One of the important things to note about World of Warcraft lore is that it’s never been static. It will retcon itself six ways from Sunday letting you know that the stuff you thought was true was never actually true, and it’s something the franchise has been doing since the second installment of the series was launched. (Remember when Azeroth was the name of the human nation, not the freaking planet?) This is not a game where the lore has been carefully planned out so that you can make reasonable predictions much of the time, this is where the lore repeatedly changes as new installments come out.
This is fine. I really like games where all of the lore is written out and planned well in advance (obviously) but I also have appreciation for the way that WoW’s backstory does change with the tides. It rarely outright invalidates the past, but the past is not static as we learn more about it.
Enter the speculation about Druids in Kul Tiras, speculation that seems to be getting backed up with increasing amounts of evidence. And as I look at all of this, I can’t help but note that even a moment’s consideration reveals that this is an enormous mess for the game’s overall lore.
First and foremost, let me make it clear that I don’t think this “problem” actually prevents the idea from working. Quite the opposite; my big concern is that no one has really thought out the implications of this change to the game’s backstory. If it’s where we wind up, it has some pretty huge impacts on a whole lot of the game up to this point.
See, historically, Druids belong to the Night Elves. The Kal’dorei are the source of druidism, and all of the converts come through them. It was their adherence to druid teachings that led to the original split from the High Elves, and it was one of the big things that’s always been used to define both Night Elves and Druids. More than any other class, Druids are the property of this race. Tauren entered by the tutelage of the Elves, Trolls came in via the Tauren.
Except, of course, we already know that isn’t entirely true. After all, Gilnean traditions included a whole lot of Druid stuff… but they didn’t really think of it as Druidic tradition at the time. It was passed to them from Night Elves who went exploring, and it was only as a means of controlling their transformation that the Gilneans started to really open up to that connection. All well and good, the tradition still traces back to Night Elves, and there’s a good reason no one really knew about this form of magic until the Third War.
But then we get to Kul Tiras. And suddenly things start falling apart.
Kul Tiran Druids, based on the fuel of the speculation and the implications therein, are not a recent development. They’ve existed for quite some time, and they have at least some idea of what they’re doing. Except that unlike Gilneas, it’s hard as hell for anyone to have missed this fact up until now.
Gilneas has been separated from the Alliance for a long time, even during the Second War, and it’s pretty clear that there was a policy of silence regarding their traditions for a long while. But Kul Tiras was one of the lynchpins of the Alliance during the Second War. It’s isolated by water, but it doesn’t hide its traditions, and there’s all the reason in the world for the Alliance to have seen this before now.
For that matter, let’s remember that Jaina Proudmoore is from Kul Tiras. You can’t convince me that Jaina would not have mentioned to at least one Night Elf that all this Druid stuff was really familiar.
This is rectified a bit if you assume that Kul Tiran druids were a hidden thing, only coming back to the forefront very recently. But that, in turn, raises further questions. These Druids were apparently operating in secret for a very long time, and more importantly doing so without any interaction with the supposed center of learning for Druids, isolated entirely even when all of the worst things possible happened to the Emerald Dream.
Again, if you assume they were secret from Kul Tirans but not from other Druids, you have a situation where no one talks with anyone else about obvious connections. It doesn’t really work.
“So you’re saying it doesn’t work?” Oh, no, it works just fine. It just has some pretty far-reaching implications, because it means that someone is wildly wrong about Druids and how the Emerald Dream works. And that someone is… probably the Night Elves.
I find all of this fascinating, because this seems like the expansion for us realizing that the Alliance in particular is not nearly as sturdy as it seems. We’ve always known that there are fractures in the Horde, some of them bigger and others smaller (the Forsaken have always been obviously contentious, for example, while there’s still some resentment between Orcs and Trolls that’s remained under the surface but isn’t gone). But the Alliance has seemed like more or less one happy family. Greymane might be a bit of a loose cannon, but he’s not actually at odds with Anduin, as far as Anduin himself knows.
The two biggest problems we’ve historically had with the faction conflict have always been that the Alliance has never done anything half as bad to the Horde as the Horde has done to it, and the Alliance has always been one happy family while the Horde struggles to get all of its members firing in the same direction. The possibility of Kul Tiran Druids doesn’t hint at an appropriate Alliance assault that gives the Horde a good reason to be bitter, but it does provide the impetus for breaking up that happy family motif.
What if the Night Elves didn’t know? What else don’t they know? Or what if, equally possibly, everyone knew but them? What if the Kul Tiran Druids have been doing something pretty underhanded for a long while, but the Alliance as a whole – or the parts of the Alliance that knew about it – have been deriving benefits all along?
What’s going on here that we don’t know about?
Of course, the odds are that none of this is going to be explored, but I’d like to be wrong about. And that’s the “problem” here; it has some pretty far-reaching implications if there’s a whole nation of Druids Stormwind had every reason to know about long before now. Someone has been holding back, and it might not be pretty when we find out who.
Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m not entirely sold on the idea of a different body type as an “allied race,” mind you, but I suppose it’s strictly better than the alternative.