The Norn & The Kodan: Arctic situation heating up?

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The last piece of news Anet published for us was a lore pearl, an in-depth overview of an NPC race we’ll probably have to deal with in Gw2: the Kodan!


The Kodan are a proud race of polar bear people, guided by both a spiritual and a military leader, living their lives on floating icebergs that they sail on around the arctic seas. They venerate Koda, who once formed the world and elected the Kodan as the chosen race to guide and protect the spirits of this world.
Beside the awesome description of this race’s habits, religion and culture, Eric Flannum has brought up the relationship between the Kodan and the Norn. Since they shapeshift into bears that’s pretty logical, however something here sounded terribly off-key to my ears…

“The Kodan do not claim any connection or relationship to the norn race, but some Voices (Kodan’s spiritual leaders) choose to interpret early stories of a lost group of Kodan as an explanation of the origin of the norn. If this is true, they argue, then the norn are failed Kodan who have forgotten their place as judges and protectors of the balance, and that is why their true “bear” form has been replaced with a fragile, furless state. Because of this pressure from their shaman, the Kodan often treat the norn as spiritual failures, possibly even a race moving backwards in the cycle of life, toward primitivism and destruction — and that even as the dwarves before them, if this is true, the norn are a race on the edge of extinction.”

Let’s start saying that I am a huge Norn fan: those shapeshifting warriors are not only the strongest fighters walking the lands of Tyria, but they are also loyal friends, charismatic leaders and sharp tacticians; the whole drinking-charging-smashing behavior usually linked to the Norn it’s nothing but the point of the iceberg that is their personality.
The point I’m making here is that such a noble and proud race cannot be another race’s failure…let me give you some motivations:

As stated in the article, Kodan are asked to become guardians of the balance of the world, they are not forced to: all those who refuse to embrace this path just remain regular polar bears…so failed Kodan are polar bears not Norn!

Instead of considering the Norn as failed Kodan, they should be addressed as the most enlightened of all the other races: being able to shapeshift into their totem animals proves that Norn have a deep bond with both nature and the spiritual world, as the Kodan have, so to them the Norn should look more advanced in the path to enlightment than all the others races.

If we confront the Norn with the other races, based on the information we’ve gathered reading GoA and EoD, it really pops out how the Norn’s fame of “big and stupid” fighters always charging recklessly without thinking it’s just a prejudice created by the Norn’s natural fighting instinct and their will to be remembered by doing heroic actions. Just to prove this point, think about the scene in EoD where Gullik offered to listen to Riona’s problems in such a sensitive way that nobody would have thought him being the fearless warrior he was. (He took a seat close enough to Riona so she could have started a conversation without raising her voice but far enough not to impose his presence and leave her some personal space to think undisturbed.) Not bad for a grizzly man!

Kodan warrior fighting alongside a Norn (probably Eir from EoD)

Their maturity as a race is also shown by the long-term peace realations the Norn have with all the other races in Tyria: since peace is a higher standard than war, those races who manage to keep good relations with everyone are to be considered on a higher step in the evolutionary ladder…doesn’t it feel unexpected that the fight-oriented Norn are also a peaceful nation? From the lore we have discovered during EotN and the books, it is clear that the Norn are generally good people, except for the Sons of Svanir, who were once-Norn corrupted by the dragon Jormaag. The peace that the Norn maintain with all the other races has even more value since it’s a long time peace without benefits: both Asura and Sylvari are in peace with all the other races as well but the first guarantee their neutrality by offering priceless technology support to all the other races, and the second are way too young as a race to even have had the chance to build close inter-racial relationships.

As a last motivation I’d like to point out that while the Kodan think themselves as the guardians of the whole planet’s balance, their isolation in the arctic seas does not enable them to know the rest of Tyria, where the climate doesn’t make a polar bear’s life possible…how are the Kodan suppose to guard the balance in Kryta or Elona….I don’t know.

In conclusion, both the Norn and the Kodan are heavily spirit-related races, both live in the northern territories and we even have an artwork showing a Norn and a Kodan fighting side by side…none of the proud Norn would ever fight the same battle with a race that thinks them as their own failure.

Kodan and Norn are bonded, and I expect a big contribution of the Kodan in the Norn’s personal storyline.

To the readers: what is your position as a Norn-character: favorable or against Kodan?

About the author:  Ubi Maior is a student from Italy, long time GW player and fan. He found in TT a place where he can contribute to the community by sharing his ideas and opinions, and he hopes you enjoy his thoughts! He’d love to hear yours. He can also be found on twitter.

Further reading:

  • Izari

    Great post, Ubi.
    I have to admit, I never read up on the Kodan…for some reason I just wasn’t that interested. But after reading this, I went ahead and caught myself up, haha.

    It’s very cool stuff. I’m particularly interested in their spiritual beliefs, with the reincarnation within the same race until you become enlightened. I wonder what they would rank each race as? And how would they see the Sylvari in this cycle?
    I don’t like them using their “religion” so to speak as an excuse for brutality 🙁

    I imagine them and norn being BFF over time. Great first post, sir. :)!

    • Ubi Maior

      Thanks!!!! *blushing*

      I can easily see Kodan having a big presence in the game…maybe just in Norn’s storyline.

      Not so well I can picture a changing of attitude…when it’s up to religion change is always very very very hard…but maybe the Nornitude will preveal ^_^ as always…

  • Good article, Ubi! Also, I can agree with Izari, I do see the norn and the kodan hitting it off. “Yo, brooooo, wanna go get a pint?”

    • Izari

      Yeah, I’ve said from day 1 I wanted to be a charr but I also hate playing “popular” races. It’s a retarded pet peeve of mine.

      I’m starting to like the idea of Norn a lot.

  • Also, why do I have a retarded bat-thing as my avatar? D:

    • Izari

      lol cause it’s the funniest default-avatar thing I’ve seen.
      I’m gonna upload a GW themed avatar set eventually, probably work on all that this weekend.
      Lots of tweaking to the site I need to do.

  • Hmm, I read the Kodan article when it first came out and was so impressed it made me want to see them as a playable race in an expansion pack.

    I’ve re-read the article after your response to it, and I think I see the Kodan in a different light. I think the Kodan’s perception of the Norn is based more in religious history than them actually dealing with the Norn. It kind of has an Adam & Even similarity to it. The Norn were created after a party left the confines of the sanctuary because of their lust to hunt. And they never returned, and were then stripped of their fur. And could only access their spirit at certain times. Sounds like a familiar bible tale.

    I especially like this quote from the Kodan, “No race weaves the thread of life. We are all strands in it, seeds upon the earth, inheritors of nature’s balance.”

    Makes me wonder if a certain race in Tyria is going to off-set the balance, and force the Kodan to spring into action. Wonder which one it would be.

    • Ubi Maior

      I like your bible exemple a lot!

      To me the real balance breaker factor in Tyria is the awakening of the dragons and therefore their minions spreading all over…

      Like the Ent in LOTR, as soon as the Kodan realize how far the “unbalancing” of the minions has arrived…they’ll march to war.

      I’m not sure if a war march of human plants can be more epic than the one of a polar bears men… 🙂 thoughts?

      • No, the Kodan definitely have them bested in that regard. The one thing the sylvari have going for them though is that the Kodan are carnivores. They don’t eat plants.

  • draxynnic

    As I’ve commented elsewhere, the norn-as-failed-kodan explanation seems to me to be a little too…convenient.

    I wouldn’t say the norn are truly such an enlightened race. There are enlightened members, yes, but every race has its standouts. However, their peacefulness with their neighbours strikes me more of a product of war being too much of a group activity for the individualistic norn than true regard for peace and harmony – as individuals they’re the most violent of the playable races except perhaps the charr. Remember, after all, that Gullik’s first appearance was attempting to kill a character over a slight that that character had no knowledge of the significance of, and one that would not be able to be righted if Gullik had succeeded. There’s also the mention in the build-an-event-chain symposium that ANet held at one of the conventions of norn playing cruel pranks on the sylvari. With that and the “defeat me in battle before we talk” that norn have in EOTN – along with Ogden’s initial fear of Jora which seems based on some experience – the norn give me an impression of being a race mostly composed of arrogant, spoiled prats.

    However… the view of the norn as failed kodan that some kodan have does strike me as missing a few things, among those of course being that norn have other forms APART from the bear and that the human-like existence of the norn’s natural form is amazingly coincidental if the natural form of the norn is a punishment (I’d imagine humans won’t be too impressed with the idea that looking similar to them is a punishment. Nor might the sylvari). The vibe it gives me is that the kodan religious caste in some sanctuaries were feeling less secure in their power than they might like, and the norn presented a timely object lesson – “Obey the will of Koda (as interpreted by the Voice) or you too might have the fur stripped from your body and your muscles atrophy into the frame of a weak hairless primate!”

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