While on reddit I came across this fantastic article by makinmywaydowntown . A very well thought out article and while some may disagree with the parallels it’s a very interesting read.
submitted ago by makinmywaydowntown
Hello everyone! Something I’ve enjoyed doing for a long time playing MMO’s is extending cultural histories and similarities from real life societies into the game world. In essence, trying to figure out the possible influences the development team had when creating the peoples of their fantasy universe. These sorts of discussions abound around the works of Tolkien (Who are the elves supposed to represent?), Howard, Salvatore, and I love them all. I feel like it really fleshes out back stories, and makes for interesting chatter! Without further adieu, here’s my vision of some of Tyria’s denizens:
The Asura – This ethnocentric and diminutive race of geniuses is leaps and bounds ahead of every other society in mathematics and engineering; to the point that it all seems like magic (As opposed to the explicable gears and cogs of the Charr.) And where would Tyria be without their travel gates? I see the Asura as the far East in the world. The vast empires of the Indian sub-continent and China. Much like the Asura in the sub-terrain, much of the history of the far East is only now being opened up for discovery amongst Western scholars. We’re talking about the cultures that envisioned the ‘0’ for usage in mathematics, and wondrous feats of naval engineering that came to fruition in Dynastic China are still ‘wow’ing historians.
The Norn – These naturalistic titans represent a combination of Norwegian, Germanic, and Native American culture to me. While a wide number of cultures can be found to have practiced Bear Worship in the global north, there are notable Native American peoples who observed the bear as a creature with a higher spiritual value than themselves. For this reason, the bear was seen in a way to be man’s ‘Big Brother’, closer to the heavens, something you desired to become yourself. The parallels to the Norn here need little explanation, one should think.
The Humans – The human empires of Tyria come in a wide variety, and it would be an entirely other thread of discussion about how their kingdoms reflect historical allegory themselves. For the purposes of this brief exploration, I’ll stick to Ascalon, and King Adelbern. In the story of Ascalon I personally see a tale of a Central European Despot (here used in its proper noun form to represent the formal title of princes from the history of that region), beset on multiple sides by unforgiving wilderness and enemy, enamored with ornate politicking – tenuous alliances and drama with thrones and heirs.
The Charr – My personal favorite, and by far the easiest to pinpoint allegorically for me. The Charr resemble the Germanic states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; it was a time known as the wars of Unification. The Fire legion, and their Shaman cast appear to me as the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nation which loses control, and sees the beginning of an era of regional strife and civil war. This era was also very well known to be a time of championing logic and reason: The man as a glass structure – no mystery, see through, geometric. Accordingly, the entire society was being pressed in a direction of ‘No Gods’, If I may use the Charr term directly here, in which the involvement of Catholicism in the nation’s internal ministry was entirely disbanded. Militarily, it was a time of steam, powder, wheel, cog, gear, fire, and gosh doesn’t that just resonate so well with our bulky, feline protagonists?
The Sylvari – This one is tough. My personal theory is going to be a stretch. The novels and lore so far essentially present the Sylvari people as a card blanche in terms of culture. They have intelligence, but few social strictures, as they haven’t had much time to develop unique collective behaviors. Then, of course, there is the belief among many other Tyrian peoples that Syvlari ‘society’ or ‘culture’ is impossible anyway, as they’re essentially only an illusory people. Petals folded just right, branches grown just so, to provide the facade of a person. They have a drive though. Beyond their curiosity, they know there are present to protect, and to fight. To me, the Sylvari represent the Macedonian city state of Sparta. All perfect offspring of the Pale Tree. Anyone malformed, or negatively affected in The Dream are cast out. A society revolving around the soul mission to combat a pervasive mortal enemy. Born of war, into war, and often falling to it as well.Edit – As Visvires and others have pointed out in the comments, The Sylvari are directly influenced by the mythology of King Arthur (How is it even possible for me to have missed this? I LOVE the tale of the Green Knight!)
The Skritt – This race’s relationship with the Asura causes me to place them in a similar historical locus. The Asura often lambast the Skritt as a race of scavengers who contribute little to science or engineering; instead merely adapting whatever technology they are able to find to suit their own purposes. In numbers, they are strong, and often underestimated. To me, they are the Manchu. More specifically, the Qing dynasty. When these pastoral nomads rode south in to China proper, they pressed their political opponents (Remnants of the Ming, mind you) far to the south, and moved directly into the Imperial court. While academics often argue whether or not the early Qing represent a legitimate Chinese dynasty, or one with an alien origin, it is generally accepted that they were unique. Early Qing leadership brought a strange, uniquely Manchu presence to the Chinese Imperial court, adapting many of the rituals and proceedings of court-life in ways that remained somewhere between previous Imperial Dynastic tradition, and amalgamations with Manchu culture. In truly Skritt fashion, the Manchus came into the developed Chinese empire, adapted, and overcame.Edit – Please see Pikamen’s comment further below. His knowledge of the Qing dynasty is vastly superior to my own, and his analysis points out why the Skritt parallel does not apply very well. I’m open to alternative interpretations!
The Centaur – Another one I found fairly easy to recognize: They are the Osmanli to me. Fast, effective, nomadic warriors who have come to control a tremendous amount of territory, and develop a rich, deep culture. I’ll stop myself short here, because I could ramble about the Ottoman empire for a very very long time!
The Hylek – Aboriginal or Amazonian culture here? I’m sure others know much more than I. Perhaps I can see the cultures of Papua New Guinea here, given the disparity of the Hylek living in their small settlements and huts, and the Hylek merchants bedazzled in merchant garb in Lion’s arch. It’s very reminiscent of the peoples of that aforementioned island who, only decades ago, were lacking modern technology, and were brought into the modern world quite suddenly.
The Quaggan – It is believed that native tribes of people populating the Americas came far south, and were driven north again (Rather than crossing the Bering straight, and just settling down on the ice) by conflict, famine, and standard animal migrations. An argument persists that, citing that initial reason of conflict, the peoples who DID end up far to the north in present day Canada were more peaceful than plains tribes south of them; heading north to avoid competition. While this explanation is very simple, and avoids a lot of socio-cultural and environmental factors (and may be just plain wrong) I feel it works when discussing the Quaggan. This aquatic race, despite often bearing the brunt of Naga attacks, remain optimistically neutral and peaceful quite often. Their watery territories and prevailing fishing culture resembles the Inuit for me.
I know I missed some, but I’ll be lucky if anyone reads all of what I’ve written so far anyway! If you HAVE made it this far, know that I appreciate it! I’m excited to read how others interpret the races and histories of Tyria, and can’t wait to play with you guys on the 25th!