Throughout the travelogue, I make many references to history, literature, television shows, movies, and other games. I've decided to create this page to explain these references zone-by-zone for anyone who is curious.
Eastern Plaguelands -
Dromascoi: Back when I first wrote the travelogue, I simply called this group the Eastern Tribes, and gave them a Russian motif. Later on, I decided to give the ethnicity an actual name and make them more Romanian. I hasten to add that I do not actually know very much about Romanian culture; I simply used Romanian-style personal and family names.
Official WoW lore is vague on the Light's exact origins, and I just thought it would be interesting for a religion of peace to rise up from the ashes of war. Just as many eastern European groups found themselves unwillingly incorporated into foreign empires, so too did Lordaeron conquer the Dromascoi. The renewal of Dromascoi identity after the Second War is patterned off of the rise in ethnic nationalism seen throughout Europe in the 19th century.
Silverpine Forest -
North Gilneas: I've heard that some people refer to Idaho as North Utah, due to the supposed similarities in culture between the two states. I decided to adapt this to the travelogue. Unlike the reclusive Gilneans, people in Utah are among the most gracious and hospitable in the country.
Hillsbrad Foothills -
The Farmers of Hillsbrad: In the game, Horde players can accept quests to murder the inhabitants of Hillbsrad. This is pretty much tantamount to open warfare, and I could never really understand why the Alliance didn't counterattack. I tried to explain this by having Hillsbrad populace consist of demobilized soldiers, which might be considered acceptable targets in a contested area.
Alterac Mountains -
Ariamism: The name "Ariamism" is a reference to the early Christian heresy of Arianism. The Arianists preached that Jesus Christ was created by, and therefore inferior to, God. The Holy Spirit, in turn, was created by and inferior to Jesus. This was in contrast to the Trinitarian belief which states that all parts of the Holy Trinity were equal and coterminous. Beyond the name, there is no real similarity between Arianism and Ariamism.
Dalaranese Culture: The idea of an elegant and cosmopolitan city of magic somehow made me think of Paris in the late 19th/early 20th century. Why? I have no idea. At any rate, I decided to base the Dalaranese off of the French. Describing the enchanted lights of the old city is a sidelong reference to Paris being called the City of Light.
Nosicae: Another allusion to a religion, this time the Gnostics. Once again, the similarity lies mostly in the name.
The Hinterlands -
Stromgarde Law Regarding Troll Cities: When British explorers stumbled upon the monumental ruins of Great Zimbabwe, they foolishly refused to believe that Africans were capable of building anything so spectacular. They came up with a number of increasingly preposterous explanations for the city's existence, believing it to be a long-lost Phoenician colony or even the work of space aliens. The Stromgarde law that forbids attributing the construction of Amani cities to the trolls is a mocking reference to this idiotic belief.
Great Zimbabwe was built by the African Shona people, who used it as a capital of their kingdom for several centuries.
Arathi Highlands -
Stromgarde Culture: Stromgarde literally means "stream guard" in German. Of course, there aren't any streams near Strom in-game, but no need to nitpick. This is the main reason I decided to loosely base Stromgarde off of Germany. The standing stones and the environment of the highlands actually suggests something more Scottish, but I figured we already have the dwarves for that.
The Wetlands -
Dakon: A reference to HP Lovecraft's Dagon, putting a somewhat darker spin on the Bounty Festival.
The Badlands -
Dialogue: “Question me if you will. But know that the Lich King never forgets an insult. Fearsome though I may be, I am the least terrible of his liches, and I do not even dare look upon the countenances of my masters.” This is a reference to what the gatekeeper says to the man from the country in Kafka's parable, Before the Law.
Dark Iron Culture: For the Dark Irons, I drew most of my inspiration from accounts of Stalin's Russia and modern North Korea. Sadly, the rampant paranoia is not much of an exaggeration.
The Redridge Mountains -
Corporal Bradley: This refers to the Corporal Bradley briefly mentioned in the Decemberists' song, The Soldiering Life.
Lakeshire Returners: Old school gamers might have caught this references to the Returners, a resistance movement in Final Fantasy 3/6 (the only FF game I've played all the way through).
Mardera: Rain of Fire and Summon Scorpions were both spells used by the Warcraft 1 conjurers.
Stormwind Religion: I figured that religion in Stormwind might be less structured, due to the distance from the faith's center in Lordaeron. I presented it as being more emotional and personal than the Light in Lordaeron, and is a bit like American Protestantism when compared to the various European state churches. The inspiration here comes more from the difference between the two, rather than specific attributes of them.
Elwynn Forest -
Belgrano: The character of Belgrano is based off of Jorge Luis Borges, a blind Argentine writer (and librarian) considered to be among the greatest literary minds of all time. His short stories explore weighty ideas like infinity, language, and perception, all backed up by a truly astonishing erudition. He is one of my favorite writers, and I strongly recommend that readers of this blog check out his stories. The Library of Babel, the Zahir, and Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius and particularly good.
The character's name comes from Avenida Belgrano, a street in Buenos Aires where Borges lived for some time.
Stormwind Culture: Loosely patterned off of the United States (emphasis on "loosely).
Stormwind City -
Eli, the Barrow Boy: Another Decemberists reference, this time to the song of the same name. the lyrics even refer to Eli working out of the Old Town.
Erelinde: Okay, time for a confession of an old shame. Erelinde was actually a character I had in-game. For some reason, I decided to play a character based off of Beat luminary Jack Kerouac. This idea might not have been so bad in and of itself, but I really can't pull off Kerouac's style. I ended up sounding like a particularly clueless '50s teenybopper who'd skimmed On the Road a few times.
Pig and Whistle Music: Jazz.
Defias Brotherhood: Western media (particularly in America) tends to enshrine rebellion. This is by no means a bad thing. However, it's easy for people to forget just how destructive most rebel groups are. Quite a few end up being just as bad as the former oppressors, if not worse.
In writing my interpretation of the Defias, I drew a lot of inspiration from the Khmer Rouge and other Maoist groups, who are responsible for some of the 20th century's worst cruelties. Their ideology, however, draws more from the Jacobins in the French Revolution.
Nightmares in Darkshire: I mentioned this as a reference to the Nightmare afflicting the Emerald Dream. Remember, the Twilight Grove contains a portal to the Emerald Dream.
Ralmanni: I created the Ralmanni for several reasons, the most pressing being the almost complete lack of material in Deadwind Pass. The old RPG books made references to Gypsies living in the area, and I decided to expand on that.
The Gypsies actually call themselves Roma; the term Gypsy came about because medieval Europeans erroneously believed them to have come from Egypt. The Roma actually came from northern India, and I tried to reference this by trying to make the Ralmanni names sound vaguely Hindi (given how little I know about Hindi culture, I may have totally messed this up).
Deadwind Pass -
Ghostly White Flowers: This is a reference to White Claudia, the hallucinogenic drug featured in the Silent Hill series.
The Swamp of Sorrows -
Dan'jo: I've always been fascinated by the story of Joshua Norton, a South African (of English descent) who moved to 19th century San Francisco and ended up insane and penniless. His madness brought success. Declaring himself the Emperor of the United States, he eventually became one of the city's biggest attractions. Restaurants gave him free meals and people tipped their hats to him on the street; he even befriended Mark Twain.
Emperor Norton was a genuine hero. During one of the anti-Chinese riots, he stopped an angry mob from attacking Chinatown by reciting the Lord's Prayer until they dispersed, perhaps shamed by his decency or simply reluctant to attack such a popular figure.
Dan'jo is loosely inspired by Emperor Norton, as someone who also turned insanity to his advantage.
Rohk'ard: The old Warcraft 1 map featured the orcish towns of Stonard and Rockard. While Stonard obviously still exists, Blizzard decided not to use Rockard, probably because it sounded too silly. I reincorporated it, chalking up the name to a human transliteration error.
Thok'dan: The Warcraft 1 manual tells about the first band of orcs through the Dark Portal. Their leader, named Thok, wrote this account:
"Thok go through shiny hole. Then me fall down, but me good. Me find many good things to eat. We find village. We mash them and eat their food. Thok stop now. Head hurt from write."
Thok'dan is the very same Thok who wrote the above passage, now an older, sadder, and much wiser orc.
Stranglethorn Vale -
Alima Corwyn: Her last name is a reference to the Warcraft 1 master cheat code, "Corwin of Amber" (I incorrectly remembered it as being spelled Corwyn). I believe that the cheat itself is a reference to Zelazny's Amber series, but I intended it as an allusion to Warcraft 1.
Goblin Coffee Stand: I got the idea for this after hearing my Latin American history professor's account of drinking coffee in Brazil (though the Brazilian version does not involve peppers, at least not to the best of my knowledge).
The Harri Leim Song: This is a reference to the Third Man, one of my all-time favorite movies. The theme music was played on a zither, which is like a twangier, western version of the Japanese koto.
Warsong Lumber Camp Peons: Much like the Hillsbrad farmers, I decided that it made more sense for the Warsong peons to be considered combatants rather than civilians.
The Mandible Lodge: Inspired by the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks.
Fil Kaydik: The name's an obvious allusion to science fiction writer Philip K Dick. His stories explored the nature of reality and humanity, and provided the source for movies like Blade Runner, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly. He's one of my favorite authors.
Rebek Henmebbel: This didn't really come through in the name, but it's supposed to be a reference to Robert A Heinlein, one of the science fiction greats. I'm actually not a big Heinlein fan, but I do respect him, so I figured I'd allude to him here.
Sick Sad World: I'm sure Daria fans caught this reference to the infamous show-within-a-show.
"He came to Ahn'qiraj for a fight... instead, he found a wife! She's my Qiraji love bride, next on Sick Sad World of Warcraft!"
The Barrens -
Thunderdrake: This drink is a reference to the legendarily awful Thunderbird, a type of cheap, low-end fortified wine that pretty much kills your liver.
Tigerclaw War-Pack: Veterans of the Vega Campaign might've recognized this reference to the TCS Tiger's Claw in Wing Commander 1.
Black Lion War-Pack: Another Wing Commander reference, this time to one of the squadrons on the Tiger's Claw.
Harz Blacknail: The resemblance is admittedly tenuous, but the idea for Harz stems from the Pin, a crippled drug dealer in the film, Brick. Brick's awesome, by the way, you should all check it out.
Martz: He's a stand-in for Metzen, which hopefully comes through in the description of Martz's art. This travelogue really owes everything to Metzen, so it seemed only appropriate to give tribute to him in some way.
Orcish Caravans: The orc merchants, who combine the role of traders, explorers, diplomats, and spies, are based off of the Aztec pochteca, who did pretty much the same thing.
Hun'ton: This probably counts as a failed reference, since it's too unclear, but Hun'ton is meant to be a reference to Huntington Beach, CA, Surf City USA.
Shu'halo'hanok: I didn't base the Feralas tribes off of any particular group. I just tried to figure out how isolation in a dense forest might affect the tauren.
Spirits of Nightmare: The nightmares that killed the shamans are an allusion to the Emerald Dream portal in Oneiros.
Gadgetzan Culture: I drew on some of the film noir tropes when writing about Gadgetzan. All the Water Company stuff is in-game, and was not intended as a reference to Chinatown (which I've regrettably not seen), but could work as one.
Shady Sand Market: This alludes to the town of Shady Sands, in Fallout 1.
Un'goro Crater -
Sucrose: I was trying to figure out what the silithids eat, and figured that something similar to aphid-farming would be appropriate.
The Exodar -
Draenic Culture: Blizzard still hasn't revealed that much about draenic society, which gives fans a lot of room for interpretation. I decided to make the draenei like idealized, religious communists. Now, I have a pretty strong hatred of communism; history shows it to be an immensely destructive ideology responsible for the deaths of millions. The draenei are able to make it work, precisely because they're not human.
This can be seen in draenic art, which is more like propaganda than individual creative expression. This is most obvious in their drama, which might be imagined as having all the preachiness of a Bertolt Brecht play and none of the cool music.
(Yes, Brecht was a genius, of a sort. But I've never been able to get over how damned condescending all of his plays are.)
Back in the Burning Crusade days, a lot of players expressed disappointment at the purity of the draenei. Some liked to interpret them as intolerant or cruel in their practice of the Holy Light. However, there's not a whole lot of evidence for this. Instead, I decided that they really are a race of saints, and that's exactly what makes them so frightening.
Bloodmyst Isle -
Bloodmyst Environment: Most of this comes from the game itself, but I also got some ideas from exaggerated portrayals of irradiation in popular fiction.
Troika: This is a Russian word, meaning a group of three.
The Ghostlands -
Blood Elf Culture: Though often interpreted as frivolous and decadent, I tried to emphasize qualities of duty and discipline within blood elf society. Hedonistic elements still exist, however; making merry is still a big part of their identity.
Juff'wup: As Tremor3258 noted in his comment, this sporeling's name refers to the Mycon, a race of fungal aliens in the game Star Control 2. They worshipped a concept or entity called Juffo Wup, and were delightfully insane.
Zangarmarsh Environment: The idea of cutting down mushrooms for "lumber" is from Beyond the Dark Portal, and is entirely fantastic. The universal veil does occur on some mushrooms. However, I doubt it would make a good building material in real life.
The Blade's Edge Mountains -
Gnomish Army: Anyone who's seen Toshley's Station in-game knows that the town is a big reference to Starship Troopers (aside from the name). I added to this by having the gnomes use an all-volunteer army.
Artz Cyklurk: Artz is the travelogue's version of Arthur C Clark.
Algo and Betlezsju: This is a reference to the stars Algol and Betelgeuse. Some of the ethereal names (and aspects of their culture) are vaguely Arabic, and both of those stars' names have their etymological roots in Arabic. Algol means "head of the ogre," though I'm not sure exactly what Betelgeuse means (the latter has apparently changed considerably from the original name).
Shattrath City -
Smelter Hill: There is (or was) a real neighborhood called Smelter Hill in the town of Joplin, MO. It's where my grandfather grew up. Few, if any, Mag'har lived in the Joplin version.
Dorotea Valencia: Her name alludes to Dorothy Vallens, the victimized torch singer in David Lynch's "Blue Velvet." Another great movie, but I recommend it cautiously; it's extremely disturbing, and not easy to watch.
Scryers: The Gnostics provided much of the inspiration for the Scryers. Gnosticism was a religion, popular during Roman times, that saw the material world as false and corrupt. Typically shunning dogma, they believed in following their own personal revelations in an attempt to reach the divine.
Voren'thal: My interpretation of Voren'thal is based off of the English writer and poet, William Blake. Blake is especially famous for his own illustrated work, which is worth checking out.
Terokkar Forest -
Arakkoa Culture: Going back to Gnosticism yet again, the arakkoa practice a sort of inversion of the religion. As the Gnostics believe that the material world is a hollow lie that blocks one from reaching the truth, the arakkoa believe that the material world is a merciful shield against a most horrifying truth. I suppose this also makes the arakkoa a bit Lovecraftian in their outlook.
Shadowmoon Valley -
Illidan's Titles: Dictators tend to love bombastic titles, and I presented Illidan as being no exception. One in particular, "Conqueror of the Burning Legion in Outland in General and Shadowmoon Valley in Particular," is a specific reference to Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, who called himself "Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular."
The Howling Fjord -
Kirovi: The Kirovi are obvious travelogue counterparts to the Russians.
Thrimbog: Some of the old Slavic pagan deities had "bog" (which means God in Russian) in their names. This includes Belabog and Chernobog (though there's some doubt as to whether or not the latter was actually considered a deity). Here, I combined bog with an altered version of Thorim to create Thrimbog.
Vrygatyri: This alludes to the bogatyrs, the hero-warriors of Slavic myth.
Yoshga the Deathless: Another reference to Slavic mythology, this time the evil wizard known as Koschei the Deathless. The name of Yoshga refers to Yogg-Saron.
The Grizzly Hills -
Father Vanya: I originally planned to make Vanya a stand-in for the Russian writer, Anton Chekov. Somehow this didn't work out, though the character's name is still a reference to Chekov's play, Uncle Vanya.
Leshniki: Spirits called leschy play a role in Slavic folks tales; this is a reference to that.
Little Water: Vodka literally means "little water."
Nevaksander: The warlord's name is an obvious reference to Aleksander Nevsky, the Russian leader who stopped the eastward advance of the Teutonic Knights.
Dalaran Architecture: In describing the interior of the Violet Citadel, I wanted to conjure something of the Art Nouveau aesthetic, which was popular in late 19th/early 20th century Paris.
The Borean Tundra -
Created Intelligence: AIs, obviously.
Nerubian Communication: The idea of Nerubians using psychic communication via dreams is inspired by Cthulhu. Given the Lovecraftian origins of the Nerubians, it seemed appropriate.
Tuskarr Drama: An anonymous commenter already pointed out the similarities to commedia dell'arte. Japanese Noh drama also uses stock characters, and I'm sure there are many other real world examples as well.
The Nature of Time: This is very loosely based off of M Theory, aka Multiple Worlds Theory.
The Garden of Forking Paths: This was the name of a short story written by Jorge Luis Borges, which described M Theory before physicists ever really considered it.
Black Omen: Describing Naxxramas as a "black omen for battles not yet fought", is a reference to the Black Omen, a massive floating fortress seen in the SNES classic, Chrono Trigger.
Dallard Corwyn's Final Line: This is a paraphrase of the words allegedly spoken by Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, at the outbreak of World War 1. The original line goes: "The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time."
The Cartels: The various goblin trade groups in WoW are called cartels, but don't really seem to fit the definition. While monopolistic, they aren't arranged between large companies within a single industry. I attempted to address this issue in the chapter, by chalking it up to the fact that the Steamwheedle Cartel originally was just that, and due to poor translation from Goblish to Common.
A big challenge in this section was to gel the discrepancies between my earlier presentation of the goblins, and what's shown in Cataclysm. Hopefully I managed to do this in a satisfactory manner (please tell me if you have any objections).
In His Wake -
Deathwing: I got the idea for his presentation from XK-Pluto, a RL weapons project that the US began building in the '50s (and thankfully abandoned). Deathwing is a considerably toned down version of the reality.