Dragon Age: The Origin Of The Darkspawn, Explained

Dragon Age: The Origin Of The Darkspawn, Explained

Quick Links

  • The Confirmed Basics
  • The Orlesian Chantry Interpretation
  • The Imperial Chantry (Tevinter) Interpretation
  • The Dwarven Interpretation
  • Corypheus' Claims

The darkspawn are a mysterious, zombie-like race from the Dragon Age franchise. In the vast world of Thedas, just like in the real world, multiple cultures and countries butt heads against one another, with different interpretations of history, different religions, and different ideas about the perfect life.

Darkspawn are one such point of contention. Different groups disagree about where they came from, who is to blame (if anyone), and how long they've been around. In this article, we're reviewing these interpretations to give you a clearer sense of the entire picture, from Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age 2, and Dragon Age: Inquisition.

The Confirmed Basics

There are a few things we can say for certain about the darkspawn.

  • Darkspawn carry a disease called the "Taint."
  • Darkspawn live underground, in the Deep Roads.
  • "Blights" occur when darkspawn, who are usually disorganized and chaotic, are organized and led by an Archdemon (who is always a dragon of some kind).
  • Darkspawn can be born from Tainted creatures called Broodmothers.

The Orlesian Chantry Interpretation

The Orlesian Chantry version is the one that the player is introduced to at the beginning of Dragon Age: Origins, in Duncan's narration. It's also the interpretation you'll come across the most during your time playing the games. According to the Chantry, the darkspawn were created by human folly. They call the event that created the darkspawn the "Second Sin."

The Fade

Dragon Age introduces a magical realm separate from the physical one called 'The Fade.' Spirits live in the Fade, and when anyone dreams, they go to the Fade in their sleep. A notable exception to this is dwarves, as Varric explains in Inquisition dwarves do not dream.

The Chantry holds that the Maker (who is similar to the Christian God) once lived in a place called the "Golden City" in the Fade. Then, one day, seven Tevinter Magisters tried to reach the Golden City. They were able to get there but, since it is entirely pure, it was tainted and turned black by their natural human sins of pride and hubris. The Magisters were cast back out into the physical world as the first Darkspawn, carrying the Taint, which they eventually passed on to others.

The Old Gods (Orlesian Chantry Version)

The Old Gods were once spirits who decided that the living should worship them, and whispered to the living in their dreams. After being sufficiently influenced, the humans summoned the spirits into the real world, where they took the form of dragons. The dragons ruled, and the humans worshipped them, instead of the Maker. The Maker, in his anger, cursed the Old Gods, and put them to sleep in prisons, deep underground.

The first darkspawn went underground, digging deep as they could go. Eventually, these darkspawn found the underground prison of one of the Old Gods: Dumat. They freed Dumat and awoke him, and their Taint turned him into the first Archdemon. Dumat led the Darkspawn to the surface and used them as an army to attack the world, causing the First Blight.

The Imperial Chantry (Tevinter) Interpretation

The Imperial Chantry does not blame mortals (specifically, does not blame any Magisters) for the creation of the darkspawn, or for the Blights.

The Imperial Chantry doesn't offer an official alternative to the Orlesian Chantry's version. So, all we have to go on is the consensus of the people in Tevinter.

Based on dialogue with Dorian in Dragon Age: Inquisition, most Tevinter citizens seem to believe that there is no connection between the Blight and the Magisters, and that Darkspawn have just always existed.

However, one codex entry from Dragon Age: Inquisition discusses a part of the Chant of Light that places blame for the existence of the darkspawn on the Old Gods, not on mortal sin. A different source is more specific, blaming the creation of the darkspawn on Dumat. This may be a belief held by some people in Tevinter to the modern-day, or just a historical belief that has died out.

The Old Gods (Imperial Chantry Version)

The Old Gods were worshipped by the precursors to the Tevinter Imperium. When the Magisterium was established, it was made from among priests of the Old Gods. Most citizens worshipped the Old Gods at that time. When the First Blight occurred, those who were worshipping the Old Gods were horrified at seeing their own God attacking them. Eventually, the entire country converted (by choice or forcefully) to the worship of the Maker.

The Dwarven Interpretation

Though the dwarves don't believe in either of the Chantries or in the Maker, they've certainly been plagued by the darkspawn for years. When the first darkspawn went underground, they destroyed much of the sprawling dwarven empire. The remaining dwarven cities (Orzammar and Kal-Sharok) must always hold their borders against incoming darkspawn.

Dwarves don't speculate about how the darkspawn came to be, necessarily. However, some Shapers (academic dwarves who are charged with maintaining the memories of the dwarven race) have speculated that there is a "Queen" or "First" Broodmother.

The dwarves in Orzammar have a group called the "Legion of the Dead," a kind of military that is trained for the specific purpose of fighting Darkspawn. Dwarves that become a part of the Legion are considered to be dead after they join.

Corypheus' Claims

In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the primary antagonist is Corypheus, who is an ancient darkspawn and, supposedly, one of the Magisters who the Orlesian Chantry says entered the Fade and was cast out as the first darkspawn. Corypheus has his own version of the story, which includes elements of the Orlesian Chantry's and the Imperial Chantry's.

According to Corypheus, the Magisters did enter the Golden City, but not by their own plan. He was a Magister who was also the High Priest of the Old God Dumat, and began to hear Dumat in his dreams. Dumat supposedly promised to make Corypheus into a god if he entered the Fade and claimed the Golden City. Corypheus agreed but could not accomplish this alone, so he asked for the help of the other six high priests.

The High Priests were able to enter the Fade and reach the Golden City. However, while the Orlesian Chantry says that when they reached it they turned it black with their hubris, Corypheus claims that it was already black when they reached it and that the throne, where the Maker should sit, was empty. He does not comment any further on the creation of the darkspawn race. Corypheus is said to have fallen into a sleeping state for around 200 hundred years until he awoke in the aftermath of the First Blight. Soon after, he was captured by Grey Wardens.

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