Why you can trust us

Engadget has been testing and reviewing consumer tech since 2004. Our stories may include affiliate links; if you buy something through a link, we may earn a commission. Read more about how we evaluate products.

Know Your Lore, TFH Edition: The naaru are a menace that must be destroyed

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.

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.

They glimmer with the purity of the Light, and their very presence fills one with a warm, calm feeling of inner peace. They also teach the ways of the Light -- the draenei would not be paladins were it not for these mysterious creature's intervention. In fact, the benevolent naaru came to Velen in a vision when his world was at its darkest hour, offering him hope, salvation, escape ... and the knowledge that there was a far larger battle out there, one that had yet to come to pass.

Kil'jaeden and Archimonde eagerly agreed to follow and serve Sargeras, becoming the highest-ranked members of the Burning Legion. As for Velen, he took the worried, the lost, the concerned draenei with him and fled, pledging his servitude to the naaru and their righteous cause. Two causes, one outwardly and easily identifiable as evil -- and the other, far more sinister and wicked than anything the Burning Legion could ever hope to achieve.

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 what is to come. These speculations are merely theories and should not be taken as fact or official lore.

With pacification comes utter control

The naaru are quite simply the most devious creatures in the known universe. The Burning Legion? The Old Gods? The naaru put both of these monstrosities to shame. Their plan is elegant, simple, and almost too sinister to comprehend. For the naaru wander the known universe, spreading a message of peace, benevolence, and above all, calm. The naaru are capable of getting even the most bitter of enemies to work together -- look at the ranks of the Shattered Sun for a clear example. The naaru have at least one race wholly devoted to their existence, and that race is quietly spreading the message of the naaru, completely unaware of what that blanket of calm and peace really means.

If one seeks to rule the universe, what is the easiest way to control it? Not with an iron fist -- not at first, at any rate. No, first you must win over the universe and quietly convince it that you are the best option of any to take it over. So you set yourself up as the enemy of the most obvious enemy out there -- the Burning Legion and Sargeras -- and present yourself in the best light possible (no pun intended). Once you've established your position as the benevolent and kind savior, your work afterwards is easy. After all, no one would suspect that a creature brimming with Light and grace could possibly be evil.

And so you begin your real mission -- to pacify the universe into a sense of eternal calm and peace, happiness and joy. The naaru are like carnivorous plants; what they promise is a world full of sweet idealism, a world where evil is no longer present. Their siren song of utopia tickles the ears of those who listen until they are at last seduced into servitude, a member in training of the army of the Light.

And when that siren song comes to its end, the trap snaps shut. After all, it's far easier to rule a universe if nobody particularly objects to your being there. Once the world is bending to your every whim, convinced that you can do no wrong, you are free to do whatever you wish.

Blinded by the Light

But hey -- simply being present and exuding a peaceful aura isn't enough to win everyone over. So why not let your servants do the work for you, in the form of the Light's teachings? Let's take a quick look at the Light and how it works.

  • It is a nontheistic religious philosophy, not a school of magic. In other words, it's based on belief, not ley lines or fel energy.

  • It is practiced by spreading emotion to "connect oneself to the universe." A follower of the Light seeks to develop goodness, within and without. In order to be a true devotee of the Light, one must spread those feelings of goodness and goodwill throughout the universe.

  • The tenets of the Light are respect, tenacity, and compassion. Respect for those around you, the tenacity to adhere to this philosophy, and the compassion to recognize situations where help is absolutely needed.

A true follower of the Light spreads the message of goodwill, peace, calm, and happiness wherever they go. If they do not spread this message, they fall away from the Light. Those drawn to the Light are taught how to master the process, and though not everyone practices the Light, most have come into contact with it in one way or another by healing or simply being in the presence of those who practice it. You cannot get away from the Light. Even the Forsaken have those who are still devoted to the Light, even after death, even though the Light literally hurts them to use. They can't stop practicing it, regardless.

The draenei have so wholly devoted themselves to the Light and the naaru that the naaru are present pretty much everywhere in draenei society. Even in the depths of the Exodar, a naaru chimes pleasantly. Exodar guards aren't really guards; they're titled peacekeepers. Keepers of the peace, the calm, the order. And if you aren't keeping with the peace, the keepers will certainly get rid of you.

The Sunwell "restored"

Now why, you may ask, would the draenei willingly consort with a known enemy of the Alliance, much less give them back the most powerful tool in their society? The draenei restored the Sunwell and gave the blood elves back their powers, right? Well ... sort of. The draenei "ignited" the Sunwell, using the heart of a fallen naaru.

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.
The heart of M'uru disintegrates and flows into the Sunwell. The Sunwell reignites in a fount of blinding light.
Prophet Velen says: In time, the light and hope held within - will rebirth more than this mere fount of power... Mayhap, they will rebirth the soul of a nation.
Lady Liadrin says: Blessed ancestors! I feel it... so much love... so much grace... there are... no words... impossible to describe...
Prophet Velen says: Salvation, young one. It waits for us all.

Salvation -- in the form of a naaru "sacrifice" and a Sunwell that no longer radiates simple arcane energy. No, the Sunwell as it stands now radiates with Light energy as well as the arcane. After all, you can't get rid of the arcane, and it's what the blood elves crave anyway, isn't it? So why not taint the water supply with a burst of sheer peace and calm? It's like laying down ant traps. The poison doesn't just poison the ant; it poisons every ant the poison is carried back to. Soon, the ant colony is dead -- or in this case, utterly pacified and feeling quite dandy about the Light and the naaru.

The battle between Light and Darkness

Last week, we took a look at Velen's prophecy regarding the big war between Light and Darkness, and it was a look at how it could tie into Mists as well. The naaru are fighting darkness, and it may seem as though this is a righteous and noble cause; after all, they are seeking to eliminate anything that can destroy us. But are they really seeking to make the world a better place for all involved, or are they simply trying to eliminate any competition in their bid for universal supremacy?

Here's the thing -- the naaru cannot eliminate the darkness entirely because it is an irrevocable part of who they are. All naaru have the potential to delve into a void state, and they will either wholly surrender to the void, or they will regenerate back to their former selves.

Do you know how they regenerate? They devour the spirits of the dead. It happened in Auchindoun; it happened in Nagrand. And though the naaru seem slightly regretful of these occurrences, they can't really help it. D'ore says it outright: "For several centuries, the spirits of Auchindoun coalesced into my darkened essence. Many of the catastrophes that befell this crypt were a direct result of my weakened state. Regrettably, there is nothing that can be done to stop this cycle. It is a facet of the naaru condition -- without the void, the Light cannot exist."

In other words, "We're terribly sorry about devouring the spirits of your beloved dead. But we need to do that in order to come back to the Light. And you like the Light, don't you? It's warm, compassionate, peaceful and serene. So you can forgive our transgressions, can't you?"

We aren't a righteous army of the Light. We are dinner. We are cannon fodder. We are being sent in to do the work of the naaru and eliminate all competition for universal domination -- and in the event that we fail, in the event that the naaru are damaged, our souls will make for tasty nom-noms so that the naaru can start the cycle all over again.

What about Elune and An'she?

I'm sure by this point you're wondering what this has to do with Azeroth, since the draenei are obviously newcomers to the world. Natives of Azeroth have been practicing the ways of the Light for plenty of years before the draenei showed up and brought the naaru with them. Or perhaps the naaru have been here all along ... just a little more quiet and more subtle than the naaru who approached Velen.

In Ashenvale, there's a wonderful quest chain for Alliance in which players are sent to find a cure for a sick little night elf. Over the course of the quest, players are eventually sent to find Elune's Tear, a stone with magical properties. The stone has been marred due to the volcanic chaos in the area, and players are asked to cleanse the stone at a moonwell. And after dousing the stone in the moonwell, there's a sudden flash of brilliant light and a voice that speaks to you about continuing on.

A voice from inside the moonwell flows over your mind, bringing you a perfect sense of peace.

It is Elune speaking to you and telling you where to progress next in the chain -- but the odd part is that Elune's voice has the same properties as those of the naaru. Now I've written about the possibility of Elune and An'she being naaru before, in another crazy tinfoil hat article. But this quest almost deliberately points to a connection between the two.

If Elune and An'she were indeed naaru, why didn't they show themselves from the beginning, like the naaru did with Velen so long ago on Argus? I'm guessing a lot of it was because at the time the night elves came into being, our planet was still very, very primitive -- primitive enough that a giant glowing windchime appearing out of nowhere would be seen as a sign of aggression and something to be attacked, rather than the "miracle" that Velen witnessed.

And isn't it interesting that the tauren didn't really think twice about An'she for thousands upon thousands of years, completely ignoring his teachings? Yet once the naaru had established themselves on the planet, brought by an "accidental" crash landing, the tauren started to realize there was something out there that they hadn't considered yet. Sure, it took a few years -- but then, the path of universal domination isn't a speedy one. The naaru are essentially immortal, and have forever to live. They have the endless patience it takes to wait.

The kal'dorei and the sin'dorei

What's even creepier than this is that it has been implied that the night elves were brought into being by Elune somehow. These former dark trolls ascended to a society that was much more developed and advanced than imaginable, and they made that progression in a ludicrously fast time frame. That suggests intervention, and that suggests the tales of Elune's creating the night elves are absolutely correct.

It also suggest that the existence of elves on Azeroth is an unnatural occurence, one spawned by the direct intervention of a naaru. And the night elves did their job quite handily, jumping from a few dark trolls converted into this new form into a full-fledged society that dominated Kalimdor in the span of a few short centuries, completely taking over as the top race of the world -- until, that is, they started messing with the Well of Eternity and shattered the world into multiple continents.

So here's a theory for you. Once upon a time, E'lune and An'she came to Azeroth, with the intent on taking it over for their own purposes. The creatures of the world were far too primitive and brutal to simply recruit, and so E'lune struck on a plan with An'she's help. They created the night elves from some of the most brutal of these creatures and helped them ascend to a new race -- a race devoted to E'lune's teachings. But not all of the creatures of Azeroth were so primitive.

The tauren were also interested in E'lune and An'she, referring to them as the left and right eyes of the Earthmother, the goddess of the tauren, represented by the world itself. But something dire happened. Some of the night elves were seduced by the powers of the Well of Eternity, and E'lune's plan backfired in spectacular fashion. E'lune and An'she were separated with the explosion, and the tauren soon forgot the teachings of An'she because he was no longer as present as he had once been.

Over on the Eastern Kingdoms, An'she tried to find others to influence, with little success. And on Kalimdor, E'lune despaired when part of her beloved children separated from the others and were banished across the sea. Meanwhile, An'she had found a primitive race of humans and begun to show them the ways of the Light, subtly at first. When the banished night elves arrived, they had changed -- but they were still at their hearts creations of the naaru, whether they embraced that part of themselves or not.

Obviously simply contacting these fallen night elves wouldn't solve anything; they had already made their choice and fallen away from E'lune. But An'she could direct these humans and plant the seeds there -- and perhaps when the humans and the former kal'dorei came into contact, they would be reminded of their roots and return to their teachings as was only proper.

But this plan, too, failed. The quel'dorei were far too interested in the Sunwell and its teachings than the naaru had ever imagined. And so when the Burning Legion returned to Azeroth, when the Lich King reared his head, An'she simply waited. And when the Scourge ran rampant across the Eastern Kingdoms, An'she encouraged those that followed the Light to fight. Though the loss of Arthas was regretful, his purpose was clear -- he would eventually make his way to the Sunwell and destroy it.

And once that Sunwell was destroyed, the quel'dorei would fall back on the good graces of the Light and into the naaru trap, before they knew what hit them. But it didn't work that way, not at all. The quel'dorei instead sought new sources of power, forgetting the old ways. This simply would not do. An'she and E'lune were in over their heads, and they could not handle what should have been a simple enough job on their own. Azeroth had proved, over time, to be too much for the two of them.

So they called in the cavalry.

And the Exodar just happened to crash land on Azeroth, in night elf territory, complete with naaru on board and inhabitants that were so embued with the Light that though the night elves were frightened at first, they soon lent a helping hand to their sudden neighbors. The draenei quietly worked on repairing the damage they had done to the planet, while elsewhere, the naaru continued their assistance.

In A'dal's prophecy regarding the sin'dorei, he states that M'uru knew exactly what he was getting into and that his fall to Kael'thas was deliberate. One assumes this is because M'uru knew he would eventually become the salvation of the blood elves, but if you look at it a different way, it suddenly becomes far more sinister. M'uru deliberately gave himself over to the void, deliberately died, and his heart was taken by Velen, a champion of the naaru's cause, and used to ignite the Sunwell once more -- this time, infused with the heart of a naaru.

And somewhere on Azeroth, E'lune was pleased, because her children had at last returned to the path from which they'd deviated.

Success and continued efforts

Now the naaru have established a firm hold over much of Azeroth's population. Even gnomes are beginning to embrace the ways of the Light, if from a purely scientific perspective. The quel'dorei are happy with the return of the Sunwell, and they don't question the reasons for its return. Nor do they question Velen. Nor do they question the naaru. After all, these creatures were responsible for saving their civilization. They were responsible for saving the draenei civilization. They were responsible for the creation of the elves, though they may not realize it now.

And now that Azeroth is under the naaru's firm grasp, something simply must be done about all that pesky bickering between Alliance and Horde. After all, fighting simply won't do. Peace must be kept at all costs. Because in the end, we are all meant to be pacified.

It's so much easier to take over the universe that way.

For more information on the people, places and history mentioned here, check out other Know Your Lore columns, such as:

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.