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Know Your Lore: The best of Tin-Foil Hats

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats
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.

A funny thing happened this week. For the past two weeks, I've been working on Tinfoil Hat Editions of KYL -- fun, speculative posts that attempt to predict just what the heck is going on with the Warcraft universe. I was, in fact, working up to a super big reveal of an a-ha moment I'd had a couple of weeks ago regarding the nature of the mists surrounding Pandaria and what exactly happened to Emperor Shaohao.

Except that I was preempted, for want of a better word. The PTR hit for patch 5.3, and in all of the datamining of the sound files, that pet theory I'd been working with was addressed directly. On the one hand, it was nice to see that I'd been dead on and correct with what I was assuming. On the other, it meant I had half of an article written that I couldn't really publish. ... oops?

So Adam Holisky suggested in his infinite wisdom that this week, I look back on some old TFH editions of Know Your Lore -- a best-of recap of some of the wilder things I've pointed out. It seems as good a time as any!

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats

How to fold a Tinfoil Hat

The above post isn't really a Tinfoil Hat Edition, but it explains a little behind what exactly it is I do when I'm coming up with these ideas. TFH editions aren't really lore posts, they're more like a giant what-if, speculation of upcoming events, predictions for future storylines -- basically, crackpot theories that aren't really true, but would be super cool if they were! I'd written quite a few of these prior to coming out with this article, and it occurred to me after writing it that perhaps I should have explained a bit more clearly what a TFH edition was before I'd written these earlier posts. It certainly would have saved some confusion and panicking!

But I would suggest if you're wondering more about how these posts are written by both Rossi and myself, you give it a read. There is no magic to the posts we write, there are no secret informants in Blizzard HQ. In fact, more often than not it's just a couple of really enthusiastic lore nerds riffing off of each other in the dead of night and coming up with some really bizarre stuff as a result.

10. The curious whispers of Tirisfal Glades

There's a really weird in-game event that occurs out in Tirisfal Glades. It has absolutely no lore explanation for it whatsoever. But while I was researching this weird little event, I realized that there are far too many places in Tirisfal that reference whispers. Throw in Sylvanas, the Forsaken, and the Old Gods and you've got a theory that is pretty weird and fascinating to think about -- the idea of an Old God under Tirisfal isn't exactly a new one, mind you.

It's been stated by CDevs that there is no Old God actually living under Tirisfal, which you'd think would completely invalidate this theory. However, given what we learned about CDevs in number 3 on this list, I still wouldn't say it's out of the realm of future possibility. I do hope we see more about this at some point in the future, though.

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats

9. The genesis of Azeroth

This piece takes a look at the lore and the stories surrounding the Lovecraft mythos, and how Lovecraft has subtly influenced WoW over the years. There have been plenty of theories about Lovecraft and Warcraft, and I wanted to explore those in depth and see if, and how, it could all relate to the upcoming expansion, Mists of Pandaria. It was also the first time I'd really taken a look at Azeroth itself, the planet, and pondered the idea of it not being a planet at all.

But more importantly, it was another effort to put to rest the idea that Mists would be, at best, a silly and lighthearted expansion with no real depth to it at all. And honestly, the sheer amount of story that has come out of this expansion so far has by and large been anything but light-hearted. Sure, the pandaren race may know how to have a good time, but there is far more to them than just a good beer and a better party. And just like the pandaren, there may be far more to Azeroth as well.

None of this piece has been proven as anything more than wild speculation, of course. And not every TFH edition really needs to be accurate. But the Lovecraft mythos is one that I really enjoy, and looking at the connections between the two worlds wasn't something I wanted to pass up.

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats

8. The "death" of the Old Gods

This was written after Cataclysm launched, at a point where I was still trying to puzzle out just what that odd conversation from the Halls of Stone event really meant. Cataclysm was an expansion about Old Gods, but the relation between the Old Gods and Azeroth still hadn't been fully defined. Then, of course, there was the matter that the Tribunal of Ages stated the Titans realized they couldn't kill the Old Gods without destroying the world, which implied there was some sort of basic connection between the two.

So I came up with a theory. It was stated in the Tribunal of Ages that the Old Gods had tied themselves to Azeroth's matrix. But what was Azeroth's matrix? How about all the people and creatures and assorted races, both mortal-and-non, that made up Azeroth's population? If this was the case, we literally could not kill the Old Gods -- because as long as we lived, part of the Old Gods would be living, too.

What's odd is that years later, this inherent connection came up again in the TFH I just posted last week. Is it right? Is it wrong? No idea -- but it's interesting that that connection keeps popping up with every little glimpse we're given into that particular branch of the story. And that makes it a thread that is probably worth watching.

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats

7. The true battle between Light and Darkness

We had some vague information about Mists when this post was written, including some information on the Sha. What always kind of bothered me about the Sha was that they seemed somewhat similar to the naaru in construction -- bodies composed more of abstract shapes than the arms, legs, and bodies that we're used to. And there was a quest in the Swamp of Sorrows in which the Prophet Velen spoke of an upcoming battle between Light and Darkness, a reference that wasn't really mentioned again after that point.

In between all of that, I tried to find a connection. I don't really know if I was successful in doing so -- but I thought that perhaps we'd see something happen with the Burning Legion or Sargeras, if not in Mists, in the next expansion. I still don't know if I'm right as far as the next expansion goes, but the Burning Legion did come up in Mists. Mind you, it came up as part of a storyline involving a clever black dragon, rather than the leader of the draenei, but it was there.

6. In the beginning

What if Azeroth isn't an Old God, like I suggested in the TFH involving the Lovecraft mythos? Given the really odd disjointed nature of Azeroth's creation story, we honestly don't have a clue as to the actual events that really unfolded back when Azeroth began. So I decided to write what is probably one of the most fanciful TFH editions I've ever written, and take another look at Azeroth. This is a really weird TFH. I don't expect anything in it is actually true at all, and I'd be kind of blown away if it actually were. I also think it'd probably break the Warcraft universe altogether if it were true. But it was really fun to think about!

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats

5. The Mists of Pandaria

On August 2, 2011, Blizzard reportedly filed a trademark for Mists of Pandaria. At that point, it was anyone's guess as to what the new expansion would be -- and pandaren were so far out from anything anyone was ever expecting that there was immediately a bit of an uproar about the trademark. As mentioned above, a lot of the dissent surrounding the trademark was the idea that we were about to get Panda Adventures instead of our well-loved World of Warcraft, and people weren't particularly happy about it.

But the trademark got the wheels spinning in my head, and the outcry from people about a lighthearted expansion made me think that perhaps taking that week to throw together a TFH about possibilities for the expansion would be a really good idea. All I did was compile a list of places we hadn't been, the likelyhood that we'd visit them, and a reason for the pandaren suddenly showing their faces again. It was a pretty good post, although none of the story elements I'd pointed out were actually in the expansion itself, other than the Zandalar -- who played a much different role than I would have guessed.

The pandaren, however, were kind of a surprise. Just given what we knew about the pandaren so far, I guessed that we'd either see another class offered, like a monk -- or we'd see the pandaren offered to both Alliance and Horde. You can check the post for more on the why surrounding that theory, and for a look at some of the things I thought might make it into the expansion, but never did.

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats

4. When is a well not a well?

The Well of Eternity is a really weird thing for a Titan to just leave on a planet. And the waters in Pandaria bear a striking resemblance to the reborn Well of Eternity over on Mount Hyjal. But really though -- what is the Well of Eternity? Why did the Titans stick it on Azeroth? Wouldn't they have gathered that this would eventually draw the attention of the Burning Legion? In this TFH, I explore all of those questions, with a suggestion regarding the Well of Eternity's origins that is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Later, I changed that theory up in another TFH. Given the vague hints that we've seen from datamined files on the patch 5.3 PTR, I'm beginning to suspect that the altered version of that theory may very well be the correct one -- or close to it, anyway. I suspect we'll find out for certain by the time Mists is at its end.

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats

3. The dark secrets of the mogu

When the Vale of Eternal Blossoms was opened up on the Mists beta servers, I remember very vividly both Rossi and myself heading there and wandering around to check everything out. And I remember very vividly the two of us meeting at the waters in front of Mogu'shan Palace and immediately saying "My god, it's the Well of Eternity." We had a very long discussion that evening that went on for hours about the Well, Pandaria, the Vale, and the mogu -- and the fact that mogu architecture looked weirdly similar to what we'd seen with Titan structures in past expansions.

And in that discussion we talked about exactly how sad it would be, how unexpected it would be, if the mogu weren't actually these evil overlords that enslaved Pandaria. That it would be pretty weird if they were Titan constructs that had simply gone wrong. That it would be a really bizarre and yet oddly poetic move on Blizzard's part for these creatures to originally be objects that were once sacred protectors of this land. And how it would kind of blow us away if it turned out that the pandaren were only looking at one opinion of these guys, and the truth behind the matter was that these protectors were enslaving everyone because it was simply part of their faulty programming.

So I wrote it up. I waited until after Mists had launched to say anything about it, wanting to avoid potential spoilers for an expansion that hadn't even come out yet. And the consensus on that post was that it was impossible, the CDevs had already contradicted it, there was no way it could ever happen, and that I was absolutely wrong. Until patch 5.2.

Two things can be gathered from that TFH. #1, nothing is wrong until something shows up in game that deliberately says otherwise -- and even then it might still be iffy. #2 and far more importantly, the CDevs will totally lie through their teeth in interviews to keep surprises a surprise. I'm really happy about that last point.

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats

2. The final boss of Cataclysm

This post was written on Sep. 26, 2010. Cataclysm launched in North America on Dec. 7, 2010. Keep those two dates in mind while I talk about this. In this edition of KYL, I talked about a theory I'd played with before on my first blog, before I began writing for WoW Insider. In that theory, I'd messed around with a map of Azeroth and come to some startling conclusions regarding the connection between the Aspects and the Old Gods that plagued Azeroth. The two, it seemed, were probably destined to be connected -- although in what way, I didn't really know.

What's odd about this particular piece and the theory behind it is that it's really the one that generated pretty much every other TFH I've ever done. And it was created based on some research I'd been doing for, of all things, a roleplaying character. That's really how all of this began! And the other odd thing about this piece is that I was right in my assessment of Cataclysm's villain and the connection to the Aspects -- it was confirmed in the novel Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects.

Know Your Lore The best of TinFoil Hats

1. Elune is a naaru

This is, hands down, the most controversial TFH I've ever written. And it's still my favorite. Elune is a major deity in night elf culture, but she's never really been defined, save for a few random legends and some minor notes in the Warcraft RPG books. The post is exactly what the title suggests -- a supposition that the beloved god of the kaldorei is nothing more than one of those giant windchimes that the draenei call friends. Needless to say, while some people enjoyed it, others were really, really upset by the implications.

But there was some other useful information in the post as well, including a detailed look at the religion surrounding the practice of the Holy Light. And while the screenshot created for the article was nothing more than some creative dabbling with WoW Model Viewer and Photoshop, there were many who took it to be absolutely real and didn't bother reading from paragraph one into paragraph two where I quite happily pointed out it wasn't.

This is also the only TFH edition that seems to have created enough of a stir in the community to generate a question in not one, but two of the Ask a CDev compilations. Blizzard was terribly careful to neither confirm nor deny anything, instead keeping it what I think it should probably remain for all time -- a delightful, infuriating mystery.


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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