- Were you looking for the movie version of this character, Gul'dan or the version found on Draenor, Gul'dan? Or perhaps the Harbingers animated short Part 1.
- Are you looking for Gul'dan's Warcraft II or Warcraft III statistics? See Warcraft II Units or Warcraft III Units.
Abandoning the ways of shamanism and betraying both his people and his mentor to the demon-lord Kil'jaeden for personal gain and power, Gul'dan was directly responsible for the orcs' fall to demonic enslavement as well as for the Horde's invasion of Azeroth.
Tutored by the lord of the Burning Legion, he became the founder and master of the Shadow Council as well as the creator of the necromantic terrors known as Death-Knights. Gul'dan is considered by many to have been the most cunning and powerful mortal warlock to ever have existed. He often referred to himself as "Darkness Incarnate" and "The Destroyer of Dreams". In an attempt to resurrect the dark god Sargeras using Illidan Stormrage's soul the warlock was finally killed by Illidan after his spell was reversed by adventurers.
Little is known of Gul'dan's early history except that he was originally born on Draenor. No one now living has heard of the village where Gul'dan was born. He was born crippled, weak and deformed, which made him a target for constant mockery and abuse ever since his childhood. He knew that he was meant for more than his clan would ever allow of him, and he hated them for it. One day, the other clan members grew so tired of the runt's refusal to accept his place in the clan that they beat him repeatedly in an attempt to rid themselves of him once and for all. As the chieftain was about to beat him again, the elderly shaman of the clan stopped him, saying that he had tried and failed to help Gul'dan find his place in the clan. Laying a hand on Gul'dan's shoulder, the elder said, not unkindly, that there was nothing more he could do for him, but that he had always believed there was greatness within him. He then advised the runt to seek out the Throne of the Elements, for perhaps there he would find his destiny. In response, Gul'dan angrily beat his hand away. The chieftain then banished Gul'dan to the wastes outside the village, saying that there he would come to understand what it meant to have no people.
After months of starvation and wandering alone through the wastes, Gul'dan began to consider that the safety of a clan might be better than endless suffering. The bitterness that had sustained him all his life ate at him until nothing was left. After barely fighting off a group of giant carrion birds, he collapsed onto the ground. When he awoke, he heeded the old shaman's words and made his way to the Throne of the Elements, where he offered himself in the service of whatever would end his anguish. In response, the spirits of fire, earth, water and air erupted from the standing stones and began to swirl around him like rays of light. Just as he was about to touch them, the elements mysteriously recoiled from him, and the ray of light twisted into a tendril of shadow before vanishing. The elements had abandoned him, and Gul'dan was alone once again as rain began to pour. A single drop fell from his forehead into the pool of water in which he was kneeling, and in the absence of the furies, other voices began to whisper. They offered him a gift, and in return, he would become the harbinger of their fury.
When Gul'dan returned to his village, he was draped in tattered robes, the clan elder and the chieftain spotted him, the latter furiously approached him, saying that Gul'dan was never allowed to return to his people. In reply, Gul'dan roared that he has no people, before gripping the chieftain's face and causing him to erupt with fel energy, instantly killing him. Gul'dan then went on a rampage, burning down his village and killing all of his former brethren. When Gul'dan saw the shaman who had saved his life months earlier, he gripped his shoulder and thanked him, saying that he had found his destiny, before killing him as well. He then claimed the shaman's staff and left the burning ruins of his birthplace behind forever.
Rise of the Horde
A member of the Shadowmoon clan, Gul'dan showed extraordinary talent with his new found power that he obtained and began to work with the elemental powers of shamanism. Because of this, he was chosen as the honored apprentice to the elder shaman Ner'zhul, chieftain of the Shadowmoon Clan and spiritual leader of the orcs.
As Ner'zhul rallied the orcs for a war against the draenei at the behest of Kil'jaeden (hiding behind the facade of a powerful ancestor referred to as "The Beautiful One"), Gul'dan supported Ner'zhul fully. However, when Ner'zhul began to notice that they could no longer call upon the power of the elements or the ancestors, the shaman began to sense something was amiss. He discovered at Oshu'gun that he had been duped by Kil'jaeden and attempted to back out.
To Ner'zhul's horror, he discovered that Gul'dan had seen everything at Oshu'gun and told Kil'jaeden of it all before Ner'zhul returned. Kil'jaeden approached Gul'dan and offered him the chance to become a master of warlocks' magic, on the condition that he help bring the orcs under his banner. Gul'dan accepted with no qualms whatsoever, and immediately began the work of reshaping the orcs, hitherto a collection of simple shamanistic clans, into an unstoppable and bloodthirsty Horde.
The Horde and the Shadow Council
As a necessity of his bid for power, Gul'dan trained a number of like-minded and powerful orcs, whom he named the Shadow Council. The Council was soon using its power and influence to direct almost every aspect of orc society, so as to distract those few who opposed the dark ideals of their masters, Gul'dan and Kil'jaeden.
He even founded and created his own clan, the Stormreavers, who were loyal only to him. However, this clan was not founded until sometime later. To seal the bargain between him and Kil'jaeden, Gul'dan and the Shadow Council offered the clan chieftains the Blood of Mannoroth. This corrupted the Horde further, making it all the more bloodthirsty, barbaric, and evil, becoming a veritable extension of the demons whom they now worshiped.
As a test of the Horde's strength, Gul'dan and the Shadow Council guided the orcs into murdering every single draenei they could find on their homeworld; their near-extermination proved to Kil'jaeden that the orcs were ready for the next slaughter.
It was at some point during these proceedings that Gul'dan acquired the loyalty of Garona Halforcen.
The First War
Eventually, Gul'dan was contacted by the mad sorcerer Medivh - possessed by the Dark Titan Sargeras - who offered him the promise of godhood, locked away within the Tomb of Sargeras, if he would use the Horde to conquer Azeroth (Sargeras' ulterior motive, however, was to regain possession of his body). Gul'dan agreed, and, with the assistance of the Shadow Council, he helped Medivh open the Dark Portal between Azeroth and Draenor. Over the next few years, Gul'dan and his ogre-mage apprentice Cho'gall would secretly manipulate the Horde as it rampaged across Azeroth.
Gul'dan manipulated the election of Blackhand as the Horde's new warchief, as he was the perfect pawn for the Shadow Council. Though Blackhand was competent in battle and a relatively sound tactician, he was extremely lustful — and thus easy for Gul'dan to control.
Gul'dan saw the Horde led to supremacy over most of the Kingdom of Azeroth, but on the eve of the final siege of Stormwind, Gul'dan was aware of a raiding party against Medivh's tower of Karazhan. Realizing that the Azerothians intended to slay the Guardian, Gul'dan hastily ransacked Medivh's mind for the Tomb's location. He was still deep within the Guardian's thoughts when Lothar and Khadgar killed him, ending Medivh's treachery and forcing Gul'dan into a coma.
Without the counsel of Gul'dan, Blackhand was easily slain by Orgrim Doomhammer, who, with information acquired from an interrogated and tortured Garona, proceeded to slaughter Gul'dan's warlocks and the majority of the Shadow Council.
The Second War
Gul'dan awoke from the coma with only Cho'gall, the Twilight's Hammer, and his necrolytes still loyal to him; Blackhand, the Shadow Council, and the warlocks were dead, and Garona and the other clans had betrayed him. Garona's betrayal of course had been forced. Doomhammer was willing to spare Gul'dan's life, despite his gut feeling that he'd regret his decision, and even let him run Balor and the ruins of Stormwind Castle in exchange for information in regards to Blackhand's followers.
This was simple enough; Rend and Maim hadn't professed continued loyalty to Gul'dan, so the warlock had no qualms about betraying them. Gul'dan informed Doomhammer that the raiders were preparing to join the sons of Blackhand and stage a coup against him, as Blackhand had once been a raider himself. Whether this information was true or not, not even Gul'dan was certain, but it was possible, and Doomhammer disbanded the raiders and placed them among the many grunt regiments.
As a token of his "loyalty" to the new warchief, Gul'dan promised to create an army of undead riders loyal to him and him alone. Gul'dan and his necrolytes, led by Rakmar Sharpfang, tried to raise the dead Stormwind knights into the death knights but failed continuously. Gul'dan became frustrated and found another way: with Cho'gall's help, Gul'dan joined his necrolytes in a powerful ritual and, at the height of the incantation, slaughtered each and every one. Storing their souls in green, glowing gems and embedding the jewels into truncheons, Gul'dan then bound them to the slain Knights of Stormwind, creating the dreaded death knights. Though this fulfilled his promise to Doomhammer, the death knights were ultimately loyal to their creator. After, Doomhammer ambivalently left Gul'dan to his own devices, preoccupied by the war.
Betrayal and death
Ultimately, Gul'dan's thirst for power proved to be the Horde's undoing. On the eve of Doomhammer's attack on Lordaeron's capital, Gul'dan took the Stormreaver and Twilight's Hammer clans and set out to sea to locate the Tomb of Sargeras. With nearly half of his standing forces suddenly gone, Doomhammer was forced to retreat and hunt down the traitorous warlock. This reprieve would ultimately give the Alliance time to regroup and retaliate.
Gul'dan did indeed locate the Tomb, and used his power to raise it from the ocean floor. Taking with him his most capable followers, Gul'dan cast open the doors and entered. He did not, however, find the godhood he was promised. Instead, he was torn to shreds by a swarm of insane demons that the tomb's opening had unleashed. The remainder of his clans were slaughtered upon Doomhammer's arrival. In those last moments, Gul'dan realized that he, like his former mentor, had just been Sargeras' pawn, lured by promises of power to facilitate the Dark Titan's agenda.
Gul'dan's memories survived within the fel magic of his skull, along with the runes he painted on the walls of the Tomb in his last moments. Illidan found the Tomb using the memories from Gul'dan's skull, while Maiev Shadowsong discovered the runes. When the tomb caved in, Gul'dan's final testament was buried.
Possible slayers of Gul'dan
However, there is also the possibility that the fiends that Gul'dan encountered in the Tomb of Sargeras were naga. Several pieces of evidence support this theory. At the end of seventeenth chapter in "Tides of Darkness", a novel by Aaron Rosenberg, there is short description of those fiends as they emerged from the building and attacked orc forces that were sent by Doomhammer to kill Gul'dan for his betrayal. It describes how one creature had too many limbs and too many joints and altogether too many teeth; and that it was soon followed by others.
In the first part of the twelfth chapter in "Beyond the Dark Portal", a novel by Aaron Rosenberg & Christie Golden, death knight Ragnok Bloodreaver, Tagar Spinebreaker, chieftain of the Bonechewer Clan, Fenris Wolfbrother, chieftain of the Thunderlord Clan, and other orcs from both clans joined together in a swift assault on the Tomb of Sargeras to claim the Jeweled Scepter of Sargeras.
There, they encountered the fiend that was holding the very scepter: "the creature was so tall that it was forced to hunch within the room beyond. Its skin was scaled and covered in bumps that seemed to ripple, as if somehow its surface were fluid like water. Spikes jutted from the shoulders, the forearms, the chest, and various other places. The over-long arms ended in huge hands with long claws. The face was too narrow at the bottom and too wide at the top, with slanting eyes that glowed a smoky, roiling yellow and a tiny mouth somehow filled with a insane number of razor-sharp teeth. A long tail whipped about behind it". That description has very strong similarities with nagas' appearance, despite the book's suggestion that it was a demon from the Nether.
During the Sundering, several ancient kal'dorei capitals were destroyed and Queen Azshara was forced to make a pact with the Old Gods in order to save herself and her people from drowning. The Old Gods used their dark powers on the drowning Highborne and their queen, transforming them into the naga. Since then, the naga have expanded from their sunken empire, and have a wide command of the depths; because of this, it's highly possible that they'd discovered and dwelt within the Tomb of Sargeras before Gul'dan and his forces arrived.
While this theory has many valid points, it also overlooks quite a few that make it near impossible as well. Later in the same chapter the "demon" is described as have legs with claws on them. Unfortunately, no known naga have legs. Also according to both books, "Beyond the Dark Portal" and "Tides of Darkness", it clearly states that the Tomb of Sargeras cannot be entered by any creature from Azeroth, one of the main reasons the first creature to enter it had to be Gul'dan, an orc from a different world, Draenor.
The Skull of Gul'dan
- Main article: The Skull of Gul'dan
After Gul'dan died, his skull was turned into a channeling totem for demonic energy. A small shard of Gul'dan's soul remained within the bleached bone of the skull, where he whispered to whomever held it; the warlock proved to still be dangerous, even in death.
The skull was used by Ner'zhul to open portals to other worlds on Draenor, and later by Khadgar to destroy the Dark Portal. After the destruction of the Dark Portal, Khadgar left the skull behind on Draenor in his haste to escape through one of Ner'zhul's rifts. Years later it would appear again on Azeroth, this time used by the Burning Legion to corrupt the forests of Felwood.
After learning of its existence from Arthas the death knight, Illidan Stormrage found and took the skull, absorbing its power, remaining only half night elf and becoming half demon. The skull remained in Illidan's possession until he was slain.
World of Warcraft
This section concerns content exclusive to World of Warcraft.
A vision of Gul'dan can be seen at the Altar of Damnation of Shadowmoon Valley in what is now Outland — the remnants of Draenor. The altar lies in front of a massive volcano known as the Hand of Gul'dan. The repeating vision appears to depict an event prior to the opening of the Dark Portal, where according to the Earthen Ring, the volcano was raised from the valley floor by Gul'dan himself when he severed the orcish people's connection to the elemental spirits of Draenor. The volcano is the reason the valley, once an idyllic forest shrouded by eternal night, became a barren volcanic wasteland.
Warlords of Draenor and escape
This section concerns content exclusive to Warlords of Draenor.
- Main article: Gul'dan (alternate)
Gul'dan was effectively revived when Garrosh used a time portal to Draenor of the past to give characters of that time access to Azeroth via the Dark Portal. Although the Dark Portal was closed from the Draenor side before Gul'dan could cross over, he continued to operate in Draenor, eventually taking over the Iron Horde from Garrosh and Grommash. Although he was defeated, he escaped to Azeroth through a Legion Portal, that he created to summon Archimonde from the remains of alternate Draenor's Dark Portal.
The Broken Isles and return of the Legion and Death
This section concerns content exclusive to Legion.
After escaping, he fled to the Broken Isles, found Illidan Stormrage, and presumably freed him from his secret containment in the Vault of the Wardens. Sometime before or after these events, Gul'dan uses the Tomb of Sargeras to open anew a massive portal above it that allows strange flying demon ships to emerge and the largest force of demons Azeroth has ever seen. The Alliance and Horde hastily assemble their forces to launch a near simultaneous assault on the Broken Shore in an attempt to enter the Tomb of Sargeras and halt the invading Burning Legion. Gul'dan summons a monstrous demon, Krosus, to apparently kill Tirion Fordring and battle the forces of Azeroth. A confluence of events exacerbated by lack of communications between the two factions leads to their retreat. Both King Varian Wrynn and Vol'jin are wounded. Sylvanas withdraws the Horde at Vol'jin's implicit request and Varian orders the pullback of the Alliance, thinking the Horde has betrayed them.
Gul'dan personally executes Varian after he is wounded by several Fel Guards, obliterating the King of Stormwind's body with a burst of fel magic after hearing his defiant last words.
He then attempts to use Illidan's body as a vessel for the Dark Titan Sargeras. Due to duping the Grand Magistrix of Suramar, Elisande, by the Legion, he was able to start the incantation in the Nighthold. He is interrupted by Khadgar and a group of heroes. After a long fight, Illidan's soul is returned to his body, allowing the demon hunter to end the spell. He then uses fel energy to destroy Gul'dan and crushes the skull in his hand, ending the warlock's reign of terror for good.
Gul’dan possesses an unquenchable thirst for power and a ruthless personality. Equally willing to manipulate friend and foe alike, he constantly tries to better his station in life through any means possible. Even though Gul’dan constantly tends to be embroiled in many different plots and schemes, his overarching goal is always to discover the location of the Tomb of Sargeras and to claim the dark titan’s powers for himself. Nothing else matters in comparison to this quest, and Gul’dan is willing to betray his own people and sacrifice his closest friends to achieve it.
Gul’dan can only be trusted to do what is in his own best interests. He often freely offers wealth to people in exchange for clues or information that might be useful, and then has them killed and reclaims his payment. Gul’dan only truly trusts people who are like himself — those who are openly ambitious and who will do anything to improve their lot in life. He feels that those people can be most easily predicted and manipulated through offers of wealth or prestige.
It is the people who serve higher moral or religious powers that he fears. They are often resistant to his lures, and in Gul’dan’s eyes can never be completely trusted or relied upon. Because of this, he tends to associate most easily with mages, sorcerers, rogues and scouts and dislikes druids, priests and paladins. His allegiance is with the Horde, and he is openly hostile to members of the Alliance races unless they are key to something Gul’dan desires.
Gul’dan summons monsters to distract and harass his foes before entering melee with his demon staff against foes that have been isolated by his divide-and-conquer tactics.
Powers and abilities
Gul'dan is widely agreed to be one of the most powerful mortals who ever existed. Brann believes that "Gul’dan became the most powerful mortal warlock in history". Medivh acknowledged that Gul'dan was the single most powerful warlock among his people. Both are likely correct; The Skull of Gul'dan remained an incredibly powerful focus of warlock magic for decades after the Orc's death. He also was responsible for raising the gigantic fel volcano known as the Hand of Gul'dan after severing the Orcs' ties to the elemental spirits of Draenor.
Gul'dan was also able to the Sketh'lon arakkoa with a single spell that not only destroyed their camps, but twisted their spirits too.
- "Bear witness to the undeniable power of our dark master!"
- "Beautiful." (upon receiving the plans for the Dark Portal from Medivh)
- "For I am Gul'dan… I am darkness incarnate. I will not be denied."
- "Behold those who have power, and who are not afraid to wield it. Behold... the warlocks!"
- "Myself? No. I have no desire to march through the streets with an axe or a hammer, meeting my foes in the flesh. My path is the far greater one. I shall meet them in spirit and crush them from afar, devouring them by the hundreds and the thousands. Soon, all that was promised me shall be mine, and then Doomhammer will be as nothing against me. Even the might of the Horde will pale before me, and I shall stretch out my hand and wipe this world clean, to remake it in my own image!" (when asked by Cho'gall about becoming a warchief)
- "Drink Hellscream...Claim your destiny. You will all be conquerors." (Warlords of Draenor timeline offering Grommash Hellscream and the orc clans the Blood of Mannoroth)
- "This was not our destiny!" (Gul'dan speaking to a hooded Garrosh Hellscream after the pit lord Mannoroth was slain by Grommash Hellscream)
- "Everything..." (when asked by Grommash Hellscream on what they would be giving up by drinking the Blood of Mannoroth in the Warlords timeline)
- "You promised conquest, Grommash... Yet, brought these clans to ruin." (Gul'dan confronting Grommash about the failing Iron Horde)
- "Your "Iron Will" is legend... I will enjoy breaking you!" (Gul'dan proclaiming to Grommash, after Grommash refused the second offering of fel blood)
- "Yes... I will build a new Horde... I will forge you into an unstoppable weapon... You will be the scourge of a hundred worlds... The might of a Legion..." (Gul'dan speaking to Kilrogg, as Kilrogg's body begins transforming after drinking the fel blood)
The Altar of Damnation
- Be silent! The shattering is soon to come!
- Bear witness to the undeniable power of our dark master!
- With his gift, I shall raze this land and reform it!
- Watch! See the ground shatter before us! Watch as the energy flows! It will feed our armies...
- We will never be without power! I have secured our future! Bask in my glory!
- It... is... done...
Finale at the Nighthold →
|Shadowmoon Valley||Tanaan Jungle||Frostfire Ridge||Shadowmoon Valley|
Velen (As Superior of the Temple of Karabor)
Master of the Black Temple
Ner'zhul (as Lord of Shadowmoon Fortress)
Grand Master of the Inner Circle of the Shadow Council
Grandmaster Vorpil, Fel'dan