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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
Capital(s) Neutral Oribos
Races Various
Ruler(s)  The Arbiter
 The Jailer
 Kyrestia the Firstborne
 The Winter Queen
 Sire Denathrius
 The Primus
Affiliation Kyrian, Mawsworn, Necrolords, Night Fae, Venthyr
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]

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 transcend all realities, as evidenced with Soulbinder Nyami[14] and the loa being able to use their power on alternate Draenor.[15][16] All alternate versions of the same mortal are more or less part of the same being, such as in the case with Draka, using an analogy of a rope with different threads which can be pulled off, but which "at some time come together to make that rope" - basically, alternate versions of various mortals are able to exist as temporarily separate entities which lead separate existences for a while, but still basically part of the "same rope" which will all eventually come together in the Shadowlands as one being.[17]

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.[18] 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] 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.[19]

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.[20][21] 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.[22][23] 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.[24]

During the Day of the Dead, the Shadowlands draw closer to Azeroth.[25]

The border between the Shadowlands and the living world is the Veil, which looks like the living world in greyscale.[26]


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.[27][28]

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.[29]

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,[30] and some time after Ursoc's death in the Emerald Nightmare,[31] the Arbiter has gone mysteriously dormant,[32] 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.[33]


Other areas

Lore locations


Main article: Instances by continent



Legion This section concerns content related to Legion.
A dark forest in the Shadowlands.

Battle for Azeroth

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.[39]

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.[40][41]

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.[33][42][43] 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.[40][41] 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.[44] 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]

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,[51][52] 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.[53]
  • 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.[54] This is likely flavor lore or 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.[55]

RPG notes

  • Shadow hunters deal with the darkest aspects of the spirit world. Their connections to powerful voodoo spirits give them the ability to curse and heal at a whim.[56]
  • The spell called "spiritual projection" or "astral projection" brings the caster to the Twisting Nether;[57] and the Twisting Nether is also referred as "realm of ghosts".[58]

Notes and trivia

A Gilnean spirit goes into the next world.
  • The first mention of the Shadowlands was in World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1.
    • After World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, the Veil and the Shadowlands were confirmed to be different places.
  • The  [Headpiece of the Shadow Council] had a deep connection to the Shadowlands.
  •  [Dust from the Shadowlands] from the Legion expansion provides a significant increase to character experience.
  • 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.[59]
  • 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.[60]
  • In a number of quests spirits can be seen ascending to an afterlife:
  • [Resurrection] in lore (apparently reclaiming a soul from the Shadowlands) is seemingly possible, as was the case with Calia Menethil, Sally Whitemane and Terenas Menethil II resurrecting the champions fighting Arthas Menethil in Icecrown, but is very rarely touched upon, and implied to be extremely difficult, and usually applicable to only the recently deceased. It was noted by Tyrande Whisperwind that, "No priestess of Elune could bring her back now" when she observed a slain kaldorei woman who had been "dead several days".[67] The World-Shaman Thrall was able to apparently revive a Life Warden slain by Asira Dawnslayer when trying to reach Wyrmrest Temple during the Cataclysm,[68] Kaylaan managed to resurrect Ishanah after Socrethar slew her, and the taunka shaman Roanauk Icemist brought back all his fallen warriors fighting Under-King Anub'et'kan. At the Netherlight Temple, Anduin remarked that priests are able to "sometimes" bring the dead back to life with the help of the Light,[69] which appears to be the most common method in the lore, but required the assistance of both Alonsus Faol and the naaru Saa'ra in order to successfully revive Calia as an undead infused with the Holy Light. In Exile's Reach, priests of both factions can resurrect Expedition recruits who recently died following their shipwreck, but they must hurry as long as their death is recent and their soul still present in the Veil.[70][71]


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.
  • Warlords of Draenor The Edge of Reality in which Ner'zhul retreats to is ether in the Shadowlands,[72] in the Void[73] or in the Twisting Nether.[74]
  • 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.
  • 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.[75]
  • Some Kul Tirans speak of a boatman that calls them after death,[76] and Jaina Proudmoore saw and paid the obol to a hooded figure,[77] this boatman and Jaina's visions could be related to the Shadowlands.


Player death
BlizzCon 2019
Concept art


  1. ^ a b World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Features Overview
  2. ^ a b c World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1, pg. 12
  3. ^ a b c d Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2019-11-01. BlizzCon 2019 - World of Warcraft: What's Next. Retrieved on 2019-11-02.
  4. ^ H [120] Jailor of the Damned
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2019-11-01. World of Warcraft: What’s Next Panel Recap. Retrieved on 2019-11-02.
  6. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2019-11-01. Shadowlands Preview: Bastion and the Kyrian Covenant. Retrieved on 2019-11-02.
  7. ^ N [50] The Path to Bastion
  8. ^ a b MrGM 2019-11-02. Blizzcon Shadowlands Interview: Frank Kowalkowski & Steve Danuser - Titanforging/Tier Sets & More! (23:30 - 25:00). YouTube. Retrieved on 2019-11-02.
  9. ^ Heather Newman 2020-07-17. How Warcraft: Shadowlands’ Story Unfolds, And Why It’s Not All Guest Stars. Forbes. Archived from the original on 2020-07-18.
  10. ^ a b c d Ezgi Pajecki 2020-09-26. Maldraxxus, Shadowlands and Beyond - Interview with Steve Danuser. Lorekeeper. Archived from the original on 2020-09-27.
  11. ^ Garth Holden 2020-07-09. Interview with World of Warcraft art director Ely Cannon. SA Gamer. Archived from the original on 2020-08-04.
  12. ^ a b c d Judgehype - Interview de Steve Danuser sur l'histoire de Shadowlands
  13. ^ perculia 2020-07-09. Shadowlands Lore Interview with Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser - Elune, Sylvanas, Calia. Wowhead. Archived from the original on 2020-07-09.
  14. ^ Campaign Unholy Attainment: Essence of Shadow
  15. ^ H [98] The Blessing of Samedi
  16. ^ H [98] I Help Ya Kill Dem
  17. ^ Shadowlands Maldraxxus Lore Interview - What Happens to AU Souls, Future Draka Reunion (Spoilers)
  18. ^  [Soul Coffer]
  19. ^ N [85H] Break the Godbreaker
  20. ^ WoWChakra 2020-05-15. Entrevista a Ion Hazzikostas sobre Shadowlands | Shadowlands interview with Ion Hazzikostas [EN/ES] (08:35). YouTube. Retrieved on 2020-05-19.
  21. ^ Bellular 2020-07-13. …SCOURGE INVASION! Pre-Patch, Shadowland’s Anti Grind, LESS RNG, New Gearing + MORE | Ion Interview (06:15 - 08:40). YouTube. Retrieved on 2020-09-27.
  22. ^ N [50] A Flight from Darkness
  23. ^ N [50] A Moment's Respite
  24. ^ Garth Holden 2020-09-24. A deep dive into Maldraxxus, the defenders of Death. SA Gamer. Archived from the original on 2020-09-24.
  25. ^ The Day of the Dead has Arrived: "Can you feel it? The spirit world draws close during the Day of the Dead."
  26. ^ N [60] To Cross the Veil
  27. ^ The Legend of Odyn#First of the Val'kyr
  28. ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1, pg. 48
  29. ^ wowhead - BlizzCon 2019: A: We'll find out more of her motivations in Shadowlands and that her relationship with the Jailer dates back a bit. Edge of Night story involves this relationship. Working with Varian was a long term strategy in order to get war chief - had to make allies but now we're seeing the fruition of that.
  30. ^ Azeroth Radio 2019-11-03. John Hight & Johnny Cash SHADOWLANDS Interview! | BLIZZCON 2019! (06:57). YouTube. Retrieved on 2019-11-07.
  31. ^ Interview with Steve Danuser on the history of Shadowlands
  32. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2020-05-21. Shadowlands Preview: Oribos. Archived from the original on 2020-05-21.
  33. ^ a b Wam 2020-09-24. Maldraxxus Deep Dive With Steve Danuser. GamerBraves. Archived from the original on 2020-09-25.
  34. ^ Archetus the Mad Designer
  35. ^ N Death knight [101 - 110] Recruiting the Troops
  36. ^ N Death knight [110] Aggregates of Anguish
  37. ^ a b Spirit Healer dialogue
  38. ^ H [120] The Lost Spirit
  39. ^ a b The Legend of Odyn
  40. ^ a b Warcraft Radio 2019-11-03. John Hight & Johnny Cash SHADOWLANDS Interview! | BLIZZCON 2019! (10:15 - 12:40). YouTube. Retrieved on 2019-11-07.
  41. ^ a b The Lost Codex 2019-11-05. BlizzCon 2019 Interview: Steve Danuser & Frank Kowalkowski - Story and Systems | The Lost Codex (18:00 - 19:58). YouTube. Retrieved on 2019-11-07.
  42. ^ Cass Marshall 2020-09-24. World of Warcraft’s Maldraxxus is the grittiest zone in the Shadowlands. Polygon. Archived from the original on 2020-09-24.
  43. ^ Sybia 2020-09-24. WoW Shadowlands : Interview exclusive de Steve Danuser à propos de Maldraxxus (in French). Millenium. Archived from the original on 2020-09-24.
  44. ^ N [52] Double Tap
  45. ^ Mueh'zala yells: It be Mueh'zala who brought Helya to da Jailer's side... struck a deal for ol' Odyn's eye... and made da Banshee warchief with a whisper!
  46. ^ Shadowlands official site
  47. ^ Fuel for the Voodoo#Completion
  48. ^ H [110 - 120] The Will of the Loa
  49. ^ World of Warcraft: Shadowlands#Features
  50. ^ Shadows Rising, pg. 179
  51. ^ Il'gynoth, Heart of Corruption whispers: N'Zoth... I journey... to Ny'alotha...
  52. ^ Il'gynoth, Corruption Reborn#Adventure Journal
  53. ^ Quetz'lun's Spirit
  54. ^ Warcraft: Orcs & Humans manual
  55. ^ Shadows & Light, pg. 132
  56. ^ Magic & Mayhem, pg. 45
  57. ^ Shadows & Light, pg. 131
  58. ^ Shadows & Light, pg. 152
  59. ^ Jeremy Feasel on Twitter
  60. ^ Game Informer #308: Reforging Real-time Strategy
  61. ^ N [78] The Restless Dead
  62. ^ A [55] Our Fallen Friends
  63. ^ B [85 Daily] The Forgotten
  64. ^ N [86] Ritual Artifacts
  65. ^ N [86] To Bridge Earth and Sky
  66. ^ N [86] Pei-Back
  67. ^ Seeds of Faith
  68. ^ N [85D] To Wyrmrest!
  69. ^ "Priests healed, but their patients were flesh. They mended wounds, cured illnesses and curses, and sometimes, if the Light willed, brought the dead back to life." Before the Storm
  70. ^ B [1] A Priest's End
  71. ^ B [1] Resurrecting the Recruits
  72. ^ Ner'zhul (tactics)
  73. ^  [Voidtalon of the Dark Star]
  74. ^  [Void Totem]
  75. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2019-11-01. BlizzCon 2019 - World of Warcraft: What's Next. Retrieved on 2019-11-03.
  76. ^ Roughneck Logger#Quotes
  77. ^ Warbringers: Jaina