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"Casta for Beginners" is a fan published language book with exercises and vocabulary. The Xeroxed book was originally published in September, 1981 by John Shimwell (or Ionnu Ridenow as he was known in the Darkover fandom in 1970's and 1980's) in London, United Kingdom.[1]


The book is

a 200-page Xerox'd book, spiral bound in suitable Bloody Sun red covers. It is a basic do-it-yourself casta course designed to be understood by even the dimmest of Terran Empire employees. (You the reader, therefore, have a considerable advantage!) The course begins with simple concepts and takes the student all the way through to complex tenses, intimate and derogatory mode, and a brief look at Hellers dialect. Each section is well illustrated with worked examples, and ends with a reading passage and a self-test set of questions, whose answers are given at the end of the book. There is a summary of the most essential points of the grammar, and a thousand-word vocabulary in both casta and Terran word-order.


The whole title of the book is "Casta par volmi y jagadei Terrani - Casta for Beginners and Especially Terrans", Casta being the name of the imaginary Darkovan language used by the Comyn, or the nobility, of the Seven Domains in Darkover.

The work was later expanded and around late 1986, possibly even earlier, Shimwell published The Darkovan Dictionary. In 1990, it was sold as part of a three volume set: "Darkovan Dictionary Part One" ("Terran to Casta"), "Darkovan Dictionary Part Two"  ("Livara Das: Cast'al Terranan") and "Casta for Beginners."

THE DARKOVAN DICTIONARY: Volume 1, a companion volume to "CASTA FOR BEGINNERS," appeared almost three years after I first sat down with a blank loose-leaf book and a liberal supply of confidence, Ridenow laran, optimism, and-dare I say it-ignorance! What I begin I try to finish, and six months after its completion, Volume 2, the Cast'al Terranan, was also ready.

Volume 1 contains some 12,000 entries from pronouns to proverbs, and turned out to be a remarkably consistent, flexible, and beautiful language. Even though this is "unofficial" casta, it is at least a more-or-less -complete version, and amply justifies MZB's original premise that Spanish and Scots Gaelic would, in the unique environment of Darkover, merge to become an alien language in its own right. At any rate, this magnum opus has her blessing. Even though she continues to derive any necessary vocabulary intuitively, all her words are included (up to Thendara House), with book references. In fact, many of her choices were instrumental in shaping the final form of the language as I now perceive it.

Volume 2 contains basically the same entries in casta word-order (although not in casta script!). My original idea that each word of casta had only one meaning turned out to be false, but because the various renderings of a single word can often be accommodated on one line, this volume is much more concise (or should I say, compact?) than its predecessor. To make both books the same length, I added three valuable appendices of interest to Darkovans everywhere, whether working for the Empire or in exile on Terra: the Oath of the Free Amazons, Darkovan proverbs, and even the Ballad of Hastur and Cassilda (yes, it still rhymes in casta!).



Section                                                        Page
Front Cover
Dedication and Note                                 Inner Front Cover
Endis/Table of Contents                                          i
Elenco Bravathani/List of Abbreviatons                          iv
Casta par volmi/Casta for Beginners                              1
 1.    Introduction                                              1
 2.    Spelling                                                  2
 3.    Pronunciation and Elision                                 2
 4.    Verbs and Pronouns                                        4
 5.    Interrogative of verbs                                    7
 6.    Negative of verbs                                         7
 7.    Negative question                                         7
 8.    Gender                                                    7
 9.    Definite and Indefinite Articles                          8
 9.(A) TENEIR and AVEIR, the verbs "to have"                    10
 9.(B) Regular -EIR verb; COSEIR                                13
 9.(C) "Euphonic" pronouns                                      14
       Exercises (10)                                           15
11.    Plurals                                                  16
12.    Numbers 1 - 20                                           17
       Vocabulary (13)                                          18
       Exercises (13)                                           20
14.    Possessive Pronouns                                      21
15.    Compound tenses with AVEIR - The Perfect Tense           23
       Vocabulary (15)                                          24
15.(B) Object Pronouns                                          26
       Exercises (16)                                           27
17.    Adjectives                                               28
18.    ZEIR and STAR, the verbs "to be"                         30
19.(A) Compund tenses with ZEIR and STAR                        34
       Vocabulary (19)                                          35
       Exercises (19)                                           36
20.    Demonstrative Pronouns                                   37
21.    The Imperative of verbs                                  40
22.    Object Pronouns                                          41
22.(A) Possessive Pronouns                                      41
22.(B) Dative (Indirect Object) Pronouns                        42
22.(C) The DIMI pronouns                                        43
22.(D) The LEISAMI pronouns                                     43
       Vocabulary (23)                                          43
       Exercises (23)                                           44
24.    Interrogatives (Question-words)                          45
24.(A) CHI?                                                     46
24.(B) CUAL?                                                    47
24.(C) KEYAN?                                                   47
24.(D) PAR'KEI?                                                 48
24.(E) CUAN? (Who?)                                             48
24.(F) CHI VEDO?                                                48
24.(G) CUAN? (When?)                                            48
24.(H) VAREI? and KATEI? (where?)                               49
       Summary of Interrogative Words                           49
25.    Relative Pronouns                                        50
       Vocabulary (26)                                          52
       Exercises (26)                                           53
27.    Some Irregular Verbs                                     54
28.    Comparatives and Superlatives of Adjectives and Adverbs  55
28.(A) Examples of the Comparative                              57
28.(B) Examples of the Superlatice                              58
29.    The Imperfect Tense                                      60
       Vocabulary (30)                                          62
       Exercises (30) - MASHERA TUREZI DARKOVAN                 63
31.    The Past Definite Tense                                  65
       Vocabulary (32)                                          68
       Exercises (32) - KEEPERS ARE MADE, NOT BORN.             69
33.    Reflexive Verbs                                          71
33.(B)-(F) on reflexive verbs                                   72
       Vocabulary (34)                                          74
       Exercises (34) - CADET'S LIF IS TERRIBLE HARD!           75
35.    Defective Verbs                                          76
35.(A) VALEIR                                                   76
35.(B) DEVEIR                                                   77
35.(C) KEITENEIR                                                78
36.    Infinitive Prepositions                                  79
       Vocabulary (37)                                          81
       Exercises (37) - WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A WAY     82
       Vocabulary (37 B)                                        82
       Exercises (37 B)                                         83
38.    Pluperfect Tense                                         83
39.    Conditional Tense                                        84
40.    Subjunctive Tense                                        85
41.    Passive Voice                                            86
42.    Adverbs                                                  86
43.    Verbs and Adverbs, Adjectives and Nouns                  89
       Vocabulary (44 A)                                        90
       Exercise (44 A) - KERUIN CANDRA TANIQUEL(di "Grianaval") 91
       Vocabulary (44 B)                                        92
       Exercise (44 B) - AL TENEIR HIURAN, par Domna Felizia    94
45.    Personal and Intimate Mode                               95
46.    Derogatory Mode                                          97
47.    Hellers Verbs                                            99
48     Final Notes                                             102
48.(A) Special Words                                           103
48.(B) Special Words, continued                                104
48.(C) The Five Words for "CLOAK"                              105
48.(D) The Nive Words for "SWORD"                              105
49.    The Meaning of Darkovan Names                           106
50.    Numbers, 30 - 1000 and Ordinals                         108
51.(A) Darkovan Script - Numerals                              109
51.(B) The Darkovan Alphabet                                   110
51.(C) The Letters of the Alphabet                             112
51.(D) Sentences in Darkovan Script                            113
       Vocabulary (52)                                         114
       Exercise (52) - KERUIN AL TOR'ARILINN                   116
53.    Answers to Exercises                                    118
54.    Summary of Grammar                                      157
55.    Vocabulary; Terran - Casta                              161
56.    Vocabulary; Cast'al Terranban                           179
Errata/List of Errors                                          195   
       END                                                     198


  1. Shimwell, John (Ionnu Ridenow): Casta par volmi y jagadei Terrani - Casta for Beginners and Especially Terrans, London, September 1981
  2. 2.0 2.1 from a flyer published in Darkover Newsletter #51, December 1990