Know Your Lore: Teldrassil, Crown of the Earth
It’s the largest of the World Trees, dwarfing even Nordrassil or Shaladrassil. It’s so massive that a city nestles in its boughs, earth and towns in its branches. The starting zone for Night Elf players — but it didn’t exist before the Third War. Teldrassil, the island home of the Night Elves, exists because one Night Elf pushed for it — it was one his vision. That Night Elf was Fandral Staghelm.
But to understand why Fandral fought to create Teldrassil, we need to talk about the distant past.
The War of the Ancients and immortality
The Burning Legion invaded Azeroth during the War of the Ancients, in no small part thanks to the work of Xavius, Azshara’s chief mage and servitor. Due to Xavius’ failure to stop Malfurion Stormrage, Sargeras saved Xavius from death but punished him with transformation into the first Satyr. Xavius eventually recruited others into the ranks of the Satyr, and confronted Malfurion again. This time Malfurion didn’t kill Xavius. Instead, he grew a tree that absorbed his energy and body. The tree containing Xavius’ soul somehow survived the Sundering, avoiding a watery grave.
Malfurion’s brother Illidan saved vials of water from the Well of Eternity and used them to create a new Well atop Mount Hyjal. He was imprisoned for the deed. Alexstrasza found an acorn from G’Hanir, the Mother Tree, and planted it to protect and contain the new Well. The tree that emerged was Nordrassil, the World Tree, and it symbolized a pact made between the Dragon Aspects and the Night Elves.
Alexstrasza blessed the tree with vitality, health and the gift of life. Ysera blessed the tree with a connection to the Emerald Dream. And Nozdormu’s blessing gave the Night Elves their vaunted immortality. So long as the tree endured, the Kaldorei would be ageless, immortal unless slain.
To pay for this blessing the Night Elves swore to forever watch over Nordrassil and the Emerald Dream. The Druids became protectors who would spend most of their immortal lives asleep in sacred barrow dens, watching over their part in the pact with Ysera.
War and horticulture
This state of affairs lasted for ten thousand years. The Druids of the Cenarion Circle fought a war with the Satyr created by Xavius. The Satyr were eventually confined underneath Shaladrassil in the Broken Isles. This war saw the start of one Night Elf’s rise to greatness among his people. In time, Fandral Staghelm would become an Archdruid — and even in his youth he butted heads with his Shan’do. Fandral was present for the formation of the Cenarion Circle. He took part in the War with the Satyr. And he unwittingly created the Emerald Nightmare.
Fandral was alarmed by what he saw in Northrend, Kalimdor, and even the Eastern Kingdoms. He found pockets of a disturbing mineral growing, with strange and corrupt attributes. The mineral — Saronite — was a clear threat. To fix the issue, Fandral took branches from Nordrassil, planting them over the Saronite deposits. Today, they’re known as the Great Trees, gateways to the Emerald Dream. In addition, another World Tree was created in the Grizzly Hills — Andrassil, Crown of the Snows.
And he didn’t ask permission or even mention this to anyone first.
When the Cenarion Circle found out, they were enraged. But even Shan’do Malfurion Stormrage had to admit that Fandral’s plan seemed to work. The Saronite deposits in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms were apparently removed. But in time Andrassil’s roots grew too deeply, and the Old God Yogg-Saron gained access to the tree. Through Andrassil, the Old God could reach the Emerald Dream. Eventually, even Fandral had to admit his second World Tree was a failure. The Cenarion Circle destroyed Andrassil, naming the stump of the tree Vordrassil — the Broken Crown.
The shadow stretching backwards
Fandral was not one to learn from his mistakes. Perhaps Andrassil had fallen, but the Great Trees had done as he’d hoped and cleansed the Saronite deposits. He found himself chafing more and more under Malfurion’s leadership when he and his Shan’do were both awake. Thankfully, their duty to watch the Emerald Dream meant that often when one was awake the other was asleep. This left Fandral free to act more or less with impunity. The War of the Shifting Sands was one example.
Malfurion was not awake when the Silithid threat began to menace Night Elf lands. Fandral took charge of the Cenarion Circle’s response. This war saw him lose his son Valstann — a blow that he would never truly recover from. The Third War saw the Burning Legion return, and after ten thousand years, the World Tree Nordrassil was destroyed. But it wasn’t by the Legion.
The tree was lost due to Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage — Fandral’s Shan’do, former friend, and firm rival. All Fandral had left from his deceased wife had been Valstann, his wife Leyara, and their daughter Istaria — with Valstann lost, only Fandral’s daughter-in-law and grandchild remained. Now Malfurion had stripped their immortality, guaranteeing that one day they would die. There would be nothing left of Fandral’s only remaining family. And this was unacceptable to Fandral.
Fandral wasn’t entirely himself. During the years following the death of Valstann, he’d come to externalize his hatred for his son’s death. At first he’d blamed himself, but over time he came to blame Malfurion instead. In this he was aided by Xavius, Malfurion’s old enemy. The tree containing Xavius’ spirit still endured. Thanks to Fandral’s creation of Andrassil, Xavius reached out and made an alliance with the Old Gods lurking in the Emerald Nightmare.
Fandral was a tempting target, a useful tool waiting to be utilized. Appearing to the bereaved father in the form of his son, Xavius convinced Fandral that all of his failures — the Great Trees, the death of Valstann — were part and parcel of Malfurion’s failure. After all, Malfurion had ultimately failed them all by destroying Nordrassil.
Fandral proposed that the Night Elves create a new World Tree to replace Nordrassil, perhaps in unconscious recreation of Andrassil. Malfurion argued against it. Fandral knew that with Malfurion there, the Cenarion Circle would never agree to his plan. And so, with “Valstann” urging him onward, Fandral used Morrowgrain to poison his former mentor and send him into a coma.
With Malfurion out of the way, Fandral stepped forward. Those that knew him said that it was as if he’d finally cast aside the malaise that had haunted him since his son’s death. He argued the Circle into supporting his plan for Teldrassil. Despite his success, the Dragon Aspects did not come to bless the new tree as they had the old. Undaunted, Fandral secretly — and not entirely of his own volition — grafted one of Xavius’ own branches to the new World Tree. Thus Teldrassil was born corrupted.
At first, however, the project seemed a stunning success. The tree grew so mighty so rapidly that it raised ancient Night Elf buildings up into its boughs. This included an ancient Temple of the Moon, one that would in time be taken by Malfurion’s mate Tyrande Whisperwind. As High Priestess of Elune, she and Fandral often butted heads over Kaldorei politics. But even she recognized the importance a symbol like Teldrassil held for her people. After losing their immortality and many of their precious forests to the Legion, Teldrassil seemed like a rebirth. A new chapter for Night Elves.
The Nightmare Lord returns
Of course it wasn’t that simple. Xavius was using Fandral as a pawn in his game of revenge on Malfurion. It was payback for his death and subsequent imprisonment at Malfurion’s hands. In the service to the Old Gods, Xavius became the Nightmare Lord. He struck out at his former people. In time, Fandral’s role in Malfurion’s coma and Teldrassil’s corruption became clear, and the former Archdruid was imprisoned.
Xavius was defeated. While Nozdormu did not return his blessing to the Night Elves, Alexstrasza and Ysera chose to bless the tree and help it repel the corruption it had resisted since it was created. For although Fandral had been deluded and befuddled by Xavius, he had chosen well when he planted Teldrassil. It was a daughter of Nordrassil, a grandchild of G’Hanir the Mother Tree. To this day it stands the largest of its kind, a bastion of Night Elves in a changing world.
Teldrassil is the youngest of its kind, and may yet be the most important.
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