Know Your Lore: The not-quite retcons of Chronicle Volume 3
World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 3 covered a lot of material in its 184 pages, spanning from Warcraft 3 through WoW’s Cataclysm expansion. However, nearly all of the information presented in the latest volume is material that players are familiar with. Because of this, there wasn’t a lot in the way of shocking new lore reveals. The book spent most of its time cohesively tying the story together.
And there wasn’t really much in the way of retcons, either. The one fairly major retcon involves the character Med’an. Introduced in the Warcraft comic series, Volume 3 quietly writes him out of the picture entirely. The decision leads to a different kind of book — one that spends less time constructing history, and more time fleshing it out.
Chronicle Volume 3 isn’t so much about abrupt changes as it is subtle inference. In some cases, this means more information for us, in some cases, it means less. Today we’re going to take a closer look at a few examples from this round of chronicled history.
Please note: The following Know Your Lore contains spoilers for World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 3. If you’d prefer to finish your copy of the book before any discussion, you may want to come back after you’re done with your read-through.
Volume 3 tackles an impressive number of storylines. It does this by quickly summarizing events that players are already familiar with. The in-between moments — events we might not have been present for, or events relegated to novels — are given a little more attention. We aren’t really getting a lot of “new” material here, so much as more definition to important characters we aren’t as familiar with.
Take Moira Thaurissan, for example. Moira isn’t just a formerly unhappy daughter; she’s an incredibly clever and capable leader. After her husband Dagran’s death, she was left to lead and protect her people in the midst of the chaos and fallout. On top of that, there was one immediate threat that concerned her. Ragnaros and the elementals of Molten Core were still in control of the Dark Iron. And they weren’t exactly trusting of Moira or her capabilities as a leader. There was no way she could lead a revolt — doing so would doubtless lead to the annihilation of the Dark Iron. Instead, she turned to an alternate solution: us.
Our journey to Molten Core was all quietly arranged by Moira behind the scenes. She carefully planted rumors of Ragnaros’ activity, and it worked better than she could have imagined. The rumors ended up catching the attention of the Hydraxian Waterlords. The Waterlords found champions for their cause and sent them into the Molten Core. Once Ragnaros was defeated, the Dark Iron were free. More importantly, Moira had their respect as a leader.
Next on her list, Blackhand’s “true Horde” of Blackrock Mountain, who were backed by Nefarian. It was simple enough for Moira to let the rumors fly again — and Thrall responded as expected, sending champions to clear Blackrock Spire out. Moira demonstrated — and still demonstrates — an incredibly keen and calculating mind.
Of course, Volume 3 did include the removal of Med’an. By doing so, it left gaps in the story. Because of this, more attention was given to both Garona and Cho’gall in turn. In Garona’s case, she didn’t have a child. Instead, she was free to hunt Cho’gall down herself. So she tailed her tormentor and his followers through Kalimdor, killing his Twilight cultists left and right. In Feralas, Cho’gall managed to recapture her, bringing her back under his control. The rest of the story continues as expected — she appears at the peace summit, ordered to assassinate Varian Wrynn. She fails, she’s held at Theramore, and Cho’gall’s hold over her is broken. The only thing missing, really, is the son she never had.
Cho’gall, on the other hand, is far busier in Volume 3 than we’d ever imagined. Yes, he had a presence in Silithus and was responsible for awakening C’thun. But Cho’gall was also responsible for Yogg Saron. While we were distracted in Outland during Burning Crusade, Cho’gall traveled north to Ulduar. There, he traveled to Yogg Saron’s lair and worked at freeing the Old God from its chains. He left, but evidence of his travels still exists in Ulduar, in the form of cultists that lurk the halls on the way to the Yogg Saron encounter.
As for the Old Gods, we’ve been told that N’Zoth was responsible for Deathwing’s return — but we never really saw more than a passing reference to N’Zoth in the expansion. Volume 3 clarifies exactly what happened. N’Zoth set the events of Cataclysm in motion because it knew what happened to C’thun and Yogg Saron. The Hour of Twilight had to happen before the opportunity slipped away. Deathwing was fully corrupt and acted as N’Zoth’s conduit, speaking for the Old God.
Volume 3 didn’t explain everything in WoW. In some cases, the story made deliberate omissions in regards to certain characters. The missing events and character info is all, again, information we’re already familiar with. At the same time, the omissions change fundamental knowledge we had about familiar characters and how they behaved.
Garrosh Hellscream gets a muted treatment in Volume 3. His time in Burning Crusade is dutifully chronicled, as is his journey back to Azeroth with Thrall. But his hotheaded, volatile nature is played down. There’s no mention of his challenge to Thrall before the beginning of Wrath. The animosity between Garrosh and Varian is mentioned, but downplayed. The events surrounding Cairne’s mak’gora challenge to Garrosh are glossed over. Nothing is said of the brutal attack on Cenarion Circle Druids in Ashenvale.
Surprisingly, Maiev Shadowsong also has a truncated story. Nothing is said of her allowing Tyrande to be swept down a river and presumably drowned in Warcraft 3. Her return to Darnassus after Burning Crusade — and the entire murder plot of the novel Wolfheart — is completely omitted. Other events from the novel are mentioned, but Maiev’s portion of the story is simply…absent. Any dissension she showed to Tyrande or Malfurion in the games or novels has been glossed over entirely.
Is either of the character omissions listed above a retcon? Technically, no. Nothing has been deliberately changed. Neither character is written doing anything new or different from what already transpired. The book doesn’t say that Maiev tried to kill Malfurion in Wolfheart. It doesn’t say that she didn’t try, either. The incident simply isn’t mentioned at all. The same goes for Garrosh’s mak’gora challenge to Thrall, pre-Wrath.
There are two potential reasons this occurred — first, it’s a retcon without being a retcon. That’s unlikely, as the novels and events in game are established canon. Second, and far more likely, is simply that there was a limited amount of room to work with. When writing a book as weighty and complex as Chronicle, sometimes you just don’t have the space to write every single detail. Some things fall by the wayside — and it tends to be the things that would require a lot of contextual explanation. So I wouldn’t write off these pivotal character moments as no longer canon — unless we get some kind of clear indicator from the lore team that the omissions were intended to do just that.
Volume 3 doesn’t include every event from every expansion. But at this stage, it doesn’t really need to. Players looking for a deep-dive into the overall lore and story of Warcraft will find more than enough information in Volume 3. And for those looking deeper still, there’s still a litany of novels, short stories, comics, and other prose to answer any remaining questions.
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