Know Your Lore: The legacy of the Mag'har

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|06.09.13

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Know Your Lore: The legacy of the Mag'har
Know Your Lore The Mag'har
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's actions thus far in World of Warcraft have been, by and large, downright villainous and despicable. He's responsible for the murders of countless Alliance soldiers and civilians at both Northwatch Hold and Theramore -- and countless others over the course of his reign as Warchief. He's also responsible for the deaths of countless Horde -- some honorable, some not, all distinctly under the impression that being a member of the Horde brought certain advantages. Advantages like not having the Warchief order your execution over perceived slights.

Yet Garrosh's roots, oddly enough, are with a clan of orcs that pride themselves in the noble preservation of orcish society as it stood before the Burning Legion's influence. Small, yes, remote and isolated, yes, but they stood and continue to stand with pride in the face of corruption. Based in a remote corner of Outland, they are the Mag'har. Where did they come from, and how did they affect how Warchief Hellscream views the world today?

Know Your Lore The Mag'har

The Red Pox

Long before Draenor was shattered into Outland as we see it today, orc society was divided into many different orc clans. There was no Horde, there was no Warchief, there was simply orcish society. The shaman Ner'zhul served as chieftain of the Shadowmoon clan, and he was revered and respected enough to be the closest thing the orcs had to a Warchief at the time, but there was no official title. Each clan had its own system of chieftains and hierarchy within the clan itself, and while clans sometimes fought amongst themselves, they were by and large a relatively peaceful race.

Orcish society was not without its problems, however. Nobody knows exactly how the virulent plague known as the red pox began, but its effects were deadly. Due to the nomadic nature of the orcs, it quickly spread among the assorted clans. The plague was vicious, its symptoms were, frankly, pretty gross -- it made the afflicted break out in red pustules and vomit blood. Most orcs were of the opinion that the sick and the weak should simply be culled out, outcast and left to die. Brutal, yes, but this was orc society.

One orc, however, was unwilling to let that happen. Geyah was a member of the Frostwolf Clan. She was also caring, compassionate, and unwilling to let the victims of the red pox be abandoned to die. She left the Frostwolves -- who were by then being led by her son, Durotan, and formed a quarantine village for the victims in Nagrand, naming it Garadar after her late husband Garad. Geyah didn't just want to isolate the afflicted, she wanted to cure them. Healthy orcs stayed far away from the village, lest they come down with the pox themselves. The afflicted were members of clans from all over Draenor, including the sons of notable chieftains like Grom Hellscream and Kilrogg Deadeye.

Know Your Lore The legacy of the Mag'har

Rise of the Horde

It was here that Garrosh Hellscream was taken after he came down with the red pox himself. We don't really know much about Garrosh's early childhood -- we don't know who his mother was, we don't know how old he was when he came to Garadar. But for an orc, being weak, being ill was like a death sentence. Orcish society prided itself on being strong. The stronger you were, the better your place in that society. In many ways, Garadar was like both a blessing and a curse -- it was a blessing, because it saved the lives of hundreds of orcs that would have otherwise perished.

And it was just as likely a curse to those that were sent there, because it was a constant reminder of their weakness. Yet the village thrived despite the illness, and Geyah worked tirelessly to come up with a cure. In the meantime, those orcs that were not afflicted by the diseases were busy as well -- Kil'jaeden had arrived on Draenor, and was putting into motion the corruption and servitude of the orcish race.

Years passed, and news of the rise of the Horde spread throughout Draenor. Geyah heard tales of what was going on -- she knew of the orcs' corruption, and it disgusted her. She was later visited by Kargath Bladefist, who demanded that she provide warriors for the new Horde army -- an offer which she flatly refused. None of the orcs residing in Garadar were capable of fighting, they were still recovering from the plague. This included Grom's son, Garrosh, who desperately tried to get any information he could from Kargath about the whereabouts of his father. He got nothing in reply, although Kargath's final words, hurled at the village in frustration and disgust, likely weighed heavily on Garrosh for years to come.

Kargath had recoiled when Garrosh started spitting up blood, and he continued to back away now. "No. They are no warriors." Disgust and despair added venom to his words. "They are not even orcs anymore -- they are useless." He glared at Geyah, at Garrosh, and at the other villagers behind them. "You pathetic weaklings!" he snarled, raising his voice as best he could. "Do the Horde a favor and die here! If you can't help defend your people, you have no right to live!"

Know Your Lore The legacy of the Mag'har

The Mag'har

This is where the Mag'har began -- as an interment camp for orcs weakened beyond the point of being able to contribute to society, shunned by their peers and sent away to either get better, or do the world a favor and die. An ignoble fate for an orc, yet the orcs present at the village managed to do what no other orcs could do -- avoid the corruption of the Burning Legion entirely. Isolated and far-flung from the rest of the orcish race, they avoided the demonic taint that turned the skin of their brethren a sickly green. And they took absolute pride in that fact, calling themselves Mag'har -- uncorrupted, in orcish -- and holding the name as their own. It was not a a clan name, a family name passed down for generations, it was a declaration of everything that they were and continued to be.

When Draenor was shattered by Ner'zhul's attempts to open portals all across the planet, Nagrand was one of the few places left unaffected. Certainly the edges of the region were shattered, but Garadar remained safe -- and so did the majority of Nagrand. It's never been really explained why the land escaped the fate of the other regions of the world. Either it was simply surrounded by the areas shattered and lost to the Twisting Nether, or perhaps it was the fact that Nagrand was essentially as untouched as the orcs that resided within. It was an area known for sickness, for plague -- it's unlikely Ner'zhul really thought of the orcs of Nagrand at all.

Regardless, the Mag'har thrived. Geyah presumably found a cure for the red pox, and the citizens of Garadar became a united group, a clan of their own. And in that clan was Garrosh Hellscream, bearing the name of Mag'har -- uncorrupted -- with the knowledge that his own father was the first among the orcs to succumb to corruption. Grom was the first to drink the blood of Mannoroth, willingly giving in to the Burning Legion's control, and after Grom, the rest of the clan leaders followed suit.

This was the legacy of Grom Hellscream. He willingly submitted to corruption, and disappeared, leaving his son behind.

Know Your Lore The legacy of the Mag'har

Garrosh and the Mag'har

Garrosh, on the other hand, was being groomed to lead and take over after Geyah's death. Why the Mag'har chose him isn't really known -- perhaps Geyah saw something in young Hellscream that made her choose him over the others. But Garrosh didn't respond well to the idea of Geyah dying, nor did he respond well to the idea of taking over the Mag'har. Why would he? His bloodline, such as it was, was not one of strength. His father was not a hero, not a noble warrior -- his father was the antithesis to everything the Mag'har stood for. And so Garrosh grew more and more despondent, worried and convinced that he would lead the Mag'har to their doom -- that it was his destiny to follow in the footsteps of his father.

In a way, he was almost right in that aspect. But Thrall's arrival seemed to bring a glimmer of hope to Hellscream, and the lesson learned of his father's ultimate fate filled him with something he had not felt in a very, very long time -- pride. Pride for his father, and pride for his bloodline. Thrall led him from Garadar, from the shattered remnants of Draenor to another world entirely, a world populated by orcs with that curious green-tinged skin, the formerly corrupted race still bearing the mark of their shame.

And Garrosh came to Azeroth with some very valuable lessons learned -- some good, some bad. He knew his bloodline was not cursed to lead anyone to doom -- this he had learned from Thrall. He learned to take pride in his family -- again, learned from Thrall. And he learned, through the actions of Thrall, of Geyah, of everyone that had helped him along the way, that he was more than capable of being a leader in his own right. He would not lead people to their doom.

But here's the other lesson he learned -- the world has no place for the weak. The Horde has no place for the weak. He learned it from Kargath Bladefist, in his furious proclamation to the residents of Garadar: If you cannot help to defend your people, you have no right to live. This is the Horde that Garrosh knew, and this is the society and reasoning he grew up with. And so, when stepping up to the title of Warchief, Garrosh did what he had learned. He encouraged the strong, and looked down on the weak. He raised an army of warriors, and sought conquest. We've all seen where that road has taken him.

Know Your Lore The legacy of the Mag'har
Part of me wonders if Greatmother Geyah knows what her chosen protegee is doing, now. If she's heard word of how Garrosh is faring. I also wonder what would happen if Garrosh were suddenly to come before Geyah again, boasting of his accomplishments. I wonder how she would react, and what she would say. Because the Garrosh of today bears little resemblance to the saddened orc that bemoaned his fate. He holds no humility, no sense of compassion.

Because honestly, that's one lesson that seems to have escaped Garrosh entirely, whether forgotten or simply never learned. To the Mag'har, there is power in strength, yes -- but the strength of the Mag'har comes from their ability to overcome. To stand proud and tall even after the condemnation of their own race, and rise above. To look at the world as harsh and unrelenting, yes -- but never, ever undeserving of compassion and care. This is the legacy Greatmother Geyah will pass on to whoever takes her place, after she passes away.

And perhaps the most important lesson Garrosh should have learned was this: Never, ever turn your back on the weak, the ill, those that appear to have no worth. Because they will, given enough time, rise up to stand as one, even if from different clans, as a united pillar of strength, one that has the capacity to rise and carry on, even as the world shatters around them. Unfortunately for Garrosh, it looks as though he's going to learn this lesson the hard way.
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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