The Nora are a human tribe in Horizon Zero Dawn. They are an isolationist, matriarchal hunter-gatherer society situated in what is known as the Sacred Land, east of the map. The Nora are the first tribe encountered, and one of the oldest known tribes in the game. It is notable for its leaders, the High Matriarchs, rituals such as the Proving, and its strong taboos against the technology of the ancient world and talking to outcasts.
Due to their practice of oral tradition and lack of written language, much of the Nora's history is lost to time.
The people who would become the Nora were the first generation of new humans from ELEUTHIA-9. Based on the paintings inside the facility, the "mother" multiservitor was favored by the children, while the "father" multiservitor was hated and feared. Upon the depletion of ELEUTHIA-9's food supply, the first generation of new humans was sent out into the wilderness beyond. These first humans would eventually become the Nora tribe. Unable to re-enter the Cradle facility, the nature of their birthplace became lost to the Nora over time. Eventually, they came to believe that the door to the facility was a goddess, which they named All-Mother. The mountain in which the Cradle resided became sacred, open only to the leaders of the tribe.
Beginnings of the Carja
Sometime later, a member named Araman discovered the Leaves; books of the Old Ones in a ruin. From the Leaves, Araman learned about written language and the usage of sun observation, and attempted to share his newfound knowledge with his tribe. While some people shared in his interest, the majority of the tribe shunned him, exiling Araman and his supporters. These exiles would eventually become the Carja tribe, signaling the beginning of the long and heated relationship between the two tribes.
Centuries later, Khuvadin, the eighth Sun-King, attempted to "bring civilization to the Savage East". After several unsuccessful endeavors (due to heavy resistance from the Nora), Khuvadin deemed the Sacred Lands "no longer fit for the people of the Sun", and ordered the construction of Daytower, which would mark the border between Nora and Carja territory.
The Motherless Child
One day, upon hearing cries inside the sacred mountain, the High Matriarchs discovered a baby girl in front of All-Mother. High Matriarch Teersa believed the girl to be a gift from All-Mother, but High Matriarch Lansra believed that the child had been placed there by the Metal Devil, and her influence resulted in the tribe denying the baby. However, even the hard-hearted Lansra could not bring herself to harm the infant, so the High Matriarchs approached Rost, an honorable outcast who adhered to Nora traditions despite his status. Rost agreed to raise the baby, whom he named Aloy and raised as his own daughter.
Like all tribes, the Nora had become aware of the machines' sudden increase in aggression, as well as the rise of new, more dangerous machines: they first encountered the Sawtooth approximately three years after Aloy's birth.
Approximately six years after Aloy's birth, Sun-King Jiran ordered the pillaging of other tribes for slaves and human sacrifice. This began a ten-year multi-tribal conflict known as "the Red Raids". Despite the Nora's efforts, the Carja managed to invade as far into the Sacred Lands as Mother's Rise, and the Nora were forced to abandon Valleymeet, the westernmost region of the Sacred Lands (forsaking the settlement of Mother's Vigil in the process). However, the Nora were able to keep the Carja from reaching the Embrace.
Following the Liberation of Meridian, the new Sun-King Avad ended the Raids, and extended gestures of reconciliation to the tribes, including the Nora. Having been forced to relinquish part of their territory, and with the memories of bloodshed fresh in their minds, animosity towards the Carja remained strong among the Nora. However, in the unsteady peace following the Raids, the tribe slowly began to heal and adapt to their new reality. The Nora chose not to re-occupy Valleymeet, opting instead to make Mother's Crown their new western border, and left Valleymeet as a buffer zone between the Sundom and the Sacred Lands. Hunter's Gathering was formed in this buffer, allowing the Nora to engage in inter-tribal trade for the first time in their history.
Attacks on the Sacred Lands
Two years after the Liberation, tensions between the Carja and the Nora had eased enough where Sun-King Avad was allowed to send a small delegation to the Sacred Lands in order to observe the Nora's Proving ceremony. Now of age, Aloy was allowed to run in the Proving in order to join the tribe. On the night before the ceremony, a crowd of angry Nora began to attack Irid, the Sun-Priest delivering Avad's message of apology. However, the intervention of the Vanguardsman Erend prevented the conflict from escalating further.
Upon realizing that Olin, a part of the delegation, had a Focus like hers, Aloy approached him. Unbeknownst to Aloy, this innocent act of curiosity would trigger a great tragedy for the tribe; as a secret member of the Eclipse, Olin's Focus was being monitored by HADES. Upon seeing Aloy through Olin's Focus, HADES deemed her a system threat and issued a kill order.
Shortly after the Proving was completed (with Aloy emerging as victor), the Eclipse unleashed a devastating attack on the candidates. Only a few candidates, including Aloy, managed to escape.
Shocked and devastated at the sacrilege, the tribe organized a war party to hunt the killers. However, in their haste for vengeance, the war party was ambushed by the killers, who unleashed a stampede of corrupted machines. Over half of the tribe's Braves were killed in the ambush, and most of the survivors were wounded. War-Chief Sona went missing after she and a group of the remaining Braves chased after the killers, leaving Resh as War-Chief in her absence. Meanwhile, most of the Nora came to Mother's Watch to sing the Hymn of Atonement, hoping that the goddess would show them mercy.
News of the Nora's plight quickly spread. Trying to stop the spread of corruption, Daytower closed its gates. Meanwhile, with the lands unprotected, groups of bandits entered the Sacred Lands.
A few days later, Aloy recovered from the attack. Using a Focus snatched from an Eclipse cultist, Aloy discovered the nature of the kill order. While unaware of Sobeck's identity and bewildered as to why she would be targeted for merely resembling her, Aloy determined that the killers saw her through Olin's Focus. Shortly after, she was approached by Teersa, who informed her of the tribe's state and her mysterious origins. Upon hearing of Aloy's discovery, Teersa convinced the other two High Matriarchs to make Aloy a Seeker, giving her permission to leave the Sacred Lands in order to uncover the truth.
At the request of Varl, a Brave and the son of Sona, Aloy searched for her. Upon finding the War-Chief, Aloy helped wipe out a group of the killers and located their base in Devil's Grief. With no time to beg the Matriarchs for an exception, the Nora chose to break taboo and enter the ruins. After wiping out the camps guarding the path, the Nora managed to destroy the Eclipse's base, avenging their fallen children and Braves.
As Aloy continued in her pursuit of the Eclipse's motives, she realized that her personal riddle was merely one in a web of greater mysteries, united by her mysterious connection to Elisabet Sobeck. Realizing that her search would take her through Sunfall, Aloy and her companion Sylens decided to crash the Eclipse's Focus Network to avoid detection by the Eclipse at the Citadel. Upon the destruction of the network, Helis ordered an invasion of the Sacred Lands, and the death of each and every Nora in an attempt to kill Aloy.
The Eclipse attacked from the east, accompanied by Corruptors, Deathbringers, and waves of Corrupted Machines. While the Braves put up a valiant effort, they were no match for the sheer scale of the assault. The Braves retreated to the gates of the Embrace to make their stand. Despite the Nora's efforts, the gates could not hold, and the enemy broke through. Left with no other option, High Matriarch Teersa broke the taboo and ordered the surviving Nora, outcasts included, into the Sacred Mountain for safety.
Upon escaping Sunfall, Aloy raced to the Sacred Lands, having been alerted to the invasion by Helis' gloating. By the time she arrived, Mother's Cradle and Mother's Watch had already been razed to the ground, and a Corrupted Thunderjaw was firing upon the Sacred Mountain in an attempt to bring it down and bury the Nora inside. Revitalized by Aloy's arrival, the remaining Braves rushed to her aid. Together, the Braves killed the invaders and destroyed the Thunderjaw.
While the settlements outside of the Embrace were missed by the Eclipse, and Mother's Heart seemed relatively unharmed, the invasion nevertheless marked the darkest hour in Nora history. Their treasured Embrace was torn asunder, and hardly any Braves survived to protect what remained of their home. However, Aloy's presence breathed hope into the weakened and desperate tribe.
With its settlements razed, and most of their Braves either dead or wounded, the Nora's future is uncertain. For the time being, the tribe remains inside of All-Mother Mountain in order to better protect themselves against any future attacks.
Society & Culture
The Nora live in small permanent settlements situated in the mountains and forests of the Sacred Land. A few live in solitary homes outside of larger settlements; in-game, most Nora found outside of settlements are outcasts. The Nora rarely leave the Sacred Land, as those who do are banished from returning. Most are content to live in the relatively peaceful valley, although increasingly aggressive machines have posed a serious threat to their home.
Their structures are mostly made of wood, lashed together with thick, colored rope. Most homes are only one or two stories high, although the Matriarchs' lodge is far bigger. Nora watchtowers are also present, both inside and outside of settlements. Nora homes typically have stone fireplaces and chimneys, decorative hanging ornaments, and porches. Inside these homes there is minimal wooden furniture, consisting mostly of simple benches or chairs, tables, and beds with fur pelts.
Nora appear to do most work outside of their homes, including cooking, crafting, and stitching (workstations for these tasks can be seen outside). Many baskets, pelts, butchered animals, and fire pits can be seen surrounding Nora homes, indicating a communal sentiment where the tribe shares resources and food, rather than single families or households depending on themselves.
In contrast to other tribes, the Nora do not have a traditional concept of marriage. When a woman wishes to bear a child, they propose a mate blessing to the desired male. Once this union is then sanctioned by a Matriarch, the two may have a child. As long as they fulfill their duties to their tribe and do not produce unsanctioned offspring, both parents are free to pursue any romantic relationship of their choice. Due to the potential strain on the community, having more than two children is frowned upon.
Unlike the Carja or Oseram, the Nora do little to change the environment they live in, believing that they must only take what they deserve from the land. Food is obtained by foraging wild plants, hunting and fishing, all done in conventional fashion. However, as seen during the Proving feast, the Nora have access to foodstuffs such as bell peppers, corn, and tomatoes, suggesting that they acquire some food through trade (though the vegetables present at the Proving may be offerings from the visiting Carja). Hunting machines is also essential for gathering certain resources, which is usually done by Braves. Bows and spears are the main weapons used for hunting and fighting; however, they do use several other tools such as Ropecasters, Tripcasters, and slings.
The Nora practice a monotheistic religion and worship All-Mother as their deity. They believe that all life - human, animal, and machine - originated from All-Mother Mountain. As some people became increasingly reliant on machines and other technology, those who chose to remain faithful to the goddess All-Mother and continue living a primitive lifestyle in the lands surrounding the bunker became the Nora. The other humans, however, were seduced by the machines' promises of a life of ease, and turned to them. These humans were the Old Ones. At first, the machines kept their promise, building great cities for these dissenters, referred to as the "Metal World". However, they soon overtook the Old Ones, making them their servants. Eventually, the machines, led by their father, the Metal Devil, became jealous and tried to attack All-Mother. However, All-Mother defeated the Metal Devil, and punished the machines and Old Ones: the machines were turned into mindless beasts, and the cities of the Old Ones were leveled. The tribe's reverence for motherhood is rooted in their faith in All-Mother. Conversely, they believe that the ruins of the Metal World, as well as the land beyond the Sacred Land, is corrupted and tainted.
The Nora are very spiritual and practice a number of important rituals. These rituals often occur at certain intervals of a tribe member's life. Newborns undergo a naming ritual, where the Matriarchs bless the name of the child. Adolescent members of the tribe may undergo a ritual called "the Proving." Those who pass will be recognized as Braves; the winners are granted a boon and they may ask for any kind of reward.
Hierarchy & Government
The Nora tribe is a matriarchal oligarchy, and the High Matriarchs are the official leaders of the tribe. They are responsible for carrying out the law and sentencing convicted members of the tribe, as well as leading the rituals and customs most important to the tribe. Lesser Matriarchs are less powerful than the High Matriarchs but have similar duties of counsel and teaching. Becoming a Matriarch is dependent on how many generations of living progeny a woman has; if an entire generation dies, she is demoted to a lesser status.
Elders, Healers, Braves, and hunters are all considered to be important members of the tribe as well, though most hold no political power. However, mothers with multiple living children are assumed to have the highest status in the tribe, especially those who have grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Breaking tribal law will cause the guilty party to be cast out from the tribe. While some regard this as a relatively humane punishment, others (such as Aloy) believe it can be too harsh (although this belief is shaped by her own experience as being outcast at birth). Such laws include theft, breaking of customs, and trespassing through ruins of the "Metal World." Murder and assault can also result in becoming an outcast for life. Outcasts are forbidden from entering settlements and interacting with tribe members, as well as interacting with other outcasts, although the latter rule is not strictly enforced. The customs of the Nora are very important, and while outcasts are forbidden from practicing them with the rest of the tribe, some outcasts willingly practice them themselves. Rost is an example of an outcast who still followed tradition, taking Aloy to have her name blessed. Outcast children are allowed to take part in the Proving when they come of age, and can gain entry back into the tribe if they complete.
The Nora are known for their firm isolationism. They believe that all of the other tribes are descendants of the Old Ones, and are therefore faithless and tainted. Unauthorized entry of Nora territory is a crime punishable by death. However, following the Liberation, Nora have had the opportunity to interact with outlanders in the Valleymeet region, particularly Hunter's Gathering, which now serves as a buffer zone between the Sacred Lands and Sundom.
- "Sun-King Avad wants peace. So do the Matriarchs, I'm told. But old wounds are slow to mend, and both tribes are proud."
As the Nora almost never venture outside the Sacred Lands, their modern experience with the Carja is largely limited to the Red Raids and the era of unsteady peace that followed. It seems that the majority of the Nora still resent the Carja for the Red Raids, having seen countless of their numbers enslaved and murdered on the orders of the Mad Sun-King. Additionally, the Nora see the Carja lifestyle as needlessly ostentatious, and scorn their historic use of slave labor.
However, relations between the tribes have eased enough to where the High Matriarchs agreed to allow a Carja envoy to enter the Embrace and observe the Proving. A growing number of Nora acknowledge the Carja's efforts to reform, enough to at least tolerate, if not accept, their neighboring tribe.
Relations between the Oseram and Nora are limited and remain mostly unexplored. While the Nora likely view the Oseram as faithless, they do not seem to hold animosity towards the Oseram like they do the Carja.
Known Settlements, Outposts, and Gates
- Forsaken Village
- Main Embrace Gate
- Mother's Cradle
- Mother's Crown
- Mother's Heart
- Mother's Rise
- Mother's Watch
- Northern Embrace Gate
- Southern Embrace Gate
- The Nora's custom of seeing machines as forbidden by higher powers is very similar to that of the Yevonites from Final Fantasy X, who also believed that the evils of the world were wrought by people using machinery (machina), which is now taboo and forbidden.
- The Nora culture seems to be an amalgamation of aboriginal and barbarian cultures.
- The outfits and weaponry are reminiscent of native American tribes. Though some of the outfits bare an aesthetic similar to Viking garb, such as Rost and Varl's outfits.
- The face paint designs are very similar to those of ancient Celtic and Pictish Warriors.
- The architectural style is very reminiscent of Viking architecture.
- Their culture is similar to the Hopi, a Native American tribe in northeastern Arizona: they share the belief that their land is sacred, the matriarchal structure, and Mother Earth being their patron deity.
- It is possible the tribe got their name from dilapidated NORAD signs. NORAD was headquartered in Colorado Springs, now known as Devil's Thirst.
- It is also possible that they took their name from the Basque word "nora", which means "to where".
- Male naming convention is one syllable long ending in a consonant. Female names are generally two to three syllables, and ususally end in a vowel sound (the exception is Kam).
- According to Ben McCaw, the Head Writer for Horizon Zero Dawn, the Nora tribe was the most difficult to design quests for, due to their refusal to leave the Sacred Lands.