Kahlest.

Kahless the Unforgettable was a legendary mytho-historical Klingon figure. He was the first Warrior King and Emperor of the Klingon Empire, known as the "greatest warrior of them all".

History

Some time in the 9th century, Kahless defeated his enemies, including Molor as well as the Fek'Ihri, on the field of battle and founded the mighty Klingon Empire, uniting the Klingon people and giving them the laws of honor. Upon his death, Kahless promised he would return one day and lead the Empire again. Since his death, it is said that Kahless awaits all Klingons in Sto-vo-kor: the life, which lies beyond this life. His teachings of honor and tradition form the basis of modern Klingon philosophy and culture. Kahless is still revered as a near-divine figure by the Klingons. (VOY: "Day of Honor")

Although Kahless was not high-born, those who have descended from him and his wife, the Lady Lukara, are said to reside within the Klingon Imperial Court. Those members of the Court, including dahar master Kor, are considered "of the blood", and are considered throughout the Empire to be born to rule by the divine will of Kahless. (DS9: "Tacking Into the Wind", "Once More Unto the Breach")

In 2269, an image of Kahless was created by the Excalbians in a plot devised to better understand the concepts of "good" and "evil". The image was considerably flawed from the original Kahless with such notable discrepanices as being infected with Klingon augment virus and wearing a 23rd century Imperial Klingon Fleet uniform. The Excalbian version of Kahless appeared and acted quite differently from the original since the image had been created from reading the minds of Humans who, at that point in Starfleet history, saw Kahless as a ruthless tyrant, and had had far more contact with augment Klingons (or their descendants) than with standard Klingons. The Excalbian version of Kahless also had a talent for mimicking voices. (TOS: "The Savage Curtain")

In an early draft of "Rightful Heir", Data gave the exact date of Kahless's death as 1547 years ago (from 2369), or AD 822. According to DS9: "Soldiers of the Empire", the Earth calendar year of 2373 coincides with the year of Kahless 999.

Legacy

The stories of Kahless are the stories of the Klingon people. Passed down from generation to generation, these stories remind the Klingon people about who they are and where they come from. Klingons study these stories for all of their lives; Worf said he found new truths in them on each reading. (TNG: "Birthright, Part II") Many of these stories are held within the sacred texts, a few exclusively. Nevertheless, they remain an integral part of Klingon lore.

The following stories are portions and excerpts of song and lore surrounding the life of Kahless:

  • Long ago, a storm was heading for the city of Quin'lat. Everyone took protection within the walls except one man who remained outside. Kahless went to him and asked what he was doing. "I am not afraid," the man said. "I will not hide my face behind stone and mortar. I will stand before the wind and make it respect me." Kahless honored his choice and went back inside. The next day, the storm came, and the man was killed. Kahless replied, "The wind does not respect a fool". (TNG: "Rightful Heir")
Kahless and Morath statue

Kahless and Morath fight.

  • ...Kahless was determined to teach his brother a lesson for having told a lie, but Morath refused to fight his brother, and instead ran away. Kahless pursued him across valleys and over mountains, all the way to the edge of the sea. And there on the shore, they fought for twelve days and twelve nights because Morath had broken his word and brought shame and dishonor to his family. (TNG: "New Ground", "Firstborn")
Sword of Kahless

The Sword of Kahless

Shroud of the Sword

The Shroud of the Sword

Knife of Kirom

The Knife of Kirom stained with the blood of Kahless.

  • ...Kahless held his father's lifeless body in his arms. He could not believe what his brother had done. Then his brother threw their father's sword into the sea, saying that if he could not possess it, neither would Kahless. That was the last time the brothers would speak. Kahless looked into the ocean and wept, for the sword was all he had left of his father and the sea filled with his tears and flooded beyond the shore. (TNG: "Birthright, Part II")
  • Kahless single-handedly fought off an entire army at Three Turn Bridge. (DS9: "Let He Who Is Without Sin...")
  • ...The tyrant Molor was so strong that no one could stand against him. Kahless would rather die than live under Molor's tyranny... (TNG: "Firstborn")
  • Kahless went into the mountains, all the way to the Kri'stak Volcano. He cut off a lock of his hair and thrust it into the river of molten rock, which poured from the summit. The hair began to burn, but then he plunged it into the lake of Lusor and twisted it into a sword. (TNG: "Rightful Heir")

From the 'drinking song':

  • ...and sticky-continuous and surrounded-continuous (by) blood, And the River Skral ran crimson red. On the day above all days. When Kahless slew evil Molor dead...! And after he used it to kill the tyrant Molor he gave it a name: bat'leth, "the sword of honor". (TNG: "Rightful Heir"; DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")
Kahless shrine

A small shrine with a statue of Kahless

The story of the sword is known only by the High Clerics, because it was never written down in the sacred texts. This was so that if Kahless was ever to return, they could be sure it was him. (TNG: "Rightful Heir") When the Shroud of the Sword of Kahless was discovered, it was determined that the Sword of Kahless dated back at least 1,400 years. (DS9: "The Sword of Kahless")

  • With the Sword, Kahless slew Molor, conquered the Fek'Ihri and forged the first Empire. Kahless would also use the Sword to skin the serpent of Xol, to harvest his father's field, and to carve a statue for his beloved Lukara. (DS9: "The Sword of Kahless")

Molor's defeat is celebrated yearly with the observance of the Kot'baval Festival. (TNG: "Firstborn")

The wielding of Ma'Staka's, used to re-enact Kahless' and Lukara's battle at Qam-Chee, at the conclusion of a Klingon wedding is a continued tradition in Klingon culture.

In DS9: "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places" taking place in 2373, Worf enthusiastically mentions the events in Qam-Chee to have happened "a thousand years ago". However, this statement contradicts TNG: "Rightful Heir" and TNG: "Firstborn" both state, that Lukara and Kahless lived 500 years earlier.

Another story that mentions Kahless entering the afterlife said that he was there to rescue his brother from the Barge of the Dead and deliver him to Sto-Vo-Kor. According to the Eleventh Tome of Klavek, Kahless returned from the dead still bearing a wound from the afterlife. (VOY: "Barge of the Dead")

The Story of the Promise

  • When Kahless united the people and gave them the laws of honor, he saw that his work was done. So one night he gathered his belongings and went to the edge of the city to say good-bye. The people wept, they did not want him to go. And Kahless said, "You are Klingons. You need no one but yourselves. I will go now, to Sto-Vo-Kor. But I promise one day I will return." Then Kahless pointed to a star in the sky and said, "Look for me there, on that point of light." (TNG: "Rightful Heir")

The story of "The Promise" indicated that Kahless was to reappear in the lava caves on the planet of Boreth. The Followers of Kahless, or "Guardians", waited there for his return. To Klingons, there was no more sacred place. For over 1,500 years, Klingons came to Boreth to ask questions. According to the Clerics, the only way a Klingon warrior could find the answers they sought was to: "Open your heart to Kahless, ask him your questions, let him speak to you with your mind unclouded by doubt or hesitation. Only then can you find what you are looking for." (TNG: "Rightful Heir")

Artifacts

Also see:

Quotations

The last quote is a variation on a line from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night :"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." This parallel may explain Chang's claim that the Bard was originally written in Klingon.
In a deleted scene from "Tacking Into the Wind", Ezri Dax quotes Kahless as saying "A leader is judged not by the length of his reign but by the decisions he makes." [1]

The Rightful Heir

Kahless

A clone of Kahless

See: Kahless (clone)

Appendices

Appearances

Further References

Background

The name 'Kahless' has been pronounced in various ways throughout Star Trek, such as the commonly-used 'Kay-less' and 'Kaw-less' by Worf in "New Ground". The Okrandian Klingon language spelling of his name is qeylIS. (The Klingon Dictionary 2nd ed., p. 58)

Among the inspirations for Kahless as portrayed in TNG were King Arthur, Jesus Christ and Viking lore. (AOL chat, 1998)

The original script for "Birthright, Part II" included a number of additional tales about Kahless that were not included in the final episode (some of these unaired tales were later contradicted by other episodes):

  • ...Kahless held his father's lifeless body in his arms. He could not believe what his brother had done. Then his brother threw their father's sword into the sea, saying that if he could not possess it, neither would Kahless. That was the last time the brothers would speak. Kahless looked into the ocean and wept, for the sword was all he had left of his father and the sea filled with his tears and flooded beyond the shore. The people begged Kahless to stop his weeping, and he did and walked into the water to find the lost sword. He searched and searched the murky ocean bottom, holding his breath for three days and three nights when he would eventually find his father's sword.
  • Kahless later invented the forms of what would become the Mok'bara when he went to the Underworld in search of his father. Kahless showed him the forms, and his father was able to remember his body and return to the world of the living.
  • Kahless was condemned to die by the tyrant Molor, who was angered that Kahless had incited the people against him. The night before his execution, Kahless asked that he be allowed to go out into the night and say farewell to the moon and the stars, for he knew that in the Netherworld, he would not see them again. Kahless gave his word that he would come back, and Molor let him go. Kahless had given his word and Molor understood what that meant. The next day at dawn, Kahless returned and was put to death (this story is contradicted by "The Promise").

Kahless' lifetime

The exact time period in which Kahless lived has repeatedly been described with differing numbers. In DS9: "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places" taking place in 2373, Worf enthusiastically mentioned Kahless' battle against Molor's troops to have happened "a thousand years ago." This would appear to be somewhat of a contradiction as TNG: "Rightful Heir" states, that the monks on Boreth have been awaiting Kahless' return for 15 centuries, i.e. 500 years longer. Either Worf "rounded" the number of years in his enthusiasm, or Molor and Kahless were at least 500 years old, which, while the maximum life span for Klingons has never been clearly defined, seems to be without precedent. Another solution would be that Worf counted in Klingon years, as DS9: "Soldiers of the Empire" states 2373 to correspond to the Year of Kahless 999. This would also be in accord with the Sword of Kahless being dated to an age of 1,400 years in "The Sword of Kahless". Furthermore, a scene cut from "Rightful Heir" had Data specify Kahless' death as 1547 years ago, which would place it in 822 AD.

Apocrypha

The novel Kahless shows a different take on the legend. The novel asserts that Kahless was a soldier within Molor's army who refused to burn down a village and who was forced to slay Molor's eldest son. This turned Kahless and his band into outlaws, but their goal was not to topple Molor but to simply hide. Rumors spread, however, that they planned to overthrow Molor's tyrannical empire.

After the death of his love, a woman known as Kellein, Kahless despaired and fled the group, but was followed by his loyal friend Morath who wrestled with Kahless for six days and nights. After this wrestling match, Kahless yielded to Morath and dedicated his life to destroying Molor.

The novel also mentions the Mok'bara; in the novel, Kahless had never heard of the practice. The book also suggests that the blood used to create the clone of Kahless was not Kahless's blood but rather Morath's.

In the DC Comics line, a descendant of Kahless, Kahless IV, served as Emperor during the movie era. This conflicts not only the details of "Rightful Heir," but also a statement that the Klingons had not had an Emperor in 300 years.

In Star Trek Online, the clone of Kahless seen in TNG and DS9 appears prominently in early missions available to Klingon players, and fights alongside them battling Fek'Ihri forces intent on conquering the Klingon Empire.

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