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I've spent a lot of hours discussing with another Dragon Age nerd friend of mine what the various nations, and/or cultures in Thedas are analogous to the "real world," and I thought I'd share what conclusions to which I have arrived...
- FERELDAN - Fereldan, I feel, is very clearly an analogy to England. I think Gaider has even commented on this in the past. But for me, the nail in the coffin on this one was Alistair and Leliana's discussion of Fereldan cooking in DA:O. Alistar's recipe for Fereldan lamb stew is a textbook example of stereotypes of English food.
- ORLAIS - As my friend put it (I wish I had come up with this!): "Orlais is so French that you can practically smell stanky cheese and snails through the screen!"
From here, it gets less clear, I feel.
- ANTIVA - I think that Antiva is a mash-up of Italy and Spain. Zevran's and Josie's accents feel very Italian to me, and the descriptions of the nation's ports feels like it could draw from both Italy's merchant sailor traditon, and also the former glory of the Spanish Armada. It feels primarily like Italy, but some Spanish elements just keep gnawing at the back of my mind.
- RIVAIN - Tougher to nail down, but the cultural descriptions really indicate to me that Rivain is most closely analogous to eastern Europe, i.e., Romania, Turkey, Hungary, etc., with a massive smattering of gypsy culture. Isabela's complexion helps to drive this home, as well.
- NEVARRA - The Necropolis is kind the outlier element, but everything else, based on Cassandra's descriptions, and her accent, really screams medieval Germany, Prussia, Poland, etc.
- TEVINTER - I struggled with this for awhile, but finally our discussions settled on Tevinter being an analogy for the Roman Empire at his most decadent, around the era of Caesar Nero. The fact that blood magic and corruption is so rampant in Tevinter seems to be very much a correlation to the decadence of the Empire in it's Autumn period.
- FREE MARCHES - This one really throws me, but I think there are two different directions to go with these city-states. One possibility is that they could be an analogy to colonial America, with them being city-states, self-governing, but also kinda hanging together. This could also parallel Scotland and Ireland, but this is really just nudged by Vael's very clear burr.
Now we go to racial and/or cultural parallels...
- ELVES - The elves, to me, are very clearly analogous to any displaced and persecuted aboriginal peoples, i.e., Native Americans, Australian Aboriginals, native Africans during Africa's colonial period, etc.
- DWARVES - I feel that dwarven culture, but primarily the politics of Orzammar, are representative of the battle between conservative and liberal politics. This is really exemplified by the spat between Bhelen and Harrowmont in DA:O, with Harrowmont representing the "old guard" of politics, stubbornly refusing to accept any new ideas, insistent that the "good old days" will always be best. He also clearly means well, but he is misguided, all the same, because we cannot stay stuck in the past. Bhelen, on the other hand, represents liberal values, and the (at times) radical methods and practices very liberal individuals will employ when butting heads with the old guard. Then you have the casteless, who are just the riffraff that get chewed up and spit out by the system. Of course, you also have individuals like Varric, who have become so disenfranchised, they completely reject the system, and refuse to have anything to do with it.
- QUNARI - This really stumped me for awhile, and I had read some interpretations that they represent Native Americans, and I never bought that. For awhile, I felt that they were analogous to a Polynesian culture, what with their seafaring ways, but that didn't feel right either. Yesterday, I had a "eureka!" moment, and realized that the Qunari are representative of colonialism, and also the concept of fascist indoctrination. Their reprogramming methods, desire to conquer all of Thedas, it all points to a fascist extremist form of colonialism.
That's my thoughts. As Linda Richman would have said, "Talk amongst yourselves!"