With the release of ANet’s latest blog post, new light has been shed on a race that had previously been an enigma to the Guild Wars community. As we had already known, the Kodan are a race of bipedal polar bears that once sailed the arctic oceans, but which have been driven from their homelands by the rise of Jormag (which is revealed in the article to have created new inland seas by breaking the land, explaining the presence of the Frostgorge Sound that has puzzled the community since its appearance in the Ghosts of Ascalon map). Previously viewed by the community as subordinate to the norn, the article reveals a proud people with their own strong beliefs which place them in a position of responsibility over the balance of nature, willing to judge and act against races and individuals they see as threatening the balance.
The kodan dwell in near-harmony on great iceberg-mounted cities called Sanctuaries, steered and directed by the population with massive banks of sails. These sanctuaries are each governed by two rulers acting in concert, with the actions and performance of one viewed as reflecting on the other. The Voice of each sanctuary is the spiritual leader, secluding himself in the heart of the sanctuary where he can be seen only by his shaman attendants and his co-ruler, from which he passes the laws of the community and sets long-term policy. The Claw tends to the physical needs of the populace, tending to daily administration of the Sanctuary and acting as war leader in times of conflict as well as serving as an intermediary between the populace and the Voice. By custom, the Voice and Claw are appointed together, and when one dies or is no longer capable of serving in his role, the other will retire to make room for the next pair.
The kodan’s primary deity is a being named Koda, whom they credit with forming the world. In ancient times, the world was filled with spirits of things tangible and intangible, living and inert – among which the kodan likely list the animal spirits worshipped by the norn and the gods worshipped by humans, forgotten, and other races as well as lesser spirits. In kodan myth, a bear was driven by the chaos caused by these spirits to gain the power of speech and use it to ask Koda why this was so. Impressed, Koda offered to grant the bears the power to change this by becoming stewards of the world, with those who accepted becoming kodan.
The will of Koda is interpreted by a caste of shamans, the pinnacle of which are the Voices of each sanctuary. The Voices open themselves to Koda through rituals that connect them to the Mists, a practice that can on rare occasions lead a Voice to a state of insanity called the Rage of Koda – viewed by the kodan of the sanctuary as a period of tribulation known as a Time of Trial until the death and replacement of the Voice.
The kodan believe in a system of reincarnation – in most cases a soul is reincarnated into the same species as their previous life, but an individual achieving exceptional enlightenment may be promoted by being reborn into a more enlightened species in their next life. This belief has the effect of sorting the sapient species into a hierarchy of spiritual enlightenment, which the kodan naturally see themselves as being on the top.
Two races hold special places in this hierarchy. The similarity of the bear forms of the norn with the kodan has lead some of the kodan shamans to believe that the norn are descended from kodan that abandoned kodan society during a great storm (possibly a metaphor for a previous awakening of the elder dragons?) and travelled south. Without the influence of the kodan religious caste, these outcasts fell from the spiritual purity of the kodan and were punished by changing into a less robust form, only able to take a shape reminiscent of their original form for short periods.
It is curious, especially since the norn are able to take forms of animals apart from bears, that the shamans choose to consider them to be devolved kodan rather than an intermediary stage between a humanoid and more bestial state, possibly just below the kodan. A cynical view may be that this interpretation is more useful to the kodan shamans as an object lesson of the result of abandoning the kodan religion.
The second race is the dwarves, whose disappearance the kodan view as the result of the race as a whole either jumping into the next stage of enlightenment or falling into the one below. What the kodan think of the appearance of the sylvari is not recorded, but it might be logical for them to regard the sylvari as replacing the dwarves in the spiritual hierarchy. Precisely where other races fit in their balance has not been revealed – it is possible that the kodan themselves are still in the process of making these judgements, but considering their beliefs, it is likely that races that are more in harmony with nature will be viewed as higher than those that are not.
By Guest-Writer: Draxynnic