The World of the Primary Odors

The sense of smell happens when proteins inside the nose absorb molecules of scent and change shape, setting off a cascade of molecules bumping into molecules that ultimately sends a signal to the brain. There are more than 400 of these proteins in the human nose (mice have over a thousand and elephants four thousand!) and the exact pattern of which proteins are sending signals is what makes aromas recognizable. Surely each protein must be adding its own individual aroma note? Each of these notes could be called primary odors, at least at the most basic level. And we can make educated guesses at what they are by mixing scents each protein responds to, so that the one note they have in common stands out above the noise. In many cases we can even smell what happens if we add a scent that turns the protein off. The aroma note that goes away is presumed to be the note detected by that protein. But even if we got all the data, how can we keep track of all 400 notes?

Our answer is to invent a cast of characters, where each protein is personified with a face and a name. After all, each person knows at least that many acquaintances from over the years, and 400 is not an unreasonable number of characters for a fantasy universe. So we have gone ahead and given personas to the proteins for which there is enough information to hazard a guess at odor notes. You can think of them as being drawn to their unique set of favorite smells, and when a character finds a smell they like, they somehow hand over an aroma quality, however you wish to imagine that happening. Each one gives the same note every time, except for some combinations of characters that might work together to offer a different note. We have 91 characters so far. That may sound like a lot, but we've grouped them together by common interest. Some of the characters will change as more information comes to light. We plan to keep growing the cast as we learn more, and one day we hope to introduce you to all 400.

All of the faces are either AI generated or Public Domain artworks. Unless otherwise noted, all faces were AI generated and any resemblance to any real person is accidental and strictly coincidental. The images and text of this fantasy world are dedicated to Public Domain or CC0.

We've organized everyone into easily manageable small groups. Let's dive in and explore as we get to know the primary odors!

Starring Roles

Major Characters

The Candy Shop

The Orchard

The Woodland Village

The Bakery

The Laundromat

The Flower Shop

The Fragrance Workshop

The Mint Mystery

Smoke Break

The Factory

The Cabins in the Marsh

The Wharf

Denizens of the Underworld