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Know Your Lore, TFH edition: Sargeras was right

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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.

Imagine if you will a perfectly nice little wooded area, teeming with wildlife. Here, there's a bird's nest; there, a small group of deer peacefully grazing on the grass. Over the hill lives a small pack of coyotes that will eventually hunt the deer, but it helps keep the deer population down. Circle of life and all that. Some years, the wildlife flourishes; other years, water is scarce and so is food. Those are the lean times, but somehow the little wooded area continues to thrive on its own, waxing and waning its way through the years.

Now imagine that little wooded grove gets targeted for development. All woodland creatures are systematically driven out of the area or killed. The lovely trees are ripped from the ground one by one. The grass is torn up, dirt and earth moved and leveled out. And one by one, houses pop up where the wooded area used to be. Clean and tidy paved roads, white picket fences all in a row, pretty if bland houses plunked into symmetric lots carefully designed for the maximum use of space. Those who live in the houses may occasionally see a deer out the window, a remnant of the wood that no longer exists.

Which is better?

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition, meaning the following is a look into what has gone before with pure speculation on how it happened and what is to come as a result. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore. But they're interesting!

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The path and purpose of the Titans

Once upon a time, countless thousands of years ago, there was a tiny planet called Azeroth, and it was picked by the Titans to be set into order. We know the story of Azeroth as it stands. We know that the Titans ordered the world carefully and left. We know that they returned after the Old Gods arrived and fought tooth and nail in a horrific war.

We know that the Titans won that war, and we know that the Aspects and Titanic Watchers were put into place to protect the order of the world. We even know now that the Titans also put together a fail-safe procedure to demolish the world and rebuild it, should the Old Gods rise again.

Why?

That's the part we don't know. That's the key to the mystery of the Titans. Azeroth is not alone in the universe. There are plenty of other planets out there, planets that have been visited by the Titans as well. We know that the Titan's purpose is to purportedly set the universe in order, one world at a time -- but we don't know why that purpose exists. We don't know who among the Titans said "Hey, you know what would be a really neat idea? Tidying up." We don't even know if it was a Titan that originally came up with the idea in the first place.

And we don't know if it even was an idea or if it's something that the Titans were simply created to do. If they were created, who created them? Where did they come from? How did they originate? Why were they designed to basically act as the universe's interior design crew? Most importantly, who decided the universe needed organizing in the first place?
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The fall of Sargeras

Sargeras was the Champion of the Pantheon, the high council of the Titans. It was his job to defend the worlds that the Titans created from the forces of darkness and chaos. But there was a problem with that. Sargeras, like the rest of the Titans, was a creature of nobility and order. Things like corruption and evil were things that were almost unfathomable to the Titans. And as Sargeras fought entity after evil entity, observing each in kind, he began to despair.

As the stories go, Sargeras went slowly mad. In his supposed madness, he believed that the Titans were the ones responsible for the failures in the universe. It was their fault that chaos continued to breed and thrive. And so Sargeras left the Titans, no longer wishing to defend the universe. Instead, he wanted to destroy it, undo all the effort the Titans had put forth and wreak chaos upon the infinite number of worlds floating out there in the Great Dark Beyond.

Sargeras went to the eredar and convinced most of them to join his cause, certain that the clever spellcasters would be able to further propel his mighty army into glory. And so the story wends on, Sargeras and the Burning Legion versus the infinite worlds the Titans have ordered. It's not just a story -- it's the story, the story that sparked everything we are doing and have done on Azeroth to date. But Azeroth is merely one world among countless others. It is but a footnote to the overall tale.

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Sargeras' sanity

Tales tell of the origin of the various worlds in the Great Dark Beyond, tales that speak of a vast wave of Light and Darkness crashing in the midst of the universe -- worlds spun free from the collision and scattered across the Great Dark Beyond, each world unique, different, touched by both order and chaos. The Titans came after this genesis, along with their curious task of setting worlds to order.

The tales tell of Sargeras' descent into madness, faced with the inevitability of chaos first-hand. But those are tales, and tales are just as truthful as the one that tells them. Sargeras may have despaired, losing all hope in the fight against evil -- or he may have realized that the natural order of the universe led towards chaos. And in realizing that, he may have begun to wonder exactly who was it that said the universe needed to be put to order.

So many planets ... so many tiny, seemingly insignificant lives. So many lives that Sargeras snuffed out in the name of good, in the name of what was just. But what was good, really? What was the righteous path? Was it destroying countless worlds in the name of what was right? Was it looking at the universe and judging it as wrong? Who are the Titans, to judge the universe as good and evil?

And if the natural order of the universe was ongoing prior to the Titans arrival within it, who were they to say how things should be? The universe itself was a place created when Light and Darkness crashed. Shouldn't it make sense then, that Darkness always exist in one form or another? Shouldn't the universe be a place, ultimately, of balance?

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Balance

That's what strikes me as odd these days, especially with Mists of Pandaria approaching. The pandaren are essentially creatures of balance, of order. There has been fighting in Pandaria's past, but the pandaren culture has spent 10,000 years or so keeping the sha, the negative, the chaos in check through lives that are centered around the concept of natural balance. They recognize that if one is centered, negativity will never manifest. Will it be there? Oh yes, negative thoughts and emotions are always there, just out of sight. But if one combats that with peace, with serenity, that negativity won't overwhelm.

In that case, if we want to take it to a larger scale -- a titanic scale, if you will -- the universe itself was created by Light and Darkness coming together. And the Titans are there to create order out of the chaos. But what if the Titans were too good at creating order? If the balance shifts to chaos, chaos will reign. But what happens if the balance shifts the other way? What happens if the universe is infused with nothing but order, with nothing to hold it in check?

And perhaps that's what Sargeras saw, staring into the eyes of chaos. It wasn't a blatant need for destruction -- it was recognition. Pure, horrified recognition and realization that if the chaos were to suddenly cease to be, the Titans would no longer have a purpose for existing. And in that moment of recognition, Sargeras didn't go mad. He made the next logical leap: If the Titans with Sargeras on their side were able to overcome all chaos, a fallen Titan would be the logical balance to that overwhelming order. He would have to become the balancing factor by switching sides.

As long as Sargeras exists, chaos thrives. And when chaos thrives and order thrives, we create a universal balance. Within that balance, peace and war coexist in an eternal tug-of-war, each feeding on the other, creation and destruction causing a never-ending circle of life.

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Is evil the right path?

Let's look for a moment back at the example of the wooded glade and the development project. For some, the destruction of wilderness is a terrible thing. Wildlife deserves to live as much as we do. For others, creating new homes for people to live in is a necessary thing -- after all, if we ran out of homes, we'd run out of places for people to live, and homelessness is a terrible thing as well.

Neither side is exactly right, and neither side is exactly wrong, either. Eventually, buildings will be abandoned, and the wildlife will creep back into the shadows of structures that were once solid homes.

Is pure, unadulterated evil a good thing to have in the universe of Warcraft? No -- and we've been shown that time and time again. But it's a necessary thing. Without evil to combat, the worlds would fall into a space of blissful serenity -- and while that may sound like a good thing, in the long run, what would that mean for the purpose of existence?

What are we, if we have nothing to fight for?

And in that case, perhaps Sargeras did what ultimately was the right thing. He became an instrument of chaos and leapt wholeheartedly into that position with as much devotion as he'd dedicated to his former task. He continues to stoke the fires of dissension and chaos, because somewhere inside that dark Titan's shell, he realizes that letting the Titans order everything in the universe would be the absolute worst thing for it.

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Chaos thrives when there is nothing to keep it in check. We are given a vivid example of this in Pandaria, when the combined chaos of the Alliance and Horde are let loose upon the peaceful land. The best way to combat that chaos is through balance, the balance that the panderen have carefully cultivated over thousands of years.

What the Titans did and what they are continuing to do is to try to eradicate chaos by wiping it out. This makes as much sense as trying to kill an Old God. We cannot kill the Old Gods because the Old Gods are an integral part of Azeroth. Killing the Old Gods would mean that we destroy Azeroth itself. Chaos, darkness, these are an integral part of the universe, part of the recipe that created the vast worlds scattered among the Great Dark Beyond.

If we sweep chaos out of the universe, we destroy the universe. This is what Sargeras realized the day he went mad. Sargeras looked into the face of darkness, the face of evil, and realized that if there are to be champions of order, there must be champions of darkness as well. And so Sargeras took the only logical path to take and let the darkness consume him whole.

It was only the right thing to do.

For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
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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