15

In World of Warcraft, various groups seen trying to kill or sacrifice their own ostensible "gods" to gain power. Generally, this is associated with the trolls and their Loa, which I understand to be sort of troll deities. Examples of this are:

  • The Drakkari trolls of Northrend sacrificed their Loa in an attempt to gain the power to fight off the Scourge.

  • Jin'do the Godbreaker draining power from Hakkar (who at this point is already dead after the original Zul'Gurub raid and is now a spirit...I guess? WoW lore can be confusing).

  • Yazma killed and drained the power from the loa Shadra, although in fairness, Shadra was also player killable before Cataclysm (...WoW lore can be confusing).

My question: is there a precedent for the concept of humans or mortals sacrificing their deities or semi-deities to gain power, from human mythology? If not from mythology, is there a precedent from some other pre-Warcraft fantasy work?

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    Odin hung on a tree – Valorum Sep 11 at 13:17
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    @Valorum Yeah, and ISTR there was some other deity nailed to a tree or something like that. – DavidW Sep 11 at 13:35
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    Sounds like this should rather be a question for mythology.stackexchange.com. – Amarth Sep 11 at 16:01
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    @RonJohn nailing the guy to the tree allegedly gave his followers the power to escape a pretty nasty place after their deaths. And they keep eating his body and drinking his blood to our days, to ensure the effect doesn't wear off. – IMil Sep 12 at 3:50
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    Well in Christianity we eat our God. To achieve immortality. That's pretty direct. – Fattie Sep 12 at 11:44
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In previous fantasy, there's lots of examples, for example from the D&D Forgotten Realms setting from 1990s. During The Time of Troubles, mortals kill gods, in some cases to steal their powers. Most notably the mortal Cyric who kills the god Bhaal and becomes a god himself.

This story is central to the Baldur's Gate series of RPG computer games, published between 1998 to 2000. (Warcraft 3 was published in 2002). The main story in Baldur's Gate is that the God of Murder predicted his own death, but made a scheme to pass on his powers to his mortal offspring, who compete with each other to inherit the God's powers.

  • This is the best looking answer so far. Can you add to it? What was the first book/game that mentioned the Time of Troubles? Who was its author? – kingledion Sep 12 at 12:01
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    @kingledion Springing off a bit on the D&D angle, Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance setting slew an entire pantheon, gaining their power along the way, before time-travel undid it. This is covered in the Dragonlance Legends trilogy, released in 1986. Killing gods to gain their power is a D&D trope at least 30 years old. – Michael W. Sep 12 at 20:38
  • Yep, wow lore is derived in great part from the D&D ecosystem. – Manzotin Sep 13 at 10:56
24

I believe at the root of this is the notion of "that which you eat you will gain the strength/speed/inteligence/power of."

Draining the power of Gods in WoW would be the equivalent of eating them in olden times.

It is now easy to understand why a savage should desire to partake of the flesh of an animal or man whom he regards as divine. By eating the body of the god he shares in the god’s attributes and powers. - Homeopathic Magic of a Flesh Diet

That article cites many examples in history across the world where cultures eat various types of animals or performs acts in order to get additional strength or speed from them. You are in essence taking it from them and adding it your own.

If you trust TvTropes (danger) as a source they have additional examples of cultures and animals which used this same philosophy (under Real Life). This is a subset:

There are beliefs such as eating your foe will give you his strength or courage. In fact, the word originally meant "strong man" and was used by tribes that believed this.

In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Tanzania, one of the various reasons for the persecution of albinos is the belief that eating their flesh will confer superpowers to the eater.

A lot of insects are able to make themselves poisonous by eating poisonous plants. The poison doesn't harm them and sticks around in their body for a while without being broken down, making them either taste horrible or be downright toxic to anything that decides they would be a good meal.

If you want a Fantasy/Science Fiction answer, look no further than Star Trek

Worf: Our gods are dead. Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millennia ago. They were more trouble than they were worth. - Deep Space Nine

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    The Klingons slew their gods. They didn't eat them – Valorum Sep 11 at 13:50
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    @Valorum I know that, but they still got rid of them. – Jack B Nimble Sep 11 at 13:56
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    That is a good reference to the Klingons – kingledion Sep 11 at 14:06
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    In Riddick's universe, the Necromongers I believe also had a similar principle. "You get what you kill" – DarkCygnus Sep 11 at 21:23
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    @DarkCygnus - For that matter, there's the Highlander universe. – T.E.D. Sep 11 at 22:25
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There is an elephant in the room which I am going to address. Yes, there is an example. Christianity. You may have heard of it.

Christianity believes that through the death of their god, humanity would be saved. Some believe that emulating the pain and suffering of this death increases the state of Grace in the world and lubricates the way to heaven or the preparation of this world to move on to its next stage. This was all explicitly set in motion through the sacrifice of the god.

Moreover in some faiths, communion is taken. Whether symbolic or through the belief in transubstantiation, the idea is that the believers figuratively or literally consume the flesh and drink the blood of their god and in doing so have their souls purified in the process.

Please note, in an effort to forestall hatred I fear coming my way, that I am not either casting aspersions upon or standing in judgement of Christianity as a whole or any of the various flavors therin.

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    Except humans didn't sacrifice Jesus to steal his powers, nor did the people who crucified him believe he was a god. They didn't kill him so that he could take on the suffering of mankind, rather it is said that he willingly died in order to do that. Those who followed him didn't want him dead. – Amarth Sep 11 at 16:14
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    In general (always a hard statement given the numerous branches of Christianity), Christians don't take communion/sacrament in the hopes of stealing the power of Christ either. – GreySage Sep 11 at 22:03
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    @GreySage Christians don't take communion/sacrament in the hopes of stealing the power of Christ, but they do believe in gaining something from Christ, without diminishing Him. That something could be described as a power, in the loose definition of the word. – Emilio M Bumachar Sep 12 at 9:06
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    @EmilioMBumachar That is the distinction. This question is about stealing your gods powers, presumably against his or her will; not getting a gift of "power" from God (a power called "grace" in Christianity). – kingledion Sep 12 at 11:59
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    Not even Catholics (who believe in transubstantiation) would say they're getting the power of Christ from communion. – Machavity Sep 12 at 14:13
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The story of Kvasir comes to mind.

In Norse mythology, Kvasir was a being born of the saliva of the Æsir and the Vanir, two groups of gods. Extremely wise, Kvasir traveled far and wide, teaching and spreading knowledge. This continued until the dwarfs Fjalar and Galar killed Kvasir and drained him of his blood. The two mixed his blood with honey, resulting in the Mead of Poetry, a mead which imbues the drinker with skaldship and wisdom, and the spread of which eventually resulted in the introduction of poetry to mankind.

This does mostly fit:

  • He is not explicitly a god or godlike being, but was at least created by/from some
  • He is killed by dwarfs, not humans, but you left the question open to "other mortals", which might include dwarfs
  • The brew created from his blood imbues apparently anyone who drinks from it with wisdom and poetic skills
5

In mythology:

  • Explicitly for power by humans, I can't find a direct example , although I have a feeling there must be some Maori, African or American Indian examples. I remember reading a huge 500+ page book in childhood which had collected stories about tricksters from all over the world. I kinda feel some examples lurk somewhere, will try to find more.

  • Explicitly by humans: Christianity

  • Also note some answers to https://mythology.stackexchange.com/questions/2640/can-the-greek-gods-be-killed

Note also Deicide article in Wikipedia.

In fantasy, explicitly for power, definitely yes:

A prime example, which comes to mind is Neil Gaiman's American Gods, the book came out a couple years before first installment of WoW. Spoiler:

You might say that killing gods for power is the hidden plot of the whole book. While most of the killing is done by other gods, some are by mortals.

As Gaiman draws heavily on mythology I'd be surprised if he didn't find the concept in some myths.

Also, there must be other, older, examples, probably by Roger Zelazny or others.

Note, however, that a god is usually someone immortal by definition, so killing a god by mortal should be considered generally impossible. If he is not immortal, is he a god?

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    Well one could draw a distinction between being "etern" and being "unkillable". You could replace continuously your "constituents", but the application of large enough power could be enough to destroy you. So you could be killed even if, left to yourself, you would not dead. – Francesco Sep 11 at 14:55
  • @Francesco technically yes, and something we can see in fantasy no problem. Can't think of an example in mythology. – Gnudiff Sep 11 at 15:17
  • I don't think there's any instances of killing gods for power in Māori mythology, just Māui stealing fire and slowing down the sun by beating him into submission – llama Sep 12 at 22:48
  • Gods are not immortal by definition. In Norse mythology, not only are most of the gods fated to die, but their immortality springs from an external source (Idunn's apples); if they stop eating them, they age, and presumably, would eventually expire. – ShadowRanger Sep 13 at 1:56
  • @ShadowRanger I did said "usually". Think Greek, Judeo-Christian, Egyptian as well as far as I remember... – Gnudiff Sep 13 at 7:59
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The most clear example from real myths is certainly ancient greek mythology.

Zeus killed his father Kronos, who in turn had killed his father Uranus. While there were other reasons besides gaining power, there is an undercurrent of that idea there, with the son coming to power by the act of killing his father.

The main difference is that Zeus is a god himself, but the basic idea is there.

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    I think there's a pretty serious distinction between coming to power in a dynastical sense (which is common in any hereditary monarchy) and the type of power transfer this question is asking about. It's not clear from this answer whether Zeus gained any power other than a higher station. – Chris Hayes Sep 12 at 19:32
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    Zeus was not a mortal. The question specifically asks about mortals killing gods. Examples of gods killing other gods are pretty common both in fantasy and I think also mythology. – Gnudiff Sep 13 at 9:54

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