Character Focus: Garrosh Hellscream

I’ve decided to do a new feature, once a week covering one character in Warcraft, their history, back story, motives and where they are today. Some weeks you’ll see the big names – major players in the story of WoW, and others you’ll see NPCs that I thought were particularly interesting. To kick it all off, I’ve decided to start with one of the mostly hotly debated characters in Warcraft at the moment – Garrosh Hellscream, son of Grom.

WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FOLLOWING: The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and possibly Cataclysm. Also included are the Warcraft comics and novels. If you don’t wish to be spoiled on any of the above material, I would not recommend clicking to read further!

Son of Hellscream, Son of Draenor, Son of Nagrand

Garrosh Hellscream is the son of Grom Hellscream – former chieftain of the Warsong clan and a major player in Warcraft lore. As a reminder from Orc History part 2, Grom Hellscream was the first of the orcs to drink the Blood of Mannoroth – the first to willingly fall under the Burning Legion’s control, the first to succumb to the bloodlust that drove the orcs to serve the demons and slaughter the draenei.

At some point prior to the blood pact with Mannoroth, a virulent plague known as the “red pox” spread throughout all of the orc clans, affecting many. An orc woman by the name of Geyah, wife of the deceased chieftain of the Frostwolf clan, Garad, established a quarantined settlement for the sick in Nagrand. This settlement included orcs from many clans and children of several chieftains, including a young orc known as Garrosh Hellscream.

There are no accounts that I can find of Garrosh’s mother, but due to the fact that he was ill with the pox, I think it can be safely assumed that his mother probably died of the disease when Garrosh was quite young.

The settlement was given a wide berth by the orc clans, as none of the clans wished to spread the effects of the pox any further. So the settlement was not included in the Horde that was formed, and none of the inhabitants participated in the blood pact with Mannoroth. Geyah watched, disgusted, as the brown skin of the original orcs was tainted a sickly green due to the corruption, and the once-green lands died. Despite this, Geyah and the others that remained in the village remained mag’har, orcish for “uncorrupted”.

Garrosh, young and inexperienced in the ways of the world, grew up within the settlement named Garadar after Geyah’s beloved husband, and largely ignorant of the events happening in the rest of Outland. He also spent the large portion of his childhood sick with the pox, just like every other orc living in the settlement.

The pox itself must have been one hell of a disease. Accounts describe victims as being ridden with angry red pustules, coughing up blood and bile. Ewww. It was also an incredibly tenacious disease. Years later, when the humans returned to Draenor to continue battling the orc clans, the orcs of Garadar were still riddled with the stuff.

So one day, Kargath Bladefist, Chieftain of the Shattered Hand, came to Garadar in the hopes of recruiting warriors for the war efforts – his forces had been decimated at Hellfire Citadel by the humans, and they needed all the able-bodied soldiers they could get. Greatmother Geyah was quick to point out that nobody in Garadar could be considered able-bodied by any stretch of the imagination. Kargath wanted to argue with her, but a young Garrosh approached, wanting to know if the presence of the chieftain meant something terrible had happened to his father, all the while coughing up blood and generally being really, really sick. Geyah told him to go back to his hut and turned to Kargath, asking him if these were the warriors he wanted fighting for him.

Kargath, disgusted, declined this offer and vented his frustration at the village, shouting at them, calling them less than orcs, useless weaklings that were fit only to die, and bade them all to do the Horde a favor and do so as quickly as possible. Garrosh was left with Geyah, and when he asked her if Kargath had brought news of his father, all Geyah could do was shake her head and reassure the boy that the lack of information surely meant his father was alive.

Sometime later in Garrosh’s life, he shook off the effects of the pox, as did the rest of the village. Aided by another chieftain’s child, Jorin Deadeye of the Bleeding Hollow clan, he became one of the chiefs of the little cluster of cast-offs, now calling themselves the Mag’har clan, with Geyah as matriarch over them all. They lived in relative peace in Nagrand for many, many years, peace that was occasionally interrupted by skirmishes with the Murkblood tribe, a group of broken draenei that also inhabited the area.

The only news Garrosh had ever heard of his father was what he had been told – that Grom Hellscream, mighty chieftain of the Warsong Clan, was the first to drink the blood of the demon that had tainted their entire race. That he did so willingly, damning himself to serve under the demon, and setting an example for the clans that followed to do the same. This information haunted Garrosh – was he of the same blood as his father? Was he fated to repeat the mistakes his father had made, was he destined to lead his little ragtag clan of orcs to downfall as his father had?

These worries plagued and consumed him. Years later, as Geyah’s health began failing, his worries deepened. If Geyah died, undoubtedly he would be expected to step into place as leader of the Mag’har, and he had convinced himself this was a task he was doomed to fail at spectacularly. He had no idea where his father had gone or what his father had done after that – no idea that Grom had gone through the portal to Azeroth, and found himself unable to return after the portal’s closure.

When players first reach Nagrand in The Burning Crusade expansion, they are introduced to Garrosh in Garadar – an orc that appears to be nothing more than a sullen, sulky child with serious daddy issues. Over the course of the quests in the zone, reputation among the Mag’har gradually rises. When all these quests are complete, Garrosh tells the player that the Greatmother would like to speak with them. Geyah sends the player on a series of errands – errands that involve eventually freeing the restless and angry spirits of the orc ancestors that inhabit Nagrand. Once completed, the player returns to Geyah and tells her of their success. She the then asks the player to go to Garrosh and tell him of what they’ve done, to perhaps lift his spirits.

What happens next is a bone of contention among many, and one of the key moments in time that players begin to hate this little guy. Instead of lauding the player for their success and cheering up, the player’s news only seems to drag Garrosh down further. The quest text is as follows:

You are an honorable <player race> . You have done much for the Mag’har. No one could ever deny your service to my people. Alas, the time of the Mag’har is at an end. You have shown me, more than anything, that I am unfit to lead these people. My cursed blood runs too deep. I will not… I cannot become the second Hellscream to damn the orcs.

Please, return to the Greatmother and tell her what I have told you. I am too ashamed to see her… to look into her eyes.

A lot of people found themselves really annoyed with Garrosh. I have to admit that I was one of them, at that point in the game’s release. I think most of this is because his back story hadn’t been fully fleshed out at that point. But put yourself in his shoes for a moment.

Here you are, just a kid with a dead mom, and your dad sends you off to live someplace really, really far away because you’re sick. You never hear anything from your dad again, not directly anyway. So you’ve got a dead mom, and a dad who supposedly sent you off for your own good and health, but didn’t take the time to check in and make sure you were all right. So questions start filtering through your mind – did dear old Dad leave me behind because I was ‘sick’, or because he didn’t want me around? Was I ‘sick’, or was I worthless in his eyes? Did he ever care at all? And despite all this, you long to see dad again, because he’s the only family you’ve got. You’re sick, desperately sick, and unable to do what is instinct to you – fight- instead having to lie in a bed and take orders from an orc woman you don’t really know all that well because she’s from a different clan altogether.

But daddy never shows up. Instead you get to hear what dad thought was way better than taking care of you – drinking demon’s blood and merrily leading the entirety of your race into life of demonic servitude, riddled with bloodlust and tainted with demonic influence.

Right. That’s going to make you feel real good about yourself. So you continue on, trying your best to help your people, the ones that didn’t drink the demon’s blood. The ones that praise themselves for being untainted – the ones that took their name from the word meaning uncorrupted. The ones that looked upon those people your father led as being if nothing else, incredibly stupid for making a blood pact with a demon of all things. And those people look to you for leadership, but why would they bother when you’re the son of the person that was responsible for that which they despise so much?

One day, the matriarch of your village gets sick. Really sick. And suddenly you’re placed in a position where you may very well have to lead these people in her stead. But how can you even begin to hope that they would follow you, or that you would make a good leader for them? And then, out of nowhere, comes an upstart from another planet, who not only decides to spend their time helping your people, but does so with ease.

If the little guy from another world can do so much for your people in such a short period of time with seemingly little to no effort on their part, how could you ever, ever expect that you’d live up to your people’s expectations of you?

And so Garrosh tells the player to go back to Geyah, and the player has a nice conversation with her after telling her that Garrosh doesn’t seem to want to be a leader at all. During the course of this conversation it is revealed that Greatmother Geyah is none other than the Grandmother of Thrall. You know, your Warchief. She asks the player to go to Thrall, tell him of her existence and ask him to come to Garadar, as she is by now too weak to travel, but desperately wants to see her grandchild.

Warchief Thrall makes his appearance, and the two talk – and Greatmother Geyah asks of the great heroes of the past – including Grom Hellscream.

Well here’s the deal. Daddy did some bad things, and then Daddy? Got stranded in Azeroth, and over the course of time died with honor in combat with the demon that had enslaved the orcs for so long, freeing all of them from the blood pact at last. So Daddy wasn’t up to nothing, Daddy actually did some good things.

Daddy also killed a demigod, but we won’t mention that bit.

Thrall tells Geyah this, and she tells him of Garrosh – that Garrosh is convinced that he’s doomed to his father’s failure. Thrall leaves to go tell Garrosh what really happened to Grom – better yet, to show him.

One of the best parts of this entire epic questline is the point where Thrall shows Garrosh what happened to his father. Teeny tiny Thrall, Grom, and Mannoroth npcs re-enact the scene from Warcraft III, in which Grom kills Mannoroth and frees the orcs once and for all. The scene includes all the original voice files. Neat!

After this little scene has played out, Garrosh is thunderstruck. For him, this is not just a revelation – this is redemption for the shadow he had lived the entirety of his life under. He was not of a useless bloodline – he was of one of the greatest bloodlines of all, and his father was a hero. For the first time ever, he was finally proud of his heritage, and who he was. He thanked Thrall profusely for this information, his life now on a new and better track.

…sort of.

Son of…Azeroth? No thank you.

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7 Comments

  1. latusthegoat said,

    11/24/2009 at 6:03 pm

    Awesome post, awesome blog. So glad you linked it on the “ask a faction leader” post on wow.com

  2. Sukugaru said,

    11/25/2009 at 7:04 am

    OK, sure, the orcs want Garrosh Hellscream to lead them because Thrall is too weird for them…

    …but my Tauren isn’t an orc. He’s a Tauren. His main experience with the orcs is Thrall’s supposed New Horde, and he thoroughly approved of Thrall’s ideas and approach. Some orcs had quests he didn’t like and wouldn’t do, but it was easy to ignore them.

    Now Garrosh has come along, most orcs seem to support him – and even the frigging *Taunka* support him, because his sort of orc are the only ones they’ve ever seen. It is now impossible to ignore the orcs with dodgy quests, because Garrosh’s antics is obviously enabling them and they’re frigging *everywhere*.

    GARROSH IS NOT HIS TYPE OF HIS ORC. THIS IS NOT THE HORDE HE CHOSE TO SUPPORT. He hates the direction of the Warsong Offensive orcs so much that he finds himself distrusting Thrall’s judgement and ability to lead. He hates what’s happening to the Horde so much that he now actually distrusts the orcs more than he distrusts the Forsaken.

    • Shade said,

      11/25/2009 at 11:30 am

      Which is exactly why the tauren are going to see a civil upheaval of their own, in the most spectacular of fashions.

  3. Hardwing said,

    12/31/2009 at 9:46 pm

    Awesome post which unfortunately took me a long time o find. Yet though I love the post I can’t but disagree with some of the points you made.

    For once blaming Garrosh’s way of thinking in part on being a Mag’har (a so called primitive clan) is somewhat unfounded, given how little we know of this clan and its society in general. Look at the other Mag’hars we learned of:

    Jorin Deadeye sends us on a diplomatic mission when he realizes that the conflict with all Ogre tribes would doom his clan.

    Dranosh Saurfang is the hell like his father, storming against Murkbloods with other of his age when the older warriors of his clan don’t act(at once), even noticing that the Mag’har were not the warriors he heard his people have been once. Yet in “Wrath…” we see him described by his father as a symbol against simple bloodlust and for cooperation between the fractions, so he is at last not strongly against Horde and Alliance cooperation.

    Also Thrall’s ways of peace aren’t such unnatural for orcs or even human as you describe. His parents while warriors themselves tried to stop the maelstrom of war the clans slipped into as did Orgrim Doomhammer in the end.

    Sure Thrall has a hard stand in the moment. He is more than ready to defend his people, but Garrosh’s lust but battle forces him to constantly counter him instead showing his own anger, making him look even more weak.

    Frankly I guess Grom Hellscream, if he isn’t affected by the blood lust, would look much more peaceful in contrast to his son.

    But there is the problem you rightly described as probably the greatest, the relationship of Garrosh to his father’s legacy(with his mother somewhere forgotten in the pool of lost lore) as major point of his identity.

    I totally agree with you that he is unwilling to see beyond the heroic image of his father as he had been before in Outland to see beyond him being the first one to drink of the demonic blood.

    Not seeing his father’s failures he seems ironically destined to repeat them as he had feared before. I do not speak of demonic corruption but the reckless heading into whatever glorious combat seems to be shining in front of him, not thinking much at all.

    But is it this the majority of the Horde wants? The human concept of honor they can’t understand?

    Let us not forget the minor clashes in the various zones like Ashenvale and the Barrens, or the battlefields, or the unsettled scores. It is so alien that many orcs prefer open war to conflicts of little scale which to quell taste like cowardice for them?

    Garrosh promises this and while we can and will dislike him for this, he promises to make Azeroth a much more interesting place in the upcoming expansion.

  4. Maendis said,

    01/21/2010 at 8:28 pm

    First and foremost, I’ve read a few of these blog posts – you get a favorite. I am looking forward to reading much more (Cataclysm/Catalyst is what REALLY got my attention)

    My character has been the usual higher-than-thou elven sorcerer, and has really come around to see the concepts of Orcish honor and the like. In fact, where once he hated being part of the Horde, now he’s growing to respect (grudgingly) his new allies. So much that he’s soon to throw off the mantle of Silvermoon Magister…for mantle of High Mage of the Horde. A declaration of loyalty to the Horde, etc. etc…

    He’s had numerous in-game discussions with other characters about Garrosh and Thrall. He doesn’t think that Thrall will let the hot-headed Garrosh lead…and that is perhaps his greatest fear at the moment. As a Sin’dorei mage who is close to pledging loyalty to the Horde, he is terrified of Garrosh taking over.

    And while I have…ideas…about what will happen with the Tauren, something tells me that he – Maendis the character – will not let that pass. I predict much upheaval, and I predict a drastic change in the ways of the Horde and all who are within it.

    Also, I understand that Thrall is generally the most yay-worthy to protect – if there’s an attack on UC, or Silvermoon, people will go…but not flock. If Orgrimmar is under attack, on my server, it seems that most of the people make their way to the orc capital to defend the Warchief. I am curious…as to what will happen should Garrosh be leader, and be attacked.

  5. Rafinius said,

    04/18/2010 at 10:15 am

    While Varians attitude seems kind of justified, after so much loss he had to endure, Garroshs warmongering and hatred for the humans seems largely unjustified to me. If he wouldn’t have interfered so often we could all be playing World of Peacecraft by now. (Not that anyone really wants that.)

    • Hardwing said,

      04/30/2010 at 5:43 pm

      I must agree with you that Varian is more understandable in his hatred of the Horde than Garrosh is in his hatred of the Alliance.

      Yet, to be fair, though he did nothing to prevent it, the current tension between the factions isn’t Garrosh’s fault but that of some demon-allied traitors. Varian would have come to his decision to declare on the Horde one way or the other.


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