The Warcraft Lore series is a collection of articles delving deep into the history of many important Warcraft figures. Since World of Warcraft’s story is ongoing in the famous MMORPG and in some new novel publications, I will try to constantly update these articles. My main sources are Warcraft books and comics, Warcraft 1 / 2 /3, World of Warcraft, WoWWiki, WoWpedia and some theory-crafting sites. The following article will inform you about the history of Prince Arthas Menethil before he was transformed into the Lich King, probably one of the most iconic villains in the entire Warcraft universe.
Arthas Menethil was son of King Terenas Menethil II and Queen Lianne Menethil, Prince of Lordaeron and heir to the throne, although he never managed to claim the crown even after his father’s death. He had a sister, Calia Menethil, that suddenly disappeared (at least lore-wise) and re-appeared years later in the Legion expansion era. Arthas was born four years before the First War, one of the most important wars that took place in Azeroth.
Prince Arthas Menethil
The young prince, as a child, trained in order to be a Warrior by the dwarf Muradin Bronzebeard, brother to the king of Ironforge Magni Bronzebeard and friend of King Terenas. He also owned Invincible, a steed that he did not abandon even after his transformation. In his early days Arthas became close friends and spar partners with Varian Wrynn, the future King of Stormwind and Leader of the Alliance. Varian was always better in close combat, wining every spar he had with the young prince.
The Silver Hand
When Arthas became a teenager, he started training in the ways of the Light under the tutelage of Uther the Lightbringer. He later became a Paladin and he was inducted into the Knights of the Silver Hand at the age of 19 by Archbishop Alonsus Faol. Knights of the Silver Hand is an elite Paladin group, led by Uther and created by Alonsus Faol in order to strengthen the Alliance forces during the War. The original members were Uther, Tirion, Gavinrad, Saidan and Turalyon. When the prince joined the order he also got his first weapon, a holy warhammer by the name of Light’s Vengeance. After the Second War, during the trial of Tirion Fordring, Arthas was one of the four jurors.
Uther the Lightbringer, commander of The Silver Hand and mentor to Arthas
Jaina’s Love Story
Arthas developed an interest in the mage-apprentice Jaina Proudmoore when she was staying in Lordaeron while on her way to Dalaran, where she would be studying. Later he visited Dalaran so he could spend time with her and during his visit, Archmage Antonidas organized a banquet for Arthas and Kael’thas who happened to be there in the same time. Kael’thas Sunstrider was a strong blood elf mage, Prince of Quel’Thalas and a member of the Council of the Six. He also was in love with Jaina leading to a small conflict between him and the young prince. Some years later Arthas abruptly ended the relationship with Jaina so she could focus on her magical studies in Dalaran.
A young Jaina Proudmoore
The Beginning of the End
When Arthas turned 24, many Orcs broke free from their prison camps and there were rumors of a plague in the northlands. The prince travelled to Strahnbrad to assist Uther in the defense of the town from the orcish raids. This is where the story of Warcraft 3 begins. But Orcs weren’t the main problem as the rumors about the plague became facts about a new disease called the Plague of Undeath. Jaina and Captain Falric were dispatched to help Arthas investigate. Together they encountered undead for the first time at an infested granary in Brill, led by the necromancer and previous member of the Council of the Six Kel’Thuzad.
Kel’Thuzad, former Kirin Tor mage and necromancer
Plague of the Undeath
Although they defeated the undead, they didn’t manage to kill the necromancer. When they tracked him down and eliminated him it was already too late. Kel’thuzad had already infected the stored grain in Andorhal. In his dying words the undead mage mentioned Mal’Ganis, a nathrezim demon who led the army of the undead from the town of Stratholme. Jaina and Arthas began their quest to kill the demon so they could end the undead problem forever. However, along the way, they stopped in the town of Hearthglen to rest where they were informed about an incoming undead army just some miles away from the town.
Arthas stayed to defend the city, while Jaina was sent to inform Uther and ask for reinforcmenets. But Kel’thuzad’s infested grain crates were already shipped to nearby towns killing villagers and turning them into undead monstrosities. It was when Arthas realised that the plague was not a mass murder weapon, but rather the means of turning innocent townsfolk into undead creatures. Artha’s forces barely held out until Uther and his knights arrived saving the day. The next day, Uther gathered the remaining troops and began the march to Stratholme.
Arthas upon his arrival in Stratholme
The Culling of Stratholme
When they arrived at Stratholme, Arthas found out that the grain has already been distributed and that the people of the town will soon become undead. In one of the most important Warcraft moments, he ordered Uther and his knights to purge the entire city, killing everyone. Uther strongly disagreed, asking the young prince if he had lost his mind and stating that he would not follow such an order even if Arthas were his king.
Mal’Ganis, a nethrezim demon and one of the main antagonists in Warcraft 3
Arthas proceeded to relieve Uther of his command and suspended his paladins from service. Half of the forces were against this butchery and left with Uther, including Jaina. The rest of the soldiers followed the prince into the slaughtering of the infected citizens. When they slayed every single citizen in Stratholme, Arthas confronted Mal’Ganis only for the demon to escape via a portal and teleport to Northrend, the northest region in Azeroth and a place of eternal winter.
Arthas and his remaining forces pursued Mal’Ganis into the cold north. When they arrived in Northrend, they found out that Muradin was already there in the search of the famous runeblade Frostmourne. The two heroes merged their groups and started the quest for Frostmourne. During their search, a messenger from Lordaeron arrived with strict orders from King Terenas for Arthas and his men to return back immediately. The prince defied his father’s order and with the help of some local mercenaries he secretly burned his ships before his men got to them. With no way of returning back, Arthas informed his men that the only way they were leaving Northrend was through victory over Mal’Ganis.
Arthas wielding Frostmourne, slowly becoming The Lich King
Soon they discovered an ancient waygate that led them straight to the place where Frostmourne was held. Arthas was soon confronted by the sword’s guardian, who tried to keep him from Frostmourne, apparently for his own protection. Killing the guardian despite the warnings Arthas discarded Light’s Vengeance. Muradin reading and ancient nearby inscription warned Arthas that the blade was cursed and pleaded with him to forget Mal’Ganis and head home.
Arthas refused to obey one more time, pulling the sword from his pedestal, and proclaiming that he would “give anything or pay any price, if only they will help him save his people”. When he wielded the sword he began to hear a strange voice inside his head and at the same time, an ice shard struck Muradin rendering him unconscious although in Warcraft 3 it looks like it killed him. Leaving Muradin behind, the evil prince proceeded to face Mal’Ganis.
When they finally met, the demon informed him that the voice that he has in his head is that of the Lich King. Much to the dreadlord’s surprise, Arthas pierced Mal’Ganis with Frostmourne killing him. In the next days Arthas lost all of his remaining sanity, set sail for Lordaeron and the rest is history.
if you enjoyed this lore article be sure to read about the War of the Spider as well.