What Do I Know About Headcanon? Corellon, The Orc Pantheon, and Araushnee
I’ll admit it. I have a little bit of an axe to grind with Corellon Larethian. Corellon is the primary god of the elves, and is generally regarded as a “good” deity, and yet, in general D&D canon, they banished and cursed a whole group of elves for what one group of them did at one point in time in history. If you add in the Forgotten Realms lore on the subject, Corellon not only banished and cursed this group of elves, but did so to one nation of elves over another nation of elves, possibly due to the fact that the other nation of elves held them as their patron.
In addition to all of this, there is also the nagging issue of the orc gods, how they have no good or even neutral deities, and how they are always framed with an notable hatred of elves in general, and Corellon Larethian in particular. Into this fertile ground goes the seed that springs forth as this bit of headcanon.
What if, at one point in time, Corellon came into conflict with some of the Aesir. Rather than face the fury of the
assembled might of Asgard, Corellon found a way to separate the aspects of the gods he had wronged.
The separated aspects were disoriented by being drawn out of the original gods from which they sprang. So Odin’s aspect was Grummsh, Thor’s was Bahgtru, Frigg’s was Luthic, Loki’s was Shargas, Tyr’s Ilnevel, and Hel’s Yurtrus.
Because Corellon didn’t want other gods to hear of his tampering, he played up the negative aspects of these splintered aspects. Even the other members of the Seldarine don’t know that he performed this deed.
The orc gods do have a special hatred for Corellon, and it is based on something that Corellon did, but it’s been locked away from them when they were split from their greater godly essence.
Grummsh is constantly trying to find sources of power to unlock what is trapped in his memory. His “eyes” are often driven to conquer places that have deep, secret knowledge, because he has inspired them to learn more about what was lost.
All of the orc gods, at various times, show aspects of their former selves, although because of Corellon’s words upon their creation, most other gods only see them in the most negative of lights. Corellon has poisoned the well for any communications the orc gods might have.
At the Table
All of the above allows for more flexible use of the orc gods as archetypes that aren’t wholly destructive or evil. If you want more characterization of them beyond villainous destructive forces, you can look back to stories of Norse gods for inspiration.
Maybe in orc culture, there are stories of Baghtru and Shargas traveling together and getting into trouble, combining raw force and cunning to fix the situation. Maybe Grummsh shows up disguised to council orc leaders or gather information.
The point is to move beyond both alignment and the traditional role of orcs in older editions of D&D to find a way for their whole culture to have its own perspective on the world that isn’t based on them being “the villains.” It also provides better, less ugly context to Grummsh’s assertion that the orcs have been disadvantaged by other beings in the multiverse.
What if Araushnee, as the goddess of Fate, sensed something wrong with the orc gods, and found out what Corellon had done. Corellon has the “prime” Araushnee held somewhere beyond time and space, and used her aspect of Lolth as an excuse to “banish” her.
What if Corellon split their own aspect off, so that they forgot what they had done. Everyone that Corellon split in this manner is someone that wanted retribution on them. What if Corellon was so upset with his own actions that he hated himself, meaning that he could just as easily call forth an aspect of himself that both wanted retribution, and would pull the memories of why Corellon hated themself out of their own mind?
“Prime” Corellon doesn’t remember what he actually did to all of those other gods, but Corellon’s shadow, wherever it may be, is still plotting to destroy him. Except it may do this by unraveling everything he has covered up, rather than direct confrontation.
At the Table
This is totally the “Tony Stark Defense,” the point at which a character that is ostensibly a heroic figure has done something so bad that it’s hard to see a redemption arc that will clear it away, so the best way to do it is to find some way to “reset” the current version of the character.
Corellon may very well be a better, more noble character now that he has drawn out all of his hatred for themself. But also see Tony Stark . . . he’s turned evil, been brought back as a younger version of himself, gotten reset in a different reality, done some really bad things during Civil War, “partitioned” his brain so he could ignore the part that did bad stuff . . . etc. The quick fix for the mistake is never really a permanent solution.
How the Magic Trick Was Done
Not to demystify godly doings too much, but we may also want to have a limiter on how Corellon manages to split gods off from their core selves, without making Corellon seem ultra powerful. Luckily, there is a way to tie this into having a conflict with the Norse gods.
Corellon stole water from the base of Mímisbrunnr, finding a way to dig into the groundwaters. This didn’t sit well with Odin, given what he had to do in order to drink from the well.
To get themself out of the situation, Corellon used the water to create a gazing pool, and at the bottom, he placed his own image. His image would draw out the animosity towards them, and as the waters of knowledge, it would pull free the memories of why those gazing were upset.
If Corellon ever drinks from the pool, they will know every grievance anyone has ever had against him, which may be too much to bear. It may be that his shadow is trying to trick them into drinking from this pool.
At the Table
This bit of lore gives us a whole range of things to use as a means of echoing the divine story. There is a vague “Dorian Gray” aspect to Corellon avoiding the pool. This also means that pools and dipping into forbidden knowledge might be a recurring theme for a Corellon based campaign. The shadow could plant this “heretical” story in various places for adventurers to find, and the theme, overall, could be that the only way to truly fix a systemic problem is to confront, deconstruct, and rebuild what has always been assumed as a foundation.