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The Shanka, or Flatheads, are a bestial and wild humanoid race reminiscent of orcs or trolls. They live in great numbers in the darkest corners of the Circle of the World, especially The North. They are hostile towards everyone and everything, attacking villages and travellers.


The Shanka are "something between a man and an animal". An ape-like creature, with twisted claw-like hands at the end of their long arms. Their faces are grey with flat snouts and forehead, hairless brow, and over-sized teeth.[1] They use tools and usually fight with spears[2].


Despite being brutish and bestial, the Shanka seem to be more sentient than an animal. They communicate with each other through gibbering and muttering. They live and fight in groups, use weapons, and are even able to forge basic weapons.

In the North, the Shanka live in large groups. Every summer, they travel south when the ice melts, plaguing the countryside with raids on villages and travelers[3].

The Shanka also live in other isolated parts of the world. In Aulcus, the dead city in the Old Empire where nothing rots, they swarm in massive numbers, feeding on the unrotted flesh of dead humans. They run a forge for weapons in the tunnels beneath the city.[3] In Ashranc in the Far Country, they live in the deep tunnels and plague the Dragon People mining there.


According to Bayaz, the Shanka were created by the Master Maker, Kanedias, who made them with clay, metal and left-over flesh. They were bred to help the Maker in his war against his brother Juvens, and later the Order of the Magi. After the death of Kanedias, the Magi tried to exterminate them, but only managed to thin their numbers and push them back into the isolated corners of the world. They have since flourished.[4]



  1. Before They Are Hanged, Part II, Luck
  2. The Blade Itself, Prologue: The End
  3. 3.0 3.1 Before They Are Hanged, Part II, Beneath the Ruins
  4. The Blade Itself, Part II, The House of the Maker