Yalahari insects and how to understand them – a close reading of the Hive Books

Yalahari insects and how to understand them – a close reading of the Hive Books

by Turion Templar

It is well known that the Hive is the outcome of (another) failed experiment of the Yalahari. Although there has been no major breakthrough in the researches about the Hive for years (aside from the discoveries involving the Hive Outpost bosses), it is worth reviewing its history, now paying special attention to the details and background information. In doing so, one will find that not all the minutiae and references have yet been explored sufficiently in the major publications on the subject. The following article will not unveil unknown mysteries. It is, first and foremost, an exegetical commentary, where I will try to expose a new, deeper interpretation of stories and sources already known (for a summary of the Hive’s history, a detailed exposition of Quirefang’s topography, and a great general guide of how to explore the place, cf. Makadamia 2020).

The main in-game source about the genesis of this inhospitable place is the series of books (The Hive I-VIII) found in an insectoid cell in the underground of the Hive’s west tower. These are the personal notes, almost a journal, of the chief researcher of a Yalahari expedition (interestingly, the first volume begins with suspension points, indicating that the first notebook to which we have access is not the first one he wrote). An atmosphere of distrust hovers from the beginning and only increases after the arrival on their destination, the island we now know as Quirefang.

The narrator, who remains anonymous, seems to have information to which the rest of the expedition has no access: “Faltugios should be glad that the circle spared him of the tainted knowledge. Of course he is not and blames me for holding back information. If he only knew what a gift his ignorance is” (The Hive I). What can the unequal access to information in this case tell us about the people involved in the research?

Yalahar

At this point, a first speculation is called for. At first glance the narrator seems to be fundamentally different from his colleagues. He behaves like an armchair scholar, not a laboratory or field scholar: “I am accustomed to my own studies in loneliness and not to care for the needs of several spoilt and eccentric scientists” (The Hive I). It is possible that he is the only Yalahari in the group, the others being ‘just’ Augur. According to the book History of the Augur, Part I: “The Yalahari concentrated on research and art, and left the more manual work to their servants, who often only knew what they had to do without understanding their tasks”.

Most likely, however, this expedition is taking place during the transition period for the second generation of Yalahari, after the disappearance of the first. That is, there are no longer any True Yalahari in the city and the first generation of Augur are beginning to take the posts of their former masters. In a turbulent time like this, it is possible that the difference between high Augur officials and ‘low’ New Yalahari was not very significant. Through this perspective, it is not possible to determine exactly which role the narrator plays in the Yalahari hierarchy.

Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning a striking similarity between the narrator’s behavior and that of Azerus, the only True Yalahari we know today. Both try to solve their problems mainly by violence, they find it better to kill those who are different than to understand them: the narrator does not, for example, want to understand the Deeplings, but only to dominate and destroy them. He seems to belong to one of the hardcore ‘circles’ of the Yalahari: he talks about “cleansing” (The Hive IV) and “purging the world” (The Hive VII). Azerus’ project to improve Yalahar was based on ‘cleansing’ the bad parts to let the good parts flourish. The narrator belittles the religion of the Deeplings and recalls the very first reason for the creation of Yalahar: “We had abandoned the so-called gods for a good reason after all” (The Hive IV). In short, both the narrator and Azerus are like hardcore ‘Darwinists’, advocates of imposing Enlightenment by force and of destruction of the weak in the name of progress. As a contrast, we have the other researchers, who seem to have a more properly scientific interest, a curiosity, even if still colonizing, at least more reflexive. It seems very clear that the narrator, if not a True Yalahari, he is at least an adept of their ideology.

Back to the city of Yalahar, what we know for sure is that its decline is in full swing:

“I wonder what is happening in Yalahar. I heard about some quarrels in the circle and civil unrest. All foreigners are put under greater surveillance and the defenses are strengthened against an attack that the circle can not specify to the masses. The tension in the city is growing and I fear that we might have to wait for reinforcements for quite a while” (The Hive III). “The unrest in Yalahar is growing” (The Hive IV). “The situation in Yalahar seems chaotic” (The Hive VI).

These background information we get from the narrator helps us precise the chronology of Yalahar’s decay. We can affirm, with great certainty, that the gigantic explosion (described in detail in the brilliant research by Bosst and Mogh) had not yet occurred at the time of the expedition since the accident wiped out all research and experiment centers in Yalahar, and killed all the scientists. After the great bang, cientifical research in Yalahar was probably suspended for good. In any case, the total failure of the expedition to Quirefang can be seen as an omen of what is to come in the prestigious Alchemist Quarter.

It might be clear by now how the seemingly unimportant history of the Hive gives us a glimpse of the history of one of the once most opulent civilizations in Tibia, helping us understand its fall as well. In order to dive deeper in this question, it is worth trying to understand the goals of the expedition.

The mission’s goal

The version told by the narrator to the other researchers is that the mission would be to build a “secret research facility for biological experiments” (The Hive II). The actual purpose of the mission is not made clear at any time, but it involves the development of an army of insect-like soldiers, biologically modified and improved through breeding. Such creatures are to fight the Deeplings and somehow stop the greater evil, whom the narrator calls IT. But stop IT from doing what exactly? No concrete threat is mentioned, only that the whole world is in danger. “Our project is too important. After all, it is not some fancy research but the only hope for this world to survive. At least sort of” (The Hive III). Spoiler, spoiler: the expedition failed, but the world has not ended… Was there a real threat to be fought at all?

Today, centuries, perhaps millennia after this journal was written, it seems obvious that the deity the narrator calls IT is Qjell, the god of the Njey.

[Note: It is important to point out at this point that the Navigator – the human being who currently pretends to be Qjell, leads the Deeplings and controls all the Rock-NPCs of Gray Beach – has no connection with the story we are reconstructing here. First, because the prosperity of human commerce under King Tibianus indicates a much more recent date in Tibia’s history, the Golden Age of humans, whereas the Yalahari have inhabited Tibia since the wars between the gods; even the False Yalahari must date from a time long before ours. Second, because the Navigator himself mentions the “vile insect-like creatures inhabiting the surface of the island”, i.e., this is a period when the first Hive Born had already reproduced themselves and organized their hive, long after the end of the expedition.]

Despite the possible similarities between IT and Qjell – and even Variphor, if we force the argument a bit further –, it is necessary to keep in mind that we are not dealing with a very reliable narrator, and that not everything he tells us, should be taken at face value. His credibility gets worse as his journal advances, culminating in total madness before his death. In his final megalomaniac delusions, he writes: “I am IT’s foremost enemy in the world. It is a battle between us” (The Hive VI). “I am the creator of a new race. Does this make me a god?” (The Hive VIII).

The leader’s paranoia has fatal consequences for the mission. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the expedition only fails because of his attitudes, after all, he not only does not support his collaborators, but he also sabotages and kills them. It even seems to be evident that his suspicion that IT was influencing other members to sabotage the mission is, in fact, valid for himself. In other words, IT may have caused the seed of suspicion that was already in him to turn into a venomous weed that has eroded the foundations of the expedition.

We may go even further and speculate that the mission itself did not start from the Yalahari, but from IT’s influence on the narrator, who writes: “I have spoken to Tjule of the circle and he claimed to have no knowledge at all about my mission. What is happening here? Is it not the will of the circle what we are doing here but the work of a splinter group?” (The Hive V). Or maybe the work of an ancient god? Such an explanation, however, has to presuppose the actual existence of IT/Qjell/Variphor. A theological question I don’t want to get into as a secular historian. Most probably is that in such turbulent times, as described above, splinter groups really existed and planed things without telling others, so that this ‘Tjule’ was simply not involved in this mission in any way.

In the end, it remains an opened question whether the expedition had a real goal or if it was from beginning faded to fail. If it was, indeed, an official Yalahari mission, then it would be crucial do find out why and in whose interests after all the whole project was put into practice. Nobody in Yalahar today was able to help me on that matter…

Well, after posing more questions than solving them, let us now move to an extra-dimensional sphere outside of Tibia where we can solve at least one question of reference. The idea is to understand better the extra-game sources of the Hive Books.

The reference for IT and The Hive Books

The deity called IT by the narrator has almost no relation, other than the name, to Stephen King’s novel, as is frequently stated by unaware researchers. Apparently, many of them have been misled by the coincidence of the names. It might even be the case that the name “IT” was borrowed from King, but the story of our IT was definitely not; thus, it is no use pointing Kings novel as the source of the story in the Hive Books.

Our IT has its ancestors in the work of another American writer: H.P. Lovecraft. Although I have never seen anyone make such an association (probably because I have not read old forum discussions about it), it is impossible that it has not already been made. It seems obvious to me that both the Deeplings’ lore and the journal in found in the Hive have to a large extent Lovecraftian influences. I will mention just a few similarities:

“Our knowledge is a burden not easy to bear”(The Hive I), this sentence, in the beginning of the journal, awakens the careful reader with its Lovecraftian undertone. In many of Lovecraft’s short stories and novels, the main characters know about or come upon creatures so dreadful to conceive that they get traumatized and must carry the mere sight of those beings as a burden (if they do not perish immediately at the simple glimpse of the atrocities).

The form, the themes and the literary development within the Hive Books are strongly Lovecraftian in many ways: narration is in first-person; there is a very important secret that one should not even think about (the reader himself is not introduced to the secret, which helps building plot tension); there are mysteries that should not be mentioned because of their wickedness; the whole story is backgrounded by a constant sense of impending doom, combined with thrilling psychological sets and an increasing feeling of anxiety and uneasiness; the existence of humanoid beings, with primitive characteristics, that nonetheless belong to a civilization more advanced (due to mystical powers) than the human one.

In order to get more concrete without arguing for too long, I will only mention two connections with famous Lovecraftian writings. First, there cannot be a more direct reference than the one between the Deeplings and the Deep Ones of The Shadow over Innsmouth (written 1931).

(‘Deeplings’ Concept ©Cipsoft) (‘Deep One’ Concept, based on Lovecraft ©Tobias Webb)

This reference makes the second one even more obvious: the almighty Cthtulhu, the underwater god worshiped by the fishmen. Although Qjell is more an elephant than an octopus (by the way, Qjell does not have any other similarities with Chaugnar Faugn, the elephant god, apart from their elephant-likeliness), the whole context around both deities leads to a comparison: dark cultist practices, forgotten languages, giant statues in monoliths, sunken

obscure realms (Fiehonja/R’lyeh), forms of existence unbearable for mankind even to think of, otherworldly forces so vast that they can influence human minds and shatter their existence from within, etc.

IT is depicted like a cosmic force, without a physical form, as a being beyond consciousness as we know it: “Even if IT is not working consciously against our efforts, it might be an instinctive reflex like an animal that flicks flies” (The Hive I). It is easy to recognize how IT/Qjell/Variphor could definitely be in Lovecraft’s pantheon of Great Old Ones.

Finally, I do not argue that that the content creators took actively H.P. Lovecraft’s work as an inspiration; it might have come to them indirectly through other cultural appropriations of his work. It does not change the fact, though, that Lovecraft is originally the most clear and traceable source of the style and content of the journal analyzed here (the Hive Born themselves have very little relation to Lovecraft).

***

The close reading of The Hive has shown to be a fruitful endeavor, even if the new insights do not change directly our complete understanding of Tibia, it has at least helped cast some light on the still obscure chapter of Tibian history called Yalahar. Every of Tibia’s forgotten books may hide such information between their lines. In the end, the only law that allows us to access historical knowledge was stated centuries ago by Tristram Shandy:

“Read, read, read, read, my unlearned reader! read – or by the knowledge of the great saint Paraleipomenon – I tell you before-hand, you had better throw down the book at once…”

Appendix – The First Hive Born

In my research I found out some interesting information that should be shared, even though it does not contribute to the questions covered above.

To begin with, there is in the journal mentioned an explanation for the existence of more developed organic structures, such as the Floor Blobs; more specifically in the following passage: “Just recently one of the researchers bred an astonishing new ability into the crawlers. Before, they were able to produce certain organic material. Now he added a trait that allows special workers to melt with the material and give it some living and perhaps sentient abilities” (The Hive VI). This also explains the antennae and other organic structures of vital importance for the maintenance of the Hive. That is all well and good, but how about the more complex insectoids?

As far as the Hive Born themselves are concerned, there are seven basic phenotypes in the Hive today. I’m excluding the adorable Ladybug, which is ‘artificially’ there (probably ‘only’ for the mount) and has no direct explanation in the Hive’s lore. It is even understandable that we do not find any real existing insect in the Hive, such as bugs, spiders, wasps, etc., since the Hive Born have their own modes of sociability which may be incompatible with the ones from natural insects. Ladybug is in this point, again, an exception. The remaining seven types are:

Swarmer (+Lesser Swarmer)

Insectoid Worker (+Insectoid Scout)

Waspoid

Crawler

Spitter

Spidris (+Spidris Elite)

Kollos (+Hive Overseer)

However, in the journal, we learn of only six types: “We established six stable species of the creepers” (The Hive V). The explanation seems quite simple to me: these are the six main bosses that protect the biggest and main room of the Hive: Shadowstalker (Crawler), Mindmasher (Insectoid Worker), Fleshslicer (Spidris), Maw (Kollos), Chopper (Waspoid) and Rotspit (Spitter). They were probably the prototypes that reproduced, mutated over time, and gave origin to their weaker versions, which then assumed different functions in the social organization of the hive.

It is also worth noting that some of the bosses either cause drowning condition on enemies or produce the drowning graphical effect (blue circles) on themselves from time to time, a feature that refers back to their initial function of fighting the Deeplings, possibly under water. Beside the bosses, no other creature in the Hive produces those effects.

Finally, for those who missed the ‘Swarmer’ phenotype, which has no boss, here is a possible explanation for its existence, even though it does not belong to the six original types: “Experiments we see as failures are released into the wilderness” (The Hive VII). Well, poor Swarmer seems to be a failure… Let’s hope it is self-confident enough to endure such a revelation.

I hope you enjoyed our work!

Greetings from Turion Templar

and his dotted research team!

 

Sources:

https://tibia.fandom.com/wiki/The_Hive

https://tibia.fandom.com/wiki/Gray_Beach_Libraries#The_Hive

https://tibia.fandom.com/wiki/Yalahari

https://tibia.fandom.com/wiki/History_of_the_Augur_I_(Book)

https://tibia.fandom.com/wiki/In_Service_of_Yalahar_Quest

https://www.tibiabosses.com/forum/topic/the-hive-why-so-much-iron-in-there/

https://www.tibiabosses.com/forum/topic/the-hungerer-old-but-totally-unknown-boss-revealed/

https://tibiasecrets.com/secrets-of-the-alchemist-quarter/

Images:

https://www.deviantart.com/ito-saith-webb/art/Deep-One-Concept-92319334

https://www.tibiawiki.com.br/index.php?title=Arquivo:Deeplings_Concept_Art.jpg&filetim estamp=20111124154110

https://tibia.fandom.com/wiki/The_Hive

http://www.forum.tibia.pl/showthread.php?t=238303

 

Special thanks to Turion Templar for writing this interesting article and giving us the opportunity to publish it.

TibiaSecrets team

 

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