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Know Your Lore: Of Elune, naaru, and night elves

Know Your Lore Of Elune, naaru, and night elves SUN
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.

Before we begin, I feel I should point out that the screenshot above is one that I created for the purposes of an article I wrote detailing the possible wind-chime origins of everyone's favorite kaldorei deity. It was not real then, and it is no more real now, over two years later. That article pointed out the possible correlations between the goddess Elune, the holy Light, An'she, and what might have been naaru intervention instead of divine, as the night elves would have everyone believe.

And while it connected a lot of dots, it was not true. It was simple theory and speculation. However, recent Ask a Cdev answers have once again brought the question of Elune's origins into play, and player reaction has been less than enthusiastic about the supposed confirmation. Most complain that making Elune a mere naaru is basically homogenizing night elf culture and history, something that plenty of players are apparently really passionate about.

To which I say two words: don't panic.

Know Your Lore Of Elune, naaru, and night elves SUN

Ask Creative Development II

The Ask Creative Development threads give players the opportunity to get lore questions answered. Everything from the creation of the universe to the specific lore points of particular classes has been addressed in prior threads. Thousands of questions are submitted, and out of those thousands, a handful are chosen to be answered. But the answers may or may not be guaranteed information -- sometimes they are simply hints or answers that aren't answers at all.

I discussed this the last time we saw an Ask Creative Development thread, and pointed out the various types of answers we see. The last type of answer was what I like to call "deliberate obscurity," in which a question isn't really answered directly, it's just shuffled to the side. In Ask Creative Development II, someone asked if Elune was a naaru. The response was delightfully unclear, yet wholly appropriate.

Q: Is Elune a naaru?

A: During a recent visit to Darnassus by Velen, he explained that the kaldorei's description of Elune, as well as the demonstrated powers of the goddess, matched his experiences with powerful naaru. He began to offer advice regarding how to commune with powerful naaru, but Tyrande thanked him for his opinion, then cordially requested that he refrain from making such outlandish claims when in Darnassus or in the presence of Elune's priesthood.

This wasn't a clear answer at all. All it pointed out was that the night elves had no interest what so ever in pursuing Velen's theory. In fact, the idea of Elune's origins being tied to the naaru is something that could be considered downright offensive to the majority of kaldorei culture. I suspect one would get the same kind of icy-yet-cordial reaction if one were to speak to a devout Catholic friend and politely suggest that God is a delicious croissant.

Belief systems and structure are one of those things that have been present on Azeroth for thousands upon thousands of years. Having an alien from another world point out what may be a logically sound explanation for a treasured deity is not really anything the natives of that world are about to take seriously, regardless of whether or not it is true. And in their answer, the Creative Development team neither confirmed or denied the original question -- but they did subtly point out that regardless of Elune's origins, it wouldn't really do anything to sway night elf culture in a substantial fashion.

Know Your Lore Of Elune, naaru, and night elves SUN

Ask Creative Development III

With Ask Creative Development III, the question itself was brought up again, albeit in a slightly different fashion. And the answer once again has players in an uproar over the implications.

Q: What is Elune? Is she tied to any other beings (Naaru, Titans, Loa, Elementals, An'she, etc.) in the setting's cosmology?

A: See the final answer in Ask Creative Development, Round 2. Velen has been a prophet of the naaru for many thousands of years, and it's unlikely that he would propose such a theory without significant evidence and consideration.

This is a slightly less obscure answer, which may be why people are in such an uproar. By confirming that Velen would be unlikely to suggest a theory like that without significant evidence, players assume that this means an absolute confirmation that Elune is without a doubt a naaru, no further questions needed. Except that once again, this isn't a real answer at all.

Velen may not suggest theories like this without significant evidence and consideration, but even with all the evidence, even with all the consideration, even with all the dots lined up, there is still one thing we are forgetting. Sometimes, Velen is wrong. No being in the Warcraft universe is exempt from the possibility of just being incorrect about something, not even the Prophet. Even the origins of the draenei proved that the assumptions made about Sargeras' corruption were wrong.

Just as we did with Ask Creative Development II, we need to look at this answer as something that is essentially a non-answer. Velen might be right or he might be wrong. But the fact of the matter is that the kaldorei are not interested nor are they willing to try and untangle the puzzle of Elune's origins, divine or otherwise. That unwillingness means that regardless of Elune's origins, it's not really something that is going to come into play in game at any point in the near future. It's just not a factor to the overall story of WoW at the moment, and who knows if it will ever be?

Know Your Lore Of Elune, naaru, and night elves SUN

Further evidence

It doesn't mean that we need to dismiss the theory outright, either. The naaru are fascinating largely because we know little to nothing about them. We don't know where they came from, we don't know what they're made of, we don't know whether or not they really are out for universal harmony and good as they claim. We also know very little about Elune other than the few tales told by night elves -- but there has been some evidence that Elune is alive and well in Cataclysm.

In the Ashenvale quest A Trip to the Moonwell, Alliance players must take Elune's Tear to the Moonwell of Purity and cleanse it. After doing so, something interesting happens -- the player is bathed in light, and a voice speaks to them.
You seek to cure a child, but know that all things come at a cost. To the east lies Raynewood Tower. Standing outside the tower, next to my moonwell, is one who has fallen into corruption.
Just in case you were wanting confirmation on the origin of that voice, if you abandon the next step in the chain, He Who Would Be Forgiven, and return to Ashenvale to speak to Pelturas Whitemoon, he will give you the next step in the chain. But he will also confirm outright that you were speaking to none other than Elune.
The voice of the goddess spoke to you at the moonwell, . The cure for Relara lies to the east at Raynewood Tower. The one who has fallen into corruption.
Take a long, hard look at that description of Elune's voice. Now think of every naaru you've ever spoken to. Both have one thing in common -- an ability to bring a perfect sense of peace, calm and contentment to those they choose to speak to. In addition, Elune uses her powers to save a satyr from death and return him to kaldorei form, something that sounds like an awfully naaru thing to do.

This quest is evidence. The article I wrote is evidence. The lone piece of black and white official art we have of Elune -- Elune's crown, so similar to naaru architecture. It's all evidence. We have all the evidence in the world needed to point to the fact that Elune is a naaru, and it's more than enough for an ancient, wise draenei like Velen to suggest that Elune might very well be.

However, evidence does not equal proof. And until Elune deigns to show us once and for all exactly what she is, we don't have any proof. All we have is evidence, and a neat correlation to play with.

Know Your Lore Of Elune, naaru, and night elves SUN

Quelling objection

But let's look at the main objection to the naaru theory -- the thought that making her a naaru homogenizes night elf culture. That's something that simply isn't true. As it has been pointed out, the night elves are not interested in pursuing whatever crazy theories Velen happens to have. Their culture is steeped in thousands of years of beliefs, and one draenei pointing out that their deity isn't really a deity isn't about to sway those beliefs.

Regardless of whether or not Elune is a naaru, it will not change anything that has happened before. It will not change whatever miraculous acts she may have performed over the course of history, and it will not change how the kaldorei view their goddess. To the kaldorei, Elune is simply Elune, beloved and treasured. If Elune turns out to be a naaru, that is not going to change their beliefs or their devotion one whit.

We know nothing of the naaru. For all we know, they could be gods of a sort -- gods on a level that we cannot fathom. They are not any less extraordinary simply because they speak and make themselves known to the draenei and others. They appeared from nowhere and proceeded to save an entire chunk of draenei civilization out of benevolence and kindness, with no real reason to do so.

We don't know the extent of their powers, but we do know that the death of a naaru is a very rare thing indeed. They can be killed, but it takes unusual circumstances to do so. They are as immortal as the draenei themselves -- they age, but they rarely ever die. They can be killed, but it is highly unlikely you'll ever see that come to pass. The fact that two naaru died over the course of Burning Crusade was an anomaly, one that was pointed out in the first Ask a CDev.

That said, there is something to be said about keeping massive stories tidy.

Know Your Lore Of Elune, naaru, and night elves SUN

Loose ends

WoW is a massive story that spans thousands of years, has countless defined characters all with their own stories, has countless races with their own histories and cultures, and has a timeline that is slightly more convoluted than Nozdormu's everyday thought patterns. Think of it as a giant tapestry that is continually being woven, and it won't end until the final day when there are no more expansions and there is no more story to tell.

But within that tapestry there are patterns and connecting threads ... and then there are the loose threads that stick out. Threads like what exactly happened to Gallywix and why he hasn't been removed. Or what happened to Koltira. Or why the humans worship the Light as a belief, but don't really have a deity to speak of. Or why the Titans left the world behind and haven't shown an ounce of interest in it since.

Or why, in this mangled, beautiful mess of a universe, there is exactly one society that has a singular god, and why that god has chosen to ignore every other race on the planet in favor of one of its own creation.

These little threads here and there may be interesting, but they are also distracting from the main story. Eventually, these threads have to be woven back into that story, or we're just going to end up with a jumbled mess of events that makes no rational sense. We're going to end up with a lot of loose ends and no real resolution to any of them. While WoW is not a story in a traditional published book sense, it's still a story -- and it needs to be treated as such to keep it a cohesive and enjoyable game, from a lore standpoint.

Know Your Lore Of Elune, naaru, and night elves SUN
Does this mean Elune has to be a naaru? No. Does it mean it will be all right if she is? Yes. The people behind WoW's story have been writing it for a very, very long time. Do you really think they're going to deliberately wreck something that they've got so much time invested in? Something that so many people love?

That's what makes Warcraft so unique. It was an RTS game that suddenly got an injection of story, and that story made it beloved. It's that story that causes people to get so passionate about things like lore, and without that story, the passion would simply be absent. It's that story that ultimately makes us care, that makes us delighted or upset.

Blizzard's development team is well aware of this. They're reminded of it every time they have an Ask Creative Development thread. They're reminded at every lore panel, on the forums, on Twitter. They can't help but be aware of it. What we as players have to realize is that while we love that story the writers have given us, they love it just as much, if not more so than we do. And they aren't about to ruin something so many people treasure.

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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