Know Your Lore: The history of the Gnomes
They are mocked. Looked down upon. Treated as a joke. And yet, they change the world using their wits and their genius, and we fail to recognize it no matter how many times they pull off the trick. It may well be the case that the true saviors… or destroyers… of Azeroth have been ignored by everyone, waiting in the shadows cast by taller races for their moment to arise.
Or perhaps not. One thing is for sure, however — whatever else they may be, Gnomes are never boring.
The origin of the Gnomes
Gnomes are the creations of Mimiron, a Titanic Watcher who was entrusted with the maintenance of Ulduar (and perhaps Uldaman as well, based on the existence of Gnomes in the Eastern Kingdoms) and watching over the dread Yogg-Saron. Known as The Grand Architect by those who followed after him, Watcher Mimiron might even be the designer of the Titan complexes on Azeroth. The ancestors of the modern Gnomes were called Mechagnomes, and they were made in Mimiron’s image. Thus the Watcher could be seen as not just their creator, but the first Gnome.
The Mechagnomes were as vulnerable to the Curse of Flesh as any of the other creations of the Titans, and as a result, the Gnomes we know today came into existence. During Wrath of the Lich King a Mechagnome named Gearmaster Mechazod revealed much of this truth to the mortal races of Azeroth when they came to stop him from creating an army of Mechagnomes from the Gnomes of the Fizzcrank Pumping Station. Mechazod possessed the ability to undo the Curse of Flesh, an ability seen besides him only in the hands of the servants of Deathwing and the Mogu, implying that the Curse of Flesh was always something the Titans could undo. (Deathwing was appointed Aspect of Earth by the Titans, and the Mogu reverse-engineered the Curse by using Ra-Den’s power as a Titanic Watcher, similar to Mimiron.)
The secret history of Gnomes
We don’t know quite a bit about how things progressed from here. How did the Gnomes get from Ulduar to where they would eventually appear in Dun Morogh? Were there Mechagnomes who suffered from the Curse of Flesh inside Uldaman who fled the complex at some point? We know that there were Gnomes appearing in the Eastern Kingdoms as long ago as 2600 years ago, when the Gnome magus Indus helped choose the first Guardian of Tirisfal. Similarly, some 800 years ago Erbag was another Gnome on the Council.
So we know that long before the Sundering, the Mechagnomes succumbed to the Curse of Flesh. It’s possible they were kept in Uldaman for study — The Lore Keeper of Norgannon talks a great deal about matrix destablization and it’s likely where the Dwarves and Troggs came from as well. However they were freed and by 2600 years ago they were already well known for their inventive skill and magical prowess for a Gnome to be on the Council of Tirisfal. But from the life of Erbag to about 200 years before the First War, we hear almost nothing about them. They were so completely forgotten that the Dwarves could say with a straight face that they discovered the Gnomes and no one bothered to correct them.
It’s difficult to reconcile these two ideas. Granted, it’s not unlikely that the reclusive Dwarves, who were often tangled up in their own affairs, might simply not have heard of the Gnomes on the Council of Tirisfal. It was, after all, a secret organization. Did the Gnomes deliberately scale back their involvement in the affairs of other people to allow themselves to remain essentially hidden in plain sight? To what end?
The fall of Gnomeregan
At any rate, once the Dwarves ‘discovered’ the Gnomes, the two races got along famously. The Dwarves didn’t even object when the Gnomes built a fantastic technological metropolis named Gnomeregan within spitting distance of the Dwarven fastness of Ironforge. (Keep in mind that this was after the War of the Three Hammers, when the Dark Iron Dwarves invaded Ironforge and Grim Batol — such a level of trust for the Gnomes was somewhat shocking.) The Dwarves and Gnomes worked on many projects together, Gnomish ingenuity and Dwarven practicality often producing wonders.
Gnomes took part in the Second War, essentially neutralizing the technological help the Horde received from the mercenary Goblins of Kezan. Gnomes took great pride in proving who the superior inventors really were in that conflict. But during the arrival of the Burning Legion, when the Alliance could have used Gnomish ingenuity the most, they found themselves bereft of Gnomish assistance. Now, I’m not saying this is why they lost Lordaeron to the Scourge — but you’ll note that when the Gnomes did help, Lordaeron was saved. I’ll just leave that out there.
At any rate, the Gnomes were, frankly, fighting for their home during the invasion of the Burning Legion, as the Troggs invaded from below. This led to a full fledged rout as Gelbin Mekkatorque mistakenly placed his trust in his lifelong friend Sicco Thermaplugg to help stop the Trogg menace. Thermaplugg instead detonated a terrible weapon that poisoned many Gnomes, driving them mad or killing them outright. In the aftermath of Thermaplugg’s treachery, over 80% of the Gnomish race was destroyed, and the survivors found themselves refugees haunting their former embassy quarter in Ironforge, the aptly-named Tinker Town.
The Gnomes today
Amazingly, the Gnomish people have managed to rebound from Thermaplugg’s genocidal betrayal. Despite the deaths of nearly 8 Gnomes out of every 10, the Gnomes have risen to the challenge of rebuilding their race and their home. Today, over a decade after the fall of Gnomeregan, Thermaplugg’s minions have been pushed back fom the surface and New Tinkertown stands as a monument to the spirit of the Gnomish people. Gnomes have served the Alliance well in every major conflict since the Third War, in part due to Gelbin’s desire to display the loyalty the Gnomish people hold dear. And during their long struggle, they’ve reverse-engineered the healing power of divine magic, created many amazing inventions, and even led troops into Orgrimmar itself during the Siege.
Gnomes are awesome is what I’m saying.
Next week, the High Tinker, inventor of the Mechanostrider, the Dwarven Siege Engine, the repair bot, and the Deeprun Tram — Gelbin Mekkatorque, the Gnome who would not be king.
Please consider supporting our Patreon!
Join the Discussion
Blizzard Watch is a safe space for all readers. By leaving comments on this site you agree to follow our commenting and community guidelines.