Ogier are large, long-lived non-human beings (natural, not constructs) with an empathy for plant life and a talent for working with stone. Some can even make plants grow useful items without damaging themselves (sung wood). They are very sensitive to the atmosphere of a place, so much so that they have a geomantic feel for the land:
“You must shape the vision to the land, not the land to the vision.”Jordan combined many figures when constructing the Ogier as he revealed at a book signing:
-The Eye of the World, Web of the Pattern
Loial spoke as if he had not heard. “Everything is linked, Rand. Whether it lives or not, whether it thinks or not, everything that is, fits together. The tree does not think, but it is part of the whole, and the whole has a - a feeling.”
-The Great Hunt, Kinslayer
Q: What was your inspiration for the Ogier?This essay discusses some of those sources.
A: It's really impossible to say here. The Ogier came from a dozen different sources, at least.
The name Ogier is derived from two sources: Ogier the Dane and ‘ogre’.
Ogier the Dane
Ogier the Dane is the subject of a tale in Legends of Charlemagne, Bulfinch’s Mythology.
He was the son of the first Christian King of Denmark and was blessed by six beautiful ladies at his birth:
“She who appeared eldest took him in her arms, kissed him and laid her hand upon his heart. “I give you,” said she, “to be the bravest warrior of your times.” She delivered the infant to her sister, who said, “I give you abundant opportunities to display your valour.” “Sister,” said the third lady, “you have given him a dangerous boon; I give him that he shall never be vanquished.” The fourth sister added, as she laid her hand upon his eyes and mouth, “I give you the gift of pleasing.” The fifth said, “lest all these gifts serve only to betray, I give you sensibility to return the love you inspire.” Then spoke Morgana, the youngest and handsomest of the group, “Charming creature, I claim you for my own; and I give you not to die till you shall have come to pay me a visit in my isle of Avalon.”The reference to Avalon is interesting, since the name Avalon is similar to Tar Valon, a city the Ogier built and consider their finest work. The first three blessings for Ogier the Dane seem most apt for Loial, who has been drawn into battle more than most Ogier, and led them into the Last Battle, but Seanchan Ogier and Age of Legends Ogier have a fearsome reputation as fighters and police.
- Legends of Charlemagne, Bulfinch’s Mythology
The Ogier were also reputed to have served among [the Age of Legends’] law enforcement. Although considered a pacific people and extremely slow to anger, some old stories say they fought alongside humans in the Trolloc Wars, and call them implacable enemies.Ogier the Dane was seven feet tall and too heavy for any horse but his own. He was educated to the standard of a perfect knight. At age 16, he was sent to France as hostage to King Charlemagne, to whom his father owed homage, and left as such for 15 years. After four years, Ogier was forced to swear fidelity to Charlemagne as his liegeman. He kept his oath, saving Charlemagne in battle by his strength and valour and leading the forces requested by his father from Charlemagne, even though his father had left him a hostage for all those years at Charlemagne’s court. He was a noble character who forgave those who did dreadful wrongs to him.
-The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
On the way back from the wars, Ogier was the sole survivor of a shipwreck and was taken to Morgana’s palace at Avalon. Morgana placed a crown of flowers on his head which robbed him of his memory so that he forgot everything except his desire to stay with her. He did so for more than 100 years, aging slowly, until Morgana playfully removed the crown of flowers one day and his memory returned. He then wanted to rejoin to Charlemagne’s court. However, after such a long time, all was changed, even the language. Nevertheless, Ogier went to war again for the Capetian King, Charlemagne’s descendent. After a few years, Morgana magically transported Ogier back to live with her on Avalon, where Ogier also kept company with King Arthur there.
As well as the name Ogier, Jordan derived much of the character of Ogier from Ogier the Dane: the keeping of oaths (even those made under duress), the loyalty, the forgiving nature, great size and strength and very long life. And the magical transportation is a parallel of the Book of Translation which sends Ogier to other worlds if opened (Knife of Dreams, Vows). The transportation is not directly performed by a person using magic as Morgana did to Ogier the Dane, but the Book of Translation may be a ter’angreal originally created by a channeller. Ogier the Dane had the dilemma of whether to stay in his refuge with Morgana or return to Charlemagne’s court to do his duty to his liege lord. The Ogier had to choose whether to fight against the Shadow or flee to a place of safety.
The second source for the name is ‘ogre’.
Ogres and trolls are very large humanoid creatures that occur in Northern European folklore. The ogres (related to the Latin Orcus) are a race of fierce and cruel humanoid beings that eat human flesh; they are also shy, cowardly and unintelligent, which makes it easy for men to outwit them. A female ogre is called ogress. Ogres are said to be able to change their shape at will into animals or objects, and they often dwell in marvellous palaces or castles, sometimes underground. In art, ogres are depicted with a big head, abundant hair and beard and a huge, strong body.
The physical descriptions of ogres and Ogier are pretty similar, as are a few aspects of their respective characters, notably the shyness and reluctance to fight. (The negative aspects of ogres were used to develop Trollocs.) Ogier live under mounds in the forests of stedding, like some ogres live underground, and have built marvellous buildings for humans.
In Scandinavian countries, trolls feature in folktales rather than ogres.
Trolls are usually depicted as quite ugly gigantic beings (less often as dwarfs), with big noses, long arms, and hairy bodies. They are unintelligent, although the females may be quite cunning. They flinch at noises, because Thor used to fling his hammer at them.
In Scandinavian fairy tales trolls generally turn to stone if exposed to sunlight. They live in the forest and in mountains and sometimes abduct children to live with them (especially princesses). Occasionally, they even steal a newborn baby, leaving their own offspring, a changeling, in return.
The character of Ogier is the opposite of trolls, being kinder and more intelligent and law-abiding. Their appearance and living places are similar though: large wide noses, big limbs and hairy bodies and forest homes. They also both dislike loud noise. Instead of turning to stone like Trolls, Ogier have great skill in working it.
Besides Ogier, ogres and trolls, many giant humanoid creatures were used to derive Ogier. These will be described in turn, starting with giants.
Giants are humanoid creatures of prodigious size and strength that appear in the tales of many different races and cultures. They are often stupid or violent and are frequently said to eat humans, especially children; others, however, are intelligent and friendly (Roald Dahl’s The BFG, for instance, or the Grabbist giant of Exmoor folktales).
Robert Jordan’s Ogier are like the intelligent and friendly giants; they are knowledgeable and cultured. Loial bravely defended children against Trollocs.
In Norse mythology, the gods promised a giant the goddess Freyja, the sun and the moon as payment for reconstructing their dwelling (see painting below). They then allowed Loki to trick the giant out of his payment, thus violating their oath. From that moment, all oaths and treaties in the world began to lose validity. This was the beginning of the decline into Ragnarok, the end of the gods. Ogier are also associated with oaths; they cannot go back on their word even if others do so to them. Late in the Third Age, Ogier abandoned their work in the cities of men because they were not being paid.
The great ferocity of Ogier in battle stunned the humans fighting with them and their foes the Trollocs too:
Loial did not stop his song, the call to blood, to death. Let them hear! Let them hear! Swing after swing. Chopping dead wood, that was all this was. Dead, rotting, horrible wood. He and Erith fell into place with Elder Haman, who—with ears laid back—looked utterly fierce. Placid Elder Haman. He felt the rage too…
He sang and fought and roared and killed, hacking at Trollocs with an axe meant for cutting wood, and never flesh. Working with wood was a reverent business. This . . . this was killing weeds. Poisonous weeds. Strangling weeds.
He continued to chop the Trollocs, losing himself in the call to blood, to death. The Trollocs began to fear. He saw terror in their beady eyes, and he loved it. They were used to fighting men, who were smaller than themselves.
Well, let the Trollocs fight someone their own size. They snarled as the Ogier line forced them back. Loial landed blow after blow, shearing through arms, hacking through torsos. He shoved his way between two bear Trollocs, laying about him with his axe, yelling in fury—fury now for what the Trollocs had done to the Ogier. They should be enjoying the peace of the stedding. They should be able to build, sing, and grow.
They could not. Because of these . . . these weeds, they could not! The Ogier were forced to kill. The Trollocs made builders into destroyers. They forced Ogier and humans to be like themselves. The call to blood, to death.
Well, the Shadow would see just how dangerous the Ogier could be. They would fight, and they would kill. And they would do it better than any human, Trolloc or Myrddraal could imagine.
By the fear Loial saw in the Trollocs—by their terrified eyes—they were beginning to understand.
"Light!" Galad exclaimed, falling back from the thick of the fight. "Light!"
The Ogier attack was terrible and glorious. The creatures fought with ears drawn back, eyes wide, broad faces flat as anvils. They seemed to transform, all placidity gone. They cut through ranks of Trollocs, hacking the beasts to the ground. The second row of Ogier, made up mostly of females, sliced up Trollocs with long knives, bringing down any who made it through the first line.
Galad had thought Trollocs fearsome with their twisted mix of human and animal features, but the Ogier disturbed him more. Trollocs were simply horrible . . . but Ogier were gentle, soft-spoken, kindly. Seeing them enraged, bellowing their terrible song and attacking with axes nearly as long as men were tall . . . Light!
A Memory of Light, A Silence Like Screaming
They are equated with their opposites the Trollocs, with whom they share some real world sources, especially ogres, trolls and giants.
Other gigantic beings who defended against evil were the oni.
The Seanchan Ogier Gardeners are, and some Age of Legends Ogier were, fearsome guards and police, similar in character and size to oni.
Two dozen Ogier Gardeners in the red-and-green made a line to either side of the doorway, great black-tasseled axes upright in front of them and grim eyes watching for any danger even here. They would not die if she [Tuon] did, but they also had asked to be in her guard, and she would rest her life in any of those huge hands without a qualm.The stedding of the Ogier ward off evil beings, so that even Darkfriends feel uncomfortable in them:
- Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides
No Trolloc will enter a stedding unless driven, and even Myrddraal will do so only at the greatest need and with the greatest reluctance. It is said that Darkfriends, if truly dedicated, also feel uncomfortable and unwelcome there.Ogier are slower to anger than oni, but just as fearsome once roused and also have the same strong moral sense.
- Lord of Chaos, Glossary, and The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
The Ancient Greek giants have parallels to the Ogier’s building and agricultural side rather than their moral side.
Titans, Cyclopes and Gigantes
These are gigantic humanoids in Ancient Greek mythology with some parallels to Ogier.
The Cyclopes were one-eyed giants born to Uranus and Gaia. They moved mountains with their bare hands and became synonyms for strength and power. They helped Cronus overthrow and castrate Uranus, but Cronus then imprisoned them back in Tartarus, where they remained, guarded by Campe, until freed by Zeus. They fashioned lightning bolts for Zeus to use as a weapon and helped him overthrow Cronus and the other Titans, and also created Poseidon's trident, Artemis' bow and arrows, and the helmet that Hades gave to Perseus on his quest to kill Medusa. They were Hephaestus' helpers and are said to have built the fortifications at Tiryns and Mycenae in the Peloponnese. The noises proceeding from the heart of volcanoes were attributed to their operations.
Size, strength, skill in crafting and the ability to work stone on a large scale are what the Cyclopes have in common with Ogier.
The Titans were also gigantic offspring of Uranus. One Titan with apt parallels with Ogier is Cronus.
Cronus (in Greek mythology, Saturn in Roman mythology), was the leader of the first generation of Titans. He attacked and castrated his father, Uranus, at his mother’s (Gaia’s) request, because Uranus had imprisoned the Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires (one-hundred-armed giants) within her. Uranus’ blood that fell on the earth created the Gigantes.
After dispatching Uranus, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes along with the newly created Gigantes. He and Rhea took the throne as King and Queen of the gods. This time was called the Golden Age, as the people of the time had no need for laws or rules; everyone did right, so there was no need. Cronus was worshipped as a corn god, from his association with the Golden Age. He was a god of the harvest, grain, nature, and agriculture.
The Age of Legends, when Ogier were abundant, was a similar Golden Age. There was very little crime or strife and Ogier spent much time in agricultural jobs singing to the crops to make them strong and resistant.
In Greek mythology, the Gigantes were giants who sprang forth from the blood of the castrated Uranus. The Gigantes later attacked the gods of Mt. Olympus, trying to reach them by stacking the two mountain ranges of Thessaly on top of each other. With the help of Heracles though, the Gigantes were defeated.
This myth is reminiscent of a saying on the mainland:
Anger the Ogier, and pull the mountains down on your head.Like the Ogier, the Gigantes are giant beings able to move stone on a large scale.
- The Shadow Rising, Into the Ways
Giants that personify natural forces were also common in the mythologies of Northern Europe.
In Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology, the giants (iotnar, singular iotunn or jotun) seem to be a separate race akin to the gods, and often opposed to them. In the apocalyptic battle of Ragnarok, the frost giants will storm Asgard, home of the gods, and defeat the gods in war, bringing about the end of the world. Even though the giants are generally opposed to the gods, they parley and sometimes party or relax with them.
There isn’t much of a parallel here, except that Ogier are a separate race which played a part in Tarmon Gai’don. The jotun represent natural forces, and the Ogier have a strong empathy with and a respect for nature.
The iotnar provided the name for the ents, which have many parallels with Ogier.
The name ent is derived from iotnar (Old English "eotenas"/"entas"), but the appearance and habits of ents are not. Ents have many similarities with Ogier. Both ents and Ogier are very large and deliberate and dislike haste. Ents defend trees and now live in remnant forests. Ogier groves are largely destroyed and their stedding are in isolated places. Both ents and Ogier are good stone workers. Treebeard describes the ents’ stone-working abilities:
“You do not know, perhaps, how strong we (ents) are…We can split stone like the roots of trees, only quicker, far quicker, if our minds are roused!...We could split Isengard into splinters and crack its walls into rubble.”Ogier and ents each speak a different language to the common tongues of their respective worlds, and neither language is much known by other peoples. Ogier also use a different script (which may be rather ‘Elvish’ in appearance…). The ents’ love of knowledge has been expanded by Jordan into the Ogiers’ love of books.
-The Lord of the Rings, JR.R. Tolkien
One difference between the two races concerns their females. The ents have become separated from the entwives, whereas Ogier women are most emphatically there and have a large say in the running of Ogier families. Another major difference is in appearance: Ogier are closer in appearance to humans, whereas ents are tree-like creatures, having become like the trees that they shepherd.
Another mythological creature with empathy for plants is the dryad.
Dryads were a type of nymph, which were a large class of inferior female divinities in Greek mythology. The nymphs were usually associated with natural features or beings; the Dryads or Hamadryads presided over forests and trees and were bonded to a specific tree. Dryads, like all nymphs, were supernaturally long-lived, but if the tree died, the dryad associated with it died as well. For that reason, any mortals who harmed trees without first propitiating the tree-nymphs were punished.
Ogier are bound to the stedding just as Dryads are bound to their tree, and if away for long, they develop an extreme form of homesickness - the Longing. The stedding is the place (stead) of the Ogier and the Great Trees – where they tend the trees. Ogier consider it a crime to feel the Great Trees:
“Cut down a Great Tree?” Loial sounded scandalized, and more than a little angry…”We never cut down one of the Great Trees, not unless it dies, and they almost never do.”The Slavic Leshy is another woodland spirit with parallels to the Ogier.
-The Great Hunt, Stedding Tsofu
This is reminiscent of when Perrin and Mat go to Stedding Tsofu:
More Ogier appeared now, walking among the trees. Most seemed intent on whatever they were about; though all looked at the newcomers, and even gave a friendly nod or a small bow, none stopped or spoke. They had a curious way of moving, in some manner blending a careful deliberateness with an almost childlike carefree joyfulness.While their appearance is different to the Ogier,
-The Great Hunt,Stedding Tsofu
When the leshy is spotted, he can be easily recognized; for, though he often has the appearance of a man, his eyebrows, eyelashes, and right ear are missing, his head is somewhat pointed, and he lacks a hat and belt. In his native forest the leshy is as tall as the trees, but, the moment he steps beyond, he shrinks to the size of grass.their habits and habitat are similar – delighting in the forest where they live, and being usually cheerful, although having an implacable anger when roused. The leshy are largely tied to their place as the Ogier are, both walk tall in their dwelling place and wither outside it.
Another reclusive, mythical giant creature is Bigfoot.
Bigfoot or Sasquatch
Bigfoot is a large creature said to inhabit the remote wilderness areas of the US and southwest Canada. Most people believe them to be myths.
Ogier are large creatures living in remote areas. Many people no longer know what they are or consider Ogier to be myths:
Ogier appearances outside the stedding are so rare that most people no longer believe in them, thinking them a fantasy.In the same way, most people in our world believe that gigantic bipeds are a fantasy. Jordan has developed his Ogier to be consistent with this and to ‘explain’ the widespread belief in giant humanoids and the occasional reported sighting.
-The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
The next fantastical creature is a quadruped with a few parallels to Ogier.
The leucrota is part horse, lion and stag in appearance and is the result of the imaginary mating of a hyena and a lioness. Moving faster than any other animal, it makes human-like sounds. It is unique in having a mouth that opens back as far as its ears. Ogier are nothing like leucrota in appearance, but they too can run very fast: Loial out sprinted a horse, once. We take it for granted that Ogier are a non-human race who have no trouble speaking as humans do. Both the leucrota and the Ogier have exceptionally wide mouths:
The grin on Loial's wide mouth really did almost split his huge face in twoParallels to most of the characteristics of the Ogier have been covered. The last remaining feature to be discussed is their ears.
- Lord of Chaos, The Mirror of Mists
And Their Ears…
The Ogier have pointed (or tufted) ears covered with hair. There are a few woodland mythical creatures with pointed ears: elves, fauns, satyrs, leprechauns and the Greco-Roman nature god Pan. Of these, the elves have the most parallels with Ogier, since elves, like Ogier, are a long-lived race of creatures that live in forests or underground and have magical powers and a strong empathy with the natural world.
Decline from the Golden Age
Ogier were far more common and well-known in the utopian Age of Legends than in the Third Age. Like humanity, they have declined in numbers, knowledge and technology. This has a parallel in ancient and medieval thought: many historic texts, including the Bible, believed that people were once much larger and stronger than they are now, and had degenerated after a golden age.
Written by Linda, November 2004 and updated January 2014