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Know Your Lore: The history and origins of the mogu

Know Your Lore The history and origins of the mogu
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.

Of all the creatures in Pandaria, none have been quite so mysterious as the mogu. From day one they were presented as one of the villains in the saga of Pandarian history -- and although the days of the mogu empires were long over, their legacy lived on. Mogu architecture, mogu statues, mogu ruins, they all littered the landscapes of where we leveled. To the pandaren, the mogu were a threat, but one that had long since died out, leaving the race as little more than scary tales to tell the children at night.

Until Mists of Pandaria, and the arrival of the Alliance and Horde. With the sudden uprising of the mantid, the release of the sha, and the frightened movement of the yaungol, the pandaren had more than enough to contend with. The sudden explosion of mogu activity was just another addition to the pile -- and the appearance of the Zandalari as allies made the reappearance of this ancient threat even more dire.

But who are the mogu? Until patch 5.2, that mystery hadn't been fully defined. And it still may not be fully defined, but at least we have a slightly clearer picture.

Please note that today's Know Your Lore contains some spoilers for patch 5.2 Lorewalkers content.
Know Your Lore The history and origins of the mogu

The origin of the mogu

The origin of the mogu is cleared up on the Isle of Thunder, where several Lorewalkers' scrolls can be found that fill in some details of the mogu's vague history. While we'd been originally told that the mogu just happened to learn how to harness the powers of Titan artifacts and technology, this isn't really the case at all. The mogu were, originally, Titan constructs -- similar to those found in the Storm Peaks or Uldum. They were created to protect the land, and at some point, affected by the Curse of Flesh.

One Lorewalker scroll points at mogu legends of an age of golden light, when order was brought to a world of chaos. Supposedly, the mogu walked among the Titans, creatures of stone, and shaped the mountains and valleys of Pandaria. This puts them in the same rank as the Earthen, the Titan creations that eventually evolved into the dwarves and troggs we know today. According to this scroll, the mogu called their titan master "The Storm." He was their keeper -- which sound suspiciously like Ra-den, the final boss in the Throne of Thunder.

But there's contradictory evidence for this. Another Lorewalkers scroll is a poem, a legend that stems from the earliest known days of history. It's been passed down again and again throughout mogu culture, and if read correctly, it explains a lot regarding the mogu, their origins, and their original purpose. The tale is called Shadow, Storm, and Stone. Rather than present it in one front, let's look at each section of this tale and try to figure out what it all means.

Know Your Lore The history and origins of the mogu

The beast of seven heads
Fumed seven breaths.
The land wept shadow
And the swarm blackened the sky.
Supreme was the ancient one;
None dared waken its wrath.


This section of the legend is obviously speaking of Y'shaarj, the old god whose death brought about the Sha that haunt Pandaria to this day. This legend may very well be the only piece of recorded history Azeroth has about the time before the Titan's arrival, the time when the Old Gods ruled the world with chaos and destruction. Also mentioned are the mantid -- the swarm -- who were revealed as ancient followers of the Old God to anyone who gained exalted reputation with the Klaxxi.

Until the coming of the Storm.
First came thunder, then came Stone.
The thunder Storm's voice,
The Stone his weapon.


This is where we get into a little speculation. There is no doubt in my mind that the Stone referred to here are the mogu -- they were the stone constructs of the Titans. But we have two other distinct entities referred to here: the Storm, and the thunder. While some may assume that Ra-den, the mysterious boss at the end of the Throne of Thunder is the Storm mentioned here, I don't think that's the case. It doesn't fit with the hierarchy, the order that the Titans follow.

Know Your Lore The history and origins of the mogu
I think the Storm mentioned here is Aman'Thul, leader of the Pantheon of the Titans. Aman'Thul has always been depicted with control over lightning, making him the most logical choice for a reference, here. Ra-den is the thunder, the voice of the Storm -- he is a much like any of the Keepers found in Ulduar, a representative of the Titans, the "voice" of Aman'Thul. Ra-den was entrusted with watching over the creations of the Titans. This places the mogu firmly in the hierarchy as cousins of the Earthen. They watched the world, they shaped the world, but they did not rule the world.

Lightning seared the sky.
The swarm fled from its light.
Stone struck at the heads of the beast.
The shadow bled into land and sky -
Fear and rage that would not die.
Storm's will was done.
Stone's purpose fulfilled.


Except ... then we get to this passage. If the assumptions provided are correct, the mogu were not simply created to bring order to the world. Their genesis was directly related to the Titans arrival on Azeroth, and the war between Titan and Old God. And if this legend is indeed a correct account, the mogu were created to fight Y'shaarj -- they weren't just shapers of earth. They were soldiers. They were an army. And they were the creatures that in the end, killed Y'shaarj and released the Sha on Pandaria. Not out of malevolence, but because it was their duty, their assignment.

The last line of the legend is chilling, if you think about it that way. The Stone, the mogu -- they were created to kill Y'shaarj. Nothing more, nothing less. Once Y'shaarj died, the purpose of the mogu was complete. There was nothing more for them to accomplish. So what happened to the mogu, after they supposedly fulfilled their purpose?

Know Your Lore The history and origins of the mogu

The Curse of Flesh

Another Lorewalker scroll highlights the time after the defeat of Y'shaarj, and briefly explains what happened. The mogu remained on Pandaria, "guarding the great works of the titans. Always they listened to their master. Always they were obedient." The master mentioned in this scroll is undoubtedly Ra-den, who was left to watch over the Titan facility after the Titans' departure, much like Ulduar had its own set of Keepers. But something happened to Ra-den, something don't have a record for.

Whatever it was that happened, it caused Ra-den to fall silent. The mogu no longer had a master to tell them what to do. In addition to this, the mogu found themselves changing as they were afflicted by the Curse of Flesh. According to the scroll, there are no mogu writings from this time in history. No master for guidance, yet discovering the ability to breathe, to bleed, to die -- it's little wonder that there are no records from this time period, because I suspect the last thing the mogu really wanted to do in the midst of this confusion was write about it.

The mogu not only found themselves losing their stone form, but experiencing emotion for the first time. Mortal emotion. Pride, greed, fear, anger -- in fact, it seemed as though the mogu were affected by every negative emotion under the sun, and none of the positive. Ironically, it appears as though the mogu brought this twist upon themselves. Every emotion the mogu seemed to be experiencing is present in the Sha. It leads one to wonder -- were the mogu essentially victims of what they unwittingly unleashed?

If the mogu were, in fact, created to kill Y'shaarj, then it means that at least indirectly, the presence of the Sha is their fault. It also explains why the mogu were so dead-set against the mantid, since they were followers of Y'shaarj. And in a really strange way, you almost begin to sympathize with the mogu. Here are creatures that were made for the most noble of purposes. They carried that purpose out, with disastrous results. And the end result of that success was the ultimate doom of the mogu.

Know Your Lore The history and origins of the mogu

The Rise of Lei Shen

The assorted mogu were left as creatures of flesh, afflicted by every negative emotion the Sha represented. One by one, they began to fight for power. It doesn't appear that there was any real reason for the wars, for the warlords, for the centuries of fighting. The mogu had simply given in to the negative emotions they'd been gifted right along with the Curse of Flesh. According to another Lorewalker scroll, this was the Age of a Thousand Kings -- the age of warlords fighting for territory and power. Why did they fight?

Well, that's a very good question. And oddly enough, it also falls back to the original trailer for Mists of Pandaria. Thematically, it makes one wonder if we should be looking at the mogu for a very good example of ourselves -- Alliance and Horde, locked together in an eternal struggle for territory and power. But what are we fighting for? What were the mogu fighting for?

That question may very well have been asked by Lei Shen. According to history, Lei Shen looked upon the mogu, the ruined works of his forefathers, the war-torn landscape. And he saw what the others didn't see. The mogu lacked purpose. They lacked order. They lacked that thing that ultimately made them what they were -- creatures of order. They lacked the united front that once made them powerful creations, a purpose to follow.

In fact, the biggest thing that they lacked was the voice of the "gods" -- the voice of their master. Ra-den no longer spoke to the mogu, and the Titans themselves were silent. Lei Shen, for whatever remarkable reason, was born with a vision of clarity. The Titans no longer spoke, and Lei Shen took the next logical step -- he decided to speak for them. And the odd part in all of this is that it's likely Lei Shen very much thought he was doing the right thing.

He began uniting the mogu, and soon commanded his own powerful legion. Left with one outcome in mind, Lei Shen traveled deep into the heart of the Thundering Mountain, the sacred home of the master who had fallen silent. And when Lei Shen emerged from the mountain, it was with the powers of a thousand storms, with the voice of one who spoke for the gods themselves. He built a vast city atop the mountain, creating a seat of power from which he reigned with an iron fist.

Know Your Lore The history and origins of the mogu

Power and order

It was then that the mogu embarked on a campaign that the pandaren remember with utmost terror. As the mogu united under Lei Shen's banner, they began enslaving the lesser races of Pandaria. One by one, the lesser races fell to the might of the mogu, one by one they were forced to abandon their culture, history, their very language. Forced by iron fist to build and create the magnificent architectural masterpieces that litter Pandaria today. To Lei Shen, this was what the mogu were intended to do.

In a very bizarre way, he was right. Lei Shen, the mogu, they all thought that this was the right thing. And perhaps somewhere deeply embedded in their brains, there was some remnant of who they were. Who they used to be. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the mogu simply had no understanding, no way to grasp that the lesser races were anything but lesser.

The Throne of Thunder is a testament to this. Buried in its walls are the creations of the mogu, experiments using Titan technology to create. Even the Twin Consorts are in their own way a nod to this, because there are no female mogu. The mogu don't have a concept of gender. Originally they were, at their essence, robots. Lei Shen observed that the lesser races had something the mogu didn't -- female creatures -- and made a couple for himself. Not for procreation purposes, not for the purpose of gender equality, but simply because he thought they were pretty.

And this is how the mogu view the rest of Pandaria. The lesser races aren't beings of flesh and blood, beings to be respected or admired; they are cogs in the machine. They are part of the engine that runs the world. They are not people with thoughts, feelings, observations, destinies -- they are things, mere objects. Some objects are useful, others are not. Those that are not are either engineered into something useful, or destroyed.

Know Your Lore The history and origins of the mogu

What's missing?

But there's something missing from this equation, if the examples we've been given from the rest of the world are a pattern. Ra-den was the Keeper, the voice that the mogu listened to for orders, for guidance. In Ulduar, Thorim, Mimiron, Freya and Hodir are all entrusted with similar duties. In the Halls of Origination, we find Isiset, Setesh, Ammunae and Rajh, also similarly entrusted. These Keepers watch and guard the most powerful Titan facilities on Azeroth.

Where are the other three Keepers of Pandaria?

In each instance of a powerful Titan facility, we have four -- except Pandaria. To our knowledge at this time, Ra-den is it. And that makes very, very little sense, given what we know about Azeroth -- particularly given the nature of Pandaria. It seems to be the home of an engine of creation. Given the peculiar nature of the waters and the Titan facilities that seem to be able to create life itself, one would think that Pandaria would rate four Keepers at the very least. Where are they? And how does this tie into the mysterious nature of Pandaria's disappearance from the rest of the world?

Next week, we'll don our tinfoil hats and take a very critical look at the mogu, the Titans, and the Last Emperor of Pandaria, Shaohao.


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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