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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn
Anne Stickney
Anne Stickney|April 28, 2013 8:00 PM
Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn
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.

Prince Anduin Llane Wrynn is the sole heir to Stormwind's throne. Named after Varian's father, the beloved King Llane, and the hero of all heroes, Anduin Lothar, he's got two major figures to live up to. Yet rather than turn down the path of Lothar's heroics, he seems to be gravitating towards the direction that King Llane ultimately followed: A beloved leader, one who treated all in his kingdom with kindness and respect, up to and including Garona -- a member of the Old Horde who by all rights, despite her background as a half-breed, was still the face of the enemy.

And in the end, that spelled King Llane's undoing. His trust was his weakness, and it resulted in his assassination. King Llane died in part because of the machinations of the Shadow Council, but in even larger part because he simply didn't exercise caution like he should. King Llane's death is a cautionary tale that his son Varian took to heart -- but Varian's son is a different story altogether. Anduin Wrynn presents a peculiar puzzle that has yet to be fully explained.

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 as a result. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn

Who is Anduin Wrynn?

Anduin Wrynn grew up surrounded by both tragedy and chaos. His mother, Tiffin, was murdered when he was just a baby, his father was by and large absent from his early life, far too entrenched in the depression of losing Tiffin. His childhood was spent in, presumably, the usual way -- education at the hands of tutors, learning to fight from the weapons masters. His father was absent for a year, according to the Warcraft comics series. And even prior to that, Varian had only just begun to come out of the depression that was subtly encouraged by Lady Katrana Prestor.

So here we have a young prince who doesn't really seem to have any experience with the world outside Stormwind. Presumably, he's had contact with Jaina Proudmoore -- but given the fact that she was leader of Theramore, I can't really imagine Jaina spent hours upon hours with the boy. Bolvar was a friend and almost a second father figure to Anduin once Varian disappeared -- and Bolvar was killed in Northrend. Anduin's father was revealed to have been split into two people, two distinct aspects of his personality -- an easily manipulated buffoon with no sense of responsibility, and a far darker, brutal half.

When those two sides were merged, Anduin had his father back. But Varian was far from whole, and his flashes of anger, of brutality, were enough to create a huge gulf in the relationship between father and son. Here is Anduin Wrynn: a young prince raised in a corrupt kingdom that was nothing more than the plaything of a black dragon, with a distant father with whom he eventually grew close, only to have that father ripped away and returned a changed, much darker man.

Yet despite all of this -- despite everything that has happened to Anduin in a remarkably short span of years, he is brimful of optimism. He believes there is some good to be found in the orcs, as evidenced by his actions at the peace summit between Varian and Thrall. He believes in the good and the light of the world, so much so that he's shown a fairly adept mastery of the Light at a young age and captured the attention and tutelage of Prophet Velen. And in Mists of Pandaria, he seems keenly interested in pursing that idea of peace.


Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn

Ancestral ties

This is what is really baffling about Anduin Wrynn, because in everything we've been shown of this young man's life, there is absolutely no reason he should be taking this road. His life was apparently devoid of any really strong role models when he was young, save for Bolvar Fordragon to some degree, and his father, to an almost lesser degree. Jaina was never shown as having a huge presence in Anduin's life until after the fateful peace summit between human and orc, after Onyxia's death.

Where did Anduin get this idea of peace? One would think that yes, he'd have heard tales of his grandfather and namesake, King Llane. He would also have heard of Llane's death at the hands of Garona -- something his father witnessed first hand. He would have heard tales of his other namesake, Anduin Lothar -- and once again, heard of Lothar's death at the hands of Orgrim Doomhammer. In all of Anduin's life, in all of the history surrounding the kingdom of Stormwind, there was not one example of an orc that was "good."

Jaina may have told him tales of Thrall -- he certainly gave indication that he'd heard of Thrall when he tried to encourage his father to give the peace summit a second shot. But the war in Northrend took Bolvar's life -- and it was at the hands of Horde. Varian stormed the Undercity and confronted Thrall directly about it. In fact, King Wrynn spent most of Wrath of the Lich King being adamantly against any kind of diplomacy, once Bolvar was murdered. In Cataclysm, the Alliance was thrown into chaos both from Deathwing's arrival, and from brutal attacks by the Horde.

And through it all, Anduin remained firmly on the side of neutrality, even going so far as to sympathize with Baine Bloodhoof about the loss of his father and gift him a weapon. In the face of all that has happened around him, even though all evidence points to the contrary, Anduin still believes the Horde can be good. The only -- and I mean the only -- evidence Anduin had of any of this were the tales of Jaina Proudmoore. That's it. And when Theramore was brutally destroyed at the hands of the Horde, Jaina was quick to change her mind on the idea of peace -- Jaina Proudmoore, who had been pursing peace far longer than Anduin has been alive.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn

Nonsensical ideals

So who planted this in Anduin's head? Where did he gain this fanciful notion of peace? When, in his short time on Azeroth, did Anduin form this idea in his head -- and why is he still persisting in holding on to these ideals, when the rest of the world seems dead-set on proving him wrong? This is what really bothers me about Anduin Wrynn. He's a charming individual, he's certainly got his head on straight, and I've thoroughly enjoyed running into him as a member of the Horde while leveling in Mists. But there is something about Anduin's character that just doesn't quite fit. There's something there that just doesn't make sense.

And there has to be a reason for it. Given what we know of Anduin, there's no real way he would have arrived at these conclusions on his own, in the face of what's happened in his life. Something, somewhere in his short yet busy years did a number on Prince Anduin Wrynn, and it is nigh-impossible to simply accept that this was a conclusion he'd arrived to on his own. So let's take a step back and think for a moment. Let's look at this from another angle, and let's take one really big leap into tinfoil-hat territory.

What if Anduin's impossible ideals aren't a sign of his simply being some sort of benevolent savior? What if his incessant clinging to the ideals of peace and diplomacy aren't just aspects of his character that suddenly developed in the middle of a strife-ridden kingdom and a father who seemed to change his personality at the drop of a hat? What if that idea of a world of benevolent good wasn't just something that Anduin came to on his own, but was instead an ideal planted in his head? And who would have anything to gain from it?

Let's talk about Lady Katrana Prestor.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn

The meddling of dragons

Lady Katrana Prestor, otherwise known as Onyxia, was one of Deathwing's children. She was sent to Stormwind very deliberately by her father in order to draw attention away from Blackrock Mountain. And she was an incredibly clever, manipulative creature. She quietly found a way into the House of Nobles, and made certain the Stonemason's Guild wasn't paid what they were due, in order to foment discord -- and it worked. In fact, the most vocal opponent to paying the Stonemason's what they were owed was Varian's wife, Tiffin.

And we all saw how that ended. It makes one wonder -- was it really an errant rock that ended Tiffin's life? Or was that rock guided home? Because Katrana was standing right there when Tiffin was killed.

And Onyxia knew with certainty what would happen next. She encouraged Varian's depression, one that kept him away from his young son. When Anduin grew large enough to suddenly start breaking Varian out of that depression, she quietly arranged for Varian's kidnapping while en route to a peace summit between human and orc. That gave her two points of control -- by separating Varian into two personalities, she could keep the weak-willed one and simply use him as a puppet. While Varian was absent, she could begin the other half of the equation. Prince Anduin was appointed King in his father's stead, with Bolvar Fordragon making most of the decisions.

Bolvar could be manipulated. Anduin, on the other hand, was a very clever child. In fact, it was Anduin who sensed that there was something wrong with Varian when his weak-willed half returned. It was Anduin who pointed it out to Bolvar, and it was Anduin that really began the events that eventually uncovered Prestor for who, and what, she really was. Prestor tried to have Anduin killed in an "accident," but Varian saved him. So it would seem that all of Prestor's plans failed, crumbling around her due to the meddling of a 10 year old boy.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn

A legacy of manipulation?

Yet Stormwind's woes continued even after Onyxia's defeat. It's evident in Westfall, in Redridge, in Darkshire -- nothing's really changed. Varian's halves were reunited, yes -- but they weren't fully merged, resulting in a king and father with a particularly persistent, violent nature that unleashed itself at the most inopportune moments. Varian spent all of Wrath and Cataclysm getting that aspect under control. But it drove a wedge between Anduin and Varian, and it's a wedge that still hasn't been completely erased. And there's a second reason the two were constantly at odds with each other: Anduin's insistence on peace. His insistence that the Horde has just as much potential for good as bad.

That benevolence that Anduin so optimistically upholds is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he's a seeming beacon of Light, hope, and peace. On the other, he is almost too stubbornly foolish to see any other option, and it's that naivety that has gotten him into more than one dangerous situation. This, in turn, upsets Varian -- and it only deepens the wedge between them. It's understandable why Varian's so upset about it, after all, it was that same optimism that eventually led to his father's assassination.

Which makes me go back to the question of where that optimism came from, and who planted the idea of Thrall's Horde as something to be studied and learned from in Anduin's head to begin with. We know that Jaina had some part in it -- Jaina was the one who arranged for the original peace summit that Varian inadvertently disappeared on the way to. But what if Anduin had questions about where his father was going? Who answered those questions?

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn
What if it was Prestor, or someone under Prestor's control? Think about it -- Anduin's staunch idealism is the very thing that could, eventually, get him killed. It's the thing that continued to drive a wedge between father and son, long after Onyxia was killed. It's the thing that bothered Varian the most, and kept him distracted from whatever goals or ideas he may have had for Stormwind and the Alliance. It's that infuriating thing that tickles the back of Varian's mind. In fact, the weakest thing about Varian Wrynn isn't his dual nature. It isn't his propensity for violence. It's Anduin Wrynn -- it's worry for his son's welfare.

Onxyia was ruthlessly manipulative, and she also thought ahead. She may not have seen her downfall coming, but she was smart enough to plant the seeds of chaos well before they were needed. Introducing Anduin to the ways of benevolence, of kindness, of peace -- this seems like a bad idea. But when you think about it, two things were bound to occur. It's not out of line to think that Onyxia knew of King Llane's death, how it occurred, and how that affected King Varian. Subtly encouraging Anduin down Llane's path would have two spectacular effects at some point in the future.

First, it would drive a wedge between father and son. Varian witnessed Garona's betrayal. He watched as she carved King Llane's heart from his chest. Every reminder of Llane that showed up in Anduin would be a painful reminder of that moment in time -- more importantly, it would be a distraction that would drive a wedge between the two, providing even more distraction. Easy enough to get rid of Varian if he's blinded by concern for his overly kindhearted son's welfare. Second, if Anduin were to eventually grow up and assume the throne, it would be so incredibly easy to take advantage of that gentle nature -- to wait until the moment was right, and have him assassinated just as casually as King Llane was betrayed.

Check and mate. Onyxia wins. And if Onyxia had lived, she might very well have seen those events come to pass.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn

Dabbling in draconic affairs

You'd think that's a far-fetched theory, but it may not be far from the truth. In patch 5.2, Anduin is recuperating from the injuries he obtained while trying to stop Garrosh and his plans for the Divine Bell -- and having a chat with Wrathion, last of the black dragonflight. Wrathion appears to be working of his own volition, pitting Alliance against Horde and ferreting out those worthy of being his champion. Not for Pandaria, not for the conflict at hand now, but for some unseen conflict in the future. Anduin is there to play a simple board game, and to presumably have a chat with Wrathion and see what he's all about.

Let's face it. Wrathion never says anything directly. He's a master at double-talk, and we still don't know exactly what his final game is in Pandaria. But he tells Prince Anduin flat-out that he could stand to learn some hardness from his father. That he might just be too soft, too weak, to wear the crown. Wrathion never appears to say anything directly -- he'll say what he feels he should say, but there's always something unspoken, something hidden away.

And it's only natural that Anduin has a fascination with Wrathion as well. Not because dragons are fascinating, but because Anduin witnessed first-hand what a dragon could do when left unchecked to run rampant with her own manipulations. He literally grew up under the wing of a prominent member of the black dragonflight. He saw what she was capable of. And he's smart enough to question just what Wrathion is up to.

Whether or not the speculation is correct, Prince Anduin Wrynn remains a puzzling mystery. His motivations are good, his actions make sense, and he has a good heart. But assuming that he came to those conclusions on his own, in the face of all he's seen in his short life, is almost too much of a leap for the imagination to comprehend. And that makes Anduin someone to keep a very close eye on -- to see if this Wrynn will rise as a hero with his benevolent nature of generosity and peace, or fall victim to those who would take advantage of it.

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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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn