We meet yet again, my still faithful readers. As you might have noticed, there has been a distinct lack of new posts in the last couple of weeks. This, of course, is no coincidence, and will unfortunately not be remedied within the next few weeks. Work for uni, the Secret Santa Art Exchange and other projects, and actually playing the game from time to time (my girlfriend might tell you that I still play way too much, and clearly always at the wrong time, but what does she know?!) have been keeping me fairly busy. With the coming of the holidays and the real life guild festival (I contemplated calling it a meeting, but it’s really just a gathering of insane people who party for a few days) through New Year’s Eve that’s not likely to change much. After that, I might have more time again, but we will see.
On to the real deal: I recently had a nice conversation about times, dates and everything in Azeroth with Angelya and Rioriel (who actually spawned the idea). A few days later I got my courage up and suggested it as a Shared Topic on Blog Azeroth.
For anyone not in the know: Shared Topics can be suggested by any blogger on the Blog Azeroth forums. If they are deemed appropriate and interesting, a moderator will give the topic suggestion a date, and during the assigned week any blogger can write their response on it. It is a great way to get through writer’s block, to practise your writing skills or to simply give your spin on a topic you find interesting.
The main reason you haven’t seen me posting any other Shared Topics is simply because at first I wanted to get the blog going (which didn’t work out quite so well, now did it?) and then had no or too little time to give them a go. Which is a pity, because I had a hilarious idea for last week’s — at least in my head it was hilarious.
The topic I suggested reads as follows:
Time passes, in real life and in WoW. But except for how long a day and a year are, we know virtually nothing about the calendar in Azeroth. Are there also twelve months in Azeroth as there are here? How long are they? Only because February is 28 days long in the calendars of Western civilizations doesn’t mean Azeroth’s February has to have the same length.
As there are many different civilizations with their own languages spread throughout Azeroth, what names might the days and months have?
How It Works on Earth
To discuss time measurements in Azeroth it might be helpful to start out by looking at how we on Earth measure time. However, even this is not the same for everyone. I am sure many have wondered before why the Chinese don’t celebrate the advent of the new year at another date than “the rest of us”, without you ever considering how arbitrary the measurement of time really is. There are calendars based on the moon as well as calendars based on the sun, if you can believe it. Without going too much into the minutiae of things like hours, minutes and seconds, we (i.e. the “Western civilized world” — although the term sounds horribly wrong, I couldn’t come up with something better on the spot) measure time in the following:
Decades, centuries and millenia are just convenient additions of a certain number of years (10 years, 100 years, etc.), so they don’t really need to be discussed here.
A day is…well, a day long. The period between sunrises, or the time it takes the earth to spin around itself once. Although only the time in which the sun is up was called ‘day’ first (and although this seems plausible, I’m talking completely out of my butt here and have no data to support this) and the dark part ‘night’, we have come to understand the period that is ‘one day’ as those 24 hours from sunrise A to sunrise B (sunrise because of the aforementioned other meaning of day, i.e. “time with sun up”).
Weeks are a completely religiously motivated thing. If certain people who wrote a book they named after Phil Collins’ old band (I’m sure it must’ve been that way around!) hadn’t been so keen on the number seven, a week could’ve been 15 days, 2 days or 73 days long. But since God did it all in 7 days, a week, it was decided on, should be exactly that long.
A month is signified (or was originally, at least) by the phases of the moon. The words ‘month’ and ‘moon’ don’t look quite alike for nothing. A month is the time between two full moons (or any phase of the moon, really; that it is full moons is another piece of guess work by me; it is the most noticable phase of the moon, after all). In the olden days when the old Greek complained about the bad weather around Troy (“Whose idea was this, anyhow? No Helen is worth ten years of sleeping in poorly constructed and maintained tents and battling on an empty stomach!”) we had a calendar whose years were based on the moon even (I could be wrong in that the Greeks could’ve actually had a solar calendar; again, out-of-butt talking). Then, one day, some Roman Julio Igles– I mean Caesar thought this wasn’t such a good idea.
Seasons are reigned by nature. When the leaves fall, it’s autumn. Or fall, for the American folks out there (can you guess where that season got its name from?). When everything blossoms and the birds come back from Africa, it’s spring. The four seasons are really natural, flowing things (not the Four Seasons, though; nothing natural about that) that some OCD kiddo decided to put a date on. Why is the 21st of June the beginning of summer? Because the guy proposing it yelled louder than the poor 18th of May guy. As different as the four seasons are in some parts of the world, as little they differ in other parts (e.g. near the equator — again, anyone have a guess for that denomination?).
A year is the time it takes the Sun to circle the Earth– I mean the Earth to go around the Sun. This calendar, introduced first by Julius Caesar (who wasn’t quite aware of the Earth-doing-the-circling thing yet, though), aligns with the seasons more nicely than one that is based on the moon. This season-fitting calendar was arguably the greatest invention ever. Imagine there was no August. How could you complain about all the rain “when the sun is supposed to shine in August” if you didn’t know that the sun should even shine in August because August is in the summer every year?
I can hear your minds crackling from all the confusing “what-ifs” and the anthropological talk of arbitrary measurements, different seasons and regulated calendars. But now maybe you know a bit more about why Summer is never in April (lesbian pun? check!).
Let’s Take This to WoW, Shall We?
Why, if the calendar in game tells me it’s December the 18th 2011, should all of what you wrote even be important for my life in Azeroth?
Easy: the in game calendar was designed for the player. It was designed so that players didn’t have to learn a whole new calendar in order to play the game. As fascinating as this would be for a select few, it wouldn’t have been fun for most players. That doesn’t mean that the world of Azeroth and real life (I couldn’t resist!) aren’t vastly different from one another. Just like your character bravely faces and destroys dragons when you — in the real world — would run screaming, so it is not only thinkable, but probable that the races of Azeroth count time differently than us.
While we can assume that at least days are approximately the same length as on Earth (the sun rises and sets within the same amount of time), we don’t really know about the other measuring devices.
As I said above, weeks are completely arbitrary, so I am not even discussing them much. However, if the Darkmoon Faire is open for 7 days a month, does this mean this is a week? Or is it simply Silas Darkmoon’s lucky number?
Similarly, the only in game indication for months I can come up with is the Darkmoon Faire as well. This is from Wowpedia:
The Darkmoon Faire is a large gathering of activities on the southern area of Darkmoon Island, brought together by Silas Darkmoon. The faire opens up on the first Sunday of the month and lasts for one week.
This would indicate that, at least approximately, the length of months in our calendar corresponds to the length of months in Azeroth. Questionable is the denomination ‘month’ here as there is no apparent correspondence between the length of a month in Azeroth and the phases of its moons. The two moons (of which you only see one in game) don’t seem to wax or wane. Assuming there are no phases, maybe the visual distance between the moons plays a vital role. A month could be the period of time it takes the two moons to meet (i.e. be in the same place as seen from Azeroth) or perhaps the quantity of days it takes the one moon to “leave” the other moon (assuming the moons move at similar stellar speeds, this option seems more likely, as otherwise a “month” would either be extremely long or the one moon would move way, way, waaaaay faster than the other).
Seasons, with the exception of obscure seasonal events (and as we are all aware, customary seasonal events don’t necessarily have to do anything with the four seasons), are virtually non-existent in WoW. There is no raining season in the deserts of Tanaris, no snowflake (except for all you little, precious, individual snowflakes!) ever touches the grass in Elwynn Forest, and it is not likely there will be a monsun season on Pandaria. The male dwarf joke “Ahhh, winter… Yes… Winter…” is funny to them (probably) because it is always winter in Dun Morogh (let’s remember that all of the three big clans called Ironforge their home once, so it’s not unlikely a Wildhammer or Darkiron would tell this “joke”). The snow, which is a defining character of winter (at least it is more than likely that it is at the birth place of the denomination), never melts. There seems to be no global warming, too. At least not yet. I’m sure the goblins can fix that.
As for years, there isn’t really an in game thing. Sure, the War of the Ancients took place 10,000 years ago. But were those years as long as what we call years? There is, however, a timeline by Blizzard floating out there in the internethers. According to this timeline, the events we as players witnessed during the expansions took place within one year. So, from the opening of the Dark Portal to the defeat of Kil’jaeden? One year. From the call to Northrend to Halion’s demise? One year. Now consider how long it took us “in real time” to go through that content. That’s right, something around two years. Does this mean that two years on Earth are the same as one year in Azeroth? Maybe, maybe not.
Don’t be too disappointed when this turns out not to be all that spectacular; I just like alliterations (as if you hadn’t noticed).
Now that we have cleared up (haha!) how calendars work and what we know about time measurements in WoW, let’s get speculative. What races might use what kind of calendar? It is probable that how the different races (and factions) count time is different. While there probably is a general consensus within a race by what standards the passing of time is measured (due to traditions), there might not be a unified starting point. As the starting point for any calculation of times is marked by some event that is of particular importance for the counting crows (heh!), these may vary radically from faction to faction. You will see what I mean by this in a second.
- Humans are farmers, warriors, sages, fanatics, and basically everything else you can imagine. The motley nature of humans makes it very difficult to picture them with a strictly solar or lunar calendar. They might have a mixture between a solar and a lunar calendar (where solar phases define seasons and years and lunar occurences define months), similar to what we have in the real world (and have had for quite some time now). A starting point is difficult to pin down. You can easily imagine every faction of humans to have their own. So might the Argent Dawn/Crusade (whatever Tirion rolls with these days) have an assumed date of Tyr attaching his silver fist to his arm or the first time the Light communicated with a paladin or the founding date of the Order of the Silver Hand (or any other significant paladin-related date, really) as their starting point, while the denizens of Stormwind might count in dynasties (currently the Wrynn dynasty), e.g. the fifteenth year of the Wrynn dynasty (similar to how the Japanese count).
- Orcs are not native to Azeroth. They come from Draenor. Thus, they might have had a completely different calculation of times than anything we know. However, ever since they have come to Azeroth, they likely have adopted (at least to a certain degree) the calendar of another race of their new home planet. Most orcs will probably go with either troll or tauren calendars, and some may utilize Human or even Elven calendars. As for a starting point: anything is possible. From the moment they set foot on Azeroth through the freeing from the internment camps after the second war to the beginning of the reign of Garrosh Hellscream as warchief or even the end of the Cataclysm, different orcs may favor different starting points. It quickly becomes a question of who can be the most persistent — which is a nice way of saying stubborn. And we all know that if Orcs are anything, they are stubborn.
- Dwarves are difficult to pin down. As most dwarves are natural miners, they don’t see much of the sun or the moon. Their calendar, dating back to their origins as Earthen, might even be completely different. Maybe a year for a dwarf is measured by how long it takes erosion to ablate one cm (or inch or finger width or whatever) of a rock? Or maybe how long it takes a good ale to age? Dwarven calculation of times may begin with their creation by the Titans, the War of the Three Hammers or similar occurences. The three main factions might also count in either dynasties (Bronzebeard, Thaurissan etc.), and maybe the Wildhammer dwarves count from the first time a Wildhammer fought atop a gryphon.
- The Forsaken undead are former humans (and bloodelves; and dwarves and gnomes, I hear!). Thus, their calendars will correlate with their former races’. Maybe Sylvanas has pushed through a unified Forsaken calendar akin to the High elven one? Then again, she isn’t the type for concerning herself with calendars, is she? There are two events that are a strong contender for the Forsaken starting point: the first recorded case of the plague or the beginning of Sylvanas’ leadership. Although the defeat of the Lich King is a major event, too, I don’t think the Forsaken could have borne not calculating the time they have waited for their revenge.
- Night elves are lunatics. Quite literally. Not only are they grand screw-ups (expect a post on this at some distant point in the future), but they are incredibly focussed on the moon(s). Elune is their goddess of the moon, and not only does she call the biggest building in the elves’ capital her own, she also has her own sect (or as big sects like to refer to themselves: religion. Oh no, he didn’t!). Consequently, it is likely that their calendar is a lunar one. Whether it has something to do with waxing and waning or whether an interplay between the two moons is responsible for the way they define a month (and year) isn’t clear. The night elves have had many dates in their rich history that could mark the beginning of their count. The year 1 for night elves could start with any of the following (and more) events: the first conscious moments as night elves after being transformed from trolls due to the Well of Eternity (they are mutated trolls. Deal with it!), the foundation of Zin’Azshari (the Highborne mages might pick this date as it marks the beginning of their golden age), the first druid being taught by Cenarius (druid factions might choose to pick this date), the War of the Ancients (or rather: the first defeat of the Legion), the Sundering. Being the smug people they are it is also thinkable they start their count from the (assumed) moment the Titans created Azeroth.
- The Shu’halo, commonly known as tauren, are likely to have a solar calendar. As nomads, the sun was one of the few constants in a tauren’s life until they settled down in Mulgore. Plus, the tauren paladins call themselves Sunwalkers. Starting points for their calculation of times is difficult, as we (or at least I) don’t know as much about this nomadic people. The taurens seem to be a people full of tradition, though, so rather recent dates like their settlement in Thunder Bluff or their admission to Thrall’s Horde are not too likely.
- Gnomes are very peculiar little creatures. It is almost impossible to imagine them not having an exact system for counting time that has absolutely nothing to do with tradition, solar cycles, moon phases or major events. It therefore can be assumed that a year has a set number of months, days, hours, minutes, seconds and so on. If they count anything like this at all, that is. As for starting points: dynasties could be a possibility, but seeing as their best tinkerers are voted “kings” and “queens” for set periods of administration, it might get confusing. Imagine you tried to start a new year count every time a new President is elected in the US.
- Trolls are very mysterious. At least to me they are. One of the eldest races on Azeroth, they have rich traditions. Whether they would prefer a solar or lunar calendar, I don’t know. Given their connection with the night elves, a lunar one is possible. However, there is also the possibility of them having a seasonal calendar. Maybe certain herbs which are beneficial for talking to the loa (if you catch my drift) grow at certain times during the year, and the trolls align their ‘months’ and yearly cycles around these things. Starting points will probably go waaaaaaaaay back.
- Draenei are the newest “addition” to Azeroth (from a timeline perspective). I can see them having a completely different calendar than any other race on Azeroth. I do think they might have sustained their traditional calendar all through their thousands of years of flight from the Burning Legion (as the calendar was probably one of the few things reminding them of their lost home, Argus), as well as their calculation of times might have started some time on Argus. Additionally, they seem to be immortal (Velen is, what, 25,000 years old now?), which might prompt them to not even think of time as something that you can (or in fact have to) devide into subsections. Therefore, it is very hard to pin it down for the Draenei. Maybe one of the reasons they seem bewildered by the other races at times is the drastically different viewpoint they have on time?
- The Sin’dorei, or blood elves, do probably have the same way of measuring time as the night elves. The starting point of their counting time spans might be different, though: the Sundering, the destruction of the Sunwell or the “reanimation” of the Sunwell (by M’uru) might all be possible. Or it’s something completely different.
- Worgen are humans, and therefore are likely to have the same calendar. I can see them counting in dynasties or starting with the erection of the Gilnean Wall, as this seems an obvious choice.
- Goblins count everything, especially money. They have to have a calendar in order to know the best time for sales. Maybe their calendar is even entirely comprised of sale times? Who couldn’t imagine that. Starting points are difficult, though. Maybe the different cartels count from their first trade princes?
- Pandaren– I’m not even going to attempt to guess at this point.
Some More Food for Thought
While we’re at it, here is some more things one can consider when thinking about the topic of counting, calendars and denominations:
- the different races may have names for their respective “months”, “days” and so on, just like “Thursday” is “Donnerstag” in German, “jeudi” in French, “giovedì” in Italian and “четвéрг” in Russian (don’t even ask me to pronounce that). While on the topic of language, here is yet another piece of trivia I believe to be true: similarly to how the “common” language in Middle Earth, Westron, is its own language and was translated by Tolkien into English (I’m speaking from a Hobbit’s perspective, of course) so that the stories of elves and orcs, hobbits and humans, rangers and kings could be told, the “Common” language of the Azerothian humans is not English (or German, or [insert the language you play WoW in here]) at all. Mind blown?
- Numeral systems, how I love you. For most things in everyday life, we (again, Western civilizations) use a decimal system, which means we count to ten. Ten times one is ten. Take ten tens and you get one houndred. Take ten of those and you get the next big step, one thousand. A major reason why we count to ten is right at hand. Literally. Count the number of your fingers. … Interesting, huh? Now, we do have other systems we work with. The binary system of computers is only one of them. Another would be the duodecimal system, which counts to twelve. A day consists of two times twelve hours. 12 a.m., 12 p.m., and so on. Now consider this for a moment: if we have a decimal system (partly) because of the number of our fingers and toes, what about gnomes? They (famously) only have four fingers on each hand. Does that have an impact on how they count? And what about those trolls with their three fingers per hand? Do they have a heximal (six) system? Or do they maybe count in binaries because of their tusks?
Don’t worry. The next blog post will be easier to follow again, albeit maybe less mind-blowing. It can’t just be me who finds all this incredibly fascinating, can it? … Hello?