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Know Your Lore: The Primeval World

Matthew Rossi

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.

Sometimes you just start wondering about things.

Looking around Pandaria, I've commented before that the entire continent feels like it was being segregated from the rest of Azeroth even before the sundering and the mists sealed it away for 10,000 years. Knowing what little we do about Ra-Den, the Titans and the mogu's origins, one huge unanswered question remains. Why was it all there? The Mogu'shan Vaults, the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, Ra-Den and the mogu were placed in what is now Pandaria for a reason, and we do not yet know what that reason was. We have tantalizing hints from Wrathion's dialogue that implies that the Vale was a creche of life, where the Titans could experiment towards creating new life, much as we're told is the case in Sholozar Basin and Un'Goro Crater.

Here's the issue, then: what life were they making? We're told that the Emerald Dream mirrors the face of Azeroth before the sundering, but we're never told just how far before. We're told that the Titans created Azeroth and shaped it before the coming of the Old Gods, but we're never told when the Old Gods arrived, or how long ago they came.

Just how far back does Azeroth go, and how exactly did the Titans create it? How did they shape life upon it? Why are there prehistoric creatures throughout their 'laboratories' as it were?

The segmented ones

One of the things that occurs to me is the origin of the aqir. We're told that the aqir existed on Azeroth before the return of the Titans to subdue the Old Gods, and Brann Bronzebeard has claimed that titan records say that the aqir were the first insect race and that all other insects and arthropod races (including actual insects and arthropods such as spiders and houseflies) derive from them. This makes us wonder -- did C'thun create the aqir, or merely mold them as was originally indicated? Were they still a humble unintelligent race that was exposed to the Well of Eternity, as was originally stated, before C'thun got his tentacles on them?

With the aqir existing as an intelligent race before the return of the Titans, they clearly had a very long period of existing under the rule of the Old Gods. I wonder, did they exist before the Old Gods discovered the world? Was there a time when Azeroth teemed with the kind of life that only today survives in a few titan protected environments, shielded by wards the minions of the Old Gods can't cross? Un'Goro was even named "the God lands" by minions of C'thun and they feared to attempt to cross them. In modern times the Silithid only enter Un'Goro when the protective pylon to the south is somehow toppled.

Made... or just happened

With the disovery of the Isle of Giants to the north of Pandaria, we now have three examples of lands seemingly protected by the Titans and inhabited by enormous creatures of an ancient type not seen today in any other part of Azeroth, save for a few remnant populations in isolated regions (such as the diemetradons in the Searing Gorge) and it all leads me to wonder two things.

  • Is the Emerald Dream populated exclusively with massive prehistoric creatures such as the devilsaurs, raptors, direhorns, diemetradons, and so on?
  • Is it inhabited by uncorrupted aqir, and if so, are they intelligent or was their intelligence a 'gift' from the Old Gods
  • Why does Azeroth seem to have been created with primitive forms of life and then left effectively untended for the Old Gods to come and corrupt it?
It is this third question that interests me the most. It implies that either the Titans did not yet know about the Old Gods when they created Azeroth and left it for an undisclosed period of time, or for some reason they did not feel they needed to protect Azeroth from them. If the second is true, why is it true? Why did the Tribunal of Ages call the Old Gods parasitic, necrophotic symbiotes? The use of the word symbiote there is unusual, because the term is usually reserved for entities in a close mutual relationship that often (admittedly not always) benefits all parties. Are the Old Gods providing something of value?

Symbiosis benefits

It seems likely that the Old Gods are, in the terms of Azeroth's evolution, a catastrophe that provides an evolutionary benefit -- they are effectively Darwinism with fanged maws. And it seems even more likely that the Titans didn't destroy them because they had need of them. Before the return of the Titans only the tauren, trolls and aqir were living, intelligent beings on the surface of Azeroth. Following their return, the Old God-created Curse of Flesh had transformed the Titan's constructs into the earthen (ancestors of troggs and dwarves), the vrykul (ancestors of modern Northrend vrykul and humans), the tol'vir, and the mogu. Meanwhile, the Well of Eternity created the night elves from the dark trolls, further diversifying the web of sapient life across Azeroth. Unlike our own world, we know that life on Azeroth was planned and designed, but we have until now assumed the Old Gods were somehow outside that design, a mistake to be corrected.

We have no reason to believe this. The Titans seem to have kept careful records on which races were shaped by the touch of the Old Gods, they seem to have designated the Old Gods as symbiotic to Azeroth, a parasite that provides some sort of benefit to its host. Look at what the Titans actually did -- they planted life, and then they left it to develop, and they left it without any safeguards. Only once they'd returned and pruned back the Old Gods did they deign to impart any mechanism to monitor the planet, perhaps because it had now moved into its second stage of development. Perhaps the silence of the Titans that so vexes the mogu, that left the tol'vir alone and afraid, is all part of that second stage, and the Curse of Flesh was always intended to infest them. Life is what the Titans seem most interested in, life and its creation, and you can't create life without something to shape its direction. Life is directed by selection pressure, and the Old Gods provide that.

How many eras has Azeroth seen? How many epochs passed on its surface before the coming of the Old Gods, and how many after? Did they descend like a flaming comet, did they shake the world with their impact? Did a devilsaur with its foot on a carcass look up and see the sky turn to ash to herald their arrival? Were there kingdoms of aqir with three lobed bodies in the primordial ocean, who turned crystalline eyes to the coming of their destroyers, their recreators, the force of evolution in its most chaotic form?

How old is Azeroth? We don't know, but the Titans do.

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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