Last week, we discussed the timelines of gnomes and dwarves, two races that recently discovered their roots. Though the dwarves and gnomes were originally Titan creations, today we're going to talk about a race that has simply been here since the beginning -- the tauren. Much like the night elves, the tauren have a gigantic chunk of history that is simply ... missing, though the tauren have more of an explanation for that absence of information than their night elf counterparts.
For tauren roleplayers, however, the past isn't really an issue so much as current events -- and the tauren race has a lot to think about. The tauren have often been thought of as the "nicest" of the Horde races, peaceful and generally kind to all. That's what makes what happens to the tauren race in Cataclysm twice as bitter -- their people turned on, their leader killed in cold blood, and their home under siege. Despite all this, the tauren remain staunch allies of the Horde, willing to lay down their lives for honor.
The tauren race has two distinct life spans that are mentioned in the various World of Warcraft source books. One is considerably shorter than the other. However, we'll be going with the most recent of life span references. As always, keep in mind that these are merely references taken from the RPG books; use them as a general guideline if you wish, but don't take them as set in absolute stone.
A tauren reaches maturity at roughly age 50 or so and is considered middle aged by age 75. An old tauren is roughly 95 years of age, a tauren of venerable age is around 110, and the maximum life span for a tauren is approximately 115 to 150 years or so. Earlier accounts have tauren hitting maturity at age 15 and rarely making it past 100 years of age; however, given what we know of existing lore, the most recent references are probably much closer to "correct."
History and timelines
Here's where it gets tricky. The tauren race were originally a nomadic people that wandered the plains of The Barrens. They didn't write down historical events; these were passed on by stories and word of mouth. So we have virtually no known record of tauren history prior to their inclusion in the Horde. There are a few written pieces of tauren history available for players to look at in the form of the Thunder Bluff scrolls. These scrolls are located in Hammul Runetotem's tent on Elder Rise in Thunder Bluff and detail some of the earliest history of the tauren.
These scrolls are merely legends, and whether or not these scrolls are accurate is unclear. But beyond the scrolls, there is nothing regarding tauren history. What does this mean for a roleplayer? Well, think about it -- the tauren passed down history through stories and legends. This makes a tauren character a perfect storyteller, if you feel like trying your hand at writing fables and myths. Since there is no real recorded history; you can make up your own without stepping on too many toes.
The known, existing portion of tauren history begins in roughly year 20 (or year 25 on the unofficial timeline). The tauren people had long been nomads, roaming across The Barrens and warring with the centaur also native to the region. However, the centaur were beginning to gain the upper hand. Chief Cairne Bloodhoof, leader of the Bloodhoof tribe, recognized the need for all the wandering tribes of tauren to come together so that they could defend themselves as one people, rather than wandering tribes.
This was the genesis of Thunder Bluff; it was all Cairne's idea. The centaur, however, fought back every step of the way -- and it was during one of these fights that Cairne encountered Thrall, a strange, green-skinned creature who seemed to have a deep connection with the earth that resonated with the tauren chieftain. After Thrall helped the tauren not once, but twice over, Cairne agreed to join Thrall's Horde, convinced that the orc's vision of a peaceful future was something well worth fighting for.
All through World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade, the tauren lived their lives fairly peacefully, interrupted only by the occasional squabble with centaur, quillboar, or dwarves intent on digging up sacred land. In year 27 (or 32 on the unofficial timeline), the tauren traveled north with the Horde and stumbled across the taunka, a new race that shared obvious ancestry with the tauren people. Unfortunately this link wasn't really explored in full -- but from what we can gather, the taunka of Northrend evolved from the tauren race.
In year 30-33 or so, just on the cusp of the Cataclysm, tauren history suddenly took a turn for the worse. Chieftain Cairne Bloodhoof, who had led the tauren from a nomadic life to a proud group of people with a home to call their own, was killed by Garrosh Hellscream in a duel. Though the tauren originally thought it was the duel that killed Cairne, it turned out it was the plan of Magatha Grimtotem, leader of the Grimtotem tribe. The Grimtotem were one of the few tauren tribes to never officially join the Horde, unwilling to accept an alliance with "lesser creatures."
Magatha poisoned Garrosh's blade just before the duel began, and with one strike, Cairne was dead. The Grimtotem matriarch immediately ordered her tribe to attack Thunder Bluff and the surrounding areas and to kill anyone that remained loyal to Cairne, including his son, Baine. Baine escaped and led a counterattack, quickly crushing the Grimtotem forces and banishing Magatha from Thunder Bluff forever.
The death of Cairne was a terrible blow to the tauren people, but his son, Baine, stepped up to continue Cairne's legacy of peace. This wasn't the end of sorrow for the tauren, however. When Deathwing ripped through the land, the quillboar of southern Mulgore took the opportunity amidst the chaos to strike back at the small settlement of Red Cloud Mesa, killing civilians in the process.
Just outside of Mulgore, the small hunter encampment, Camp Taurajo, was burned to the ground by Alliance soldiers seeking to pave a path through The Barrens. As a result, the tauren constructed a Great Gate to seal Mulgore off from The Barrens, leaving only a small, easily defendable path to the north as the way out of Mulgore on foot. In Thousand Needles, the entire canyon was filled with water, the few survivors who weren't washed away either taking refuge in Feralas or fighting off the Grimtotem atop the spires that remain the only dry land in the now flooded valley.
The tensions between the tauren and the rest of the Horde run high as a result of Cairne's death, though it was an accident caused by Magatha's meddling. Cairne didn't agree with Thrall's appointing Garrosh as Warchief, and his son bears the same uncertainties toward Garrosh as well. Though the tauren have a place of honor in Orgrimmar, they are still relatively uneasy when it comes to Garrosh's intentions for the Horde.
This leaves a lot for a tauren roleplayer to play with.
Roleplay potential and resource information
What does all this mean for a tauren roleplayer? It means that a tauren reaching maturity on the cusp of Cataclysm has lived through the past 50 years of tauren life -- before Thunder Bluff was created, before the tauren people joined the Horde. It also means he was absolutely there for Cairne's death and everything after. Since a mature tauren has lived through all the current sorrow the tauren people are experiencing, roleplayers have a vast well of reactions to pull from for a tauren character.
Does he side with Cairne and Baine, believing peace to be an option? Does he think that perhaps Garrosh has the right idea? Does he hate the Grimtotem or agree with their position that the tauren might just be the superior race? How does he feel about the Alliance, after what happened at Camp Taurajo? Does he trust his fellow members of the Horde, or is he wary of everyone, tauren and other race alike? Has he lost family or friends to the vast amounts of devastation brought about by the Cataclysm?
Though tauren life prior to their involvement with the Horde is largely unknown, there are plenty of resources out there for their current situation. I highly recommend all roleplayers interested in tauren history pick up the novel The Shattering by Christie Golden; it explains what happened to Cairne and Magatha's uprising in detail. In addition, tauren shaman may want to pick up the Warcraft: Shaman manga, which explains some of the events just prior to Cataclysm as well.
As always, Wowpedia is a great resource for information regarding the tauren race. In addition, there have been several Know Your Lore articles written about the tauren, from the history of Cairne Bloodhoof and his son Baine to the events in Southern Barrens and a look at tauren politics prior to Cataclysm's launch.
For tauren roleplayers, the current state of the tauren population is grim and somewhat bleak. Whether your tauren character clings to the grim and bitter attitudes of the survivors or embraces a hopeful outlook for days ahead is entirely up to you.
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