Community Soapbox: Dark Souls lore explained

Dark Souls

By on March 25, 2014 at 9:45 am

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Before I begin, I feel I should explain how story and plot works in Dark Souls, and how the community fits into all of this. The main complaint by the general user of Dark Souls seems to be that the plot is thin and makes no sense. It sounds like a cop-out, but if that is how it comes off then I think the entire point of the game has been lost on the user. I do not have the direct translated quote, but the director of Dark Souls said in an interview once that he wanted the story of his game to mirror the bonfires present in-game, for it to be discussed, discovered, explored and retold in the way that one would tell stories of their travels, or of travels told to them, around a campfire.

Amazingly, Dark Souls has ended up gathering and collecting the most incredible bunch of thinkers and storytellers any community could hope to have. The quality of discussion and debate that has gone on in YouTube comments, Reddit threads, forum posts, IRC channels, Facebook groups, in-person and across the globe is second to none. You know something is truly unique when it spawns intelligent and thoughtful dialogue from the comments of YouTube users!

“The great tool for narrative is the world created for it to exist in. A well designed world could tell its story in silence.” — Hidetaka Miyazaki

So, gather around the bonfire and listen to my tale of deception, betrayal, failure and fire as the land of Lordran comes alive.

In the beginning

…the world was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Ancient Dragons hovered over the surface of the water. This was the Age of the Ancients! (cue: title card!) This time was cold, dark, and barren and was filled with many, many stone archtrees which were said to be as tough as dragons scales. These massive creatures were forever thanks to their scales of immortality. Speaking of those lovable creatures, the dragons were only immortal because their scales made them so. Alongside them were the primordial serpents – the imperfect dragons, lacking wings and scales.

Present during this time were the insignificant creatures of the land: the giants, the beasts, the humans and the beings that would latter claim to be the gods. Then there was fire! No creature knows how the first flame came into being, but with it came four Souls of Lords that were quickly claimed by four lesser creatures: Nito, the unnamed Witch of Izalith, Gwyn, and the furtive Pigmy. With each Lord Soul came unimaginable power, power they could use to rise up against the dragons! Gywn’s bolts stripped the immortal scales from the bodies of the epic creatures whilst the Witch of Izalith’s daughters of chaos attacked with storms of fire and Nito introduced the once immortal beings to the concept of a horrific death.

It was not a cut-and-dry insurrection however, as the dragons had a traitor in their midsts: Seath, albino and scaleless. Overflowing with hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of years of jealousy, hate and inadequacy in abundance, he waited until their backs were turned and struck against his kin, not stopping until the final scale had been crushed within his powder white grip.

And so the age of the dragons was brought to an abrupt end by the flames of the age of fire. This is not our story though. This is a story from a far away time, long before the world began to dim once again. But what of those millennia in between?

Of the dragons…

…only Seath remains. Without the scales of immortality that make them eternal, Seath’s only chance is the life-preserving primordial crystal that he pillaged from the dragons when he defeated them. But this crystal is not perfect. It asks for something in return for its gift of immortality: his mind. With each crystal scale that grown upon his albino hide, more and more of his immense intellect slips just out of reach. His only option is to find the secret of the immortal scales, and life itself…

Meanwhile, Gwyn, the self-appointed Lord of Sunlight, was ruling over the land like the god the Lord Soul made him out to be. The lesser creatures worshipped him, his family and his other god-appointed cronies as he felt they should. Even his domain in Anor Londo required a challenging pilgrimage through Sen’s Fortress just to seek an audience. He gave the albino dragon who assisted his silver knight in battle against the ancient ones the title of Duke and, upon hearing of his plight and intended path of research, bestowed upon him the Duke’s Archives.

All was not as perfect as made out to be, however. One day, while taking out the trash, one of Gwyn’s many servants took a peek at the first flame and it was bad. For what she saw was a flame that was only a shadow of the fire of old. She could not believe her eyes, she had to let her Lord know immediately! (I totally just did not make that up right there I swear).

The first flame, like all things in life, began to dim, flicker and cool — and this meant terrible things for Gwyn and his kind. Without the flame, Gwyn would not have his power, have his control, have his title. Something had to be done and he knew just the witch that could help… the Witch of Izalith.

The godmother of pyromancy and her seven daughters of chaos stood along side Gwyn, Nito and Seath in the insurrection against the Ancient Dragons on the eve of the Age of Fire. Gwyn approached her and asked (read: begged and/or forced) her to use her Lord Soul and her pyromancy to recreate the first flame. Against the wishes of her partner, Xanthous King, Jeremiah, she focused all of her power and all of her might. She failed; the flames of chaos engulfed six of her daughters and swallowed them, creating…

The Bed of Chaos

With the Witch and her powerful Lord Soul, the Bed of Chaos returned the gift of life by creating a demon out of her unborn son; mutating half of the bodies of two of her daughters into hideous, sentient spiders; unintentionally enslaved two of her daughters, creating demons out of objects and creatures as it saw fit; and imprisoning Izalith in a lava-filled hell-analogue whose inhabitants are now all manner of demonic abomination. The Witch, with all her power and all her skill, got cocky and paid the ultimate price: “Always fear the flame, lest you be devoured by it, and lose yourself. I would hate to see that happen again…”

Two of her daughters escaped being devoured by Bed of Chaos: Quelaana, the mother of all Pyromancy, who fled to Blighttown, and the unnamed eldest daughter, who now protects the Bed of Chaos with her life, lest someone kill and extinguish the lives of her mother and sisters.

Gwyn’s ace in the hole had failed him in the most spectacular manner possible; things had gotten very bad, very quickly, and with the first flame waning, it could only get worse for the ‘gods’. The Lord of Sunlight was up against a wall and he had no options left but to get his own hands dirty. He had to split his Lord Soul.

Observing the great skill, might, foresight and intelligence of the four kings of New Londo, Gwyn bequeathed part of his soul to them to maintain rule in his absence. With another part of his soul he rewarded Seath for his great contribution and support against the dragons, and to act as the catalyst to The Scaleless One’s incomplete research into the soul arts and immortality. With what of his soul he had left, Gwyn descended into the depths of the kiln of the first flame to do the unthinkable.

Now the white dragon Seath finally had a soul! This puzzle piece his research that had been missing for so very long! Although just a fragment, Seath was able to manipulate and augment it without affecting the soul itself – like holding a prism to the light – breathing life into a new form of magic into the world: the soul art he calls sorcery.

No longer is his intellect hindered by his physical form; no longer will his research be halted due to paradoxical inconsistencies – Seath can truly embark on his research into life and immortality. The dragon Duke and his army of sorcery wielding channellers set out for Anor Londo to meet with the Goddess of Fertility, Gwynevere. It is unknown what transpired in the long meeting between the albino dragon and the goddess, although it is known that a substantial number of goddess’s maidens begun disappearing from Anor Londo and, some time after, the beautiful Gwynevere announced she was pregnant.

Nobody knew what experiments the Duke was performing on in the archives on the hill, and no-one was brave, or stupid, enough to ask.

Gwyn’s last hope

And so the time had come: the first flame needed a soul, and Gwyn was damned if it was going to be his. This Lord of Sunlight was not prepared to give his life so those leeches out there could take his place and live in his hard earned limelight. But what could he do? He was quickly running out of options and the sand in this hourglass had almost run its course. Gwyn had to do what he should have done in the beginning.

Gwyn’s powerful arms gripped the shivering body he carried around its chest as he descended the staircase, one step at a time. He knew what he was doing was right; they would all thank him if they were ever allowed to know the truth. The body between his fingers moaned but did not struggling against the Lord’s sheer strength. He almost wished it would, maybe it would make this easier if it did. Gwyn stopped short of the flame, the warmth barely noticeable, even from a few steps away.

With head bowed and a hand on his heart, Gwyn knelt down upon one knee and held out the body to the flames — and waited…

Editor’s Note: If you liked this, Pinothy says there’s a part two in the works – so let him know in the comments below.

11 comments (Leave your own)

I really enjoyed that. Im assuming the body that Gywn is holding is the child of Seath and gywnevere (the one from the painted world). I never found any dialog that said she was going to be sacrificed in dark souls. Where did you find that? ANd where do the primordial snakes come into it?

 

I’ve heard plenty of debate on who the parents of Crossbreed Priscilla are. Has it ever been fully decided it was Gwynevere and Seath? One theory had Velka, Goddess of Sin as a possible mother and the Everlasting Dragon in the Ashen Lake as a possible father. I personally don’t know but I guess anything’s possible right?

 

More please.

 

vcatkiller:
I’ve heard plenty of debate on who the parents of Crossbreed Priscilla are.Has it ever been fully decided it was Gwynevere and Seath?One theory had Velka, Goddess of Sin as a possible mother and the Everlasting Dragon in the Ashen Lake as a possible father.I personally don’t know but I guess anything’s possible right?

Im pretty sure its been confirmed as Seath and Gywnevere. If not the fact that Seath was visiting Gywnevere and than she proclaims to be pregnant, and than you never hear of or see her child and she never speaks of it, points it to being Priscilla

 

kennett,

Really? Where was it confirmed? Last I heard there hadn’t been any official comment from anybody at From software re Priscilla’s parents. I get the feeling they like to keep things purposefully vague though, so as to keep conversations like this one active.

Actually question to the poster – where are you getting most of this from? Seems to be a lot of info there but if it was a Wikipedia page it would be smothered in [citation needed] faster than you could say “praise the sun!”

 

Dark Souls lore summarised in video form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9x_koRZ2bA

Warning: Contains cartoon Gwynnerear (ass).

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rigmq6yxaT4

This guys explains, my bad that didnt confirm it, But the most logical explaintion is seath and gywnevere imo

 

I’ll watch that, I wasn’t actually referring to you though but PinothyJ, who wrote this article. Great article, very well written and can’t wait to see pt 2, but [citation needed].

edit: yeah think I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen all sorts of theories as to Priscilla’s parentage. I’ve even seen a theory that Quelaan, the fair lady, is her mother. (I kid you not) There’s a great deal we don’t know about Priscilla, but that’s what makes her so…fascinating. Kind of like the game, leave things purposefully vague so people are forced to conjecture and theory.

 

vcatkiller:
I’ll watch that, I wasn’t actually referring to you though but PinothyJ, who wrote this article.Great article, very well written and can’t wait to see pt 2, but [citation needed].

edit: yeah think I’ve seen it before.I’ve seen all sorts of theories as to Priscilla’s parentage.I’ve even seen a theory that Quelaan, the fair lady, is her mother.(I kid you not)There’s a great deal we don’t know about Priscilla, but that’s what makes her so…fascinating.Kind of like the game, leave things purposefully vague so people are forced to conjecture and theory.

Velka is possible but unlikely. I had a REALLY good reason why not but I cannot for the life of me remember it at this time (for some reason I did not write it in my notes and my notes have been thorough). I also will not go into Velka until my part two goes up. As for Priscilla herself, her colouration makes it pretty damn obvious that it is Seath as he is the only white thing in the whole game, and very obviously so. Her robe and/or body even mimics Seath’s Hydra-like body to a degree.

Priscilla is fun but no where near as interesting as all the other minor character like Kirk and Jeremiah and Beatrice.

After all is said and done, this piece has been written with assumptions being made and connections being drawn in between the sparse dots on the page. I originally wrote a speculative piece exploring lots of angles but that would not have entertained the general masses (and it was pushing 10,000 words) so I started from scratch to creative a direct narrative, the kind that everyone wants but if it existed for Dark Souls, would destroy its lore and plot completely it.

The only thing I regret is I forgot to put in one conversation which would have been handy.

I hope you like part two…

 

PinothyJ,

If there’s one thing Dark Souls isn’t short on it’s interesting characters. I spent ages one day just bouncing from youtube clip to youtube clip just soaking up lore. I sometimes jump on the Dark Souls wikis from time to time too but sometimes they can be spoilerific, ie this bad guy uses these kind of attacks, kill him this way etc and I really don’t visit those places for that. Unless thoroughly stuck of course. So yeah, love articles like this.

ps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMqCTR5OKeM possibly my favourite clip on Prisiclla. Very light on facts but a good chuckle nonetheless. Actually a lot of VaatiVidya’s clips are very informative, particularly enjoyed watching the one on Artorias the abysswalker.

 

vcatkiller,

I hate Artorias with a passion.

75% of Dark Souls story is unreliable narration (which cannot be trusted) and the remainder is from item descriptions and locations (which can). Artorias, however, is the exception of this, with a lot of latter descriptions about him not actually being about him or being completely off due to their content spawning from the former. People still go on and on that the cover art of the game is still Artorias, despite his armour, albeit corrupted now, being very important to his rank which essentially ensure that he is not wearing a modified Elite Knight set.

But yes, the inclusion of Artorias makes writing this a nightmare to the point that I have pretty much ignored his existence unless required for a cameo (If I do not his very presence creates more time paradoxes than a trigger happy player in Snake Eater). And, at the end of the day, he is not that good. His entire legend is exactly that, a legend.

If you want to see more than I will continue part two (it has to continually receive changes as the timeline has epilepsy)…

 
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