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Know Your Lore: Garrosh Hellscream, part 1


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's Know Your Lore with Thrall left the former Warchief in Nagrand, seeking guidance not only in regards to the raging elements of Azeroth but his own life as well. The former Warchief knew he couldn't step down without leaving someone in charge, and so he had to pick a temporary successor. It was his choice, however, that baffled and angered many World of Warcraft players -- rather than picking someone well known like Saurfang, or perhaps giving Vol'jin a chance to shine, Thrall chose Garrosh Hellscream.

Garrosh's life has been anything but easy. First introduced in The Burning Crusade expansion, Garrosh was apparently -- let's face it -- a petulant crybaby who couldn't even muster the interest to lead the people of Garadar when the impending death of Greatmother Geyah approached. It was up to us as players to convince young Hellscream that life would be all right without the Greatmother, but he simply refused to listen. It wasn't until Thrall visited Nagrand that Hellscream finally stepped up, in a much larger capacity than anyone imagined.

But where did young Garrosh come from? What was his life before we encountered the sulky, unwilling leader of the uncorrupted orcs of Nagrand? What caused him to be so fearful of stepping up to lead? And more importantly, why exactly is he fit to lead the Horde, a much larger group of individuals than that tiny village, when he couldn't be bothered to step up in Garadar?

The events in Garadar

First, let's take a look at the settlement of Garadar and the Mag'har. Some time before the demonic corruption of the orcs, a virulent sickness known as the red pox broke out among the different orc clans. The red pox was a horrible disease that covered its victims with red pustules and caused those infected to cough up both blood and vile -- and it was spreading like a plague among the orcs of Draenor. An orc woman named Geyah, wife of the deceased chieftain of the Frostwolf clan, established a quarantine area -- a settlement for those sick with the red pox, where they could be treated and hopefully cured. She named the settlement after her husband, Garad; this was Garadar.

There were no Mag'har at this time, simply those that were incredibly ill and those that took care of them. The settlement included children of several chieftains who had come down with the pox, including a young boy named Garrosh Hellscream. Garrosh was sent to Garadar after coming down with the red pox, and it was in Garadar that he was raised, with no word regarding his father or his father's fate.

Garadar was given a wide berth by the rest of the Horde, who had no wish to contract the disease that its residents carried. And so, when the time came that the collected chieftains -- minus Durotan of the Frostwolf Clan -- drank the blood of Mannoroth and entered into a blood pact that would bind them to the pit lord and the Burning Legion, Garadar wasn't included. Why would it be, remote, far away, and riddled with sickness? The demonic corruption quickly spread to the rest of the Horde, but Garadar remained unaffected by the change.

No defenders here

Geyah, however, noted the change in the rest of orc society and viewed it with disgust. Years passed, and the small village went largely unnoticed until Kargath Bladefist traveled to it, in an attempt to recruit the able bodied for the war with the Alliance that had spilled through the Dark Portal after the Second War. Ner'zhul sought to open portals to other worlds, but he needed more soldiers to defend the Black Temple from the Alliance so that he could perform the rituals.

Kargath found no warriors. Instead, he found a village of orcs too sick to do more than fend for themselves, tended to by Geyah and a few others. Nagrand was curiously absent of the corruption that had ravaged the rest of the world -- the grass was still green, the mountains still teeming of life, and the orcs of Garadar were unchanged as well. Their skin remained brown, unaffected by the demonic taint that riddled Kargath and his troops and drove them to bloodlust. And Geyah informed him that there were no orcs capable of fighting in the tiny village -- nor would they want to.
She looked smug. "It is mag'har-uncorrupted. And so are its people. They may be sick with the red pox, even dying from it. But at least their pocked skin is brown, and they have not been fouled by the Horde's dark magics."
Kargath was infuriated, but his fury soon changed to horror when Garrosh Hellscream approached the two. Hellscream sought word of his father, who he'd heard nothing from since he was delivered to Garadar years before. Garrosh had no idea if his father even lived. But Garrosh's sickness repulsed Kargath, who quickly realized that there was nobody in the village capable of raising an axe and lending a hand.
Kargath had recoiled when Garrosh started spitting up blood, and he continued to back away now. "No. They are no warriors." Disgust and despair added venom to his words. "They are not even orcs anymore -- they are useless." He glared at Geyah, at Garrosh, and at the other villagers behind them.

"You pathetic weaklings!" he snarled, raising his voice as best he could. "Do the Horde a favor and die here! If you can't help defend your people, you have no right to live!"
Riddled with pox and questions

Garrosh heard all of this, and as he begged Geyah for news of his father, she had none to give him -- none that she was willing to give him. Not yet. But years later, Garrosh learned of his father's fate, that the mighty Grom Hellscream was the first to drink the demon's blood, that he led the way for the rest of orc society, paved a path of damnation for them all. Nagrand and the rest of Draenor shattered, but the tiny outpost remained free of demonic taint, its people taking up the orcish word for uncorrupted -- Mag'har -- as a reminder of the fate they escaped.

Step back for a moment and consider this -- Garrosh Hellscream was dropped off at this village, incredibly sick, at a very young age. He spent his youth riddled with the red pox and desperately hoping he'd hear news from his father -- but his father never contacted him. Years later, his father's fate came to light: His father led the way down a path of corruption that the rest of the Horde eagerly followed. Garrosh continued to be raised by orcs who were incredibly proud of the fact that they'd never fallen to corruption, orcs who were utterly disgusted by the actions of the rest of the Horde -- the actions for which Grom Hellscream served as catalyst.

Is it any wonder, then, that Garrosh Hellscream lived his life in shame? He was surrounded by those who openly reviled the actions his father had taken, and then later expected to lead those people. How could Garrosh expect to lead the uncorrupted, the Mag'har, to greatness, when his father had done the exact opposite? Garrosh was worried that he would be an unfit leader, that he would follow the same path his father followed. He wasn't thinking about Grom's actions in Azeroth, the slaughter of Cenarius, any of that -- he was thinking of that moment when Grom, given the choice to enter into demonic servitude, gladly said, "I will." What kind of legacy is that for a son to live up to?

Not only was he frightened of the potential disastrous results of his leadership -- those that he led were Mag'har. Uncorrupted. They took pride in being what his father was not. How could he step up to lead and expect any of them to follow, given his family's past, his father's past? This is the Garrosh that players meet upon coming to Outland: defeated, utterly broken in regards to his father's fate, convinced that he will somehow inadvertently lead them down the same path as his father. Greatmother Geyah is dying; he will be expected to lead when she passes away. But as far as Garrosh is concerned, when Geyah dies, so do the Mag'har.

Carrying on

And so players are asked by Greatmother Geyah to help the Mag'har and show Garrosh that Garadar, Nagrand, and the Mag'har people will be able to continue on just fine without her. She essentially asks players to cheer him up -- but each new action performed by players does nothing more than drive him further and further into depression. And why shouldn't it? If he, Garrosh Hellscream, is incapable of leading the Mag'har people, yet some small upstart from another planet shows up and is able to work miracles -- well then, there is his proof that he's not competent to lead, isn't it?
You are an honorable <race>, <name>. You have done much for the Mag'har. No one could ever deny your service to my people. Alas, the time of the Mag'har is at an end. You have shown me, more than anything, that I am unfit to lead these people. My cursed blood runs too deep. I will not... I cannot become the second Hellscream to damn the orcs.

Please, <name>, return to the Greatmother and tell her what I have told you. I am too ashamed to see her... to look into her eyes.
A saving grace

Enter salvation in the form of one green-skinned orc who not only led his people from imprisonment, but also had a close personal relationship with Garrosh's father. Thrall came to Nagrand, and after a short conversation with Greatmother Geyah, he learned of Garrosh's depression, of his broken spirit. And Thrall showed Garrosh exactly what his father's last actions were: the actions of a hero. Though no longer accessible in game, Thrall's presence sets off a cutscene in which the events of Warcraft 3 play out -- Grom and Thrall, facing off against Mannoroth, Grom's death ... and Mannoroth's death.



Grom may have been the first to drink, but he killed Mannoroth and freed the orcs from their demonic servitude. Garrosh finally woke up and realized that his bloodline wasn't cursed. His father may have led the orcs down a broken path, but he freed them from that path and paid the price of his life in return for it. Garrosh's father was not despised on Azeroth; he was a hero. And Garrosh went from a depressed young orc, thinking his bloodline was cursed to destruction, to suddenly having to live up to a hero's reputation.

Under Thrall's wing

But Thrall didn't leave Garrosh to lead the Mag'har. Instead, he brought Hellscream to Azeroth -- to show him the world his father liberated and perhaps to take the younger Hellscream under his wing, to guide him in the ways of leadership. After all, Grom was like a brother to Thrall. And after all that Grom had done to help Thrall after he escaped Durnholde Keep, it was only right that Thrall do the same for Grom's son.

The problem, of course, was Thrall himself. Grom let Thrall prove himself over the course of their first meeting, but Garrosh had no way of knowing that the Warchief of Azeroth's Horde was so ... different in thinking than Draenor's orcs. And perhaps Thrall thought he was doing young Hellscream a favor by bringing him to Azeroth -- but what Thrall did was essentially take a wild wolf from the forests into the suburbs and expect it to act just like any domesticated animal.


It was an assumption that would cost the Warchief.

While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.

Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

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