Know Your Lore: Why Garrosh Hellscream shouldn't die

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|06.10.12

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Know Your Lore: Why Garrosh Hellscream shouldn't die
Know Your Lore Why Garrosh Hellscream should not die SUN
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.

Garrosh Hellscream is one of the most polarizing figures in Warcraft lore at the moment. You either hate him or love him, and there are very few players who stand somewhere in the middle. Ever since his introduction in The Burning Crusade, Garrosh's journey has been a series of ups and downs, starting with the moment that then-Warchief Thrall showed Hellscream how his father died. It was as a hero to the orcish race, and Garrosh has spent the majority of his time on Azeroth trying to live up to that heroic image.

It's a tough role to fill. And in the press event for Mists of Pandaria, it was revealed that Garrosh would be taken down, his role as warchief ended. Given all of the chaos Garrosh has sown in his short reign as warchief, it's no wonder that it's not just the Alliance gunning for the warchief's downfall -- the Horde isn't particularly happy with him, either. So it seems entirely likely that Garrosh will fall, his reign will end, and the world will move on.

And frankly, Garrosh's death is the worst possible thing that could happen.

Know Your Lore Why Garrosh Hellscream shouldn't die SUN
Garrosh's journey began in The Burning Crusade, but it wasn't until Wrath of the Lich King that it really took off for players. Yet in the timeline between The Burning Crusade and Wrath, Garrosh had some major development in his own right, both in the Warcraft comics series, the short story Heart of War, and the fateful moment in game when Garrosh challenged Warchief Thrall to a duel, just before the Lich King's heralds attacked the city. These moments in time show Garrosh doing exactly what an orc on Draenor did in days of old: asserting his pecking order in the world through aggressive displays.

To everyone else on Azeroth, it may have looked like Garrosh was a hothead, a foul-tempered jerk who was bent on taking over the Horde for himself. For Garrosh, though, this was simply part of being an orc, an orc of the old ways, an orc who didn't grow up in the age of Thrall and his diplomatic ways. It wasn't that Thrall was doing anything wrong; it was that Garrosh simply didn't, couldn't understand why Thrall did the things he did. There was no precedent in Garrosh's life.

Know Your Lore Why Garrosh Hellscream shouldn't die SUN
This does not, of course, mean that his actions as time went on can be excused. It has become increasingly clear in Cataclysm that Garrosh has started to let power go to his head. He thinks that the best way to keep the Horde strong is to reward the strong and punish the weak. He thinks that the best action for the Horde as a whole is to conquer the world, whether the world likes it or not. Whether the Horde likes it or not. As far as Garrosh is concerned, he is the face of the Horde, and what he says goes.

And that's not sitting well with the rest of the Horde. It's certainly not sitting well with the Alliance, who have been desperately trying to regroup and defend themselves from the Horde's relentless attacks, all ordered by Hellscream. In the end, the warnings of Vol'jin and Saurfang look like they were more than mere warnings -- that the threats to put an end to Garrosh will actually come to pass.

But that is actually a really terrible idea, and there are a couple of very real reasons for this. The biggest one doesn't even involve Garrosh at all -- it involves someone else who has been very active this expansion.

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Getting away with murder

Sylvanas Windrunner is not up to anything good. She's been attacking the worgen and trying to get a foothold in Gilneas, supposedly for the good of the Horde. But as soon as Hellscream's back is turned, Sylvanas is up to her old tricks. Garrosh told her in no uncertain terms that the plague of undeath, the same plague that wiped out so many at the Wrathgate, was not to be used. And Sylvanas sweetly promised Garrosh that she wouldn't use it.

And then Sylvanas promptly wiped out the city of Southshore with the plague.

In Cataclysm, Sylvanas has had her own agenda -- one that does not appear to match the agenda of the Horde in the slightest. She is reckless, she is ruthless, and she appears to have the val'kyr completely on her side. And the only one who has seen this, the only one who is actively watching her at the moment, is Garrosh Hellscream. If Garrosh dies, Sylvanas gets away with murder -- the murder of innocents in Southshore, the murder of countless Gilneans, the murder of however many Horde fall once she finally completes her bid for power.

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Garrosh's eyes are upon Sylvanas Windrunner, but the collective remainder of the leaders of the Horde are all watching Hellscream. They haven't paid attention to what's going on in the Eastern Kingdoms. Why would they, when Garrosh Hellscream is ripping through resources and getting on everyone's nerves? No, the other members of the Horde are carefully watching Hellscream, waiting for the moment in which he slips, the moment where he steps too far, so they can swoop in and put an end to him -- which is, coincidentally, exactly what Sylvanas would like to happen.

Sylvanas is clever, very clever indeed. And if Hellscream dies, she's gotten away with it all. Oh certainly, Hellscream has left behind Kor'kron forces to watch over her, to observe every move that she makes. But if they dare raise their voices and try to tell the rest of the Horde what is going on, all Sylvanas has to do is point out that these Kor'kron were allied with Hellscream. Of course they'd speak against her -- Garrosh was prejudiced against her and her people. Who would the Horde believe, the leader who has been just as harshly treated as any one of them, or the combined forces of Hellscream's army, who likely hold a biased and lofty opinion of Garrosh?

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Same song and dance

But let's step away from the Banshee Queen for a moment and look at the other side of the equation from a pure story perspective. We've seen all of this before. We saw it back in Warcraft III, when Grom Hellscream had a momentary lapse back to his bloodhaze-crazed days and killed Cenarius. We saw Grom show regret for his actions. We saw him hunt down the demon that had enslaved the orcish race so long ago. We saw Mannoroth die, and we saw Hellscream die, too.

Right now, it seems as if the story is slowly winding its way down the same path. A Hellscream will always be a Hellscream. A Hellscream will always thirst for power. A Hellscream will always make a grab for as much power as possible. And a Hellscream will inevitably die. And that is an incredibly depressing story to tell. Right now, we don't know what sends Garrosh over the deep end, whether it's simply his lust for power or whether he's been corrupted by some evil force. And at the moment, I'm hoping it is neither of these choices, because they have been done to death.

Illidan was a creature of immense potential who was corrupted into the path he followed all the way to its inevitable end atop the Black Temple. Kael'thas Sunstrider was a noble leader who followed the path of power which led to his inevitable corruption and eventual demise. Twice. Arthas was a noble knight who fell onto the path of darkness and was pulled to his dark destiny atop the Frozen Throne. Deathwing was an Aspect, a creature that was supposed to protect the world and instead the world corrupted him to his very core.

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It's the same song every time, and though the steps are a little different, it's the same dance as well. And with a game that is over seven years old, it is high time Blizzard took a different direction with the story, because eventually that story is going to get so old that players aren't going to buy it anymore. Give us something new, something gripping. Give us a different story. Put a different twist on things. Show us something we haven't seen before.

If Garrosh dies, it is only reinforcing the idea that power and greed lead to corruption, and corruption leads to certain demise. We get it. Warcraft is a sometimes dark, grim and depressing universe to be in, especially if you're in a position of authority. As it stands, Grom Hellscream died a hero. Yes, he was the first to drink the blood of Mannoroth; yes, he led the orcs into years of bloody war. But in the end, he realized what he had done was not the right path to take, and he was rewarded for that realization with death. A heroic death, but death nonetheless.

And if Garrosh dies, he does nothing to honor his father's memory. It would be an intensely ironic moment, but it would also be an incredibly depressing one: the boy who keenly wanted to be a big damn hero just like his dad and ended up nearly bringing the Horde to disaster as a result. In a way, yes, he would be following his father's path, right up to the moment where he dies. There's nothing inspiring about that tale.

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The hope for Hellscream

My hope, in the end, is that Garrosh Hellscream doesn't die at all. Does he deserve to be warchief? At this point, absolutely not. The Horde is not an orcish organization. The Horde is a group of misfits brought together to stand as one, united. Garrosh can't seem to wrap his head around this concept, and it's understandable to a degree. This is not the orcish society Garrosh is used to. This isn't even orcish society anymore. It's Horde society, and Garrosh is trying to drag the Horde into a place of orcish supremacy where it simply doesn't belong.

But Garrosh doesn't deserve to die. Has he committed some incredibly horrific deeds? Yes, he has. But in between those deeds, we see the occasional spark of a Garrosh who knows what is right, what is honorable. In Stonetalon Mountains, it was clear that Garrosh had learned something from his time in Northrend with Saurfang. Simply throwing away those fragile moments of clarity, those moments where Garrosh seemed to be learning about the concept of the Horde, about the concept of honor -- that would be an incredible waste of character development.

What I'd like to see is this: Garrosh has the title of warchief forcibly removed, but not because of his death. I want him to leave because he finally realizes and understands that his way of thinking, the Draenor way of thinking, is not the thinking of Azeroth. What was best for the orcs of Garadar, the orcs of Draenor, is not what's best for the Horde as a whole. I want to see him finally understand that being a warchief is not a right, not a privilege, but something that you work hard for. That respect is something you earn, not something you demand.

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I want him to realize with utmost comprehension exactly how hard it is to be a warchief, to look at Thrall with new eyes and show some respect for the orc who's been holding this ragtag band of races together for years, the orc who brought them all together and united them under one banner. Thrall's job is not easy; it has never been easy. Thrall understands there is a line that needs to be drawn between outright war and diplomacy, and he's been trying to walk that line for years, unsuccessfully.

I don't want to see Thrall come back, because his character is a character of the world, now -- and it belongs there. Thrall is a shaman, first and foremost. He cares for his people and he cares deeply for the Horde, but in his heart, he knows that the problems of the world are much larger than the problems of the Horde, and he needs to take care of those problems. Thrall was too soft for a warchief; he strayed too far into the realm of diplomacy and friendship for the Horde. Garrosh is too hard for a warchief; he is straying just as far into the realm of outright war. Neither are what the Horde needs.

I want to see Garrosh take his leave, whether by banishment or by simply stepping down. I want to see him head back to his home, Garadar, under the Nagrand skies. I want to see him quietly take up residence and lead the orcs of Garadar once Greatmother Geyah's spirit moves on. And I want him to do this with the humble knowledge of everything he's learned to date, a wiser orc for the experience.

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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