Villainous Vixens: Rebutting the “mad maidens” principle

(See WoW Insider’s “Open Letter to Jaina Proudmoore” for backstory. Be warned of 5.4 spoilers!)

If it comes as a surprise to anyone that I love ladies behaving badly in Warcraft (and other storytelling mediums), then I invite you to take a gander at my two Blizzard Story contest entries, where I think about Blood Queen Lana’thel and Leyara’s histories, respectively.

It’s hard being Alliance for all your WoW-playing career and having a fascination with villainy, because they tend to either be a part of the Horde (Sylvanas) or quest/dungeon/raid bosses (Keristrasza, Leyara, BQL, ad nauseum).  The Blizzard Story contest is, at the moment, defunct, but I had been planning exploring a Sylvanas story after reading Dave Kosak’s short story, Edge of Night, because I did find it very interesting that she wasn’t present at Arthas’ death.

A lot of this is born out of my frustration that women in Warcraft tend to be pushed to their limits by the storylines, and then callously abandoned to their fate (often death, at the hands of us “heroes”) when they’re deemed irredeemable. Keristrasza was captured, abused and forced to be Malygos’ consort after she murdered his previous one, and you have to kill her in the Nexus, an act which the wiki entry for her states “a sad, but necessary end.”

so much dragon rape in this game!

so much dragon rape in this game!

Lana’thel is forced into service for the Lich King when she faced him at Northrend, armed with her former friend’s blade Quel’delar, which she was overwhelmed by Frostmourne, and forced to serve him. (Sensing a theme?) Leyara’s grief and anger at the Horde, and her father-in-law’s madness leads her to ally with the minions of Ragnaros because she doesn’t feel she has anything left to live for (and she doesn’t even make it into the dungeons, you kill her during a quest chain.)

This female madness issue didn’t start with Wrath, nor end in Cata.  In Pandaria, where strong emotions are made physically manifest in the Sha, both Suna Silentstrike and Liu Flameheart become infested with Sha, and the players are forced to kill them. It would not be so very telling if not for the fact that Tarah Zhu, leader of the Shado-Pan, is similarly affected, but in the dungeon where you encounter him, all the player needs to do is drive the Sha out of his body, and defeat it.

If that’s the case, why did Suna and Liu have to die? Their grief and doubt – at the loss of a beloved husband, the fear of failing your god – are perfectly reasonable within the context of their stories, which were created by the writers and quest developers. Why do the women of Warcraft only get one chance at redemption, and then only through death?

What’s even more fascinating is that this is a narrative that’s not just played out in the game and supplemental materials, but also in the fan base. Jaina factors into this because like Suna and Leyara, she’s lost loved ones, people she was a leader to. Her story has always been one of courage and of loss.  SPOILERS for 5.4 to follow the cut:

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So many girls in here, where do I begin?

The 2011 Blizzard Writing Contest has come around again, just in time for the weather to cool off enough to make writing on a coffee shop patio appealing.  There’s a number of things I’m hoping to see from entries, this year, but more than anything, I want to see awesome stories about awesome women.  I can’t hug every cat write every story, but there are plenty of women in the Blizzard lore that deserve face time by dedicated writers.

Heavy Hitters: These are the big name players, women who’ve already had their stories touched on in official books and lore.  They’re characters most people are likely to know and interested to read about.

i) Sylvanas Windrunner: we know who she is, where she came from, how she became the Banshee Queen.  What’s it like being Sylvanas without the Lich King?  How does she feel being cheated of vengeance at Icecrown Citadel?  Her experimentations with the plague, with the valkyr, and butting heads with Garrosh are all interesting depths to plumb.

ii) Jaina Proudmoore: is getting her own book via Christie Golden! Very exciting.  But in the meantime, there’s plenty to Jaina that can still be touched upon.  Studying in Dalaran, the only thing she really wanted to do.  The death of her father, and the role she played in it.  Keeping the human survivors of Lordaeron together while fleeing to Kalimdor.

iii) Tyrande Whisperwind: again, we got a glimpse of her recently in “Seeds of Faith”, but she shares billing with Malfurion.  She was the one, not the humans, who sent the ships to Gilneas’ aid.  She dealt with Fandral’s insolence for years and years.  When the Shen’dralar came out of their exile prior to the Cataclysm, she accepted them back, allowing them to teach arcane magics to the young night elves.

Other (but no less interesting) NPCS:


i) Sassy Hardwrench: okay, I am gnome/dwarf to the core.  But when Cata came out, I couldn’t resist rolling a goblin priest to experience the new starting zones.  Thrall? Trade Prince Jerkwad?  Snooze.  Sassy Hardwrench? NEW BFF FOR LIFE. She’s tough as nails, stands by your toon, and after losing everything by standing by your character, still manages to create a town named after herself in STV.  Sassy is no. 1 for my choice of women characters worth writing about.

ii) Maiev Shadowsong, Sayanna Stormrunner and the Wardens: With the Shadow Warden presence in the Molten Front, it’s as good a time as any to tackle the Wardens, particularly in light of their charge escaping.  How does Sayanna deal with that failure in light of a hero like Maiev who didn’t rest until she had recaptured or killed her own prisoner?

iii) Mylune: Come on, does this really even need explanation?

iv) Lorna Crowley: She’s a gun-toting, dog-training badass with a flower in her hair who becomes commander of the liberation movement for Gilneas.  She’s so badass she escapes both becoming Forsaken and Worgen.  Honorable mention and equal badassitude to Gwen Armstead, as well.

v) Stormcaller Mylra: this was a great expansion for dwarves and dwarven women – if you’re not a Bronzebeard, anyway.  Mylra’s one of the Earthen Ring shaman who helps you suss out what the deal is with the Twilight Hammer in Deepholm, and helps you fight an old god minion in Twilight Highlands.  She doesn’t hesitate to do what’s needed.

vi) Fanny Thundermar: Another Wildhammer dwarf woman, Fanny’s a prize catch for eligible bachelors due to her connections. But actually, she’s also a wicked fighter, and a woman who knows what she wants in a partner.  Plus, think of all the hilarious puns you can work in to shock UK and Aussie readers.

vii) Blood Raven: I’m deviating a bit from WoW lore because a) Diablo is fine too! and b) given my kajillion restarts of DII, I fought her more times than I’d like to admit.  Did you know she’s meant to be the corrupted form of the rogue NPC from Diablo?  The demon Andariel corrupted her and a number of her sisters after a trip to Tristram (nothing good ever happens there.)  Between her and Kashya, there’s lots of story fodder.

The Obvious Choice:


i) Your NPC: The greatest thing about writing in the Warcraft lore – and really, any of the Blizzard IPs – is that you have your own blank slate to work with.  Your character has performed all sorts of tasks, from mundane to heroic.  There’s surely a million stories to be told from them alone.

To all entrants in the Blizzard Writing Contest, good luck. Don’t ever doubt, don’t ever stop writing.