Know Your Lore: The case for Anduin Wrynn
I’ll just say it. I’ve found Anduin Wrynn’s peacemaking approach tiresome in the past. Especially in Mists of Pandaria, where he made me follow him all over the continent because he felt like exploring. And as if that wasn’t enough, he dragged me into a conflict with Garrosh Hellscream and got himself crushed while destroying a Mogu superweapon.
Yet at the same time, you have to admit this is someone who sticks to his principles. I remember reading War Crimes and realizing that Anduin would always put his money where his mouth was. He’d talk about peace and redemption, sure, but talk is easy. Going into a room with the guy who nearly smashed you into paste and knowing that he could probably break your neck before anyone could stop him on the off chance that you could talk him down? That’s something else entirely.
Anduin may seem naive sometimes, but a closer examination of his record makes me doubt that.
Anduin’s first reign as King of Stormwind
If you didn’t play during vanilla, you might not realize that Anduin has been King of Stormwind before. When Onyxia plotted to divide his father into two beings as part of her plan to install a malleable puppet king on the throne, Anduin found himself a pawn. He was installed as King with a regent and Onyxia (as lady Katrana Prestor) pulling the strings. A smart kid, Anduin began asking questions, and ended up kidnapped by the Broodmother. He even participated in the final battle that ended Onyxia’s life.
He was ten.
In the years since, he’s witnessed the Scourge Invasion, seen Bolvar die at the Wrathgate, and watched as the Cataclysm ravaged the land — going so far as to personally investigate Twilight’s Hammer cultists in Stormwind against his father’s wishes. He explored Pandaria and helped stop the Divine Bell, confronting Garrosh Hellscream with only one supporter. (Some reports say it was a handsome Draenei, others a roguish Worgen, still others a surly Human who was getting too old for this — but whoever it was, I’m sure he or she was attractive and capable.)
He endured grievous injuries at the hands of the Orc Warchief and yet, when he recovered, Anduin had not grown bitter or resentful. He simply squared his shoulders and continued trying to get everyone to see what he’d learned at the feet of the Prophet Velen. The Light does not move unopposed in this: it is engaged in a struggle and we must all take part to make the world a better place.
With his eyes open
Despite the fact that Garrosh had nearly killed him — and certainly caused him months of agony — Anduin willingly went into his cell. He knew that even with magical protections and guards he was putting himself at risk. Garrosh might not have been able to kill him, but he probably could have snapped his arm before he was stopped, if not worse.
Then instead of simply confronting his assailant, he talked to him. He made a sincere effort to understand Garrosh and find a path they could both live with. The fact that he failed isn’t the issue here, as much as the courage the young man displayed in making the attempt. Anduin even managed to convince Vereesa Windrunner not to assassinate Garrosh without knowing that was what he was doing. Anduin simply kept being the decent person he’s been for years — sometimes headstrong, but principled, dedicated to a higher purpose, and even kind to those he has to reason to be kind to.
In the face of all he’s endured, calling Anduin naive ignores that he’s grown.
Son of the Wolf, Lion of the Light
Son of the Wolf gives a glimpse at how King Anduin differs from Prince Anduin. As a prince, Anduin did things because he wasn’t King yet, wasn’t forced to bear the weight of that position. He’d seen what being King had cost his father. He had endured Varian’s rages and witnessed how a life spent in conflict shaped the man.
Varian spent his childhood running from the Horde after witnessing his father’s death at the hands of someone he trusted. He’d endured the death of Anduin Lothar, which greatly affected him — and he named his own son after that great warrior — and Terenas, who gave him shelter when the Orcs invaded. Anduin saw what loss — loss of his father, his city, his foster fathers, his wife — had done to his own father. While Anduin honored the memory of his mother, he was an infant when Tiffin Wrynn died. Varian saw Tiffin when he looked at Anduin, but Anduin never really knew her — the loss was something his father felt more keenly than he did.
And Anduin was a witness to all of it.
In Son of the Wolf we see that Anduin can and will act when action is called for. He didn’t attempt to negotiate with the Nathrezim or try to find a middle ground to peace. Empathy, tolerance, and the desire for peace (what Varian called “the noblest aspiration”) are reserved for mortals, because Anduin had seen redemption enough times to always hold out hope for it. But he’s not a fool.
Sometimes all you can do is destroy a threat. Anduin knows that — and he knows the terrible weight of it, which he saw eat away at his father every day he wore the crown. Anduin saved his father from death when the Twilight’s Hammer attacked Stormwind during the Cataclysm, calling upon the light to bring his father back from the brink of death. By the time Varian actually died, Anduin had lost or nearly lost him twice before. Anduin spent his entire life dreading the moment the crown would be placed on his head, and now that moment has arrived.
King Anduin Wrynn
Anduin is principled, sometimes stubborn, and in the past he’s been hesitant to commit to a conflict. It’s clear than Anduin’s ideals inspired Varian to change his approach — he prevented Garrosh from being executed on the spot and found a path out of bloodshed in working with newly chosen Warchief Vol’jin.
But seeing Anduin in Son of the Wolf indicates that Varian — both his life and his death — have inspired Anduin to change as well. He knows that sometimes you have to fight and this is the fight that someone like him may be the best suited for. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett: if you’re ever staring at a man who has you in his power and is about to kill you, an evil man will gloat and give you a chance to pull off a trick. But a good man will just kill you, because he’s not there to gloat or enjoy his power over you. A good man, who has decided someone has to die, will simply kill him or her and move on.
And I think Anduin Wrynn will prove to be a good man.
He’s lived through a dragon trying to kill him, saw the man who raised him in his father’s absence die, watched the world tear itself apart, and still managed to convince his father not to kill Moira. He made friends with Baine Bloodhoof, convinced Prophet Velen to return his attention to the here and now when the Draenei needed him most, and saved his father from the Twilight’s Hammer. He stopped Garrosh from using the Divine Bell. He may be gentle and willing to see the good in people, but to dismiss him as callow or naive misses the core of the man, the strength he found to endure agony and push past it rather than let it define him. He offered the Orc who shattered his body peace.
Anduin Wrynn lived every day watching his father struggle under the weight of his crown, and now the crown lies atop his head. He may well prove to be the King Stormwind, and the Alliance, desperately needs at this hour. When all is dark, one seeks the light.
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