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.
They are enigmatic overlords of the universe as we know it, creatures of order and perfection, bent on a seemingly never-ending task of remaking worlds and creating order from the inherent chaos of the Great Dark Beyond. Titans, marvels largely beyond our comprehension, yet intrinsically tied to the creation of our world, and the unique place that Azeroth holds in the universe. Of all the worlds in all of the Great Dark Beyond, Azeroth was spared. Of all the worlds in the Great Dark Beyond, Azeroth warranted a second chance, despite being riddled with the corruption of the Old Gods.
But the choice that the Titans made thousands upon thousands of years ago is something we know about. It's been covered again and again, we've found artifacts strewn all over Azeroth that attest to the planet's unique history. And certainly we've asked, time and time again, why Azeroth is so unique, what makes it so special in the universe. But maybe that's the wrong question to be asking, because there are plenty of worlds out there that have been touched by the hands of the Titans. Nearly all of them. We share things in common -- both draenei and natives of Azeroth practice working with the Light. Both Azeroth and Draenor have, at some point, been touched by the Old Gods.
So maybe we should be turning that line of questioning the other way. Maybe what we should be asking is a question that never, ever gets asked -- what are the Titans?
Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.
A Pantheon of order
Here's what we know about the Titans. These guys are metallic-skinned deities akin to gods that have, for some reason, dedicated their lives to the benevolent pursuit of order in the universe. But they aren't satisfied with finding order in the universe, or cultivating that order when it's found. No, the Titans create order. They systematically organize worlds to their own odd specifications, setting things in place just so and then leaving once all that work has been done. It's a journey that doesn't seem to have an end, or at least according to Algalon, there are countless worlds that have been touched by these guys.
They are ruled by an elite sect known as the Pantheon, and these are the names with which we are most familiar. Aman'Thul, the Highfather. Eonar, the Lifebinder. Norgannon, Golganneth, Khaz'goroth, Aggramar, and of course Sargeras. We can't forget Sargeras, because much like Deathwing, he was a force of good at one point in time. But he fell into depression, despair, and madness, convinced that the universe itself was somehow inherently flawed and needed to be brought to an end. Thus came the Burning Legion, and the eternal struggle of worlds against the forces of chaos and darkness.
Yet ... the last recorded history we have of the Titans is their records regarding Azeroth. Certainly that makes sense from the standpoint of Azeroth's denizens -- after all, it wasn't like the Titans were popping back to check in with us, nor did we have any way of tracking where they went or what they did. But while we have plenty of evidence of Sargeras' actions in the universe, we have little to no record of what the Titans have done beyond Azeroth. Wouldn't you think, if one of their former brethern were so focused on unmaking everything they did, that they would at least take an interest in stopping his actions?
Evil in our universe
Yet in our recorded history, it's not the Burning Legion the Titans were concerned with. In regards to our world, it was always the Old Gods -- malevolent beings of chaos and destruction. You see, we've always had two identical stories running counterpoint to each other, and we seem to be bouncing back and forth between those two tales on a fairly regular basis. Either we're delving into the secrets of the Titans and their struggles with the Old Gods on our world, or we're looking the Burning Legion in the face and trying to figure out what to do about that mess.
But the Burning Legion does have a direct counterpart. The naaru, and to a lesser degree, the draenei. The naaru are the ones that are bent on bringing about the end of the Burning Legion. They're the ones who are deeply concerned with what the Legion is up to. Long before Azeroth was even recording its history, events on Argus were beginning to play out -- the eredar, who had been a sentient race for far longer than Azeroth has likely been in existence, were approached by Sargeras. They were offered power in exchange for their allegiance to Sargeras, and while many of them took Sargeras up on that offer, Velen had his doubts.
Those doubts led to prayers, and those prayers were answered by the naaru, who offered to take Velen and any other like-minded eredar to safety. On that very long journey, Velen and those that followed him took the name draenei -- and they began learning the ways of the Light as well. And as they traveled, the naaru filled Velen in on the ultimate plan: to create an army of the Light, one that would bring an end to Sargeras once and for all.
That's all well and good. But why are the naaru so concerned with Sargeras, instead of the Titans? And what about the Old Gods?
Light and chaos
Here's the interesting thing about our world -- we learned the Light without the naaru. And we don't really know how we learned it, either. Various vague hints in the world point to Tyr likely having some kind of influence in the matter -- between Tyr's Hand and the Knights of the Silver Hand, it seems like a valid enough theory. Tyr was a Titanic Watcher, one who supposedly made his home in the Temple of Order in the Storm Peaks. There is no evidence of Tyr being present anywhere in game, nor is there any recorded history of Tyr sitting down and having a chat with the human race in regards to the Light.
But that's the funny thing, isn't it? The Titans never refer to the naaru. The naaru never refer to the Titans. They seem to have common threads all over the place -- the naaru are obsessed with putting an end to the Burning Legion, led by a former Titan. The Titans seem to know about the Light, well enough for one of the Watchers -- Titan creations -- to have some sort of seeming influence in Azeroth's races learning how to use it. The only outlier in all of this are the Old Gods, who invaded Azeroth and sought to reap chaos and destruction, only to be stopped and locked away by the Titans.
But although the Old Gods are seemingly on the same page as the Burning Legion as far as bringing about chaos, destruction, and the end of all things, they have never really worked together. And although the naaru are an enigmatic force of benevolence, they have never mentioned the Old Gods. There was once a point in which I asked myself -- what are the naaru? And I didn't really have an answer. The best answer I could come up with, the most elegant answer I could come up with, was that the naaru were perhaps Titan paladins, creatures who had so mastered the use of the Light that they had somehow transcended corporeal form, and become Light themselves. It sounded nice, in theory -- but maybe I'm looking at that backwards.
What are the Titans? What if the Titans aren't actually the only source, or the first source, for creation and order in the universe? What if the Titans aren't just bent on destroying the Old Gods in order to bring about that order and peace on the scattered worlds of the Great Dark Beyond? What if they are on that eternal mission because the Old Gods are the reason they have become what they are?
What if the Titans are, in fact, naaru that have been touched by the Curse of Flesh, the same curse that has worked its way into almost every living species on Azeroth, in one form or another?
It would certainly explain why the Titans, or at the very least the Watchers they created, knew about the Light. And it would certainly explain the naaru's odd fascination with the Burning Legion. Sargeras isn't just a Titan anymore, he's a Titan gone horribly wrong. And certainly we have races on Azeroth that have demonstrated that the Curse of Flesh isn't a debilitating thing. It can be, but it doesn't have to be -- the gnomes, the dwarves, and even the human race stand as examples that that intrinsic corruption doesn't have to lead to evil. But it can lead to evil, as demonstrated by Deathwing -- a creature that was once a benevolent being, charged with an impossibly benevolent task, fallen to the depths of corruption and eventually bent on the destruction of the world he once loved.
That sounds familiar, doesn't it? Because it's the exact same situation that Sargeras went through. And Sargeras is sitting right where Deathwing was sitting after having listened a little too closely to the whispers of the Old Gods. But where Deathwing was only concerned with the fate of Azeroth, Sargeras is working on a much larger scale, one in which the whole universe needs to be destroyed. What's the upshot of all of this? It's that we've been working under the impression that Sargeras is the be-all and end-all, the one creature in the universe who will ultimately be that final showdown, that last encounter, the final boss of the Warcraft cosmos.
Joke's on us -- he isn't.
Darkness and Light
Let's just let our minds wander for a moment, and consider a different story, and a different possibility. What we are seeing play out between naaru and Legion, Titan and Old God is nothing more than a much larger reflection of the infinitely smaller game we've been playing out on Azeroth itself. Here we have the naaru, benevolent creatures brimfull with the purity of Light's creation -- much like Azeroth, fresh and newly crafted by Titan hands. And here we have the Old Gods, creatures who want nothing more than to sow chaos and discord throughout the universe.
The Old Gods touched Azeroth and set off a chain reaction of evolution, one that resulted in a multitude of races, some corrupt, some still above that inherent corruption. And maybe out there in the universe, the Old Gods touched the naaru, too -- creating an offshoot evolutionary chain, the bastard children of Light's creation, the Titans. Yet the Titans stood, as we stand, for order and what is right in the universe, and set about trying to undo the madness that the Old Gods sought to spread across the universe, much like we have sought time and again to put an end to any Old God uprising.
And just as Deathwing eventually succumbed to madness, so too did Sargeras. Not just a Titan, but a descendant of the naaru race, a creature once bent on order, now wholly devoted to chaos. And just as we put an end to Deathwing, the naaru are trying to put an end to their wayward son. His madness must be stopped.
But Azeroth didn't suddenly become a beacon of purity and light just because we put an end to Deathwing. And the universe won't suddenly become a vast swath of peace and order once Sargeras is brought to an end. Because we have something far worse to think about, once that problem has been dealt with in full -- we still have to rid the universe of the Old Gods, those creatures that transcend worlds, perpetuating a cycle of chaos that will not be stopped. And that battle? That's going to be the battle to end all battles. The war that will either cleanse the universe for good, or guarantee its destruction.
And it's anyone's guess as to whether or not we'll be able to succeed. Because as we've seen on Azeroth, the Old Gods can't just be killed, not without undoing the works of creation. And perhaps they cannot be destroyed on a universal scale, either -- not without destroying the universe itself. Which means, in the long run, that both Deathwing and Sargeras might not be so mad after all. It's a long game, a very, very long game, and who knows if we'll ever see its end.
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.