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Know Your Lore: Lore 101, Part 2, Page 2

Valid Lore Sources: The next question is, if all of this information can pretty much be discounted at any time, then what exactly is a 'valid' source for lore? The answer to that is pretty simple -- anything with a Warcraft logo on it is a pretty safe bet to be 'canon for now.' This includes the games, the books, the comics. The larger questions is 'what isn't a valid lore source', and the answer to that is a bit more convoluted:

Blogs and articles: I am well aware of the irony of this being stated in a news article. But before you lift the burning torches, let me explain. While there are blogs and news sites out there that do an amazing job of retelling lore and discussing stories and events that happen in game, you cannot take a blog, or an article, solely at its word as being 100% correct. Why? Because the author can have an opinion or a set of opinions that colors that information. Because the author may have gotten hold of the wrong information somewhere along the line and is now writing it as fact. Because the author may not be double-checking their references, and you've got no idea whether or not what they are telling you is correct.

While we here at wow.com do a meticulous job in researching and backing up everything we find, there's still the possibility that we can slip up every now and again. With the sheer amount of cross-referencing I do for every article, I can reassure you until I'm blue in the face that you've got nothing to worry about, but hey, one quick typo and I could go from 'Varian isn't dead' to 'Varian is dead' -- two completely different statements. Thankfully, this is where the editors come into play -- or where readers gently beat me with a stick and point it out. Other blogs or news sites may not have an editorial staff, much less a staff that is as knowledgeable about the game as ours. So keep in mind when you are reading blog posts or articles that while the information contained may be really well written, it may not always be correct, and you should always double-check your sources against the existing lore sources that are written by Blizzard.
Wowwiki or Wowpedia: I know, I just wrote these two up as good sources, what am I saying? The same rule applies to WoWWiki and Wowpedia as to blogs -- they aren't officially sanctioned by Blizzard, they are written by people that play the game. People that play the game sometimes get their information wrong. In the case of Wowwiki and Wowpedia, they do an excellent, excellent job of cross-referencing and putting down sources for everything they find, but again, occasionally mistakes can be made.

Does this mean you shouldn't use them? Heck no -- I use them all the time for article references, but I constantly cross-reference whatever I'm looking for and double-check the sources to make sure they're valid sources. If you are pulling information from Wowwiki or Wowpedia as a 'source' for something, you want to back it up. Go back through the sources they cite, and double-check it. Is this annoying? It can be -- but when it's a matter of knowing your lore, you want to be as informed as possible. Wowwiki and Wowpedia themselves are amazing sites with a boatload of information, and there's nothing out there quite like them. I love them to pieces; so don't get me wrong when I say they aren't 'valid' sources. I like to use them as a starting point for articles, because they are both very, very good at summarizing information and pointing out where else you should look.

Blue posts: This is another bone of contention with people -- they automatically assume that a blue post is absolute, definite confirmation of information. But let's take a look at a blue post from the Twitter dev chat, answering the question "Will Ner'zhul appear at any point in 3.3 or the near future?"

Bornakk
Well, he is a chunk of the Lich King now. But if you mean will he appear as an orc, we're not ready to tell his story just yet. We have a lot of stories left to tell, but his is a good one.

What is this response actually saying? Ner'zhul is a chunk of the Lich King -- we knew that already, it's been backed up in the books and other official lore sources. But people assume that the second part of the sentence, that they aren't ready to tell his story just yet and they have a lot of stories left to tell, means that Ner'zhul is still alive.

Here's what that sentence could actually mean:
  • Ner'zhul is alive, and they are planning a story about his continued existence.
  • Ner'zhul is dead, but they are going to resurrect him as an orc to continue his story.
  • Ner'zhul is dead, but they are going to release a book much like Arthas about the story of Ner'zhul's life.
  • Ner'zhul is dead, but his ghost will be a quest giver in Cataclysm.
  • Ner'zhul is alive, and somewhere down the line in expansion number four they will be bringing him back into the fray.
  • Ner'zhul's whereabouts are unknown, but the bread vendor in Ironforge has been awfully chatty about her new boyfriend, a dead orc that just got laid off from his job overseeing the dead.
Get the picture? Blue posts are generally worded to be vague enough that you could make them mean anything, and popular opinion usually has people assuming what they 'really mean.' But you fall into a trap when you do that, because the sentence that people are citing as absolute truth is so vague that it could literally mean just about anything.

On the other hand, if you have a blue post that explains what happened with the 'lore train-wreck' regarding the origins of the draenei, signed by Chris Metzen -- you can consider that an absolutely valid lore source. The difference isn't necessarily who is saying it; it's whether or not it's an official announcement. If a blue poster flat-out answers a lore related question with a definitive announcement, that's okay. If on the other hand, the answer is vague and not really addressing the question exactly... citing it for anything would be an unwise idea. And again, as with any Blizzard story, just because it's a 'valid lore source' doesn't mean that the information presented is set in stone, or will remain set in stone. This leads us to the next potential headache for lore researchers: Time travel.
There have been alterations here and there to the Blizzard timeline (the origins of the draenei as referenced above being an awfully good example of this), but none as severe or altering as the time travel presented in the War of the Ancients Trilogy written by Richard A. Knaak. People ask 'well what exactly did he change?' and the answer to that is... we're not sure exactly. Some things changed, others didn't. So here's a look at just a few of the timeline changes due to the War of the Ancients Trilogy:

In the Warcraft III (2002) version of the War of the Ancients:
  • Malfurion was studying the effects of the Well of Eternity, not druidism
  • Cenarius wasn't teaching Malfurion at the time of Azshara's corruption
  • The Dragon Soul/Demon Soul did not exist
  • The furbolg, Earthen and the tauren did not join in the battle during the War of the Ancients
  • Illidan became a demon hunter, and wielded the Twin Blades of Azzinoth
  • The night elves had never seen a human before, and it was questionable whether or not humans even existed at that point in history
  • The night elves had no concept of what an orc was, as orcs did not exist on Azeroth until over 10,000 years later when the Dark Portal opened
  • Malfurion, Tyrande and Illidan sought out Cenarius to help the night elves, and Cenarius agreed to find the dragons to aid them.
  • Malfurion decided to simply destroy the Well of Eternity
  • Deathwing's betrayal was never mentioned, nor the destruction of the blue dragonflight
  • Illidan left to join Azshara's forces because the destruction of the Well meant that he could never practice magic again
  • Illidan had no contact with Sargeras during the War of the Ancients, and his blindness was unexplained
Two years later, the War of the Ancients trilogy was released, one book at a time. Suddenly, things changed:
  • A human named Rhonin, a dragon named Korialstrasz (or Krasus, in the elf guise he wore for the majority of the book) and an orc named Broxigar were thrown back in time 10,000 years, just as the War of the Ancients was beginning
  • Malfurion was studying with Cenarius at the time of Azshara's corruption
  • The night elves, while surprised to see a human and what looked like a very strange night elf, didn't really seem to be all that adverse to having them around
  • Broxigar, however, didn't receive a welcome reception – although his fighting skills were later admired
  • Illidan never acquired the Twin Blades of Azzinoth
  • Rhonin decided to become a 'mentor' to Illidan, to teach him the ways of magic
  • The Dragon Soul/Demon Soul was introduced as a powerful artifact
  • Deathwing's betrayal became a large part of the timeline, along with the near destruction of the blue dragonflight
  • The tauren, furbolgs, and Earthen all came to help the night elves fight the Burning Legion
  • Malfurion stole the Demon Soul from Deathwing
  • Krasus was the one that got in touch with the dragons for help, not Cenarius. Not only that, but he met with all of the Aspects including Neltharion and his past self.
  • The Demon Soul played an integral part in the destruction of the Well of Eternity
  • Broxigar the orc single-handedly managed to become the only mortal to have ever physically wounded Sargeras, distracting him long enough for Malfurion and Illidan to close the portal connecting Azeroth to the Burning Legion and triggering the Sundering
I could go on. There are plenty of other things I haven't referenced, but for the sake of keeping this article a reasonable length, I'm going to stop there. The War of the Ancients trilogy is now considered canon, as stated by Eyonix:
Any piece of literature authorized and licensed by Blizzard Entertainment is in-fact, official. The book series written by Richard A. Knaak in particular is an excellent example of real 'Azerothian' history and lore available outside of our game software. We work closely with authors that help us expand our game universe, and the information should be considered official.
From this we can take two things: First, the books that are found in game regarding the events, and the prior recounting of the events in the WC3 manual are now incorrect, and second -- there's the final word on 'official' lore sources. The fact that the novel negates so much prior material is simply not addressed.

For a lore researcher though, this presents a unique kind of headache: exactly how much of the past did Rhonin, Krasus and Broxigar change? You can theorize the following:
  1. In the WC3 game, Tyrande and Malfurion act surprised and suspicious of the orcs and humans that have invaded night elf lands, Tyrande in particular speaking of them with complete contempt and disgust. If the timeline was altered, then did that change the events surrounding the night elves reaction to other races such as the orcs?
  2. Cenarius fashioned a weapon for the orc Broxigar, an axe made entirely of wood that he used to cleave thousands of demons while fighting the Burning Legion in the past. In WC3, Cenarius starts attacking the orcs outright, without trying any form of negotiation. If his only other contact with an orc was a positive one, did he try talking to the orcs first?
  3. Since Krasus traveled to the past and met his former self along with Alexstrasza, and Krasus had the knowledge that the Demon Soul could be shattered with a part of Deathwing (as documented in Day of the Dragon), why didn't Krasus simply destroy the Demon Soul after the Sundering to prevent Alexstrasza's kidnapping in the future?
  4. If Broxigar, an orc, was the only mortal to ever have laid a hand on Sargeras himself, does this mean the reason the orcs were corrupted by the Burning Legion in the first place is now because of some sort of revenge against Broxigar and his people?
  5. If Rhonin was such a mentor figure to Illidan, why exactly didn't he show up during Burning Crusade and slap Illidan around a little for us? You'd figure he'd be annoyed about the fate of his 'apprentice.'
There are a million more questions that could be asked, but what the novels did essentially was create a split timeline: Everything from the original Warcraft release up to Krasus, Rhonin, and Broxigar's jump to the past is on one timeline. Once they made the jump, a second timeline was created -- and while we know what happened after that point, we still have no idea to what extent the events before that jump changed, or if they changed at all. If they didn't, then... again, it's weird, in flux, and one of those things that gives lore hounds an eternal headache.

Ready for another? The bane of WoW lore fans everywhere: Retcons.

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