Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: In the beginning

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|01.20.13

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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: In the beginning
Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition In the beginning 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.

In the beginning, the Titans created Azeroth. They set the world in motion, and then left to continue on whatever path it was that the mysterious beings followed. Yet something happened to the planet, something bad enough that it warranted the return of the Titans. Upon their return, they discovered the Old Gods, a malignant group of entities that were intent upon sowing chaos. Perturbed, the Titans tried to kill an Old God -- and they discovered to their horror that killing the Old Gods would kill the very planet itself.

And yet, instead of simply rebooting and starting over anew, they kept Azeroth. They imprisoned the Old Gods beneath the surface of the world, and planted various fail-safes to make sure the creatures were never freed. And just in case an Old God managed to escape, Algalon the Observer would visit and determine the status of the world. If it was deemed too far gone, he would activate a signal that would re-originate the world -- Azeroth would be destroyed and rebooted.

Why did they leave Azeroth alone? Why didn't they simply re-originate the world at the first sign of trouble? Why put in a failsafe to do so, instead of taking care of the problem immediately? But perhaps most importantly ...

What is Azeroth?

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 how it happened. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

Please note: This edition of KYL also contains some spoilers for patch 5.2 content.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition In the beginning SUN

In the beginning

There are a few things popping up in patch 5.2 that lead to revisiting this question. In voice files datamined from the 5.2 PTR, several conversations seem to address the connection between Pandaria, Azeroth, and even the Titans. Lorewalker Cho confirms that the mogu are, in fact, "children of the Titans" -- much like the Earthen. But more interesting is a small bit from Wrathion, who, in patch 5.2, is trying to uncover what all the Titan technology in Pandaria is for. This is all part of the next step in the legendary quest chain.

After following Wrathion's orders and returning the heart of Lei Shen, Wrathion comments on the heart, noting that it is filled with Titan magic. And then something incredibly peculiar happens. Wrathion's voice changes, almost as if he is possessed.

I see them! A million worlds glittering in their perfection! One above all others! We have fallen, we must rebuild the final Titan! Do not forget.

Who possessed Wrathion? Was that the voice of the Thunder King, desperate to return to the work of his original creators, the Titans? Was that the voice of the keeper Ra-den, imprisoned deep within the Throne of Thunder? More importantly -- what is the "final Titan?"

What were the mogu created for? What was Pandaria's purpose? How does this tie into the origination of Azeroth?

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition In the beginning SUN

The Titans created Azeroth

According to lore, the Titans created Azeroth -- they made it, left, it was taken over by Old Gods, and then the Titans returned. They couldn't rid the world of the Old Gods, so they merely imprisoned them. Evidence suggests that the Sha are part of that discovery. When Y'shaarj was killed, he didn't expire. His essence clung to the planet, manifesting as malignant creatures born of negative emotion. Because of this, the Titans realized the Old Gods could not be destroyed without destroying Azeroth itself, and they were unwilling to do that.

Let's look at the situation a little differently. Instead of looking at the Old God infestation, instead of looking at the pattern of the Titans, instead of looking at their peculiar unwillingness to destroy the planet once it had become contaminated, let's look at that one tiny phrase. "The Titans created Azeroth." There are actually hundreds of different ways that could be interpreted.

The Titans seem to be mechanical creatures, and the planetary systems that they implement are incredibly complex, like computers. I'd always assumed that they simply built the planet much like anyone would build a computer -- put the interior components in a nice case, check the connections, plug it in. But maybe we're dealing with something far more existential.

Quite some time ago, I wrote a piece on Lovecraft and the Warcraft mythos -- how WoW tends to reference the works of Lovecraft with all of the Old God mythology. In it, I suggested that perhaps Azeroth itself was a reference to Azathoth -- a mass of pure chaos at the heart of the universe from which all chaos originates. I pointed out that the planet Azeroth may very well be a prison for the heart of chaos.

If the Titans created Azeroth, then they may have been creating a cell, a physical thing to encase the chaos and keep it in check. Or maybe they created Azeroth, the center of chaos. The thing from which malcontent is born, the beast at the center of the universe. They didn't do it deliberately, they did it by the very nature of their existence.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition In the beginning SUN

The balance of the universe

Titans are innately creatures of order. They live to put the universe in order and set things into motion. But you cannot have order if chaos does not exist. You cannot make order out of something that is already ordered to begin with. By the very nature of the Titans' existence, chaos must exist in some form or another. The Titans created Azeroth simply by coming into existence as the beings that they are -- beacons of order.

And if you look at it this way, you can absolutely see without question why Sargeras was driven mad. It wasn't because of the constant presence of chaos in the universe. It was because he studied that chaos and he realized that this thing that he fought, the chaos he battled day in and day out, every horrific moment he experienced in battle, all of it was created by the Titans. It was a never ending cycle of chaos and order. His purpose was to defeat chaos. If he defeated chaos, he would no longer have a purpose. Therefore, chaos always had to exist.

A logistical paradox that would be more than enough to drive anyone mad. He could never fulfill his purpose, because as long as the Titans existed, that purpose would never end. In fact, the only way to remove chaos from the universe was to embrace it and use it to wipe the Titans out. If they were gone, there would be no more order. If there was no order, there would be no more chaos. In his warped mind, perhaps Sargeras' fall from grace was simply his attempt to actually fulfill his purpose.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition In the beginning SUN

Nebulous moments in time and space

Yet there is a flaw in this theory -- if Azeroth is the center of chaos, Sargeras was not present to witness it. He became corrupt before the Titans originally set order to the world, long before the Old Gods came to the world and sought to corrupt it. But maybe that malignant cloud of chaos existed before Azeroth itself, the planet, the prison was created. It was the seed that spread that cloud of chaos across the universe. Sargeras didn't know where it originated, but he knew that the Titans were responsible.

This would go a long way towards explaining Sargeras' fascination with the world. Perhaps after Sargeras' fall, the Titans realized they needed to seek out the heart of chaos and imprison it, to save their fallen comrade. So they traveled to the heart of chaos, built the prison around it, and left it there -- a shining planet ripe for contamination. They didn't destroy Azeroth when the discovered the Old Gods corruption, because doing so would unleash that cloud of chaos back upon the universe.

Azeroth as a prison hadn't quite failed. It just wasn't quite strong enough. When the Titans returned to the world, they simply sealed the cracks in the prison, put some extra guards in place, and then left, content that the prison was safe, for now. But just in case, they put in safeguards to warn them, in case security was breached a second time. And in the event of that second time, the prison would be destroyed, and rebuilt from scratch.

Now this may make some sort of peculiar sense, when one looks at it. And it certainly ties into the lore we are learning now, regarding the pandaren fascination with balance in all things. Love and hate, anger and joy, hope and despair, order and chaos -- all are tied together. The Last Emperor could not separate Pandaria from the rest of the world without taking all parts, both good and bad. Because, as the Jade Serpent says, "We live together, or we die together. All of Pandaria is connected."

While this is a pretty entertaining theory, there's another problem with it. There's a different interpretation of "the Titans created Azeroth" that we aren't considering. What's another interpretation of creating something?

... how about having a baby?

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition In the beginning SUN

The final Titan

Why didn't the Titans destroy Azeroth, when it was clear that it had become corrupt? Why did they instead leave it with fail safes to watch over it, leaving the destruction of the world as a last possible resort? What is up with this constant reiteration that everything is connected? Well ... what if Azeroth isn't a planet at all? What if Azeroth -- what if all planets in the universe, are actually the progeny of the Titans? What if Azeroth is the final Titan?

We don't know much about the Titan mythology. We don't know how they are born, we don't know anything about their lives other than what we have been told, vague tales of purpose. We don't know what the Titan life cycle is like. We know that they are creatures of order, but they are also creatures of creation. Wouldn't the ultimate form of creation in fact be procreation? What does a baby Titan look like? Are they born like humans, or are they somehow hatched from an egg?

A planet?

Why didn't the Titans want to destroy Azeroth right off the bat, at the first sign of corruption? Because it wasn't just a planet. It wasn't just a prison. It wasn't just some template of order slapped together to make a bunch of mortal races. It was a baby. It was the final Titan. And it was very, very sick. But trying to just purge the illness wasn't enough, it would kill the host to do so. So what did the Titans do? They sealed the infection, and they put together an anti-virus of sorts.


Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition In the beginning SUN

The origin of Life

We are there to purge the Old Gods. We are there to fight off the infection. We are there to make sure that the Titan Azeroth will one day be born. Because out of a million worlds, glittering in their perfection, one stands above all, and it is Azeroth. Why was Algalon so upset, when we defeated him in Ulduar?

I have seen worlds bathed in the Makers' flames. Their denizens fading without so much as a whimper. Entire planetary systems born and raised in the time that it takes your mortal hearts to beat once. Yet all throughout, my own heart, devoid of emotion... of empathy. I... have... felt... NOTHING! A million, million lives wasted. Had they all held within them your tenacity? Had they all loved life as you do?

A million, million lives wasted, but not mortal lives. Titan lives. In that moment, Algalon realized that those worlds he had destroyed -- those babies he had aborted -- all had the potential to become what Azeroth is. If he had waited longer. If he had checked more closely. Entire planetary systems born, collections of Titan children, killed before they could come to fruition.

And if you want to look at it that way, this is the ultimate purpose of the naaru. They aren't beacons of Light, they are beacons of healing, drawn to the darkest places of the universe. The most corrupt. The most infected. They are the white blood cells of the universe, purging infection when and where they can. And when they realized that some of these tiny mortal beings, these infinitesimally small little antibodies roaming around these Titan eggs had the potential for learning, they taught us.

So why is Azeroth so desperately important? Because the Titan Azeroth was created to defeat Sargeras. That's why Sargeras is so desperate to either destroy it, or conquer it. Azeroth will be Sargeras' downfall ... or it will be his chosen progeny.

While all of this is, of course, a tinfoil hat theory, the implications are fascinating to think about. Are we really just heroes of the world, swinging swords and fighting bad guys, or are we part of a life cycle we are simply too small to comprehend? We can only stare at the stars, watch the two moons rise, mother and child, and wait to find out.

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.
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