Know Your Lore: Thrall’s journey from slave to leader
People have a lot of feelings about Thrall. Some love him, others feel ambivalent towards him, yet others hate him. But whichever side you’re on, the fact is he’s one of the most important Orcs in Warcraft history.
So just who is Thrall, son of Durotan? What effect has he had on Azeroth? To begin to answer those questions we have to look at the whole of his life, starting at the beginning.
Born on a new world
Unlike his parents Durotan and Draka, Thrall was born not on Draenor but on Azeroth after the Horde came through the Dark Portal and the Frostwolves were banished for refusing to drink the Blood of Mannoroth. Not long after, Durotan brought his wife and son with him to a secret meeting with Orgrim Doomhammer, second in command of the Blackrock Orcs and Durotan’s lifelong friend.
However, Doomhammer couldn’t keep the meeting secret from Gul’dan. Head of the Shadow Council and the power behind Warchief Blackhand, the Warlock saw the opportunity to silence two of his most ardent critics and he took it, sending assassins to slay Durotan and Draka. It was assumed that none survived, including their infant son.
But as Warcraft players know, that wasn’t the end of Thrall.
The infant Orc was discovered by Aedelas Blackmoore, a young but rising soldier in the armies of Lordaeron who’d acquitted himself well in battle. Some whispered rumors that the young Blackmoore used alcohol to fortify his courage before an engagement, others talked about his father, who’d blackened the family name by selling secrets and whose shadow Aedelas resented greatly. The young officer brought the child back with him, handing it over to the wife of a subordinate (Tammis Foxton) to wet nurse the infant. At first Clannia Foxton resisted this, but her husband forced her to go along with it in order that the Foxton family could rise in station and influence. Of all the Foxton family, only young Taretha, their daughter, would come to regard Thrall as anything other than an embarrassing nuisance or a stepping stone.
Blackmoore eventually rose to become overall commander of the Alliance’s internment camp program and moved to Durnholde Keep. Once there, Blackmoore began to ensure that Thrall was trained not only to read and write but also to fight and lead. Blackmoore had a plan for the young Orc, a plan born out of his resentment of the Alliance and the way his father’s treason had dogged him his entire life. He planned to betray the Alliance by using the Orcs as the nucleus of an army that Thrall would lead for him, after being suitably trained to be loyal to Blackmoore. Thus, the Lieutenant General (the rank he’d risen to following the Second War) would avenge himself on his own people.
The young endure
So Thrall grew to adulthood in Durnholde, his only friend young Taretha Foxton who saw him as a surrogate brother. While Blackmoore had great plans for Thrall, forcing him into gladiatorial combat in order to profit from his superior size and strength, he failed to instill any sense of loyalty in the young Orc. At first he sought to please the man, despite having been named a word meaning slave, but instead, Thrall came to hate Blackmoore. The turning point came after a series of brutal fights where Thrall was forced to do battle until he was unable to continue. Rather than praising Thrall for his skill in battle Blackmoore was furious at having lost a wager and beat the young Orc severely for his failure despite his many successes before that point.
With Taretha’s help (secured through notes the two passed in books she brought him) Thrall managed to escape Durnholde. Taretha provided him with provisions and other supplies, but an Orc alone at that time was conspicuous, and he soon found himself captured and confined to another internment camp, where he got the first view of how his people were living. Nearly recaptured by Blackmoore, he managed to escape again with the help of an Orc servant and made his way into the wilds.
In the internment camp, the Orc prisoners had told him of one Orc who evaded the Humans, a veteran of the wars. It was in search of this Orc, Grommash Hellscream, that young Thrall headed north.
Meeting his people
Once Thrall met with Hellscream and his Warsong, he saw that while they had evaded the Humans, it had cost them — he even stood against Hellscream and saved a Human child from death at the hands of the Orcs following his host. This earned him Hellscream’s respect, and for a time Grom taught Thrall the Orcish language (at this point he spoke only the common tongue of Humans) and identified a scrap of cloth that Taretha had passed him from his infancy as being a piece of Frostwolf cloth. This led Thrall to decide to part ways with Grom and the Warsong and attempt to find the Frostwolves, banished from the Horde to the desolate and frozen reaches of Alterac before the end of the First War.
Seeking out the Frostwolves nearly cost Thrall his life, but the clan rescued him. He was given a cautious reception by Drek’Thar, the elderly Shaman and former friend of his father, who eventually revealed the truth of Thrall’s origins. He was the son of Durotan and Draka and hereditary chieftain of the Frostwolves, although Drek’Thar didn’t intend to merely step aside for the youngster, and instead placed Thrall in a sort of probation and expecting him to prove himself to his clan.
Prove himself he did. Thrall soon became a student of Drek’Thar, learning the history of the clan and their origins in the Frostfire Ridge. In time, Thrall was chosen by a Frostwolf named Snowsong, becoming her companion and thus accepted by the clan as a whole. And thereafter, Drek’Thar took Thrall to a secluded part of the Frostwolf territory where he was granted an audience with the Elementals themselves. Thrall became the first Shaman of his people chosen since Drek’Thar’s time, the first since the rise of the Old Horde and the demonic corruption that had spread through their people.
Coming of the stranger
After his acceptance by the clan and the elemental spirits, a stranger came to visit the Frostwolves. At first Thrall attempted to be civil to this unusual Orc, but he was quickly angered by the stranger’s dismissal of the Frostwolves for hiding in the mountains while their people suffered in internment camps. Thrall was so incensed by this stranger that he declared he would seek out Grom Hellscream and together they would raid the camps, only for the strange Orc to dismiss Hellscream out of hand, claiming that Grom was haunted by demons and a dreamer.
Able to bear this no longer, Thrall challenged the stranger to single combat. Throwing off the concealing cloak he wore, the stranger revealed the black plate armor and massive hammer he carried, making him as Orgrim Doomhammer himself. Even faced with the Warchief, Thrall didn’t back down, instead engaging Doomhammer in a fierce contest that ended when Thrall managed to disarm the older Orc. Doomhammer revealed that he had been summoned by Drek’Thar, and he’d chosen to provoke the son of Durotan in order to see how much of his old friend lived on in his son — his defeat at the hands of Thrall echoed an earlier defeat Durotan had inflicted upon him, and so Doomhammer was convinced that Thrall was everything Drek’Thar had told him. And so he revealed his plan to Thrall — plans for the freedom of all Orcs in every single internment camp.
Next week, the rebirth of the Horde and the journey to Kalimdor, as the Orcs become part of the Third War.
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