Whew. The history of the night elves is probably one of the most complicated pieces of Warcraft history created, spanning thousands of years with a huge cast of characters. There was no possible way to touch on them all, so I tried to keep it brief – and even brief, it was still incredibly long.
The Night Elves are members of the Alliance, and many view them as Good Guys, intent on protecting Azeroth and keeping it from harm under the charge of the Dragonflights. Let’s address some common thoughts about Night Elves:
1. Night Elves are good! They’re druids and they protect the planet!
Well…sorta. They do NOW – after having learned a valuable lesson. But in the process of learning that lesson, the world was ripped apart. And while the explosion was because of trying to prevent actions that the quel’dorei had set into motion, it was ultimately a druid that ripped the planet into pieces. Was there any other way? It’s…doubtful. The Burning Legion is a pretty badass bunch of characters, and it takes a lot to defeat them – or it did then. …now you just need seven or so level 80’s to click some rocks and beat the stuffing out of a pit lord, and about that many to go make Archimonde your personal punching bag. But back then? Ooo. Bad. Bad bad bad.
2. Illidan Stormrage was a hero!
Um…well, no. I think what can be best extrapolated from the events of the Sundering is that Illidan was a powerful sorcerer, perhaps greater than Malfurion in power. But he was also an emo little kid who got really pissed off when things didn’t go his way and he didn’t get the girl. Almost everything he did, every action he took was to impress Tyrande and make her his own – and when that failed, he faltered. I suppose you could say Illidan’s greatest weakness at that point was love. Awww…poor kid.
3. Malfurion Stormrage was a hero!
Yeah, I think you could safely say that one, save the bit about blowing up the world. But even then, he was doing what he had to do to drive the forces of the Burning Legion away. The difference between Malfurion and Illidan is that while Illidan did everything for selfish reasons, Malfurion did everything for his people, and with his people’s best interests at heart. That’s why Tyrande loved the guy – he was a squishy softy at heart who wanted nothing more than peace and happiness for the kaldorei, and he would do anything to achieve that, even if it meant sacrificing himself in the process.
4. Tyrande was a…well man, Tyrande was just sort of there, wasn’t she.
Yeah. Yeah she was, wasn’t she? She was just kind of there, bein’ all winsome and powerful and Elunetastic. Unfortunately there are very few female characters in Warcraft that don’t end up one of two things: 1. Corrupt, 2. The Divine Object Of Someone’s Affections. Tyrande? Love interest. Sylvanas? Corrupt. Lady Prestor? Oh totally corrupt. Vereesa Windrunner? Baby cannon. The list goes on.
I think we can safely say that the bread vendor in Ironforge is neither of these things, although I don’t know, the way she looks at you if you pass by her wares is a little menacing.
5. The Night Elves are way better than the High Elves!
Here’s the thing. The two races are one and the same. They evolved from the same people, crafted in Elune’s image. The Night Elves took to only coming out at night and avoiding the sun, choosing instead to scamper around by the light of Elune, the Moon, The Goddess of Peace and Basic Campfires. This led to the dark skin, glowy white moonlike eyes, and ability to hide awfully well in the shadows. The High Elves on the other hand decided the Well of Eternity was a better prospect than Elune, and used it not only at night, but during the day – bleaching their dark skin pale in the process, the Well’s energies imbuing their eyes with a different sort of glow altogether. Azshara? Oh she was a quel’dorei all right, but she was definitely a night elf – she never went out in the sun if she could avoid it, and thus retained the darker skin of her kaldorei brethren. While it could be argued that the High Elves are indeed the nastier cousins of the kaldorei, the possibility exists for a night elf to become just as corrupt as the high elves are. All it takes is power and the drive for more of it.
6. The Night Elves are way better than those filthy orcs!
Well…yes and no. Look at orc history, then look at night elf history. In both, you have one person revered above all – in the orcs case Ner’zhul, in the night elves case Azshara. Both people are really, really, really obsessed with power. Both people are contacted by the Burning Legion, and both end up nearly ruining their entire race because of it. The key difference here is motive.
Ner’zhul did it because he wanted power, but also because he was concerned for the safety of his people and thought that the draenei were going to wipe the orcs out. A few lines of misinformation. His actions were bad, but his intentions were good – and once he discovered the true nature of the Great One, he tried to turn his people around, but it was too late. Gul’dan on the other hand was a greedy power-hungry little snot that wanted moremoremore, and unfortunately Ner’zhul had already set the stepping-stones in place for Gul’dan to take over in one fell swoop.
Azshara had nothing but her own intentions in mind at the start. She urged the Highborne to play with the Well of Eternity to further strengthen her power. She wasn’t even under the Burning Legion’s influence when she decided that killing off all ‘impure’ elves was a fantastic idea. When contacted by Sargeras, she was immediately consumed with thoughts of being the consort of a god, and didn’t much care that the god’s arrival caused thousands of her beloved followers to die. When confronted with the true nature of what lie beyond the portal, she was fascinated, and thought the demons were delightful, if a little brutish.
Now both races had a faction split happen – the night elves split from the quel’dorei, and the orcs…well we haven’t gotten QUITE that far into their history yet, but suffice it to say the orcs that decided drinking Mannoroth’s blood was a really bad idea turned out to be a decent enough sort.
The main difference between orcs and night elves seems to be that in the night elves case, more of the decent people lived than bad. In the orcs case, more of the bad people lived than good. It’s a simple matter of balance, and I don’t think that one can really call one side better or worse than the other.
And that’s it for Night Elves! Tune in next week for more Lore History – I’ll be taking a look at those lovable moocows, the Tauren!