This page by Greg Stafford and Jamie Revell dates from 2000, and was revised in Aug 2003. It will mostly be superseded by the Guide to Glorantha.
In the Green Age, nothing had a definite shape. Everything was able to be whatever it wanted to be, changing shape upon a whim. However, such innocence faded quickly when people made decisions that had consequences. The natural mutability of the world was lost as beings took on shape, power, and relationships.
Through the Golden Age, most of the greater world had taken shape, especially the division between godly and lesser beings. The gods and great spirits were still able to change their form, but most mortals were not. The Animal Folk were exceptions. These folks naturally took either animal or human form. Both human-shaped and beast-shaped animals lived together as kin, because they possessed the same souls; for them, physical form was incidental. Different peoples view this distinction in varying ways. The Telmori regard wolves and hsunchen as respectively four-legged and two-legged members of the Wolf People. The Uncoling reindeer folk believe that they are reindeer who just happen to be able to turn into humans. The Flari owl folk take the opposite approach – they are humans who can turn into owls.
When Telmor and his pack ate the Sun, the Long Winter began and everything went bad. Many of the Animal Folk kept their traditions and refused to take up any other way to survive. Others abandoned their traditions and lost their connection with their kin, becoming just humans or just animals. This way many survived into the hostile world of modern history, while many others became extinct.
The survivors are today called ‘hsunchen,’ a Kralori term that was spread by the God Learners in the Imperial Age. Those intrepid explorers discovered that the scattered and weak primitives of their West carried on traditions similar to those of the eastern tribes that dominated the Shanshan Mountains of Kralorela. They transported wise men back and forth across the continent to observe their interactions, and in this way united some tribes that had long been lost from each other. Consequently, traditions are even more similar across the continent now than they were at the Dawn.
The God Learners conducted many studies of the hsunchen during the Imperial Age. They found other peoples who were scattered like the Damali, such as the Basmoli of the Wastes and Pamaltela, or the Sofali of Teshnos, Pamaltela, and the East Isles. One of the essential clues to their discoveries was the fact that all hsunchen of a given totem, regardless of separation, spoke the same language. When apparently related hsunchen peoples spoke different languages, such as the Zonati and Stricort porcupine people, the God Learners were able to show that they were not related. On the other hand, when scattered groups of different human races spoke the same language, as was true of the Damali peoples of Ralios and Kralorela, the God Learners were able to identify them as belonging to the same totem.
Hsunchen people are born with only minor differences from other humans, but they know and feel their innate contact with their ancestral animal. Their shamans help them to reconnect with their heritage, to restore their lost parts of their souls to them, giving them the animal powers their ancestors once lost. All adult hsunchen are able to take at least some physical features of their associated beast, and their heroes can usually transform themselves fully.
All hsunchen peoples share the Korgatsu Tradition. Korgatsu is the most popular hsunchen name of the Cosmic Dragon (sometimes said to be a serpent) that was torn apart, and whose parts made the universe and its inhabitants. When Death came into the world the faithful and moral among the people found Korgatsu again in the Spirit World. They learned how to help descendants who were still living, how to be reborn again, and what new ceremonies were necessary to preserve the world. Every hsunchen tribe has variants within this Tradition, but the deepest essentials of the religion are the same for all. All revere an animal that is the ruler of the universe. The tradition includes most of the local fauna (sometimes as enemies), places, and plants. The origin myth of one tribe, the Pralori, is told on pg. 59 of Anaxial’s Roster.
The hsunchen peoples share a deep distrust of any technology greater than what we would consider a Paleolithic level. Thus, they refuse to plow the soil or bind animals as slaves. They consider civilization to be an abomination upon the earth, and its people to be miserable weaklings. They regard theism and sorcery as misguided efforts to survive used by desperate people who lost Korgatsu. As such, all true hsunchen shun such magic.
Most hsunchen peoples are related to mammals, although a few claim kinship with bird or reptile totems. The Gorakiki Tradition is remarkably similar to the hsunchen traditions, but it originates from the ancient Darkness and not Korgatsu, and Gorakiki-worshipping Uz are never called hsunchen. Several other peoples exist that are often mistaken by the ignorant as hsunchen, such as the Vuskarasas fox-women of Kralorela or the Sedrali dog-people of Ralios.
Ten Great Peoples (or, to outsiders, “tribes”) of hsunchen live in Genertela. Each has a significant population and sizable homeland, and in fact may actually contain several distinct peoples. Thus, the Rathori Bear People are actually comprised of several groups, including the Brown Bear People, Black Bear People, and Blue Bear People. In addition, an uncertain number of smaller “tribes” exist, most of which are smaller than a typical Heortling tribe. For example, among the Rathori live a dozen or more peoples, including the Flari (Owl Hsunchen), Hogari (Mammoth People), and Lotari (Fronelan Raccoon People). Although some of these are described below, others are not, and as many as 50,000 hsunchen in various other small tribes live among the Rathori. Thus, if a narrator wishes to create a small hsunchen tribe, she can easily justify it as living among the Rathori. Other large hsunchen tribes may also have such small tribes living among them.
Numerous hsunchen peoples live on the continent of Pamaltela, but we do not describe them here. Many more peoples are now extinct or have been absorbed into other cultures, and as such are beyond the scope of this article.
The Ten Great Hsunchen Peoples of Genertela
Rathori (Bear People)
Population: 900,000 (mostly Irgari).
Homeland: Rathorela (Fronela).
The Rathori are the single most populous hsunchen people on the continent, and probably across Glorantha as a whole. Rathor is the Great White Bear, but the hsunchen honor his children and are actually comprised of several related “clans” who collectively are the Rathori. The majority are Irgari, who have the brown (grizzly) bear as their totem. However, the Irdagi, kin to black bears, form a significant minority, and a very small number of Orenrar are known, children of the Blue Bear. The three groups live in peace with one another, and generally share a single culture. Many tiny clans of other peoples live among them as well, often performing specialized magical tasks.
The Rathori are a numerous people, and congregate in small villages amidst the great pine forests of the north. Aldryami refugees from Erigia taught them the use of the powerful longbow, making them the only non-Aldryami users of this weapon in Glorantha.
All Rathori peoples were affected by the Syndics Ban. They were hibernating at the time, and when they awoke, it was decades or centuries later, rather than merely the next Spring. Harrek the Berserk, the infamous hero, originally came from among the Rathori Peoples.
Damali (Fallow Deer People)
Homelands: Shanshan Mountains; scattered in West (primarily Ralios).
The Damali are widely scattered across Genertela. The vast majority of Damali live among the foothills of the Shanshan. However, a smaller number dwell in the eastern wilds of Ralios, among the Pralori and the Rathori, and (formerly) in southern Peloria.
The Damali are generally peaceful, and have good relations with most of their neighbors. Although the eastern and western groups share traditions and are kin to the fallow deer, they are of different human races. The Ralian hsunchen are a wareran race, but their eastern counterparts are of kralori stock.
Lo-fak (Yak People)
Homeland: Shanshan Mountains, Far Pent.
The Lo-fak are heavily built compared to normal humans, but they are not actually non-human as some lowland Kralori claim. The Lo-fak subsist primarily off their animals, supplemented by their frequent raids of the lowland. They are a relatively settled, non-nomadic people, but of course are not agrarian. The bulk of the Lo-fak live in the Shanshan Mountains, but clans often roam through the northernmost reaches of Pent.
Hsa (Tiger People)
Homeland: Shanshan Mountains, Teshnos.
The warlike Hsa tiger people live in small, nuclear family groups and are widely distributed across the Shanshan Mountains and the jungles of Teshnos. Neighboring humans rightly fear them, but they are friendly to the Aldryami of Fethlon. They are very mysterious and secretive, and almost universally hostile to non-hsunchen humans. They are the most fearsome warriors among the eastern hsunchen, and show no fear in battle.
Qa-ying (Eagle People)
Homeland: Shanshan Mountains.
Although they nest throughout the Shanshan Mountains, the Qa-ying are most common in the Hso Shan (northern) reaches. They remain aloof from the Kralori and Teshnans, often raid Pentan herds, and are hostile to the people of Koromandol. They are expert archers, and inhabit some of the most rugged parts of the mountains. The Qa-ying are rivals of the nar sylla (wind children; see Anaxial’s Roster, pg. 28), who share their habitat and hunting grounds. Despite this hostility, because the Qa-ying sometimes use their magic to sprout wings, foreigners often confuse the two races.
The Qa-ying are noted for their successes against the storm and wind gods. In the Battle of Six Herds, they collected so much metal armor and weapons from their foes that they have since traded them to others. This has led to the belief even among some hsunchen peoples that the Qa-ying possess the secret of working metal.
Mraloti (Boar People)
Homeland: Ramalia (Maniria).
The Mraloti of Maniria are the boar people. Malkioni from the west conquered them during the Second Age, and forced many of them into serfdom. They are generally hostile to outsiders, although most are now kept in check by their Malkioni overlords.
Many Mraloti have converted to an agrarian lifestyle, and have given up their hsunchen ways. A little under two-thirds retain the ancient style of worship, but even these are becoming bastardized, and many do not count them among the true hsunchen. The two types are generally known as ‘Fallen’ and ‘Pure’ Mraloti, respectively, although the ‘Fallen’ call themselves ‘True Earth Mraloti,’ and claim a direct connection with the earth and fertility spirits.
Telmori (Wolf People)
Homelands: Telmoria (Ralios), Dorastor, Dragon Pass.
The Telmori are one of the most widespread hsunchen peoples. They are divided into two groups by a magical curse levied against them in the First Age by Talor the Laughing Warrior. ‘The Pure Ones’ are similar to other hsunchen, and live primarily in Ralios. ‘The Cursed Ones’ are a minority in Ralios, but form the bulk of Dorastan and Sartarite Telmori. These former followers of Gbaji involuntarily shift into wolf-form every Wildday (which happens to be the Full Moon Day in Dragon Pass, but not in Ralios). Both types of Telmori share one culture and religion, however.
Pujaleg (Bat People)
Homelands: Kralorela, Teshnos.
The Pujaleg live in the foothills and jungles surrounding the Shanshan Mountains, rather than in the higher regions. They are pygmies, and lead a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Each “clan” associates with a different species of bat, although few outsiders can tell the difference. The different groups do not live together, but all are friendly to the Aldryami and, like most hsunchen, the Kralori view them as enemies.
Uncolings (Reindeer People)
Homeland: Tastolar (Fronela).
These foot nomads inhabit the tundra regions just below Valind’s Glacier. They subsist almost entirely on their herds, making use of their milk, meat, antlers, etc. Their land is sufficiently desolate that nobody else will live there, except the occasional foraging Uz. Despite their low technological level, the Uncolings are the most socially sophisticated of the Hsunchen cultures. Each spring they meet in a huge gathering, and perform ceremonies that require thousands of participants. Great herds of reindeer live in Farther Pent, but have no hsunchen among them.
Pralori (Elk People)
Homeland: Pralorela (Ralios).
Pralori use their elk as riding animals. This distinguishes them from their cousins, the Damali, with whom they are often confused. They are also less secretive than their relatives, and sometimes engage in cautious trade with the caravans that cross their land. Once they were more powerful, and ruled much of Wenelia, but they were driven back to Pralorela at the end of the Dawn Age. They are still a haughty and proud people, and look down on all those who lack steeds or who must ride inferior, antler-less, beasts.
Minor Hsunchen Peoples of Genertela
Kloisari (Badger People)
Homeland: Rathorela (Fronela).
The Kloisari have a reputation for being grouchy and anti-social, at least with foreigners. They sometimes hire as mercenaries along the Janube River, but generally prefer to keep to themselves. Since they commonly daub themselves with musk and animal urine, their neighbors prefer this arrangement.
Zonati – (Yellow Quill Porcupine People)
Homeland: Rathorela (Fronela).
The Zonati revere the semi-arboreal porcupines of the northwest, and are quite distinct from their eastern cousins. They are hunter-gatherers, and live in deep forest with the Rathori. They are generally friendly with their neighbors, and are a much more peaceful folk than the Stricort. They even trade with foreign merchants on occasion. Civilized humans throughout Fronela believe that the Zonati men are prodigiously endowed by comparison with other humans.
Chumbari (Jungle Cat People)
The Chumbari live in the jungles of northern Teshnos and in the foothills of the Hachuan Shan (the southern expanse of the Shanshan Mountains). They revere the Teshnan jungle cat, a small wild feline with lustrous golden-brown fur. The Chumbari are very secretive, and have little contact with other races, although they are friendly with the Aldryami. Because of this, very few outsiders have ever encountered a member of this hunter-folk, and many doubt their existence.
Ri-si (Woodpecker People)
Homeland: Shanshan Mountains.
The Ri-si live the eastern foothills of the Hsa Shan (central Shanshan Mountains). They are less hostile than many other eastern hsunchen, and bear no particular animosity to the Kralori, although they avoid them when they can. They subsist by hunting, trapping, and foraging.
Gord-un (Gopher People)
These pygmy folk live in widely scattered burrow complexes beneath the plains and are enemies of the Pentan horse nomads. They are little known to outsiders, and only survive because of their subterranean lifestyle.
Chen-ga (Snow Leopard People)
Homeland: Shanshan Mountains.
The Chen-ga inhabit some of the highest parts of the Shanshan Mountains. They almost never visit the lowlands, so many Kralori do not even believe they exist. They raid the Lo-fak and Damali from time to time, in order to steal their livestock. They are hunters, and disdain all other races.
The Snow Leopard people are also sometimes called the Cloud Leopard people, because they live so high in the mountains that some Kralori believe that they can fly. Their totem animal is sometimes confused with the hecher ama (storm tiger), possibly adding to the confusion, since that creature is a magical animal that can fly and stalk prey among the clouds.
Caroni (Mountain Goat People)
Homeland: Mislari Mountains (Ralios).
One of the more numerous of the minor Ralian hsunchen tribes, the Caroni inhabit the forbidding mountains and foothills of the Mislari Mountains. Outsiders rarely enter their lands, so they are able to maintain a generally peaceful existence. While some ignorant people associate them with Broo, the Caroni have as much distaste for chaos as do other sensible Gloranthans.
Sofali (Turtle People)
Homeland: Fethlon (Verenela).
The Sofali dwell along the Fethlon coast, where they live by fishing and foraging. They are a peaceful people, although skilled at defensive warfare. They live in only temporary villages ashore, preferring to sail amidst their swimming cousins. Much larger populations of Sofali live in Pamaltela and the East Isles, and occasionally visit their northern kinsmen.
Sabadari (Wolverine People)
Homeland: Rathorela and Porent (Fronela).
These renowned warriors are fearless berserks. They raid civilized farms when they have the opportunity, and show no mercy to their foes. Rumors of cannibalism are probably exaggerated, but even the other hsunchen fear them.
Rinkoni (Bobcat People)
The Rinkoni live along the southern fringes of Fronela, and are a menace to their neighbors. They travel in small war-bands and exact tribute from the less defended settlements of the region. Despite their ferocity, their reputation for brutality is generally exaggerated.
Lotari (Fronelan Raccoon People)
Homeland: Rathorela (Fronela).
The Lotari inhabit the forests of Rathorela. They have little respect for their neighbors, although they stop short of outright conflict, instead preferring the occasional theft under cover of darkness. They are masters of concealment, and are infamous for their deviousness and untrustworthiness. Outsiders say that Lotara, the great raccoon spirit, was once a lover of Trickster, which may explain his children’s propensities.
The Lotari are unrelated to the Tunoralings of southern Peloria, who revere their raccoon god but are not hsunchen.
Falani (Beaver People)
The Falani dwell in the valleys of the minor rivers of Saug, in eastern Ralios. They are a sedentary people, living in lodges like their beaver kin. They are peaceful, and only come into conflict with humans when their dam-building activities affect local fishing.
Basmoli (Lion People)
Homeland: Wastes, formerly Seshnela.
At the Dawn, the Basmoli were a great tribe in Genertela, from Seshnela all the way to the Wastes. Their founder Basmol was slain by the prehistoric superhero Tada, a fact that they understandably regard with bitterness. The Basmoli are powerful berserks, and are always willing to fight against the humans who slew their ancestor.
The Malkioni destroyed most of the Basmoli of Seshnela and southern Maniria. The Sandrya Tribe of southern Ralios worship Basmol as a god, not a spirit, and are no longer hsunchen. The Basim Tribe of Seshnela are also descendants of Basmol, but have abandoned their hsunchen heritage in favor of Orlanthi ways. Many Basmoli live in Pamaltela, where they await their spirit’s glorious return from the north.
Stricort (Porcupine People)
The Stricort revere the ground-dwelling porcupines of the southeast. They are strict vegetarians. Although generally non-hostile, they are deeply suspicious of all outsiders, and aggressively deal with invaders. They deal with Aldryami only reluctantly, and so live only in the small patches of non-Aldryami forests in Verenela.
Alekki (Moose People)
Homeland: Delela (Ralios).
The Alekki are a minor tribe of Ralios, now found only in western Delela. They are frequently confused with the much more numerous Pralori, especially as the term ‘elk’ often refers both to the moose and to the wapiti associated with the larger tribe. The Alekki are generally more peaceful than their cousins, and have greater contact with the local Orlanthi.
Akkari (Skunk People)
Homeland: Rathorela (Fronela).
Almost everyone avoids these primitive hunter-gatherers, although they present no serious threat and are generally non-hostile. This allows them to live peacefully in isolation, and they been essentially unaffected by the history of the lands around them. Consequently, few civilized folk are aware of the remarkable physical beauty of the Akkari and of their sensuously indulgent lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, the Akkari, like four-legged skunks, do not smell at all unpleasant – unless, of course, you should happen to annoy one who possesses the Musk-Spray talent!
Flari (Black Owl People)
Homeland: Rathorela (Fronela).
The Flari are a small tribe of Fronelan savages that worship the black owl. Their stealthy nocturnal raids, and their ability to turn into birds, give them a fearsome reputation.
Hogari (Mammoth People)
Homeland: Rathorela (Fronela).
Only a few clans of the hulking Hogari still exist, scattered among the northern reaches of Rathorela. In earlier times, they ranged as far north as Valind’s Glacier, but the fierce Uz and hollri have driven them from their ancestral lands. They have little to do with the other, more southerly inhabitants of the forest, but trade peacefully with the Uncoling when the migrations of both peoples bring them together.
Despite appearances, the Hogari and their mammoths are not related to the more numerous mastodons familiar to the inhabitants of northern Fronela.
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