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More about the Norn.

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Over at Wartower.de | Guild Wars & Guild Wars 2 Community | News, Forum, Handelsplatz, Datenbanken, und jede Menge mehr... they have an interview discussing the Norn race on a podcast.

Now the site is German but google will translate it to you in your language. the interview on the podcast itself starts out in german for the first minute or so then goes into english. The interview is with Jeff Grubb which is all about lore. Go check it out for anymore Norn lore and knowledge you may need.

Also Cirdan over at Interview: Rubbing shoulders with the Norn | Wartower.de - Guild Wars 2 Guru Forums translated the interview.

We at Guild Wars 2 Stratics would like to thank wartower.de , guildwars2guru.com , and Cirdan for all the work and keeping us GW2 fans well informed.

Here is the post.

Posted by Cirdan
Transcribing is a lot harder than I thought it would be

EDIT: Fixed grammar, spelling

Wartower: Jeff I herd you had a nornish week in Seattle so you should be in a nornish mood and dig with us into the norn culture and history.

Jeff: Yea in Seattle we had a major snow fall and an ice storm and we were not equiped to handle either so a lot of power lines came down we spent four days in the dark

Wartower: So you got to see what it's like to be a norn

Jeff: Very much so we had a wood fire stove and were cooking on it.

Wartower: The norn homelad was in the north but that changed with the elder dragon Jormag. What happened?

Jeff: What happened was the elder dragons have been awaking over time and when the elder ice dragon jormag awoke it was in the norn territories far shiverpeaks. And for many years the norn fought it in a nornish fashion which is to say they random fashion. They are not horribly organized. They are individualists, they live in the moment. They aren't big on planning. They weren't very successful. Eventually one of their leaders Asgeir, a young leader, the spirits of the wild approached him and told him to take the norn south. Take them out of the way of the ice dragon. This did not go over well initially, but Asgeir rose as a hero and became the only norn to ever do serious damage to Jormag. And that was to knock out on of it's teeth. A great hero attracted norn and brought them south to hoelbrak to a safe location away from where jormag and his champions were rampaging. That great tooth of Jormag is in the Great Hall in Hoelbrak where Asgeir's grandchild rules, and the local legend is when someone successfuly breaks the tooth, they will take that as a sign to return to their ancestrial [lands] and they will be powerful enough to take on the dragons.

Wartower: So Asgeir is the greatest, or one of the greatest, norn in their history. What can you tell us about him apart from him being Jormag's dentist?

Jeff: Hahaha. We haven't revealed alot about him actually. But the whole idea is that he is very much in the norn mode of a hero, he is a man very worth telling stories about. The whole idea is that you have written a great legend, or you have an ancestor who has written a legend and have taken on the dragon and done damage has established that line. Comes down to Knut Whitebear and his sons. Knut Whitebear and Girda and their two kids who basically are who are as close as you get to rulers which is very tentative statement for norn as norn don't really have an organized hirarchy as the humans or definitly the char. This befuttles people horribly, the idea that Knut can't just say "Go do this." He can encourage and direct but he's not the type who can martial an army and send it out. But Asgeir, we haven't said as much about, we'll revealed his story as we go along.

Wartower: Ah, interesting. The story telling is very is important to keep the history. What about the writing? Do they have a writing?

Jeff: I'm trying to think if we have an alphabet for them, but I don't think we use a particular alphabet for them. Matt is our alphabet guy. He does wonderful stuff, but I don't think we have a nornish alphabet per-say. What we have been using is one script is that we render in then needs of the partular races. The human writing of the script is designed for pen and paper. The Charr versions are for inscribing on wood or stone so it's much more roman that is direct with strong marks. Asura is much more magical in nature. Because it's notes scrolled on the side of buildings. Norn, I don't think we have a norn script up yet. I'm not sure yet so I'm hesitant to say that does or doesn't exist.

Wartower: We talked a bit about the spirits. We have four main spirits but different ones as well. Can you quickly tell us what they stand for?

Jeff: The thing about the norn is, these [spirits] are not gods these are spirits that represent ideals they are embodiment of a natural world. It's not like they have the same god organization as you have for the humans. As for the humans are concerned, norn see Grenth as just an avatar of death. Humans see Grenth as Grenth who is responsible for death. Where as the norn believe that this is an embodyment of that particular trait or ability. So the big four are bear, raven, snow leopard, and wolf. Bear is the embodiment of strength, ferocity of self reliance. Raven is much more into wisdom, cleverness, and being able to see clearly. Snow leopard is independent and stealth. Wolf is the other direction loyalty, pack fighting, brotherhood. They all have different embodiments to them. The four big ones, the ones who have the halls are the ones who are closest to the norn at the moment but there are other one out there. Hair, minotar these all exist. We started off with hair as a joke early on in the design process. Who would worship a bunny? But bunnies have value too, and we renamed to to hair. But the idea is that this is something that effects the norn and brings them closer to nature they are apart of the natural world, a world where spirits exist. It doesn't mean you will never attack a wolf, it just means you will respect the wolf. And if you are forced to to fight the wolf, you would respect it's sprit, and the wolf spirit would not hold it against you even tho you attacked it's totem creature.

Wartower: We will come back to the halls later. First I want to know do the norn choose a spirit or is it the other way around?

Jeff: The norn chooses the spirit in most cases. Many norn venerate a number of the spirits, or may have a particular preference for one over another. This is a difference from human gods. There are norn who are the speakers, the shamans, these are all dedicated to one particular spirit. But your average norn may have a heritage or a background or feel a particular attraction to a one of the spirit because it's values are his or her values. That that does not exclude it from respecting, venerating, beseeching the other spirits as well.

Wartower: I understand there might be a process to getting close to a spirit or choosing a spirit? Does it mean there is a ritual to connect to the spirit to be able to transform into it's form?

Jeff: At the start of the game you choose a particular spirit that you venerate and that has an effect on your story. The ability to become the bear, to become the wolf is something that is grown over time. This is in the game mechanics so I'm walking on thin ice at the moment. We are not saying if you venerate the bear you may only become the bear. You may have the ability to become the wolf or snow leopard as well. This is from the play standpoint as opposed to [lore], we are still in discussions about this.

Wartower: Can you tell us about the halls and what part the shamans play in norn society?

Jeff: Halls are big gathering points and we saw several of them up in the Eye of the Norn these are the large buildings these are the supersized versions. And because of the nature of the norn is not one of permanence this is a place where you can come and find space by the fire, a place at the table, with friends and comrads and it's a great feasting hall and resting place for the norn. If you go towards the bear, you will go to the bear hall. The great hall has multiple levels for the great heroes which you profess to be one. And that's where knut has his domain. And you will find a lot of traditional merchants and traders and crafters. This is also where you find your particular peice of territory.

We talked about religion earlier, the highest level of the hierarchy is the Speaker of that particular spirit. So you have the speaker of bear, speaker of wolf. They are leaders through recognition much more than election or heredity process. They have shown that they are close to the spirit and are recognized from years of service. The shaman tend to be smaller operations and are out among shrines. There are a lot of shrines in the norn territories. As they've moved out they've established a lot of them. These are places that are close to Bear the one in the Wayfarer Fothills is right next to the canvern in which you can get salmon and everything. So it fits for bear to have a shrine there, and the shaman are there to oversee that area. It's not that the Speaker tells the shamans what to do, it's much more of a negotiation, talking, through stories to convince them to do a certain thing.

I mentioned Havroun and they are akin to a paladin for the various spirits. And to be one of them. That is the right hand person who will go out and fight the good fight on behalf [of the spirit]. Say something is threatening bear or the bear population, a dragon champion is going through the wolves, or a Sons of Svanir are bothering the followers of snow leopard. This is basically where the Havroun goes, they are the texas martial of the organization.

Wartower: It is said that they are the defenders of the spirits interests in both worlds? In this world and the next. What do norn believe happens after death?

Jeff: There is a spiritual nature to the norn that there is a connectivity in this world with the natural world. They do believe in the mists. The mists exists for them as it does for the humans. That there is an afterlife that continues on. But for the norn, what you leave behind in this world is your stories. What you leave behind in this world is your reputation. And as long as you're remembered you will be effectively alive.

Wartower: You mentioned before the individualistic way of the norn. Will we see them try to adopt a more rigid structure to help face the coming threats?

Jeff: Actually something that's on going for the norn. It hasn't really gotten to a split among them, but is much more a challenge for them. They are, by nature, individualistic they live in small homesteads they get together in small trading communities and they came south and setup these great halls in hoelbrak. This is different for many of them. This is a much larger scale. Some feel this is temporary matter, they have been knocked back. They are very positive individuals. They are happy people. They were beating up and driven of their territory by a dragon and it's just a setback. They are going to come back and take care of things. They believe in ceasing the day, they believe living life to the fullest, but eventual they are going to go back. But they are not depressed or saddened by their loss. Humans look at the loss of Ascalon or the sinking of ore as "We had a golden age and now that has passed." The charr are much more in the moment. Was life better in the north or was it worse? It was life. And that's the nature of the existence.

Wartower: Maybe it's because they are living the natural way because death is a part of life and without death there is no life. So you have to accept it positively because it's the change is the source of energy.

Jeff: Very much so. The idea of that they are in a much more domesticated situation, they are operating in a huge community. We had a discussion the other day about: do norn think of hoellbrak as a city? We think of it as a city as it has the same amenities that we find in divinity's reach or rata sum. It is where your home instance is, yes it's a city. But the norn see it as a big settlement. They may call it a city when talking to the charr to make it clear to them. But inside there is still the idea that this is just a camp. It has been here longer than most and it's bigger than most, but it's apart of the world and the world changes.

Wartower: Do they have laws or a code that the settlementss are built on? Or how do they organize the society. Do they have death sentences or something?

Jeff: They have tradition, that's primarily [their code]. What did they do before, what do we record having happened in this situation, what stories effect us? They don't have a written text like the Sylvari have with the Ventari Tablets. They don't have a code of ethics. It comes from leadership making the decisions, and leadership makes the decisions as long as the people agree they are good decisions. It's much more of a tribal type council, tribal type organization. You have a chieftain, a leader, but he rules through the agreement of the people. Just because Knut is Asgeir's grandson [is not why he is the leader], each generation proves itself and is no guarantee that they are going to take up the banner, that they are going to be ruling. It's a matter of recognition.

Wartower: What about family structure. We've only seen the dynamic of brother and sister. We would love to see how they raise their kids. Do we get to know something more about how the family structure works?

Jeff: The family structure is close but loose. Again, the independence of the norn. Knut's wife does not live in Hoelbrak. She has her own setup. Yet, they have together raised two sons. Often each child will go with one parent or another. Parents will stay together for the important early years. We never really stated it, but norn have more of a monogamous relationship. Like swans mate for life. They have that relationship, that closeness and that comes from common interests and common adventures and they are apart of the world together.

Wartower: Is there something like a ritual that turns children into adults? I had the impression from the story of Viskar Whisperclaw that this transformation happens when a norn kills an enemy? When Whisper claw killed Grimhilde who killed his father. I got the impression the Whisperclaw was regarded as a child until he killed Grimhilde. That seemed to be the ritual or the deed that made him and adult in the eye of the other norn. Is that true?

Jeff: I remember, that was Ree's story. The idea is that, there is no specific ritual. You hunted your first big bear, you took down a big drake mother, you have avenged the family honor. Yes you will be considered an adult at that point. Again it's about your story.

Wartower: So there is sort of a typical hunting tradition?

Jeff: Not necessarily a ritual per-say, there is no award ceremony. It's about recognition.

Wartower: We have this emphasis on strength in norn society and tradition. How are the weak and old treated?

Jeff: Generally, with respect. The old for their experience, and the weak for their other talents. In other words, a norn that doesn't hunt well may have other abilities that help the community and they are recognized accordingly. The venerable are treated with respect because they have the stories becuase they are the keeper of the stories because they have survived long enough to know bjorne when he went off to fight the great ice tiger. We think norn live no longer than most humans. On average they live life by miss adventure. The famous last words are "Hey Vern, look at this!" They take risks, and it does thin out the population a bit. So those who have survived this are recognized appropriately.

Wartower: Is there a ceremony to bury the dead or burn them?

Jeff: I believe the norn burn their dead as apposed to bury them. There are ways they treat the dead, invoking the spirits. As far as a set instructions in a book, no.

We were talking about family life before, their is marriage among the norn. There is that sort of unity. The norn understood in our Guild Wars Beyond series when Kieren and Gwen got married, the party. That's how norn deal with that type of stuff. The passing of a hero would kick off a wake, would kick off of a great celebration of the life of the person who would pass on.

Wartower: We have new threats such as the dredge, the jotun and the jormag minions. I guess the norn are happy with that?

Jeff: They are in a target rich environment. They have a lot of things to match their merit with, lots of challenges. And this is a good thing for the norn. You establish your legend fighting ice worms and fighting dredge. The minions of the dragon. We are going to drive back this danger to the world. They are very happy with these opportunities.

Wartower: What is the one thing you like most about the norn.

Jeff: I really like the norn mind sent, how they are a positive race. That cannot be knocked down. They are optimists. They are big, savage, shape changing optimists that believe things can only get better over time.

Wartower: So they would work very well as psychologists for the depressed humans?

Jeff: Hahaha. Yea the humans have been knocked down but not knocked out. This is the thing that sets Tyria apart from many other fantasy worlds [is] humans are the new race. Elves and dwarves are all older races. In Tyria the humans are the oldest races thats in the area. And they have the weight of history upon them. The norn, tho they have a story and history, it goes back with more stories of the same type. They don't have the idea of kingdom or empire or rulers. They have that feeling of heroes, stories and worthy deeds. That gives them a lot more mobility mentally, to deal with the dragons. I am talking about in general, there are norn worries that are concerned. There are depressed norn in the world, and there norn who have gone over to the dark side with the dragons such as the Sons of Svanir who see the dragon as a power who is worth venerating like the other spirits are. And that's been a growing insidious for the past hundred years.

Wartower: Yea that's something they have to deal with because as far is I understand it's not a brotherhood or a group. When the individual has done something to harm the society or another norn it's the individual to blame, not the other norn.

Jeff: I've refereed to the Sons of Svanir as the bad tempered biker gang down the road. If a Son of Svanir transgresses he will be exiled or he may be slain according to the community he is in. But not all Sons of Svanir are held responsible. There are Sons of Svanir in hoelbrak. They are off in the corner, keep to them selves and keep their noses clean. Your not going to see them misbehaving as they do in the Wayfarer Fothills or acting without restraint as they do when they get closer to jormag's lands.

Wartower: How about the norn and the charr. I have the impression that the norn might have a problem with the Charr's industrialization and the harm they are doing to nature. Is that true?

Jeff: The norn environmentalism is much more within the cycle of the world as opposed to protecting particular creatures or locations. They lumber, they smelt and they mine. They engage in the same sort of thing. The charr mechanical world, their clock work world, is to the norn a little bit alien. They are a little bit like "Why do you have to keep time? Why do you have to organized? Why do you have to keep ranks and where everyone fits in the world in a cubby hole?" The norn look at that and scratch their head, and think these charr are crazy! They do recognize that the charr are warriors and they understand that. On the battlefield they value that ability. The idea that the charr are much more foundry based, kick out more pollution, they have metal houes. That's their thing in the low lands. If the charr suddenly decided to get an interest in colonizing the Shiverpeaks there may be more conflict. But when the charr invaded Kryta it was very much the norn who gave them passage to the lands. The norn and the charr get along better than the norn and the asura or the asura and anybody. They do see a common grounding there.

Wartower: Do we have something like norn art like the beautiful carvings. Eir is an artist?

Jeff: Yes, she is a sculptist. She has worked in wood and in stone. Yes we do see the norn are notable artists. I think we've shown the entrance to Hoelbrak with the great statues of raven and bear. Once you get into hoelbrak it's just beautiful with the statuary of the spirits. In addition they do painting they are creative and they do songs. They do that because it's apart of the world for them. We talk about them like they are people of war, but not all of their achievements are in battle. They are not all hunts. There are great sculptists, artists, singers, bards within the norn world and those are talents that are supported and recognized.

Wartower: Unfortunately our time is up, I could talk for hours! Maybe we can talk another time. Thank you so much for giving us an deeper insight to norn culture. I think it will make it a lot easier to pick a race to play because we can get to know the races a bit better to choose our race that fits us as a player.

Jeff: When we did our races, we wanted to think if them as their own self contained universe. They had their own reason for existing and had their own mindset. And when our writers write as norn, they are thinking as norn. How would a norn approach this as apposed to a human or a charr or anything else. And it gives us a different falvor. I think a particular type of player would would be attracted to norn. Those who like soloing, who like the heroics of going off on their own, the explorers.

Wartower: The less depressed ones. Thank you again Jeff!

Last edited by Cirdan; Today at 02:46 PM.
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