Short-lived -- it's the best way to describe the life of a troll in Warcraft. Despite being arguably the most prolific race in Azeroth's history, the trolls of Azeroth don't tend to live particularly long or fruitful lives. This is largely due to the fact that most troll tribes spend their time warring and fighting amongst themselves, or with those that dare encroach upon their lands. Yet despite the short-lived nature of the average Azerothian troll, troll history stretches back farther than any other race on Azeroth.
Like the tauren, the trolls of Azeroth were one of the original races -- not of Titan origin, simply present on Azeroth since the dawn of life on the little planet. Troll society is an amazingly complex jumble of lore, loa, ancestral rites and dubious practices like voodoo and cannibalism. Fortunately, the playable race of troll in Warcraft is limited to one tribe; the jungle trolls of the Darkspear. Though the known tribal history of the Darkspear is relatively short, recent events give troll roleplayers much to work with.
Trolls come in a few different types -- the jungle trolls of the Gurubashi and the forest trolls of the Amani are among the most well known, though there are also frost trolls briefly mentioned in lore, and there may be other types of trolls out there as well. As far as the jungle and forest trolls are concerned, their life spans are identical -- at least according to the Warcraft RPG source books. Remember, these life spans are from the RPG guides and may or may not be accurate -- use them as a guideline, not a bible of factual truth.
Trolls reach maturity at age 17, right around the same time as humans do. When a troll reaches about 30 years or so they're considered middle aged, a troll of 47-50 years is considered old, a troll 70 years old is considered venerable, and most trolls live no longer than age 80 or so. Consider, however, that the average troll's lifespan may be shorter than that 80 year mark, depending on where they've come from -- troll culture is a fairly violent one, and it's entirely possible parents, siblings, or loved ones may have had their lives cut abruptly short.
History and timelines
The playable trolls of Warcraft hail from the Darkspear tribe. The Darkspear once were part of the great Gurubashi Empire that primarily made its home in Stranglethorn Vale, however when the empire split into the multitude of tribes we know today, the Darkspear were driven from the lush jungles of Stranglethorn Vale by other, larger tribes. The problem is that there is no exact timeline for when this occurred -- the language used in the story regarding the Darkspear was fairly vague.
The Darkspear left the jungles of Stranglethorn and took up residence on a small group of neighboring islands. Soon after this, the trolls of the Darkspear and the native murlocs of the island began fighting. We do have a rough date for what came next in the timeline -- somewhere between year 20-25 in the timeline, the Darkspear found a new group to contend with on the islands; humans from Kul Tiras landed on the islands looking for orcs that had stolen ships from their harbor. While the marines didn't find the orcs they were looking for, they did find the trolls -- and the Darkspear found themselves hunted on two sides, murloc and human, with little hope for their future.
This all changed with the arrival of Thrall, new Warchief of the Horde. Thrall and his band were actually the group of orcs that Kul Tiras was searching for; they stole the ships in order to sail to Kalimdor at the behest of the Prophet Medivh. The leader of the Darkspear, Sen'jin, recognized Thrall from a vision he'd had -- a vision where the Darkspear would be led from the islands on which they settled to their destiny, whatever that destiny may be. However, a group of murlocs put that idea to a halt, kidnapping the young Warchief, several of his companions, and the Darkspear chieftain as well.
Though Thrall and the others managed to escape, they were unable to get to Sen'jin in time. The old troll was sacrificed to the Sea Witch that the murlocs worshipped, and in his dying breaths, he told Thrall of his vision and begged the orc to take his people to their destiny. Thrall agreed, and Sen'jin's son, Vol'jin, swore allegiance to the new Horde, as well as the rest of the Darkspear tribe. They set sail for Kalimdor, and the rest of the Darkspear's story has been well documented in game, from World of Warcraft onward.
Participation in history
The fact that the Darkspear's story is fairly well documented makes them a relatively easy class to pick up and play. Even though troll history is a gigantic monster of dates, timelines and major events, the relative shortness of a troll's life span pretty much guarantees you aren't going to see a troll that has experienced all that history in his lifetime.
0-17 years of age A troll just starting out in the world in Cataclysm would have been born right around year 15 or thereabouts in the timeline. This would place them at around 5 years of age when the Kul Tiras and Thrall arrived on the Darkspear Islands, barely old enough to remember what occurred on that island. Since we have no definite dates for when the Darkspear were driven from Stranglethorn, it's up to you whether or not your troll was born in Stranglethorn or on the islands themselves -- keep in mind however that they were present on the islands at age 5, which means their memory of Stranglethorn Vale would be little to none.
18-30 years of age This is where it gets decidedly more interesting. A troll hitting 30 at the time of Cataclysm's launch would have been roughly 15 or so when the events of the Darkspear islands played out. They were old enough to remember Sen'jin, they were almost old enough to begin hunting and traveling on their own. Depending on when it actually occurred, it's entirely likely they remember Stranglethorn Vale, and they remember being driven from it. Depending on exactly how old your troll is, they may have participated in the coming of age ceremony on the Darkspear islands -- we'll discuss that in the resources section.
31-50 years of age A troll hitting 50 the year Cataclysm hits has been around for a very, very long time as far as the current history of Warcraft is concerned. They would have been born roughly year -20 or so in the timeline, prior to the orcs' first arrival on Azeroth. However, the events of the First and Second wars really didn't involve the trolls of Stranglethorn at all -- so this part of their life remains a delightful mystery that you can choose to fill with whatever you wish. Since we do not have exact dates for when the Darkspear were driven from Stranglethorn, you can assume that these trolls remember Stranglethorn Vale and actually grew up there - they would have been roughly 35 years of age when Thrall arrived on the Darkspear islands, and they would likely have strong memories of Sen'jin as a leader.
50 on up A troll over 50 years of age is a very old troll indeed. The same rules apply to older trolls as to middle aged; it's merely their birth date that changes. Since we don't have dates for the major events in Stranglethorn -- like the first attempted summoning of Hakkar -- you have the freedom to work with the lore and put your troll in that situation if you wish.
Resources and the Darkspear of today
Despite the huge amounts of troll history and lore available out there, there isn't really a whole lot in the way of novels or written stories as far as the trolls are concerned. This makes Wowpedia the best likely source for information regarding troll culture and history; they easily have the largest collection of troll related source material. As always you can check out Know Your Lore for various troll information, including history and events leading up to Cataclysm as well as the conflicts addressed in Cataclysm itself, including current events.
In addition, there is one story that has been written regarding troll life on the Darkspear islands. As part of the leader short story series, the story Vol'jin: The Judgment is available on the officical Warcraft site. Not only is this story a good source of information about the Darkspear's current leader, but also it's a really good look at troll rites of passage as they existed on the Darkspear islands. Trolls hitting maturity on the Darkspear islands would have gone through some sort of similar rite of passage, so it's a good read if you want to know exactly how your troll came of age.
Troll history and culture is rich and varied -- each tribe has their own traditions and ways of life. Though the Darkspear is technically the only playable troll tribe as far as WoW is concerned, it's absolutely possible to create a troll from a differing tribe -- the Revantusk of the Hinterlands originate from the Amani and have a very different sort of history. If you are planning to go this route with your troll character, I highly recommend doing your research via Wowpedia and taking a look at the culture and history of any non-Darkspear troll.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating facets of the Darkspear today is their current shaky status with the rest of the Horde. Thrall's departure as Warchief didn't sit well with Vol'jin, and Thrall's replacement, Garrosh Hellscream, has had more than a few heated exchanges with the Darkspear leader. This uneasy situation is played out in the Darkspear starting zone, so new players are immediately aware of what's going on as far as the trolls are concerned. With the new troll dungeons introduced in patch 4.1, this conflict is subtly highlighted.
Though the Darkspear have a relatively short documented history, troll culture and lore has a deep, rich backstory that shouldn't be passed up. Troll rites of passage, troll stories and history and troll customs all provide roleplayers with an opportunity to create a colorful, detailed character with ample background to play with. Even though the average Darkspear may not live a long, fruitful life, that life is guaranteed to be engaging, interesting, and most importantly, fun to play.
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