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Know Your Lore: Garrosh, Gul'dan, and Warlords of 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.

Who is Garrosh Hellscream? And what, exactly, is his game? In the end, what is Garrosh ultimately looking for ... and what will he sacrifice to get it? It's one of those lingering questions from Mists of Pandaria that remains as of yet unanswered, but we're beginning to see the bits and pieces of the story, and we'll see more as Warlords is released and the new expansion's story unfolds. For now though, that question still plagues players -- what is Garrosh after? Why did he spurn the idea of warlocks in Siege of Orgrimmar, going so far as to have them strung up in the streets, yet embrace the methods of the dark shaman?

Garrosh isn't a character that can be easily understood. His motives -- and his morals -- seem to be all over the place, switching from merciful to merciless in an instant. And yet he's not the only piece to this puzzle -- in Warlords of Draenor, Gul'dan is already showing his face as a pretty prominent figure. Obviously Garrosh Hellscream knew of the Legion's evil when he traveled to this alternate Draenor -- he knew of his father's downfall. So why is Gul'dan still alive? Why wouldn't Hellscream, upon traveling to this alternate Draenor so similar to his own, flat out murder Gul'dan on sight and be done with it?

Please note: The following Know Your Lore contains several spoilers for Warlords of Draenor.

Garrosh Hellscream

Here's what we know of Garrosh Hellscream -- above all else, he loves power. Where did that love come from, exactly? Likely it was spawned by spending the majority of his formative years under the impression that his father was a horrible person and his bloodline was one that was destined for evil. Left with that dark cloud hanging over his head, Garrosh did little more than sulk, depressed and hopeless, in Garadar -- until we showed up. And once Thrall revealed the truth to Garrosh about what a great orc Grom Hellscream truly was, Garrosh shot into overdrive trying to prove that he was just the same, if not better.

You see it with every challenge Garrosh poses to Thrall, with every order he barks. Sure, Garrosh is concerned with the welfare of the Horde. But I'm beginning to think it's not really the welfare of the Horde that Garrosh has at heart -- it's what the appearance of caring holds for him. He saves the Horde from what ails them, he instantly has all the respect and accolades he never thought he'd receive in his lifetime, and he honors his bloodline and his father's memory all in one fell swoop. In short, it's power, right at his fingertips.

But the interesting thing about Garrosh Hellscream is that his version of power is one of dominance, never submission. Certainly the warlocks of the Horde were powerful -- but they were also subservient to the Burning Legion. The Burning Legion gave the Old Horde power -- but they enslaved the orcish race in the process. Shaman like Thrall were never as powerful as the Dark Shaman in Garrosh's eyes -- because Thrall and the shaman of the Earthen Ring asked the elements for help, but the Dark Shaman commanded the elements, ordered them to do what they were told, and bent them into shape.

And for Garrosh Hellscream, the proper way to lead the Horde was not through diplomacy and politics, but by simply demanding his allies follow his lead, and beating senseless anyone who had the nerve to question him or his policies.


And then we have Gul'dan, the orc who would be ruler of the Horde ... if anyone would bother following him. Gul'dan, much like Garrosh, craved power. But where Garrosh and Gul'dan differ is how that power is obtained. In the original history, Gul'dan willingly agreed to do Kil'jaeden's bidding, and worked tirelessly to get the rest of the orcish race on board with the idea of siding with the Burning Legion, no matter the cost. He didn't care that he was about to enslave his people to the might of the Legion, because in the end, he was getting what he wanted -- power.

In Gul'dan and the Stranger, the comic released earlier this week by Blizzard, we see what happens when two orcs who crave power above all else clash in the most unlikely of ways. Garrosh Hellscream has made his way to Gul'dan, to see the warlock for himself and assess what his intentions really are in regards to the Horde and the Burning Legion. Gul'dan tells him what he likely told the Horde so many years ago -- that he has spoken to a savior who has promised him and the rest of the orc clans power in exchange for an oath of fealty, and that the orc race will be far more than they could have ever imagined, a force of unbridled dominance that would crush any who would defy them.

Except this time around, Gul'dan is speaking to an orc who has seen this all before. And perhaps Garrosh knows he's not on his Draenor. Perhaps he knows that this is not just a different time, but a different world. But what he also knows is the future -- exactly what will happen if Gul'dan's plans come to fruition. And he doesn't intend to let that pass. Now why would Garrosh Hellscream turn down a chance at power -- and why would he let Gul'dan live?

Because Gul'dan is, in fact, powerful. In the comic, he's already turning green -- he already embraced what the Legion had to offer. Obviously, in Warlords, the Shadow Council exists in one form or another, and they two hold the same power that Gul'dan gladly embraced. And Garrosh let them live, because much like the heart of Y'shaarj, they were a tool to be used.


One of our first acts in Warlords of Draenor is to set free two of Gul'dan's closest allies -- Teron'gor, who we knew in our universe as Teron Gorefiend, and Cho'gall. And then we free Gul'dan himself, and watch as he slips away. Why would we do this? Because the three of them were powering the Dark Portal that connected Draenor to our world. They weren't doing this willingly, they were chained in place and bled of their power to keep the Portal open. Unfortunately, we don't have time to murder any of them after setting them free -- the entirety of the Iron Horde is pushing in to wipe our small band of heroes from the face of the planet, and invade Azeroth after grinding us into fine paste. We're just trying to keep them from making it into Azeroth.

This is Gul'dan's fate in Warlords of Draenor. He's been bested by Hellscream, but he hasn't been killed -- because he still has power that can be utilized. But just as with every other move Hellscream has made since he left Garadar, Garrosh has put that power in a place where he can control it, rather than the other way around. Empowered by the Burning Legion? Well, that sucks for you, but you can be chained up and siphoned for that power. It's all a matter of who is in control.

You see it again in conversations between Grommash Hellscream and Ner'zhul, in Shadowmoon Valley. When Grommash and Garrosh approached Ner'zhul, it was not to ask for his allegiance -- it was to ask what kind of power he could contribute to the Iron Horde. Allegiances mean nothing to Hellscream -- words mean nothing. But if you have power to contribute to the cause, so much the better, as long as it is power under your direct control. Every clan brought into the Iron Horde has something uniquely powerful that they can contribute, and that's all part of Hellscream's plan. Do the Iron Horde want to wipe Azeroth from the universe? It's doubtful -- they just want to rule it. The Iron Horde wants the world's neck under its boot, where it belongs.


"What has happened?" Garrosh demanded, lurching to a stop beside Geyah. "Why are you here? Is it the Horde?" A strange look came over the youth's face. "Is it my f-" A horrible wet groan rose from his throat, drowning out his words, and then Garrosh fell to his knees, gasping as blood and bile spilled from his mouth, pouring down his chin and chest and soaking into the grass below.

"I warned you not to exert yourself!" Geyah snapped, steadying him with a hand on his shoulder. She did not seem concerned about the risk of touching him. "The pox is still upon you, and you're nowhere near well enough to leave your hut yet!" Then she glared at Kargath, a nasty smile on her face. "Do you want him to join you for battle? Are these the warriors you'd hoped to find?"

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!" -- Beyond the Dark Portal

This is all that Garrosh Hellscream ever knew, growing up in Garadar -- that according to the orcs of the Horde, he and those with him in Garadar were weak, unworthy. And then, in later years, that his father was consumed by the siren's call of power, the first to drink the blood of Mannoroth, the example that doomed the orcish race. When Thrall showed up in Garadar, that story he told Garrosh, the vision he showed Hellscream was the turning point in Garrosh's life -- because he saw his father break the curse. He saw what his father had to do to bring honor to his bloodline and his people.

And maybe it wasn't the death of Mannoroth that affected him so deeply so much as it was that Grom Hellscream, in his final moments, stood strong against the one creature that dared to subjugate him, and put an end to it, losing his life in the process. Garrosh Hellscream, warrior, Warchief, was not just after power -- he was out to do his father one better, by showing the world that no one, not Legion, not elements, not Sha, not even an Old God would ever gain the upper hand on a Hellscream again. Power would never corrupt a Hellscream -- it would instead be defeated and used like an enemy. The name Hellscream would mean many things, but it would never be associated with being enslaved or beholden to anyone or anything. Never again.


With every move Garrosh Hellscream has made, he has never once allowed power to take him. Why was he so upset with Krom'gar, in Stonetalon Peak? Maybe part of it was the fact that Krom'gar willingly killed a boatload of innocent druids -- but the majority of it was likely because in that moment, actually pretty much throughout the entirety of Stonetalon, Krom'gar let that power go to his head. He let the rank he held and the power he had in that rank rule his actions. He didn't follow the orders he was given -- to secure the land for its resources -- instead, he wrecked the land he was meant to secure and killed both innocents and allies in the process.

That's where Garrosh Hellscream draws the line. Yes, you can have power, you can dominate, you can crush your enemies beneath your feet -- but you never, ever, ever let that power control you. To Garrosh, warlocks were remnants of that Old Horde, the Horde that willingly bent for the Burning Legion in exchange for power -- they let the power control them. The Dark Shaman, on the other hand, controlled their power and made it do their bidding. In Guldan and the Stranger, Garrosh Hellscream is trying to assess whether the Gul'dan of this universe rules over the power he holds, or will be ruled by it instead. And when the latter is confirmed, Garrosh makes his moves to guarantee that Gul'dan will no longer be free to use the power he sacrificed his free will to obtain.

It's an interesting dynamic. It's also interesting to see where Garrosh Hellscream ends up, in Warlords. He's not at the helm of the Iron Horde, but at the helm of the Warsong, taking his father's place as leader. Where is Grommash Hellscream? Leading the entirety of the Iron Horde, something that was never a possibility in the past that Garrosh knew. The question remains, then: What is Garrosh Hellscream after? Obviously he's not the driving force behind those that invade Azeroth. And that leaves us with one logical answer, one that may or may not be correct. This is Garrosh's chance to change his father's fate, and the fate of the name Hellscream. Is the Iron Horde being set upon Azeroth as Hellscream's revenge? Perhaps. But more importantly, it's a chance for Garrosh's father to have the one thing he never had -- notoriety. Not for his failures, but for his resounding success.

Unfortunately, that success comes at the expense of Azeroth's demise, and we're not about to let either Hellscream have 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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