"Those boys will fight anyone, anywhere."
―Storo Matash, on the Barghast[src]

The Barghast were a non-human pastoral nomadic warrior society[1] who were found on several continents.[2] The Barghast of Genabackis were concentrated in the Barghast Range.[3]

Generally larger than humans, they were often seen as exotic barbarians[4] or savages[5] by non-Barghast. They were divided into many clans with each hunter group identified through their woad tattooing.[5] The tattoos depicted the history of their families going back as many as hundreds of generations.[6] Rivalries between clans were fierce with some clans recognising others as their Avowed enemies.[6] Duels to the death between rival clan members were common and tolerated at inter-clan gatherings.[6]

Each clan was led by a warchief and guided by its shamans (also known as shouldermen). Shouldermen communicated with the spirits of their dead ancestors through dreams.[7] Spirits provided guidance and patrolled the Barghast lands warning of trespassers.[8] Questions of leadership could be settled by ritual combat to the death.[6]

Barghast shamans could create Blood-iron to invest weapons with a power that linked the wielder to the weapon.[7] They could imbue protective powers on individuals through the use of bone circles. Individuals were placed inside the circle while shamans danced for days around it.[7]

Not all spirits were welcome among the Barghast. The older and more powerful spirits were kept at bay. When shamans and other powerful Barghast died they were buried in barrow mounds. Trunks of oak trees were carved with magic bindings and pressed into the ground upside down atop the corpse. This pinned its spirit in place and prevented malicious wandering. Additional traps and guardians were placed in a circle about the barrow. Souls who were caught in the wooden traps were known as Sticksnares. Any that managed to escape the barrow often attempted to return to their clans and were destroyed.[7] The Barghast remembered the dead with mourning chants.[9]

Barghast lived in tents, tipis, and yurts made of wicker and hide.[6][10] Their clothing was made of natural materials and found objects unique to each tribe. The Senan studded their clothes with coins from an ancient hoard.[7][6] The Barahn made use of porcupine quills.[6] The Ahkrata stitched together multi-coloured bits of armour from slain Moranth.[6] Every tribe made use of ash, paint, and foul smelling grease on their skin.[7] Grey ash on the face, for example, was a sign of mourning.[11] Bhederin grease applied to the skin kept away biting flies and insects.[12] They were known for their use of crudely made[13] hook-swords[11]' hook-knives,[6] and lances.[14]

Barghast were sexually free and amorous. They openly propositioned those they were attracted to and casually paired off with strangers.[7][6]

Barghast were known for their odd sense of humour.[15]

They possessed a fear and hatred of the Moranth, a circumstance Twist blamed on false memories passed down from ancient times.[6]

As a sign of respect, the brought the backs of their sword-hands to their brows for a brief brush of glove to skin.[16]


The Barghast were said to be descended from Imass who had been driven to the sea in their race's quest to hunt the Jaghut to extinction and to avoid the immobilization and starvation caused by the Jaghut ice flows. Consequently, they had not arrived in time for the Ritual of Tellann that created the T'lan Imass. From an early time they dwelled among the Tartheno Toblakai and interbreeding resulted in a people taller, less squat, and with less pronounced facial features than their Imass forebears.[8]

They had plied the seas in their long, low dugout canoes with prows elaborately carved with scenes from their history.[17] Their skill at shipbuilding had been such that even though their canoes were assembled in pieces, they appeared to be carved from a single tree. They had also once been excellent swordsmiths, crafting long, single-edged blades with flaring tips and small, diamond-shaped hilts. Made of metals no longer remembered, they were light as a dagger and seemingly incapable of being scratched or broken and required no oiling. But both the Barghast's skills at shipbuilding and metal forging had long since been lost.[18]

At some point in their history they had come into conflict on the open seas with a grey-skinned race of demons they called the T'isten'ur. These creatures of Shadow were known for collecting the heads of their victims while their still-living bodies were enslaved in ceaseless labour.[11] It was during this time that the Moranth, who shared a language with the Barghast shamans and were likely a branch of that race, made peace with the T'isten'ur and embraced their alchemies. Both Barghast and Moranth races considered the other Fallen Kin.[11]

After driving their enemies back into their underworld in the Forest of Shadows in a distant land, the vast fleet of the Barghast made landfall at Capustan. There the settlers known as the Founding Families (or the First Families), their numbers now reduced by half in ceaseless battle, buried their dugouts forever.[8][11] Over time, the truth of their origins was widely lost and the Barghast migrated into the mountains of the Barghast Range. The warchiefs of the Founding Families became worshipped by the Barghast as the Founding Spirits and their barrows were visited by pilgrims. But Daru and Capan settlers destroyed the barrows and scattered their bones when they established Capustan.

Ancient bindings and their missing remains left the Founding Spirits as children, unable to ascend as true Gods. The original Barghast Warren became forgotten and the Barghast shamans welcomed only the weaker, younger spirits among the tribes.[6] In that state, as both Talamandas and Bauchelain noted, their culture was rotting from within and faced eternal stagnation.[8][7]

At some point in their history they had been encountered and possibly conquered by explorers and colonizers of the First Empire, who considered them ignorant and non-human.[19] They were unknown to the Letherii Empire, with all knowledge beyond their name lost to history.[20]

In Memories of Ice Edit

The old Barghast Spirits re-awakened and, using Mallet as a bridge, negotiated with Barghast warchief Humbrall Taur to rejoin the younger spirits and once again be welcomed among the camps of the living Barghast. They were to tell their descendents that the Founding Spirits of the Barghast had awakened but were trapped in Capustan. It was also revealed that the Moranth were related to the Barghast.[21]

Taur's children, Hetan and Cafal, presented the clans' demands for the return of their ancestors' remains to the Mask Council of Capustan. With nothing to lose on the eve of the Siege of Capustan, the Council relented revealing that the ancient bodies had been gathered along with their canoes and entombed below the council chamber in the Thrall.[22]

After assisting Dujek Onearm's renegade Malazan army to defeat the Pannion Domin, the Barghast were able to reclaim the bodies. Taur hoped to have the newly elevated Barghast Gods blessed by the Master of the Deck,[23] but in their youth they were still weak and naive.[24]

The Barghast Gods threw in their lot with Hood to provide Quick Ben with access to his Warrens in order to thwart the schemes of the Crippled God.[25]

In Reaper's GaleEdit

Sometime after the end of the Pannion War, in the last days of the reign of King Ezgara Diskanar of the Letherii Empire, the clans of the White Face Barghast "disappeared" from Genabackis and travelled to the north-central coast of the continent of Lether, landing just to the north of the Awl'dan plains. These Barghast numbered in the hundreds of thousands and their transports had been thousands of huge seagoing war canoes.[26][27]

Humbrall Taur having tragically drowned at the landing, these Barghast chose Onos Toolan, an Imass, to be their new warleader. Abandoning their vessels, the Barghast travelled to the southeast, using the Tellann Warren to cloak their movements. They began a long, intensive reconnaissance of this new territory in order to learn the lay of the land and to determine the current political situation of the inhabitants. While reconnoitering, the Barghast learned that the Grey Swords of Elingarth - with whom they had apparently planned to rendezvous[28][29] - had been annihilated by the Letherii Army due solely to the treacherous betrayal of the Grey Swords by the Awl forces. For Onos Toolan, as a result, there "would room for mercy. Not for the Awl. Not for the Letherii army..."[30]

After allowing the Letherii army to wipe out the Awl army in battle - the two forces for some time having been at war with each other - the Barghast emerged from the Tellann Warren and then finished off the by now exhausted Letherii. The Barghast killed them all in "a frenzy of explosive savagery".[31]

In Dust of Dreams Edit

All twenty-seven[32] of the White Face Barghast clans had migrated to Lether. After having dealt with the Letherii and the Awl, these Barghast eventually became involved in a war with the Akrynnai - who were an important nomadic tribal people already inhabiting the area and who had done nothing to provoke the war.[33]

For a variety of reasons, eight of these twenty-seven Barghast clans had become disenchanted with Onos Toolan's leadership style and with his performance as warchief. These clans had broken off, one by one, to independently settle elsewhere on the Lether plains. Amongst the remaining nineteen Barghast clans, however, there was a great deal of turmoil and unrest and more clans would probably have eventually left if the war with the Akrynnai had not broken out.[34]

As these Barghast clans discovered, however, the quality and quantity of the Akrynnai warriors and their allies - under the leadership of Sceptre Irkullas - were much more potent adversaries than the Barghast had expected. Repeatedly successful in battle, the Akrynnai soon "...left the Barghast reeling".[35] At the hotly contested ultimate encounter[36] between the Barghast, led by Maral Eb, and the Akrynnai forces an extremely mysterious, cataclysmic event overtook the battlefield and destroyed all of the combatants - both Barghast and Akrynnai alike. The war that these Barghast had begun so rashly, proved, in the end, to be catastrophic for all the parties involved.[37]

In Fall of LightEdit

Many thousands of years before the events of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, the Azathanai, Vix, claimed to be the progenitor of the Thelomen and Trell races. While musing over his love of mortals and their pettiness, stupidity, and viciousness, he informed K'rul that he contemplated creating a new race he called the Barghast. They would be a mixture of Thelomen, Trell, and Dog-Runner and he delightedly anticipated that they would war against everyone.[38] As the race under the purview of Olar Ethil,[39] the Dog-Runners were likely Imass or their immediate ancestors.

Known Barghast clansEdit

Known Individuals of the Barghast Edit


Tehol: "...what has so irritated the--what are they called again--the Barnasties?"
Bugg: "Barghast..."
―remarks between Tehol Beddict and Bugg[src]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Gardens of the Moon, Glossary
  2. 2.0 2.1 Memories of Ice, Glossary, UK MMPB p.1182
  3. Memories of Ice, Chapter 5
  4. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 20
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 9, UK MMPB p.269
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 Memories of Ice, Chapter 11
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Memories of Ice, Chapter 6
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Memories of Ice, Chapter 8
  9. Memories of Ice, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.634
  10. Memories of Ice, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.609
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Memories of Ice, Chapter 10
  12. Memories of Ice, Chapter 20, US SFBC p.711
  13. Memories of Ice, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.646
  14. Memories of Ice, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.573
  15. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.159
  16. Memories of Ice, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.587
  17. Memories of Ice, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.373
  18. Memories of Ice, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.645-646
  19. Midnight Tides, Chapter 15, US SFBC p.473-474
  20. Midnight Tides, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.540
  21. Memories of Ice, Chapter 11
  22. Memories of Ice, Chapter 9
  23. Memories of Ice, Chapter 11, US SFBC p.644-648
  24. Memories of Ice, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.609
  25. Memories of Ice, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.608-609/654-657
  26. Reaper's Gale, Prologue, US TPB p.24-26
  27. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 1, US TPB p.46
  28. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 14, US HC p.142/151
  29. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 1, US TPB p.46
  30. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 22, US TPB p.703-704
  31. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 22, US TPB p.704/706-708/709
  32. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 4, US HC p.144
  33. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 12, US HC p.372-374
  34. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 4, US HC p.141-144
  35. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 15, US HC p.467-468
  36. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 17, US HC p.554-555
  37. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 18, US HC p.576-577/579/589-590
  38. Fall of Light, Chapter 12, US HC p.382.
  39. Fall of Light, Chapter 12, US HC p.382.
  40. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 4, US HC p.141-144
  41. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 12, US HC p.369
  42. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 12, US HC p.369
  43. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 12, US HC p.367
  44. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 4, US HC p.142
  45. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 10, US HC p.308-309
  46. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 14, US HC p.437-439
  47. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 12, US HC p.372-374
  48. Dust of Dreams, Chapter 4, US HC p.143
  49. Stonewielder, Chapter 8, US TPB p.410
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