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This article is about the realm of death. For the expansion, see World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. For the arakkoa plane, see Shadow Realm.
NeutralThe Shadowlands
Level: 50 - 60
Shadowlands loading screen.jpg
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The Shadowlands are infinite. Their terrors and beauty were never meant for mortal eyes. I wonder if they can bear to behold all that awaits them. The denizens of this realm are the key to restoring the balance between life and death... if their trust can be earned. Death comes. And the end of everything... is just the beginning.
Bolvar Fordragon[1]

The Shadowlands (see below for other names and denotations) are nightmarish realms of decay, labyrinthine spiritual planes teeming with the souls of the dead who have passed from the world of the living.[2] The Shadowlands exist on the edge of reality.[3] the planes of Death and comprised of infinite afterlives sustained by the flow of anima from the recently dead. At the center lies Oribos, the Eternal City.

The origins of the Shadowlands remain uncertain, but they have existed ever since mortal life first arose in the physical universe.[2] They span all worlds, including Azeroth, on which Icecrown serves as an anchor to the Shadowlands.[4] Until recently, the nature of the shadowlands have been mysterious, with the living knowing only the borders, a realm of cold, decay and languishing undead. There are those who believe mortal souls are drawn into this dark place when they die, remaining there forever. Others hope their souls will go on to a brighter place.[2]

Mortal souls who cross the veil between life and death are judged by the mysterious Arbiter, who sends them off to one of the infinite realms of the Shadowlands that suits them most, each ruled by a powerful Covenant with its own unique role in maintaining the ecosystem of the afterlife.[3][5]

The Shadowlands can be seen as a shadowy version of the physical world, and can be routinely visited as a spirit when player characters die. Governed by the Covenants, the four ruling realms of the Shadowlands are Bastion, Ardenweald, Revendreth and Maldraxxus (although countless others exist), which serve as the main setting of World of Warcraft's eighth expansion.[5]


Within the Arbiter's Chamber are gateways to the infinite realms of the Shadowlands.
The Shadowlands represented in Chronicle Volume 1.

Spirit healers decide when it's time for a mortal soul to pass into the Shadowlands.[5] When a mortal dies and their soul crosses the veil between life and death, it is shepherded by the kyrian to Oribos so that they can be judged by the impassive Arbiter.[6] All of the soul's contents—deeds, misdeeds, thoughts, accomplishments, and failures—are laid bare before the Arbiter, who then judges in a mere instant and sends the soul through one of the gateways in her chamber to one of the infinite realms of the Shadowlands, the largest of which are ruled over by powerful Covenants.[3][5][7] The Covenants are ancient and powerful orders who have existed since the Shadowlands were shaped long ago, and who bear sacred duties to help maintain the afterlife's ecosystem. Not every soul is filtered into the main four Covenants.[5] Each soul brings with it a vital force known as anima, the product of all of the soul's experiences and actions in life. Anima is the lifeblood of the Shadowlands, making trees grow and rivers flow and is the source that's drawn upon to conduct the magic of death. Great souls—both good and evil—have a lot of anima, while those who have lived humbler lives have less.[3][5] Four of the realms—Ardenweald, Bastion, Maldraxxus, and Revendreth—are especially vital to the functioning of the Shadowlands. However, there could be infinite afterlives, some small and tailored to a single person while others are vast and full of either splendor or torment. All interpretations of the afterlife held by mortal cultures are possible somewhere within the Shadowlands.[8][9][10][11] Because souls are constantly crossing over from the mortal plane, that means new afterlives manifest to meet the needs of the Shadowlands.[12]

Between each realm is a cloudy space known as the In-Between which was once rich with streams of anima connecting the different domains, but the current anima drought has caused the realms to become cut off from one another, breeding fear and mistrust among the inhabitants.[8]

Souls are not necessarily permanently stuck in their assigned afterlives. When the machinery of Death functioned the way it was supposed to, souls who had completed obligations in one realm sometimes had the opportunity to travel to some of the other realms of the Shadowlands. For example, romantic partners who are initially sent to different realms may eventually find an afterlife they can share together.[10][13]

The Shadowlands are accessible upon death, where the player-character can roam, and can only be seen by other spirits.[14] The Spirit of Tony Two-Tusk describes the Shadowlands as all grey and dark, swirling clouds. While Uuna was in the Shadowlands,[15] she described it as dark and she was unable to see anything, though she could hear people interacting with her in the physical world. From within the Shadowlands, she could see the light of the naaru A'dal who was in the physical world, but it was so bright that it scared her. The moonlight at Lake Falathim allowed her to see a friend in the physical world.

When a soul is called from the afterlife, it is free to roam the material realm if it is not restrained within moments of its arrival.[16] Mortal souls that cross over and are brought back do not appear, however, to retain defined memories of what they experienced in the Shadowlands.[12] While in the Shadowlands, visions of past events may be seen.[17][18][19]

Sometimes, the spirits roam the Shadowlands without resting. It can be because their resting place wasn't complete, because of a battle in their resting place[20] or because of the corruption of their resting place.[14] To bring eternal peace to the souls, it is needed to destroy the source of corruption[21] or by making a ceremony with items such as  [Tuskarr Ritual Object].[22] A spirit in the Shadowlands can, with enough power over other souls, tear a hole into the living world once they are strong enough. This is how Jin'do returned to Azeroth.[23]

Time is perceived differently in the Shadowlands. Time and Death are not related, as Death is about eternity and not linear time.[10] Time is a construct of order and structure, but circumstances in the Shadowlands are more chaotic. To a soul in the Shadowlands, it can therefore feel like eons have passed since their arrival whereas only a few months or years have elapsed in the world of the living, much like a dream in which a significant period of time can seem to pass even though one has only slept for a few hours.[24][25] The Alliance and Horde leaders who were imprisoned in the Maw by the Mawsworn felt as if they were trapped for weeks or longer, enough for them to make countless escape attempts and for Jaina Proudmoore to feel as if time had lost all meaning, whereas far less time elapsed in the mortal world.[26][27] Conversely, to Salanar the Horseman, who inhabits the realm,[28] mere days passed between the war against the Lich King and the third invasion of the Burning Legion when it was really years.[29] Nevertheless, time of some kind seems to exist, as the Primus, before leaving his realm and disappearing, had an ally able to peer into the timeways to see every possible outcome for his military and its various tactics in order to determine the best possible ones.[30]

During the Day of the Dead, the Shadowlands draw closer to Azeroth.[31]


Keeper Odyn used knowledge he gleaned from the Shadowlands to create the first Val'kyr, Helya and tasked her with bringing the souls of worthy vrykul to the Halls of Valor.[32][33]

When Sylvanas Windrunner killed herself in Icecrown Citadel, she found herself in the darkness where she encountered nine Val'kyr that remained in service to the Scourge. While there, the partnership between Sylvanas and the Jailer started.[34]

Shadowlands in disarray

The veil between life and death shattered above Icecrown Citadel.
Shadowlands This section concerns content related to Shadowlands.

The Shadowlands are in a state of disarray. In the natural order of things, souls are sorted and sent on to an afterlife realm appropriate to the lives they lived,[5] but since around the time of the Burning Legion's third invasion of Azeroth,[35] and some time after Ursoc's death in the Emerald Nightmare,[36] the Arbiter has gone mysteriously dormant,[37] and all souls who have perished—including the innocents slain at Teldrassil—are now being funneled directly into the Maw. The Shadowlands are starving for anima even as the Maw continues to grow from the glut of fresh souls. Sylvanas Windrunner has been seemingly perpetrating acts to bring about great amounts of death and destruction. In partnership with the Jailer, they have been working toward a common end for some time.[5]

Members of the Alliance and Horde will manage to enter the Shadowlands with the help of Bolvar Fordragon and his death knights, and will directly be sent into the Maw. Thanks to the connection some of the heroes of Azeroth have to their world-soul, a number of them will be able to leave the Maw and travel the realms of the dead, being the first to do this kind of feat, and become known as the Maw Walkers.


Map of the Shadowlands.

Although the world map for the Shadowlands (pictured right) depicts the realms of the Shadowlands on a flat plane, this is only a top-down view. In reality, the Shadowlands are an infinite three-dimensional space, and Revendreth is the zone that is lowest down and closest to the Maw. Similarly, while Maldraxxus appears to be adjacent to the Maw, it's not being directly affected by it in the same way that Revendreth is.[38]


Other areas

Lore locations


Main article: Instances by continent


The Shadowlands in Azeroth as seen by a dead adventurer.

World of Warcraft

WoW Icon update.png This section concerns content related to the original World of Warcraft.

In World of Warcraft, the Shadowlands can be seen when a character dies. They can be resurrected by a Spirit Healer (or by finding the corpse of their physical body, though this may be just a game mechanic).

The Shadowlands can also be witnessed by other means, such as with some specific  [Reagent Pouch].[40] It can also be seen with some devices[41] and potions[42] while being alive. Many not-dead mortals who visit the Shadowlands do not return.[43]

The Burning Crusade

The Burning Crusade This section concerns content related to The Burning Crusade.

Shirrak the Dead Watcher, an otherworldly being, haunted both the spirit and physical worlds. A Draenei Spirit asked the adventurers to kill it.[44]

Wrath of the Lich King

Wrath of the Lich King This section concerns content related to Wrath of the Lich King.
Agmar's Hammer seen in the world of shadows in H [73] The Power to Destroy quest.

The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm

WoW-novel-logo-16x62.png This section concerns content related to the Warcraft novels, novellas, or short stories.

Thrall's soul entered into the world of spirit during a vision quest in order to reconnect with the elements. In it, he was transformed into a spirit wolf and Aggra, in the same form, led him through the swirling mist. The vision quest consisted of witnessing several important past events of his life with the involvement of the elements.[48]


Azuregos and Anara in the spirit world.
Cataclysm This section concerns content related to Cataclysm.

Mists of Pandaria

Mists of Pandaria This section concerns content related to Mists of Pandaria.

Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor This section concerns content related to Warlords of Draenor.
Shadow Gate used by Borgal Doomfist to get to the spirit realm.


Legion This section concerns content related to Legion.
A dark forest in the Shadowlands.
  • A Dark Place, entered by a portal at the Emerald Dragonshrine, is an area where "the barrier between the realms of life and death are thin".[64] Adventurers travel here to save a young eredar ghost named Uuna from creatures called Soul-Eaters mysterious denizens of the dark place that cannot be harmed by mortals.[64]

Exile's Reach

Shadowlands This section concerns content related to Shadowlands.

A shaman on Exile's Reach is sent by a Ghost Wolf to the spirit world by burning 4 Veil Blossoms in a campfire to free 3 captured ghost wolf packmates trapped by necrotic energies of the island.[65]

Battle for Azeroth

Spirit of Vol'jin and a Horde adventurer traveled through Orgrimmar in the Shadowlands.
Battle for Azeroth This section concerns content related to Battle for Azeroth.


Beings of death are ancient and powerful, and it is dangerous to meddle in their realm. When Odyn peered into the Shadowlands, he saw some of its inhabitants: souls in torment, the husks of the dead, ghostly wraiths with no face, and others with no form, all made of death itself. This was enough to frighten even him.[73]

Many beings in the Shadowlands are souls of deceased mortals, some of which have been transformed to serve a new purpose, such as the kyrian of Bastion. Other creatures—such as dredgers and stewards—are endemic to the Shadowlands and are naturally born from the magic of Death to serve the different realms and help facilitate the process of the afterlife.[74][75]

If a being of Death is killed on the mortal plane, their essence returns to the Shadowlands to be reformed, similar to how demons reform in the Twisting Nether.[10] However, if such a being—either the soul of a former mortal or a native being of the Shadowlands—is destroyed in the Shadowlands, they die permanently and their soul is lost forever. Their energy then disperses and joins the greater whole of the magic of Death.[38][76][77] If a "workforce" creature like a dredger or steward dies, another member of the same race will eventually manifest to take the place of the one that was killed.[74][75] Interestingly, Thanikos ordered to blast the corpses and sunder the souls of House of Rituals in order to prevent them from being raised by death magic to fight again.[78] A person that is still alive when they cross the veil into the Shadowlands, however, has a tether to their homeworld that might nudge them back to life when killed there.[12]

Endemic creatures of death
Transformed mortal souls
Unique beings

Other names


Other afterlives

In some situations, souls may be taken to other places besides the Shadowlands:

  • Souls can be sent to the Light, such as Uuna's parents or Crusader Bridenbrad. Requirements for this are unknown.
    • By extension souls can also, presumably, be sucked into the Void.
  • Spirits can go to the Emerald Dream including green dragons, most Wild Gods, and some druids such as Elerethe Renferal and Thaon Moonclaw.
    • G'Hanir atop a high peak in the Emerald Dream is the afterlife for all winged creatures of Azeroth including even dragons.
    • How Ardenweald in the Shadowlands is related to the Emerald Dream is yet unknown, as Ardenweald is where spirits of nature go to be reborn into the world of the living.
  • Halls of Valor is where spirits of vrykul warriors who prove their valor can be taken to by Odyn's Val'kyr to become his Valarjar.
  • Helheim is where vrykul souls that are stolen by Helya's kvaldir are brought to. Despite touching the Shadowlands, it is specifically not contained in it.[12]
  • Elementals and demons respectively return to the Elemental Plane and Twisting Nether upon death, where they are then reborn. Dying in these planes kills them permanently. With elementals, however, it's known that their primal energies are recycled into the Elemental Plane they're from.
  • Creations of the Old Gods that die in reality seem to return to Ny'alotha,[93][94] or at least they did before it was destroyed.
  • Quetz'lun's underworld is a special underworld created by the loa at the time of her death as a home of her and her cursed worshipers that killed her.[95]
  • In Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, Hades was where an orc's soul descended into for judgment when he died, and his essence was divided into good and evil.[96] This has since been retconned.

Spirits and undead can be trapped from going to an afterlife.

  • Frostmourne had thousands of souls contained within the blade.

In the RPG

Icon-RPG.png This section contains information from the Warcraft RPG which is considered non-canon.


The final destination of the spirits of the deceased remains a mystery to the priests and philosophers of Azeroth. However, as spells such as [Resurrection] can reunite a dead body with its spirit, and a majority of living creatures from the tauren to the troll shadow hunters claim they can communicate with and call upon the power of the spirits, a widely held belief is that the spirits of the dead remain on the Material Plane — in an immaterial state that can only be altered or contacted through the use of magic.[97]

RPG notes

  • Shadow hunters deal with the darkest aspects of the Shadowlands. Their connections to powerful voodoo spirits give them the ability to curse and heal at a whim.[98]
  • The Inner and Outer Planes doesn't appear to exist in Warcraft universe, however, they are related to the Shadowlands.[97]
  • The spell called "spiritual projection" or "astral projection" brings the caster to the Twisting Nether instead of the Shadowlands;[99] and the Twisting Nether is also referred as "realm of ghosts".[100] However, both planes don't appear to be related, as Outland is floating on the Twisting Nether,[99] but the Shadowlands can be reached in Outland in The Burning Crusade.

Notes and trivia

A Gilnean spirit goes into the next world.
  • The  [Headpiece of the Shadow Council] had a deep connection to the Shadowlands.
  • Spiritwalkers maintain a balance between the world of the living and the spirit realm.[101]
  •  [Dust from the Shadowlands] from the Legion expansion provides a significant increase to character experience.
  •  [Spirit Spirits] is a strong alcohol brew that gives the drinker a small glimpse into the spirit realm.
  •  [Haunting Memento] is a toy that has the target be haunted periodically "causing the spirit world to affect them", with a buff that "haunts" them with a random assortment of spooky effects.
  • Spirits without a material manifestation are still able to send items from the Shadowlands to the living.[102]
  • Spirit healers wait within the Shadowlands for those unfortunate adventurers whose spirits will soon join them. These floating figures of death and rebirth return people to life where their spirit stands.[79]
  • Death knights are able to learn the ability [Raise Ally] which pulls their ally's spirit back from the Realm of the Dead and forces it back into their body. Upon doing so, a "Void-Touched" debuff is applied to the player stating that: "A touch of the spirit realm still lingers..."
    • Though the Shadowlands and the Void are not the same.[103]
  • In World of Warcraft, some quests require the player to die in order to visit the "Shadowlands" to complete objectives.
  • The Shadowlands were originally intended to be a fully playable zone in World of Warcraft, designed for high-level play. The idea was that as deceased characters made their way back to their corpses, they'd see high-level players battling creeps in the area, which would inspire lower level players to increase their character level so they could experience the zone for themselves.[104]
  • In a number of quests spirits can be seen ascending to an afterlife:


This article or section includes speculation, observations or opinions possibly supported by lore or by Blizzard officials. It should not be taken as representing official lore.
  • Cases where references are unclear or contradicting of whether a place is in the Shadowlands or alternately another realm:
    • The "other side" is mentioned multiple times but in two cases it's unclear if it's meant to be Bwonsamdi's pocket dimension or the Shadowlands as it relates to troll spirits passing on:
      • Wrath of the Lich King In Drakil'jin Ruins in Grizzly Hills, a corruption filled Drakkari spirits with great angst and prevented them from entering eternal rest. Kraz had an adventurer with the goal of setting the spirits to rest enter the other side by using a gong.[108][109]
      • Cataclysm After killing Warlord Thresh'jin and throwing his body into a bonfire, Vex'tul jumps into the bonfire as an undead with free will and his spirit passed into the next realm. As the troll was saying his goodbye, he mentioned he will see you in green fields on the other side.[110]
    • Battle for Azeroth The King Rastakhan boss fight in the Battle of Dazar'alor has Bwonsamdi open portals to a "death realm". It's unclear if this "death realm" is the Shadowlands or Bwonsamdi's pocket dimension.
    • Warlords of Draenor The Edge of Reality in which Ner'zhul retreats to is ether in the Shadowlands,[111] in the Void[112] or in the Twisting Nether.[113]
  • Inner Veil is inside the "spectral realm" in the Kalecgos fight in the Sunwell Plateau raid, possibly the Shadowlands.
  • When Lich King Arthas died he spoke of "Seeing only darkness before him" while Sylvanas Windrunner said the same in Silverpine Forest after being risen from the dead by the Val'kyr. They could've in both cases have been sent to the Maw, as that appears to be the place Sylvanas was sent to when she killed herself in Icecrown Citadel.
  • The Shadowlands may transcend all realities as evidenced with Soulbinder Nyami.[114]
  • A Found Memento: Raising a King has Anduin Wrynn in a surprising vision see his father Varian Wrynn, it's unclear if this is a memory or perhaps a vision of Varian from some sort of afterlife in the Shadowlands.
  • Thros, the Blighted Lands may be related to the Shadowlands. This is evidenced by the fact that it bears a similarity to the Shadowlands realm of Ardenweald. Some parts of Ardenweald aren't faring as well as others and reflect the power wielded by the Drust of Kul Tiras, who are deeply connected to Ardenweald and death.[117]
  • Some Kul Tirans speak of a boatman that calls them after death,[118] and Jaina Proudmoore saw and paid the obol to a hooded figure,[119] this boatman and Jaina's visions could be related to the Shadowlands.


Player death
BlizzCon 2019
Concept art


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  18. ^ A [71] Anguish of Nifflevar
  19. ^ a b A [15] A Vision of the Past
  20. ^ N [72] The Honored Ancestors
  21. ^ N [75] Jin'arrak's End
  22. ^ N [72] Picking Up the Pieces
  23. ^ N [85H] Break the Godbreaker
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  27. ^ N [50] A Moment's Respite
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  43. ^ N [75] Jin'arrak's End
  44. ^ N [67D] The Dead Watcher
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  46. ^ N [72] The Lost Spirits
  47. ^ A [72] The Forgotten Tale
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  51. ^ N [85H] Break the Godbreaker
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  53. ^ A [86] Rest in Peace
  54. ^ N [86] Ritual Artifacts
  55. ^ N [90 Daily] Free Spirits
  56. ^ H [100] Seeking the Truth
  57. ^ N [95] Aruumel's Rest
  58. ^ N [99] Golmash Hellscream
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  60. ^ N Death knight [101 - 110] Salanar the Horseman
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  63. ^ N Death knight [110] Aggregates of Anguish
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  65. ^ B [1] A Shaman's Duty
  66. ^ H [110 - 120] The Curse of Mepjila
  67. ^ H Herbalism [110 - 120] Seeking More Knowledge
  68. ^ H [120] The Lost Spirit
  69. ^ H [120] Where He Died
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  71. ^ H IconSmall Tauren Male.gifIconSmall Tauren Female.gif [120] Storm in Bloodhoof
  72. ^ H IconSmall Tauren Male.gifIconSmall Tauren Female.gif [120] Answer the Call
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  93. ^ Il'gynoth, Heart of Corruption whispers: N'Zoth... I journey... to Ny'alotha...
  94. ^ Il'gynoth, Corruption Reborn#Adventure Journal
  95. ^ Quetz'lun's Spirit
  96. ^ Warcraft: Orcs & Humans manual
  97. ^ a b Shadows & Light, pg. 132
  98. ^ Magic & Mayhem, pg. 45
  99. ^ a b Shadows & Light, pg. 131
  100. ^ Shadows & Light, pg. 152
  101. ^ H [110] Walking in Their Footsteps
  102. ^ N [67D] Everything Will Be Alright
  103. ^ Jeremy Feasel on Twitter
  104. ^ Game Informer #308: Reforging Real-time Strategy
  105. ^ N [78] The Restless Dead
  106. ^ A [55] Our Fallen Friends
  107. ^ B [85 Daily] The Forgotten
  108. ^ N [75] Drak'aguul's Mallet
  109. ^ N [75] See You on the Other Side
  110. ^ N [43] Into the Flames
  111. ^ Ner'zhul (tactics)
  112. ^  [Voidtalon of the Dark Star]
  113. ^  [Void Totem]
  114. ^ Campaign Unholy Attainment: Essence of Shadow
  115. ^ H [98] The Blessing of Samedi
  116. ^ H [98] I Help Ya Kill Dem
  117. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2019-11-01. BlizzCon 2019 - World of Warcraft: What's Next. Retrieved on 2019-11-03.
  118. ^ Roughneck Logger#Quotes
  119. ^ Warbringers: Jaina