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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Azeroth

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Azeroth
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, we took a minor plunge into the idea of Azeroth as a fully-connected entity, and what the implications of that entailed. But there's more to the story than just a matter of connectivity. We know everything is connected. But what we really don't know at this point is why. What is the purpose of Azeroth? What were the Titans thinking? Why did they choose to forgo re-originating the world after discovering the Old Gods? Why have they gone silent, ignoring Azeroth for thousands of years?

Why does Azeroth exist?

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 what is to come as a result. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Azeroth

The Titans

Part of this increasingly difficult puzzle involves Azeroth itself. Its creation has always been shrouded in mystery. There was a time when the story of Azeroth was incredibly simple, but the Tribunal of Ages event completely blew the lid off of it. In the Tribunal of Ages, it's pointed out that the Titans arrived at some point after the Earthen were created -- at some point after the Curse of Flesh. Because of this, it appeared as though there were two points in time when the Titans visited Azeroth, not just one. And that's the question that has a lot of followers of Warcraft lore puzzled -- just what was the order of Azeroth's creation?

To date, we've never gotten an absolute set-in-stone answer to that question. What this means is that Azeroth and how it was created is still pretty much up in the air, and therefore open to speculation. From what we can gather, the Titans stumbled across Azeroth and organized it, left, and then came back to discover its corruption.

Here's what we do know: the Titans organize worlds, plural. Azeroth wasn't their first project and as far as we know, it certainly wasn't their last. The Titans have destroyed their creations before -- Algalon can attest to this. But something made the Titans come back to Azeroth, and made the Titans decide to leave it in place. Something made them decide that it would be better in this particular instance to leave this planet alone, even though thousands before it and thousands after were destroyed in the blink of an eye without even a second thought.

What makes Azeroth so unique?

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Azeroth

Titan-created vs. Azeroth-created

Azeroth is populated with a myriad of different races. But exactly how many of Azeroth's dominant races are actually of Azeroth? Three. Trolls, tauren, and pandaren.

You could argue that the night elves comprise the fourth, but you'd be forgetting the origin of the night elves. According to Brann Bronzebeard's research, the kaldorei evolved from dark trolls, and according to ancient troll documents, it had something very much to do with the Well of Eternity -- a Titan creation, according to the manual for Warcraft III. And this means that yes, while the origins of the night elves are entrenched in a race that is very much native to Azeroth, they were still tampered with to a degree, affected by the Titans.

But the trolls have been on Azeroth since the dawn of time, and it's rumored that the roots of the tauren race began somewhere back with the Ancients. As for the pandaren, while the exact nature of their origins remains a mystery, the fact that the mogu look upon them not as fellow Titan creations, but as a lesser race, suggests that the roots of pandaren evolution are tied with Azeroth. Unfortunately, most ancient pandaren tales were lost when the mogu enslaved the pandaren race, meaning that those origins may never be fully discovered.

There are others that have their origins tied to Azeroth as well -- in the novel Wolfheart, it's mentioned that the Ancients were born of Azeroth itself. Dave Kosak has mentioned that the August Celestials are essentially Pandaria's version of the Ancients. The odd fact of the matter is this -- there are far more Titan-touched races living on Azeroth than those that are native to it. Whether from off-world like the draenei or the orcs, or strangely evolved from the works of the Titans like the gnomes or the dwarves, Azeroth seems to be dominated by non-native races.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Azeroth

Dominant creation

That is incredibly interesting, when you think about it. So let's look at that tiny bit of history we do have an idea about, and see what we can puzzle out from there.

Here we have Azeroth. The Titans arrive and decide to set things to order. Once finished, they leave for parts unknown. Somewhere in the midst of all of this lies the native races of Azeroth -- the trolls, the tauren, perhaps even the pandaren at this point. And although these races are primitive, they have their own gods and beliefs. The tauren have the Earthmother, the trolls have the Loa, the pandaren have the Celestials -- and all of these may be varying perspectives of the Ancients.

The Titans didn't create the Ancients, Azeroth did -- and we don't know why. They were created to watch over the world as aspects of its existence. Malorne, the embodiment of protector. Goldrinn, the embodiment of ferocity. Even the Celestials represent an aspect of existence -- Chi-Ji embodies hope, Xuen embodies strength. The native races of Azeroth interacted with these demigods, who soon worked their way into native legends, stories and song.

The creations of the Titans didn't fare so well. When the Old Gods arrived, these early Titan creations found themselves afflicted with a terrible malady known as the Curse of Flesh. This Curse slowly worked its way into the bodies of these Titan works, weakening them and making them far more susceptible, far easier to manipulate. This is the point at which the Titans supposedly returned to find Azeroth bleeding chaos and horror, their carefully-placed creations now corrupt.

The Titans discovered they could not kill the Old Gods. To do so would only spread the infection that the Old Gods had unleashed on the planet. The death of Y'shaarj may very well have been the catalyst for that realization, as his death unleashed the Sha across Pandaria. His last breath was a curse that the land could never truly purge. But what's really odd is what happened next.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Azeroth

Ancients vs. Aspects

Rather than re-originate the world, the Titans chose to save it. They imprisoned the Old Gods and created more constructs, a second generation that wouldn't be affected by the Curse of the Flesh. They created the Aspects, granting each a special ability tied to one aspect of the world. They set up the re-origination device in Uldum, just in case the corruption returned. And then the Titans left.

Except there's something weird hidden in the middle of this. The Titans didn't create the Aspects to watch over the world. That wasn't their task. We didn't find out about the true nature of that task until the Dragon Soul raid.
"Time is your charge just as life is mine, but what is our duty?" Alexstrasza said. "To preserve thisss world at... all costs. To prevent the Hour of Twilight," Nozdormu whispered.
Think about that for a minute. If the Titans knew enough to give the Aspects the duty of preventing the Hour of Twilight, then they absolutely, positively had to know how the Hour of Twilight would happen. They had to know that Neltharion would be driven mad by the Old Gods -- and yet they set him to this task regardless. They had to know that stopping the Hour of Twilight would deplete the Aspects of all their powers.

Yet despite this knowledge, the Titans persisted anyway. And so this strange little world continued on in its existence. The Aspects watched as the dark trolls transformed into the kaldorei we know today. They observed as the vrykul affected by the Curse of Flesh bore young that eventually became the human race. They waited as the gnomes and dwarves both came into light as races of their own right.

They watched the kaldorei as they grew increasingly fascinated with the Well of Eternity, and they watched as the Burning Legion rampaged across the land. They watched as Pandaria, haunted Pandaria, the land in which balance absolutely must be preserved, chose to separate itself from the continents of the world. For protectors of the world, they didn't exactly do much to stop these events from coming to pass, did they?

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Azeroth

Test cycle

Let's see what we can come up with, given all of the above in addition to what we discussed last week. In the beginning, the Titans created Azeroth. They left, and the Old Gods arrived to merrily wreak havoc all over the world. The Titans returned and found themselves face-to-face with chaos, sought to destroy it, and only succeeded in spreading it further. But rather than destroy Azeroth, they chose instead to keep it. Why?

Because the Old Gods were Sargeras' doing all along. Think about it -- there is nothing to separate the intentions of the Old Gods from the intentions of Sargeras. They want exactly the same thing. The Titans seed planets with order through their constructs, and Sargeras seeds planets with chaos, via the Old Gods. We are not the only planet to have been influenced by the Old Gods -- there is evidence of Old Gods in Outland, too.

Azeroth was not unique. It was simply the point in the universe at which the Titans realized that chaos could not simply be quashed. It was obvious when Y'shaarj died and his breath settled into the world. It was that thing that Sargeras realized when he went mad -- no matter how hard you fight, no matter how hard you rail at chaos, it will still exist, in a persistent state. Azeroth isn't unique, but it represents the moment that the Titans had an idea, an idea for a grand experiment.

Order alone cannot defeat chaos. But what if it were to work together with it? What if they seeded the world and left it be -- what if they let the chaos that had already worked its way into the system continue to thrive and grow? What would a fusion of these two ends of the spectrum grow up to be -- would it succumb to chaos? Would it rise to order? Or would it exist somewhere in the middle, in a space of morality? And what would it choose to do, if it had the choice?

With that, the Titans set up the experiment. They took the proto-drakes and fashioned them into creatures to watch over the world and protect it, guiding it where necessary. And then they deliberately set in motion a chain of events that would eventually cause the downfall of those guardians -- hopefully at a point where these strange hybrid races of chaos and order were strong enough to look at the universe and choose their destiny. And then the Titans left, never to return. Their silence was necessary; this was not an experiment to see whether they could engineer an army, this was an experiment to see whether that army would engineer itself.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Azeroth

Shaohao

Dwarves, gnomes, humans, forsaken, worgen -- all instruments originally of Titan creation, corrupted and changed by the Curse of Flesh, later evolving into what they are today. The kaldorei -- if the Well of Eternity is indeed the blood of an Old God, this race is a mutation, a result of a native race being corrupted by Old Gods. If the Well is the blood of a Titan, these creatures are touched by order. Tauren, troll, pandaren, all born of the world just as the Ancients were.

But failsafes had to be put into place, in the form of the re-origination device. If we were to descend wholly into chaos, we'd have to be destroyed. That's why Algalon was so surprised to see us, to witness what we'd become. Of all the worlds across the universe, we were the only one to fully incorporate the two sides, chaos and order, both an entwined part of our very existence. We prevailed where the Titans' own perfect creations had failed.

That's why the Titans didn't want to destroy the planet -- they wanted to see how this little drama plays out. And once again, we come back full circle to the story of Emperor Shaohao and the peculiar set of tasks he was given by the Jade Serpent. Shaohao was sent on a journey, one that revealed everything to him in full. He confronted the Sha and in doing so discovered that the Sha were tied to his existence just as fully as they were tied to Pandaria. He tried to separate Pandaria and leave his enemies behind, only to discover that those enemies were as much as part of the continent as he and his people were.

And in all of this, Shaohao finally understood.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Azeroth
The simple fact was this: We weren't done yet. This grand experiment of chaos and order working side-by-side was nowhere near complete. The Well of Eternity was a vast, vast pool of untold power, and the kaldorei resided near just the smallest section of it. Pandaria lay to the east, and also held waters of the Well in its valleys. Consider this -- even with Pandaria removed from the equation, the force of detonation from just one corner of the Well was enough to split Kalimdor into pieces. What if all of the water had been part of that explosion? We wouldn't have an Azeroth left.

Everything in Azeroth is connected. To each other, to the Titans, to the Old Gods. The only way the world would succeed, Shaohao realized, is if it managed to embrace that balance and thrive. But it certainly couldn't do so if the Burning Legion was looming overhead. Shaohao gave his people one last decree. He told them to live their lives to the fullest, to keep their minds unburdened, to follow that path of balance that would eventually lead to the world's salvation.

And as his final act, a sacrifice born of utter understanding, Shaohao transcended and hid the continent, the Well, and his people away to learn the lessons that the Titans had planned. When the time was right, he would reveal Pandaria to the world. When the experiment was over. When the task was done.

What do we do now? We choose. We choose our path, we choose our destiny. The long game of the Titans, that grand experiment is over. We are the result. The Age of Mortals is here, what we choose to do with it is now entirely in our own hands.

But Shaohao didn't just hide the Well to protect Pandaria, he wanted to make sure Sargeras thought the thing was destroyed. And now, that Well has been revealed for the universe to see -- for Sargeras to see. It's only a matter of time before our hand is forced and that decision, that choice is to be made. Wrathion sees it. Velen sees it. And soon enough, we'll see it too.


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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