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Know Your Lore: The immeasurable sorrow of Jaina Proudmoore

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.

What do you do when you've lost everything -- your friends, your family, your home, even the essence of what made you ... well, you? Jaina Proudmoore has undergone this transformation in Mists of Pandaria, and come out the other side a drastically changed woman as a result. After the successful defeat of Deathwing in Cataclysm, Jaina and her coastal city were the unfortunate target of the very faction she's spent years of her life trying to unsuccessfully champion. In the end, Jaina lost everything.

But where does that leave a leader, a diplomat, an advisor, a friend? It's an arguably dark place, but it's also arguable that this was just the character development Jaina needed. As a character, Jaina hadn't really had a lot of progression in her personality since she was introduced all the way back in Warcraft III. Wrath of the Lich King saw the beginnings of what would ultimately be a push into a dark place from which no one, not even a Proudmoore, could emerge unscathed.


Diplomat

Jaina Proudmoore has always been presented as a level-headed, sensible woman with her own sense of ideals and morality that may not always line up with the rest of the world. Originally a love interest for Prince Arthas Menethil, Jaina was also a powerful mage in her own right, apprentice to the leader of the Kirin Tor. Of all the people Medivh spoke to in Warcraft III, of all the people he warned about the encroaching darkness, Jaina was the only human to actually listen and take heed, gathering together as many people as she could and heading for Kalimdor. It was her first real act as a leader -- saving lives.

And Theramore was duly established and thrived under her leadership. The Jaina Proudmoore of Warcraft III wasn't without her dark moments. She had to watch as the man she loved succumbed to darkness, and make the difficult choice of deserting him when it became clear he was lost to a kind of madness she couldn't possibly begin to understand. That decision continued to haunt her throughout Wrath of the Lich King -- the idea that perhaps if she'd stayed, if she'd said a few more words, if she had done something differently, Arthas would still be alive.

But far more difficult was the decision she made not for the Alliance, but for the Horde. In Warcraft III, Jaina found a new and entirely unlikely friendship with Thrall, Warchief of the Horde. Throughout the battle for Hyjal, Jaina and Thrall had built up a tentative trust in one another, a trust that Jaina hoped would end in peaceful co-existence. That all changed when her father, Grand Admiral Daelin Proudmoore, arrived on Kalimdor and began systematically raiding the coast and killing every orc he could find. When it became clear to Jaina that her father would never change his ways, she let the Horde into Theramore. She let them kill her own father, all in the name of peace.


Tense relations

That was another decision that would haunt Jaina later. But the tentative peace between the humans of Theramore and the orcs of Durotar continued, largely because of the efforts of Jaina and Thrall. It wasn't a romantic relationship, contrary to popular belief -- Jaina reminded Thrall of Taretha, the human girl who he considered a sister, the girl who helped him escape Durnholde Keep and later lost her life because of it. To Jaina, Thrall was simply someone who shared the same interests she did -- a wish for peace. A strong desire to stop the killing and bloodshed before it spiraled out of control.

Yet the rest of the world seemed to conspire to put a halt to that peace every step of the way. Warchief Thrall was well-respect by the Horde, but few understood his strange desire to negotiate peacefully with the human race, a race that had locked up the Horde in internment camps at the end of the Second War. And Jaina was not without her detractors -- her meetings with Thrall were generally kept secret. Varian Wrynn cared little for the Horde, not after the fall of Stormwind and the death of his father in the First War.

But through it all, Jaina and Thrall remained diligent in their efforts. It didn't matter that the rest of the world seemed focused on war. What mattered was the world itself, a world that would never thrive in the ravages of factional warfare. It may have seemed like utter nonsense to the rest of the world, but as far as Jaina and Thrall were concerned, if they stood long enough in a space of peaceful diplomacy, eventually, some day, the rest of the world would fall in line with them.

It didn't happen that way.


Wrath of the Lich King

A few key, pivotal moments affected Jaina deeply in Wrath. First was her unending hope in the face of darkness, a hope that somewhere, somehow, that man that she loved so many years ago was still alive. That Arthas was still there, somewhere inside the Lich King, waiting to be saved. It was very like Jaina to hold onto that hope, but by the end of the expansion she was forced to face the cold, hard truth. The Lich King was not a man. He was not Arthas. There was no Arthas anymore, he had long since fallen to dust. The Lich King was nothing more than a monster wearing her dead lover's face, a monster that terrorized Northrend and threatened to conquer the world, lord of the damned, killer without conscience.

And that played upon Jaina's insecurities like a fiddle, few as those insecurities were. That nagging thought that if she had done something back then, said a few more words, she could have changed his fate. To some small degree, it's likely that Jaina considered Northrend her fault. It wasn't her fault, nothing could have stopped Arthas' descent into madness, but the moment she realized there was no saving Arthas was the first moment that cracks began to form in Jaina's eternally optimistic view of the world.

The other half of that equation was Thrall. Ever a supporter, ever a friend, Thrall assigned one of the most ruthless orcs on Azeroth to lead the forces in Northrend, which only served to increase tensions between the Alliance and Horde. Part of it was to give Garrosh Hellscream something to do, but a larger part of it was likely to get him out from underfoot and put him in a place where he could lead as he wished -- a place far, far away from Orgrimmar. Was Thrall hoping Garrosh would fail? Not likely. But he was hoping that Hellscream would learn a lesson about diplomacy, about leadership, and that lesson was never actually learned. If it had been, maybe things would have been different come Cataclysm.


Theramore

Jaina was already beginning to lose the sheen of eternal optimism when the Cataclysm hit, and matters only got worse from there on out. Based entirely on his own desires to help heal the world, Thrall stepped down from leading the Horde, and promoted Garrosh Hellscream to Warchief in his stead. In that instant, Jaina went from having a staunch supporter on the other side, to having no one at all on the Horde -- certainly there were members of the Horde who even if they didn't think kindly of Jaina, at least had no real wish to do her harm. But Hellscream wasn't around for the Third War. Hellscream knew nothing of diplomacy. And when push came to shove at the end of Cataclysm, Hellscream struck.

He knew exactly what he was doing. He sent his armies to attack Theramore, knowing full well that Jaina would request the help of the strongest warriors the Alliance had to offer. That was all part of the plan -- pull every important member of the Alliance into one small location, and then drop a bomb to wipe them all out in one blow. Jaina and the others didn't see it coming until it was far too late. They had fought off the Horde armies successfully, and were thrilled at their success. It wasn't until the bomb was nearly overhead that they realized what was going on -- and Jaina was shoved through a portal by Rhonin, Archmage of the Kirin Tor, just before the bomb went off.

She lived, and returned to a nightmare. Where once was a proud coastal village was nothing but a crater. Her friends and loved ones were dust. Everything that Jaina had fought for, everything that Jaina had struggled to achieve, everything that Jaina had sacrificed her own father's life to preserve was gone. That was likely what hurt the most -- the keen, painful realization that in the moment when she decided that letting the Horde kill her father was worth the peace it would ultimately bring, she was wrong. Utterly wrong. He was right -- and he was dead, and it was her actions that were responsible.


Nightmare

Jaina Proudmoore shattered that day. Whatever youthful optimism she carried in her heart died among the remains of Theramore's citizens. Any thought, any hope of diplomacy with the Horde vanished in that moment, and it is incredibly unlikely we will ever see Jaina take up that banner again. Yet despite all that trauma, this is in fact the moment that Jaina began to well and truly survive and strike out on her own. The one thing that Jaina never truly had or embraced was that spark of strength that is at the core of being a Proudmoore. This isn't to say she wasn't weak -- she just never really had to stand on her own.

Throughout her life, Jaina always had someone there to stand with her. Antonidas, Arthas, Thrall, Aegwynn, countless others, individuals who in their own way supported every move Jaina made, even if those moves weren't entirely conventional or widely accepted. Thrall's departure from the Horde was the first strike. But with the fall of Theramore, Jaina lost all support, and was at last left to stand well and truly on her own for what was possibly the first time ever -- and the world she was standing in wasn't a world of optimistic peace. It was a world where no matter how far you extended your hand, the other side would never, ever take it.

In a way, it's almost painfully comical that Taran Zhu yelled at Jaina Proudmoore, of all people, telling her to walk away before the cycle of aggression continued on the Isle of Thunder. The Jaina before Theramore would have agreed with him. The Jaina before Theramore likely would never have gone to the Isle of Thunder at all. It must have been incredibly insulting to hear those words from a stranger, words that likely would have come from her mouth not more than a year ago. But Jaina stood tall, turned around, and walked away.


Wisdom

That is what makes Jaina Proudmoore a force to be reckoned with. It's not the uncanny magic prowess, it's not that she is now leader of the Kirin Tor. It's that even when she was driven over that brink of loss, even when every ounce of support she had was stripped from her, she still retained her wisdom. Jaina now knows without a shred of doubt that there is no way in the world she will always be right. That was absolutely proven to her when Theramore was destroyed.

Jaina wasn't stupid before Theramore's fall, far from it -- she was a lot smarter than most. But what she lacked in all her infinite knowledge was the wisdom in knowing that sometimes, even she could be wrong. And that lesson is going to make her a leader worth reckoning -- a leader who isn't just blindly going to send in the troops and wipe out the enemy, a leader that is capable of looking at all sides of the situation. A leader that isn't going to stubbornly attack from the belief that the only possible correct viewpoint is their own, that everyone else is wrong.

In a way, it's almost cosmically ironic that this lesson was delivered by an orc who cannot fathom a world in any other way than rigid, military structure. Garrosh Hellscream may have thought he achieved a glorious victory in Theramore, but what he actually did was unleash quite possibly the most powerful weapon the Alliance has in their arsenal. We may not see Jaina prominently featured in Warlords of Draenor, but we have not seen the last of the Proudmoore line by a long shot.


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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