Know Your Lore: Continuity and evolution
There will be some mild spoilers for World of Warcraft: Chronicle Vol. 2 in this post. But not many, because it’s not a post about anything specifically in that book.
We recently discovered that Queen Taria, a character invented for the Warcraft film, is canonically the mother of Varian Wrynn and thus, grandmother of sitting king of Stormwind King Anduin Wrynn. This had never been established before. We didn’t know what Varian’s mother’s name was or anything about her, and the appearance of the character in the movie raised a lot of hopes that we’d get more about her somehow. Chronicle Vol. 2 hasn’t exactly fleshed her life out much — what we know, basically, is that she existed and had a name. Still, that’s more than we had before.
I know a few in the community are afraid this means the movie continuity is being merged into that from the games. Let me say now, for the record, that if that’s happening in this case it’s an amazingly good decision, because Queen Taria from the movie was an interesting, compassionate and strong figure and I would be interested in seeing and hearing more from and about her. But also, her family ties were fascinating as well.
In the movie Queen Taria Wrynn was the sister of Anduin Lothar, which would make Anduin Wrynn Lothar’s grand nephew and an inheritor to the bloodline of Thoradin himself, first King of a united Humanity. The King of Stormwind would have a legitimate claim to High King status over all Human kingdoms, sorely needed as a rallying point in these troubled times.
Incorporating Many Visions
Chronicle did a lot to expand on stories we already knew, and in some cases it threw some doubt on stories we thought we knew. But one thing it didn’t do was radically change much of anything. Warcraft as a setting has seen some pretty drastic changes in the past. The original game Warcraft Orcs & Humans had God in it, not the Light. It also had Stonewind instead of Stormwind. Some of the changes that have happened over the years are just consolidation, others are streamlining the story — Warcraft and Warcraft II had different endings depending on if you played the Orcs or Humans, for example — so that there’s one established continuity.
I don’t see the changes in Chronicle Vol.2 as being any different. They’re changes aimed at consolidating the story and streamlining it. Frankly, the inclusion of all of Taria’s character from the movies would be an ideal change in my opinion. It enriches the story without really contradicting anything that came before it. No one ever said Lothar wasn’t Varian’s uncle, after all. Certainly the man took sufficient care of his young charge that we couldn’t fault him if we were to discover he was.
Lothar gave up his life to save Varian and his kingdom. Furthermore, what we’ve seen of Lothar and Llane Wrynn in the mythic dungeon of Karazhan only makes this potential connection more interesting. Clearly the two men viewed themselves as brothers and included Medivh in this fellowship. And that might explain something that’s always bothered me.
What if the reason Llane trusted Garona so much was that she reminded him of someone?
But I digress. The real point is, changes like this occur in any media with a long, sprawling and broad base of fictional history to draw upon. The Warcraft story goes back to the dawn of creation. The world of Azeroth is just one small part of it. There have been changes, expansions and corrections to its story over and over again. Warcraft I presented us with one Human kingdom — the name of the kingdom itself was Azeroth. The name Azeroth has grown over the years as the games have expanded from that one kingdom. Now, Azeroth is the name of the entire world the kingdom, and many others, are found on. This has been nothing more and nothing less than a years long retcon of the word’s meaning.
Chronicle is a lot more subtle in that regard than one of the favorite books of many a Warcraft fan, Rise of the Horde, which itself just took Warcraft III‘s retcons and expanded upon them. Because let us be clear — before WCIII no one knew anything about the Orcs of the setting beyond the fact that they came from another world, they were unrelentingly hostile and bloodthirsty, and they ultimately lost.
The Orcs in Warcraft and Warcraft II were monsters. There was precious little done to explain why they were bloodthirsty invaders that had used up their own world and wanted a new one. The idea of the Orcs as a once somewhat noble shamanistic people, tricked by the Legion and duped into drinking the Blood of Mannoroth isn’t one that we really knew much of anything about. Orcs were just evil. Then the story changed and they became a far more faceted group with their own history and culture and the setting is the better for it.
Chronicle doesn’t come close to changing things the way Warcraft III did. Before WCIII, things that didn’t exist in the setting include everything on Kalimdor, the War of the Ancients… I could go on and on about how much Warcraft III expands the setting, but ultimately it did so by wildly changing it. Those changes were generally accepted as improvements to the overall story and flow of the expansive universe we call Warcraft today, but changes they were.
If you played Warcraft II and then never picked up another game or book or anything related to the setting until today, you’d be very confused by the state of the setting. Illidan Stormrage, who has been the poster boy for two WoW expansions, was created in WCIII. Arthas Menethil? WCIII. Jaina Proudmoore, Rexxar, the Darkspear tribe of Trolls? Tauren? WCIII.
Chronicle then falls into a proud tradition of giving us more by filling in around the edges of what we already thought we knew. I hope there’s a third volume and it does so as well. I’d love to see a canonical ‘this is what Stormwind was doing while the Legion and Scourge destroyed Lordaeron’ as just one of many things it could show us. Warcraft has changed many times over the years, and usually for the better. Incorporating more detail from the new sources might strengthen it again.
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