In lieu of a proper post, I present to you a couple of items from the Cataclysm build. One that is celebratory, and one that is quite frankly odd, and a couple of others. There are spoilers for Dwarf Cataclysm Lore and Archaeology in this post.
I’ve been trying to write an article about my beloved Moira Thaurissan for about 2 months now. One of the few dwarf women NPCs, and the only major lore NPC with a body shape anywhere near mine, she is an interesting character to me, as she fills the most traditional of stereotypes and archetypes for women – the daughter, the damsel in distress, the rebel princess, and possibly a star-crossed lover as well. The new Archaeology profession reveals some beautiful titbits of lore and minor stories, and some wonderful items from days gone by.
How did she embarass him exactly?
First I want to talk about Keelin Stonekeeper. She is not a known NPC in the game, and ‘Bryher Stonekeeper’ doesn’t exist either, but the flavour text tells a tale of woe.
According to legend, Bryher Stonekeeper ran a prosperous tavern near Loch Modan. His daughter, Keelin, travelled far from home, eventually developing the kind of reputation that embarrased her father. Bryher made a deal with a gnome warlock to keep his daughter close to home. The warlock turned Keelin into a hearthstone, so that she would always return to the inn. – The Innkeeper’s Daughter
What. ‘The kind of reputation that embarrassed her father‘. And for that she’s turned into a Hearthstone? The likelihood is that this is just a legend, but at the same time it is an example of Azerothian attitudes towards female sexuality, and the powers and expectations of family. Seriously creeped out by this item, poor Keelin. It might also be a morality tale in that Bryher made a deal with a ‘fallen’ agent, a warlock (and a gnome!) And the gnome tricked poor Bryher, so that he has lost his daughter truly and forever. I don’t feel all that sad for Bryher though, I’m going to continue feeling sad for Keelin.
Now, this could easily be a human tale, and it is practically an Aesop’s Fable, added to the general trope of ‘tavern wenches’ (a phrase which is practically synonymous with whore, slut or prostitute in many fantasy books.) Does it really tell us anything about dwarf society? Possibly not, but we have very few clues to go on if you discount the number of minor female NPCs out there (as the numbers of women in all professions in World of Warcraft are not reflected in the novels, nor in the ‘leadership’ of factions in the World of Warcraft over all.) The only other ‘famous’ female dwarf is Modgud, and a minor character who appeared in the novel covering the War of Three Hammers.
What does this have to do with Moira? Well it serves to illustrate the attitudes to women and female sexuality within Dwarfish society. In general women are characterised as brave and headstrong – part of Moira’s tale is that she actually volunteers to help the people of Redridge – she is ‘captured’ by the Dark Irons in the Burning Steppes under mysterious circumstances. It is suspected to be an inside job, but the only suspects are the Captain of her Guard and Moira herself.
An adventuring party sets out to save her, assured by Magni that her words and loyalty to Dagrun are driven by an enchantment, but when Dagrun is killed, Moira reveals her pregnancy to the party. She shows no inclination to return to Ironforge. For all of Magni’s heartache, this is a woman who is doing what she wants to do and be damned what the men want. At the same time she is using her pregnancy and her position in the grand tradition of royal women down the centuries – she is doing to exercise power one of the few ways she can as a non-combatant woman in a clearly patriarchal society.
Moira and Politics
Princess Moira Bronzebeard becames Dowager Empress Moira Thaurissan. Cataclysm rolls around and she, and her son, are now seated in Magni’s old throne. I won’t dwell on what has happened to Magni, but The Council of Three Hammers now rules Khaz Modan. Moira is not present as the Bronzebeard representative though, she is there to represent the Dark Irons. Upon Dagrun’s death, Moira maintained that he was a good and honourable man, so peace amongst the dwarf clans seems a possibility if she wants to reconcile her Bronzebeard and Thaurissan kin.
She shares the Council with Muradin Bronzebeard and Kurdran Wildhammer ((It used to be Falstad, but Kurdran has apparently returned from Outland to act as representative for the Wildhammer, while Falstad remains in Aerie Peak as High Thane of the Wildhammer.)) Now, it remains to be seen how the Council will function or what unrest the presence of Dark Iron mage trainers will sow, but Moira Thaurissan is a determined woman. I can’t imagine that she will be horde friendly, and from what I read of the Horde Moira/Dagrun quest it seems that she may well bear a grudge against the horde for endangering Emperor Dagrun as well. Was she a headstrong girl going after love, with little thought to the politics, or is she a woman with a vision of what the Dwarf Kingdoms could be?
Dwarven Women – Chaste Warriors
Now, of all the supposedly egalitarian societies, the Dwarven Nations are possibly the most patriarchal in the Alliance. Empress Regent Moira Thaurissan cannot inherit in her own right, she is simply the Regent until her son is deemed old enough to inherit. Dark Iron females are not found amongst the soldiery of Blackrock, they are only found as civilian NPCs, or healers and sorcerers.
On the one hand they are the comical tavern wenches of Warcraft, embarrassing and treacherous ((Moira’s liason with Emperor Thaurissan is viewed as treason, so the only way for Magni to reconcile this is to believe Moira was raped and brainwashed.)) daughters and on the other they are Empresses that adore dragons, and participate as warriors in important ceremonies ((It will be interesting to see what this ‘sword dance’ dance actually looks like – a mock battle, or simply a dance for the entertainment of the viewer – I imagine the latter.)) . This is a very common archtype – the virginal warrior, the sword sister. More complicated (and often subverted) that I’m choosing to explore here.
Moira and Motherhood
I think Moira also represents our only ‘young mother’ in the game. Aegwynn is the other famous example, and Garona the more recent one. Although characterisations of Aegwynn as ‘young’ are extremely wide of the mark, Moira has had a very long gestational period, and is now the only active lore character with a young infant. He is heir to two Dwarf thrones, and thus the closest to a High King since Anvilmar himself. Fenran represents yet another ‘mixed race’ character, and already in-game we see examples of racial prejudice against him from both the Dark Irons and Bronzebeard.
As a mother Moira is fiercely protective of her son, and strong willed enough to lead a faction of the Dark Irons, despite not being Dark Iron herself. She both uses him to establish her own claim to power, and to protect his own future. Royalty is often a dangerous thing to be – even if Fenran chose to forgo both thrones in the future, his life would still be in danger from others attempting to secure the succession for a candidate of their choosing.
Nevermind that Moira could rule as the only living child of Magni, or that she could marry a Bronzebeard and have her second child rule the Bronzebeards. A ‘mother’ is both what she is, and how she maintains her status in dwarf society as a widow. Now her virginity is lost, her power as a Princess of the Bronzebeards is forfeit until Muradin Bronzebeard manages to look beyond what she has done, and starts to see her for the person she is.
For the good of who?
It is also debatable about what being best for her son also being the best for the people she rules. From the little dialogue we have, it seems as though she is very strongly concerned with her son’s birthright. She is not viewed well by her co-rulers, due to the division of her adopted people, but Moira is a person who had the love of her life murdered indirectly by her father. She has been somewhat disowned by the Bronzebeards and her position (and that of her son’s) is tenuous within the Dark Irons. Is she thinking purely along the lines of survival, or is she thinking for the greater good of her people.
I find it interesting that her motives in wanting her son to rule are questioned, when Magni’s motivations for casting off his daughter are not. Is it really in the ‘best interests of the people’ that he disown his heir, or that he strive to keep his only Grandson from the throne, all for the sins of the child’s other grandfather – the Sorcerer-Thane Thaurisan (not Dagrun Thaurissan) who summoned Raganaros. The action that resulted in the enslavement of the Dark Irons is not the fault of the enslaved people. Perhaps this is a time to re-evaluate the Dark Irons as ‘the Bad Guys’, in the same way that the Defias move so close to the line between ‘good’ and ‘evil’.
A Mixed Message
Dwarfen women are expected to fight and do all the dirty work alongside the men. Dwarfen women are amongst the most practical (and awesome) women you will meet as you quest. And yet they are expected to be chaste and obedient to their fathers, and cannot directly participate in rulership except by proxy. Empress Zoe, apropos of the past, is an anomaly in a Dwarfen history which is dominated by the actions of men ((There are multiple references to different dwarfen kings in the Archaeology items list so far)) . Where Empress Zoe may well have been Elizabeth I, Moira Thaurissan currently seems more connected to Eleanor of Aquitaine or Elizabeth Wydeville – occupied with the power of her husbands and her sons, exercising her power through her men. Moira Thaurissan is thus the embodiment of the traditional idea of woman’s power in a monarchial and patriarchal society. The wishes of the Dark Irons (and even of Dagrun) are not really known – they are a people displaced from their home, and firmly under the thumb of Ragnaros. In Cataclysm, the Dark Irons are actually a divided faction, with Moira leading a group of them back into the arms of the Alliance.
For us common dwarfs, the message of the Innkeeper’s Daughter is that ‘sexual liberation’ does not come along with the responsibilities conferred on dwarf women by being allowed to take up arms. For a brisk and practical people, many of the themes in ‘dwarf society’ (in other games/fantasy worlds) tend to revolve around children being born rarely, or courtship being a difficult and slow process due to the similarities between the genders, or even just because dwarf women are disinclined to be motherly. ((Pratchett parodies this excellently, for his dwarf language doesn’t even have a ‘female’ pronoun, and Discworld dwarfs talking in Morporkian default to male pronouns.))
Both Moira and Keelin are ‘embarassing’ daughters and appear as causes of heartache and tragedy for their male relatives. Keelin will be forever silent, but it will be interesting to continue to hear Moira’s voice in the future of the dwarves, and in her own story. Blizzard tend to paint all their characters with broad strokes, but for the women there is less of a range of archetypes, and I’m not particularly optimistic that they’ll actually take Moira anywhere beyond her current ambiguous state. Will she actually play a part in dwarf politics, or will the next expansion be an exercise in continuing the silent motherhood that began 5 years ago in Blackrock Depths?