- 1 History
- 2 Involvement
- 3 Culture
- 4 Beliefs
- 5 Avvar magic
- 6 Politics
- 7 Known Avvars
- 8 Known Avvar settlements
- 9 Related codex entries
- 10 Trivia
- 11 Gallery
- 12 References
Although often referred to as a single entity, the Avvar are actually groups of small tribes who share their beliefs and culture but otherwise operate independently of each other. They were one of the tribes of the Alamarri which crossed the Frostback Mountains in -2415 Ancient to escape what legend says was a "shadow goddess" but scholars believe was a natural disaster. Solas says that the Shadow Goddess is a lonely spirit who now walks the Fade along the southern tundra, weeping and forgotten.
In -1815 Ancient, Tyrdda Bright-Axe refused Thelm Gold-Handed's offer to cross the Waking Sea to plunder the riches of the golden city and instead led her tribe to split from the rest of the Alamarri and make the inhospitable Frostback Mountains their home. Afterwards, she established trade with the dwarves and eventually had a child with Hendir, a dwarven prince, to ensure her tribe's continued survival. For this, she is known as the Avvar-Mother. Her newly formed tribe took on the name of "Avvar" after the "Aval'var" mentioned in the Saga of Tyrdda Bright-Axe. The two groups warred with each other for centuries afterwards.
By the time the Tevinter Imperium started aggressively expanding their borders southward, some Avvar had settled in the Vimmark Mountains. Some clans were wiped out by Tevinter's legions while others were enslaved or forced to flee south across the Waking Sea. Circa -712 Ancient, the Imperium launched their first expedition against the Avvar, planning to march further into the mountains to defeat the last of the tribes, and then turn their attention fully to the Chasind and Alamarri. But the Avvar put up heavier resistance than expected after the Imperium seized one of their gods' sacred relic.
With the help of dwarves the Avvar built the fortresses of Kinloch Hold, and Vigil's Keep. The former became home to Ferelden's Circle of Magi, and the latter to the Grey Wardens after Avvar power declined.
As the First Blight raged across the rest of Thedas, the Avvar chieftain Morrighan'nan, said to be a descendant of Tyrdda Bright-Axe, waged war on the Alamarri chieftain Luthias Dwarfson, who had spurned her for a dwarven princess after their tryst. War raged for fifteen years until Luthias unknowingly killed the son that Morrighan'nan had borne him. After Morighan'nan revealed that Luthias had killed his own son, the tide of the war turned against him. Luthias and Morrighan'nan eventually killed each other at the Battle of Red Falls in -355 Ancient.
Following the First Blight, the Avvars made considerable advances on Tevinter territory. Maferath, an Avvar leader married to Andraste, invaded the Imperium with the help of other Alamarri tribes and elven slaves led by Shartan. However, concerned that their victories would be short-lived, Maferath betrayed his wife and worked out a secret deal with Archon Hessarian. In exchange for truce and the lands that would eventually become Orlais, Nevarra, the Free Marches and Ferelden, Andraste would be given to the magisters for execution.
In 1:50 Divine, after Hafter's efforts to drive the darkspawn out of Alamarri lands during the Second Blight had decimated the Alamarri's numbers, the Avvar and Chasind joined forces to prey on their weakness. Under Hafter's leadership, the Alamarri prevailed against the other clans, forcing them to flee to the wilds and the highlands and cementing the Alamarri as the dominant clan in the Fereldan Valley.
By 6:50 Steel the Avvar were united under the great warlord Balak and attacked the Bannorn in massive numbers. However, after two years, they were pushed out of the Fereldan Valley. This conflict resulted in one of the worst famines in Fereldan history. Relations with Ferelden remained very sour for centuries.
Dragon Age (tabletop RPG)
Arl Gallagher Wulff's daughter, Izot, elopes with her Avvar lover Azur Ar Brosna O Redhold but is kidnapped by a rival Avvar warlord named Balan. While searching for her at the Arl's request, the adventurers visit Redhold, where Thane Oswyne attempts to enlist them to aid in the defense of the hold against a large darkspawn raid.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Insulted by the claim that the Herald of Andraste can close the rifts in the sky, as it is the domain of the Lady of the Sky, a group of Avvar barbarians take over Hargrave Keep in the Fallow Mire and hold a group of Inquisition soldiers hostage. Their leader, the Hand of Korth, issues a challenge to the Herald, who must then fight through the barbarians, including their leader, to rescue the soldiers. Amund, a Sky Watcher of the Avvar tribes, can be persuaded to join the Inquisition after the barbarians are defeated.
The Avvar tribal leader Movran the Under, father of the now dead Hand of Korth, attacks Skyhold's walls with a goat in retaliation. The leader, easily captured, explains himself in court: since the Herald killed his son, he responded by staining their hold with goat's blood as per Avvar tradition. However, he holds no true quarrel with the Inquisition, as he is actually glad to be rid of his 'idiot son.' The Avvar group that took their people captive were supposed to be dealing with Tevinter agents in the area but ended up contending with the Inquisition instead so the Hand of Korth could bolster his standing.
Movran can be put on display in a gibbet or if, Champions of the Just was completed, paired with Lord Abernache. Alternatively, he and his tribe can also be driven from Inquisition lands or 'banished' to Tevinter with as many weapons as they can carry, turning the tribesmen into makeshift Inquisition agents.After the Inquisition establishes a presence in the Frostback Basin, the Inquisition is spurred by Professor Bram Kenric's archaeological findings to discover the fate of Inquisitor Ameridan–the Herald of Andraste's predecessor. The Herald aligns themselves with the Avvar tribe of Stone-Bear Hold and discover that the hostile Jaws of Hakkon seek to unleash their imprisoned god, Hakkon Wintersbreath, on all of Thedas out of revenge. The Inquisition further discovers that Ameridan has been keeping the dragon vessel of Hakkon confined with time magic. After his bindings fail, he passes on the duty to finish what he started to the Herald. The Herald foils the Hakkonite's plans and slays the dragon vessel of Hakkon.
Permanence is a foreign concept to the Avvars. Nothing in the Frostbacks stays the same forever, and nothing in Avvar life is permanent either. Their settlements are temporary; their agreements are temporary; even their marriages are temporary. Literacy isn't very common among the Avvar; instead, they rely on stories passed down through the oral tradition by skalds and other people among the hold. However, the ability to read and write is usually expected in leadership roles (thanes and augurs). The augurs learn how to read in order to study arcane texts.
While Avvar like to say that they hold all oaths close to sacred, the final authority on oaths rests with the Thane. A clever one can always find "a hole in the tent of any promise, a place for the cold wind to sneak in". To make up for breaking an oath with another hold, the party which has done wrong can pay the price of their transgression with gifts and new trade conditions. Spiritual rules are considered equally stringent.
Avvar despise capture and would rather end their own life or die in battle than be prisoner to an enemy.
|This section is incomplete and requires expansion.|
Positions in a hold include Thane, Augur, Master of the Hunt, Skald and Arena Trainer.
- See also: Legend-mark
In some Avvar holds, including Stone-Bear Hold, a person is identified by a firstname and a surname, and the surname is determined by the firstname of a parent, with the suffix "-sen" (meaning "son") or "-dotten" (meaning "daughter") added to the parent's name. For example, Finn Caldansen is the son of Caldan; and Fullna Hethsdotten is the daughter of Heth. As such, the Avvar do not use typical family names, the surnames change from generation to generation. For one to continue using their parent's name as a surname after the death of said parent, the individual must complete the traditional funerery rites, which includes giving a sufficient offering in honour of the deceased. If they fail to perform these rites, they no longer introduce themselves as a son or daughter of their parent, and the family relation stops being recognized by the rest of the hold.
An Avvar can also earn a "legend-mark" by accomplishing a significant feat. A legend-mark is a cognomen that replaces the surname, usually in honor of a great deed performed by the individual; e.g., Ivatt Jovsen was made Ivatt Stone-Thunder in recognition of protecting his hold, though it can also signify someone's negative traits, as in the case of Rekkas Feather-Fall.
For some clans, there are three parts to an Avvar name. These are the first name, the byname and the clan name. These clans tend to be matrilineal, so the byname is used to show who an Avvar's mother is. "An" would indicate "daughter of" and "Ar" would indicate "son of". The byname is followed "O" and then the name of the clan. For example, Arcill Ar Dubne O Wyrmhold would be the son of Dubne from the clan Wyrmhold. For other clans, there are two parts to an Avvar name. These are the first name and the byname. Bynames indicate the parent of the same gender as the child with “sen” for son of or “dotten” for daughter.
The Avvar do not marry for life, instead, they practice temporary marriages. During the wedding ceremony, the bride will sing a hymn to the Lady of the Skies while the groom attempts to undo a series of knots she has tied in a long rope. The number of knots the groom undoes before the hymn ends determines the number of years that marriage will last. Both the bride and the groom may try to affect the result of the ritual, for example, the bride can tie the knots very tightly, while the groom can decide to only untie a certain number of the knots before the hymn ends. The ceremony can be repeated multiple times to extend the duration of the marriage.
Since each Avvar hold is made up of several extended-family clans, Avvars must often marry outside their hold to avoid their relatives. They see this as a good thing, for it brings in new blood and extends the ties among Avvars. Avvar men go about securing brides by kidnapping them. This is partially arranged in advance by approaching the elders of the target clan and announcing one’s intention. Failure to do so can lead to a blood feud.
Once permission has been given, a warrior is expected to prove his skill by slipping into the hold and removing his new bride. A warrior who is caught on his first try can expect a severe beating, but nothing worse. If he is caught again on the second try, though, he is likely to become lunch for the clan’s sacred animal. Avvarian men may approach a lady directly if they wish to secure her agreement (or assistance), and some Avvar women make it known that they desire a specific man.
The majority of the Avvar people live in subsistence conditions, with the greater part of their days spent gathering the necessities of survival and little time given over to activities without an immediate practical application. Ornamentation is rare among Avvar-made goods that aren’t religious in nature. They prefer well-made items that endure the Frostbacks’ extreme weather. Homes are sturdily made of wood with thatched or peat roofs.
Food and hunting
The Avvar people subsist on whatever the Frostback Moutains provide. They welcome any kind of meat, from snails, harts, and rams to larger creatures such as lurkers and gurguts. Wyverns, despite being venomous, are considered a good source of meat as well. The Avvar often hunt in the forest and set up traps. They also engage in animal husbandry, as they keep chickens and goats in pens. Avvar cooking methods favor utility. Communal evening meals are prepared by both men and women and taken around the fire. Stews are a typical meal, as they can be easily prepared. Baked fish wrapped in clay and pungent leaves is a popular dish for holds settled near lakes or rivers. Most Avvar food preparation centers around winter: from the spring thaw onward, meat is smoked, vegetables pickled, fruits dried, everything stored in anticipation of the long, cold winter of the Frostbacks. Despite the importance of food storage, the Avvar have no qualms about leaving significant amount of food as offering to their gods.
The Avvar are strong hunters whose treacherous homeland has inured them to the cold and taught them to avoid heavy armor. They prefer strong chain links, dwarf wrought if they can get it, wrapped in warm furs. Avvars favor axes and spears over swords. Their bows are heavy, with long shafts capable of piercing a man’s torso at great distance. They are also excellent falconers, which makes their hunting parties nearly impossible to catch unawares. A hunting party will usually have a mountain eagle or two, highly clever and well-trained birds that scout for them. As such, Avvars are far more likely to ambush others than be caught themselves.
Each hold has a "hold-beast" that ties the clan to the gods. This animal acts as a sort of revered mascot and is treated as kin to the clan. It is no pet and is granted independence to live as it chooses. It's free to come visit the clan whenever it wishes. The clan members may even offer it gifts of food, though not enough that it would not hunt for itself. It is said that a hold draws strength from its hold-beast. When a hold-beast is strong and happy, there is joy. When it sickens and dies, it is an ill omen. If a hold-beast is sick or missing, it's a sign to other clans that the whole hold is weak, so the Avvar may want to conceal this information. A hold-beast is expected to fight in protection of its hold.
The Avvars still worship the old gods of the Alamarri, chief among them Korth the Mountain-Father, Hakkon Wintersbreath, and the Lady of the Skies. Andraste, who was born of the Alamarri, is said to have prayed first to Korth and the Lady, but her prayers fell on deaf ears until the Maker answered.
It is nearly impossible to speak of the Avvarian people without speaking of their beliefs. Faith is the vibrant cornerstone of their existence, filling their harsh lives with sacred implications, for the Avvars believe as the Alamarri once did: the gods live in all things. Wind from an unexpected direction, birds flying in unusual patterns, a sudden silence amidst the high peaks in the spring—these are nothing but chance to a lowlander, but are messages from the gods to an Avvar.
The Avvars believe without question that their gods have protected them and kept them strong, for do they not thrive despite their numerous enemies? Wise lowlanders avoid pointing out that the hillsmen have been pushed into some of the most inhospitable terrain in all of Thedas. In truth, the Avvars love the Frostbacks and would only take offense at the thought that they were “forced” into the mountains. The Avvars have a complex pantheon, which includes both nature spirits and legendary mortals who have ascended to the heavens. This is further complicated by the fact that the pantheon varies somewhat from hold to hold, as every clan has its own sacred tales and heroes; however, all Avvars agree on the three greatest gods, Korth the Mountain-Father, Hakkon Wintersbreath, and the Lady of the Skies.
The Avvar deem spirits as their gods, treating them as patrons to be lulled and wooed. The Avvar deliberately invoke spirits for strength in battle or solicit them for advice. Such spirits have lived with in their holds for many generations, and sometimes took the form of an animal or departed relatives when they pass on their wisdom. In the event a god is destroyed, the Avvar begin a year-long time of offerings and prayers and rituals. At the end of this period, a new spirit takes on the name and role of the old one.
Avvar believe in a hazily defined afterlife governed by the Lady of the Skies where the dead are reunited with their kin. Avvar also believe some of their people are destined to be reborn, i.e., the essence (the soul) returns clothed in new flesh. The core of the concept is thus: the souls of a few Avvar "favored" by fate "migrate" on death to inhabit new bodies destined for them, so they may return and perform great deeds for the good of their hold. These resurrected souls are not expected to remember their past selves consciously, but instead are assumed to be subtly "guided" by their previous experiences, especially through visions and portents. 
The Avvar gods are more capricious than cruel, demanding appeasement for perceived sleights rather than wantonly casting misfortune on their people from lofty heights. When Avvars suffer, it seldom occurs to them to blame ill luck, but instead, to wonder which of the gods they have offended. If a warrior suffers a wound, they are concerned that they may have slighted Hakkon. If a hunting party returns empty-handed, their only thought is to placate the Mountain Father; indeed, they will not go hunting again until they have decided on how to mollify Korth–there would be no point in it, as they would surely fail again.
Korth the Mountain-Father
- Main article: Korth
Korth the Mountain-Father, also known as the Father of the Skies, is the oldest and strongest god of the Avvar pantheon. The Avvar believe that everything found in the mountains stem from him and that it is through his benevolence the Avvar receive everything they need–be it prey for hunters or green fields for goatherds.
Lady of the Skies
- Main article: Lady of the Skies
The Lady of the Skies is goddess of all above Korth's domain, of birds and even the wind itself, as well as the goddess of the dead. Rather than cremating their dead as Andrastians do, the Avvar dismember their dead and offer them to the Lady's children–the birds– to be carried back to her domain, where they will be reunited with their kin.
- Main article: Hakkon Wintersbreath (deity)
Hakkon Wintersbreath, also known as the Lord of Winter, is the god of war and death. Avvar warriors train in the martial arts in order to be found worthy by Hakkon and Hakkon in turn was said to grant such warriors who earned his favor with a natural intuition or a second wind during battle. The Avvar say that Hakkon fell silent centuries ago for an unknown reason.
A god said to bless fishermen.
Rilla of the Fireside
A god whose blessings aid in the making of babies.
Imhar the Clever
The trickster of the Avvar pantheon, Imhar is a slight man who must rely on his quick tongue instead of strength. Avvars enjoy tales of Imhar's jests and mockery, perhaps the most popular of which is that of Imhar and an evil seductress. She lured him into facing her unarmed, then faced him with an army of demons. Playing the coward, Imhar lead them on a merry chase through a mountain pass. When they thought they had cornered him, Imhar laughed out loud. The great noise shook the peaks, and the horde was crushed beneath the avalanche he caused.
The Great Bear sleeps at the foot of the Mountain Father's throne, and is so vast in size that Korth once confused him with a small mountain. Sitting at Korth's foot, he is also the guardian of wisdom. Avvars may challenge him to acquire knowledge, but the bones of many on such a quest are strewn about his den.
Avvars hold all bears sacred and, though they do sometimes hunt and skin them, do so with great solemnity. Due to this, they consider Bereskarn to be especially blasphemous as well.
Several Circle magi claim to have met Sigfost in the Fade.
The Avvar call their shamans augurs. Only one mage is chosen to be the augur. The augur's role is to give council to other mages and the Thane. In turn, an augur takes council from the spirits they deem gods and shares it with the hold. The augur makes the clan's will known to the spirits and the spirits' will to the clan. By appeasing their spirit gods with rituals, the spirits in turn protect their hold and drive off spirits gone bad with rage or gloom. The augur also spots those who draw bad spirits and councils the thane how to deal with the matter.
The augurs allow their apprentices to be possessed by a summoned Spirit and the spirit teaches the mage how to control their magic with patience and kindness. When the teaching is done, the mage must then release the spirit through a ritual that involves burning an offering and casting a taxing spell that usually requires a vial of lyrium to replenish one's strength. Weak mages unable to control their magic remain possessed and the Avvar' spirit gods watch them both so neither soul becomes corrupted. If the abomination becomes corrupted or the mage stands at risk of harming the hold, then one day the abomination is killed in their sleep.
Other duties of an augur include interpreting omens and preparing the dead to be taken back to the Lady of the Sky.
When forced to consider complex spiritual matters, the Avvar turn to their shamans, the lore keepers of the mountains. It is they who watch the migrations of birds seeking wisdom from the Lady, they who keep the old songs and retain the knowledge of the proper rites to honor the gods and spirits of the mountains. The majority of Avvar shamans are powerful mages whose traditions stretch far back beyond the foundations of the Circle of Magi.
Neither the Chantry nor the Prophetess means anything to the Avvar, and Templars are not welcome in the Frostbacks. This is wise, as many of the shamans' rituals would horrify the Chantry. Even mild rites invite spirits to speak through the casters for a time, to say nothing of some of their more powerful ceremonies. The Avvar are well aware that some spirits are reluctant to depart human hosts willingly, but they have means of dealing with such recalcitrant entities. After all, they have no more desire to become abominations than other mages, and so their rituals are specifically designed to force the spirits back out as well.
Each Avvar clan is led by a thane. Avvar settle disputes that don't have a clear right party by undergoing tests and trials. Usually these tests are dedicated to their spirit gods: for example, the "Test of the Lady" is a race to climb a rock face between two competitors, each of which represent a party or claim in the dispute. The Avvar have many of these trials and the procedures for each one varies. Thanes guide the gods in deciding who is worthy and decide which test will settle the dispute. Thanes also have the power to ask a warrior whose claim is foolish to bear a handicap in the test, such as to climb the Test of the Lady with stones strapped to their back. The test and conditions of the test regarding a dispute between two clans or more are assumed to be negotiated and coordinated by the thanes of the invested clans. Peace is maintained between clans by creating alliances and officiating them with oaths. Some clans swear to defend and avenge each other. Admittedly, not all Avvar hold these oaths sacred, especially for clans who promise such oaths but bear little fondness to those they are sworn to. The realistic truth is that oaths last until they are broken. A cunning thane can find a loophole and should the oath-breakers emerge victorious through cunning, they can appease the other clans sworn to defend and avenge those they've transgressed against by sending offerings, trade and gifts, to pay the price of oath-breaking.
The Avvar have a decent relationship with the dwarven kingdom of Orzammar as well as the Carta, with whom they regularly trade in order to acquire fine weaponry and other supplies. This relationship extends back to the founding of the Avvar around -1815 Ancient, when Tyrdda Bright-Axe gave a promise of peace and established trade with the dwarves. Tyrdda had a child with the dwarf-prince Hendir – a child who then succeeded Tyrdda as leader of the Avvar tribe. In ancient times, an Avvar clan settled in the caves on the Waking Sea coast, where they met a group of dwarves. The dwarves protected a member of the clan when she fled to the Deep Roads, and later helped the Avvar defeat and bind a dangerous shade called the Dark Theurge. The Avvar clan built the Fort of a Thousand Vigils over the cave system and continued having a peaceful relationship with the local dwarves. They were trading with the dwarves in secret, possibly to due the region being a subject of the Tevinter conquest campaign. Dwarves also surface in other ancient Avvar tales, such as the Tale of Hryngnar.
There is also limited commerce, dialogue, and exchange of ideas with the Orlesian empire, and some Avvar holds may even be in possession of Orlesian books. Some traders make their way to cities such as Lydes, Verchiel and Val Royeaux to trade furs and leathers for spices and things that the Avvar cannot make on their own. Despite some Holds' location within the borders of Ferelden, the Avvar are emphatic that they are not Fereldans.
The Avvars trade furs, goat milk, and free passage rights for dwarf traders (allowing them to travel over the Frostbacks in peace) in exchange for arms and armor. The dwarves regard the Avvars as a useful deterrent against both Fereldan and Orlesian ambitions.
- See also: Category:Avvars
- Anashe – an Avvar tribeswoman and falconer
- Amund – a religious shaman of the Lady of the Skies and agent of the Inquisition
- Balak – an Avvar warlord
- Gurd Harofsen – a warrior from Red-Lion Hold and later leader of the Jaws of Hakkon
- Havard – the first of the Disciples of Andraste
- Hand of Korth – the son of Movran the Under
- Kaelah – a woman who fled Ruadan to find shelter with the dwarves
- Kell ap Morgan – a Jarl of the Avvars
- Kiveal – an Avvar who alongside the dwarves bound The Dark Theurge
- Maferath – the husband of Andraste and a warlord in the time during the first Exalted Marches
- Morrighan'nan – a chieftain of an Avvar clan and descendant of Tyrdda Bright-Axe
- Movran the Under – chieftain of an Avvar clan from the Fallow Mire
- Ruadan – an Avvarian shaman and mage
- The spirit in the Statue of Peace
- The spirit in the Statue of War
- Svarah Sun-Hair – thane of the Stone-Bear Hold
- Tyrdda Bright-Axe – Avvar-Mother, referenced in codex entries gathered from landmarks in the Hinterlands; her clan is reputed to be the first of the Avvars, having migrated into the Frostbacks at the behest of Tyrdda's lover, a spirit in the form of an elf
- Stiksma – a giant of a warrior
- Elorn – Avvar shaman/mage
- Lowenna an Aenor – an Avvar woman living in Redhold
- Owyne ar Rainne – Thane of Redhold
Known Avvar settlements
- Fennec-Tooth Hold
- Fort of a Thousand Vigils (former)
- Kinloch Hold (former)
- Red-Lion Hold (later became the Jaws of Hakkon)
- Skyhold (former)
- Stone-Bear Hold
- Wyvern Hold
Related codex entries
- Originally, one of the human origins was going to be an Avvar barbarian.
- A glimpse of what life is like for the Avvars can be seen in a scene in Dragon Age: The Calling, where Kell ap Morgan, a senior Grey Warden from among the Avvars, is trapped in a dream of his home.
- The Avvar warlord's name Balak could be derived from "Ka'hairal Balak" - a character from BioWare's game franchise Mass Effect and leader of a batarian terrorist group that raids Asteroid X57 in the DLC X57: Bring Down the Sky.
- In Awakening, the name of the god Hakkon is spelled Haakon.
- Sky burials are a Vajrayana Buddhism practice that takes place in Tibet, Mongolia and some parts of China, for the ground is too hard for graves to be dug. Several Native American tribes such as the Choctaw Nation, also had a similar ritual in involving bone cleaning.
- The Avvar refer to the Fade as the Land of Dreams.
- In Inquisition, the Avvar chant and mumble like Venatori, though they would have no reason to speak Tevene.