Experiencing Emotions Like Thrall

"Thrall" | Art by SpiritAJ. Used with permission.

His name stands as a testament of the abuse he experienced throughout his youth. His orphaned past is, perhaps, an understandable reason for him to hate humanity.

Of all the stories that I immersed myself in as a child and teenager, and of all the characters in those stories, Thrall was the one who taught me the most. And, now as I reflect again on the tale of him coming to be Warchief of the Horde, I can recognize what it means to experience emotion in a healthy way.

Having been raised by humans, Thrall possessed the strategy and education of a human and the brute strength of an orc. By all accounts, he’s the best of both worlds, except he has no idea where he comes from.

Throughout his childhood and much of his adolescence Thrall never had any sort of relationship with another orc. The human, Aedelas Blackmoore, who had “adopted” and named Thrall, had taken careful precautions to ensure that Thrall was just that: a slave gladiator.

His upbringing was a nightmare of abuse, total disconnect from his own kind, and an absolute removal from his culture. One might expect Thrall to be a psychological mess, or, at the very least, to have a distinct hatred for humanity.

I’m totally uncomfortable with emotions and I want to stay as far away from them as possible.

But he doesn’t. After escaping and discovering the full extent of his people’s plight, he doesn’t lead his people in total war against humanity. Even in the midst of chaos, huge decisions, and mental distress, Thrall remains relatively controlled.

There’s a certain beauty, I think, in how Thrall experiences and works through emotions. He’s passionate and yet collected, fierce and yet peaceful. He’s experienced more than his share of psychological and physical pain and yet he has an incredible ability to healthily experience and show emotion.

Dealing with emotions healthily is something I’ve had a real tough time with recently. I generally like to think of myself as a sort of near sentient AI. Objectively, I understand the concept of emotions and feelings, but I don’t feel them strongly very often. And when I do, I don’t know what to do with them.

When Thrall overthrows Durnholde Keep, he has every right to be angry. This is the place that oversaw the orc internment camps; this is the brain and lifeblood behind the systematic oppression of his people; and, perhaps most importantly, this is the residence of Aedelas Blackmoore and the place where Thrall was raised.

Were I in Thrall’s situation, I’m uncertain of how I would react. I have an army behind me, an army ready to fight for me, an army ready to die for me. I know this army is in every way able to defeat the foe within it. Would I order an attack? Would I allow my past hurt to overcome my ideals and principles?

Or, would I, like Thrall, seek peace? Instead of destroying the camp, Anakin style, Thrall seeks to parlay with Blackmoore. Wishing only the freedom of his people, Thrall requests a peaceful transaction: the release of the orcs and an allowance of land for them to make a living on. Thrall exhibits the ideal reaction to this situation.

But if Thrall is the ideal, Blackmoore shows himself to be the exact opposite. Drunk, he comes to the parlay and rejects all offers from Thrall, revealing just how monstrous he is. He then shows Thrall the head of Taretha Foxton, a human girl and Thrall’s only childhood friend, whom he had beheaded as a traitor.

There’s a certain beauty, I think, in how Thrall experiences and works through emotions.

Thrall’s passion and ferocity surges up and he orders an immediate attack on the keep, which results in total victory for the orcs. But even after this, the surviving humans were rounded up and sent away peacefully by Thrall and his orcs. Rather than resigning to a life of hatred for the humans, Thrall accepts that his vengeance is complete. He doesn’t project his hatred for Blackmoore to all humans; he even ensures that Taretha’s necklace is delivered to her parents.

But how did he do it? How did he manage to stay so collected, even amid the walls that housed his abuse? I think what happens after everyone leaves the keep is telling.

Thrall looks back at the empty keep and calls upon the earth spirits to cause an earthquake that would demolish the keep. Thrall needs something other than him, something beyond him, to give finality to the situation.

This is something I am having to do more and more as situations arise, both good and bad, that require me to remain in control amongst a flurry of emotions. For me, it’s been my relationship with God that has allowed me to move closer to being able to fully express, feel, and yet control the emotions within me. I know I certainly haven’t arrived or achieved any sort of perfection in this, but I’m leaps and bounds beyond where I was a year ago, and I certainly can’t attribute those leaps and bounds to myself.

Emotions are terrifying things. I’m totally uncomfortable with them and, generally, I want to stay as far away from them as possible. The problem with trying to live that way, though, is that it’s utterly unrealistic for a human to do so. They always catch up to me. And when they do, I would rather deal with them like Thrall does, by relying on something bigger than myself to bring about peace and justice.

Dustin Asham

Dustin Asham

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Dustin Asham is like HAL 9000; ruthless, emotionless, and the only song he knows is Daisy, Daisy. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Providence University College and splits his time between his young adults ministry, his wife Cassie, and beating his friends at board games.
Dustin Asham

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