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Know Your Lore: King Genn Greymane of Gilneas


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.

He brought it on himself, ultimately. This is not to say that he deserved it, precisely. He was proud, perhaps arrogant, and entirely too willing to let the whole world be damned as long as he saw no danger to Gilneas in the damning. But he was not malicious. He did not wish ill on anyone so much as he only wished weal upon those people he saw as his, and he saw his duty to those within his borders first, last and always. If he did not see clearly enough how the situation outside those borders would affect the people of Gilneas, it cannot be said that his failing was an absence of love for his people.

Genn Greymane, King of Gilneas, never failed his people by an absence of care or dedication. Like many who love something totally and completely, Genn's love for Gilneas was so strong that there was nothing he would not countenance in its defense. And sadly, it may well have been that willingness to do anything for her and anything to protect her, and the desire always to think of her first, last, and always, that doomed her. Even as his people have been forced to flee their kingdom, driven out by invaders who come to defile and steal a land that was never theirs, Greymane remains devoted to his land and his people.

Genn Greymane was born to rule Gilneas. Son of Archibald Greymane, he was raised to lead the kingdom and steeped in the virtues one could say are emblematic of the Gilnean people: self-reliance, pride, even stubbornness. Archibold built Gilneas up into a towering city the rival of any in the Eastern Kingdoms and left his son a dynamic, powerful trading nation with no real need or desire for involvement with other nations and their affairs. The factories of Gilneas transformed the kingdom; at a time when other nations were still debating how much industry to adopt, Gilneas had gone ahead and adopted quite a lot of it. Only Gnomeregan could be said to more exemplify a city of industry. The Gilnean smokestacks belched forth black fumes from her massive factories, and the standard of living in the kingdom wrought by the Greymane line was second to none.

Genn took Archibald's teachings to heart. A man stood on his own. A man relied on no one but took care of his own. Gilneas was built not by asking other people to solve her problems but by solving them herself. And so would Genn rule her.

Lord of His Pack - James Waugh

"Do you think all of this was built by asking the other kingdoms to lift us up?"

The industrial towers of Gilneas City loomed below. It was a magnificent sight, for sure: large tiled roofs poised over cobblestone streets; shops, factories, and billowing smoke; it was truly a city with an eye toward the future, toward the potential of its people.

"When I was a young prince, as you are today, my father would not have dreamed of this! But I did dream, and I struck out on my own, and look at us now.... All of it done without taking the hands of those in Stormwind or begging for aid from those in Lordaeron. And we certainly did not grovel to the long-eared arrogance of those demi-humans in Quel'Thalas."


The coming of war

When what we would come to know as the Second War finally came, Genn had been ruling Gilneas for many years much as his father had. Aside from trade for her factories and goods for her people, the outside world offered nothing Genn was particularly interested in. When the request from Anduin Lothar came to the kings of the human kingdoms, Genn was fully of a mind to reject it. He saw no threat to Gilneas in the orcish horde that had destroyed Stormwind. Stormwind was a city built on ancient principles, while Gilneas looked to the future, after all. And while he certainly wished the people of Stormwind no harm, neither did their plight particularly move him. All it did was make him wish to protect Gilneas the more.

When confronted by young Lord Darius Crowley, who agitated for Gilneas to support the Alliance of Lordaeron against the orcs, Greymane responded that some people were strong and others were weak, and Gilneas needed to use her strength to defend her own people. In the end, Gilneas only provided a token force, motivated more by a desire to keep her factories supplied with raw materials from trade and Lord Godfrey's calculating desire to show the rest of the human kingdoms what even a small force of Gilnean soldiers could do.

Following the war, Greymane was not at all thrilled with the course the Alliance was taking. First off, the fact that any Gilneans at all had died to repel the Horde rankled him, as he still didn't truly believe it was their fight in the first place. He was even more angered by the decision to allow the orcish invaders to live rather than putting them all down, since it meant that the Alliance would need to pay for their upkeep, and as a member of the Alliance, Gilneas would be expected to contribute to the effort to feed and house the invaders who had murdered and burned their way through entire kingdoms, killing Gilnean citizens in the process. Finally, Genn was enraged at the idea of further expense being incurred by the establishing of a foolish outpost called Nethergarde in the remote south, somewhere near a former swamp that had been dried out by the destruction of the Dark Portal.

Turning his face away from the Alliance

If the rest of the Alliance wanted to pay to keep alien monsters who burned children to death in their homes alive, Greymane didn't see that it was any business of Gilneas. After a few months of political wrangling, he stormed out of the Alliance, uttering his famous denunciation of the entire affair."Damn the orcs, damn the Alliance, and damn you! The last thing Gilneas needs is sponges from other nations drawing from our resources, Dalaran wizards meddling with our affairs, and someone else's enemies killing our soldiers! Gilneas is its own nation and it always will be. This is the last time I'll ever talk to you, Terenas, so I hope you were listening." As parting words go, these proved to be unusually prophetic.

Soon, Greymane ordered his ally Lord Vincent Godfrey to enclose Gilneas in a great wall that would seal both enemies and former allies out. Godfrey took the opportunity to weaken his old rival Darius Crowley by cutting off the man's ancestral lands in Ambermill and Pyrewood. While this meant that Gilneas would effectively lose all of her territory in the Silverpine Forest (which had never been part of Lordaeron), it also meant that the Greymane Wall (as it would come to be known) would be built across the strongest natural barriers and thus be much easier to defend and harder to assail. Gilneas' vassals to the north were left to their own devices if they chose not to relocate behind the wall, abandoning their homes and a great deal of their wealth in the process.

Greymane respected and even trusted Godfrey, but he knew the man was self-serving. In a way, that's why he trusted him. If you know a man will always try and do what is in his own best interest, you can endeavor to ensure that his best interests are yours as well. But Darius Crowley and the king had a different relationship. At times adversarial, there was a wary respect and even a personal friendship between the two men. Genn believed Crowley to be misguided but a man of the people, capable of motivating them thanks to his ability to empathize with them. He misjudged how poorly Crowley and his supporters would take being dispossessed as the wall cut them off from their homes. Crowley grew so disenchanted with the king that during the Third War, he even arranged for the "Gilneas Brigade" to join Lady Jaina Proudmoore's expedition to Kalimdor.

After the wall was built, things were quiet in Gilneas for a time. Before Crowley and Godfrey could come to a head or the king step in to force an accord with the Northgate landholders under Crowley, the Scourge reached Gilneas. The great wall did not stop them. In the end, despite the strength of her defenses and her vaunted militia, it was a Dalaran wizard meddling in Gilneas' affairs who saved the nation from the waves of the undead. Genn had ignored desperate pleas from Lordaeron for aid, secure in his belief that the strong stand up and the weak fail from behind his mighty wall, and then found himself and his people besieged by horrible monsters with no one to call for aid themselves. Even if there had been anyone to call, who would aid a people who would aid no one? So Genn was forced to ask Arugal, formerly of Silverpine, an archmage of the Kirin Tor and a proud Gilnean, to use the secrets he'd discovered in the Book of Ur.

Arugal did exactly as his king bid him. He summoned beasts as fell and deadly as the Scourge, feral embodiments of raw savagery the archmage called worgen. And the worgen did exactly as Genn asked and drove the scourge back from Gilneas. True, they infested the woods to the north, the Blackwald. True, they rampaged north of the wall and slaughtered and cursed all they could reach with their claws and fangs, rendering Baron Silverlaine's family keep a ruined den of death and destruction, infested with monsters. True, had Genn listened to Darius Crowley and aided the people of Lordaeron from the start, the Scourge may never have reached their borders and there would have been no need to release the worgen. But Gilneas survived, and Greymane took it as confirmation that the move to isolation had been the right one. The strong stood on their own.

When the end came, no one was left to help

Even the Northgate rebellions did nothing to shake Genn's conviction. Crowley, tried beyond patience by the loss of his lands, the suffering of his people, and the intransigence of his king, led a large force of those also displaced by Genn's wall into Gilneas City. A civil war raged, one Genn barely managed to win (in no small part to Godfrey and his machinations, which had left Crowley without much of his family's wealth or possessions). In the end, Genn was forced to imprison the man he himself had once called the most beloved of his lords.

Even after the rebellion was put down, the famine that resulted from the wall was endured, and the kingdom slowly returned to something resembling normalcy, there was still a threat to Gilneas that needed to be dealt with. The worgen released by Arugal remained on both sides of the Greymane Wall. Repeatedly, Genn, Godfrey, and other nobles would attempt to curb or even eradicate the spread of the worgen curse, but to no avail. No matter how many times they made their supposed hunting trips into the Blackwald, they could never seem to come close to wiping out the worgen curse. Believing that the people would panic if they knew that the rumors about how the Scourge had been driven back were true, Genn chose to keep the worgen and their presence a carefully guarded secret that only he and his closest noble associates -- the ones doing the hunts with him -- knew about.

Which is why, when he himself was bitten, he knew he had to conceal it.

Every step along the way, Genn acted not for his own sake, but for his people, first, last, and always. Every step along the way, Genn made decisions aimed at preserving Gilnean lives and the prosperity of Gilneas. His own son and his closest friend argued against his decisions, but he stood strong and unwavering in his beliefs. The strong stand on their own and look to their own affairs. Lordaeron, Alterac, Stromgarde could go to hell as long as Gilneas was secure.

And so, when the worgen curse spread through Gilneas, there was no one to help her. When the Forsaken servants of Sylvanas Windrunner pushed south into Gilneas following the destruction of her great wall when Deathwing shattered the world, the former neighbors Genn had derided as leeches and parasites draining Gilnean wealth and Gilnean lives were gone -- or worse, transformed into walking corpses that now battered down his reeling kingdom. And so Genn was presented with the true tally of his rule and, in horror and despair, had to watch as everything he loved -- his kingdom, his people, even his son -- was tainted, cursed, or destroyed. In the end, the supposed traitor Crowley gave up his very humanity for Gilneas, while Godfrey, the man who had cut him off from his lands and people, tried to hand Genn over to Sylvanas. Liam died on a poisoned arrow meant for Genn. The people of Gilneas were ultimately forced to flee.

Genn, the king who had intended to preserve Gilneas over everything, was instead forced to watch it fall.

Genn Greymane loved his kingdom so dearly that he did not see that it could not stand alone. For alone it was, and alone it fell. If not for the intervention of the mysterious new elves who called themselves Kaldorei, or night elves, the people of Gilneas would have been lost entirely. Archibald Greymane had scorned the very idea of taking the hand of anyone, much less the "long-eared arrogance" of elves, and now Gilneas itself owed its remaining life to elves, even if they were very different elves.

Genn himself has gone to Stormwind. Once, Lothar brought the news of Stormwind's destruction north; Genn, while saddened, wished to do nothing to aid it. And now he must ask Stormwind's king for aid. Yet he does it, despite it being bitter like gall to him to beg others for aid. For he would do anything for Gilneas and her people, and he will, over and over again, until she is restored. In her hour of greatest need, he has been humbled, finally convinced that he was wrong after all, and that Crowley and Liam Greymane were right. Now all he can do is spend his remaining energies making right what has gone so terribly wrong.

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, Cataclysm

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