The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how, but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.
WARNING: The following post contains spoilers for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Players who wish to play the new expansion spoiler-free should veer away from this post.
The above screenshot (go ahead and view it in full) was taken in the Temple of the Moon in Darnassus. Instead of the ever-present statue of Haidene, first high priestess of the moon, we see Elune. Or rather E'lune, a naaru that looks much like A'dal, which I suppose would be only appropriate given the sheer scope of what E'lune's power would have to be. I mean heck, she made the night elves what they are, didn't she? E'lune, (or Mu'sha, as she is called by the tauren) is the major deity worshipped by the night elves. That's right, night elves: Your deity is a giant light-spinning windchime.
Maybe. If you haven't noticed by now, today is another "Tin Foil Hat" edition of Know Your Lore, which means we're going to talk about lore elements presented in game and attempt to weave them together into a logical conclusion that makes perfect sense in the context of Warcraft lore. Today's subject is Elune, the goddess of the night elves, An'she, the "missing half" of tauren history surrounding the Earthmother's eyes, and why tauren priests and paladins may not be quite as far-fetched as some people think. To begin, we have to go back to what all priests and paladins of World of Warcraft work with, that mysteriously vague magic school knows as the Light.
The "Light" or "Holy Light" is a nontheistic religious philosophy more than it is a practicing school of magic, according to those who follow it. It follows the belief that there is a connection between the self and the rest of the universe. That connection manifests as what we feel through senses and emotions -- when a person is moved in one way or another, that feeling or emotion connects him to the universe. Because he feels that emotion, he is reassured he exists, and because he exists, the universe that made him feel that emotion must exist as well. Once that connection is recognized, the person can then act upon the universe, causing changes to create feelings in others -- and others are reassured of that connection between universe and self.
From there, a follower of the Light seeks to develop that goodness within and without -- if you want to be happy and feel closer to the universe, the best way to achieve that is to make others happy right along with you. The more "happy" everyone is, the more that connection between the universe and the self comes into play. The best definition I have seen of the Holy Light is that it is "the glory of the universe reflected upon the soul and mirrored back onto itself." The main practitioners of the Light in WoW on Alliance side were humans and dwarves; gnomes had no use for the Light, and night elves had Elune.
The main Light organization of the Alliance is the Church of Holy Light. The church practices three basic teachings, also called "The Three Virtues": respect, tenacity and compassion.
- Respect is the practice of respecting those around you. While a follower of the Light must recognize the connection between the universe and themselves, he must also recognize and respect the connection between others and the universe. Destroying the happiness of someone else is severing his or her connection to the universe, which isn't serving the well-being of the world, which in turn isn't serving the well being of the follower's connection. It's a chain reaction.
- Tenacity is the dedication it takes to adhere to this philosophy -- to spread the word of the Light and the connection that inherently links us all to the universe is by no means an immediate thing. It takes a lifetime of dedication to improving yourself and others. Tenacity is required along with extreme amounts of dedication -- even at the darkest of hours, there is always, after all, the Light.
- Compassion is the third and final virtue, and the most difficult to master. If someone is too compassionate, he can go around giving help where help isn't needed or wanted. Not only can this be annoying (which isn't "happy" and thus should be avoided), it can actually stunt the growth of the person you're trying to help. If you're constantly carrying someone in your arms, how are they ever supposed to learn to walk? Compassion is the ability to recognize those situations where help is absolutely needed, not just the ability to run around offering help to anyone who may or may not require it.
Instead of trying to help those in need, he decided killing them all was the best solution. In other words, instead of looking at the problem with Compassion and Respect and trying to find a solution that would further the Light, he wanted to take the easiest solution out, which is also a failing in Tenacity. Unfortunately, the further he fell, the less able he was to see the inherent connection between himself and the rest of the universe. The more lives he destroyed, the more he was destroying his own, in a way.
So basically the Light is more of a philosophy than a true "magic." While mages pull their magic from the arcane ley lines, druids and shamans use the spiritual magic of the earth, and warlocks deal with the fel magic of demons, priests and paladins use this spiritual connection between themselves and the rest of the universe to project feelings of goodwill and emotional happiness upon the world at large. The Light is a very, very abstract concept and difficult to grasp -- think of it as a never-ending circle of good will. The further that circle spreads, the more people it affects. Sort of like Defile, except it makes people happy rather than frustrating raiders.
Now how do we get from a philosophical connection to the universe as a whole, to the flashy light bubbles and healing of the priest and paladin classes? For the early practitioners of the Light in WoW, this was attributed to some higher power that was simply called the "Light," for lack of a better description. While the followers of the Holy Light don't really worship any gods, they do recognize that their powers come from some sapient, higher being -- the being they refer to as the Light.
This is where we bring in the naaru. When the draenei were introduced, they also had a paladin and priest class and followed the Light in much the same way as dwarves and humans, with one difference. They knew where their Light-given powers came from: the naaru, a sapient alien race that had on more than one occasion saved the draenei from destruction. The naaru are a dimension-traveling race of beings that have a deep affinity to the Holy Light -- or if you want to phrase it differently, so attached to the universe that Respect, Compassion and Tenacity are like breathing to them. In fact, they are so aware and cognizant of that connection that they have surpassed the mortal form attributed to most races and simply are Light, in its purest form.
The naaru seek to spread the Light, the pure emotion of happiness and contentment, wherever they go, and when the Burning Legion showed up, the naaru were dead set on stopping them. After all, the Legion seeks to destroy that connection between self and universe that the naaru propagate. It's a clear-cut case of good vs. evil. But let's step back for a second here and look at the basics of the naaru: they are a sentient race that travels the universe in order to spread the joy and good will of the Light wherever they go.
Then you have the Titans, who travel the universe to bring order and life to worlds. These two races, both almost godlike in qualities, seem to have basic attributes that link really closely to each other. An interesting theory to consider is that the Titans themselves, by bringing "order" and life to worlds, are in a way almost practitioners of the Light. Sargeras was corrupted because he saw so much chaos and destruction in the world that he despaired there was nothing he could do about it -- a failing in Tenacity. Eventually, he decided that the concept of order was folly, and that chaos and disruption were the only absolutes that existed in the universe. He lost all hope -- and once he lost that hope, he fell.
Perhaps the Titans are actually the oldest paladins the universe has ever seen, and the naaru watched over them carefully. When Sargeras fell and formed the Burning Legion, the naaru sought to defeat him. Not by violence or destruction, but by spreading the message of the Light so far, and so wide, that he wouldn't be able to counter it and would eventually see what the Light had to offer again. When Sargeras came to the home world of the draenei, Argus, he began to corrupt the eredar race and sway them to his side. Velen prayed for help and was answered by the naaru that offered to take Velen and whatever other like-minded draenei that existed far away to safety. During their flight from Argus, the naaru taught the draenei about the Light and blessed them with "light-given powers."
This is why the draenei are able to focus the powers of the Light -- not because of some unknown "higher power," but because a god-like race came to them and imbued them with that power and the knowledge to use it. And this is where we make the next logical jump; if the draenei race was granted the powers of the Light by the naaru, who is to say that the humans, dwarves and other creatures of Azeroth didn't receive the exact same blessing? That the powers of the Light and the teachings of the Light didn't just magically appear out of nowhere, but were granted to the human and dwarven races by a being known as the "Light" purely because that being defied description, other than the fact that it glowed like the stars? If so, where is that naaru, and why haven't the naaru of Outland mentioned anything about this to the denizens of Azeroth?
There are a few different reasons that could be applicable, the largest being that perhaps the naaru of Outland "saw" that the humans and dwarves obviously didn't believe their powers came from a naaru, and didn't want to outright disprove any philosophical or possibly theistic beliefs. In other words, the naaru definitely didn't want to offend their newfound allies. Instead, they chose to simply show themselves, explain who they were and quietly wait for two and two to make four. Only it hasn't made four yet.
The biggest piece of evidence to back this up is the Icecrown questline that begins with the quest A Tale of Valor. Players are sent after Crusader Bridenbrad and race against time to somehow find a way to cure him of the plague. After several failed attempts, players are at last sent to A'dal in Shattrath City to see if there is any way he can help. A'dal replies to the request:
Some take offense to the implication that their selflessness is somehow a "miracle," but from a standpoint of a being of pure Light, it is a miracle. Just as much as the sun coming up in the morning is a miracle, or the flowers that manage to grow in a perfectly symmetrical pattern are miracles. To a follower of the Light, this shows that even on his deathbed, Crusader Bridenbrad was such a devout follower of the Light that even his passing sparked the compassion and emotion of those around him, people he'd never met before in his life. Even while sickened and dying from the plague, Bridenbrad is still holding to the tenets of the Light so closely that he affects those around him in a profound and meaningful way.I am pleased that you have come to me, <name>. I know of Crusader Bridenbrad, and of your travels in hope of saving him. Bridenbrad's valor has sparked remarkable selflessness in you, and this is a miracle unto itself.
The Light will take care of its own. I will extend my blessing to Bridenbrad and he shall not endure the corruption of undeath. I shall return you to Dalaran, and you shall return to him. Know that I remain with you.
And that's pretty impressive and miraculous for a human being who, when compared to a draenei or a dwarf, has the lifespan of a sneeze. It is notable though that the Light does indeed take care of its own -- A'dal and two other naaru show up upon Crusader Bridenbrad's death to usher him from what surely would've been a fate of turning into one of Arthas' mindless scourge, and deliver him to the paradise that his devotion rightfully earned.
Is A'dal merely enacting the Light ... or is this a clue that A'dal and the rest of the naaru are the Light itself? And how exactly does this tie in to the night elves and the tauren, who are about as far from all this crusader-y light-swinging devotional stuff, anyway? Read on and find out!