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Gehn as he looks in Riven. He is of advanced age by the events of the game.

Gehn is the son of D'ni Aitrus and the human woman Ti'ana, and is the father of Atrus. He was the first known D'ni-human hybrid, born a few years before the Fall of D'ni. Denouncing his human heritage, he felt destined to restore the D'ni civilization. However he possessed an incomplete and corrupted knowledge of The Art which manifested to poor writing and misbehaving towards the Outsiders which he considered his subjects. Much of his past and motives are further explained in the book series.

He is the main antagonist of Riven, where he is portrayed by John Keston.


Early life[]

Gehn was the first known child born of D'ni and human parents, Aitrus of D'ni and Ti'ana of the Surface. Due to his mixed blood, Gehn suffered many health ailments as an infant and toddler. There were several times in his life when it was believed that he would die - an outcome viewed as necessary by those who considered his birth an abomination.

The stigma placed upon Gehn remained a painful part of his life throughout his later years, and when he was sent to the Guilds as a small child as per D'ni custom, he endured harassment and teasing from his peers because of his mixed heritage. But Gehn's sharp mind and natural intelligence did not go unnoticed, and he was accepted as an apprentice in the Book-Makers Guild. His father took immense pride at each of his small accomplishments there. Gehn came to believe that his father was an important man in the D'ni world, but he was too young to see such a thing back then.[1]

As a boy, he noticed that the number 5 had a special significance to the D'ni society and was found everywhere, on the ancient heraldic emblems of the ruling elite as well as the commoner houses.[2]

Not much is known of his life during his short time in the guilds, but when the empire of D'ni collapsed, Gehn's father, Aitrus, was lost in his successful attempt to destroy A'Gaeris. After Aitrus' death, Ti'ana took Gehn to the surface to begin life anew in the Cleft.

Later life[]

Gehn fed a bitterness towards his mother. He considered himself a D'ni, and her an outsider. He had vague recollections of the love Anna had for his father, and for D'ni, but he held her responsible for the Fall. He dedicated himself to the cause to rebuild and reconstruct the D'ni culture to save it from extinction.[1]

He met and married Leira of the Amad whom he also called Keta.[2][1]. When he was 19 years old and Keta was pregnant, she fell ill. In his desperation and having none else, he overcame his grudge and returned to his mother at the Cleft to seek her knowledge of healing. However all Anna could do was to deliver the baby. Overcome with bitterness, he blamed his mother again as he buried Keta next to the garden, thoughtlessly spoiling it and the small pool. He refused to look at the baby, and left the two looking out toward the lip of the volcano.[3] He returned to D'ni, while Atrus was left in the care of Ti'ana.

In D'ni, Gehn pieced together his incomplete education of the Art by copying from the ancient books, and during this period he wrote many ages which he dominated in the name of his ancestors and in this madness he destroyed whole civilizations.[4] Because Gehn was never taught the D'ni beliefs before the Fall, he believed that he created the Ages he wrote (as opposed to merely accessing pre-existing worlds), and thus concluded that the creators of Ages had the right to rule over them.[5]

These Ages, however, were marred by flaws owing to his incomplete knowledge of the Art and contradictions in his Writing - which led them to quickly decay and collapse soon after their Descriptive Books had been completed. Gehn wrote his "Fifth Age," Riven, by piecing together fragments of writings from pre-existing Books.[2] Riven marked the first "stable" age Gehn had Described, although in time this age, too, would begin to show signs of breaking apart and decaying. Copying passages from an age's Descriptive Book is the process normally used for creating Linking Books to that same age; the Descriptive Books Gehn attempted to write in this manner were thus probably trying to describe a new age, and create links to multiple ages already-described, at the same time, hence their instability and probably also the existence and behaviour of the Star Fissure.

Roughly fourteen years later, Gehn returned to the surface to collect Atrus, who had since then grown into a teenager. When Atrus first met Gehn he seemed intelligent, adventurous, and friendly. However, Atrus soon realized that his father was corrupt, and possibly insane. Gehn taught Atrus that the world is harsh and he shouldn't with sentiment.[4]

Atrus' disillusionment with Gehn's tyrannical education of the Art and his cruel, god-like rule over his flawed ages - Riven in particular. Catherine was the best student of Gehn, and Gehn intended to marry her against her will to further control the Art.[5] Together with Ti'Ana and Catherine, Atrus helped devise a plan to leave Gehn trapped in Riven, thus preventing him from dooming more Ages and their civilizations. The plan made use of the newly-formed Star Fissure - the first manifestation of Gehn's corrupted writing in Riven - as well as an Age written jointly by Ti'Anna and Catherine to escape to - Myst. This plan culminated in a confrontation at the Fissure between Gehn and his son, who leapt into the starry void and linked to Myst[5] - setting in motion the events leading to the discovery of the Myst book by The Stranger.

Stranded on Riven[]

Tay GehnIdol

An "idol" of Gehn created by the Moiety in the Rebel Age, holding the Linking Book back to Riven, and superstitiously pinned with Rivenese Daggers, each one representing a Rebel who died.[6]

Some of the Rivenese who witnessed the confrontation between Gehn and his son came to believe that Atrus defeated Gehn, therefore Gehn was a false god, or he had been stripped of his godhood. These Rivenese concluded that Atrus was a true god, and formed a dissident society, the Moiety.[7]

Immediately Gehn started to study the Fissure attempting to determine the feasibility of navigating the stars beneath, and possibly acquiring the Myst Linking Book that fell from Atrus' hands. He had people — alleged transgressors of the law — thrown into it so that he could observe their fate. They didn't die, but he couldn't determine where they'd end up. Eventually he sealed it with heavy iron and a view-port and mounted a crude telescope over it.[7]

Soon after Gehn was trapped on Riven, he lied that it was him who placed the Rivenese daggers around the island, as a reminder of the failure of its people. The Rivenese faithful to Gehn believed that it marked the beginning of a period of restitution, and if they prove their devotion at its end, they will be rewarded with a new and better existence.[7]

Using the Fissure as a power source, he constructed a steam vent caps system throughout Riven. He based this on designs he remembered seeing in D'ni. He based most of his constructions on the Age on D'ni designs, some showing his obsession with the number five, considering it to imbue them with beauty, perfection, and sound structure. He also attempted to determine how the D'ni color symbols reflected this design principle.[2]

As time passed, Riven's instability escalated. The island had been split into five smaller islands, each piece half a mile apart. At first they were connected by bridges, but some were rendered useless for long spaces. Gehn ordered one of the Rivenese Guilds to build a new means for transport among the islands, the Maglev.[8] Gehn concentrated the Rivenese people on the Jungle Island and claimed the other four as his exclusive domain, allowing access only to his ministers and personal militia.[7]

Gehn made several attempts to escape Riven. Although D'ni was inaccessible to him, nonetheless he attempted to write new Ages. He had made sure to write the necessary materials of the Art into Riven.[7] He expended effort creating kortee'nea refining infinite combinations of elements, from formulations of inks and papers, to the dimensions of the books, only to obtain a bare glimmer of a connection and burn his failed attempts.[2] None of his Books worked, and blamed it on the "impure" wood of the Riven forest. He engineered domes around Riven to remedy his Books' inherent flaws by mechanical means. However the complex series of domes demanded huge amounts of energy and his experiments had to be delayed. He found out that only fire-marbles could power this project.[2] When at last he finished his work and was finally able to link to Age 233, he kept this a secret.[7]

Later he made modifications to the domes which made their existence and usage obvious. Catherine believe this was because of his pride, or in order to lure the Moiety into using the Books and be trapped.[7] Indeed, he constructed a cage around the link-in point.

When he heard that Catherine returned to Riven, he considered whether she brought with her a way back to D'ni, and whether Atrus would follow soon after. When finally Catherine was captured, he attempted to understand the reason for her presence here, resisting the temptation to put her on the Wahrk Gallows. Defiantly, Catherine answered to him only in Rivenese language. Nonetheless he understood that Catherine came by accident.[1]

In Riven, the Stranger is sent by Atrus to the age with the goals of releasing Catherine and capturing Gehn in the most secure manner known to Atrus, with what appears to be a Linking Book to K'veer, but is in actuality a Trap Book. The Stranger linked to Age 233; Gehn trapped him there and attempted to seem repenant; he admitted the attempt to murder Atrus but stressed that his mission to restore D'ni was a noble one, and reassured that he has changed after years of isolation and contemplation. However he also warned the Stranger that Catherine has become dangerous (of which Atrus had been unaware) and ordered him to refrain from rescuing her.

Gehn did not confiscate the book that the Stranger carried; he just continued to keep him under constant surveillance to see if he'd ever use it. (In the game he does confiscate it, so that the gameplay is simpler)[9] The Stranger somehow managed to trick Gehn into using the Trap Book - although the details of how he managed trapping him (especially since Gehn most likely carried a Linking Book with him) are unknown[10] - ending his tyrannical reign and allowing the Stranger free access to the entire Fifth Age, before rescuing Catherine and signaling Atrus by reopening the since-sealed Star Fissure. However, the instabilities of Riven coupled with the strains of reopening the fissure become so great that the age completely collapsed shortly after everyone had been evacuated.

It remains unknown what became of Gehn, or the Trap Book he was imprisoned in, after the collapse of Riven, although it is known that the Stranger returned the book to Atrus and Catherine before Riven's collapse. In Myst V, Yeesha speculates that he is still alive but living in a Prison Age.



Gehn's personal crest, displaying the D'ni number for 5 from which radiate five leaves, five pen nibs pointing to five open books, forming a star. It is found in several places of Riven, such as the floor of the Beetle Room and his desk in Age 233[11]

Gehn was a man who suffered much pain: racism from his peers in his youth, loss of his civilization, exile with his mother, loss of his wife. The subsequent knowledge, pride and then the power he exercised on his subjects, had blinded and corrupted him. His character was a mixture of condecesion but also brutality.[12]

Notes & trivia[]

  • In a design note for Riven, Gehn was intended to had stolen a Linking Book to D'ni from Atrus, which the Stranger was supposed to find and get an important clue from the ruins. He was also supposed to meet the Stranger at the end, before following Catherine into the Fissure, challenging him.[13]
  • In Riven Gehn was played by theater actor John Keston.
  • At some points Keston had to cut filming during the long monologues of Gehn seen in the finished game. The production team edited his takes into one, and used Elastic Reality in order to "morph" Keston's poses from take to take, making the transitions seamless.[14]
  • Robyn Miller, who composed the music for Riven, created the musical theme for Gehn, which is heard whole when the player meets him in person. Outside that, his territory is defined by one distinct intrument. His theme is heard subtly in other cases and locations; for example it is interwoven with the theme of the Jungle Island village, symbolising his presence in the lives of the natives.
    • The "Gehn's theme" was originally composed as the ambient theme for the Wahrk Throne Room, but Robyn thought it was "larger" than a particular place, and associated it with the antagonist himself.[15]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Gehn's Second Journal
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Gehn's First Journal
  3. Template:Boa
  4. 4.0 4.1 Myst comic: Issue zero
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Myst_comic:_The_Book_of_Black_Ships
  6. From Myst to Riven, p. 113
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Catherine's Riven Journal
  8. Riven Journals #2
  9. The Watson Letters - Interview Part II
  10. http://www.allthingsuru.com/AllThingsUru/pdf/The%20Watson%20Letters.pdf
  11. From Myst to Riven, p. 31
  12. Riven: The Sequel to Myst - Prima Official Guide
  13. From Myst to Riven, p. 22
  14. From Myst to Riven, p. 94
  15. From Myst to Riven, p. 104