The Jailer

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For the demonic race, see jailer.
NeutralZovaal the Jailer
Image of Zovaal the Jailer
Title The Banished One,[1][2][3][4]
the dark one[5]
Gender Male
Race Eternal One (Humanoid)
Level ??
Reaction Alliance Horde
Affiliation(s) Mawsworn
Occupation Jailer of Torghast
Location Torghast, the Maw
Status Active

The Jailer, whose true name is Zovaal,[6] is an Eternal One who is imprisoned in and rules over the Maw in the Shadowlands. Very little is known about him, since nothing has ever escaped the Maw, and no one has ever seen the Jailer himself—or lived to tell the tale.[7][8] Ruling from Torghast, Tower of the Damned, the Jailer is the singular and absolute master of the Maw: the realm continually alters and changes itself to his whims,[9] and he observes all actions of note within the Maw through his magical eye.[10] The damned souls who arrive in the realm are tortured and twisted by the Jailer until they willingly serve him for eternity as his Mawsworn soldiers.[11]

The Jailer is the main antagonist and final boss of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands.[12][13][14]


Ancient times

Zovaal imprisoned within the Maw.

The Jailer is an evil older than reality itself.[15] Ages ago, Zovaal betrayed his fellow Eternal Ones. As punishment, he was bound within the inescapable Maw through the use of Domination magic to be forevermore its Jailer.[6][16] The magic within the Heart of the Forest in Ardenweald was used to keep the Maw inescapable and ensure that Zovaal would remain bound forever.[3]

Unbeknownst to the other Eternal Ones, Zovaal did not act alone in his original betrayal;[6] he had a group of like-minded allies who continued acting on his behalf after his imprisonment and have influenced various events on the mortal plane throughout history.[17] One of these allies is the loa Mueh'zala,[18] who made a pact with the titanic keeper Odyn by swallowing one of his eyes in exchange for giving him the ability to gaze into the Shadowlands.[19] This led to Odyn creating the Val'kyr as an imitation of the Shadowlands' kyrian.[20] There was a specific reason Mueh'zala and the Jailer wanted the eye of a keeper and what it could do for them.[17] At some point, Mueh'zala also brought the first Val'kyr Helya to the Jailer's side.[18]

Over his eons of imprisonment, the Jailer found a way to weaponize the power of Domination and use it against his enemies.[16] At some point, the Primus of Maldraxxus noticed that the Jailer's influence was seeping outside of the Maw and left Maldraxxus to investigate the matter. His suspicions ultimately proved true and the Jailer, having forged his chains into a weapon, brought about the Primus' defeat.[6][21]

Recent history

The Jailer with a vision of the Helm of Domination.

The Jailer imprisoned the Runecarver, extracted his designs to use for the Mawsworn army, including designs for the mourneblade Frostmourne and the Helm of Domination. The Jailer intended for these "vessels of Domination" to be a way of establishing his influence on the world of Azeroth[16][22][23][24][25] so that he could claim his final prize, "the secret that the First Ones sought to hide."[22]

Frostmourne and the helm were obtained by the nathrezim of the Burning Legion, who used the helm to imprison the spirit of Ner'zhul and transform him into the Lich King.[25] Instead of heralding the Jailer's coming as he had planned, however, Ner'zhul and his successors Arthas Menethil and Bolvar Fordragon defied the Jailer's will.[24][26] During his time as the Lich King, Bolvar could sense the Jailer's presence at the edge of his consciousness and realized that Zovaal was the helm's true master.[27]

Sylvanas Windrunner allied with the Jailer after her suicide at Icecrown Citadel.[12] He sent a group of Val'kyr to make a pact with her and allow her to return to the world of the living, so that she could ultimately claim the Helm of Domination from the "false king" Bolvar.[28] Sylvanas and the Jailer have been working toward a common end ever since.[7][8]

At some point during the Burning Legion's third invasion of Azeroth,[29] the Arbiter fell dormant and all souls entering the Shadowlands began funneling into the Maw instead of being sorted to their just afterlives, thereby depriving the other realms of anima and threatening to make the Jailer strong enough to break free from the Maw.[30] In the world of the living, Mueh'zala whispered to Vol'jin on his deathbed to convince him to name Sylvanas the new Warchief of the Horde.[18][31] Sylvanas subsequently began bringing about great amounts of death and destruction on Azeroth, thereby feeding the Maw with even more new souls and causing both her and the Jailer to grow more powerful.[7][8]


Shadowlands This section concerns content related to Shadowlands.
His power rising... his chains broken. The remaking has begun! The hour draws near when the Banished One shall reclaim what is his. Death comes for the soul of this world. Make ready! Feed the lives of the unworthy to the hungering Maw!
Herald Dalora's sermon to the Cult of the Damned[1]
The Banished One and his army.

With his bindings broken, the Jailer intends to "reclaim what is his". He also has his sights set on the soul of Azeroth.[1][32] Should the Jailer break free from the Maw, all of reality will be unmade.[33] According to Tal-Inara, the Jailer is said to be filled with hatred for the Arbiter, and if he struck her down, it would mean the end of everything the First Ones made.[30] Prince Renathal believes that if the Jailer escapes, all the realms of Death will fall.[34] Similarly, Lady Moonberry is of the belief that a freed Jailer would plunge all of the realms of the Shadowlands into inescapable, crushing despair.[35] A warning left by the Primus before his disappearance states that Zovaal must not reach "the sepulcher" and that if the Arbiter is not protected, all will be lost.[6] Meanwhile, Sire Denathrius and Herald Dalora believed that the Jailer will bring a torrent of change that will leave Death, and those who shaped its victory, as the only powers remaining.[4][36] In a private conversation with Anduin Wrynn, Sylvanas claimed that the Jailer will shatter the system of Death and forge it anew, with everyone truly having free will.[37] Devos of the Forsworn believed that the Eternal Ones' imprisonment of Zovaal was a "great injustice" and that he "seeks to free us from the prison we have built for ourselves".[38]

After Sylvanas destroyed the Helm of Domination and tore open a rift through the Veil separating the Shadowlands from the world of the living, the Jailer's Mawsworn kyrian kidnapped leaders of Azeroth's Alliance and HordeAnduin Wrynn, Jaina Proudmoore, Thrall, and Baine Bloodhoof—and brought them to the Maw.[39] The Jailer took a special interest in these four prisoners and personally oversaw their torture. According to Thrall, it sometimes felt as if the Jailer was testing them for some unknown purpose.[40] The Jailer specifically wanted Anduin because his plan required a mortal with heroic personal qualities that would allow them to enter the realm of Bastion.[41] The Knights of the Ebon Blade and the heroes of Azeroth soon ventured into the Maw to rescue the leaders and managed to meet up with Jaina, Thrall, and Anduin. The group was joined by Baine after the Jailer declared the tauren chieftain to be unworthy and threw him off a platform.[42] The Azerothians subsequently fought their way to an Eroded Waystone of the First Ones in the hopes of using it to escape the Maw. The Jailer was stunned to see the waystone responding to the presence of Azeroth's champion and sent his Mawsworn army to stop them, but Anduin used the Light to hold off the attackers long enough for the champion to escape. The Jailer declared this to be "interesting", and when Anduin claimed that he had failed, the Jailer calmly responded "No... I have precisely what I need."[32] The Jailer subsequently brought Anduin, Thrall, Jaina, and Baine into Torghast for further torture.[43][44][45]

The Jailer conversing with Sylvanas in Torghast.

The adventurers, now called Maw Walkers, eventually breached the Seat of the Primus and discovered the Primus' warning. When Sylvanas informed the Jailer of this, he declared that while it was unfortunate, it was of little consequence, and that the nuisance would be dealt with.[45] Not long after, Sire Denathrius of Revendreth revealed himself to be in league with the Jailer and channeled his immense amounts of hoarded anima into the Maw.[4] Prince Renathal stated that the Jailer would surely use this power to shatter his bonds.[34] The remaining Eternal Ones and covenant leaders subsequently decreed that each mortal had to choose a covenant so that the realms could regain their strength and once again stand together against the darkness.[46] With the guidance of Bolvar—who used the shards of the Helm of Domination to peer into the tower—the Maw Walkers repeatedly ventured into Torghast to rescue their captured allies and take Baine, Jaina, and Thrall to the safety of Oribos. However, Bolvar's repeated gazing into the tower eventually allowed the Jailer to gaze back,[47] and the heroes could not find any sign of Anduin, who had been taken deeper into the Torghast than the others.[48] In a private conversation with Sylvanas, the Jailer proclaimed that they had to begin preparation of their new "weapon". Sylvanas convinced the Jailer to leave Anduin to her, arguing that bringing him around into believing in their cause would yield superior results.[47]

Following the defeat and capture of Sire Denathrius, Sylvanas approached the Jailer—who was overseeing the creation of the new mourneblade Kingsmourne—and questioned him on their plans to recover Denathrius. In response, the Jailer merely declared that every soul had its purpose, and that Denathrius had fulfilled his. He then declared that it was time to forge their next weapon and reminded Sylvanas that they had come too far for her to falter. While Sylvanas took Kingsmourne to the captive Anduin and tried one last time to convince him to join their cause,[49] the Jailer struck at Bolvar in Oribos through the Helm of Domination in an attempt to seize control of his mind.[50] However, Jaina and the Maw Walker were able to sever the connection.[26]

Chains of Domination

The Jailer and his two champions looking out at Korthia.
The vessel performed its part flawlessly. Three keys remain. Then they will see... Death was never meant to be chained.
— The Jailer upon receiving the Archon's key[51]

In the hopes of uncovering secrets of the First Ones and the key to fulfill his vision for the Shadowlands, the Jailer pulled a fragment of the long-lost realm of Korthia into the Maw.[52] With Sylvanas having failed to convince Anduin, the king was forcibly turned into an unwilling vessel for the Jailer and was equipped with a suit of armor covered in Domination runes that suppressed him to the Jailer's will.[16] The Jailer sent the king to Elysian Hold in Bastion to obtain a magical key from Kyrestia, the Archon of the kyrian. Kyrestia recognized the Jailer's presence in Anduin and demanded that the former release the king from his grasp. In response, the Jailer's voice spoke through Anduin to proclaim that "He is bound to me, just as you once sought to bind your own brother". Anduin then stabbed the Archon through the chest with Kingsmourne to extract her key before returning with it to Torghast. The Jailer remarked that Anduin had performed his part flawlessly and that three keys remained before "they" would see that "Death was never meant to be chained".[51]


Main article: By and Down the River#Notes
Main article: Stand as One#Notes
Main article: A Glimpse into Darkness#Notes
Main article: Rule 1: Have an Escape Plan#Notes
Main article: The Eye of the Jailer#Mechanics
Main article: Torment Chamber: Thrall#Notes
Main article: The Highlord's Vision#Notes
Main article: A Mourneblade Born#Notes
Main article: The Jailer's Grasp#Notes

Notes and trivia

  • Despite fan speculation, the Jailer is intended to be a new character and is not someone that players have met before (such as Arthas, Argus or Helya).[7][12] Steve Danuser has described him as an important part of the Warcraft cosmology.[12]
  • Ion Hazzikostas has described the Jailer as a "titan-level"[13] or "titan plus plus level" antagonist.[14]
    • Hazzikostas also described him as one of the "lords of death" in the BlizzCon 2019 What's Next panel.[53]
  • Five large pillars can be seen floating around the Crucible in Oribos. Four are used by the covenant leaders during N [60] The Looming Dark, but the fifth—which is located directly opposite of the Arbiter and has a noticeably damaged appearance—remains unoccupied. This fifth pillar presumably belonged to Zovaal before his banishment.
  • The Jailer was first seen in the Shadowlands reveal trailer at BlizzCon 2019, in which only a silhouette of his body is shown. In late November 2019, an alleged piece of concept art of the Jailer where the Jailer's design matches the one in the trailer was shared by the YouTuber Pyromancer, who had been sent an image of the concept after it was posted on Twitter.[54] The Jailer's in-game model, however, looks drastically different from both of these depictions, notably lacking the hair and armor he was originally depicted with. When asked about this in April 2020, Ion Hazzikostas stated that the difference in design between the original trailer and his in-game model was not because of any story reasons but simply because Blizzard had not finalized the Jailer's design by the time the trailer was released at BlizzCon.[55]


  • The Jailer can be seen as a composite of various mythological antagonists from various cultures and religions.
    • As both prisoner and ruler of the Maw, the Jailer shares similarities with some Christian depictions of Satan, notably the version depicted in Dante's Inferno given the cold/ice motifs.
    • Other Abrahamic Satan motifs can be seen in both the winged Mawsworn (i.e. fallen angels of Christian Satan) and in the aesthetics of the shades in the Maw as spirits seemingly composed of ash and fire (i.e. jinn of Islamic Satan).
    • Like Loki, he resembles a "frost giant", was chained, and once free of his chains wishes to end the world (Ragnarök).
    • The recurring motif of an important helmet (e.g. the Helm of Domination) for the "king of the damned", is a reference to the helmet of invisibility from Greek myth belonging to Hades, king of the Greek underworld.
    • Given his pulling of Korthia into the Maw (from the Mesopotamian underworld called Kur), and the fact he wasn't always in the Maw, Nergal may have been another source of inspiration.
    • The way the Jailer's created the Lich King (likely inspired by a combination of Warhammaer's Arkhan the Black the Liche King and Tolkien's the Witch-King of Angmar who ruled the Nazgûl) gestures to his being inspired by Sauron.
    • Zovaal's name may be derived from either or both Bulgarian зова (zova, derivative words meaning to summon/to name), Bulgarian зобам (zobam, to devour), Polish zobaczyć (to see), and/or Persian زغال (zogal, coal, or as black/as dark as coal).


Patch changes


  1. ^ a b c N [50] Secrets in Shadows
  2. ^ N [50] No Place for the Living
  3. ^ a b N [58] The Court of Winter
  4. ^ a b c N [60] The Master of Lies
  5. ^ The Art of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, pg. 201
  6. ^ a b c d e N [54] The Door to the Unknown
  7. ^ a b c d Blizzard Entertainment 2019-11-26. BlizzCon 2019 | World of Warcraft: What's Next | Full Panel. YouTube.
  8. ^ a b c Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2019-11-01. World of Warcraft: What’s Next Panel Recap. Retrieved on 2019-11-02.
  9. ^ The Art of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, pg. 187
  10. ^ N [60] Rule 2: Keep a Low Profile
  11. ^ The Art of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, pg. 175, pg. 190
  12. ^ a b c d Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2019-11-02. BlizzCon 2019 - World of Warcraft: Q&A. Retrieved on 2019-11-03. (MMO-Champion transcript/Wowhead transcript)
  13. ^ a b Jez Corden 2020-07-09. World of Warcraft Shadowlands interview: Customization, progression, balance, and more with Ion Hazzikostas. Windows Central. Archived from the original on 2020-07-14.
  14. ^ a b perculia 2020-07-09. The Final Boss of Shadowlands. Wowhead. Archived from the original on 2020-07-09.
  15. ^ The Art of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, pg. 204
  16. ^ a b c d Bellular 2021-02-22. Simply AWESOME! Blizz Devs Hint Spicy New Lore & Major Game Fixes - Torghast V2?! (0:40 - 03:45). YouTube. Retrieved on 2021-03-23.
  17. ^ a b The Lost Codex 2019-11-05. BlizzCon 2019 Interview: Steve Danuser & Frank Kowalkowski - Story and Systems (07:20 - 08:50). YouTube. Retrieved on 2020-11-23.
  18. ^ a b c 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!
  19. ^ The Legend of Odyn: The Keeper's Eye
  20. ^ Garth Holden 2020-05-28. A deep dive into Bastion, the Shadowlands realm of selflessness and greater purpose. SA Gamer. Retrieved on 2020-11-23.
  21. ^ Garth Holden 2020-09-24. A deep dive into Maldraxxus, the defenders of Death. SA Gamer. Archived from the original on 2020-09-24.
  22. ^ a b [Clearing the Fog]
  23. ^ Taelia, Jaina, and Calia dialogue in Oribos
  24. ^ a b The Art of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, pg. 197: The Veil between realms wanes. The Helm of Domination was crafted to be our way forward; instead, the one seared by the flames of Life uses it to keep us at bay.
  25. ^ a b Helm of Domination Exclusive Replica. Blizzard Gear Store. Archived from the original on 2021-03-21.​ “Forged according to the Jailer's will, the Helm of Domination was to be the vessel of Death's influence on Azeroth. The nathrezim imprisoned the spirit of the orc chieftain Ner'zhul within the helm, granting him command over a vast army of undead Scourge.
  26. ^ a b N [60] The Jailer's Grasp
  27. ^ N [50] Through the Shattered Sky
  28. ^ The Art of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, pg. 178
  29. ^ Azeroth Radio 2019-11-03. John Hight & Johnny Cash SHADOWLANDS Interview! | BLIZZCON 2019! (06:57). YouTube. Retrieved on 2019-11-07.
  30. ^ a b N [50] Audience with the Arbiter
  31. ^ N [60] One Little Whisper
  32. ^ a b N [50] Stand as One
  33. ^ Shadowlands - Home. Retrieved on 2020-12-27.​ “An ancient force of death threatens to break its bonds and unravel reality. [...] Now you must investigate a conspiracy to unmake the cosmos [...] Should the ancient evil chained here break free, all of reality will be consumed.
  34. ^ a b N [60] The End of the Beginning
  35. ^ N [60] The Endless Forest
  36. ^ N [50] A Message from Above
  37. ^ N [60] The Captive King
  38. ^ Conversation between Devos and Kyrestia at the Seat of the Archon
  39. ^ B [50] Cause for Distraction
  40. ^ N [50] A Moment's Respite
  41. ^ World of Warcraft 2020-02-21. BlizzConline 2021 - World of Warcraft Q&A (02:25). YouTube. Retrieved on 2021-03-23.
  42. ^ N [50] By and Down the River
  43. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment. Shadowlands - Home. Retrieved on 2020-12-27.​ “Once, the Jailer kept only the most dangerous souls in the cosmos confined in this eternal prison. Now, some of Azeroth’s greatest heroes are trapped here, and you’ll need to rescue them from the Jailer’s tower before he expends their very souls.
  44. ^ N [54] Delving Deeper
  45. ^ a b N [55] A Glimpse into Darkness
  46. ^ N [60] The Looming Dark
  47. ^ a b N [60] Torment Chamber: Thrall
  48. ^ N [60] Signs of the Lion
  49. ^ N [60] The Highlord's Vision
  50. ^ N [60] A Mourneblade Born
  51. ^ a b Shadowlands: Chains of Domination – “Kingsmourne”
  52. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2021-02-20. Shape the Fate of the Shadowlands in Chains of Domination. Retrieved on 2021-03-24.
  53. ^ BlizzCon 2019 | World of Warcraft: What's Next | Full Panel
  54. ^ Stan 2019-11-27. WoW Shadowlands: The Jailer's Identity Revealed in Early Concept Art. Icy Veins. Retrieved on 2020-07-03.
  55. ^ ZoltanTV 2020-04-28. Interview Ion Hazzikostas SHADOWLANDS (04:00). YouTube. Retrieved on 2020-06-27.

External links