Latest in

Image credit:

Know Your Lore: Go'el, son of Durotan, page 2

Anne Stickney

The leader

Doomhammer's time was short-lived. Thrall and the united clans of the Horde began breaking the orcs out of the camps, one by one -- and as they did, Blackmoore grew more and more furious as reports of his once-slave leading the army reached him. He ordered his men to the remaining interment camps, and in the ensuing battle, Doomhammer was struck from behind. As he gasped his last breaths, he told Thrall to take the title of Warchief and lead the orcish people to peace.
"Orgrim Doomhammer has named me Warchief," he cried. "It is a title I would not have sought, but I have no choice. I have been named, and so I will obey. Who will follow me to lead our people to freedom?"
And lead them he did. Thrall's people followed him eagerly from the remaining camps; they followed him as he led the assault against Durnholde Keep, where he had lived among the humans as their slave. They watched as he leveled the keep to the ground after discovering that Blackmoore had murdered Taretha for her betrayal. They left and settled in the Eastern Kingdoms and remained out of human sight. And when Thrall was visited by a strange prophet and told to evacuate to Kalimdor, they followed him there, too.

They followed him to Kalimdor, they followed him to Durotar, and they helped him found the new capital city, which he named after their fallen leader. They followed him into the Third War, and they watched as the Horde turned from just orcs to including trolls and tauren as allies. They watched as Thrall and Grom left to confront Mannoroth; they were freed from the blood pact that had haunted them for decades, even as Grom's life slipped away.

Now they were free, well and truly free. Thrall led them to fight alongside the humans that had once imprisoned them and the strange night elves of the forests from which the orcs wanted to harvest lumber. They fought against the Burning Legion and won -- and after the war was over, they watched their leader, the hero who had freed them from imprisonment at human hands, try to ally with the human race.

They watched as the humans fought back, and they wondered -- what was the sense in allying with those that sought to imprison the orcs? What was the sense in allying with the human race, when the human race seemed to want nothing more than bloodshed? And freed from the blood pact, the orcs were more than willing to give the human race all the bloodshed they wished -- but their leader, their Warchief, held them back. This was not the way of peace, he said.

And some began to question the Warchief's intentions. Some began to wonder if he was truly fit to lead. Some pondered, now and again, whether or not a Warchief who had been raised by humans -- an orc who knew nothing of his people or their history, their customs, until he was 18 years of age -- actually knew enough of the old ways to lead them down that path. Because his path was a very, very strange one; these talks of diplomacy and desperate efforts to unite the orcs and humans together made no sense.

He was a leader, but it was not a title or position he sought. He tried to usher his people down the path of peace -- but was his definition of peace really what the orcs wanted, what they needed? Those that had trusted him, Grom, Orgrim -- did they simply hear his words and agree with their intent? Did they really know who he was, what he wanted to achieve for the orcish race?

Did he?

The Hollow Vessel
"The whole idea with Thrall is that...can you argue that this guy, who's so -- he's so Clark Kent, right? So straight up, he does a good job, all the time. He doesn't swear, he doesn't beat anybody down. He's a good leader; he's a noble soul. And he's spent all of these years, building and running the Horde, selflessly. And the idea is, does he really -- I'm just saying -- does he really know who he is? Or after all these years, is it just more of a Bruce Wayne thing, where he's a little baby when his parents are murdered, he never really grew up with a whole lot of nurturing. And at this phase of his life, after all the things he's accomplished, it's possible that he's actually a little hollow inside. He's never taken time to just grow."

-- Chris Metzen, BlizzCon 2010 Quests and Lore Q&A
Thrall was Warchief of the Horde, but he never intended to pursue that title. He led his people because he had to -- because someone had to lead the orcs back to the old ways, and everyone agreed he was the orc who could best accomplish this. He went through Drek'Thar's initiation to become a shaman but was almost immediately swept up with prophets, wars, diplomacy, and the day-to-day dealings of being a leader. And that's what he did -- lead. But did he really know how to lead? He had spent over half of his life with humans, and a bare scant number of years among his own people.

In World of Warcraft, we are presented with a Warchief who seems to be confident and secure in his own abilities -- but the truth is, Thrall didn't do much at all over the course of vanilla WoW. He asked people to take down Rend Blackhand, which was understandable (after all, Blackhand was calling himself the true Warchief of the Horde). But Thrall continued to try and do the impossible; he still sought to ally the Horde with the Alliance.

Future dealings with the Warchief would only reinforce that fact. He was known for speaking with Jaina Proudmoore on a regular basis, for trying to ally with the human forces of Theramore -- even if most humans in Theramore didn't wish an alliance with the orcs any more than the orcs wanted to ally with the humans. It was inexplicable to the orcish race. Why would the Warchief try to do these things?

It wasn't until The Burning Crusade expansion that Thrall learned of the existence of orcs that truly knew of the old ways -- including Hellscream's son, Garrosh. At the end of the Hero of the Mag'har quest chain, players tell Thrall about Garadar and of Greatmother Geyah, his grandmother. Thrall immediately sets things in order and travels to Nagrand to speak with the only remaining blood relative he has left.
Greatmother Geyah says: There is no doubt - you are the heir of Durotan... my grandson. Draka told me she was with child before she and your father left our world, but I never dared dream that they would survive...
Thrall says: They... did not, Greatmother. They were killed shortly after I was born. I never knew them. I was raised as a slave. To this day, I carry the name of Thrall.
Greatmother Geyah says: Thrall? You've been a slave only to the past, grandson! But no more! When last I saw him, Durotan told me the name he would give his unborn son... He was... so proud...
Greatmother Geyah wipes a tear away.
Greatmother Geyah says: Go'el. You are Go'el, son of Durotan - rightful chieftain of the Frostwolves. This day, grandson - you are the great joy of my heart.
Greatmother Geyah was correct, to a degree. Thrall was a slave to his past -- he continued to carry the name Blackmoore gave him, despite the unfavorable way the orcs seemed to look upon it. Even after Blackmoore's death, he clung to the name and sought no other for himself. He would always be Thrall -- slave no longer. Or was he? Did he keep the name as a reminder of his past, or did he keep the name as a reminder of what he really was?

Was there some small subconscious part of Thrall that thought of himself as slave still -- not to Blackmoore, but to his fate? His destiny? Perhaps to serving the Horde itself? Thrall returned to Azeroth with Hellscream's son in tow and began to try and teach Garrosh the ways of the Horde. Garrosh rankled under Thrall's odd ideas of peace and understanding, of his unusual concepts of diplomacy and reasoning. Because to Garrosh, the old ways were clear -- the strong lead, the weak follow. A true Warchief would never ally with those deemed as weak, with cowards. Yet Thrall seemed determined to do so.

Over the course of events presented in the Warcraft comics, the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and the novel The Shattering, we've seen Thrall and Garrosh continually butt heads. Yet Thrall doesn't quite put Garrosh in his place. Garrosh challenged Thrall to a duel for Warchief, and Garrosh won -- or rather, Garrosh was in the process of winning when the two were interrupted by the Lich King's attacks on Orgrimmar.

Thrall said that they would discuss the duel later and promptly sent the young Hellscream to lead the forces in Northrend, along with Varok Saurfang. Supposedly, this would keep Garrosh occupied while Thrall could continue his diplomatic missions. But maybe there was a part of Thrall that already recognized Garrosh as being the sort of orc that was really meant to lead. Maybe he sent Garrosh to lead the orc forces because he realized, somewhere inside of himself, that he wasn't truly capable of doing so.

Think about it -- if Thrall led his people into war and the Alliance got in the way, what would Thrall do? Try to negotiate for a peaceful resolution. And while he was doing that, his people could potentially be slaughtered. Were these really the sort of actions a Warchief should take? Garrosh was in the process of actually besting Thrall in honorable combat when they were interrupted. Had the battle continued, would Garrosh have won?

These questions plagued the Warchief throughout the expansion. He watched as his people crumbled and splintered beneath the pressures of war. He watched his allies, the Forsaken, brutally murder thousands of soldiers, Alliance and Horde, in a display that by all rights should have gotten the undead allies promptly kicked out of the Horde. Yet he showed them mercy and allowed them to stay, even helping Sylvanas to take back her city from those who betrayed her. He watched as the last glimmering hopes of peace between Alliance and Horde crumbled.

And then, after the war was over, Thrall discovered that the elemental spirits no longer responded to his call. The mighty shaman was reduced to ... what, exactly? As Metzen said at the Quests and Lore panel this year: Who was Thrall? His life was spent in servitude, first to Blackmoore and then to his people. When exactly did Thrall get a chance to discover what kind of being he really was? An orc raised by humans, the only one of his kind to experience such a thing -- most humans were completely unwilling to accept him, most of his people were beginning to wonder if they should accept him, either.

Thrall made a very deliberate choice, and it was the only choice he could make in his situation -- to step down as Warchief, let Garrosh take over (albeit supposedly as a temporary thing), and travel to Nagrand. He chose this partially to try and figure out what exactly was going on with the elements in Azeroth, but mostly to try and figure out who he, Thrall, really was -- and how exactly he fit in a world with two races that shaped him. He is the progeny of two societies, and neither really, wholly accepts him as an individual. Perhaps Thrall's attempts to unite Alliance and Horde were really a subconscious attempt to recreate himself -- a strange mesh of human ideals and orcish traditions. Maybe by trying to prove that the two could work together, he could prove that he was as worthy a being as anyone, human, orc, or otherwise.

In Nagrand, Thrall met an orc shaman who his grandmother had chosen to be his teacher, a female named Aggra who just might show him that all he needs to be worthy is to shed the imaginary chains that hold him in place.
"You are Thrall, son of Durotan," she said without preamble.

"I am," he replied.

"A filthy name. Here you will be called Go'el."

"Go'el might be the name my parents intended for me, but fate chose otherwise. I prefer Thrall."

She turned her head and spat. "A human word that means 'slave.' It is not fit for any orc to bear, least of all one who claims to lead us -- even the ones who don't live in this world."
In Cataclysm, Thrall is no longer Warchief. Instead, he's joined The Earthen Ring in an attempt to understand the deeper part of himself and try to determine who he is and how he can help shape the world around him. From a baby who barely understood orcish, to the leader of a people he never quite seemed to understand, Thrall has lived a long time and learned a lot about the world around him. The one lesson he never learned was where he fit in that world, and in Cataclysm, it looks like he may finally gain that understanding.

For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:

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.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr