Dragon Age Origins: Shadow of the Blight
The Qunari (literally, “People of the Qun”) is a term that can refer to a member of any race who adheres to the teachings of the Qun. The majority of the Qunari are kossith. The Qunari do not have a concept of personal identity, and use titles rather than names to identify and present themselves. Their “names” are in fact strings of genealogical information used by the Tamassrans for record-keeping.
The Qunari are recent arrivals to Thedas, having arrived by warships four centuries ago from unknown eastern land across the Northern Ocean, with which contact has been lost some time during the Storm Age. While they once threatened to conquer all of the known world, they are currently involved in a war for dominance of the north against the Tevinter Imperium. The Qunari are apparently more technologically advanced than the native Thedosian cultures, possessing cannons and an impressive navy. The Beresaad is the name of the Qunari military division Sten belongs to. According to Sten, the Beresaad serves as “the vanguard of the Qunari people”. The Qunari lack mages in anything near the numbers that Ferelden has as magic is completely distrusted, and what few Qunari mages there are bound in chains and have their mouths sewn shut and occasionally their tongues cut out. Several Exalted Marches have been waged against them and they’ve lost much land in Thedas. The Qunari still hold Kont-aar in northern Rivain, but that is the only permanent non-island holding the Qunari currently retain. In Par Vollen, the city of Qunandar is reputed to be one of the largest in all of Thedas, rivaling Cumberland in Nevarra, with structural grandeur such as aqueducts and domes unseen elsewhere.
When the Qunari invade an area and capture the current citizens, they offer them the opportunity to convert to their philosophy, or be sent to work in prison camps. Any who resists either one are slain without pity, but some of those who convert to the Qun claim to feel pity towards those who choose not to. When the Qunari were pushed back by the Exalted Marches, the Chantry was disturbed to discover that a surprisingly large number of members of their faith had quite happily converted to the foreign religion.
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, even the governing structure is dictated by it, and it gives every Qunari a defined and fixed place in their society, either as a soldier (part of the body), as a craftsman (part of the mind) or as a priest (part of the soul). Fanatical in their devotion, they seem to seek to convert all of Thedas to the Qun, giving conquered citizens the choice of either converting, being sent to work at prison camps or being slain.
All followers of the Qun are considered heathens by the Chantry; all converts regarded as heretics, traitors to their teachings and the subjects of prosecution.
The primary symbol used to represent the Qunari as a people is a triangle, which symbolizes the Qunari triumvirate of body, mind, and soul. The “body” is represented by the Arishok (the military), the “mind” by the Arigena (the craftsmen), and the “soul” by the Ariqun (the priests). It is this triumvirate which governs all of Qunari society by acting as the three pillars or their three primary leaders in all matters—the Arishok (always male) who leads the armies, the Arigena (always female) who leads the craftsmen, and the Ariqun (either male or female) who 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 wellbeing is the responsibility of all. Each person is like a drop of blood in the veins of the being, and they must do not what is best for them, but what is best for the creature. The Qunari army is the eyes, ears, legs, arms, and hands of the creature, everything that one needs to interact with the world, and so most Qunari encountered by Theodesians belong to the military. One cannot understand somebody by simply studying their hand or foot, and so to truly comprehend Qunari society, one must visit their cities where the heart and soul dwell.
Qunari society is based upon learning as well as military might. Few speak the common tongue that is used among Theodesians, 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.
A Qunari’s personal name is not what we think of as a name. It is more like a social security number, information which the Tamassrans use to keep track of breeding, and is thus not something a Qunari uses to refer to one another. What a Qunari instead thinks of as their name is, in fact, their job title, which is differentiated by rank and task.
Qunari have no “family units”: they do not marry, choose partners, or even know to whom they are related. A Qunari’s “family” consists of his or her coworkers.
Qunari generally do not associate mating with love. They feel love. They have friends. They form emotional bonds with one another. However, they simply do not sleep with each other to express it. If they do, then they are sent to be reeducated 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.
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 at twelve years of age. The Tamassrans do conduct some tests, however nothing requiring 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.
Roles among the Qunari
Qunari believe that the genders are inherently better at certain tasks. No matter how much aptitude a male shows for management, he will never be quite as good at it as a female, therefore it would be considered inefficient to place him in a role where a woman might serve better. Instead, the Tamassrans find another role that he shows aptitude for and place him there instead.
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 into the priesthood, researching weapons technology, or the Ben-Hassrath, policing the populace, depending on what roles need to be filled by someone with their specific traits.
All Qunari are given a tool which signifies their role in Qunari society; for soldiers, this tool is always a weapon on some kind. In the case of soldiers, at least, to lose this weapon brands the owner as soulless and one who is to be 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. A corpse 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 whatever manner is most practical.
Qunari have their own mages. These saarebas (literally “dangerous thing”, from the root word bas, thing/object) are considered defective tools, but the Qunari do not waste those, either. These Qunari mages are kept literally on leashes, held by an arvaarad (“one who holds back evil”, i.e. their “handler”). Should they ever be seen performing forbidden magic, the mage’s tongue is immediately cut out in order to prevent them from communicating and possibly corrupting someone else.
The Tal-Vashoth are former Qunari who have rejected what the Qun, the Qunari way of life, teaches and move to fight against it. Just as Qunari denotes those that follow the Qun, elves and humans included, Vashoth denotes those who no longer wish to adhere to its rules; it is not specific to race. Literally, Vashoth means “Grey” and Tal-Vashoth means “True Grey”. Often times they will become mercenaries in other lands. It is not uncommon for a Tal-Vashoth to remove their horns as a form of protest agaisnt the Qun (as in the case of Armaas, and perhaps most mercenaries).
It is not entirely clear what motivates Qunari to reject the Qun, but one of the most likely reasons is the assignment of a very low and unpleasant place in Qunari society. Qunari who have ambition above their station, such as Armaas, or those bound by the Qun, come to resent their place in society, and thus the Qun. Others, such as Maraas, seem to simply tire of a life driven by duty and purpose. By leaving the Qun, people are named Vashoth by other Qunari. Those who come to hate their old society so much that they relish the outcast role the Qunari place upon them, sawing off their horns and terrorizing the Qunari countryside are called Tal-Vashoth or “True Grey”.
Qunari do not have currency. “Merchants” in Qunari cities have the job of making sure that goods are distributed appropriately. Qunari do not buy and sell things amongst one another.
The Qunari have developed certain technologies absent in Thedas, such as “gaatlok” (gunpowder) and cannons, the secrets of which they continue to carefully guard. With these technologies the Qunari were able to sweep across much of Thedas, including parts of the Tevinter Imperium. It wasn’t until Thedosian nations began using magi against them in large numbers that the Qunari were pushed back, magical attacks proving to be a counter for their cannons.
Aad: Possibly “unit”; used as a suffix in many Qunari military ranks.
Antaam: The Qunari army.
Ari: Possibly “person”; used as a prefix denoting singular or leadership, and as a suffix denoting a group.
Arigena: One of the Triumvirate, the three pillars/leaders of the Qunari people, leader of the craftsmen.
Arishok: One of the Triumvirate, the three pillars/leaders of the Qunari people, leader of the army.
Ariqun: One of the Triumvirate, the three pillars/leaders of the Qunari people, leader of the priests.
Armaas: Possibly “quartermaster”; provider of equipment.
Arvaarad: “One Who Holds Back Evil”; a Qunari who watches over the saarebas (Qunari mages) and hunts Tal-Vashoth.
Ash: To seek.
Ashaad: Ash, “to seek” and Aad “unit”. A Qunari scout. In Dragon Age 2 – a ranged Qunari warrior.
Ashkaari: “One who seeks”; scientists, philosophers, or those who have found enlightenment.
Bas/Basra: Literally, “thing.” Foreign to the Qun. Implication of being purposeless.
Basalit-an: A non-Qunari worthy of respect.
Basvaraad: “Worthy of Following”; an honorific.
Ben-Hassrath: “Heart of the Many,” an order who serves as defenders of Qunari faith, and unity.
Beresaad: A scouting company (military unit) which belongs to the vanguard of the antaam, sent to “answer questions” for the Arishok.
Besrathari: A recruiter and trainer of the Ben-Hassrath.
Dathrasi: A type of animal. Used as a derogatory term against indulgent individuals, comparable to the pig.
Ebasit: A form of “to be.”
Ebost: “Return” in “Return to dust!”
Esaam: “Can be found in” or “exists in the location of.”
Gaatlok: Explosive powder. Equivalent to real world gunpowder.
Gena: Craftsman or crafting.
Hissra: “Illusion”; often used to refer to deities.
Imekari: A child.
Itwasit: (It) “falls”.
Kabethari: “Simple person”. Term used for all recently-conquered people who haven’t converted to the Qun.
Kadan: Literally, “where the heart lies.” An all-purpose word for a “person one cares about,” including colleagues, friends and loved ones. Sometimes also “the center of the chest”.
Karasaad: Soldier rank. In Dragon Age 2 – a melee Qunari warrior.
Karashok: Infantry private. In Dragon Age 2 – a melee Qunari warrior.
Karasten: Infantry commander.
Karataam: A group of Qunari mages and their handlers.
Kasaanda: Sundew, a carnivorous plant.
Kashaari: A jeweler.
Kata: The end, death.
Katara: (You) die, as in “Die, thing!”
Ketojan:6 A bridge, specifically a bridge between worlds (religion).
Kithshok: Leaders of the Qunari army of Seheron. They also are in charge of negotiating trade between the Qunari and foreign traders at ports.
Maraas: “Nothing” or “Alone”.
Meraad: The tide.
Meravas: “So shall it be.”
Nehraa: “For,” as in “For the Qunari!”
Qamek: Substance used to turn those who refuse to convert into mindless slaves.
Qunari: People of the Qun.
Qunoran Vehl: One who is an example to others. A Qunari is declared “Qunoran Vehl” by Arishok and only after their death.
Saar: “Dangerous,” see Saarebas
Saar-qamek: Gas that causes madness in non-kossith.
Saarebas: Lit. “dangerous thing,” the Qunari word and title for mages. A “Bas Saarebas” denotes a non-Qunari mage.
Sataareth: Lit. “That which upholds”; an enforcer, defender, or foundation.
Shanedan: Literally, “I’ll hear you.” A respectful greeting.
Shok: “War” or “struggle”.
Sten: Infantry platoon commander.
Tal: “True,” see Tal-Vashoth.
Tallis: “To solve”.
Tal-Vashoth: “True Gray Ones.” Those Vashoth that become violent, mostly former Qunari soldiers.
Taam: Possibly “group” or “army.”
Taarbas: A title/rank of Qunari. Apparent role is to retrieve the weapons of fallen Qunari.
Tamassran: A priest who is charged with educating the young. Exclusively a role for women.
Vashedan: Crap (literally “refuse” or “trash”).
Vashoth: “Grey Ones”; those who abandon the Qun. Violent outcasts call themselves Tal’vashoth, meaning “true grey”.
Viddathari: A convert to the Qun.
Viddathlok: A temple of healing and recovery; as well used by Ben-Hassrath for re-education of unruly captives.
Qunari Phrases and Idioms
Asit tal-eb: “The way things are meant to be.” or “It is to be.” A driving principle of the Qunari philosophy.
Ataash varin kata: “In the end lies glory.”
Arishokost. Maaras shokra. Anaan esaam Qun: “Peace, Arishok. There’s nothing to struggle against. Victory is in the Qun.” Spoken by Fenris upon Hawke’s first meeting with the Arishok.
Basra Vashedan: Used to refer to non-Qunari ideas, and sometimes, people; “foreigner trash.”
Maraas imekari: “A child bleating without meaning.”
Maraas toh ebra-shok: “You alone are basalit-an.” Said to Hawke by the Arishok in the Viscount’s Keep if Hawke has previously earned the respect of the Arishok.
Nehraa aqun ebra kata Arvaarad: Meaning unknown; spoken by Arvaarad to Saarebas, resulting in his voluntary execution when given the choice to submit to the Qun.
Shok ebasit hissra. Meraad astaarit, meraad itwasit, aban aqun. Maraas shokra. Anaan esaam Qun: “Struggle is an illusion. The tide rises, the tide falls, but the sea is changeless. There is nothing to struggle against. Victory is in the Qun.” Extract from the Qun from Qunari Prayers for the Dead.
Teth a: A call for attention, or warning.
Vinek kathas: An order to attack or kill. Another possible meaning is “Seize them.”
Phrases used as Battle cries:
Ataash Qunari!: Glory to the Qunari!
Nehraa Beresaad! For the vanguard!
Katara, bas!: Die, thing!
Ebost issala!: Return to dust!
Ashkost say hissra!: Seek peace with your gods!
Nehraa kadan!: For my brothers!
Anaan esaam Qun!: Victory in the Qun!
- The Qunari have been nicknamed “militant Islamic Borg” by lead writer David Gaider. Gaider later clarified that he meant this as reference to the Qunari’s relationship with the other nations of Thedas, not to the specific tenets of Islam.
- The Qunari are quite likely based partially on the Ottoman Empire and Seljuk Turks, as they are mortal enemies of the Tevinter Imperium, the latter of which has been equated to the Byzantine empire. They possess advanced technology including cannons, are considered heathens by the Chantry and have been the target of multiple Exalted Marches, the Chantry’s equivalent to a Christian Crusade.
- David Gaider has said that Qunari architecture is influenced by Mayan architecture.
- In the Qunari society females cannot be soldiers. While Tallis from the Mark of the Assassin DLC is an assassin who hunts Tal-Vashoth, she is Ben-Hassrath – a religious enforcer and a member of the priesthood (lead by the Ariqun) rather than the military (lead by the Arishok).
- The structure of the Qunari society is similar to that of the ideal community outlined in Plato’s Republic, which divides the population into three classes: Producers (farmers, artisans, laborers, etc.), Auxiliaries (warriors) and Philosophers (rulers). Plato also argued that the interests of the state must always come before individual happiness, denied private property and stated that children should be raised communally (although the two latter viewpoints were only intended for the ruling class, not the whole society). However, unlike the Qunari, Plato condemned any kind of offensive warfare: the military would exist only to defend.