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 history and culture.

Helmet of the people 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 as unclean and exiled them to underground.

Originally living above ground, the Gyrm were for the most part peaceful and kindhearted. However, their fellow man despised them as “unclean” and ended up banishing them to underground. This might sound strange at first, but it is, again, most likely a holdover from an earlier concept in development. Satake confirms that the Gyrm were originally denizens of the Gutter, which at that stage was imagined as a village tasked with engineering sewage structures beneath Drangleic Castle under Vendrick’s employ. 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. 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 apparently still failed to escape the airs of their toxic environment; they smelled awful, leading to the King plugging up entrance to their village — a metal channel not unlike the Pit in the final game, although accessed from much farther away from Majula to seem believably connected to the castle. The Kingdom of 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 implicitly 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.

From this, we can presume that the Gyrm did similar dirty jobs thanks to their goodhearted disposition. Whether this work was for the people of Drangleic or one of the countless other countries that have existed on the continent, the end result was the same: exile for the resulting uncleanliness. Driven underground, the Gyrm have remained under our noses ever since. While the English descriptions for various items say that they are nomadic, this is plainly untrue. The internally-named “underground canyon” (地下渓谷) where we encounter almost all of the Gyrm are 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 engineered by the Gyrm. What kind of nomads build permanent structures 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 been deprived of whatever plot of earth under the sun they could call home, and now just haunt the underground.

As their architecture shows, the Gyrm are still 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. As the text of the warrior armor reveals, the latest generation of Gyrm by and large despise the outside world that forced their ancestors into this fate, cutting off all relations with it — unless they be death to intruders.

Axe of the people 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.

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 fighters. The Gyrm were attacked, and being overwhelmed. The invaders are easy enough to surmise. Littered among the hollowed Gyrm are Primal Knights and the dog rats in service to the Rat King. The Gutter’s characteristic statues likewise lay around one their chambers. It seems that the Gyrm were unlucky enough to suffer an assault on two fronts. Drangleic’s hollowed beastmen happened to wander in, matching the Gyrm in both strength and tenacity. This may have incentivized the Rat King — hoping to expand his territory —  to then dispatch his forces and pile on the offensive, some part of the canyon presumably connecting back to the Gutter and thus Grave of Saints.

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 monsters soon enough. The rats took over the area, with 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.