The Light is actually one of the Elements (a theory)

Let's talk about the Light.

There was an interesting discussion on Vidyala's Livestream yesterday about the social stigma and scorn a Draenei shaman would be subjected to for favoring the Elements over the Light. Apparently Draenei society views shamanism as heretical and blasphemous, since the Light is such a focal point of their culture and history.

This got me thinking about a theory I've been contemplating for a while now, and I think those scoffing, disdainful Draenei looking down on their shaman kin are absolutely wrong.

I think the Light IS an Element.

Sounds silly at first glance, doesn't it? After all, the Light is this holy, divine power capable of miracles. It represents goodness, benevolence, purity. It burns demons, it destroys undead, it heals and calms the mortal soul. Paladins and priests would protest that their beloved Light is nothing like the primal, capricious Elements whose powers are untamed and unregulated (naysayers would say savage).

But are they really that different?

Like the Elements, the Light isn't "Good"

Followers of the Light pray and speak to the Light as a sentient presence - not "God" as we know the term, but a specific, conscious entity nonetheless. They ask it for guidance, for strength, they beg it for power in times of need. These prayers are usually followed by some logic that the Light will answer them for justice, or because they are good people, or because it's simply the right thing to do.

I disagree. I don't believe the Light is inherently "good" at all, and I don't think your morals or code of ethics matter to it in the slightest. Just like the Elements, as long as you revere and worship the Light appropriately, it doesn't care who you are, what you're using its power for, or even if you're still alive.

Let's first look at the clearly-defined neutrality of the Elements. There are many generic examples of shaman using their powers for evil deeds, but one very noteworthy recent example is Magatha Grimtotem. Rotten to the core, Magatha clearly has full use of her Shamanistic powers during her sinister coup against Cairne's people. Her evil plan is one of murder, deception and betrayal, but to the Elements, it's all irrelevant. All that matters to them is if she still worships them loyally. Magatha does, so she retains her powers. Simple as that.

As for the Light, how about the Scarlet Crusade? They're prejudiced and hateful, they murder their own brethren, and they work for demons (though unknowingly). They're really just a cult of fanatics. But they worship the Light with zeal, so the Light rewards these terrible people with all the divine might and healing they desire - even resurrection.

"Arise, my champion!"

Hell, in Cataclysm the Crusade have mostly perished and risen as sentient undead (not Forsaken, but not Scourge? It's kinda strange). Even in this state, the Light still willingly assists them not because they are champions of goodness - far from it - but because they are still faithful.

I suppose you could argue that the Crusade isn't necessarily *evil* as much as they are misguided and/or misled. Okay. What's the reasoning behind the Neferset Tol'vir, then?

"Beacons of light, bestow upon me your aegis!"

These allies of Deathwing (ALLIES. OF. DEATHWING.) utilize powerful Light-based abilities; High Prophet Barim uses Heaven's Fury, Repentance, and Hallowed Ground (which deals Holy damage), while Temple Guardian Anhuur unleashes Divine Reckoning, Reverberating Hymn and Searing Light upon adventurers, while protecting himself with Shield of Light.

Good, Evil...the Light could care less. As long as you honor it, its power is yours. It's like some kind of mystical mercenary.

Like the Elements, the Light demands loyalty

We've seen that both the Light and the Elements treat their loyal followers very well, granting them powers of destruction, healing, and even resurrection. But what happens if you end up on their bad side?

The Elements are notoriously volatile, and almost child-like in their desires to be honored and respected. Should one of their followers anger them or fail to show them the proper respect, they have no qualms about taking back their power and abandoning the offender. This is why shaman gently ask the Elements to lend them their power, with humble hearts and on proverbial bended knee.

In the novel Leader of the Clans, the shaman Drek'Thar tells Thrall that he once requested the Elements' aid to avenge his fallen family, but the elements, while sympathetic, would not lend him their strength. The outraged Drek'Thar then demanded that they obey him. Angered at his arrogance, the elements stripped him of their power for a short time until he was properly repentant.

Paladins and priests maintain their connection to the Light through faith rather than humility, but just like shaman, they pray and beg for their power. Paladins in particular are always asking the Light to grant them strength, or to give them courage, or whatever.

"Light, grant me one final blessing. Give me the strength to shatter these bonds!"

What happens when one of the devout loses their faith and stops believing and/or trusting in the Light? Just like Drek'Thar, they lose their powers. The most noteworthy example of this is Arthas. When he began his slow descent into madness and evil, he notices his ability to wield the Light weakening as he starts to lose himself in his questionable actions. Instead of recognizing his faltering faith and begging the Light for forgiveness, he tells himself that he doesn't need the Light, and pushes on without it. Consequently, the Light withdraws from him and abandons him to his terrible fate.

On the other hand, the undead Sir Zeliek in Naxxramas is the polar opposite. Fully enthralled by the Lich King in body but not in mind or soul, Zeliek's indomitable faith in the Light persists, and as a result, he is still able to employ fearsome Light-based powers against his foes - much to his regret. Similarly, many Forsaken who were followers of the Light in life felt betrayed and bitter about their tragic fate, and rejected their former beliefs, believing that the Light failed them. However, some Forsaken still trust in the Light and worship it dutifully, and are still able to channel its power, though the very act of doing so causes them pain.

The Light can be a powerful ally and companion, but turn your back on it or overstep your boundaries and it will discard you like an old shoe. During the Crusader Bridenbrad questline, the Naaru A'dal says that "The Light does not abandon its champions." Well A'dal, you're a nice talking chandelier and all, but you're wrong. The Light WILL abandon you, and it won't even think twice about it.

Speaking of the Naaru...

The Naaru are NOT the Light

Some of the most powerful champions of the Light are the Naaru. These mysterious aliens are innately attuned and connected to the Light, and possess the ability to bestow the knowledge and power of the Light upon those they deem worthy, such as Velen. At other times, they display power beyond that of normal mortals, such as when they intervene to prevent Bridenbrad from rising as undead.

Many people assume that these displays of power indicate that the Naaru are godly creatures, or even personifications of the Light itself. I doubt it. Oh they're powerful, no doubt, and are definitely capable of incredible supernatural feats. But so are the Elemental Furies found at the Throne of the Elements in Nagrand. We first met them in a few Nagrand quests, and again later in The Shattering novel, where Thrall asks the Furies for guidance and assistance. Just as the Naaru seem to be attuned to the Light, so too do the Furies seem attuned to their respective Elements. For example, Gordawg, the Fury of Earth, is able to tell Thrall much about Azeroth's troubled earth elementals by simply ingesting a stone from Azeroth.

I see the Naaru and the Furies as kindred spirits. They're champions of their respective power sources, a step above ordinary mortals, and can tap into the Light/the Elements to do wonderful things. But they're not omniscient and all-powerful - they still draw their power from more powerful entities, just as paladins and shaman do.

Unlike the Light itself, I think the Naaru really are good, benevolent creatures. They seem to genuinely care about mortals and do their best to help them against the forces of evil.

"Light Within Darkness" - WoW Trading Card Game

Take Bridenbrad, for example. It's true that A'dal likely used his/her/its considerable Light powers to save the paladin from an awful fate. But that's because A'dal wanted this - NOT the Light. Just because A'dal is a good being doesn't make its chosen medium of power good by association. The Light is neutral; a tool. A sword wielded by an evil demon is not itself evil just because its bearer is. And neither is the Naaru's implement - the Light - inherently good simply because A'dal and his kin are.

Devotees of the Light and of the primal Elements are often at odds over their beliefs and theological traditions, but they really do have a lot in common. Temperamental, unaligned, and demanding - the Light would fit perfectly into Azeroth's Elemental cosmology.

10 Responses Subscribe to comments

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    Paladins in particular are always asking the Light to grant them strength, or to give them courage, or whatever.

    Gee, you make us seem so.... well.... petty. It's not like we're asking for male enhancement or winning the lottery or to go on Jerry Springer. :-P

    Unlike the Light itself, I think the Naaru really are good, benevolent creatures. They seem to genuinely care about mortals and do their best to help them against the forces of evil.

    WoW developers have said in the past that the Naaru are the WoW-verse equivalent of angels, and viewing them from that prism, I can see that easily. What I wonder about are where the Old Gods fit in with the nature of things. Sure, they're evil and rotten to the core, so why hasn't Sargeras hooked up with them or put them in the position where the Eredar currently are? Is it more like "Hell's afraid I'll take over?"

    February 1, 2011 at 3:42 PM

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    This is an awesome post.
    Really, really enjoyed reading it.
    Thank you :)

    February 2, 2011 at 12:02 AM

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    How does the Shadow fit into all of this? I've never been quite clear on shadow's relationship to light in the Warcraft universe.

    February 2, 2011 at 6:06 AM

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    Interesting, I've never really looked at the Shaman - Paladin relationship. But I think this should come up again in one of my fanfics.


    February 2, 2011 at 6:09 AM

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    I always felt the light was on equal footing with the elements. I guess the main reason was because I wanted an Undead Paladin and never really thought the reasoning behind the Undead not having Paladins was a good one.

    Loved the post and it gives me a lot to ponder one.

    February 2, 2011 at 12:42 PM

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    I'd never thought of it that way, but it makes a great deal of sense to do so. What about the Arcane? I've always been intrigued by what the Mage trainers in the Exodar say: "We practicioners of the arcane and elemental ways follow a neverending path of discovery. Is that why you seek my counsel?" This implies that perhaps the Mages are less bothered by the Shamans than are the Priests and Paladins.

    February 3, 2011 at 2:05 PM

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    Thanks for the comments all, glad you found the topic interesting. :D

    @Red - I don't think the Old Gods are very keen on teaming up with anyone else, even if their goals to coincide quite nicely. I think they think of themselves as godly and probably wouldn't stoop to allying with anyone "beneath" them - which is to say, everyone else in existence. Just my basic impression, anyway.

    @Anon - the interesting. I think it is essentially the same as the Light - a morally neutral power, like the Elements - and shares an inverse relationship with the Light as polar opposites, much as Fire/Water do. I also think that Shadow isn't evil so much as it simply is the reverse of natural energy or life. You could almost compare Shadow to Death, in that Death itself isn't evil, but simply an unfortunate component of mortality.

    However, this does bring up interesting questions pertaining to those that tend to use Shadow - mainly, many demons and other evil entities. Perhaps they simply find it synergistic to their goals, that of snuffing out life? /shrugs

    @Kamalia - To me, arcane magic has always seemed "scientific" in that its practitioners possess its power through their own hard work and study. Where followers of the Light/the Elements have cooperative relationships with their powers, mages have no such symbiotic relationship - their power is entirely theirs and theirs alone. In this sense, I think they'd have absolutely no problem with Shaman or Priests/Paladins, because they're completely disinterested in those classes' belief systems, just like a rogue or warrior wouldn't care either.

    February 3, 2011 at 7:13 PM

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    A great and interesting write-up, Rades! and indeed, I'd say from any more philosophical standpoint, any kind of "purity" must be evil, it takes balance between extremes for harmony. the light needs darkness to hold it in check, just like all elements need to be in balance with others. many a man might call himself a 'servant of the light' or 'serving the good cause' in self-righteousness, being no different from any other wrongdoer.

    I never liked the Paladin's classic pathos in games for this reason. they're usually presented as blind followers of some religious dogma. they're no different from any other interest group - evil are always 'the others'.

    I also find the fact that 'holy' is a school of magic in WoW and yet isn't counted among the other 4 elements, rather peculiar. as far as I know it's a reason why paladins were always considered OP in PVP for example. I don't know what this is based on in WoW and why that would be smart move - but it definitely seems the light holds a special status in the game?

    February 4, 2011 at 5:11 AM

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    Satin Russell

    This post is amazing and such a good point! I have to agree with you, I've always seen the Light as more of an element than a representation of "good, pure, right and benevolence."

    I think there is a lot of correlation between this concept in game and the world in general.

    There are so many different cultures and people who believe their God is the one true God. How can they all be right, and yet still manage to be so different? What's more, those differences tend to create friction and war between the various factions.

    Not to get to deep into philosophy (because it can be a touchy subject) but that's also how I see faith and a higher power in real life, too.

    February 5, 2011 at 10:39 AM

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    Just as a comment to those talking about Shadow as the inverse to Light: It isn't. The inverse of Light is Darkness, which is what is typically talked about with Scourge and Necromancers. However, the Cult of the Forgotten Shadow, which arose among the Forsaken, is not the inverse of the Light. Instead, it is the perversion of it. They don't completely revoke the ideals of the Light, but instead twist them.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:16 PM