Vrykul (pronounced ['vraɪ.kʊl]) are a race of heavily Norse-themed half-giant warriors native to the Howling Fjord, located in southeastern Northrend. It is said that in ancient times the vrykul race inhabited the land, founding a vast and prosperous civilization. Suddenly one day, without warning or explanation, the vrykul race vanished, leaving behind only deserted villages and abandoned temples. Due to the encroachment of the Alliance settlement of Valgarde on their lands, vrykul have recently returned.
Led by King Ymiron, these formidable warriors have begun attacking Horde and Alliance settlements from the fortress of Utgarde Keep, not far from Valgarde. Vrykul motives and their whereabouts for the past several thousand years remains a mystery, though they have recently become allied with the Lich King, accepting him as their "Death God".
Vrykul are brutal in nature, and are served by worgs and a similarly mysterious race of proto-dragons. They practice a runic magic that even the most experienced wizards find unfamiliar. For some reason, they frown on manual labor, thinking it lowly.
The quest states that vrykul children born in a certain time after their gods "abandoned" them were "weak and ugly". King Ymiron ordered all those children to be killed, but events observed in the preceding quest imply that not all of the parents obeyed this order, instead hiding their children in order for them to grow up far away from Northrend.
A dialogue uncovered by Brann Bronzebeard in Ulduar lists the vrykul (along with the earthen and the giants) as "seed races", implying that they are direct creations of the titans as opposed to having evolved from some other race over time.
Vrykul appear as very large and muscular humans, usually with beards.
A few subraces of vrykul exist. The only currently known ones are:
- Have stone or metal-like skin with engraved runes. Sjonnir The Ironshaper appears to be this type of vrykul. Iron vrykul serve the titan Loken, as well as his master, Yogg-Saron.
- Have blue skin and are covered in ice. They are adapted to living in the colder areas of Northrend.
- A fleshy variation, covered in green scales and barnacles. They come from an unknown location and attack the beaches of southern Northrend.
Three undead variants derived from vrykul stock also exist.
- Incorporeal undead raised from vrykul females. The inhabitants of Valkyrion aspire to this transformation.
- Vrykul brought to undeath that weren't found worthy by the Lich King. They are the losers of the challenge to "ascend" at Jotunheim. The winners are the Ymirjar.
An organization exists of both live and undead vyrkul.
- Not a type, but an organization of frost vrykul loyal to the Lich King. They are the winners of the challenge to "ascend" at Jotunheim, but for some reason has vargul members.
The vrykul seem to be inspired by the Einherjar (ine-her-yar, "lone ravagers/army of one") of Norse mythology who were the spirits of warriors who died glorious deaths in battle and were resurrected to serve the gods at the time of Ragnarök. Unlike the Einherjar however, the vrykul serve an evil purpose.
The name vrykul comes from the Greek equivalent of the vampire, the vrykolakas (from the Slavic vǎrkolak). (The vrykul were originally supposed to be vampiric in nature, this aspect was later seperated and implemented as the Darkfallen)
In addition, the vrykul may have ties to the Warhammer universe's Norscans, a nomadic and violent race of humans enthralled to the Chaos gods. The Warcraft series is believed to be originally inspired, in part, by the Warhammer games.
At the Blizzcon '07 WoW Lore panel, Chris Metzen said “The first time we started talking about these guys, there were probably six different things that defined them, right? They’re giant…dark…vampiric…barbarian…vikings…from hell, right? The list just kept going.”
It can be speculated that the birthing of humans was a severe side-effect of the Curse of Flesh upon the vrykul.
It can be speculated that the disappearance of the vrykul can be traced back to the Sundering, if like the earthen they were greatly affected by the event and retreated to hibernate for thousands of years, and this is seen in Jotunheim where some of the vrykul are in a state of hibernation, in some ways similar to that of the night elven druids of Moonglade. If they were also direct creations of the Titans, they were likely living metal or stone to begin with. Upon waking they may have turned to the Lich King for the continued immortality they would have had.
Although the vrykul are generally seen as an inherently brutal race, focused on nothing but violence, power and servitude to their king, there are several cases throughout WoW where a disobedience to power, whether it be king or magic, are seen, for example, during the quest chain in Howling Fjord which gives a possible explanation as to how humans came to be, a vrykul couple choose to save their "weak" and "ugly" child (as they were described by King Ymiron) out of what appears to be the same moral values that their human descendants would currently hold.