The Arathi return in the upcoming The War Within expansion — so who are they?
If you’ve played World of Warcraft you’ve heard the name Arathi before BlizzCon 2023 blew the doors open with big announcements about three expansions, a whole new story wrapping up the past several years worth of plot threads, and of course Earthen. But if you didn’t really know who the Arathi were, why they’re showing up again in The War Within, and why that’s wild, that’s what you have me for.
The capsule history of the Arathi is still not exactly a capsule. They were the ancient Humans who made common cause with the High Elves to defeat the Amani Trolls. Unified by King Thoradin, this ancient tribe of Humans created the city Strom, and the first Human kingdom, called The Empire of Arathor. You can see the signs of that nation across much of the Eastern Kingdoms today — Lordaeron, Kul Tiras, Gilneas, Dalaran, Stromgarde, Alterac, and Stormwind all descended from Arathi people who settled outside of Arathor or declared independence after Thoradin died.
So how are we getting the Arathi in The War Within? We don’t know yet, but what was said at BlizzCon 2023 dovetails with what we learned about the formation of the Arathi. During the World of Warcraft What’s Next panel, Maria Hamilton (Associate Design Director for World of Warcraft and rocker of a really awesome jacket) talked about a lot of things. One of them is the Arathi we’ll be seeing in The War Within and who they are. The description of the Arathi that Maria Hamilton gave during the panel reminds me of the story of Lordain, Thoradin’s friend, whose people joined the Empire of Arathor after years of guarding the Tomb of Tyr. The idea of the Arathi having Paladin-like powers based around Holy Fire is very reminiscent of Lordain and the Honor Guard at the Temple of Tyr, who provided similar powers to Thoradin during his quest to unify Human tribes into the Arathi.
Since Lordain and his followers were so familiar with Tyr and the Titans it makes sense that they may have learned about the Isle of Dorn and the pathway into the depths of Azeroth. Their Vrykul ancestors came to what would become Lordaeron alongside Tyr to escape persecution for their children, who were being born smaller and physically weaker. If some of the Arathi who followed Lordain’s Titan-derived Holy Fire worship found ancient texts about Tyr and the Titans that mentioned the pathway underneath Dorn, they may have decided to do more than simply settle somewhere else on the Eastern Kingdoms. They may well have headed to find this mysterious land and to explore it.
Maria Hamilton went on to tell us that the Arathi we’ll be meeting in The War Within live on the shores of an enormous monster-filled underground sea. They’ve created Marrowgar, a city bastion of antiquity that serves as a redoubt for them — wreathed by the artificial sunlight of massive crystals, they’ve carved out a home for themselves but are under constant threat from Nerubians and other monsters. Their worship of the Holy Light is wrapped up in fire imagery, and even their airships are powered by magical flames. All of this fits in well with the ancient Arathi of Lordain’s time.
That’s who the Arathi were — the first Human kingdom, the root from which all modern Human nations descend from, the homeland that the people of Stormwind left. Now, a long-lost offshoot of that ancient people seems to have been rediscovered.
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