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.

The dwarves of Warcraft are an interesting bunch of characters -- though they haven't had much "screen time" in World of Warcraft, over the course of the expansions we've seen more focus on this odd race and its mysterious origins. Rather than evolving or being created as a natural being like the trolls or the tauren, the dwarves were originally a race called the earthen, created by the Titans with the specific purpose of shaping and documenting the progress of the world of Azeroth.

The earthen were quite literally of the earth. Created from the stone and earth of the planet they watched over, these creatures shared a deep connection with the world itself. Each movement of the ground, every earthquake or natural disaster was felt by the earthen and affected them in a profound way. The explosion from the Sundering -- the destruction of the Well of Eternity which caused the continent of Kalimdor to split into the continents we know today -- affected the earthen deeply, and many retreated to the safety of the Titan cities from which they had originated after the explosion.

WARNING: The following post contains some spoilers for the upcoming Cataclysm expansion. If you wish to remain spoiler free, do not continue.

Given the pain that the earthen felt during the Sundering, and their connection to the world of Azeroth in general, it's no wonder that these creatures -- eventually called dwarves -- would follow the path of the shaman. The life of the shaman is spent in communion with the four elements that make up the world -- earth, fire, air and water. Shaman work hand-in-hand with the elements and the spirits of the world to cure ailments, defeat enemies, and even to experience visions of the future or control the weather. There is a major difference between shaman and other wielders of magic, however -- where other casters simply take the powers they wield from ley lines, or bargain for it with demonic entities, the shaman ask for the spirits' favor and assistance.
In other words, shaman don't use the elements power so much as borrow it for a time. It's a very give and take relationship, and shaman are always deeply respectful and humble in regards to the powers that they borrow. This connection is explained somewhat by Drek'Thar, the leader of the Frostwolf clan of orcs, to a young Thrall during a training lesson in the novel Lord of the Clans by Christie Golden:
One evening, he had asked Drek'Thar about the link between the wolves and the orcs. He was familiar with the concept of domesticating animals, of course, but this seemed different, deeper.

"It is," Drek'Thar replied. "The wolves are not tamed, not as you understand the word. They have come to be our friends because I invited them. It is part of being a shaman. We have a bond with the things of the natural world, and strive always to work in harmony with them. It would be helpful to us if the wolves would be our companions. Hunt with us, keep us warm when the furs are not enough. Alert us to strangers, as they did with you. You would have died had not our wolf friends found you. And in return, we make sure they are well fed, that their injuries are healed, and their cubs need not fear the mighty wind eagles that scour the mountains during the birthing times "We have made a similar pact with the goats, although they are not as wise as the wolves. They give us their wool and milk, and when we are in extreme need, one will surrender its life. We protect them in return. They are free to break the pact at any time, but in the last thirty years, none has done so."

Thrall could not believe what he was hearing. This was potent magic indeed. "You link with things other than animals, though, do you not?"

Drek'Thar nodded. "I can call the snows, and wind, and lightning. The trees may bend to me when I ask. The rivers may flow where I ask them to."

"If your power is so great, then why do you continue to live in such a harsh place?" Thrall asked. "If what you are saying is true, you could turn this barren mountain-top into a lush garden. Food would never be difficult to come by, your enemies would never find you --"

"And I would violate the primary agreement with the elements, and nothing of nature would ever respond to me again!" bellowed Drek'Thar. Thrall wished he could snatch back the words, but it was too late. He had obviously deeply offended the shaman. "Do you understand nothing? Have the humans sunk their greedy talons in you so deeply that you cannot see what lies at the heart of a shaman's power? I am granted these things because I ask , with respect in my heart, and I am willing to offer something in return. I request only the barest needs for myself and my people. At times, I ask great things, but only when the cause is good and just and wholesome. In return, I thank these powers, knowing that they are borrowed only, never bought. They come to me because they choose to, not because I demand it! These are not slaves, Thrall. They are powerful entities who come of their own free will, who are companions in my magic, not my servants. Pagh!"

So what does this have to do with the dwarves? Well, there are a few things to look at here -- when the earthen retreated under ground after the Sundering, they re-emerged thousands of years later to find themselves changed and largely unaware of who they were. Where they had once been creatures of earth and stone, they were now fleshy, weak and susceptible to damage. This was the result of the Curse of Flesh that had been integrated with Azeroth at the hands of the Old Gods. It wasn't until hundreds of years later that these creatures, now calling themselves dwarves, would realize what it was they had been, once upon a time.
When the Titans originally created the earthen, there were three distinct types. The first, "Series One," were a mistake -- upon entering a high-stress environment, these earthen destabilized into the creatures called troggs that we now see roaming Azeroth. "Series Two" were the earthen of the south, the creations that eventually succumbed to the Curse of the Flesh and became the dwarves we know today. This is explained by a stone watcher named the Lore Keeper of Norgannon, encountered in Uldaman:
Salutations. My function is to offer access to and, when permissible, insight into informations regarding the Creators' synthesis of the Earthen on the world designated as Azeroth. I am ready to share this information with you now at your leisure.
Who are the Earthen?
The Earthen are a synthesized race engineered by the Creators, functioning as one of the seed races in the initial population of the world designated as Azeroth. The Earthen were created to aid the Creators' efforts in shaping the deep regions of this world.
They are a modification of the standard subterranean being matrix used on other worlds that the Creators have seeded. The construction of this prototype race created various anomalies that were observed after initial synthesis.
What is a 'subterranean being matrix'?
It is one of the synthesis matrices the Creators use when seeding a world. Each synthesis matrix is used to achieve the Creators' goals. For Azeroth, a subterranean being matrix was modified to create a being with increased durability with an affinity for deep region shaping; the Earthen are the product of this modification.
After the Earthen had been put into service for the Creators, unforeseen anomalies were discovered that affected their synthesis matrix due to high-stress environments.
What are the anomalies you speak of?
Additional background information on the Earthen must be given to you before this question may be answered properly. Processing.
To understand the anomalies of the Earthen, it is first important to understand what the Earthen represent in their design intent. The Earthen represent the Creators' attempt at improving the survivability paradigm of the standard subterranean being matrix. This was done by incorporating a resilient foundation of construction inherent to the world into said matrix.
What is a resilient foundation of construction?
It is the baseline material used in race synthesis. A cross-section of Azeroth's crust was used as the foundation for the Earthen's synthesis rather than the typical biomass construction foundation used by the Creators.
Research on the world's composition led the Creators to theorize that an enhanced being could be synthesized that would epitomize the resiliency of this world's essence. This was accomplished by choosing to use a blend of Azeroth's various stone core compounds as the foundation.
So... the Earthen were made out of stone?
Simply stated, this is correct.
The Earthen's physical features are that of a smaller stature humanoid, though their composition is that of Azeroth's various stone core compounds. Their design maximizes strength and stamina without sacrificing cognitive processing power. Their skin and musculature are nearly impervious to physical damage, and with very minor modifications the Earthen display a remarkable resiliency to unwanted magical forces.
Anything else I should know about the Earthen?
It is integral to the assimilation of this data that it is understood that the Creators wanted to synthesize a race that would long be an integral part of this world's development cycle after they had departed. This race would be instrumental in fulfilling the Creators' long-term development objectives for Azeroth.
As an ancillary note, the nomenclature "Earthen" was deemed apropos for the new race by the Creators, based on the Earthen's composition.
I think I understand the Creators' design intent for the Earthen now. What are the Earthen's anomalies that you spoke of earlier?
The Earthen's only anomaly in synthesis is the tendency for matrix destabilization while being utilized in high-stress environments.
Addendum: Deep earth sculpting was naturally suited to the new matrix design and thus never met the qualifications of duplicating a high-stress environment.
Destabilization was not discovered until well into the Earthen's primary service cycle for the Creators. The Creators began work on post-synthesis modification, rather than recall and re-synthesis.
What high-stress environments would cause the Earthen to destabilize?
[There is a noticeable pause after you ask this question.]
The information you request is not currently available in this repository's data cycling. I sincerely apologize for this omission.
Please request this information after a data cycling update has been performed on this information repository. You may also request this information from another information repository located on Azeroth.
What happens when the Earthen destabilize?
There are two potential results when the Earthen's synthesis matrix destabilizes. Initiating visual aid representation number one.
The first variant matrix is a degenerative product of synthesis, hereby designated with the common nomenclature of "Trogg". This variant maintains strength and stamina comparable to the Earthen, but its cognitive processing power has been almost completely compromised. Force of will and a strong sense of cunning are the only driving factors in the psyche of the trogg.
Troggs?! Are the troggs you mention the same as the ones in the world today?
I am unable to process your chronological reference in comparison to the recording of this data, my apologies.
The trogg retains some composition of Azeroth's various stone core compounds, but the loss of cognitive power makes this variant unacceptable to the Creators.
The trogg procreates as per a standard biomass. By default it consumes stone and anything else it can acquire, including other troggs. Cannibalism is considered unacceptable by the Creators.

You mentioned two results when the Earthen destabilize. What is the second?
Initiating visual aid representation number two.
The second resultant variance of the Earthen matrix retains many desired elements when compared to the standard subterranean matrix. The common nomenclature for this variant is "Dwarf".
This variant retains strength and stamina inherent to the Earthen. In some cases, the dwarf even exceeds the cognitive powers of the Earthen's matrix. The dwarf, however, retains none of the physical composition of Azeroth's various stone core compounds.
Dwarves!!! Now you're telling me that dwarves originally came from the Earthen?!
The data stored in this repository does indeed correlate with your astute proclamation.
The dwarf maintains an affinity for the stone composition of Azeroth, but due to the high-stress environmental anomaly within the Earthen's synthesis matrix, the dwarf reverts to a default biomass composition as seen in the standard subterranean matrix.
Ergo, the dwarf variant does synthesize from the degeneration of the Earthen creation matrix, as you inferred with your query.
These dwarves are the same ones today, yes? Do the dwarves maintain any other links to the Earthen?
I am unable to process your chronological reference in comparison to the recording of this data, my apologies.
Though the dwarf maintains most of the Earthen's mental attunement to Azeroth's stone composition, the reversion back into living biomass remains the main degeneration of the matrix. Dwarves eat and procreate through means typical to other standard biomasses.
The Creators view the dwarf as an acceptable variant, worthy of genesis in its own right.
Who are the Creators?
The Creators are... the Creators.
They are the beings that seeded and shaped this world by their own design. They are the reason for this world's existence, as well as many other worlds. They are the wellspring from which Azeroth flows.
The Creators that the Lore Keeper speaks of are of course the Titans, who created Azeroth and the creatures upon it -- including the Earthen that destablized into the troggs and the dwarves. There is a third type of Earthen however, the Earthen that are based in Northrend. Unlike their southern cousins, these Earthen are still formed of stone and earth -- the Curse of Flesh had no apparent affect on them. The existence of these Earthen is explained during the Tribunal of Ages event in the Halls of Stone, when Brann Bronzebeard manages to access the database:
Brann Bronzebeard Right, right! I know that the Earthen were made of stone to shape the deep reaches of the world but what about the anomalies? Matrix non-stabilizing and whatnot.
Abedneum Accessing. In the early stages of its development cycle Azeroth suffered infection by parasitic, necrophotic symbiotes.
Brann Bronzebeard Necro-what? Speak bloody common will ya?
Abedneum Designation: Old Gods. Old Gods rendered all systems, including Earthen defenseless in order to facilitate assimilation. This matrix destabilization has been termed the Curse of Flesh. Effects of destabilization increased over time.
Brann Bronzebeard Old Gods eh? So they zapped the Earthen with this Curse of Flesh. And then what?
Kaddrak Accessing. Creators arrived to extirpate symbiotic infection. Assessment revealed that Old God infestation had grown malignant. Excising parasites would result in loss of host.
Brann Bronzebeard If they killed the Old Gods Azeroth would have been destroyed.
Kaddrak Correct. Creators neutralized parasitic threat and contained it within the host. Forge of Wills and other systems were instituted to create new Earthen. Safeguards were implemented and protectors were appointed.
Brann Bronzebeard What protectors?
Designations: Aesir and Vanir or in common nomenclator Storm and Earth Giants. Sentinel Loken designated supreme. Dragon Aspects appointed to monitor evolution of Azeroth.
Brann Bronzebeard Aesir and Vanir. Okay. So the Forge of Wills started to make new Earthen. But what happened to the old ones?
Additional background is relevant to your query. Following global combat between-
Brann Bronzebeard Hold everything! The Aesir and Vanir went to war? Why?
Marnak Unknown. Data suggests that impetus for global combat originated with prime designate Loken who neutralized all remaining Aesir and Vanir affecting termination of conflict. Prime designate Loken then initiated stasis of several seed races including Earthen, Giant and Vrykul at designated holding facilities.
Brann Bronzebeard This Loken sounds like a nasty character. Glad we don't have to worry about the likes of him anymore. So if I'm understanding you lads the original Earthen eventually woke up from this stasis. And by that time this destabily-whatever had turned them into our brother dwarfs. Or at least dwarf ancestors. Hm?
Marnak Essentially that is correct.
Brann Bronzebeard Well now. That's a lot to digest. I'm gonna need some time to take all of this in. Thank ye!
That is an awful lot to digest, but what it boils down to is that the troggs, the dwarves, and the earthen of Northrend are all essentially creatures that were generated from the same blueprint, though the blueprint itself was improved upon with each subsequent creation. So the troggs are nasty, brutish and feral, the dwarves are remnants of earthen that succumbed to the Curse of Flesh, and the earthen of Northrend are completely immune to the Curse of Flesh and its effects. Got all that? OK, moving on: The dwarves of the lower kingdoms awoke from their slumber, thousands of years after the Sundering, to find themselves changed, and they didn't really remember who they were or how they'd gotten where they were presently at, but they were drawn to the earth in a way that other creatures weren't.

This article was originally published on WoW Insider.