Sylvanas’ History In WoW, Explained

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  • The Fall Of The Lich King

Few characters in World of Warcraft are as famous (or infamous) as Sylvanas Windrunner. She starts her story at the lowest of the low, as a mere minion of the Lich King, and ends up rising above all, destroying her former master and eventually ruling over one of the main Factions.




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If you’ve never played Warcraft 3, you might wonder who she was in life, or if she was present in that game at all. You’d be surprised to learn then that not only was she present, she was instrumental in the fights against the Lich King and in the later formation of the Forsaken as a whole.

Sylvanas In Life

World of Warcraft Sylvanas as a regular high elf

Sylvanas Windrunner was the Ranger-General of Silvermoon, making her the military leader of the High Elven forces. She was known for being cunning and fearless, and led her people to many victories, particularly during her people’s wars against the Trolls.

In modern day WoW, there are incredibly few High Elves, and their difference with the Blood Elves is mostly political.

Among her many allies, one of particular note was Nathanos Marris, the only human among the Elven Rangers. He wasn’t only a skilled individual, but he seemed to have a closer relationship with Sylvanas than that of mere friends.

The military might of the High Elves was great, but they could not compare with the horrors of the upcoming invasion, the Undead Scourge, led by the Lich King. This unholy force wanted the Sunwell, the source of High Elven power, which was situated at the center of Silvermoon.

Sylvanas used all her strategies and cunning to stop the Lich King, but to no avail; his unrelenting force and immeasurable power made him immune to most tactics. In the end, Silvermoon fell, and so did Sylvanas.

But the Lich King, Arthas Menethil, wouldn’t give her the peace of death after all the trouble she had caused him, and instead turned her into a Banshee, a spirit with harmful screams capable of possessing others.

Arthas also allowed her to keep her self awareness, so he could keep tormenting her with the downfall of her people.

Sylvanas In Death

World of Warcraft Sylvanas as a banshee

Torment wasn’t the only reason Arthas kept Sylvanas around. She had proven herself to be a capable general, and the undead forces were mighty but lacked intelligence, so he had Sylvanas lead her fallen rangers as she did in life.

In time, the domination the Lich King had over his minions started to falter, particularly on the most strong-willed ones. Sylvanas was the strongest of will, due to her own prowess and the special conditions under which Arthas turned her, and she used this to her advantage.

Pretending to still be under control, Sylvanas plotted her revenge in the shadows. She had her Dark Rangers find her corpse, so she could possess it and recover her might as Ranger-General, and prepare an ambush for the Lich King.


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Knowing that Arthas would be betrayed by his Dreadlord allies, Sylvanas had her Dark Rangers escort him if he survived, which he did. The Dark Rangers lured Arthas to an ambush point, and Sylvanas shot an arrow with a special poison that nearly killed the Lich King.

Her quarry managed to escape to Northrend, far from the fallen Lordaeron. Sylvanas knew that to face him again, and any enemies in the future, she’d need an army of her own, so she started to recruit the free-willed undead that started to roam the lands.

The Forsaken

World of Warcraft Sylvanas as the Banshee Queen

This started the formation of the Forsaken, undead raised by the Lich King and now united in purpose. With their monstrous visage, they couldn’t go back to their mortal families, so they banded together to find their new way in life, and to bring Arthas down.

The Forsaken made their new home in the catacombs of Lordaeon, where Arthas had already begun construction of a massive Undercity. Sylvanas and her Forsaken finished the work, and made the Undercity their home and base of operations.

Now having a real faction in her hands, Sylvanas needed to ensure their survival. She sent ambassadors to both the Alliance and the Horde, but had a response from the Horde only, and after some difficult negotiations with Warchief Thrall, the Forsaken joined the Horde.

Sylvanas was also instrumental in the recruiting of the Blood Elves into the Horde.

With her new influence and forces, Sylvanas sends her troops to find her beloved Nathanos. He had been turned into part of the scourge, but Sylvanas helped him regain his free will, making him his champion and bodyguard.

The Fall Of The Lich King

World of Warcraft Arthas in his frozen throne

When the scourge roamed the land once more, both the Alliance and the Horde knew that they needed to stop the Lich King once and for all. The Forsaken marched with the Horde, being a key ally in the battles to come.

Yet the Forsaken were as much a blessing as they were a curse to the Horde, since they nearly caused another war with the Alliance due to their experiments with the Plague. While its misguided use wasn’t approved by Sylvanas, the creation of such a foul, volatile weapon was.

Throughout many confrontations, Sylvanas ended up face to face with the Lich King once more, but his power continued to be greater than that of the Ranger-General. She flees, and eventually, adventurers from the Alliance and Horde forces are able to slay Arthas once and for all.

With her purpose for existing accomplished, Sylvanas traveled back to the Frozen Throne where Arthas once resided. She lamented not being the one to slay the Lich King, but was glad to be free of her quest, so she jumped off the Frozen Tower into the deadly depths.

What Sylvanas saw after her second death was heavily retconned, in an effort to make her actions between Legion and Shadowlands make sense.

Finally dead once more, Sylvanas didn’t find much solace in the afterlife. Her soul was broken after being slain by the Lich King’s blade, and what died now was a spirit filled with anger and bloodlust, who slew countless innocent lives in her journey to vengeance.

She ended up in a realm of pure nothingness, ruled by a being known as the Jailer, who told her that this was her fate because the system in place decided so. Her honorable actions as Ranger-General of Silvermoon did not matter, and this fate of nothing was what awaited all of her Forsaken.

The Jailer offered a way out of this system, but Sylvanas was reluctant. The Jailer was patient, knowing that in time she’d see things his way, and told her to wait until she had to “step out of the shadows and lead.”

The Val’kyr then resurrected Sylvanas, who was still unsure if she could trust the entity known as The Jailer, but still didn’t want her Forsaken to suffer a fate of nothingness. She brought the Val’kyr that resurrected with her, and used her power to bolster the Forsaken’s army by making new undead.

While the Val’kyr once served the Lich King, their true master was the Jailer, which is why he can command them to aid Sylvanas.

With the powers given to her by the Val’kyr, Sylvanas remade Nathanos’ body, so he could better serve her. While they were now mostly restored to the bodies they once had in life, their relationship as undead never went beyond Queen and loyal servant.

Sylvanas As Warchief

World of Warcraft Sylvanas in a flying ship

During the third invasion of the Burning Legion, the acting Warchief of the Horde, Vol’jin, is fatally wounded. In his dying breath, he makes Sylvanas Warchief, saying that it was time for her to “step out of the shadows and lead.”

Vol’jin was being influenced by one of the Jailer’s allies, and Sylvanas knew her time had come. She rallied the Horde against the Legion, but began plotting with the Jailer in the shadows, who in turn gave her a portion of his domination powers.

Once the Legion was defeated, Sylvanas was given a mission from her benefactor: to cause as much death as possible. This was needed, so the Jailer had enough souls to fuel his plans, and so Sylvanas led a bloodthirsty campaign that was marked by the burning of Teldrassil, home of the Night Elves.

The Jailer gave this task to Sylvanas because he knew of the events that would come, her ascension to Warchief and victory over the Legion.

How he knew this is unclear, since he isn’t stated to have prophetic powers.

After causing as much bloodshed as possible, the forces of the Alliance and the Horde start to oppose her in unison. Once it was clear that her goals were detrimental to the Horde, she fled with her new shadowy powers given by the Jailer.

The Jailer’s Pawn

World of Warcraft Sylvanas in her Jailer Pawn outfit

Sylvanas fled towards Northrend, where she confronted Bolvar Fordragon, the acting Lich King that was keeping the scourge at bay. The powers given to her by the Jailer were enough to overpower Bolvar and his forces, allowing her to take the Helm of Domination and shatter it with her bare hands.

This opened a gateway to the Shadowlands, specifically the realm dominated by the Jailer, the Maw. Sylvanas sent her forces to kidnap various leaders of the world, but her main goal was to capture Anduin Wrynn, the young King of Stormwind.

The Jailer needed Anduin to fulfill his goals, and eventually turned him into a Death Knight only loyal to him. As the Jailer was about to complete his goals, he revealed that the new system of death he wanted to put in place meant that all would serve him.

Shocked by the unexpected revelation of what the Jailer was planning to do all along, Sylvanas claimed that she would never serve anyone. The Jailer then returned the part of her soul that was lost from her since she was slain by Arthas, which left her in a comatose state.


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This state was due to her two soul fragments (the Ranger-General of Silvermoon and the Banshee Queen of the Forsaken) being unable to accept the other. With the help of the Paladin Uther, who had gone through a similar process, the two halves merged and Sylvanas was able to wake up.

Thanks to her aid, an artifact was made to finally defeat the Jailer, the Crown of Wills. With the artifact in hand, the adventurers and many other heroes from Azeroth were able to slay the Jailer, and after that, the only loose end was Sylvanas.

Sylvanas’ punishment was to wander the Maw, the realm of the fallen Jailer, and to take all souls there back to be properly judged. This task will likely take millenia, but she accepted it as penance not only for her time as the Jailer’s pawn, but for all she did as the Banshee Queen.

While her quest might seem endless, there are hints that she might one day return, but not as the war-hungry Banshee Queen that most know her for. Her only goal while in the Maw, other than fulfilling her punishment, is to find the soul of Nathanos, so they can be reunited outside constant conflict.


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