Last week we talked about the Titans, and how they helped to form the World of Azeroth. Today we are going to take a deep dive into the Titan’s avatars; the beings they created to carry out their will, and eventually left behind when they returned to the stars.
First things first, I need to address something I left out on the last podcast, which matters a surprising amount when we discuss the many races of Azeroth and how they came to be. That is, what the Titans, and their avatars, the Keepers, are made of.
Metal and stone.
My thought is that, since the titans were all once world-souls, when they are “born” their skin is made out of the crust or core of their planet. Some of the titans were platinum skinned and these were called the Aesir. Some of the titans were bronze skinned and these were called the Vanir. Their make-up tended to affect their personalities and their abilities. The Aesir were masters of storms and sea whereas the Vanir were masters of the earth.
Aman’Thul, Golganneth and Norgannon were Aesir titans. Aggramar, Eonar, Khaz’goroth and Sargeras were Vanir titans.
When the Titans created their avatars, later known as the Watchers and the Keepers of Azeroth, they made them aesir or vanir like themselves. The Keepers’ first job was to defeat the Old Gods and the Black Empire(which was made of all the Old Gods’ slave races). When the Keepers were sent to battle the Old Gods, they first had to defeat the elemental lords; Ragnaros, elemental lord of Fire, Al'akir, elemental Lord of Wind, Neptulon, elemental Lord of Water and Therazane, elemental Lord of Earth. The elementals had been defeated and enslaved by the Old Gods, when they first plummeted to Azeroth, and were forced to fight the Titans.
The Keepers decided to split up and take on each of the Elemental Lords separately. Keepers Ra, Thorim and Hodir, (created by the Aesir Titans, Golganneth and Aman’Thul) used their powers over the wind and storms to beat Al'akir on his own turf. Tyr and Odyn (created by Aggramar and Aman’Thul) battled Ragnaros for weeks. Kept safe from the power of his fire by their metallic skins they eventually overpowered him and won. Loken and Mimiron, (created by Norgannon) used all their cunning and magic to first freeze and then shatter the water elementals of Neptulon, before finally imprisoning him in enchanted shackles. Archaedas and Freya (Khaz'goroth and Eonar's avatars) were sent to battle Therazane who retreated to her great underground tower. Archaedas used his Earth magic to weaken the tower’s foundations and Freya used her magic to draw great roots out of the earth that pulled the tower down on Therazane’s head.
When all the Elemental Lords had been defeated, Ra and Helya, (Odyn’s adopted daughter and a great sorceress) created a prison called the Elemental Plane, and trapped the Lords and all their minions there. It is much like the Twisting Nether, it is another plane that the Elementals divided up into sections that they rule, as they also fight amongst themselves. Skywall, Deepholm, the Abyssal Maw and the Firelands.
After the Old Gods were defeated, and imprisoned deep beneath the crust of Azeroth, the Keepers created the two great machines, the Forge of Origination, and the Forge of Wills, to start rebuilding and strengthening Azeroth herself. They also used these forges to create more titan-forged, to replace those they had lost in the battles against the Black Empire and also to make more helpers to rebuild the war-torn world.
The Black Empire was not the only enemy the Keepers had to face. On Azeroth there also lived an enormous, colossal dragon called Galakrond (supposedly the progenitor of all dragons). At first they paid no heed to him, because they didn’t care very much about the natural life of Azeroth, caring more for the world-soul itself, but then Galakrond started acting strangely, eating his own kind with a ravenous hunger that could not be satisfied. Then the dead he had killed began to rise and serve him. Tyr, Aggramar’s avatar, noticed this abomination and unsuccessfully tried to draw his siblings’ attention to the threat. Failing in this he turned to the dragons themselves who were in the most danger from this monstrosity, and coordinated an attack with the leaders of the 5 coloured dragon-flights. The proto-dragons Alexstrasza, Malygos, Neltharion, Ysera and Nozdormu agreed to help him. Galakrond was defeated by their combined efforts, eventually choking to death on a combination of a huge rock they had forced down his throat, and one of his own un-dead he had eaten in his great hunger.
After this, Tyr spoke up for the dragons and convinced the other avatars to give them a portion of their power, so that they could defend Azeroth. They were made the Aspects, as many of the Keepers were impressed by their intelligence and cooperation. Except for Odyn. As the Prime Designate, he was the leader of the Keepers, and he forbade them from giving power to the dragons, saying that only the titan-forged were worthy of protecting the world-soul. Now this is just my speculation, but the aspects were already very different from their kind, even before they were changed by the titans’ power. Proto-dragons are feral ancestors of the dragons we know today, and they are nowhere near as intelligent. They are basically beasts. So something made them different, whether the world-soul Azeroth herself, Tyr messing with them or even the meddling of the Old Gods, something made them more intelligent.
Anyway, Odyn decided to create his own defenders of Azeroth, and that draws me neatly back to the creation of the titan-forged.
Using the Forge of Wills, the Keepers experimented with creating helpers using the crust of Azeroth and their magic.
First they made the stone troggs. It was a disaster. The troggs were vicious brutes capable of even cannibalism and the Keepers were horrified, still they didn’t have the heart to destroy their own creations so they imprisoned them in the vault of Uldaman in a kind of sleep stasis.
Their next attempt went better, they created the earthen; short and stocky, made out of the crust of Azeroth, they had a deep affinity to the earth and helped the keepers to form the mountains and tunnels and caverns.
Mimiron, also known as “The Grand Architect”, made the mechagnomes to help him maintain the keepers’ vast machinery and protect their knowledge, stored in vast libraries.
Odyn made the Vrykul. Huge human-like iron-skinned titan-forged they most closely resemble Vikings. Odyn created the vrykul to be a competitor to the Aspects. He wanted his vrykul to be the ultimate defenders of Azeroth and he had a master plan. First he raised up a portion of the titans’ city Ulduar into the sky and called it the Halls of Valor, then he told his vrykul that any warrior who proved themselves worthy and died gloriously in battle, would be carried to this city in the sky and be rewarded with a new storm-forged body of tremendous power and become the Valarjar. Odyn had one problem though, he needed some vrykul to volunteer to die, and become undead Val’kyr that would ferry the fallen souls of heroes to the Halls of Valor. Odyn’s adopted daughter, Helya, spoke out against his plan and was punished by becoming the first of the val’kyr, against her will. So the iron-vrykul, the valarjar and the val’kyr are creations of Odyn, in his plan to supplant the Aspects and fulfill his mythos.
Along with the vrykul, the Tol’vir were also created as warriors to protect the titans’ creations. Now these are the cards in Hearthstone that look like egyptian statues; Obsidian Destroyer, Mirage Caller, Tol’vir Stoneshaper, Tol’vir Warden, Obsidian Statue and Sunkeeper Tarim.
Vrykul art is a little harder to find, whereas we have quite a few val'kyr cards. The art of the card Hyldnir Frostrider represents a clan of all-female blue-skinned frost-vrykul that ride warbears into battle and are found in Northrend in WoW. Vryghoul and Corpse Raiser show art of undead vrykul, and Eydis Darkbane and Fjola Lightbane are perfect examples of val’kyr art.
Earthen can be found in the adventure portion of League of Explorers where they are uncollectible cards used by the bosses. Earthen Pursuer, Earthen Statue and the spell, Animate Earthen, all have art featuring earthen. (incidentally, Archaedas, one of the Keepers is also a boss in LoE and Keeper of Uldaman is actually Ironaya, a titan watcher who protects the titans’ secrets in Uldaman.)
Rock-trogg art is pretty much only Troggzor the Earthinator because the rest are normal troggs after the curse of flesh. Tunnel Trogg and Burgly Bully maybe being the most well known.
Back to the tol’vir, these titan-forged protectors went with Highkeeper Ra to the southern part of Azeroth with the Anubisaths and the Mogu to protect the Forge of Origination and the knowledge of the titans. So as the tol’vir have cat bodies and centaur-like human torsos and cat heads and claws, the anubisaths are jackal-headed giants made of obsidian, much like the Egyptian god Anubis. (Anubisath Sentinel)
The Mogu were made to dig out the water-ways and rivers of the world and they live in Pandaria. (Mogu’shan Warden, Jade Chieftain, Kun the Forgotten King and aaaaaalllllll the jade golems.)
Lastly, although not necessarily chronologically last, we have the giants. The Sea giants, Stone Giants, Frost Giants, Iron Giants, Fire Giants and Storm Giants were all titan-forged creations made to help the keepers in their different fields.
Now here’s where the Old Gods come into the story again. Imprisoning them did not stop their attempts to corrupt and manipulate their enemies, but they found it was very hard to influence the titan-forged. Although they are not exactly robots, they also don’t have many passions or desires. Being made by the Keepers for a purpose they are usually very steadfast in the performance of their duties. So the Old Gods, specifically Yogg-Saron, created the Curse of Flesh. As all the titan-forged were made of different kinds of metal and stone they were very hard to damage, and could carry out their duties without getting weak or tired. The Curse of Flesh changed all that. Yogg-Saron waited until the Pantheon was gone, until they were dead, and he felt the shock of their passing reverberate through the Keepers, and then he struck. He corrupted the Forge of Wills, through which all the titan-forged are made, and so strong was the curse that it even began to change those who had come before.
The Earthen became the Dwarves, the Mechagnomes became the Gnomes, the rock-troggs became flesh and so did the Tol’vir, the Mogu and the Vrykul. And that, is where humans in WoW come from.
Now each of the titan-forged that underwent these transformations reacted to it in different ways. Pretty much all of them were not happy about it, and the Keepers were really unhappy.
In WoW the Old Gods stand on one side of the scale as beings of Chaos, of Darkness, Corruption and Fear. Also called The Void. The Titans, the Pantheon, stood against them as beings of Order, of Rules, and Temperance and Law. The Curse of Flesh made beings that were both, dark and light, order and chaos, the races of Azeroth were just as likely to fight the Old Gods, as to join them. Even though they were mortal and could bleed and die, they also had passion, dreams, ambition, courage, resolve, heroism. So while the Old Gods succeeded in making the titan-forged more vulnerable, they ultimately created their own doom, as the many races of Azeroth have succeeded where the Titans themselves failed, and have defeated several Old Gods already. (although since they can be resurrected, this is a not a case where they will never be seen or heard from again, Dark cults are always trying to raise them).