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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Emerald Dreams and Draenor

Anne Stickney

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.

Its existence is known by many, but it's accessed by only a scant few of the assorted races of Azeroth. Long ago, Malfurion Stormrage learned the ways of the druid from the Ancient Cenarius, and through that process, learned to travel through this mysterious place. Once under the protection of Ysera, it's currently undefined just how much influence the Aspect of the Green Dragonflight now has over the mystery that is the Emerald Dream -- but for years, it's been a haven for druids, and druids alone.

Over several expansions and through several novels we've seen the progression of the Emerald Nightmare -- in the novel Stormrage, the Nightmare was by and large defeated. In game, we rarely saw mention of it, although one or two quests happened to mention Malfurion's dilemma within the Dream, and a few quests actually sent us inside. In all honesty, the most we've seen out of this content in-game were files and exploration videos of old zones that were never developed. Yet there's something really fascinating about the Emerald Dream, something that captures the imagination and has many players clamoring for an expansion featuring that content.

So what does any of this have to do with Draenor?

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.


Have you ever wondered about Azeroth and Draenor, and how odd it is that the two are so connected? Think about it -- there are some startling similarities and parallels between the two planets. Both were targets of the Burning Legion, both were set up for destruction. Yet while Draenor shattered with the force of countless dimensional portals being opened on its surface, Azeroth managed to survive the detonation of the Well of Eternity. The orcs of Draenor poured through the Dark Portal to ravage Azeroth, after having slaughtered most of the draenei. Later, the draenei fled Draenor on the Exodar -- and out of all of the countless worlds out there in the universe, the dimensional ship managed to find Azeroth while it was hurtling out of control.

Funny, that. Out of a million million worlds, the one world the Exodar managed to find was the exact same world that the orcs chose to invade -- the exact same world that contained the Broken draenei now known only as "lost ones," inflicted and mutated far beyond the Broken left behind on Draenor. A world full of creatures that embraced the Light that was so familiar to the draenei, albeit in different ways. Similar, yet slightly different. Even the god of the kaldorei, Elune, bore properties that have a striking resemblance to the naaru the draenei revere -- although trying to talk to any kaldorei about that would be ill-advised.

The Old Gods that permeate Azeroth are reflected on Draenor, which seemingly possesses Old Gods of its own, or minions of the same. And that beautiful, beaming column of Light dead center in Shattrath is remarkably similar to every column of Light found on every tower in the Eastern Plaguelands. Or the strange columns of light found along the pyramids of Uldum. Or the odd columns of light emanating from the equally strange devices atop the highest peaks of Sholozar Basin. Or that weird column of light sent out as a beacon reply from Dalaran to who knows where, after Algalon's defeat.

Everywhere you look, there are links between what remains of Draenor, and what Azeroth is today. Some are far more peculiar than others, but it makes one wonder just how connected these two planets really are -- are their destinies entwined for a reason? What else are we missing?

Titans and the Emerald Dream

When the Titans visited Azeroth and set the world in order, they also created the Aspects and gave them various abilities that would allow them to better protect and oversee the planet. Ysera was given the unique task of watching over nature from a strange, otherworldly realm called the Dream of Creation, or the Emerald Dream. What was it? It was a version of Azeroth as it would be without mortal interference -- a wild, untamed place that presumably echoed our world, but our world as it would be if it were completely untouched. After the War of the Ancients, Ysera enlisted the help of the druids, enchanting the World Tree Nordrassil and binding it to the Emerald Dream in such a way that druids could pass in and out of the Dream, helping her with her great task of maintaining nature's balance.

And according to lore, the Titans created the Emerald Dream as the blueprint for Azeroth. Presumably, as a blueprint, the Emerald Dream could be used to "reboot" the planet in the event of its reorigination -- which would explain why it was so important that Ysera watch over the realm and keep it free of outside influence. In the Emerald Dream, there is no technology. The wars that ravaged Azeroth simply don't exist. Presumably the continents are still whole, locked together as the sole continent of Kalimdor existed before the events of the Sundering.

Draenor was also touched by the Titans, as stated by Dave Kosak during BlizzCon. But the scope of that influence and just how much the planet was really affected are both unclear right now. Certainly Outland shows very little sign of any kind of Titan influence -- there are no vast Titan structures to be found anywhere on what's left of the planet. There are no facilities to be visited, there are no creatures that seem to be guardians or keepers or watchers of the Titans at all. But it makes one wonder -- if Azeroth has an Emerald Dream, does Draenor have an equivalent? If so, why haven't we seen it?

Dreams of Draenor

I don't think the Dream exists on Draenor. There is something suspiciously strange and special about Azeroth, something that makes it extraordinary and unique, different from all other worlds. Draenor, while being influential on Azeroth's evolution, lacks those unique characteristics. Although Matt Rossi speculated earlier this week that Apexis crystals might contain a clue to Draenor's version of Titan facilities, I have to disagree -- the evidence just isn't there. It doesn't add up. I don't think those facilities existed. Why? Two different theories are currently running around in my brain.

The first is that Draenor simply didn't need a backup copy. It wasn't infested by Old Gods in the same way that Azeroth was -- there was no reason for all the additional protection, as evidenced by the lack of any Titan watchers or keepers on the world. Whatever it was that made the Old Gods latch onto Azeroth -- possibly the sheer power of the Well of Eternity, possibly some other unknown point of interest -- doesn't exist on Draenor. While the two planets have parallels, Draenor is a slightly more primitive, more savage version of a planet than Azeroth ever was.

Which leads me to theory number two. A description of the Emerald Dream from the Warcraft Encyclopedia that existed on the old website stated, "Although the Dream is beautiful, its primal savagery can also be deadly." Draenor has been described repeatedly and often as a savage, primal world. What if Draenor, as a planet, was already re-originated according to its backup blueprint -- what the current version of Draenor is its own Emerald Dream? There are no Titan facilities because the planet has already been wiped and re-written, there are no constructs because the planet was destroyed and reborn. There are echoes of whatever Old Gods may have attacked the planet, but they no longer exist.

In other words, Draenor isn't so much a parallel to Azeroth, as it is to the Emerald Dream itself.

The lucid Dream

While this is an interesting theory, the Emerald Dream itself remains by and large unexplored in-game, and will likely remain that way, according to various interviews with developers. The threat of the Emerald Nightmare was wrapped up in the novel Stormrage, and while the door was left open with the reveal that some sections of the Rift of Aln could not be cleansed, it's a narrow enough opening that the likelihood of it happening is slim. Yet this doesn't stop the question of the Dream's existence, or how it ties into Azeroth itself.

We know Azeroth is special. We know there is something peculiar about it that sets it apart from the rest of the universe, something so unique that it has attracted the persistent attention of the Burning Legion time and time again. Something that has caught and held the attention of the Old Gods in such a way that they melded themselves with the planet itself, forcing the Titans to either destroy the world along with the Old Gods, or merely imprison them. Something so incredibly special that, when given that choice, the Titans could not bring themselves to re-originate the planet on the spot. Why not?

That answer might be staring us in the face. It's been there all along, we've been staring it down relentlessly for years, we've been hoping for an expansion surrounding it, an expansion that will never come to pass. It's that one question that, if answered, may unravel exactly what Azeroth is all about.

What, or perhaps who, is dreaming the Emerald Dream?

Smoke and mirrors

The Emerald Dream is also known as the Dream of Creation -- but creation doesn't dream. It's not a thing, it's an action, it's something that happens, not a someone that lies down, takes a nap and dreams pleasantly or unpleasantly of the future. That name was not given to the Dream by the druids. It wasn't given to it by Cenarius, who used the term when teaching Malfurion how to access it. It wasn't given to it by Ysera, who was told to watch over it by Eonar when charged with her unique position as the Green Aspect.
You are bound to the waking Dream of Creation. Nature is your realm, and all things have caught glimpses of the Emerald Dream when they sleep. You see them all, Ysera. And they see you, though they may not know it. Like the Life-Binder, you touch all living beings, and sing to them the songs of creation and interconnectedness. - Eonar
Let's look at the first part of that quote really, really carefully. "You are bound to the waking Dream of Creation." The waking dream. What if Ysera's job wasn't so much to watch the balance of nature as it was to keep that Dream from waking? She brought in the druids to help with this task, gradually taught them how to walk within that Dream, taught them how to do what she was doing. Do we even know exactly what those sleeping druids were up to for the thousands of years that they were sleeping? Do we know what they are doing now, since Ysera is now Ysera the Awakened, and presumably no longer watching the Dream?

No. We don't. But we do know this: The reason Nordrassil was originally linked to the Dream was to keep the energy of that second Well of Eternity, the one that Illidan created, from growing any more powerful. Supposedly the energies of the Emerald Dream could act as some sort of calming influence on the chaotic energies of the Well, preventing any further mishaps or abuse. The additional benefit of druids having an easier access to the Dream was an afterthought, a bonus on top of the original plan. Was Ysera trying to dampen the powers of the Well to prevent another Sundering -- or was she doing it to keep the Dream stable?

What happens if the Emerald Dream suddenly wakes up?

We don't have that answer. We're lacking in answers all around. And perhaps that's why the Emerald Dream is such a fixture of fascination for many players -- the thought of a strange, savage, untouched Azeroth, existing only for druids and the occasional traveler, is intriguing. The questions surrounding the Dream's existence are equally intriguing. For now, we'll have to be content dreaming up our own ideas, and hope that Blizzard will delve into the Dream at some point in the future.

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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