Know Your Lore Tinfoil Hat Edition: Mystery of the naaru

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|02.13.11

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Know Your Lore Tinfoil Hat Edition: Mystery of the naaru

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.

Oh yes, we're going here again. Since the launch of The Burning Crusade, one of the most enigmatic mysteries of Warcraft lore has been the naaru, a race of creatures seemingly formed of pure energy that equates to what we in Azeroth know as the Light. We've discussed the naaru before in another Tinfoil Hat edition of Know Your Lore surrounding Elune and the history of the Light on Azeroth. However, there's been very little to suggest where these creatures come from or what their influence on the denizens of Azeroth ultimately means.

In last week's Know Your Lore, we theorized that Azeroth isn't just some simple planet that's been organized by the Titans. Instead, it may be that Azeroth is a weapon of some sort, quietly engineered by the Titans in the midst of their regular crusade of world organization in order to combat and perhaps, one day, defeat Sargeras. But where do the naaru, who led the draenei to Draenor and away from the influence of the Burning Legion, fit in? Why do the naaru seek to eliminate the Burning Legion? Are they in league with the Titans or simply working along the same lines as our creators?

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition, meaning the following is a look into what has gone before with pure speculation on why it happened. The events presented are events that happened in Azeroth's history, but the conclusions are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact.

Naaru biology and life cycle

Naaru are apparently immortal -- or something close to it. Though they haven't been officially classified as "gods," they do possess the sort of altruistic nature and omnipresence generally attributed to gods. And then of course there's that whole bit about the Light. It hasn't clearly been defined whether the naaru are sources -- generators of the Light -- or whether they harness it and pass it on like a battery. There are three distinct parts to a naaru life cycle, such as it is:

Life In life, the naaru are as we see them all around Outland and the Exodar: glittering, glowing beings that radiant an aura of Light so strong and so intense that in some cases it can affect those around them, such as with A'dal in Shattrath.
<A soothing light fills you as you approach the naaru. Slow musical chimes echo within your mind and, though a word is not uttered, you feel an assurance of safety. You are welcome in Shattrath City.>
The naaru's purpose seems to boil down to destroying the Burning Legion and spreading the Light. Why exactly they've taken up this cause is a completely mystery; there's little information out there beyond the fact that the naaru are either composed of, or representatives of, the Light that paladins and priests use with nearly every spell they cast.

As far as the relative age of the naaru, we've only got vague clues to go on. In Sunwell Plateau, Velen makes a reference to the essence of the dead naaru, M'uru:
Prophet Velen says: Gaze now, mortals -- upon the Heart of M'uru! Unblemished. Bathed by the light of Creation -- just as it was at the Dawn.
This seems to imply that the naaru have been around since the dawn of creation -- though whether it's the creation of Azeroth or the creation of the universe itself isn't directly stated. Naaru are impossibly ancient creatures. K'ure, the naaru responsible for the draenei's escape from Argus, is well over 25,000 years old.

Decay In the event that a naaru is physically damaged, the naaru will bleed energy and enter a "void" state. We've seen examples of this in Outland, where the darkened naaru K'ure and D'ore rest, and more notably in Silvermoon with M'uru. Naaru that have been drained of light enter the void state, during which the souls of the dead are attracted to the void and consumed. Though the naaru still apparently retains its altruistic nature, it cannot help the side effects of the void state; it's just a part of the naaru's regenerative process.

The simple state of being darkened cannot kill a naaru. Left to their own devices, the naaru will regenerate over the course of time, thousands of years, at which point they will presumably return to their Light-filled state. The naaru D'ore in Auchindoun has been doing just that for nearly a thousand years, and when players release him during the quest Auchindoun ... it is apparent that he has healed.

Despite there being three instances of naaru entering a darkened state in game, the chances of it happening are extremely rare, according to Blizzard:
Because three cases of this "cycle" have been demonstrated in Nagrand, Auchindoun, and Sunwell Plateau (K'ure, D'ore, and M'uru, respectively), players may have received the wrong impression with regard to the magnitude and rarity of these events: it is EXCEEDINGLY rare for a naaru to fall into a void state, and even rarer for a fallen naaru to be brought back into the Light. A naaru's fall into the void represents a catastrophic loss for the naaru and for the forces of the Light, and it is the saddest, most heart-wrenching event for the naaru to witness. Conversely, a naaru being reborn into the Light brings renewed hope and sense of purpose to every naaru; if energy beings could weep tears of joy, this would do it.

That said, it is possible to kill a naaru, though extremely rare -- and in fact, it's almost as if you aren't killing the naaru at all. When a naaru is physically damaged while in its void state, it can evolve into a creature wholly comprised of the void; that creature can be killed just like any other. What's left behind is the "heart" of the naaru, a spark of energy that still beats with the Light. This gives the impression that much like the phoenix of mythology, a naaru could possibly be reborn from the leftover spark or that because the spark is left behind, they never truly die, per se.

So far, the only spark we've supposedly seen has been the spark of M'uru, which was used to re-ignite the Sunwell after the defeat of Kil'jaeden. M'uru entered a darkened state when attacked by Kael'thas, which enabled the blood elves to imprison the naaru ... supposedly. In fact, it was revealed that a prophecy foretold the fate of M'uru, and he accepted it:
Silvery moon, washed in blood,
Led astray into the night, armed with the sword of broken Light.
Broken, then betrayed by one, standing there bestride the sun.
At darkest hour, redemption comes, in knightly lady sworn to blood.
M'uru wasn't exactly defeated; he sacrificed himself to redeem the blood elves as foretold in Velen's prophecy. So the actions of the blood knights, who further weakened M'uru's darkened state by draining the Light from him, were actually doing exactly as was intended. The fact that M'uru's spark could be used to re-ignite one of the most powerful fonts of magic on Azeroth suggests that the naaru are a formidable force indeed.

The naaru and the origins of the draenei

The naaru played a major part in Velen's flight from Argus. When Sargeras darkened the doorstep of the eredar homeworld and began corrupting the eredar, Velen prayed for help, uncertain of Sargeras' true motives. He saw a vision in answer to his prayers: a being formed of pure light that told him of Sargeras' intentions and offered to take Velen and any other eredar who wished to flee away from Argus to safety. Velen agreed, his followers boarded the naaru ship provided for them, and the draenei fled.
You are not alone, Velen of the eredar, the voice whispered to him. It was soothing, sweet, like the sound of flowing water and the rush of a summer wind. The radiance faded slightly, and hovering before Velen was a being unlike any he had ever seen. It seemed to be comprised of living light. Its center was a soft golden hue, the outer radius a glowing, soothing violet. Strange metallic-looking glyphs swirled around the center, calming and hypnotic, in a spiral dance of color and light. It continued to speak inside his mind, a sound that seemed to Velen to be light itself given voice.

We, too, have sensed the impending horrors about to befall this and other worlds. We strive to keep the balance, and what Sargeras is planning will rip apart everything. Utter chaos and ruination will descend, and the things that are good and true and pure and holy will be lost beyond recovery.
Who ... what ... Velen could not even form the question in his mind, so swept away was he by this being's glory.

We are the Naaru, the radiant entity said. You may call me ... K'ure.

Velen's lips curved around the words, and as he whispered them aloud, "Naaru ... K'ure ..." he tasted the sweetness of them, as if speaking the names granted him some of their very essence.

This is where it all begins, K'ure continued. We cannot stop it, for your friends have free will. But you have reached out with an anguished heart, to save what you can.

-- Rise of the Horde
K'ure and the other naaru sought to help Velen and the others, but their motives weren't quite as pure as it would seem. The naaru themselves are on their own quest of sorts -- the quiet amassing of an army of their own in order to fight and defeat the Burning Legion and with it, Sargeras. Why, exactly, they've set their sights on the Burning Legion hasn't really been defined, but it can be assumed that since the naaru appear to be creatures of Light, it is only natural for them to want to defeat the darkness -- and the Burning Legion represents the darkest of the dark.

Naaru and Azeroth

As far as Azeroth is concerned, the naaru's influence hasn't really extended to the planet so much. Or at least, it's commonly assumed that it hasn't. But what we do know is this -- the paladins of Azeroth and the paladins of the draenei are remarkably similar. Azerothian paladins immediately recognize the naaru as beings suffused with the holy Light. And though the naaru apparently made their first appearance in Azeroth during The Burning Crusade, it's entirely possible that we've been dealing with the naaru for much longer than that.

In the Caverns of Time: Durnholde Keep instance, players who forgo the dragonback route to Durnholde Keep and instead stop by Southshore are treated to a scene that plays out, detailing the creation of one of the greatest weapons ever created: The Ashbringer.
Commander Mograine unlocks the chest.
A Dark Crystal hovers above the chest.

Abbendis says: By the Light! What is it?
Commander Mograine says: I have had this object in my possession for 10 years. Since Blackrock Spire...
Commander Mograine says: I wrested it free from the remains of an orc lieutenant - a dark caster... It is from their homeworld.
Commander Mograine says: Do not get too close. I laid a hand upon it once... Only once and never again. The memories of that day still linger.
Commander Mograine removes the gauntlet from his right arm and shows everyone his mangled hand.
Commander Mograine says: I surmise that this object is the living embodiment of shadows... darkness... It is a manifestation. It is a void.
The item that Mograine obtains looks almost identical to the heart of dead naaru -- much like the heart of M'uru. And much like M'uru's heart, when sparked with the energy of a half dozen or so paladin, the crystal transformed into a shimmering beacon of Light.
Commander Mograine says: I... It... It is beautiful. What I felt when I touched it... The Light coursed through me and I through it... It healed my spirit.
Is it possible, then, that the Ashbringer of legend is not just a sword, but also a sword created from the heart of a naaru? It would certainly explain why the sword was so effective at cutting down swaths of undead -- a blade composed of the Light itself would doubtlessly be the best weapon one could hope to have when fighting the dark. Considering the fact that the void crystal originated somewhere on Draenor, where the naaru made their home and fought against the Burning Legion and their orc forces, it seems incredibly likely that this is the case.

What then, are the naaru? And how do they relate to the Titans? The enemy of the naaru is the Burning Legion, and the leader of the Burning Legion is the fallen Titan Sargeras. Are we to believe that it is sheer coincidence that the naaru have come to Azeroth with their draenei allies, or was there an ulterior purpose to their presence that has nothing to do with the Sunwell? According to Prophet Velen in a quest line in Swamp of Sorrows:
Prophet Velen says: Even now, the true battle between the forces of Light and Darkness approaches. We will all be called to join, and in the face of this conflict, all mortal suffering will be meaningless.
But more importantly, Velen is in the Swamp of Sorrows for a far greater purpose -- to help the dying Broken, Magtoor, pass into the Light. This isn't the first time we've seen this activity, though it was under slightly different circumstances. In the northern reaches of Icecrown, Crusader Bridenbrad lies dying of the plague. Through a series of quests, players attempt to save Bridenbrad to no avail. In the end, the only recourse lies with A'dal, who appears upon Bridenbrad's death and prevents the crusader from being resurrected as Scourge.
A'dal says: Fear not, young one, for this crusader shall not taste death.
A'dal says: In life, Bridenbrad was the bearer of great deeds. Now, in passing, he shall taste only paradise.
A'dal says: The light does not abandon its champions.
Champions. A'dal may be referring to the purpose of a paladin, or he may be referring to the purpose of all who inhabit Azeroth, paladin or no. Between Velen's prophecies of war and the reference to champions however, it is apparent we will all be fighting the Darkness, someday -- and the Darkness definitely isn't Deathwing, and it isn't the Old Gods. It's the Burning Legion.

The naaru have been present for an incomprehensible amount of time -- at least 25,000 years, more than likely much, much longer than that. Obviously, their sworn enemy at this point is the Burning Legion and the darkness it stands for, but what did the naaru do prior to the Legion's creation? Why are they here? Are they tied to the Titans, working to spread Light much the same way the Titans spread order across worlds? Are they perhaps the souls of fallen Titans themselves? Are they paladins that have so mastered the use of the Light that they've ascended beyond mere mortal form and evolved into beings composed of the Light?

Oddly enough, though we have no answers to the questions above, there does seem to be some sort of tenuous tie -- or at the very least, an odd coincidence. Consider the image below, a side-by-side shot of the signal to the Titans sent from Dalaran, and the top of Shattrath City:

We know the light from Dalaran is a signal to the Titans. We've theorized that perhaps the obelisks in Uldum have the same purpose, though that hasn't been clearly defined. In Shattrath, A'dal's light reaches to the heavens, much the same way as the signal in Dalaran. Is this an indication that the naaru have some sort of direct line of communication with the Titans?

Unfortunately, there are few answers in regards to this fascinating race. For now, it seems the mystery surrounding the naaru is to remain unanswered -- at least until we've dealt with Deathwing and the Old Gods and redeemed our home. Though the naaru seem to predict and anticipate the future, they have remained largely silent on the matter. Perhaps we simply need to find a way of proving ourselves to the naaru, showing them our intentions are pure, before they'll fill us in on the plan.

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.
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