Tuesday, 1 July 2014

‘The Great Maw’ – L.J. Goulding (Black Library)

I’ve been reading these stories two at a time and enjoying them, for the most part, so much that I didn’t really give much of a thought to how many were left on my phone. So just the one story today then and it could well be the most interesting one out of the last weeks offerings…

Legends tell of the origins of the ogre race and their mysterious god. Many of these tales centre around the mythical figure of Groth Onefinger. Here is one such saga, recounting the story of the great cataclysm that overtook the ogres and drove them from their lands, of the birth of a great and hungry deity that drives all of that savage race to fits of incredible greed, and of Groth, the saviour of the ogre race and first prophet of the Great Maw.

The Old World is a rich and fertile source of stories to be told although most of them inevitably focus on the battles that make up the game. Fair enough really, that’s the whole point of the setting after all. This ‘same old, same old’ approach works due to the energy and enthusiasm of the writers and it also highlights just how unusual a tale like ‘The Great Maw’ is; a Warhammer tale that doesn’t feature a pitched battle at all, not one.

What we have here is a tale of how the once civilized Ogres became the creatures they are today; feared by sensible folk and about to invade one of the outlying regions of the Empire. Why are they doing this? No-one really knows as whatever it was Baron von Streissen said to the Ogre Gurthodd led to the Baron’s unfortunate demise and the imminent outbreak of war. A meeting is convened where our narrator stresses that an understanding of Ogre culture might (just might) lead to a solution. And so the tale begins in notes passed to the university of Nuln that tell of The Children of the Maw…

I really enjoyed the unique structure of ‘The Great Maw’; well, unique to this setting anyway. A story within a story isn’t something you come across in Warhammer fiction all that often if at all (I can’t think of any other examples) so fair play to Goulding for treading a new path and making it work for the most part. I say ‘for the most part’ as the ending of each story is a little too abrupt and leaves more questions than a short story really needs to. I prefer my short stories a little more complete than ‘The Great Maw’ ended up being. This isn’t a deal breaker though as the preceding oral history offers a fresh look at the Ogres of the Old World (I’d never seen them as being a civilized culture in the past) and feeds, no pun intended, into the whole thing of Warhammer setting being about tragedy and people holding off the darkly inevitable. Even the so called ‘evil’ races can have a little bit of tragedy in their past and there’s something about this even handed approach that I like.

‘The Great Maw’ ultimately falls short on account of being just a little too open ended for its format but the structure of the tale, along with the insights that it offers, make up for this and result in a story that Warhammer fans should enjoy. You can’t say fairer than that really.

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