The Qunari (literally, "People of the Qun") is the umbrella term most commonly used to describe the white-haired metallic-skinned race of large humanoids and their society that governs the islands of Par Vollen and Seheron, as well as the settlement of Kont-Aar in northern Rivain, and Qundalon in the Anderfels.
Members of any race who adhere to the teachings of the Qun can become "Qunari", but those other than the original giant race, that is humans, elves, and dwarves, are called Viddathari within the Qun. Humans of Rivain and elven slaves of Tevinter are especially susceptible to conversion, although it is not unknown for members of other groups to embrace the Qun.
Members of the aforementioned race born outside of the Qun are not considered to be Qunari within their own society. They are called "Vashoth", which means "grey ones"; likewise those who abandon the Qun willingly are known as "Tal-Vashoth", "true grey ones". Most Tal-Vashoth are former soldiers and become mercenaries, and are considered by Qunari to be worse than bas - who are non-Qunari foreigners.
Members of the Qunari race are rarely seen outside of their lands with the exception of Rivain. During the Dragon Age, a fleet of Qunari ships sank in the Waking Sea between Ferelden and Free Marches, which resulted in Qunari presence in both of these lands. Tal-Vashoth are much more present in non-Qunari lands, most commonly as elite mercenaries, such as the Kadan-Fe in Ferelden.
Racial benefits: 10% physical damage resistance.
Qunari are taller and more physically robust than humans. They have skin of varying metallic colors (such as gold, bronze, and silver), white hair, pointed ears, and vivid eyes with colors like violet, red, silver, or yellow.
Most Qunari have horns. The horn itself has no nerve endings and can be removed; however, they can still become irritated, thus the Qunari have developed balm. All of the Qunari seen in Dragon Age: Inquisition have one pair of horns, whereas all but one Qunari seen in the base Dragon Age II have two pairs of horns - one big and one small one; the Arishok is the only one to date to have eight horns in total; it is unknown what determines the number of horns or their size. It should be noted that Salit has six horns in total.
Hornlessness is a rare genetic variation in Qunari, akin to red hair in humans. Those born without horns are considered special and are often given prestigious roles in Qunari society such as a Ben-Hassrath or an envoy to the other races. Sten, who became a companion of the Warden as a soldier of the Beresaad, falls into this category. Culturally, Qunari associate not having horns with being imposing or scary, and because of this Tal-Vashoth often decide to remove their own horns. Likewise, Saarebas, the Qunari mages, have their horns removed to warn of their danger.
Unlike other races in Thedas, Qunari do not adorn themselves with tattoos. Instead they make use of war paint called Vitaar. This paint is made from a substance toxic to all races except the Qunari themselves. Some Tal-Vashoth, such as Salit, also wear Vitaar despite leaving the Qun. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, a Qunari Inquisitor and the Iron Bull must use Vitaar instead of helmets. Vitaar hardens the skin around the face to give it a metal like quality while retaining flexibility.
Before their arrival in Thedas, the aforementioned race were once a part of the kossith that predated the Qun. The earliest known kossith contact with Thedas was when a colony of them had settled in the southern Korcari Wilds in -410 Ancient. It was overrun by darkspawn during the First Blight, and it is presumably this colony which led to the darkspawn developing ogres. There were no other recorded sightings of the horned race for another 1000 years.
They returned as the Qunari, and arrived in Thedas en masse on warships, called dreadnoughts, in 6:30 Steel, from an unknown eastern land across the Northern Ocean. They once threatened to conquer all of the known world, but after several Exalted Marches during the Qunari Wars they have lost much of the conquered land. Since then, peace has been made since with every nation except the Tevinter Imperium; with whom they are still involved in a prolonged war for dominance of the north.
- -410 Ancient: A kossith colony of horned humanoids settles in the Korcari Wilds but is obliterated by darkspawn during the First Blight a few years later.
- 6:30 Steel: The Qunari come to Thedas from across the Northern Ocean and land in Par Vollen. They conquer it quickly, though word of that does not reach the continent.
- 6:32 Steel: The Qunari ships land en masse in Seheron and northern Rivain. The Qunari Wars begin and last for most of the century.
- By 6:42 Steel: The Qunari have conquered much of the Tevinter Imperium, Rivain, and Antiva and begin to assault the Free Marches. Only Minrathous itself remains besieged but unconquered in the north.
- By 6:85 Steel: Massive rebellions in Tevinter manage to free the Imperium, and the Qunari lines begin to crumble.
- By 7:23 Storm: The Qunari are pushed back to Seheron and Rivain, but they are well entrenched. The Battle of the Nocen Sea is the largest naval engagement in history and results in a stalemate and the destruction of many of the ships on both sides. An impasse begins.
- 7:25–7:85 Storm: The New Exalted Marches are declared repeatedly by both the Imperial Chantry (to retake Seheron and the eastern city of Qarinus) and the Chantry (to retake Rivain). Three major Exalted Marches occur. The Tome of Koslun is stolen from the Qunari by the Orlesians.
- 7:52 Storm: During the second New Exalted March the Qunari recapture much of Antiva.
- 7:54 Storm: The Qunari took the island of Estwatch as a base of operations in their war against the Free March states, Nevarra, and Orlais.
- 7:55 Storm: The pirates of Llomerryn band together under the banner of the Felicisima Armada to fight the Qunari.
- 7:56 Storm: During the Third New Exalted March The Qunari land a great force in the Free Marches near the city of Ostwick. They try to deny supplies to the Thedas armies assaulting Rivain by taking Starkhaven and Kirkwall: the attack on Starkhaven fails, but Kirkwall is taken in a daring night raid with a heavy use of saarebas' magic.
- 7:60 Storm: Orlesian forces led by Ser Michel Lafaille end the Qunari occupation of Kirkwall.
- 7:78 Storm: The Qunari lose Estwatch to the Felicisima Armada.
- 7:84 Storm: The end of the Third New Exalted March. The Qunari had been pushed back to the city of Kont-Aar in northern Rivain and Par Vollen. The Llomerryn Accords are signed and peace is declared between every human nations save Tevinter and the Qunari. Skirmishes between Tevinter and the Qunari are few while the Qunari pull back to Par Vollen and rebuild.
- 8:55 Blessed: The Qunari land on the Tevinter island of Seheron and conquer it handily within three years. Several attempts to land on the continent and attack Tevinter directly are repulsed.
- 9:12 Dragon: The Qunari launch a major offensive on Tevinter, but are repelled in a crushing counterattack. Qunari footholds on the Tevinter mainland are destroyed in the counteroffensive.
- 9:31 Dragon: Upon hearing of a Blight starting in Ferelden, the Arishok sends a platoon of his men south; all but one are killed by darkspawn. A few hundred Qunari are led by the Arishok to meet with Orlesians to reclaim the Tome of Koslun. The tome is stolen by a thief. The Qunari fleets give chase but are caught in a storm and forced to land in Kirkwall.
- 9:34 Dragon: After a series of provocations, the Qunari launch a full-scale attack on Kirkwall. They are driven away by the Champion of Kirkwall, Hawke.
- Main article: Qun
The Qun is the religion of the Qunari, though it is closer to a philosophy than a full-fledged religion. It governs every part of Qunari life, and even the governing structure is dictated by it. It gives every Qunari a defined and fixed place in their society, either as a soldier (part of the body), a craftsman (part of the mind) or a priest (part of the soul).
Society and culture
The primary symbol used to represent the Qunari as a people is the House of Tides icon, meant to signify the inevitable triumph of the Qun. It symbolizes the Qunari triumvirate, the three pillars which govern all of Qunari society through its three primary leaders in all matters of body, mind, and soul.
- Main article: Triumvirate
The "body" is represented by the Arishok and the military, the "mind" by the Arigena and the craftsmen, and the "soul" by the Ariqun and the priests. The Arishok is always male and leads the armies, the Arigena is always female and leads the craftsmen, whilst the Ariqun, whose gender varies, leads the priesthood. All three are the head of their respective "paths" and work in unison to complete the whole of Qunari society.
Duty is paramount in Qunari culture, and their society is seen as a living entity, whose well-being is the responsibility of all. Each person is like a drop of blood in the veins of the being, and they must not do what is best for them, but what is best for all.
The Qunari do not have a concept of personal identity. Whilst they posses names, they do not use them, resorting themselves to use titles rather than names to identify and present themselves. The names are in fact simply strings of genealogical information used only by the Tamassrans for record-keeping. Some of the name-titles include Sten, Arishok, and Tallis. However, they do make frequent use of nicknames.
Qunari have no "family units": they do not marry, choose partners, or even know to whom they are related. A father's role ends at conception, a mother's ends at birth. A Qunari's "family" consists of his or her peers.
Qunari usually do not associate mating with love. They do have the capacity to love, even having friends and forming emotional bonds with one another; however, they simply do not have sexual intercourse with each other to express it. If they do, then they are sent to be re-educated by the Ben-Hassrath. If a child is produced, the same thing happens as with all other Qunari children: it is sent to be raised by the Tamassrans, evaluated, and assigned a job. Qunari do not waste resources unnecessarily, people included.
Qunari have been bred for specific roles for a very long time. Parentage is no longer the issue, more like pedigree. However, breeding does not determine a Qunari's assigned task. If a Qunari was bred to be a soldier but turns out to be more intellectual, the Tamassrans may move him or her into the priesthood, researching weapons technology, or the Ben-Hassrath to police the populace, depending on what roles need to be filled by someone with their specific traits.
The Qunari are known to hold dragons sacred. High dragons are called Ataashi, "glorious one" in Qunlat. Some of this comes from physical similarities, while some believe that the Tamassrans cultivate dragon blood within the Qunari, allowing some to tap into combat abilities similar to Reavers. This, however, does not translate into reverence, as most Qunari accept that dragons are savage creatures that have to be put down in order to establish civilization. It is said that before converting to the Qun, the horned race prayed to animist gods, but such practices were outlawed by the Qun, and thus it would be against the law to openly revere the dragons.
The corpse of a Qunari is considered an insignificant husk that is no longer the individual that it once was and thus is afforded no special treatment, rather disposed of in whatever manner is most practical. Instead, their tools which they used to perform their job is collected, for example warriors' swords are considered to be their "souls".
- Main article: Education
Qunari society is based upon learning as well as military might. Few speak the common tongue that is used among Thedosians, and even fewer speak it well. For this reason, Qunari often keep quiet among foreigners, out of shame—in a culture that strives for perfection and mastery, to possess only a passable degree of skill is humiliating, indeed.
The Tamassrans wield a great deal of influence in Qunari society. As it is primarily a female gender role (as all administrative tasks are), this might lead an outsider to believe that their society is female-dominated. Qunari do not, however, look upon government in quite the same way. The brain could be said to rule the body, but so too does the heart, the lungs, the stomach. All are part of the greater whole.
The Tamassrans raise all the children, give them their general education, and evaluate them. Qunari are officially assigned their roles when they are twelve years old. The Tamassrans do conduct some tests, but nothing that requires a pencil. They also have something of a head start on the process, as they are the ones who control the Qunari selective breeding program.
Qunari strongly believe that the genders are inherently and intuitively better at certain tasks. No matter how much aptitude and promise a male shows for management, he will never be considered as good at it as a female, therefore it would be considered inefficient and a waste of resources to place him in a role where a woman would serve better. Instead, the Tamassrans find another role that he shows aptitude for and will place him there instead. The same goes for females, most Qunari will find it odd if a female becomes a warrior. The odd, very rare exception is made however. A male Qunari will farm if he must, just as a female will fight, depending on the circumstance. The Qunari also have the concept of "Aqun-Athlok," which means "born as one gender but living as another". If a female shows sincere interest and outstanding talent at fighting, she will be considered male, regardless of her biological sex. For the Qunari, gender is a secondary trait compared to their duty to the Qun.
There are fields like philosophy or sciences that make use of both genders, but even then, there is division by discipline. Men will do one kind of research and women another. The Ben-Hassrath also count both genders among their ranks, but they too are separated by specialization.
The Qunari reject private property. They also don't have currency, nor do they engage in direct bartering: they don't buy and sell things amongst one another. "Merchants" in Qunari cities have the job of making sure goods are distributed appropriately. They will however, trade with the rest of Thedas in a limited matter. To the Qunari, this trade is less a way to obtain goods as an opportunity to learn more about those who do not yet accept the Qun as law.
The Qunari actively work to improve methods of production via research and borrowing from conquered people and neighboring cultures. On the other hand, demands of the individuals are quite limited, as having "more houses and clothes" would mean more work to maintain them. In the countryside, Qunari houses are identical and arranged along perfectly orthogonal lines.
- Main article: Antaam
The Antaam serves as the Qunari's military branch and are led by the Arishok. The Antaam are metaphorically considered to be the eyes, ears, legs, arms, and hands of the creature that makes up their society; everything that one needs to interact with the world, and so most Qunari encountered by Thedosians belong to the military.
All Qunari are given a tool which signifies their role in Qunari society; for soldiers, this tool is always a weapon of some kind. In the case of soldiers, at least, to lose this weapon brands the owner as soulless and one who is to be executed on sight by the Antaam. These items are held in high regard, and upon the owner's death the Qunari may take the item to honor the fallen individual.
In the Qunari society females cannot be soldiers. While Tallis is an assassin who hunts Tal-Vashoth, she is Ben-Hassrath - a religious enforcer and a member of the priesthood (led by the Ariqun) rather than the military (led by the Arishok). Transgender female-to-male Qunari are welcome in the military however and are referred to as Aqun-Athlok.
The Qunari are more technologically advanced than the rest of Thedas, with the exception of the dwarves. Their capital city of Qunandar is famous for great domes and aqueducts, their architecture likened to beehives. They have developed an explosive powder ("gaatlok") that is safer than lyrium-based dwarven explosives. Its formula is a secret they carefully guard.
The Qunari cannons and dreadnoughts (or "floating fortresses" - massive wooden ships) allowed them to sweep across northern Thedas and advance far into mainland within ten years from their arrival on the continent. The allied nations relied heavily on the Circle of Magi to counter their cannons and on the Felicisima Armada to counter their fleet.
The Qunari had also developed a deadly poison ("saar-qamek"), which instills madness in the victim before eventually killing them. This poison can be inhaled or put on blades to affect a target's bloodstream, however there is at least one antidote that can be taken preemptively that will reduce or outright neutralize the poison's effects.
- “As does a drowning man know the sea, so does a mage know magic” ―A Qunari saying
The Qunari call their own mages "saarebas", which means "a dangerous thing" in Qunlat. As the Qunari believe that mages are ultimately unable to master themselves, each saarebas is entrusted to an "arvaarad" ("one who holds back evil") who bears a control rod. The Qunari do not blame them for their "defective" and dangerous nature, so frequently pity and honor saarebas, for lack of a better word. In practice, they are treated little better than attack dogs: They are leashed, shackled, collared, and their mouths are sewn shut. Should they be found practicing forbidden magic, their tongues are cut out to prevent them from corrupting others. The penalty for leaving their karataam is death, as they are assumed to have been corrupted by demons. The Qunari view this sacrifice, this selflessness - however unwilling - as the greatest virtue of the Qun. Lacking proper training, saarebas are essentially hedge mages, which does not preclude the Qunari from usage of saarebas forces in warfare, for instance during the first and the second Qunari invasions of Kirkwall.
Outsiders and converts
The Qunari view other nations as inferiors, kabethari (literally, "those who need to be taught") who are to be conquered and "enlightened", i.e. converted to the Qun. In the newly subdued areas they dismantle families: children are torn away from their parents and raised as Qunari, while adults are sent to "learning" (labor) camps for re-education performed by a branch of the priesthood called the Ben-Hassrath. The latter appear to be reasonable if an individual doesn't resist their severe teachings, and a new convert, or viddathari, may take a high position in the Qunari society.
In fact, it is possible for a human, elven or dwarven viddathari to become Ariqun, Arigena or Arishok should they show the merit for the role. However, this is naturally less likely than a qunari taking the role, given their far greater numbers in the Qun.
Refusal to cooperate is seen as illness to be cured, and those who resist are taken to the viddathlok, temples dedicated to healing. What happens later is not quite clear, but it is known that the Qunari use a substance called qamek to turn them into mindless laborers forced into indentured servitude or sent to mines or construction camps. Some would return, changed in profound ways, some would perish of exhaustion or starvation and some would be slain.
When the Qunari were pushed back during the Exalted Marches, the Chantry and nationalist forces purged numerous Qunari converts and buried them in mass graves, most notably in Rivain, Nocen Fields, and Marnas Pell in Tevinter. Afterwards the existence of the purge has been officially denied to have ever happened.
The Qunari call outsiders bas ("thing") and consider them unfortunate beings who, however, have a potential to grow if the Qun's wisdom is imparted to them. The best an outsider can hope for amongst the Qunari is to be considered a basalit-an, "worthy of respect"; a basalit-an is a worthy foe, and one that can be negotiated with to an extent, but still bas regardless. The characters which are known to be named with that title are the following:
- Main article: Qunlat
Qunlat is the Qunari language. Few among the Qun's people speak the common tongue, and fewer speak it well. In a culture that strives for mastery, to have only a passable degree of skill is perhaps embarrassing, so Qunari often keep quiet among foreigners.
- Ashkaari Koslun
- The Inquisitor (conditional)
- Iron Bull
- "Kossith" is an antiquated technical name that is only used by tamassrans to describe the horned race before most of it was converted to the Qun. A few members of the Qunari priesthood may recognize the word, but to everyone in Thedas, they're just "Qunari" or "Tal-Vashoth". Other races sometimes refer to them as "giants" or "ox-men" as well.
- All the races in Thedas are said to live approximately the same length of natural life, but Qunari have developed advanced medicine and sanitation, which allows them to extend their life span to some degree.
- No Qunari has ever joined the Grey Wardens. There are, however, rumours of several Tal-Vashoth taking the Joining in recent decades.
- The Qunari claim that they do not dream as humans and elves do. This claim is difficult to dispute as they are rarely encountered in the Fade. It should be noted, however, that Sten instantly understands he is dreaming if you take him on the Broken Circle quest, and the Iron Bull asks Solas if he ever flies or "bangs hot Fade ladies" while "doing his Fade thing," demonstrating a clear grasp of common dream themes. Saarath, a saarebas, outright states that he had "dreams of demons", further disproving the claim.
- Female Qunari or Kossith produce ogres if they turn into broodmothers.
- The qunari race is insinuated to have an innate savagery- a trait common among Reavers. Sten for example has exhibited bouts of uncontrollable murderous rage and Iron Bull states he revels in the brutality of combat. The qunari race may be so fanatical to the rigorous tenets of the Qun because it tames their savage impulses.
- If Morrigan's son Kieran is born with the soul of an Old God, he will comment sadly to Qunari Inquisitors that their blood does not belong to their people.
- If the Qunari Inquisitor sides with the Templars, Corypheus in his memories refers to them as "a beast of strange blood". During the final battle, Corypheus taunts the Qunari Inquisitor by saying "What do they call you, a Qunari? Your blood is engorged with decay, your race is not a race, it is a mistake!"
- Chained Qunari are depicted on an ancient Tevinter mosaic called Freed Are Slaves.
- In addition to Qunari and Tal-Vashoth, there are qunari born outside of the Qun who are called Vashoth. These individuals are potentially as ignorant of the ways of the Qun as non-Qunari in Thedas, however they are redeemable in the eyes of the Qunari, unlike the Tal-Vashoth.
- Qunari were always supposed to have horns. They were cut from Dragon Age: Origins. because otherwise Sten would be unable to wear a helmet.
- The absence of cookies in the Qunari culture is explained by their efficiency; most cultures initially develop cookies and cakes as a way to use up leftover batter from other things. Qunari plan ahead too well to have leftovers.
- There is a concept art image of a Qunari wearing an armour with the Seekers of Truth heraldry on it in Dragon Age II: The Complete Official Guide.
- Codex entry: The Qunari (Origins)
- Codex entry: Par Vollen: The Occupied North
- Codex entry: The Qunari
- Codex entry: Qunari of Other Races
- Codex entry: The Ben-Hassrath
- Codex entry: Qunari Tamassrans
- Codex entry: Ben-Hassrath Reeducators
- Tales of the Destruction of Thedas, in which a section of the book is dedicated to the Qunari.