The Forerunners are some of the most interesting characters in the Halo universe. They are brave and strong. They are very intelligent. They have an amazing grasp on physics, engineering and slip-space technology. They have made constructs as big as the earth’s orbit that can be hidden away in a slip-space bubble. And of coarse they were able to make a weapon array that was powerful enough to wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy.
They traveled between the stars. They traveled between galaxies.
They loved and fought passionately. They strove to uphold the highest moral beliefs.
If you can over look the fact that they all but wiped out the human race, set back our evolution by hundreds of thousands of years, treated us like lab rats, herded us around like cattle and used us like puppets, then they’re not so bad.
As a group, I like the Forerunners. This is of coarse looking at their society from a very “zoomed-out” perspective. Throughout the Forerunner saga and through the games we are only looking at the very highest echelon of Forerunner society. The Didact(s), The Librarian and the Master Builder are all the leaders of their respective rates. We see them interact with characters who aren’t as high in society, but those characters are there more to drive the story forward than anything else. We don’t get to really see what their personal lives are like. It is hard for me to imagine what life would’ve been like for you average Forerunner.
So, in this post, all of my opinions stated are taken from this very broad view that we have of the Forerunners. I will generalize and stereotype them. That is a bad thing to do but with the limited information given, I feel like I have to go on, I see no other option.
There are several different rates that make up the structure of Forerunner society. There are Warrior Servants, Lifeworkers, Miners, Builders and Juridicals. There may be more but these are the only ones I know of. There were other rates in the past. One that I know of is the Theoreticals. It is stated in Halo: Silentium that the Theoreticals were subsumed or brought under control of another rate. They were forced to join with the Builder rate by the Warrior rate which was in power at the time mentioned. So, there may be and may have been other rates than the ones we currently are aware of. (If you know of any others please let me know.)
I do like how structured Forerunner society is. I like that everyone has their rate and that they each have a job to do within that rate. I am a big fan of structure and organization. I hate trying to get something accomplished with an unorganized group.
Most of the Forerunners we meet are fiercely loyal to thier own rate. Each rate seems to think it is better than all the other rates. We know that marrying outside of one’s rate is frowned on. The Librarian said that she and the Didact were only able to marry after “much objection from rate and family”.
The Forerunners have an almost military based society. This is probably one of the main reasons I like it. I loved my time in the military. I loved knowing each day, when I get up I am going to do this, this and this. These are the people who are going to do it with me and this is how we are going to do it.
Of coarse things didn’t always go to plan but at least there was a plan.
Things didn’t always go to plan for the Forerunners either. Even when their plans did achieve their desired ends it was usually with lots of hard work and heartache.
There were good points to the Forerunner rate structure but, as we have learned from our own history, any time you start dividing people in to groups, there tends to be problems. The same was true in Forerunner society.
The rates did not always see eye to eye. They tried to overstep their bounds and meddle with the afairs of other rates. Political power and money were behind most of the struggles between the rates. And of coarse when one group becomes more powerful than another they start oppressing the other less powerful groups.
The Librairian said at one point in Silentium that Lifeworkers were required to sit through mandatory meetings held by the Builders. In these meetings Lifeworkers were indoctrinated by what she called “dogmatic assertions”.
While not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, the rate structure did serve its purpose and it held together for over 10 million years. The Forerunners accomplished many amazing things and I think the rate structure played a big part in all they were able to do. It allowed each group to focus on certain tasks that fell within their purview. They could specialize and concentrate on their own area of expertise. And of coarse the rates did work together. The Warriors ensured the Lifeworkers were secure while they did thier work. The Didact had the shield worlds built in a way that they could be a sanctuary for Lifeworker specimens. Miners would have had to have collected all the materials for the magnificent stuctures and constructs the the Forerunners created. It seems to have worked fairly well unless one rate threatened another rate’s power or until greed got involved.
Another thing I really admire about the Forerunners is the disciplined way in which they live their lives.
They are very driven and goal oriented. They are constantly seeking new knowledge and progress and way to improve life for themselves and life for all creatures throughout the galaxy. They are never content to just sit back and let things be. When the Librarian and her small team of Lifeworkers are on their expedition to Path Kethona, she says perhaps the group of Forerunners they have found are happy and that they don’t want to leave the planet they are on. Her ancilla replies, “Contented Forerunners?”, in a dubious tone. Even their ancillas know that Forerunners are almost incapable of being content to just sit idle and see how things go.
It takes a lot of discipline to be that driven.
I am not the most self-motivated person, but even when I have something that I am really excited about, a personal goal or a new project, something I am very motivated to do, that excitement and motivation will only take me so far before I get ready to relax and take a break from whatever it is I am doing. Not a great characteristic I know, but I am who I am.
The Forerunners don’t seem to have that problem. During their “business” hours they seem to always be working toward their goals. They even found a way to alleviate their need for sleep so they could spend their down time meditating on the Mantle or in personal reflection or searching the Domain. They were very dedicated to self-improvement and they took to themselves whatever disciplines they deemed necessary to achieve that improvement.
Another way the Forerunners disciplined themselves that I greatly admire is in their emotions.
Forerunners had emotions. They felt love and compassion. They felt anger and hatred. They felt sorrow and grief. They felt all of these things but they disciplined themselves not to act or react based on those emotions. For a Forerunner to express emotion was viewed as a sign of weakness and immaturity.
In Silentium, when the Ur Didact is marooned in a burn, along with three others, by Faber, there are several examples of this emotional discipline.
First, when the first of the Didact’s unfortunate companions makes his way to the bridge of the ship where the Didact is waiting, the Didact recognizes this Forerunner, Sharp-by-Striking, as one of his old adversaries. The Didact describes him as someone who adamantly oppossed his shield world strategy. Sharp-by-Striking had been a Warrior-Servant at one time, he had even been trained by the Didact, but later abandoned his rate to join Builder Security. The Didact no doubt feels anger and betrayal when he sees this Forerunner but instead of lashing out and seeking revenge the Didact realizes that, in their current situation, acting on those emotions would serve no purpose whatsoever. The Didact works with Sharp-by-Striking to try to find a way out of their bad situation. Before all is said and done, the Didact forgives Sharp, welcomes him back to being a Warrior and calls him friend.
Toward the end of Silentium, after the Librarian has sealed the Didact into the cryptum on Requiem, she is having a conversation with Endurance-of-Will. Endurance is a female Forerunner, a Promethian, who was in love with the Didact thousands of years earlier. She still has very powerful feelings for him. The Didact had chosen the Librarian over her. You can tell by Endurance’s smug attitude towards the Librarian that she hasn’t got over losing the Didact. She makes sure to point out to the Librarian that the Didact requested her presence on Requiem.
Endurance does a good job of keeping her emotions in check given the situation, as does the Librarian. Endurance does slide in a passive aggressive insult at the Librarian towards the end of their conversation. This insult gives the Librarian a spike of anger. She really wants to punch Endurance in the face but she resists giving into that emotion and calms herself.
There are also plenty of times when the Forerunners give into their emotions.
Back to the Didact in the burn. When he finds out the he has been exiled with one of the Master Builders senior builders, Maker-of-Moons, who had helped build Halos, he bursts out in ironic laughter.
In Cryptum, we see a lot of emotional scenes. One that stands out to me is when Bornstellar is returned to his family. There are many different emotions passionately displayed as he and his family deal with his return and the fact that he has mutated without his family’s knowledge or assistance. The fact that he mutated to a lower rate doesn’t help matters either.
Before Bornstellar leaves his family again, he and his father have a very emotional moment together where his father apologizes for not being there for him. Bornstellar forgives him and says that he leaves them feeling proud of his family and proud of his father.
The Forerunners were not perfect at controlling their emotions but emotional discipline was important to them. Displays of emotion were seen as weakness and were considered shameful. That is a bit over the top but being able to keep your emotions under control and being able to act and react logically is very important.
I always feel very foolish when I have an emotional out burst. It doesn’t happen often. When it does it is usually because I have lost my temper over something trivial and then I will spend the next week thinking “I could have handled that situation a lot better”.
Belief in the Mantle is at the core of everything the Forerunners do. All of the various disciplines they practice come from their attempt to uphold the tenets of the Mantle.
I don’t want to go into the Mantle too much right now. I plan to do another post in the future all about the Mantle and how it effects all of the Halo universe.
For now It is good enough to say that the Forerunners believe that they hold the Mantle of Resposibility for the galaxy. They seek to fulfill their duty to the Mantle both personally and corporately.
They fall very short of living up to these beliefs, as do all who follow any religious path, none of us are perfect. But they are sincere, if sometimes misguided, in their dedication to the Mantle.
We All Serve
The idea of serving those around you is something the is instilled in Forerunners from a very early age.
As Bornstellar is preparing to receive his first mutation the Didact explains to him that you don’t serve others because you think you are better than them or just because you think you should. You serve because you realize what others who came before you have sacrificed through their service to allow you to have.
To me, this is a very good attitude to have. We’re all in this thing together no matter what race, creed, color or religion we are. We should all be willing to humble ourselves and serve those around us. We need to realize that there were many who came before us and that the lives we now have are built upon the foundations laid by the service and sacrifice of others. We should all be aware that the way we live, the choices we make and the things we do not only affect the present but also they will affect the lives of people for generations to come.
In Silentium, Sharp-by-Striking says that he is shamed by the Didact’s example of service and sacrifice when he sees that he will survive and escape but the Didact will not.
“We all serve.”, the Didact replies.
To me, the Didact was telling Sharp that they each had their parts to play. The Didact’s part was to sacrifice himself to the Gravemind to learn what he could for the greater good. He is trying to relieve Sharp of any guilt he might feel by telling him that he to will have his own part to play, his own sacrifice to make and his own way to serve.
When, after many years, the Ur Didact is reunited with Bornstellar, the Ur Didact says that he and the Librarian never apologized for the situations that they have basically forced Bornstellar into.
Bornstellar gave up a life of privilage and comfort. He gave up his rate. He gave up all his own hopes and dream. His response? “I serve.”
He realized that his service and sacrifice to the Forerunner ecumene were far more important than his personal privilage. Even more important than his own life.
That is an attitude that our world could use a lot more of. We could do with a lot less selfishness.
If the Forerunners were to show up on our doorstep today, I’m sure the first thing we would notice about them would be their technology.
They were the most technologically advanced race since the time of the Precursors. Though, the ancient Humans weren’t too far behind.
The Forerunners could move stars and build planets. They travelled the galaxy almost as easily as we go to the grocery store. They harnessed powers that we only have the slightest theoretical concepts of. They shaped and built structures out of light. Looking at their technology it is easy to see how the Covenant could think of them as divine. They were so far above any species that has come since their extinction.
Obviously, I have no idea how most of it is supposed to work. Even in theory. So I will talk about the two parts of Forerunner tech that I really like. Their armor and ancillas.
I have always enjoyed wearing gear. Many of the activities I have done in my life have involved extra gear to wear.
When I played baseball, I was the catcher. I loved all the gear I wore when I played football. I like riding motor cycles partly because of getting to wear a helmet and gloves and boots. And when I was in the infantry I always had more gear to wear and more equipment to carry than I knew what to do with.
So, if someone offered me a set of proto type Forerunner body assist armor that they wanted me to wear non-stop for the next month to test it out, I’d be like, “Heck yeah!”.
Forerunner armor was amazing. It protected them from physical harm. It kept them from catching any diseases. It could heal or restore them if somehow they were injured. It took care of all bodily functions. It recycled their waste, not a big fan of that aspect. It could provide sustainance for years. If they were injured beyond what the armor could deal with, it could put them in a state of suspended animation until they could receive the necessary medical attention. And, it looks really cool.
I don’t know what the natural life-span is for a Forerunner. Most of the ones we meet are thousands of years old.
Bornstellar says in Cryptum that their armor is part of the reason they live so long.
Microsoft, if you’ve got some kind of Forerunner-ish armor in the works and need someone to test it out, I’m your man.
Of coarse one thing that made the armor so useful was the ancilla it was equipped with.
Each set of Forerunner armor came with its own ancilla. The ancilla could be used for communication. It could assist a Forerunner with whatever knowledge they needed and could even be something like a personal companion. I think their ancillas are one thing that makes the Foresrunners seem so powerful. The Forerunners could just speak or think something and it would happen. Their ancillas removed a lot of physically doing things from the Forerunners’ lives.
This is one way I think that we are actually following Forerunner tech. Almost everyone these days has a very powerful computer with them at all times. They are small. They are portable. We use them for communication and for gathering information.
Our “ancillas” are a long way from being on par with the Forerunners but we’re heading in that direction. I’m not quite ready to have my S4 wired directly to my brain yet.
It will be nice some day when you will be able to speak a command to your phone and it will know exactly what you mean and do exactly what you want it to do. I know our personal devices are a long way from doing that but I can’t help but wonder what the government has tucked away somewhere.
Well ladies and gentlemen, I think that is enough about the mighty Forerunners for now. There is plenty more to say about them and I will in the near future.
I just bought the Crytum and Silentium audiobooks, so I am obsessed with all things Forerunner at the moment.
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Thanks for your time.
Sgt Kelley out.