Chieftain Cairne Bloodhoof and the tauren who follow him are arguably some of the most neutral and forgiving creatures in World of Warcraft. While their allegiance has been sworn to the Horde allied under Warchief Thrall, Cairne and his people have little need of conflict with other races -- Alliance included. During the fight against the Burning Legion at Hyjal summit, Hamuul Runetotem befriended Malfurion Stormrage, who then taught him the ways of the druid. Since that time, Hamuul has mastered his learning, being recognized as the first tauren druid in nearly 20 generations and becoming the first and only tauren to achieve the status of archdruid -- and this in merely four years worth of study, according to the Warcraft timeline. He now teaches other tauren the druidic ways from Elder Rise. While tauren myths state that tauren druids existed for centuries before Malfurion instructed Hamuul, either this knowledge was lost to their race or they simply fell out of practice. Regardless, night elves were apparently first, according to a post by Nethaera on the official Warcraft forums:
The tauren believe that Cenarius' earliest known association with the mortal races was with the tauren, not the night elves, but this belief is apparently false. Unfortunately the history of the tauren race is so sketchy and empty of detail that there isn't really enough information to prove this one way or another, save for the blue post mentioned above. While the druids of the tauren are currently following the beliefs taught by Malfurion and the night elves, the teachings have raised questions in one tauren's mind. Tahu Sagewind, a tauren druid located in Elder Rise, has the following conversation with Aponi Brightmane regarding the teachings of Malfurion:
Tahu is on to something far greater than he'd imagined -- while the night elves worship Elune and the moon, the Thunder Bluff scrolls on the wall behind him clearly reference the sun, or An'she. An'she was the right eye of the Earthmother (Mu'sha, or Elune to the night elves, being the left), and while the tauren have latched on to the ways of the night elf druids and their devotion to Mu'sha, An'she has never really been addressed. With the addition of tauren paladins and priests in Cataclysm, it's clear that this addition is being addressed from a lore perspective and is actually justifiable according to existing lore. But the fact that the tauren follow Mu'sha and Cenarius and yet ally with the Horde is odd given the events of Warcraft III. One of the reasons that people question the tauren's allegiance with the Horde is that Grom Hellscream and his orc forces killed Cenarius in Warcraft III -- the demigod that the tauren had supposedly worshiped for centuries. Despite this, Cairne still sought Grom's redemption and helped rid him of the demonic taint. I like to think that this is simply another aspect of Cairne's peaceful nature: Chieftain Cairne, despite all evidence thrown his way to the contrary, consistently believes the best of people until proven otherwise -- and sometimes, even beyond that.Aponi Brightmane says: Talk to me, Tahu. Something. Anything! I'm going stir-crazy.
Tahu Sagewind laughs softly
Tahu Sagewind says: All right, Aponi. I've enough on my mind to share. Have you ever spoken to the elves of Moonglade?
Aponi Brightmane says: Not much.
Tahu Sagewind says: The elves speak of a moon goddess, did you know? They put great stock in the light given by the moon.
Aponi Brightmane says: Like Mu'sha.
Tahu Sagewind says: Just like her. The parallels I've heard are interesting. And it's no secret all druids, Shu'halo and elf alike, can call upon Mu'sha's light.
Aponi Brightmane says: Where are you going with this?
Tahu Sagewind says: I wonder. Hamuul has guided us well, and I've learned so much from. The legends say that our people were druids when time began ...
Aponi Brightmane says: I hear the "but" in your voice ...
Tahu Sagewind says: ... but what Hamuul teaches is what the elves know. The night elves. They put such stock in their moon goddess, as creatures of the night.
Aponi Brightmane says: Do you think his teachings are wrong?
Tahu Sagewind says: No! No, nothing like that. He is an elder for good reason, sister. Mu'sha is one of the Earthmother's eyes, and she watches over us. That isn't sinister.
Tahu Sagewind says: But we're nothing if not people who strive for balance. Our warriors fight only when there is need. Our hunters take only what the tribes require to live, and use all they can when they do. The shaman stand as guide and mediator to the elemental spirits.
Tahu Sagewind says: And while we, as druids, are guardians of nature, I wonder if we've overlooked a key aspect of balance in all things.
Aponi Brightmane says: So are you going to bring this up to the elder?
Tahu Sagewind says: No, no. No need for him to trouble about a student's idle philosophizing while he entertains a friend.
Aponi Brightmane says: I suppose so. It's not silly, though, what you said.
Tahu Sagewind says: Well, it isn't exactly a new thought, sister.
This is where Chieftain Bloodhoof's fault may indeed lie and where his downfall may rest. While he is forgiving, he is perhaps too forgiving. The alliance with the Horde was undertaken because the two races, orc and tauren, helped each other when both were in a similar situation -- both seeking a place to peacefully settle and establish a home. In addition to this, the tauren and the orcs shared similar shamanistic beliefs regarding the elements and nature, and despite the orcs' otherworldly origins, that spiritual connection created a bond between the two that was almost brotherly in nature. But the tauren seem to share this bond with other races as well. The night elves of the Cenarion Circle are also treated with politeness and respect, despite Arch Druid Fandral Staghelm's strong abhorrence of the idea of anyone but night elves practicing the druidic arts. In addition, the tauren can be found here and there helping other races -- while the forsaken are obviously in cahoots with the Grimtotem tribe, there are other tauren working on some sort of cure for their condition. A blood elf seeking a natural cure for the sin'dorei's addiction has been exiled from her people and is given refuge and space to conduct her research at the tauren settlement of Freewind Post in Thousand Needles. A tauren works diligently in Western Plaguelands to try and heal the damage done to nature, and asks for help from either faction, Alliance or Horde.
The tauren with very few exceptions are a peaceful race, and their attitudes toward the rest of the world's creatures are positive, welcoming and ultimately forgiving of all wrongdoing, no matter how terrible the crimes committed. Chieftain Cairne appears to be trying to establish a utopia of sorts where all races of Azeroth can coexist in peace, at one with the spirits and with nature. To Cairne, it doesn't matter what race a person is, where they came from or what they may have done in the past; it's what's in their heart and spirit that counts, and he is willing to overlook just about anything else. This is why he works so well with Warchief Thrall. Both are idealists who would like to see a world where fighting between factions simply doesn't exist, where Alliance and Horde can coexist in harmony and work with each other to defeat the real dangers of the world: the Burning Legion, the Old Gods and other ancient horrors that threaten not just the orcs or the tauren, but the existence of life on Azeroth itself.
Oh ... wait.
While Cairne's idyllic nature and visions of a perfect world strike a chord with players, and indeed Chieftain Bloodhoof is one of the most respected and beloved faction leaders by Alliance and Horde alike, it is that very nature that puts him in perhaps the most dangerous position of all: the position of a leader that could be viewed through two very different sets of eyes -- the eyes of the peacekeeper, who see him as a visionary and an example to follow ... and the eyes of a ruthless sort of leader who views this willingness to forgive and forget as the actions of an addled old fool who is hardly fit to lead. A leader so blinded by the willingness to see the good in everyone that he is no longer able to recognize his enemies, a leader who is simply incapable of establishing any kind of authority over his people, even those that work against him under his very roof.
And meanwhile, under that same roof, a leader acts according to her primal heart, a leader who seeks to establish dominance through brutal and cunning acts of violence. Someone who has on more than one occasion worked against the Alliance who should be viewed as an enemy, according to some of the more outspoken members of the Horde. A leader who is cunning and ruthless enough to potentially turn on former allies, if those allies prove to be less than worthy in the efforts to establish supremacy. This is all speculation, mind you, but it is very clear that out of all of the Horde races, the tauren are a time bomb, quietly ticking away for five years and waiting to simply explode.
In Wrath of the Lich King, players are introduced to the Taunka, an offshoot of the tauren tribes to the south. Unlike their southern cousins, the Taunka are more bison-like in appearance. These ancient relatives of the tauren race were thought lost entirely until re-discovered by Garrosh Hellscream and the orc forces of Northrend. The difference doesn't stop with their appearance, however; while both races are deeply connected to the spirits and the elements, the Taunka seek to dominate the elements rather than working with them in harmony. Part of this may be due to the harsh environment of Northrend and the overwhelming presence of the scourge, but some of it may also be due to differences in attitude. While the Taunka have joined the Horde for now, they still have no presence in the south. Whether or not this will change in Cataclysm is unknown, but one thing absolutely must be kept in mind: the Taunka swore themselves to the Horde -- the Horde of Northrend, Garrosh Hellscream's forces, not the forces of Thrall. While the tauren to the south are very familiar with Thrall's penchant for peace and understanding between all of the races of Azeroth, regardless of Alliance or Horde, the Taunka are not.
While the orcs are dealing with their own version of civil unrest directly, the tauren for the most part have chosen to simply ignore the efforts to oust Cairne from his leadership position, a dangerous move at best. Rumors surrounding the Cataclysm expansion suggest that the tauren race is headed towards an explosion that has nothing to do with the land surrounding them. Rather, it's the internal conflicts, as of yet never fully addressed, that will come into play. The players of WoW love Chieftain Cairne, yet the story and lore behind World of Warcraft is heavily rooted in conflict, and the question that has yet to be answered is this: What place does a gentle, nature-loving, almost pacifistic leader hold in this world? The answer may invariably be an upsetting, unsettling one, but we won't see it until Cataclysm's launch.