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.
Last week we took a brief look at the Eternals known as Ancients -- immortal beings that were worshiped largely by the night elves, though other races also paid their respects to these ancient beings. This week we'll be moving from the demigods of the night elves to the gods, demigods and Loa of the trolls. The pantheon of Loa is vast and largely undefined, though we've seen glimpses of gods here and there, and will see at least one more of them during the Echo Isles event that will be coming sometime before Cataclysm's release. Some of the Loa gods referenced in today's article originate from the Warcraft role-playing games, and should not be taken as full-on canon as a result, however there are several other Loa that are featured in game.
To begin, the Loa are essentially primal gods, with each god representing a different animal or domain. Where the Ancients covered various types of creatures, the Loa cover various aspects of creatures -- there's a very subtle different between the two. The Loa tend to be a little darker, and some could be called "evil." In order to make this a bit more organized, I'll be sorting the Loa according to tribe.
The Amani Empire was once one of two ruling empires prior to the rise of the night elves. After the Sundering, the Amani were largely relocated to the Eastern Kingdoms, and suffered great losses at the hands of the humans and the high elves during the Troll Wars. Formerly a member of the old Horde, the Amani tribe led by Zul'jin pulled its support and took a neutral stance on the world, until the blood elves were taken in by the new Horde. Zul'jin, enraged by the apparent treachery of the Horde, vowed to take his revenge. In the Burning Crusade raid , it appeared as though he was doing just that, by creating avatars of the troll gods, or "forest lords."
- Nalorakk: Nalorakk is the lord of the bears.
- Akil'zon: Akil'zon is the lord of the eagles.
- Jan'alai: Jan'alai is the lord of the dragonhawks.
- Halazzi: Halazzi is the lord of the lynx.
Ula-Tek: Not mentioned in Zul'Aman is the serpent goddess Ula-Tek. What's interesting about Ula-Tek is that she is one of many "snake gods" in Warcraft lore -- there are a ton of snake gods out there, she just happens to be the serpent goddess of the Amani.
The Gurubashi Empire was the other ruling empire prior to the rise of the night elves, and it was massive. When the Sundering hit, it suddenly found itself split into many, many different locations -- most of the Gurubashi remnants were relocated to Stranglethorn Vale, but some fragments remained on Kalimdor, and they are the desert trolls we see in Tanaris today. A lot of Gurubashi history surrounds the Loa, and one god in particular:
Hakkar: After the Sundering, the Gurubashi Empire began to crumble. In desperation, the Gurubashi turned to their gods to help them, and caught the attention of one of the most evil Loa in the entire troll pantheon -- Hakkar the Soulflayer. Hakkar was a blood god, some believe he may even be the son of an Old God or even an Old God himself, though this has never been proven. Hakkar helped the Gurubashi regain their power, but at a price -- he demanded daily sacrifices for his own purposes.
What Hakkar was really after was a physical form -- as a blood god, what he wanted most was ... blood, and lots of it. Once he regained physical form, he could devour the blood of all mortal creatures, even the trolls that worshiped him. The Gurubashi realized this after some time, and the resultant upheaval caused one of the worst wars in troll history.
The strongest of the shattered tribes of the Gurubashi rose up against Hakkar and his priests, the Atal'ai, and while they were successful at destroying the avatar of the blood god and banishing him from the mortal world, the fractured remnants of the Gurubashi splintered even further as a result. In the end, the Gurubashi Empire collapsed, and most of the followers of Hakkar were shoved back into Zul'Gurub, the rest fleeing north to the Swamp of Sorrows, where they promptly built another temple to Hakkar.
The activities of the remaining Atal'ai trolls didn't go unnoticed. Ysera, Aspect of the Green Dragonflight caught wind of the temple in the Swamp of Sorrows and the plans of the Atal'ai, and smashed the temple under the marshes, which is why the Sunken Temple we see in game today is ... sunken, and why there are green dragons constantly patrolling the area around the instance. Unfortunately the incident didn't kill off all of the Atal'ai, and some remained deep within the Sunken Temple to resurrect Hakkar, believing that if this were accomplished, Hakkar would bring his servants immortality in gratitude.
It was discovered however that this could only be accomplished within Zul'Gurub, the old capital of the Gurubashi Empire. The summoning was completed, and Hakkar returned to the physical realm once more. The trolls of the surrounding lands sent in priests, champions of other primal gods, in order to defeat Hakkar -- and Hakkar promptly enslaved them and fed off of their powers. Reports of his immortality have been somewhat exaggerated however, as players can venture into Zul'Gurub and kill him. Whether he is dead-dead, or only mostly dead remains to be seen.
The primal gods of the Gurubashi are animal spirits, and the few known are as follows:
- Shadra: Shadra is the spider goddess, her venom used as a powerful poison for weapons.
- Shirvallah: Shirvallah is the tiger god.
- Bethekk: Bethekk is the panther goddess.
- Hir'eek: Hir'eek is the god of bats.
- Hethiss: Hethiss is the snake god, not to be confused with Ula-Tek. No relation!
Bwonsamdi: This guy is a little different. Rather than representing an animal spirit, Bwonsamdi is the Loa of the dead. He watches over the spirits of those who have died, and is mainly referenced by the Darkspear in the upcoming Echo Isles event. However, the Darkspear were originally part of the Gurubashi Empire and worship many of the Loas of the Gurubashi as a result, so Bwonsamdi may very well be a Loa from the Gurubashi pantheon.
As mentioned above, the Sandfury Tribe was originally part of the Gurubashi Empire. After the Sundering the Sandfury were obviously split from the rest of the trolls, and worshiped their own Loas possibly as a result of this. Only two have been discovered to date:
- Kimbul: Kimbul is the god of tigers, worshiped primarily by the Sandfury tribe in the deserts of Tanaris. He doesn't seem to have any relation to Shirvallah. Other names for Kimbul include Lord of Beasts, King of Cats, and the Prey's Doom.
- Mueh'zala: Mueh'zala is referenced as being a god of death like Bwonsamdi. The Sandfury tribe in Tanaris worships him as well. Other names for Mueh'zala include Father of Sleep, Son of Time, and the Night's Friend.
Before there were Amani, or Gurubashi, there were the Zandalar -- the progenitor race for all trolls of Azeroth. The only known Loa of the Zandalar is Zanza the Restless, who may very well be the spirit of an ancient Zandalar troll. He exists in game in Zul'Gurub and will offer players a variety of items for various classes in the form of armor enhancements. What exactly Zanza is the Loa of is unknown, however Hakkar seems to hold no power over him at all -- which makes him a very powerful being indeed.
The Drakkari Empire's origins are a little odd. These guys were driven out of the more "civilized" troll lands long before the Sundering and settled in northern Kalimdor. Why were they driven out? Because they were so violent, so cruel, and so bloodthirsty that they were considered complete barbarians. Complete barbarians in the eyes of the Amani and Gurubashi Empires. Yeah, these guys were pretty brutal. The Loa of the Drakkari are as follows:
- Sseratus: Sseratus is the serpent god of the Drakkari. No relation to Ula-Tek.
- Har'koa: Har'koa is the goddess of the snow leopard.
- Rhunok: Rhunok is the god of the arctic bear.
- Quetz'lun: Quetz'lun is the god of the wind serpents.
- Mam'toth: Mam'toth is the god of the mammoths.
- Akali: Akali is the god of the rhino.
- Dubra'Jin: Dubra'Jin is a forgotten god whose shrine is located just west of Gundrak. Little is known about Dubra'Jin, other than that he will protect trolls who honor him via sacrificing raptor eggs.
- Zim'Abwa: As with Dubra'Jin, little is known of Zim'Abwa. Making an offering at his shrine will imbue the player with an attack power buff, so it can be assumed Zim'Abwa is a warrior or fighter of some sort.
- Zim'Rhuk: Zim'Rhuk is also known as "The Wise One." Making an offering at his shrine will imbue the player with -- you guessed it -- wisdom, or rather a buff that acts much like the Blessing of Wisdom that paladins offer.
- Zim'Torga: Zim'Torga is a forgotten goddess also known as the "Mother of Prosperity," and will imbue players with a buff similar to Blessing of Kings when left an offering.
Loas of the Shadow hunter
In the Warcraft RPG books, several other Loa are mentioned though no reference has been made to them in game as of yet. The Loa of the Shadow hunters are all references to Loa from Haitian Voudou. Shadow hunters in Warcraft are essentially the masters of voodoo magic -- they walk the line between light and dark and deal primarily with the spirit world. However unlike the witch doctors commonly associated with troll voodoo, the shadow hunters actually have a special bond with the Loa, and are granted abilities with the spirits' blessing.
While the Loa of the shadow hunter have not been mentioned in game, it's still worthwhile to give them a brief once-over:
- Legba: Legba is the Loa of speed, and grants shadow hunters his speed as well as his grace.
- Dambala: Dambala is yet another serpent Loa, no relation to any of the various other snake gods and goddesses mentioned above. He teaches shadow hunters the art of moving silently and swiftly.
- Lukou: Lukou is the Loa of Healing and Respite, and grants shadow hunters the ability to heal. While Lukou can grant the ability to heal, she has no power over the undead, like Holy magic commonly practiced by priests and paladins.
- Ogoun: Ogoun is the Loa of war and teaches shadow hunters the art of hexes and curses.
- Shango: Shango is a Loa god who is the controller of the Realm of Storms -- essentially, he's a thunder god. He teaches the shadow hunter how to throw lightning in the form of "stormspears."
- Samedi: Interestingly, Samedi is the god of death and the restful sleep of the dead, and is a reference to the Loa that Bwonsamdi references -- Baron Semedi, the Loa of the dead in Haitian voudou. Bwonsamdi may be Blizzard's effort to bring these little known Loa into World of Warcraft, though whether we will see any of the other Loa listed here mentioned is unknown.
The limited amount of information involving troll Loa and gods can be frustrating to those trying to research troll lore. However for the active roleplayer it presents a unique kind of open canvas -- trolls have gods for just about everything under the sun, and the number of gods in the troll pantheon has never been fully defined. This leaves an almost limitless amount of room to play when roleplaying a troll character, and creates all kinds of opportunities for myths and legends. Need a god? Make one up -- the trolls have so many, it's not far-fetched at all to produce one that was previously unheard of.
While the Ancients of night elf lore are not only benevolent for the most part, but take an active role in shaping the world, the Loa and gods of the trolls are far more subtle in their efforts. They don't seem to intervene unless they are actively called upon, or channeled into some sort of avatar to do their work for them. The Ancients actively participated in the War of the Ancients because they saw the world in peril -- the Loa on the other hand were completely absent from the picture, busy with their own purposes. Whether or not we see any more of these Eternals come Cataclysm has yet to be seen -- although rumors abound about the efforts to destroy Hakkar in Zul'Gurub, and how they may not have been as effective as previously thought...
Next week, we'll be looking into Eternals of a different kind -- the Titans, creators and organizers of worlds. Just think of them as the universe's interior designers. Be sure to check back next time for more information on these curious demigods and their influence on Azeroth present-day, and in Cataclysm!