With ‘The Shattering’ under our belt, my fiancee and I have been reading ‘Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects’ by Christie Golden. We’ve also kept up to date on the in-game storytelling surrounding Thrall, former Warchief of the Horde, and the various dragonflights fighting for (or against) Azeroth’s survival.
Something that has come up, and keeps coming up, is Thrall’s “real name” — that being Go’el. This was first revealed to us by Greatmother Geyah in Nagrand back in ‘The Burning Crusade.’ Now, it has become a topic of intense discussion when concerning our Warchief. Aggra, a female orc assigned to further Thrall’s training as a shaman seems to be spearheading an effort to have him fully adopt his ‘real name’ and ‘become who he truly is.’
I’m going to point out why this is a load of hogwash.
What is Go’el
So, what precisely is “Go’el” to Thrall? Or to the orcish people as a whole? In a word, it is nothing. We have been given absolutely no history on what this name represents, aside from the fact that Durotan and Draka, Thrall’s parents, wished this to be their son’s name. This was communicated to the Mag’har orcs of Nagrand before Durotan and his still-pregnant mate stepped through the Dark Portal to Azeroth.
To our knowledge, Go’el was not a great ancestor — shaman or otherwise — and there is no legacy for one bearing such name to live up to.
Who is Go’el
Aggra continuously pushes Thrall to discard his chosen name and take up the moniker of Go’el. I say “chosen name” because although Blackmoore named the orcling he discovered ‘Thrall,’ that same orc chose to continue using this name even after being freed from slavery. I say “moniker of Go’el” because, well… I will explain. Read on.
We all know what a “thrall” is — that is, a slave. Any dictionary will tell you that. However, Thrall the orc is something far, far greater than that. He is the most powerful shaman on Azeroth. He is a savior of his people. He is the rightful Warchief of the Horde. He is a blood-brother to Cairne. He is many things, and he is not a slave. His acts have served to effectively redefine what this word means for the orcish people, and the Horde as a whole, and he has done his great deeds while bearing this name.
I posit this: all that Thrall has done has made him Thrall. He is a sum of his experiences, his triumphs and his shortcomings.
So then, who is Go’el? I’ll say it again: Go’el is simply a moniker. It is nothing. Divesting himself of the name Thrall to “become Go’el” — or to go so far as to say “I’ve been a thrall, a slave, to my past” — is to devalue everything that has brought him to this point and made him the orc he is today. Becoming Go’el amounts to tabula rasa. For Aggra to pressure him toward this change comes off as her wanting to love something he is not, something for all intents and purposes undefined.
Perhaps she is attempting to mold him into something “properly orcish” rather than any attempt to get him to embrace “what he truly is.” To her, that is “Go’el.” A Mag’har orc of the traditional style. if so, does she love what Thrall is, right now, or does she love an idea of what she’d like him to be? Who is she to say what he truly is? Nothing is written anywhere. There is no decree by his people or his parents that he must not be Warchief and instead be a shaman, or that he must be this Go’el and not Thrall.
Thrall is what he is. And that is Thrall, not Go’el.
A Sense of Duty
Something we’re seeing early on in ‘Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects’ is Aggra’s notion of Thrall being a slave to the Horde and his duties there. I have to wonder what this woman is thinking. A slave to the Horde? Thrall stepped up and made the Horde what it was. Do you know why? Because he had to. No one else was willing or capable at the time. And you know what? He loves the Horde.
Does that make him a slave to it? Aggra’s approach seems to be likening Thrall’s desire to see his people safe and peaceful to forced servitude. I suppose her alternative would be to have Thrall slough off his duties there and do what he pleases. I’m sorry, but heroes do not do as they please — they’re heroes because they do what is necessary. Often, that means sacrifice. And often, that means they are alone and yes, even unhappy, but they continue on because they know they are the man or woman for the job, and what they’re doing is right. They stand out, because the easy thing to do — what many average, sensible people would do — is to look out only for themselves and those very close to them, no one else.
This conviction can also make a truly interesting villain. Thankfully, Thrall’s sense of what is right is not self-conceived, but is in line with what is truly good and right.
Aggra & the Concept of an Orcish Mate
I don’t know what to think of Aggralan of the Frostwolves. I want to believe she has Thrall’s best interest at heart, but she demonstrates that she has no idea what that is. Rather, she is trying to move Thrall to become what she believes he should be.
Initially, the separation between what Thrall is and what she’d prefer him to be was more stark. We had less details. The storytellers then opted to steer us toward the Aggra Concept of Go’el by giving us glimpses of Thrall’s fears, desires, and doubts through the Elemental Bonds questline in Patch 4.2. Here, we were shown that Thrall apparently does desire A) a mate, B) a family, and C) to lay down his arms and have peace with his enemies. There has been little to no mention of any of this prior to patch 4.2. Yes, that’s 6+ years of Thrall without any such in-depth exploration of his character.
I’ll give the storytellers credit for filling in the blanks here. Until now, we’ve never had a window into Thrall’s soul. Anything we assumed was just that, an assumption. Now, those assumptions may have been well-founded given the character Thrall demonstrated, his deeds and actions, but in the end they remained conjecture.
However, I feel as if the storytellers are changing Thrall’s inner self to be more in line with what Aggra desires, simply to justify her consistent badgering of him to “become Go’el.” Would someone who founded the Horde and led it through thick and thin still desire life’s little pleasures above a want for his nation to be secure? I’ll even go as far as to ask this: would an orc who has lived Thrall’s life even desire an orcish mate?
‘Twilight of the Aspects’ touches on the rumors of Thrall’s assignations with Jaina and Taretha, two human women who have affected his life greatly. Apparently, Thrall’s contemporaries speak of this when he isn’t around, and she brings it to his attention early on in the book. Naturally, he becomes irritated by this. And with good reason. Aggra does not agree with the rumors, though her wording, her delivery of the information, comes off as her baiting him with the possibility of her buying in to such talk. So, he snaps at her.
And yes, the two women involved in Thrall’s life to this point have been human. Taretha was a friend to him during his slavery, and ultimately affected his freedom before her tragic execution. Jaina assisted Thrall and Cairne in their campaign during the events of Warcraft III and continues to communicate with the Warchief to this day. I’ll make something clear: in neither situation did Thrall seek out a human woman for companionship, but rather they crossed paths and became fellows.
Now, it is not unreasonable for Thrall’s friends and constituents to want him to settle down with a proper orc woman. However, it is unreasonable to expect him to do so. Thrall is not your typical orc. He’s certainly not your typical Mag’har orc, though Aggra seems to wish to change that. He’s not going to bonk a suitable mate over the head and drag her back to his cave (no, this isn’t Mag’har customs, I’m simply using a convenient metaphor), because he hasn’t been raised around that behavior. He was raised around humans. When he finally reached orc-kind, they were suffering from a malaise and withdrawal from demonic powers — very few of them were still in line with old traditions, especially after fighting for years at the Burning Legion’s behest.
To think Thrall will just wake up one day and become a proper orcish man is a real pie in the sky. And strangely enough, Christie Golden touches on this — whether it is intentional or not — in the book, when Aggra confronts Thrall with these rumors. He states that he thought Aggra would “stand by him and support him” (paraphrasing) rather than challenge him. That is a very human concept of spousal support right there. Orcish women seem less likely to support their mate if they disagree with them, but instead will speak their mind and yes, challenge them. As Aggra has done, and continues to do.
So, I’ll again giving credit to the storytellers here on their very basic character bulletpoints. Aggra is opinionated and she’s going to speak her mind. And, again, whether this was intended or not, it seems Thrall’s concept of a mate is someone who support him, especially in a troubled time, which jives with his lack of exposure to truly orcish relationship concepts.
Overall, I’m not displeased by this storytelling — provided the storytellers are aware of exactly how their characters are coming across to the readers. Aggra definitely seems to be an orc woman on a mission, and that is to affect a great change in Thrall. The storytellers seem to lend their approval to this, even if it is tacit approval at times, by slowly nudging Thrall toward what she desires of him. Deus ex machina allows them to tweak his innermost desires to be in line with her own. This is a place where I could call foul, because it seems very, very convenient for them to do so. As a storyteller myself, I believe a character like Thrall may well have his sense of duty eschew all else, because it is one thing that he has possessed all this time — while a wife and children remained distant from him, a dream.
One could argue then, that having Aggra thrust upon him (and she was, in ‘The Shattering’) provided hope for those dreams to become reality. And yes, you’re right. It is possible. However, I wonder then if the story progressing naturally… are these events simply complementary to Thrall’s desires, or has there been more shuffling and retooling behind the scenes? One could liken it to having a few seasons of their favorite television series progress a certain way, but then a writer gets the notion to add “a love interest” and suddenly well-established plot and character points start to be twisted and turned about to support this new character and their relationship to ongoing events.
In other words… does this relationship between Thrall and Aggra feel forced? Yes. To a degree, it does. It came on very suddenly, like many other changes to the World of Warcraft universe with the advent of the Cataclysm. It seems as though the Blizzard story team said “we need more story, and we need it now!” In comes Garrosh Hellscream, the death of Cairne, political upheaval in the Horde, Sylvanas inching toward becoming the new Lich King (Queen?), the Council of the Three Hammers, more Varian Wrynn hijinks, and so on, so forth.
Story is good. Story for the sake of adding story, however, may not be.