Know Your Lore: Children of the Stonemother -- The elements, part three

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|05.19.10

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Know Your Lore: Children of the Stonemother -- The elements, part three

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.

We've talked about the elemental spirits in general and about those of fire in more depth. This week, we take a look at Therazane the Stonemother and the elementals of earth. Unlike the more active fire elementals, the more erosive water or the quicksilver air elementals, those of earth reflect the solidity of their element. In general, the elemetals of earth tend to be slower to anger and play the middle ground for the other, more energetic elementals. It would be a mistake to assume this makes them placid or unwilling to resort to violence, however. Earth elementals were among the prized soldiers of the Old Gods during their war with the Titans, and to this day, some of their strongest still reside in Azeroth.

The earth elementals owe allegiance to Therazane (we can see her name in game on a belt dropped by Nefarian and an off-hand available through old AV purchases). Her daughter, Theradras, seduced Zaetar (the son of Cenarius) and produced the centaur races of Azeroth. She can be found in Maraudon, which is holy ground to the centaur tribes of Desolace. While Therazane is often said to be the most peaceful and loving of the elemental lords, this doesn't mean members of her elemental court don't make trouble in Azeroth from time to time.

However, given Therazane's connection to the earth, it's interesting to consider just what her role might actually be in the history of Azeroth. It's often said that Therazane feels pain when the earth and stones are disturbed and that she hates Deathwing for his destructive rampages (and, presumably, out of a rivalry with him, since he is the Titan appointed Aspect of Earth, while she is the Old God summoned Stonemother). This begs the question of Therazane's identity. Is the Stonemother the same entity the tauren refer to as the Earthmother?

It's certainly possible ... Therazane is repeatedly described as the most benevolent and loving of the four elemental lords, constantly under siege from Ragnaros' flames, Al'Akir's winds and Neptulon's waves as they seem to wear away and change her basic nature. On the other hand, as a former servant of the Old Gods, Therazane might well lack the power to be considered a true goddess as the Earthmother is seen to be by the tauren.

But the roots of the elemental lords' origins as creatures of the Old Gods and the coming of the titans give us one possible link. When the titans finally defeated the Old Gods, they found they couldn't destroy them without endangering Azeroth itself. Why this is has never been made clear, but during their recitation of Azeroth's history the Tribunal of the Ages states that it is so.

Abedneum yells: Accessing. In the early stages of its development cycle Azeroth suffered infection by parasitic, necrophotic symbiotes.
Brann Bronzebeard yells: Necro-what? Speak bloody common will ya?
Abedneum yells: 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 yells: Old Gods eh? So they zapped the Earthen with this Curse of Flesh. And then what?
Kaddrak yells: 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 yells: If they killed the Old Gods Azeroth would have been destroyed.
Kaddrak yells: Correct. Creators neutralized parasitic threat and contained it within the host.

What does this mean? Well, until Caverns of Time: The Titan/Old God War is released, we may never know. But we do know that the titans arrived on Azeroth determined to shape it according to their design, and after defeating the Old Gods and binding them within the earth, they set out to do so. They created the elemental plane and imprisoned the vast majority of elementals there, save for a few so powerful they could resist and remain on Azeroth of their own will, like Rok'Alim the Pounder. The shaman quest Test of Strength makes this explicit.

During the time of the Old Gods, elementals inhabited much of this world. They worshipped the Old Gods, and the Gods, through their power, kept the elementals bound to this world. When the Old Gods were banished, the elementals faded from our world and now only return at the bidding of powerful mages.

There are exceptions though. Some elementals were powerful enough to remain here on their own. One such elemental is Rok'Alim.

So we've seen that Theradras, a daughter of Therazane, was able to remain on Azeroth, as was Rok'Alim, a wandering elemental spirit. Why are earth elementals so capable of defying the ban of the titans? Perhaps Therazane is the cause. Why did the titans choose to imprison the Old Gods in the earth when the Old Gods were capable of enslaving powerful elemental lords to serve as their lieutenants? Why was earth, alone of those four elementals, suitable as a prison for the Old Gods? From where comes Therazane's supposed antipathy for Deathwing and his followers?

Imagine this: At the dawn of time, one of the four elemental lords, tired of being enslaved by the Old Gods and feeling no loyalty either to them or the fire, air and water elementals that constantly seek to erode her and her children, makes a pact with the titans. Therazane and her elementals defect from the Old Gods and either stand aside or even directly help the titans to subdue the Old Gods, and in return, the earth elementals are given more freedom than the others. While Deepholme is still created for Therazane's spirit, her element (in effect her material body) is shaped by Khaz'goroth and used to imprison her former masters. Khaz'goroth grants power over the deep places of the earth (in effect, Therazane's "body") to Neltharion, who would be driven mad by the selfsame parasitic Old Gods trapped within it. Why else would Therazane be said to feel pain when the earth and soil is sundered? Ragnaros doesn't feel pain when I put out a candle, Neptulon doesn't shudder when a lake is drained or water imbibed. It makes sense if somehow Therazane has a real, tangible connection to the earth that makes up Azeroth, if it is, in effect, her.

We know that the titans also summon and control elemental beings, even using them as raw material and servants: the earthen, mecha-gnomes, titanic watchers, giants and vrykul are all created by or descended from such titan-spawned elemental beings. Khaz'goroth is often credited with having created these beings, but no one knows exactly how or from what; earth elementals seem to be a decent possibility for the starting material for these crafted servitor beings. It would also explain why the creations of the titans are susceptible to the Curse of Flesh of the Old Gods, since the Old Gods would be equally intimate with elementals (they used to be the rank and file of their army, after all) and how to manipulate them.

Whatever the truth of the Therazane-titan-Earthmother connection, it seems clear that the titans have made and are making heavy use of Therazane and her children in their "design for Azeroth," using them to imprison the Old Gods, create servitor races and so on. Alone of the elemental lords, Therazane shares her elemental with a titan-appointed Aspect, and it may be significant that Neltharion succumbed to the whispers of the Old Gods, a reflection of earth's malleable nature and susceptibility to the Old Gods. Heck, the Troggs seem to have come into existence before the Curse, at least in some versions of the history.

Therazane's daughter Theradras even went so far as to mate with a child of Cenarius (himself descended from Malorne the White Stag and Elune, the moon goddess of the night elves), but again, Theradras' offspring were born so corrupt that they immediately slew their father, prompting Theradras to gather his remains and hide them in Maraudon, for fear that Cenarius himself would strike her children down for their patricide. The corruption of Maraudon is so great that even the Twilight's Hammer noted and attempted to make use of it, implying a connection with the Old Gods. Likewise, the Twilight's Hammer is deeply involved in the attempt to return Princess Myzrael from her prison within the world in the Arathi Highlands.

Myzrael herself is deeply suggestive of the titans' role in changing the elementals of earth. Despite her claim to be a princess of the earth, she resembles titan creations as seen in Uldaman, Ulduar and even held captive in Karazhan. Myzrael is imprisoned by giants (creations of the titans) even through she herself resembles one, and she claims to be a princess of the earth much as Theradras is. Is Myzrael an earth elemental spirit forcibly changed by the titans, only to rebel against them? Is this the secret origin of all such constructs of the titans ... are they elementals placed on Khaz'goroth's forge and remade? Myzrael clearly makes use of elemental allies when she battles players to attempt to retain her freedom.

Perhaps, then, this is the secret to Therazane's antipathy towards Deathwing. Perhaps she is literally the very earth he controls as Aspect. Perhaps her body makes up Azeroth itself, shaped by Khaz'goroth and imbued by Eonar, and it is her connection to the substance of the world and the raw material of the titan's creations that allows for the Curse of Flesh. Or perhaps not: I'm sure we'll see more of Therazane's children in Cataclysm.

Next week, water.
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