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.
Let us talk for a moment about the oppressed. The victims of systemic abuse, land theft, and general disregard for millennia. Yes, this group of sapient beings have been the victims of harsh dispossession since their first encounter with the peoples of Pandaria. These hardy survivors have endured through mantid invasions, mogu oppression, the upheaval of the revolt that placed the pandaren atop the social order, and the hozen and jinyu conflicts.
They are the common clay of the Pandarian earth. They are the tunnel makers, warren keepers, humble munchers of carrots, haters of the vile turnip. They are the virmen, and this is their world. We're all merely trampling on it.
The virmen are so trodden below the feet of the other races of Pandaria that, while we know the origins of the jinyu, the mogu, the saurok and the grummles, and much of the history of the mantid, the pandaren and the hozen, we know nothing of the virmen's origin or history. No one felt it necessary to write down where they came from. No one felt it worthwhile to speculate on their motivations, or treat them with the same curiosity as any of the other races. The Lorewalkers, who chronicle the adventures of even the feces flinging hozen, could not be bothered to record when they first encountered the virmen. There are no secret texts throughout the breadth of Pandaria with ancient secrets about the virmen. Their degradation goes so deeply that the pandaren offer their children as slaves.
Their past unknown, their future imperceptible
The callous could argue that this is because the virmen are a plague, a 'famine on legs.' This of course ignores the virmen being clever enough to reach Shen-zin Su, the vast turtle that serves as a home to the adventurous pandaren who cling to his back as the Wandering Isle. Virmen clearly were not willingly brought to the Wandering Isle by the pandaren who see no shame in torturing them with inedible turnips or even wiping them out, so clearly they engineered their own arrival.
What do we know about the virmen? We know they reside in the Valley of the Four Winds and on Shen-zin Su, we know that they tunnel beneath the earth and come forth to seize almost any and all edible plant material they can. We know that they despise turnips. And we know that they are looked down upon as parasites to be wiped out, despite their established ability to speak. They can even create cobbled-together armor and use flamethrowers, demonstrating a level of tactical cunning that makes no difference at all to their pandaren oppressors.
Yes, I said oppressors. What else can we take from the interaction between the pandaren and the virmen? The virmen repeatedly warn the pandaren to stay away from virmen land, but the pandaren move right in and start farming anyway, going so far as to even recruit outsiders from beyond Pandaria to till the soil and plant turnips in the earth. The pandaren are fully aware of how much the virmen despise turnips - a common game among pandaren children is to devise an orange coloration to render turnips into mock carrots in order to trick the virmen into eating said turnips, despite how horrible they find it.
This isn't enough, however. The pandaren offer bounties on virmen heads, send adventurers into virmen warrens to murder their broodmothers and slaughter their breeding males, transform the land into huge acreage and prevent the virmen from attaining food. Virmen land is annexed without recompense or indeed even any sort of negotiation, stolen from the virmen and used to cultivate food that's kept away from them while they struggle to feed their vast broods. Cursed as they are with the prolific birthing cycle one might expect from their appearance, the virmen are simply starved out of their own homes and slaughtered if they resist.
Cast onto the compost heap of history
Even great virmen heroes like Hoptallus are helpless to end their people's degrading cycle. Leading his starving clutch into the dilapidated and neglected Stormstout Brewery, he sought to allow them to feed on the rice and grains stored pointlessly that would otherwise be wasted on alcohol for the pandaren to swill their way into inebriation. Food that could keep his kith and kin alive, wasted on drunkenness and the summoning of unnatural spirits, alementals that mock both elemental beings and decency. Yet again the pandaren hired brutish thugs to slaughter Hoptallus and his kin rather than allow them life-saving food.
Truly the virmen are the most downtrodden and oppressed people in all of Pandaria. Neither the Alliance nor Horde sees fit to help save them, of course, as they are so marginalized as to be unable to offer any sort of tactical advantage to these warring juggernauts. They can't offer any land, for the pandaren have taken it all. They can't offer much in the way of military prowess, what with all of their weapons being cobbled together from the leavings of other peoples. In the end, the virmen are so beneath the notice or regard of other peoples, it's likely the Horde and Alliance will just gleefully exterminate them on their way to battle each other.
Perhaps someday the tables will turn for the virmen. We can only hope.
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.