Every month as part of its Book Of Heroes business, Hearthstone releases a short single-player adventure, telling the life story of one of the big characters off of Warcraft, via card-based boss battles. They’re lovely, and I really like them. The new Book Of Heroes just became available, and features everyone’s favourite mellifluous fantasy bigot, the paladin Uther Lightbringer.
Uther is a sort of cross between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bean Dad, who in Warcraft lore does such a piss-poor job of mentoring young Prince Arthas, that the geezer only goes and becomes the Lich King. Over the eight battles of Uther’s story, the paladin himself narrates these events from his perspective, and some insights are gleaned: Uther used to be a priest. Uther really, properly despises orcs (in a way that gets quite uncomfortable to listen to). But most of all, Uther used to be an ABSOLUTE MAD LAD.
What we have in this here Book Of Heroes, is a lovely example of something lost in translation. You see the Warcraft IP, and Hearthstone in particular, has always taken a sort of Irish-bar-in-Japan approach to capturing the vague Britishness of generic high fantasy (see, for example, the nightmare of an accent emitted by the Innkeeper character who “hosts” Hearthstone itself). But in this instance of the UK and the US being two nations separated by a common language, the crux of the matter is the word “lad”. Which Uther uses a lot.
I can see why they chose “lad”, as it feels like something a knyghte of olde might say, after all. And I concede that if Uther spoke in a broad East Midlands accent (as I think he should), then it wouldn’t seem out of place. But this bellowing aristocrat getting misty-eyed about having once been a “lad” really sticks out like a sore thumb, dialect-wise. Isolated from any of the regional accents where it fits in the intended sense, it registered to me as “lad” in the sense of someone who roars the word “legend” a lot, steals traffic cones, and goes on holidays to the Balearic islands to be sick everywhere. God help me, the mental image just really made me laugh. And it got even better when he started calling Arthas a lad as well.
Once I got thinking about this “Uther The Lad” bit, I couldn’t stop. I mean, it works so well. You can’t spell “Paladin” without “lad”, can you? And for the light’s sake, Uther’s hero power in the game just summons a bloke. Indeed, one of the recurring deck archetypes for Paladin is known as Dude Paladin, since it revolves around lining up a load of generic blokes and having them hit things.
Uther’s life is a perpetual stag weekend. You see that massive book he carries around with him everywhere? That’s the Lad Bible, that is. “Today’s reading is from the book of Kevsy, chapter weeyyyyy, and concerns the parable the parable of Saint Ryan the Ledge shitting himself in the cab Home”.
I bet he calls this bloke the Archbishop of Banterbury:
But of course, as Uther himself confesses, it was the young Arthas who was the real lad in his story.
Arthas is proper mental, he is. Destroyed one too many beasts (lagers) on a night out, and passed out on the doorstep, after half an hour of trying to unlock his front door with the wrong end of the key. Got so cold he turned into a skeleton. Legend.