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.
He is the Lord of the Forest, a union of the heavens, and the earth. One of the most powerful and influential demigods in Azeroth, Cenarius and his teachings have led to the development of the druids, and no other demigod has been as closely involved with mortal affairs. It's no surprise that the son of an Ancient and the closest thing Azeroth has to a goddess is so powerful -- and his connection to the Aspect Ysera made him even more so.
He is the White Stag or Apa'ro, as the tauren call him. Malorne, an Ancient who served as a protector of nature, was rumored to have roamed the forests of Azeroth long before the night elves ever came into existence. He is the father of Cenarius, and unlike his son, he meddles little with the affairs of mortals. But his love with the goddess Elune resulted in the birth of his son, and his later association with Ysera guaranteed his son would be raised safely and with the right kind of guidance.
She is the Dreamer, Aspect of Nature and guardian of the Emerald Dream. Ysera has always been held in high regard by the night elves, who were bound to the Emerald Dream with Ysera's blessing. But her relationship with Malorne resulted in a son she didn't expect. Though not his mother by birth, Ysera was just as much a mother to Cenarius as Elune -- perhaps more. After all, it was Ysera and the Emerald Dream that helped shape Cenarius into the demigod we know today.
Malorne is one of several Ancients in Azeroth. His form is that of a giant white stag, and his power lies in nature itself. Responsible for both protecting the land and nurturing nature, Malorne's role neatly overlapped the same role that Ysera played as Aspect of the green dragonflight. Malorne is indeed ancient, reports of the demigod dating back all the way to the very dawn of recorded tauren history. In the tauren myth "The White Stag and the Moon," a tale is told of Malorne, the tauren, and his first love and mother of his child, Elune.
Into the brave hearts of her pure children, the Earthmother placed the love of the hunt. For the creatures of the first dawn were savage and fierce. They hid from the Earthmother, finding solace in the shadows and the wild places of the land. The Shu'halo hunted these beasts wherever they could be found and tamed them with the Earthmother's blessing. One great spirit eluded them, however. Apa'ro was a proud stag of snow white fur. His antlers scraped the roof of the heavens and his mighty hooves stamped out the deep places of the world. The Shu'halo hunted Apa'ro to the corners of the dawning world - and closed in to snare the proud stag.
Seeking to escape, the great stag leapt into the sky. Yet, as his escape seemed assured, his mighty antlers tangled in the stars which held him fast. Though he kicked and struggled, Apa'ro could not loose himself from the heavens. It was then that Mu'sha found him as she chased her brother, An'she, towards the dawn. Mu'sha saw the mighty stag as he struggled and fell in love with him immediately. The clever moon made a bargain with the great stag -- she would set him free from the snare of the stars if he would love her and end her loneliness.
Mu'sha loved Apa'ro and conceived a child by him. The child, a demigod some would claim, was born into the shadowed forests of the night. He would be called Cenarius, and walk the starry path between the waking world and the kingdom of the heavens.
In this fable, Elune supposedly made a deal with Malorne to free him from the stars in exchange for his love. This resulted in a child half-Ancient, half-god (if Elune is thought of as a goddess) with a form unique to anything seen on Azeroth before. The child's name was Cenarius. But Cenarius couldn't live with his mother, and his mother couldn't properly care for him, so he was sent to the earth, where he lived and roamed.
As for Malorne, it didn't take him long to get over Elune. As was only natural for an Ancient of nature, he took up a relationship with the Aspect Ysera. The two were suited to each other, both being protectors of nature. But it was Cenarius that linked the two, and Ysera raised the little demigod as if he were her own son.
During the War of the Ancients, Cenarius came under attack by a group of demons from the Burning Legion's armies. Furious, Malorne stepped into the fray and unleashed his might on the armies, crushing those who endangered his son's life.
Though Malorne was mighty, there was one even greater than he: Archimonde, left hand of Sargeras. Once Archimonde stepped into the fray, Malorne was in far more danger than he probably realized at the time. Malorne was responsible for the deaths of many and saved the life of his son, but he could not win against the Burning Legion's lieutenant. After a long struggle, Archimonde seized Malorne by the antlers and snapped his neck. The Ancient was dead, his spirit left to roam the Emerald Dream -- yet his son was safe.
Cenarius' life wasn't as idyllic as one would think. The demigod grew into a powerful being as a result of the combined powers of his parents. Unlike Malorne and Elune's one-time union, Cenarius had scores of children, his daughters the dryads and his sons the Keepers of the Grove.
But there was one son different from the rest simply named The Centaur. Legend has it that the dryads and keepers loved their father and continued to protect nature just as their father wished. As for The Centaur, he grew more and more jealous of Cenarius' children, turning from nature and instead embracing hatred and savagery.
In one of those moments of savagery, he struck out at the demigod, hoping to cow Cenarius into loving him more than his brothers and sisters and making him the favored child. But Cenarius did not bend to The Centaur and instead cursed him, stripping him of both his powers and his beauty and leaving him with only the hatred and anger he so cherished. Cenarius' son fled, swearing vengeance on all creatures of the world.
Though The Centaur is thought to be the originator of most of the centaur tribes, there was another son of Cenarius who also helped in the creation of the savage species. Zaetar was the eldest son of Cenarius, and he was seduced by the elemental princess of the earth, Theradras, and taken to Maraudon. The two were responsible for five tribes of centaur -- Magram, Kolkar, Galak, Gelkis and Maraudine.
Much like The Centaur, the children of Zaetar and Theradras were just as violent and savage, and their first act was to kill Zaetar. In her sorrow, Theradras took Zaetar's remains and spirit deep into Maraudon, where she mourned her lover's death.
Cenarius' children blossomed, continuing to watch over nature just as their father did, and Cenarius' influence grew to encompass the mortal races. In two other tauren myths, Forestlord and the First Druid and Hatred of the Centaur, Cenarius' relationship to the tauren is further explained.
Eventually, Cenarius befriended the Shu'halo and spoke to them of the turning world. The children of the earth knew him as brother and swore to help him care for the fields of life and the favored creatures of their great Earthmother. Cenarius taught the children of the earth to speak to the trees and plants. The Shu'halo became druids and worked great deeds of magic to nurse the land to health. For many generation the Shu'halo hunted with Cenarius and kept the world safe from the shadows that stirred beneath it. -- Forest Lord and the First Druid
As the mists of dawn faded and the Age of Memory advanced, the demigod, Cenarius, went his own way through the fields of the world. The Shu'halo were sorrowful at his passing and forgot much of the druidism he had taught them. As the generations passed, they forgot how to speak with the trees and the wild things of the land. The dark whispers from the deeps of the world drifted up to their ears once again. -- Hatred of the Centaur
Oddly, this seems to reference the idea that the tauren were the first druids of Azeroth, having been associated with Cenarius long before the night elves ever came into play. However, it has been established in lore that Malfurion Stormrage was in fact the first mortal druid. In this case, perhaps it is simply the term druid that was first used by the night elves, and the tauren were taught earth magic without a proper name. Regardless, as the years passed, Cenarius grew more curious about the night elves and began an association with them.
Cenarius saw in Malfurion Stormrage an individual with the potential to become one of the most powerful druids on Azeroth; the night elf was well-suited for Cenarius' teachings. After the War of the Ancients and the Sundering, Cenarius began teaching the night elves in earnest, and the path of the druid was considered a far better path to follow than the road of the arcane. After all, the War of the Ancients proved that meddling with the arcane led to war, chaos and death.
For thousands of years, Cenarius continued to roam the forests and the Dream, teaching night elves and protecting the land. It wasn't until just before the Third War that Cenarius encountered a group of green-skinned creatures seeking to tear the forests down for lumber. Though he fought hard, Cenarius eventually fell to Grom Hellscream's forces -- not because the orcs were particularly mighty, but because they had just imbibed, once again, the blood of Mannoroth. Backed by the bloodlust granted from a demon of the Burning Legion's blood, Hellscream and the other orcs made quick work of the demigod.
Because of her role as Aspect of Nature, Ysera's relationship with Malorne wasn't really a surprise. His death affected her greatly, even though his spirit still roamed the forests of the Emerald Dream. Though she did not make an appearance when Cenarius fell, it doubtless had an effect on her as well. Ysera cared greatly for the night elves, as evidenced by her gift to them after the War of the Ancients. Ysera blessed the great tree Nordrassil, and it forever bound the druids of night elf society to the Emerald Dream, where they could help watch and protect it alongside her and the rest of the Green Dragonflight.
Though the tree was destroyed at the end of the Third War, it wasn't completely dead -- and though Ysera battled the Emerald Nightmare that threatened to overwhelm the dream, thoughts of Hyjal and Nordrassil's branches were never far from her mind. In Cataclysm, Ysera appears in Hyjal, helping the night elves to defend the regrown World Tree.
As Aspect of Nature and because of her ties to the Emerald Dream, Ysera spent most of her life with her eyes firmly closed, with few exceptions. Malorne's death caused her eyes to open, addressing Malfurion Stormrage regarding his druidic powers also caused them to open. During Day of the Dragon, Ysera opened her eyes during the fight against Deathwing. In present-day Hyjal, Ysera also appears with her eyes open, and it has been reported that this was intentional.
As I've said before, her eyes are very intentionally open. This is, in fact, part of the fiction and will be explained in one of our upcoming novels as well as a future event in game. -- Valnoth, Blizzard forums
More than likely her eyes are open because of what she is trying to accomplish. Many Ancients fell during the first war against the Burning Legion, and in order to fight the Twilight Cult and the forces of the firelord, Ysera deemed it necessary to resurrect the fallen Ancients from where they dwelled within the Dream. Aviana, Aessina, Tortolla, Goldrinn -- all were eventually reborn to come to the aid of the mortal races. And in the end, Cenarius too was reborn, along with his father Malorne.
The lives of the Ancients and demigods of Azeroth have always been told through the myths and legends of the mortal races, which leads one to wonder how much is true and how much is embellished fiction. The wild tales of Malorne and Elune's love, their son Cenarius and Cenarius' children read almost like Roman or Greek mythology. Unlike the myths and legends of real life, however, the mortals of Azeroth are working directly with those demigods and Ancients today in Cataclysm. Though his conception and life seem a little too outrageous to believe, Cenarius does exist, as does his father and Ysera -- and as does the moon, Mu'sha, Elune, eternally circling Azeroth and watching over her child from afar.
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.