Joan of Draenor: Thoughts on Yrel (Spoilers for WoD)


Image by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Joane d’Arc was always one of my favourite heroines. Her story once unpicked might be sad but she’s become an iconic figure of her age so I have to admit my curiosity was peaked when Blizzard described a new character as being WoW’s Joan.

Like Petrarch’s Laura, Joan is faceless. Any women and all women which is partly I suspect why she’s been so popular with painters and writers down through the ages as she’s the perfect blank canvas. Was she a great commander? By historical accounts, probably not but sometimes all you need is hope, a beacon to light the way and whether sent by God or not, she helped provide that to the French forces until the tides of war changed. Which brings us to the present day and Blizzard likening a new female NPC to Joan. My issue with that is Joan can represent many things and was called many names, witch, heretic, hero, champion, virgin, whore,  martyr, saint.. each label comes with a different implication. In choosing her, they risk walking a rocky road. So much has become bound up in her image and especially after the spectacular fail which was the female Draenei artwork April Fools “joke”, the spotlight is definitely on Blizzard to get a female character right. Choosing a woman best known for her demise is not the easiest place to begin. Especially when you’re trying to weave her into a narrative already heavy with the twisted corpses of dead women.

Of course Joan stands for much more than a roaring fire in the marketplace at Rouen but it would simple to lose sight of that in the burning brightness of her martyrdom. Yrel could be the perfect vessel to explore the relationship between the Draenei and the Naaru or Blizzard could merely have picked La Pucelle at random to represent a woman wearing armour, fighting to save her people from a brutish Horde. From the tiny snippets we’ve seen of the alpha so far, it’s impossible to judge. From screenshots I’ve seen of the press events Yrel starts young, naive and not particularly useful in a fight which of course would mirror up with Joan’s upbringing in rural France and that’s fine. Even the greatest heros have to start somewhere.


(Image from MMO Champion).

It’s her relationship with Maraad I find a little disappointing. Time and time again Blizzard have been criticized for their female characters and their seeming insistence that they all stand in the shadow of a man whether that’s their father, husband or lover. Modeling on Joan would have been the perfect opportunity to break the mould but yet it seems that  we run the risk of Yrel becoming apart of Maraad’s story rather than an independent character in her own right. Sure we can’t break down Joan’s story without examining her impact on the lives of the men she encountered, her king, her friends who fought along side her and of course her enemies who in the end destroyed her but yet looking back those men whether King or commoner, French or English became defined by their relationship with Joan, not the other way around.

Right from the start (if the data-mined dialogue is to be believed) it seems Maraad is filled with rage.

  • Yrel: I was thinking I might go through the portal with you, my love.
  • Maraad: Yes, Yrel. You will have a home on Azeroth.
  • Maraad: But first, we will make these orcs suffer for what they did to you. Their sins cannot be forgiven.


  • Maraad: And now that these hordes have taken, broken, and defiled my angel Yrel, I intend to unleash my own…
  • Yrel: Maraad, my love. That’s enough.
  • Maraad: Yrel…
  • Yrel: You have been through too much, Maraad. Your thirst for vengeance will only lead to our death.
  • Yrel: Yes, I was taken, but I am not defiled, and I am not broken.
  • Yrel: Rest now. I will lead our attack on the Naval Base.

Reading this, I can’t quite shake the feeling I’ve been here before. We’ve seen other “good” men become twisted by their “thirst for vengeance”, it’s not that long ago for example that Jaina and Arthas could have borrowed a couple of these lines. Of course we don’t know enough yet to correctly represent the whole picture and yet, I feel that faint sense of unease. By describing a character in a computer game as a Joan of Arc you create a bond even if it was just intended to be a just a throw away line,  her victories, her losses, the betrayals she faced when the man whose throne she helped save refused to ransom her, her mockery of trial in which every answer she gave was another step down the labyrinth which lead to her pyre and her death all come as baggage. She might be faceless and voiceless but she deserves to be treated with fairness, not flung into a mould and come out cooing over an aggressive macho man.




Joan of Arc and the Battle for Draenor

Joan of Arc, her very name is evocative. I suspect you would be hard pushed to find a European Child who hasn’t heard of the Maid of Orleans and growing up, she was definitely one of my heroes. Thus when I heard Blizzard were introducing a Draenei best described as Joan of Arc, it sparked my imagination all over again. Yes there are potential pitfalls, after all, we remember Joan most for her trial and her fiery death than we do her military campaign but there could be many similarities between Joan’s role in the 100 years war and the conflict we will be seeing unfold on Draenor.

Blizzard have told us that this expansion will focus in part at least on the Light, covering how the Bloodelfs became Paladins and so on. Did Joan hear voices from God… probably not but the Draenei version could more than likely hear the voice of a Naaru inspiring her to fight the evil threatening her people. After all Joan definitely saw herself as a Holy Warrior which is the very definition of a Warcraft Paladin. Our first encounter with Yrel as Alliance could certainly be whilst trying to break an Orc siege on a Draenei town in Shadowmoon Valley mirroring Joan’s victory at the Siege of Orleans.

My main concern however is that Yrel will turn into yet another victim, that like Joan before her, it will be her death which finally turns the tide of war. It’s not that I have an issue with martyrs, just that what with Aggra keeping the home fires burning and the current lack of other notable female characters it would be nice if one could make it to the end of an expansion without having babies, changing character completely or to put it bluntly, dying to rally the troops. Depending on how Yrel’s story mirrors Joan she might be captured by one clan or another of the Orcs but hopefully if this is the case, then Velen won’t be guilty of the same crime that Charles VII has been repeatedly accused of, that of leaving Joan to her fate. Yrel could easily burn (or whatever punishment the Warlords hand down to those stand against them) in the original time line but our interference should change her destiny in the time line we are messing around in. There is also the possibility that Velen could mimic Charles in that he changes his mind half way through the conflict, deciding that negotiation not war is the way forward, something which I’m sure Yrel like Joan before her would disagree with.

I suppose I feel this is another example of Blizzard missing a trick. Why has there been no mention of this character before, they could have easily added another Draenei archaeology item when they first started working on the expansion. Something small and possibly even a grey referencing a Draenei hero who died bravely fighting against the Orcs. They wouldn’t have even needed to give a name or mention gender, just a tiny teaser towards their end-game. Although I suppose that it’s entirely possible that they will do something similar in the pre-expansion patch as a scene setter (and if they hadn’t thought of this, they should!).

I must admit my first reaction on discovering this “Joan of Argus*” was a negative one but then I started to contemplate the fate of the other women who inspired me as a child. Penthesilea the Amazon, slain by Achilles at Troy (by his reaction to her corpse, she was no doubt lucky he killed her before noticing what she looked like) and Boudicca, the Iceni Queen whose name shares meaning with my own who was flogged by the Romans, who watched her daughters being brutalized and assaulted and then if we believe the victors who wrote the history books, committed suicide rather than be captured (although given the Roman track record, not sure I would have done anything different in her place). Picking a female warrior to build a character around who died at a ripe old age in her own bed might be a tricky task and by choosing Joan, Blizzard have given themselves an fascinating building block to create a character that breaks the mold.

I’d also like to comment on the now infamous “boys trip” line. I happen to love Victorian Literature, a fact I’m sure long time readers are already aware of. Conan Doyle in particular was a childhood favourite, especially given that my Father felt that television destroyed young and impressionable minds and that I should either be curled up reading or outside taking part in such healthy pursuits as shooting things or “playing” war. Did it bother me that the Lost World was a “boys trip”? Not in the slightest, it reflects the period in which it was written and no doubt the attitude of it’s author but that should not be the case with Warcraft given that it’s over a 100 years later. This expansion shouldn’t just be about exploring the story which has already been told, there should be many threads interwoven amongst it and these hopefully will include those of women like Yrel, Garona, Draka, Greatmother Geyah and Ishanah.

In fact I think I’m going to go and get my Paladin to 90 so she’s ready to go back and fight at Yrel’s side.


* I read this on a forum but can no longer remember which one but it’s oh so catchy albeit slightly cheesey.