You have all seen the big, angry, half-naked guy covered in metal chains who is apparently the source of all our problems in Azeroth. However, we really don’t know much about him who is responsible for so much death and destruction. Let’s take everything we know in the deepest dungeons of the lore about ZOVAAL THE JAILER, Shadowlands’ ultimate villain.
Zovaal has been referred to as the “banished one” and he is a being of titan plus plus power. He is also an eternal one, jailer of the damned, wards over the evil souls sent to the Maw but he himself is also chained to the Maw. We all know he was imprisoned by the other eternal ones long ago for what they described as treachery.
Agents of the Jailer
The jailer being imprisoned has to work indirectly thus he has agents. Way back, Nathrezim ignited a war between the cosmic forces which was a success. With Sargeras downfall and imprisonment of the titans, forces of order and disorder were taken out of the picture. The stage was therefore set for death to begin its path to dominance. Zovaal needed to weaken the cosmic order before striking at his ultimate goal. Denathrius is in league with the Jailer which seems like the actual case for a long time. Primus of Maldraxxus believed that the Jailer had help when he committed his crime against the eternal ones. This help could have been Denathrius because the Dreadlords revived Denathrius, something that has shown the machinery of death and those who maintain it have been deeply compromised. Over all this time, he hoarded anima in the bowels of the castle Nathria. And when the Jailer was ready to make his move, Denathrius destroyed the walls of the castle and leaked millenia of anima into the Maw. This tells us that the Jailer needs a lot of anima for something. Denathrius is one example, others are Sylvanas and Meuh’zala. The Jailer definitely has allies and plans everywhere and they are all determined on working towards claiming his ultimate prize.
The Primus has gone missing and Maldraxxus has fallen into civil war, knocking out the self-defense system of the Shadowlands. The anima drought is killing Ardenweald and it’s consuming all of the Winter Queen’s attention, perhaps even directly zapping her power. The Jailer is expanding a lot of efforts to distract the other eternal ones. He fears these individuals for he knows they could stop him. He has recruited the vilest souls from the Maw and used Helya to corrupt Kyrians into his ranks. He used Kel’thuzad to raise an army in Maldraxxus. Jailers’ agents have weakened the cosmos at a deep fundamental level. They have struck out at every single covenant. They are hoarding anima and they have a cosmos ending army more immense than the legion.
Face of death
Bolvar opened the portal to Shadowlands and we crossed only to find ourselves in the Maw. This is where we had our first encounter with the Jailer and just as we were about to escape, he said “Death comes for the soul of your world. All that you see, all that you know, will be undone.”. This is where we will understand his actual goals. The Jailer works indirectly, he crafts individuals like Lich King, Sylvanas and maybe Andiun too. He crafts them into tools to further his purpose and allow him to unleash his power upon us.
The Runecarver is chained up in Torghast, having knowledge to enchant weapons and armor being tortured from his mind but the Jailer demands more- the finest Mourneblade and a crown for the King of the Damned himself.
What are the Jailer’s crimes? It was some form of treachery, an interpersonal betrayal between him and the other first ones or it could be broader cosmic treachery against the first ones or maybe the people who made him. Or it could also be against the function of the Shadowlands. It was the Winter Queen and the Primus, all eternal ones, who chained up the Jailer but we still don’t know why. There could be a clue in Ardenweald because the Winter Queen tells us that it is the magic from the heart of the forest that actually keeps the Jailer bound in the Maw.
We can likely find clues about the Jailer’s crimes from Dante’s Inferno. As a depiction of the afterlife, the Shadowlands is in a bunch of ways inspired by Dante’s divine comedy. With Revendreth, the sphere of ironic punishment. In the poem, Satan is God’s most perfect creation and because of that he wanted to be as powerful as the divine. Satan was sentenced to poetic justice and sent to hell which had 9 rings, just like the 9 wings of Torghast. And he would be the jailer of the damned whilst also eternally being tormented for his arrogance. This story could point us to the direction of the Jailer’s crimes. That in some way, he wanted to be as powerful as the first ones. Zavaal wanted to question his creator and perhaps rise to that level of power and remake things the way he thought was just.
The Original Purpose
Speculating on the Jailer’s crimes a little more, we suspect that the Jailer had something removed from his chest. It is speculated that it is actually the black ball in the Arbiter’s chest and this implied relationship between the two characters. Which leads to a revelation- Zovaal’s original purpose was in fact to organize the souls of the Shadowlands. He, maybe, could be the most wise, perfect and balanced being and that is why he ended up being the one who turned away.
The Brokers are a line of investigation which keeps on getting more and more mysterious. Like us, the Brokers are gas and oribos. They seem incredibly powerful for they hunt powerful creatures to get them to fight in the Theater of Pain. In Oribos, cartel members are looking for the Sepulcher which the Jailer is also looking for. Whatever the Sepulcher has, it will definitely help the Jailer with his plans.
Who is the Jailer? He is an eternal one who was banished to the Maw. He was likely created by the first ones for a purpose. He betrayed his race and turned his back on his purpose. For this betrayal, he was chained up in the Maw and kept locked away by the magic of Ardenweald. The Jailer had agents outside of the Maw- Denathrius, Sylvanas, Mueh’zala, Kel’thuzad and Helya. His schemes brought the Lich King to Azeroth in search of his final prize, likely Azeroth herself. There’s still so many unknowns, including how to beat the Jailer, but understanding him brings light to the cosmos ending stakes that are at play.
3:44 Agents of the Jailer
6:41 Old enemies
8:42 Face of death
12:21 The Runecarver
15:07 Zovaal’s inferno
16:17 Dante’s Inferno
17:45 The Original Purpose
20:31 The Brokers