Know Your Lore: The Emerald Dream
What was Azeroth like before the Titans arrived? What did it look like before the rise of the Troll empire, the dawn of the Night Elves, or the destruction of the Well of Eternity? While most creatures on Azeroth have absolutely no idea, the Druids do — and they can visit that ancient vision of the past any time they’d like to. They’re linked to it in a way that most mortals simply don’t understand, through an ethereal realm called the Emerald Dream.
But just what is the Emerald Dream? It was created by the Titans, but what purpose does it serve, if any? It seems like we might finally get some answers to our questions in the upcoming World of Warcraft: Legion expansion — or at the very least, some clarification as to what the Dream really is.
Dream of the Titans
When the Titans first arrived on Azeroth and sought to re-shape the world, they created the Emerald Dream as the underlying blueprint for Azeroth — a snapshot of the moment in time before they began their work shaping the world. We like to sometimes call it the “backup copy” of Azeroth, but that’s never been completely confirmed. The closest we’ve been told is that the Dream has multiple layers, some unfinished, some complete, some accessible, some not.
This implies that the Emerald Dream might, yes, be some kind of backup copy — but it more accurately exists as a backup of all iterations of testing that the Titans ran while they were shaping the world. It was basically the Titan equivalent of a developer’s sandbox, where different versions of different parts of Azeroth’s evolution were tinkered with and adjusted until the final, completed product — what we see on Azeroth itself — was released.
But the Titans didn’t get rid of the sandbox once they were done with their experiments. They not only kept it, they made a guardian specifically for the purpose of watching over the Emerald Dream. Ysera, Aspect of the Green Dragonflight, was tasked to watch over the Emerald Dream, also called the “Dream of Creation,” to keep it safe, and to regulate the ebb and flow of nature and evolution on Azeroth.
Secrets of the Dream
Ysera did just that, falling into an eternal trance and essentially living in the Emerald Dream full-time. She took the demigod Cenarius under her wing, guiding him into the Emerald Dream, and acting as his adoptive mother while teaching him the Dream’s secrets. As the son of Elune and Malorne, it was said that Cenarius had a link to both earth and sky, an innate connection to Azeroth that possibly made it easier for him to understand just what the Emerald Dream was all about.
And while Cenarius later went on to teach Malfurion Stormrage the ways of the Druid, and his teachings carried on to Night Elf Druids as a whole, we still have little idea of what any of those secrets actually are. The Druids may understand the Emerald Dream, but we still have very little information regarding its true purpose. There’s a link between Azeroth and the Emerald Dream, a link that must, for some reason, always exist.
Which is odd, when you think about it. Why? Because the Titans also put a safeguard on the planet that would more or less blow the whole thing up if the Old Gods corrupted it beyond reckoning. This almost spelled disaster when we ventured into Northrend in Wrath. Loken’s death signaled Algalon, who immediately came to Azeroth to scan for corruption — and if any corruption was detected, he was to send the signal that would re-originate the world, essentially destroying it.
This is essentially where the idea of a “backup copy” comes into play. If Azeroth needed to be destroyed, presumably the reason the Emerald Dream was there was so that the Titans had some kind of existing backup that would then be used to “reboot” the world right back at square one. This would also explain why the Titans felt the need to preserve it — after all, the Titans are in the business of ordering worlds, and have done so to countless planets across the universe. If they didn’t have the Emerald Dream, everything they did to Azeroth would be lost for good, and they wouldn’t be able to rebuild it.
In Azeroth’s case, this is doubly important because of the presence of the Old Gods. According to the Tribunal of Ages, when the Titans fought the Old Gods, they realized they couldn’t be destroyed — destroying them would in turn destroy Azeroth. This is why the Old Gods were imprisoned instead of killed. It does, however, make one wonder — if the Titans had this backup plan of Azeroth, why didn’t they simply destroy the world when the Old Gods were discovered and start over from square one? What stopped them from doing so?
We don’t have an answer for that one. But we do know that the Emerald Dream itself fell to corruption at some point in Azeroth’s existence, and that corruption, the Nightmare, finally reared its head sometime after the Third War. When Malfurion Stormrage finished his work on Azeroth in the Third War and went back to the Emerald Dream, he was trapped there, unable to leave. This was in part due to being poisoned by Fandral Staghelm, but it was also due to the Nightmare itself.
Nightmares and Dreams
The Nightmare was essentially created using the twisted dreams and fears people had while they were sleeping to corrupt the Dream itself. Supposedly this was the work of Xavius, who was in turn serving a higher power — an Old God. Through Xavius, the Old Gods found a way to corrupt that untouched copy of the world, and sought to eradicate it entirely. After all, if you can’t effectively spread chaos in the waking world, what better way to accomplish it than by corrupting the world of dreams instead? This led to a full out war against the Nightmare, detailed in the novel Stormrage. By the end of the novel, Xavius appeared to be defeated, and the Nightmare was pushed back to the Rift of Aln.
But it wasn’t really enough, as we’ve seen in hints and pieces of what we’ll encounter in Legion. Xavius has, apparently, returned — and the Nightmare is once more threatening to destroy the world. In the new expansion, we’ll actually get to enter the Emerald Nightmare and theoretically clear it out for good. But as the case with any Old God we’ve encountered, is there really any way to eradicate them completely? Can we actually cleanse the Emerald Dream, or is it as impossible a task as destroying the Old Gods?
We don’t really know, and we won’t know until the next expansion comes into play. But for now, Ysera no longer watches over the Emerald Dream, having expended her powers during the final battle with Deathwing in Cataclysm. Instead, the protection of the Emerald Dream has fallen to the mortal Druids of Azeroth, who should presumably be up to the task now that the Age of Mortals has begun. Whether or not we actually are, on the other hand, is another story — one we’ll have to wait to see.
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