DFD : The Forge of the Iron Banner
As we all know, Bungie has a rather sketchy approach to naming and lifting inspiration from various sources. But when they get it right, they get it right.
As the last article+video combo, The Secrets of Osiris, was enjoyed, here is another attempt at seeing what inspired the developers and from where they lifted their designs and lore. This time I will be focussing specifically on the “Iron Banner” (I.B.).
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So, a little history on The Iron Banner.
The Iron Banner came about after The Battle of Twilight Gap. The battle of Twilight Gap was a huge offensive campaign lead by the fallen house “The House of Devils”. Lord Saladin lead a brilliant defence of this little outpost but was ultimately defeated by “The House of Devils” and their massive onslaught.
In the confusion of a full retreat, Lord Shaxx (a student of Lord Saladin at the time), managed to consolidate the withdrawing guardian forces and lead a stunning counter offensive, that took the fallen completely by surprise and effectively ousted them from the outpost. Lord Shaxx’s counter attack was so devastating it broke the back of the fallen’s main forces and sent “The House of Devils” reeling into a full retreat themselves.
Feizel Crux commemorated the battle of twilight gap and the thousands of dead guardians by creating Gjallarhorn. Every Gjallarhorn is forged from the armour of those brave guardians who valiantly gave their lives in the defence of the city.
The Iron Banner and Crucible challenges were created by Lord Saladin and Lord Shaxx respectively out of the need to train the remaining guardians to higher levels of combat.
The Battle of Twilight Gap plays a huge part in the city’s and the tower’s lore. It is heavily littered with references to ancient germanic and norse mythology. So how does it all fit together?
Firstly a little history about these old germanic tales and norse beliefs. Here is a very brief version of the tale of Ragnarok: The Twilight of the Gods
Odin, the All-father, sees the future and the destruction of our world and he is powerless to stop it. Odin knows the death of his son Balden by Loki will signal the beginning of Ragnarok. A terrible winter will last for 3 years and is called Fimbulvetr. The wolves Sköll and Hatí, the sons of Fenrir, finally catch their prey as they have chased the sun and the moon across the skies for millennia. Sköll devours the sun while Hatí consumes the moon. This plunges the world into darkness and chaos and even the stars are wiped from the sky. Mortals fall into anarchy and mankind destroys itself. The world serpent Jormungand will writhe free from the oceans, causing great floods and staining the earth and sky with poison.
In Asgard, Heimdall sounds his mighty horn called Gjallarhorn calling Odin to battle upon the plain of Vigrid.
Fenrir the third son of Loki, free from his magical bonds seeks out Odin and the two are embroiled in an epic struggle as the world burns around them. Odin finally loses to the mighty wolf Fenrir and he swallows Odin whole. Upon seeing this, Odin’s son Vidar grabs the huge wolf Fenrir by its jaws and tears the massive beast apart.
Thor, the lord of thunder, attacks Jormungand and kills the world serpent outright, however inso doing is fatally poisoned by the despicable monster and dies himself.
Loki and Heimdall ultimately end up killing themselves ending their feud in brutal and bloody armed combat. Surt, the oldest and most powerful giant, flings fire and flame in every direction and the nine worlds burn, the smoke and flame licking the skies. Friend and foe alike die, as the earth sinks into the sea.
This is where it gets interesting, so let’s start!
Firstly, let’s discuss to overall design and map for the Iron Banner.
The main theme for the Iron Banner is a tree with two wolf heads on either side of it and it is plastered everywhere. From the bounties, to the emblems, to the armour, to the weapons and even Lord Saladin himself. The tree represents a Warden Tree or Yggdrasill. Yggdrasill is Odin’s tree, (Ygg is another name for Odin) and Odin hung himself from it in one of the epic eddas, Grímnismál. The two wolves either side of this giant ash tree would be Geri and Freki. Geri, represents greed and Freki, represents ravenous desires. We as guardians battle it out in and around the tower (Yggdrasill) to satisfy our desires for fame (Freki, The Ravenous), and sweet loot (Geri, The Greedy).
Further evidence pointing to the Tower being Yggdrasill, is that Odin’s tree connected the nine realms to Asgard and the tower connects us to the greater solar system of nine planets.
Depending on how far you want to go down the rabbit hole, you can pose, that the three titans Lord Saladin, Lord Shaxx and Commander Zavala are clever nods towards the three norns Urðr, Skuld and Verðandi; The weavers of destiny, the defenders and caretakers of the Yggdrasil. Saladin, Shaxx and Zavala defend the tower against the darkness.
As for the playable PvP map I can’t find a reference in it that links it to norse mythology, apart from its name Twilight Gap, which could well be a reference to the Twilight of the Gods, Ragnarok. It is the Gap that keeps the darkness at bay.
Ok, so that sorts out the main design and map. Next, weapons and armour.
In particular the legendary weapons and legendary armour that you can purchase from Lord Saladin. This is where Bungie seems to have let themselves down. The weapons and armour along with the shaders and emblems have little or no meaning to these epic tales. All the armour is simply called “Iron Regalia” and makes no mention to any battles, gods or ancient creatures. The weapons found within the Iron Banner do have some interesting references.
Weapons like Efrideet’s Spear, Silimar’s Wrath, and Jolders Hammer have no connection to the Eddas and I couldn’t find anything on them.
The other weapons however available do have obscure references:
Fel Winters Lie could point to the 3 year winter Fimbulvetr, or could simply be a cheeky poke at Game of Thrones.
Perun’s Fire, Perun was a Slavic god, the god-of-gods and god of thunder, he was the slavic version of a mix of Odin and Thor.
Radegast’s Fury, this is my favorite one – Radegast was the old slavic god of hospitality and mutuality. According to the legends, he is credited for the creation of beer; Clearly, Bungie wants us to enjoy drinking beer, while playing Destiny!
With Skorri’s Revenge, nothing was found apart from the name itself, “Skorri”, meaning “purring, loud” or “to purr loudly”.
Timur’s Lash could be a direct reference to a great mongol warlord Tamerlane. Between the 13th and 14th centuries his armies were feared across Europe and Asia and were responsible for the deaths of over 17 million people at the time.
I could find nothing else linking the weapons and armour to the
Eddas, even Lord Saladin’s name has nothing to do with these old histoires. Saladin, or Salah Ad-Din, was a Kurdish Sultan, who defeated King Richard the first (Richard the Lionheart) during the crusades in 1187 at The Battle of Hattin.
To me it feels that the devs got so far into the names and references with the weapons and just stopped early.
Now that we have the legendary weapons and armour out of the way let’s move on to the Exotic Armour and Weapons. The Armour of Alpha Lupi and Gjallarhorn.
Gjallarhorn was the name given to the horn used by Heimdall to call Odin and his kin to battle, upon huge plain of Vigrid. Gjallarhorn is done rather well with sixteen wolf motifs and an image on the viewfinder depicting Huginn & Muninn, the two ravens of Odin, who bring news from afar, letting Odin see the world and it’s on goings. However this little image could also represent a two headed eagle a design used by old germanic warriors! Either way a very clever tip of the hat to the old histories of norse and germanic mythology.
Lupi would be plural for Lupus, or wolf; these are armor-pieces for the alpha dogs or wolves of Destiny’s guardians. The Alpha Lupi chest-pieces also carries the wolf motif, pointing back to the two wolves in the Iron Banner design of Geri and Freki. As the players don these, they become the embodiment of Odin’s two hounds, who partake in the hunt (Iron Banner).
The two wolves on it could also be the sons of Fenrir, Sköll (Treachery) and Hatí (Hater or Enemy), who will eventually eat the sun (Sól) and the moon (Máni), the Light and the Darkness, as the worlds come to an end in a final battle.
Of cause, any cunning linguist out there will notice that “Alpha Lupi” mixes Greek and Latin, but in this case we will let it slide.
Based on what I have learnt over the past week, it seems to me that the Destiny developers have done well, binding the tales of Ragnarok and the old gods to the actual game itself with sly hints to the playable PvP map ,Twilight Gap.
Another epic struggle of Good Vs Evil / Light Vs Dark – Yes, they went a bit off-piste with some weapon names, but I think it was more a case of, “That sound badass lets use that” or “That looks cool, stick it in here” and to be fair it does work. They could have done more with it, since there is so much out there.
The designs and lore lifted from these mythologies look great in Destiny. The weapons and the armour surrounding the Iron Banner do look sweet and it lets other guardians know much ass was kicked in getting them.
So, all in all a good job all round, tea and medals, beer and bacon for everyone!
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