We’ve talked a lot about Argrath, Jar-eel, the Red Goddess and the Red Emperor, the God Learners, and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends. Let’s move on to the most iconic and controversial hero of the Third Age – Harrek the Berserk.
Separating the stories of Harrek from the truth of his life is nearly impossible – certainly Irrippi Ontor has so far failed to do so. Harrek was, as far as any can tell, initially a normal Rathori warrior. There are rumors that Syndic’s Ban was somehow connected to his adulthood initiation but those are but rumors. What is known is that after he awakened in 1594, he was extraordinary. For over a decade, Harrek wandered the world without – both the mundane world AND the mythic realms. Stories of him as a penniless mercenary, a slave, a Lunar gladiator, etc., are often associated with this time. In 1605 he received training as a Dart Warrior. In 1607, as part of a Dart War, Harrek killed the Red Emperor and fled through the wilds of Dorastor to escape. Harrek is known to hate the Red Emperor and the Red Goddess with an overwhelming passion – it is thought this hatred originates from those experiences. And then in 1609, Harrek slew and bound the White Bear God – and now always wears its skin and claws. After this, Harrek was no longer merely extraordinary – he was a superhero, a shaman with a god as a fetch, a demigod of destruction and disorder. Constantly wandering through this world and the Mythic Realm, Harrek is constantly seeking treasures, weapons, and fame. But his goals are erratic. He’s thrown away fortunes and even kingdoms for further adventure, traveled all the way around the world, and quested along unknown paths. Harrek is said to be loyal only to Gunda, his Shield Maiden. His relationship with Argrath is more complicated; Argrath is the closest thing Harrek has to a true friend, but they also come to blows on several occasions. Harrek has an intense and inflexible hatred for the Lunar Empire and everything in it.
Harrek can be thought of as a great random factor throughout the Hero Wars. And one who does not fit easily within anyone’s models or frameworks. Within the overall setting, I think that may be his most important overall role.
Harrek is savage and uncivilised, but he’s also been trained by the Lunars, been to Dorastor, plundered cities in Fronela, Teshnos, Fonrit, and Seshnela. He’s definitely no fool and has bestial cunning.
One theory is that Harrek’s hatred is very personal (and focused on the Red Goddess, Red Emperor, and the demigods around them) and he didn’t appreciate that Gimgim the Grim or whoever brokered the deal was an agent of the distant Red Emperor.
As an aside, I think Anna Orlova is doing a great job of capturing his dangerous brutality, and I love that bloody white bear skin.
Harrek’s combination of power – both physical and spiritual – with his unpredictability makes him perhaps the most dangerous protagonist in the Hero Wars.
I personally find the idea of a self-initiated shaman terrifying.