Why do people blame Garrosh for Cairne's death?

When it was announced that Garrosh would be the final raid boss of Mists of Pandaria, the Garrosh-hatred started up anew, and I couldn't help but notice how many people still blamed Garrosh for the death of Cairne Bloodhoof.

These people are wrong.

Let's take a look at this incident, shall we? Let's try to narrow down why Garrosh might be at fault or to blame for the death of the beloved Old Bull.

Because Garrosh poisoned his axe and cheated!

Wrong. This is perhaps the most egregious, incorrect assumption about Cairne's death you can possibly have. Garrosh did NOT poison his axe. Magatha Grimtotem did, because she wanted Cairne dead, and she saw Garrosh as a convenient tool for accomplishing this. Garrosh did not know she was going to do this, and was OUTRAGED when he found out, because her interference had deprived him of an honorable victory. And this is important to point out - Garrosh would RATHER have lost and died in an honorable bout than win/survive through treacherous means.

This isn't just a Garrosh fan's opinion, either. It's canon. It's in the freaking book.

Garrosh was starting to grow angry. "Out with it!" he growled. "What are you trying to say? Are you saying I did not win this fight fairly? Would I have let him give me these wounds had I been attempting to cheat?"

"No. I do not think you fought dishonorably. But I believe someone did." Eitrigg extended a gnarled finger and pointed at Gorehowl. "You received a shamanic blessing with sacred oil on your blade."

"So did Cairne. So does everyone who chooses to fight in the mak'gora," Garrosh said. "It’s part of it. That is not dishonorable!" He was starting to raise his voice, and a strange emotion was churning inside him. Was it—fear?

"Look at the color of the oil," Eitrigg said. "It is black and sticky. No—in the ancestors’ names, do not touch it!"

Most of the blade that had taken Cairne Bloodhoof’s life was coated with dried blood. But in one small spot along the edge, Garrosh could now see a tacky-looking, black substance that did not in any way resemble the golden, glistening oil with which blades were usually anointed.

"Who blessed Gorehowl, Garrosh Hellscream? Who blessed the axe that slew Cairne Bloodhoof?" Eitrigg’s voice held anger, but it was not directed at Garrosh.

A sick feeling twisted Garrosh’s gut. "Magatha Grimtotem," he said, his voice a hoarse whisper.

"It was not your skill in battle that killed your opponent. It was the poison of an evil schemer who sought to destroy an adversary and used you, like a pawn, to do so. Do you know what has happened in Thunder Bluff? While you were out celebrating?"

Garrosh did not want to hear. He stared at the blade, but Eitrigg pressed on.

"Grimtotem assassins have taken over Thunder Bluff, Bloodhoof Village, and other tauren strongholds. The teachers, the powerful shaman, and druids and warriors—all dead. Innocent tauren slaughtered in their sleep. Baine Bloodhoof is missing and is probably dead, too. Blood pours from a peaceful city, because you were too full of pride to notice what was happening literally right in front of your eyes!"

Garrosh had been listening in increasing horror, and now he bellowed, "Enough! Silence, old one!" They stood there staring at one another.

And then something broke in Garrosh. "She robbed me of my honor," he said quietly. "She took my kill from me. I will never know now if I would have been strong enough to defeat Cairne Bloodhoof in a fair fight. Eitrigg, you must believe me!"

For the first time that night, the old orc’s eyes held a glimmer of sympathy. "I do, Garrosh. No one has ever questioned your honor in battle. If Cairne knew what was happening to him as he died, I believe he knew you were not to blame. But know that doubt has been sown here tonight. Doubt that you fought fairly—and they are speaking of it, in hushed whispers. Not everyone is as understanding as I and Cairne Bloodhoof."

Garrosh stared again at the blood- and poison-coated weapon he bore. Magatha had stolen his honor. Had stolen his respect in the eyes of the Horde he so loved. She had used him, used Gorehowl, too, a weapon his father had once wielded. It had been coated with poison, the coward’s weapon. It, too, had been dishonored. And Magatha, in performing such a base, deceitful act, had spat in the face of her shamanic traditions. And Eitrigg was telling him that there were some who believed he would willingly be involved in this?
-The Shattering

Because Garrosh challenged Cairne to a duel!

Wrong. Garrosh didn't start the duel - CAIRNE did. If you blame anyone for the duel happening, it's Cairne, not Garrosh. Now, it's true that Garrosh did up the ante of the duel, making it to the death. And it's also true that Cairne had good intentions behind the challenge. But these do not change the simple fact that Garrosh did NOT initiate things - it was all Cairne.

Besides, when Garrosh changed the stakes and made the duel to the death, Cairne was perfectly fine with this. He even laughed about it! No, the duel was not some malicious, devious act by Garrosh. Both parties were entirely willing.

Because Garrosh was going to kill Cairne in the duel anyway, with or without poison!

Uh, yeah? That's kind of the point of a duel to the death. And Cairne was willing to kill Garrosh, as well. If you view "willing to kill his opponent in a death duel" as a negative trait, then that's fine, but just be aware that you have to apply it to BOTH participants, not just Garrosh.

This is a non-factor. Both Garrosh and Cairne were on the same page here.

Let's put it another way. Let's take the poison out of the equation completely, and now what happens? If Garrosh wins and kills Cairne, is he still a "murderer" for the act? Do you still think he's committed some criminal act? Well what if Cairne had won? Would he be a murderer, or a hero in your eyes?

You can't have it both ways. They both agreed upon the duel, and whoever survived was not going to be a hero or a murderer. They would have simply been the victor. People are letting their personal like/dislike for the combatants color their opinion about what the incident really was - a mutual, agreed-upon duel to the death, tainted by Magatha's interference.

Because Garrosh's stubbornness caused the duel!

Nope. When Cairne storms into Grommash Hold and starts yelling at Garrosh over the Ashenvale druid deaths, Garrosh is bewildered and immediately proclaims his innocence. And he IS innocent, remember! We know this, but Cairne does not.

Does Cairne listen to what Garrosh says, though? Does he stop to listen to Garrosh's entirely-reasonable (and true) protests?

No. He slaps Garrosh in the face.

"It was you who attacked the Sentinels in Ashenvale, wasn’t it?" Cairne cried, moving forward to where the orc stood clenching his brown fists. "And it was you who authorized the mass slaughter of nearly a dozen druids of the Cenarion Circle, gathering together to achieve a peaceful solution to the needs of the Horde."

Disbelief and then fury crossed Garrosh’s face. "What in the names of the ancestors are you talking about? How dare you accuse me of such despicable acts?"

Cairne snorted. "Garrosh, you have been open in your contempt of a treaty agreed to with honor and in good faith, and of Thrall’s so-called appeasement of the Alliance."

"Yes! I do despise this appeasement. But I would not sneak around the treaty! I would be proud of any attack on the Alliance I authorized! I would shout it from the rooftops to prove to the Horde that all is not lost! The honor of the Horde—"

"How can you even utter that word?" growled Cairne. "Honor? Even now, you lie, Garrosh. You have not the honor of a centaur. At least admit what you have done. Own your foolish, selfish choices!"

Garrosh suddenly grew cold. "You are an idiot to think me a schemer. Age has addled your wits. Because of the esteem in which Thrall inexplicably holds you, I shall ignore your prattlings as that of a madman. Thrall put me in charge of the Horde, and I will always do what I believe is best for it. Go now, and spare yourself the indignity of being bodily tossed out on your tail."

For answer, Cairne backhanded Garrosh right across the face, striking the fresh tattoo. So powerful was the blow that Garrosh staggered and nearly fell, crying out sharply in pain and flailing his arms in an attempt to keep his balance.

"It is I who shall toss you out on your tail, impudent pup," Cairne said. "That blow has been long in coming."
-The Shattering

Garrosh did NOTHING wrong here. He told Cairne he was innocent, not once, but twice. Cairne didn't believe him, but whose fault is that? What else was Garrosh supposed to do? Cairne blew in there spouting completely out-of-nowhere accusations, had no proof, and when Garrosh denied them, Cairne started smacking him around instead of conversing or listening.

In fact, read that passage again. Not only does Garrosh keep his calm and insist that he is innocent, he actually tries to defuse the situation by telling Cairne to leave. He doesn't resort to violence, he doesn't have Cairne thrown out and humiliated. We all know how hot-headed Garrosh is, and how quickly he will defend his honor. And yet, he actually displays remarkable restraint and maturity here, by reacting NOT as the volatile, angry savage so many people regard him as, but instead as someone aware of his responsibilities and position, and as someone willing to bite his tongue and bear these completely unfounded insults to his honor.

Garrosh turned the other cheek, and Cairne responded by backhanding it.

Because Garrosh didn't have to accept the duel!

Wrong. He couldn't decline, especially not after Cairne started manhandling around like some schoolyard bully. At that point, Garrosh's hands were tied. He HAD to accept the duel.

Why? Because Cairne had just blatantly, brutally impugned Garrosh's honor, and as a member of the Horde, as an orc, as WARCHIEF, that was something that simply could not stand.

Remember, Garrosh is the Horde's bold, brave leader. The orcs (at least) look up to him as inspiration, as a hero. If Cairne was allowed to walk into Garrosh's throne room, beat him up, and Garrosh DIDN'T challenge him to a duel? The orcs would never take him seriously or respect him again. While turning a blind eye might be the civil thing to do (and remember, Garrosh, upon realizing why Cairne is so upset, ALREADY DID THIS), there is no way Garrosh could have let Cairne's grave insult to his honor go unanswered. To do so would make Garrosh look weak, cowardly, and timid. Maybe even scared of Cairne, or scared of the possible duel. And the Warchief cannot be any of these things.

It's not a perfect system, but that's how the Horde works - it's an alpha dog hierarchy, and the top dog has to be ready to show its dominance. That's just the way things are. There's certainly flaws, but those flaws aren't Garrosh's fault. Hell, this incident is pretty similar to when Garrosh challenged Thrall's honor, back before Wrath came out. Thrall is as diplomatic as can be, but he had to answer the challenge and show that he wasn't afraid, that he believed in his convictions enough to fight for them. And it's no different here, with Garrosh. Everyone is blaming him for this duel, when in reality it was Cairne and the Horde's traditions that caused it, not any rash actions by Garrosh himself.

And putting aside the non-possibility of declining the duel, remember that Garrosh had every right to desire justice for how Cairne had just abused him, since Garrosh had done nothing wrong! Cairne comes in, accuses him of awful things he didn't do, then slaps him in the face? OBVIOUSLY Garrosh is going to be chomping at the bit to step into the arena with Cairne and avenge his insulted honor.

Forget about the poison, forget about the results of the duel. Look at this moment and the events preceding it.

Garrosh isn't the villain here.

He's the victim.

Once again, reverse it. Imagine Garrosh storming into Thunder Bluff, screaming false accusations at Cairne, and then slapping the old tauren to the floor. Who would be in the wrong here? Who would we be directing our sympathy at?

And returning to Cairne/Garrosh...as soon as a physical blow was struck, that was it. Garrosh might be able to ignore verbal barbs and insults, but actual violence crosses the line when it comes to one's personal honor. It has always been this way in the Horde. After that first strike, the only possible resolution would be one of them on the floor, defeated by the other. And remember - it wasn't Garrosh who resorted to violence. It was Cairne.

In that situation, what was Garrosh supposed to do? He denied the accusations and said he was innocent. Cairne didn't listen. He tried neutralizing the situation by telling Cairne to just leave, before things escalated. Cairne responded by slapping him in the face. And Garrosh then had to decide between challenging the disrespectful Cairne to a duel, or appearing as weak and cowardly to his people. And to a proud orc like Garrosh - who remember, had committed no wrong - there was no question.

Because...because...BECAUSE I HATE GARROSH!

Look at the facts. You may not like Garrosh. You may think he's a hothead, a barbarian, a warmonger. You may fault him for other things he has done or been in charge of, whether it be Ashenvale, Stonetalon, Southshore, whatever. These can be debated, sure.

But Cairne's death? The weird and convoluted events preceding the duel? You absolutely cannot blame Garrosh. In this incident, Garrosh was a victim in every possible way. He was framed, then unjustly accused, having had nothing to do with the druids' slaughter. He tried to let Cairne walk away, and did not strike the first blow. He didn't want Magatha's "help", nor would he have accepted it, had he known what she planned.

He really didn't do ANYTHING but react to other people's actions, and get manipulated by players playing a bigger game, one he was completely unaware of.

No, you can blame lots of people for Cairne's death. The Twilight Cultists who murdered the druids, Magatha, or even Cairne himself. These parties are all very significantly responsible for Cairne's death.

But not Garrosh. He was but a pawn in this tragic chapter.

Hate him, dislike him, whatever. But don't blame him for this. It just makes you look silly.

21 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. gravatar

    Because Garrosh's behavior led toward his being easily manipulated. People are willing to believe the worst about a person when that person gives them ample reason to do so.

    April 25, 2012 at 1:36 PM

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    Its the same as the Orcs attacking the draenei in rise of the horde. It wasn't their fault, they believed something, they were tricked.

    This opened my eyes about Garrosh. This storyline is basically going to perpetuate leaders being lead wrong.

    Its interesting, but typical, more conflict by lies, mistrust. but interesting nonetheless.

    April 25, 2012 at 1:46 PM

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    I don' like Garrosh 'cause he's weak an' he done got kodo droppings fer brains. Always has, always will. But yer completely right what Cairne were totally down with a fight ta the death, which done makes him one foolish fluggerthudder.

    Was a time I thought I were makin' a better future fer me world by servin' the Horde. Now I wonders what mebbe it'd be better if'n I shaved me head an' joined a monastery.

    April 25, 2012 at 1:54 PM

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    I like having Garrosh as the Horde leader. Like you said, he's the Alpha Dog and a good one at that. Personally I would have prefered another Baddie as our end game kill in MoP. Garrosh really kept that anti Horde in me. If Thrall goes back as their leader, they'll be like family now since I fought along side Thrall in DS.

    April 25, 2012 at 2:30 PM

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    Garrosh didn't have to escalate the duel. If he's not guilty for accepting the duel he didn't initiate, neither is Cairne guilty for accepting an escalation. If Cairne had wanted a duel to the death, he'd have issued that challenge. Accepting the challenge isn't the same as initiating it, and that cuts both ways.

    The duel was started by Cairne, Garrosh upped the ante. It's a very "alpha dog" thing to do, but it was unnecessary and yes, I lay that decision completely at Garrosh's door, and I consider it borne of murderous intent.

    That said, I'm coming at it from a human viewpoint. I can't see this particular event being something most of the Horde would care about. Yes, it was a jerk move to escalate when he knew full well it wasn't necessary, but duels were traditional. Within the Horde, I'd argue that the blame should fall squarely on Magatha. Seems like the Grimtotem purge is an in-canon agreement with that.

    If we're looking for excuses to make Garrosh the Big Bad, I think the Cairne incident isn't a viable candidate.

    April 25, 2012 at 3:28 PM

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    His conduct up to this point set the stage. There is no way it could end well. His personality is such that I have no problems at all believing that he WOULD order the killing of a bunch of druids on a peace mission, that he WOULD goad his own allies into bad situations, or that he WOULD raze Theramore without the aid of a Dark God or whatever's encouragement. None at all. He's a walking, sort of talking, act of war.

    If not Cairne, one of the other Horde leaders would no doubt have fallen to his axe by now.

    That's probably the only thing that made him back up and re-access.

    April 25, 2012 at 3:51 PM

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    People didn't even care about Cairne until he died.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:48 PM

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    You know I love the work you do here, but this time, I'm going to have to add: You missed one.

    "Because Garrosh was stupid and arrogant in his dealings with Magatha, which enabled her to poison his blade, which gave her the opening during the confusion after Cairne's death to conquer Thunder Bluff and murder many families."

    I don't read game fiction. However, I was lured into reading The Shattering, and since I've developed such a respect for the lore (greatly due to your blog, in fact), I agreed to read it. I don't necessarily blame him for what happened, but I do blame him for his stupidity and arrogance when dealing with someone with Magatha's reputation. When she began slinking around him, all sorts of alarm bells should have been going off, but instead, his egocentrism due to his wild popularity and victories in Northrend left him vulnerable to her treachery. That is is fault.

    Is it his fault Cairne's dead? Yes. Is it also Cairne's? Yes. Magatha's? Yes. The Twilight Cult? Yes. But who of them is still free and alive? Only Garrosh, and I think that's why there's so much animosity towards him. Of the guilty parties, really only he benefited in the long run. Everyone else finally got their due, and players see this as him finally getting his. Let's not forget the Thunder Bluff was occupied and dozens of sleeping tauren were murdered because of Garrosh's arrogance and stupidity. He provided the moment Magatha needed. Cairne's death may be the most visible change, but it wasn't the worst thing Garrosh inadvertently helped happen, and that's why he has to die. Not because he's a bad guy, but because he's a tragic hero with a fatal flaw, and it can't be a tragedy nor a FATAL flaw if he doesn't.

    Great post!

    April 25, 2012 at 5:20 PM

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    @Ratshag - And you know, Sally Whitemane is still kicking around at the Monastery in Mists of Pandaria...

    @Grimmtooth - That's really the interesting point here, isn't it? Cairne truly did believe Garrosh had ordered the killings, but even though Cairne had the purest, noblest intentions, he WAS completely wrong. To frame it in modern legality, Garrosh isn't responsible for what others THINK he might have done, only for what he had actually done, so he's entirely innocent. (In THIS case, mind you.)

    @Stubborn - That's a very good point, and events certainly have led to Garrosh *appearing* to be on top (though Magatha would be there too, if not for the unrelated - to this duel - actions of Baine).

    He definitely fell for Magatha's trickery, but then again, is that Garrosh's fault, or Magatha's skill? It's easy to blame Garrosh for being dumb enough to believe Magatha's lies, but then again, Magatha is pretty damn good at that kind of thing, saying exactly what Garrosh wanted to hear.

    It's also interesting to note that unlike a longtime-Azerothian orc like Eitrigg or Thrall, Garrosh probably wasn't as aware of Magatha's reputation. After all, he probably wouldn't care / wouldn't be exposed to her political aspirations as simply an army commander, and he hadn't really been Warchief long enough to get a handle on the various political relationships. In fact, I think he only met Magatha for the first time when she first began to charm Garrosh with honeyed words.

    It's a nice quandary. We want to say he shouldn't have trusted Magatha...but maybe he simply didn't know any better, and wasn't canny enough to suspect any duplicity.

    One thing is for sure - this event DID definitely make Garrosh grow as a character, and opened his eyes to the world a little. You can bet he will NOT be so trusting of a supposedly-friendly face in the future.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:44 PM

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    The Renaissance Man

    While I don't buy into all the idea of absolving Cairne or Magatha or their culpability in the event, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that it was Garrosh's stipulation that made the duel one to the death. If it weren't for Garrosh's demands, he could have well proven his martial superiority over Cairne without having to resort to killing him.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:39 PM

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    Loved this, thank you. I seriously would not have any idea what was going on in lore without the lore bloggers.

    April 25, 2012 at 10:31 PM

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    Could Garrosh have proven his martial superiority without killing? That could be a reason he escalated it. It could be pretty hard to only wound someone if your style doesn't lend itself to that.

    I haven't read any of the books and only a few of the short stories so I could be way off the mark here.

    April 26, 2012 at 12:10 AM

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    The Renaissance Man


    Garrosh didn't stipulate that his Duel with Thrall be to the death, they just hopped into the ring. Did he suddenly forget how to fight in the interim?

    April 26, 2012 at 9:23 AM

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    @Mittenz, Renaissance - They definitely could have dueled where death was not the only way of winning. Injuries, sure, but even with real weapons duels don't have to be fatal.

    The Thrall duel is an interesting comparison, since that was more "hey bro you dissed me, let's fight it out and work out our aggressions and then we'll be cool" where as the Cairne duel was much more serious considering how utterly disrespectful and (in Garrosh's eyes, which is fair in this case) how much of an a-hole Cairne was being. It was a much more serious dispute.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:04 AM

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    There's a couple of comments that claim that Garrosh upped the ante as proof that Garrosh wanted to kill Cairne, but I think a closer reading makes it pretty clear that Garrosh upped the ante as a way to get Cairne to back down from the duel without Garrosh actually having to refuse outright. Note that Garrosh clearly has never been in a duel to the death before, is notably unenthusiastic about the prospect of killing Cairne and his actual victory in the end, expressed hesitance and surprise when Cairne readily agrees to the duel, and had a conversation with Cairne, way back when they were leaving Northrend together, where Cairne said that he hoped to live a little longer before dying for the Horde.

    In other words, it's clear to me that Garrosh making it a duel to the death was not a way for him to get to kill Cairne, but instead a way for him to go "hey, are you really going to put your life on the line for this?" which backfired when Cairne straight-up said yes.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:59 PM

  16. gravatar

    If that's the case, Garrosh is still a hotheaded, easily provoked idiot for playing chicken with Cairne. Maybe that makes him a good Klingon warrior or something, but not a very good Warchief, which position demands more than a temper and an axe to back it up. You just can't get into pissing matches with life on the line with major allies.

    ...but that could be something to grow out of. It really does make me wonder if making him the villain is to show him being corrupted or if he's just a dundering fool of his own accord. I kind of hope the former, as I'd like to think he learned something in his poor tenure as Warchief... and that others can learn from his example.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:09 PM

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    That's pretty much why I hope Garrosh survives MoP. All this time Blizzard has been giving Garrosh lots of characterization, and I think it'd be a huge waste to just kill him off at the end of the expansion, as opposed to him having truly realize his flaws and trying to fix them.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:15 PM

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    No Funeral

    I don't blame Garrosh for Cairne's death, but it WAS the last straw in me considering him a true ally to the Horde.

    Magatha is to blame, that's clear. She orchestrated this plan masterfully. Garrosh was a pawn.

    He really should not have been. He had a chance to realize he was being played and he totally didn't see it.

    [Garrosh had eyes her. "You would turn against Cairne? A fellow tauren?"

    Magatha had shrugged. "I want to do what is best for my people. I believe that is following you, Garrosh Hellscream."

    He nodded. "That makes sense, and marks you as a wise leader of your tribe. The future lies with me, not with an old bull, hero though he might have been once." His brows had knotted for a moment. "I... do respect him. I would rather not be the instrument of his death, but he was the one who called for the challenge, and he has insulted my honor."

    "Indeed he has," said Magatha. "That blow that staggered you so... Everyone is speaking of it. Shameful. It cannot stand unavenged."

    Garrosh had growled softly, and his face, where it was not tattooed black, flushed with anger and embarrassment. Magatha kept her expression neutral, but inwardly she smiled. This was almost too easy.]

    It was WAAAAY too easy. He's not fit to lead the Alliance, and that's about as grave an insult as I can make. Face me, Garrosh Hellscream, and I'll make you wish they'd left your ass in Outland.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:08 PM

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    thanks a lot for the great post!

    April 27, 2012 at 10:25 AM

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    Glad you posted some rebuttals to the general -wrong- statements being made. Good post, as usual!

    That being said... regardless of anything else that happened, Garrosh killed Cairne, and that's undeniable. There are many things that can be said to explain it, justify it and rationalize it and they're all valid points, but ultimately the end results was that Garrosh kills Cairne.

    Had Garrosh NOT gotten a blow in, Cairne would have killed him and today we'd be talking about how Cairne, despite being such a wise old bull, killed Garrosh who was innocent of the crimes Cairne laid at his feet.

    So with full understanding of the events, my old, old old Tauren druid still waits for the day when karma comes around and kicks Garrosh in the butt for being the man (orc?) to wield the blade that killed Cairne.

    April 28, 2012 at 7:14 PM

  21. gravatar

    XD its a typical starwars-esque tragidy of deceipt and death... Bravo blizzard

    August 26, 2012 at 1:18 PM