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Know Your Lore: An'she and the Holy Light

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.

When considering the new race and class combinations that Blizzard has to offer, some are immediately recognizable, such as human or Forsaken hunters. It stands to reason they'd exist; they already have in game since the very beginning. Some take a little more research, such as the history of the Shen'dralar and how that effects new night elves that would like to study the arcane. However, some of these new race and class choices are so far out there and so inconceivable that the very mention of them existing seems completely out of place.

The tauren race has long been a follower of nature, the spirits of the elements and the mysterious "Earthmother," as well as the elusive Mu'sha -- also known as Elune by the night elves. Yet in Cataclysm the tauren will be following the path of the Holy Light -- the paladin and the priest class. At first, the announcement seemed entirely out of line for the nature-loving race, but examining the tauren a little more closely gives the answers and the explanations we're looking for. To explain the tauren paladin and priest class, we first have to go way, way back to the dawn of tauren civilization and the only know records of tauren history, the Thunder Bluff scrolls.

WARNING: The following post may contain some spoilers for the upcoming Cataclysm expansion. If you wish to remain spoiler free, do not continue.

The Thunder Bluff scrolls are located in Hammul Runetotem's tent on Elder Rise in Thunder Bluff. The tauren were always a nomadic people, that is until Cairne Bloodhoof founded the city of Thunder Bluff in between Warcraft III and World of Warcraft's release, so all of their history was primarily told via word of mouth rather than written down. This makes the tauren one of the most elusive races to try and track down any history for -- it simply doesn't exist. To date, the Thunder Bluff scrolls are the only written history the tauren have. There are five scrolls, but the only ones I'll be taking a look at today are the first two: Mists of Dawn, and Sorrow of the Earthmother.

Mists of Dawn
Before the Age of Memory, the gentle Earthmother breathed upon the golden mists of dawn. Where the amber clouds came to rest, there were endless fields of flowing wheat and barley. This was the basin of her works - the great basket of life and hope.

The Earthmother's eyes shone down upon the lands she had breathed into creation. Her right eye, An'she (the sun), gave warmth and light to the land. Her left eye, Mu'sha (the moon), gave peace and sleep to the stirring creatures of the dawning. Such was the power of her gaze that the Earthmother closed one dreaming eye for every turning of the sky. Thus, her loving gaze turned day into night for the first dawning of the world.

While the right eye shone down upon the golden dawn, the Earthmother's gentle hands spread out across the golden plains. Wherever the shadow of her arms passed, a noble people arose from the rich soil. The Shu'halo (the tauren) arose to give thanks and prayer to their loving mother. There, in the endless fields of dawn, the children of the earth swore themselves to her grace and vowed to bless her name until the final darkening of the world.
The Mists of Dawn references the "Earthmother," the deity that the tauren worship as a sort of god. The Earthmother has never been identified as a mob or NPC in game; she is simply the Earthmother, giver of life and creator of all living things. In this scroll, she is credited for the creation of the tauren race -- and she has two "eyes", An'she and Mu'sha. There are several theories surrounding the Earthmother's identity, but none have been confirmed. A popular theory involving the Earthmother is that she is actually Therazane the Stonemother, the Elemental Lord of earth.
However, Therazane has always been referred to as the Stonemother, not the Earthmother -- and Therazane was once a lieutenant of the Old Gods -- hardly the actions of a benevolent, peaceful and loving entity. Another theory suggests that Alexstrasza is the Earthmother, because she is the "Lifegiver" -- again though, this theory has been unproven. There are also theories surrounding the Titans, some say that the Earthmother may be Eonar; the Titan responsible for life, and some say the Earthmother may just be a reference to the entire Pantheon of Titans as a whole. This is a little more credible -- it could be that the Earthmother's "eyes" were sent to watch over the world, much like what the Titans assigned the dragonflights and watchers to do after the invasion of the Old Gods. But before we can look any more at the Earthmother or her origins, we need to take a look at the second scroll, Sorrow of the Earthmother.

Sorrow of the Earthmother
As the children of the earth roamed the fields of dawn, they harkened to dark whispers from deep beneath the world. The whispers told the children of the arts of war and deceit. Many of the Shu'halo fell under the shadow's sway and embraced the ways of malice and wickedness. They turned upon their pure brethren and left their innocence to drift upon the plains.

The Earthmother, her heart heavy with her children's plight, could not bear to watch them fall from grace. In her grief, she tore out her eyes and set them spinning across the endless, starry skies. An'she and Mu'sha, seeking to ease the other's sorrow, could only chase each other's faint glow across the sky. The twins still chase one another with every turning of the world.

Though sightless, the Earthmother could not long stray from the world of her heart. She kept her ear to the winds and listened to all that transpired across the fields of the dawn. Her great heart was always with her children - and her loving wisdom never fled from them.

Helpful hint to those that follow lore: Nine times out of ten, if something is referred to as "dark" or "beneath the world" or "malevolent" -- it's an Old God. Time and time again the Old Gods are referenced in history and lore, sometimes by name, sometimes not. But what is important about this particular scroll is that it gives us a vague glimpse at a timeline of events:
  • The Earthmother created the world and all things upon it, including the tauren.
  • The tauren fell prey to "dark whispers" from "deep beneath the world." In other words, a possible Old God invasion -- or rather, the Old God invasion, the one that resulted in their imprisonment at the hands of the Titans.
  • The Earthmother tore out her eyes, An'she and Mu'sha, and sent them spinning across the sky. The sun and moon now chase each other, creating day and night in Azeroth.
  • More importantly, now Mu'sha and An'she, the eyes of the Earthmother, are free to watch the world on their own.
What this scroll is suggesting is that the tauren race is one of the oldest races on Azeroth -- one of the original races that were created to roam the world. The tauren people fell under some kind of corruption and turned upon each other -- and in her sorrow, the Earthmother tore out her "eyes" and set them to watch over the world, unable to bear the sight of her children's corruption. While she can no longer see, the Earthmother still watches over her children -- over all living things on Azeroth. As for her "eyes," they now circle the world on their own, no longer a part of her.
Mu'sha is also referred to the moon, and it's common knowledge that Elune, the deity worshipped by the night elves, and Mu'sha are one and the same. The timeline for Azeroth's origins is relatively shaky at best, but the most coherent one suggests that the Titans appeared and created Azeroth as we know it. After creating the world, they left to find other worlds to create. Then the Old Gods invaded Azeroth, and then the Titans came back, imprisoned the Old Gods, created the dragonflights and titanic watchers to keep an eye on the world, and left again. The tauren scrolls suggest the Earthmother was there right alongside all of this -- which lends itself incredibly well to the theory that the Earthmother is either Eonar, or the entire Pantheon of the Titans jammed together and referred to as one entity.

But the part that hasn't really been addressed, and the part that is probably the most interesting twist to the Thunder Bluff scrolls and the Earthmother/Eonar/Pantheon theory is this -- Mu'sha, or Elune, is a part of (or was created by) whatever this mysterious Earthmother really is. In other words, if Eonar is the Earthmother, Eonar was directly responsible for the creation of a deity. Take a moment to ponder that idea, and what exactly that means in regards to the power of the Titans.

Right. These guys potentially aren't just world-creators, they are the creators of gods. If this were actually the case, I'd say we'd be well off hoping that we never actually have to fight one of them. Again, the theories surrounding the Earthmother and her identity are all speculation, but it's what we have to go on. The rest of the Thunder Bluff scrolls reference the history of Mu'sha, the birth of Cenarius and the ongoing battle between the tauren and the centaur. Obviously Mu'sha and her son Cenarius both play a very important part in tauren history, as they represent the origin of the tauren druids -- which the tauren claim were the first. The night elves have a different side to the story and insist that they were the first druids, but when you're dealing with a history as spotty as the tauren's, there's no telling who is correct.

Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

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