Although described as short in stature in their helm’s Japanese description, the Gyrm’s size is exaggerated at best. The ones we encounter all stand roughly equal to us, either slightly shorter or even a little taller. Even accounting for their enormously thick armor, they are more bulky than physically modest. Indeed, these proportions make them resemble the typical fantasy dwarves, which lead concept artist Daisuke Satake acknowledged was how they were referred to internally in the Dark Souls II: Design Works interview. However, he was quick to clarify that this race are human, so the resemblance is merely for aesthetics — what better enemy for a subterranean level in a fantasy game than a bearded dwarf with an axe and heavy armor? In that case, the entire notion that the Gyrm are shorter than average must be a relic from this design period and not actually reflective of the race itself. Their only difference from the other races of men is their culture and history.

Helmet of the citizens of the Germ, who lack a settled land. Has excellent tenacity, but is heavy.

The short Germ were mostly those of gentle disposition, but man despised them for uncleanliness and exiled them to underground.

The Gyrm are almost all encountered within an “underground canyon” (地下渓谷) as it is internally named. While the English descriptions for various items claim them nomadic, this is plainly untrue. The canyon is filled with elaborate chambers, mechanized doorways, and monuments carved from the rocky terrain; some Gyrm are even hiding behind the doors. These are clearly dwellings and similar domestic spaces which the race has engineered. What kind of nomads build permanent structures all in one place, and in such abundance? The Japanese script specifically words them as not possessing their own settled land, “land” in this context likely referring to above ground. They have no plot of earth under the sun to call home, and so just haunt the underground.

Specifically, they dug in close proximity to Shulva. The map of Drangleic depicts the area sandwiched between the Shaded Woods and Tseldora as right next to Harvest Valley, where the Sunken City’s poison rose up to. The Gyrm’s canyon also stores away a Dragon Charm, as if the race just so happened to collect the rare item used by Shulva’s religious body. On top of that, the Gutter’s characteristic holy woman statues decorate one Gyrm chamber the same as parts of Shulva and the larger Black Gulch. Taken together, the race were just a stone throw’s away from the ruined capital, with some unseen means to reach all those other subterranean areas nearby. But based on this scant amount of evidence, they weren’t too interested in exploring those places, preferring instead to keep to themselves in the canyon they have carved out.

As the architecture shows, the Gyrm are industrious, and this extends to their smithing. Their heavy weapons are elaborately made if a bit crude. Their protective armor is likewise incredibly difficult to move for wearer and enemy alike. However, the Gyrm have built up the physical strength to use both with ease, flinging the axes in particularly like they are nothing. This is true for more than just the warriors. Despite their stereotypical Viking helm, this other variant of Gyrm are supposed to be the ordinary citizens, hence why their somewhat lighter equipment doesn’t cover the entirety of their body. Nevertheless, the people wield weapons to combat us the same as their warriors, though never the axes like their Japanese description claims. This is because, as the text of the warrior armor reveals, the latest generation of Gyrm by and large despise the outside world and have no interactions with it — unless they be death to intruders. This wasn’t always the case.

Axe of the citizens of the Germ, who lack a settled land.

Even though it is boorish at a glance, the high craft of Germ blacksmiths is evident from its elaborate make. Germ warriors easily fling this axe, which is fairly heavy.

Helmet of the warriors of the Germ, who lack a settled land. Has excellent tenacity and defense power, but is extremely heavy.

Most of their descendants have cut relations with the outside and live with hatred toward those that drove them out.

Originally, the Gyrm too lived above ground, acting for the most part peaceful and kindhearted. However, their fellow man despised them for uncleanliness and ended up banishing them to underground. If so, then the humans who did this must have lived somewhere near the subterranean canyon. And as alluded to earlier, the area only connects to the Shaded Woods and Tseldora. The latter in particular built a formal entrance to this hostile territory — a fair-sized building with a fountain at the center and pots laying around just inside the entrance, indicative of activity. This implies that the town had friendly exchanges with the Gyrm at one point, making it also the best candidate for souring those relations. Indeed, the building’s very location requires that the Gyrm already exist underground, where they could get plenty filthy. In that case, Tseldora simply barred them from coming back up to the surface.

What were the Gyrm doing down there in the first place? Most likely, redirecting water. A key feature of Gyrm architecture is the artificial waterways, creating waterfalls to fill the bottom of the canyon. The unnecessary inclusion of a fountain likewise hints to Tseldora’s interest in the Gyrm’s water engineering. Taken together, the wealthy town probably hired the Gyrm to bring water to Tseldora, with the fountain providing a good indicator whether or not everything was functioning properly below. Considering the cove’s arid environment, both the town the farmland overhead would benefit from the irrigation. The intention may have also been to give the affluent citizens proper plumbing. The Gyrm’s “uncleanliness” (不浄) is also euphemism for feces, meaning that they were potentially working in putrid sewage waters as well. This would make Tseldora’s issue with the race more the disease, and odor, which came with their filth rather than being filthy in itself.

Cut content reinforces this scenario. Satake confirms the Gyrm to have been initially conceptualized as denizens of the Gutter, which at that stage was a village tasked with engineering sewage structures beneath Drangleic Castle. Shalquoir’s cut dialogue for the game’s original script elaborates on this premise. The Gyrm would have been specifically building an outlet to drain the sewage, this labyrinthian “Sewage Outfall” (下水路) eventually becoming the Grave of Saints in the final game. Because all the castle’s waste ended up in these subterranean caverns, the Gyrm were forced to build their village from the refuse, creating stacks of buildings from trashed materials or even whole infrastructure — all to avoid wading through the poison swamp their outlet had created.

There’s a village beneath the royal castle where a short race dwells, and it appears they were making an outlet to drain the sewage for the people of the castle. But that race… the “Germ”… or whatever they were called. They smelled awful. The King plugged up entrance to the village. I wonder what became of the Germ left behind…?

Despite these efforts to avoid the actual filth, the Gyrm would have still failed to escape the airs of their toxic environment; they smelled awful, leading to Vendrick plugging up entrance to their village — a metal channel not unlike the Pit in the final game, although accessed much farther away from Majula to seem believably connected to the castle. Drangleic would have essentially abandoned the race to die to the diseased waste it excised, paralleling the relationship between the Depths and Blighttown in the original Dark Souls. Indeed, the name Gyrm, or Germ, (ゲルム) is an obvious non-phonetic transliteration of the English “germ” into Japanese, encapsulating this concept. However, the implications to this incident run much deeper. The Gyrm would have done this sordid work on the castle’s behalf because they are an honest and industrious people, which made them hard to deal with for the “selfish” humans. Theirs is a people willing to do what is necessary for others, only to be ostracized for the inconvenient consequences by those same beneficiaries.

The short race that dwells beneath the royal castle, the “Germ”… They apparently made a passage to the “Undead Citadel” behind the King’s back. The Germ are an honest and very industrious race, but it seems like humans, being selfish, had trouble handling them.

We can see this same tension play out in the final game. The uppity Tseldorans, with all their newfound opulence, didn’t want to associate with dung-covered rabble, forcing them to remain underground where they could continue constructing and managing the waterways. Naturally, the Gyrm were themselves highly offended by this abuse and cut off relations with their employers, including disconnecting and dismantling the existing water system — as we can see, the fountain up top is long dry, and there is no plumbing or sewage to be found down below. The Gyrm have remained under everyone’s noses ever since, building waterways solely for their own enjoyment; built with it, a new subterranean civilization. By the time they did open other exits to the surface, they wanted nothing to do with humans, period.

There are exceptions, of course. Lonesome Gavlan is a Gyrm warrior who travels around the surface out of seemingly nothing but pure curiosity for the world outside, buying whatever we are willing to sell. He seems to be particularly fond of alcohol, gulping down a tankard whenever we see him — probably another carryover from the original concept for the Gutter, which featured an exceptionally large brewery and distillery adjoined to an alehouse. Regardless, like a foreign tourist, he cheerfully greets us with his limited comprehension of our language, always happy to wheel and deal with outsiders. Another Gyrm can be found behind a locked door in the Shaded Woods ruins, seemingly locked in by the building’s trap mechanism and ultimately going Hollow. Perhaps this citizen was an Undead condemned to wander the hated outside for his curse, similar to Undead banishment in other human cultures. But it isn’t just him. All the Gyrm besides Gavlan are Hollow, making the wandering merchant truly alone among his kind. What happened?

Well, for one, they wield some strange weapons. The warriors have chained their blacksmiths’ anvils to hafts to make impromptu great hammers, while the citizens have repurposed them as flails. The warriors’ greatshields are similarly just pieces of their stone monuments. This isn’t the masterwork of diligent craftsmen, but salvaging by desperate civilians. The Gyrm were attacked, and being overwhelmed. The invaders are easy enough to surmise. Among the hollowed Gyrm are Primal Knights, Drangleic forces which had an undeniable presence in Tseldora but are nowhere to be found there at present. Instead, we see the kingdom’s military camp orienting some of their arrow-ridden defensive walls toward the path to the Gyrm, a pyre of bodies in front of the building and a pile of skeletal remains in the broken fountain. There has evidently been conflict between the two parties recently.

Most likely, some of Drangleic’s Undead troops unwittingly wandered into Gyrm territory, the bones in the fountain showing their response. This kicked off a conflict culminating in the camp sending its remaining beastmen into the underground canyon. While the added antagonism from the local peasants made this a war on two fronts, they weren’t alone in this dilemma. On top of the Gyrm and Primal Knights, the canyon is also home to the dog rats and the Rat King they serve. The monarch seems to have noticed this destabilization and seized upon the chance to expand his territory — he does consider the land stolen by unfaithful humans, after all. He dispatched his forces to pile on the offensive, using the Gyrm’s presumed tunnels to the Gutter and thus Grave of Saints against them.

Great hammer of the warriors of the Germ, who lack a settled land. Impromptu weapon that repurposed an anvil used by blacksmiths.

It is fairly heavy and of rough make as it looks. However, if you are hit, there is simply no excuse.

Greatshield of the warriors of the Germ, who lack a settled land. Impromptu shield that repurposed some kind of stone monument.

It is fairly heavy and of rough make as it looks. But, the majority of attacks don’t work.

The Gyrm didn’t have a chance. Any who survived had wound up Undead and died again to become Hollows soon enough. With the Primal Knights and troops back in camp also completely hollowing, the rats took over the area uncontested, their King using it as another trial ground for testing potential human servants. Gavlan may be a survivor of this conflict. He not only sells the poise-enhancing Ring of Giants — an appropriate item for his people — but also various poison items mainly associated with the Gutter. Perhaps Gavlan’s drinking isn’t just a matter of taste, but for drowning his sorrows after becoming the last survivors of his race — potentially a deserter too. Either way, whatever significance to the Gyrm’s runic script and stone monuments had is now lost along with them. An entire culture gone extinct through no fault of their own. Now all that remains is their mad husks, instinctively driven to still attack those wretched outsiders on sight.