While watching an Elden Ring playthrough on the Woolie Versus channel, I came upon a realization about one of the big plot twists in the game and the route through which it can be realized. The twist itself isn’t that much of a mind-blower, but a seemingly minor detail about it is actually one of the most major things about this in-game world. The disaster that befell the Lands Between, from its highest echelons to its lowest denizens, is a story about what happened when earthly gods and monarchs ruled through a church.
Do know that it isn’t trying to say anything outside the scope of the game. It may seem like I’m commenting on religion and society, but that’s just how the game was written. Between George R.R. Martin and Hidetaka Miyazaki, they are both known to take inspiration from real world history and even current events in their story writing. There are indeed parallels, but it’s best to think of it within the context of the in-game world and its lore.
I just thought of writing about this because it did somewhat blow my mind when I first realized its implications. Of course, in order to properly explain it, I have to give context, and that’s why this blog post reaches up to 2000 words. I’m well aware that I could’ve just written a Twitter post on this and be done with it, but I wanted to wrap my head around it as best as I can. Think of it like those YouTube videos that pad their content to reach the minimum of 10 minutes so they can have mid-roll ads to make more money with each view.
NOTE: This whole post is one giant compilation of spoilers. Please get out if you haven’t played all the way through Elden Ring. If you’re still going to read it, don’t get mad at me for writing about what I want to write. Consider yourself warned.
What is Elden Ring’s Plot Twist?
NOTE: If you already know about this twist, you may skip to the next section. I included this for both context and further insight. I wrote this part according to what I know and understand about the game’s lore, so there could be some mistakes. I’m just indulging myself while also inflating the word count.
Let’s review who the main characters in the story are. I shall retell the story as I understand it, so I may not get everything right. It’s pretty confusing on its own, and the sheer abundance of information available online doesn’t make it any easier to understand.
Queen Marika the Eternal is the ruling empyrean monarch of the Lands Between, chosen to hold the Elden Ring, a powerful artifact that represents the Greater Will. She first married the warrior Hoarah Loux, who then became Godfrey, the first Elden Lord. He fought Marika’s enemies and gave her children, then was banished once he was no longer of use. Godfrey would then become the first Tarnished.
She would then take Radagon, the leader of the Golden Order, as her second consort. Radagon had been the husband of Rennala, the Carian queen, who bore the children Radahn, Ranni, and Rykard with him. He then left her all of a sudden, which rendered her quite depressed.
Radagon and Marika would then bear their own children, Miquella and Malenia, who turned out to be pure empyrean as Radagon himself was also empyrean. However, these twin siblings were born with great afflictions — Miquella couldn’t age and Malenia had the scarlet rot. The reason behind their afflictions lead to the plot twist of Elden Ring’s story.
George R.R. Martin’s Influence Up in This Bitch
The plot twist is that Radagon is Marika. Whether they were once two separate entities or were truly one being from the get-go is besides the point. To think that the Queen and her King Consort were one and the same is quite the brain-twister, and even more so that they would later have children that were far from “genetically diverse”.
It’s basically “selfcest,” although both siblings would rise to deserve their demi-godhood. Miquella would become the Unalloyed and creator of the Haligtree, while Malenia going from being the Severed to the unbeatable Blade of Miquella with her combat prowess.
Yes, they’re unquestionably gods. But they’re also products of inbreeding nonetheless, and the most intense form of inbreeding at that.
Sidenote About Miquella
Also interestingly, Miquella would turn away from the Golden Order fundamentalism of his father’s creation as he couldn’t find any answers to curing his sister of the scarlet rot through it, which was why he would form his own version of Golden Order that is “Unalloyed” — purer than pure while being better than the unwavering fundamentalism.
Miquella would come up with a solution with the Unalloyed Gold Needle, which you could give to Millicent to keep her scarlet rot at bay. Completing Millicent’s questline also grants access to Miquella’s Needle, which is powerful enough to stave off the frenzied flame. It’s basically an undo if you change your mind about getting the Lord of Frenzied Flame ending.
Suffice to say, Miquella is built up as a figure on a trajectory to be greater than even his own parents. He would grow the Haligtree, then plan to bind with it to ascend before being abducted by Mohg, the Lord of Blood.
Ranni Setting Things Off
Ranni herself would later be chosen by her Two Fingers to ascend to godhood by the order of the Greater Will. However, she resented having her fate be predetermined. She didn’t like how she had to serve the Greater Will against her own will, then perpetuate the cycle.
Much like Miquella, she saw nothing good from the status quo and sought to find a way out of it. But while Miquella looked to create his own path under his own power, Ranni had to borrow power from something else in order to enact her plan. The first step was stealing the Rune of Death from Maliketh, who would never live it down.
She then employed the Black Knife assassins, equipped them with one-half of the Rune of Death, and had them kill Marika’s son Godwyn the Golden while simultaneously killing herself with the other half of the rune. The whole of the rune is meant to kill both body and soul, so one half killed her empyrean body and the other killed Godwyn’s soul.
Her soul would then inhabit the body of a doll modeled after her mentor, the Snow Witch. Meanwhile, the death of Godwyn sent Marika down a hate spiral, so much that she took the Elden Ring and smashed it into pieces. This would then lead to the Shattering, a war between the demigods who vied for dominance.
The aftermath of the Shattering led to the coming of the Tarnished, including the player character, who seeks to become the next Elden Lord by assembling all the Great Runes that are pieces of the Elden Ring. That means killing the demigods who hold each one.
How Do You Find Out About This Plot Twist?
You uncover the truth in the game by going through Brother Corhyn’s questline and/or obtaining the prayerbook that contains the Law of Regression incantation. Before the statue of Radagon in Leyndell is a message that reads “Regression alone reveals secrets.”
You then do the incantation and the statue changes form from Radagon to Marika. The message then changes to “Radagon is Marika,” thus dropping the plot twist on you like a ton of bricks on your head. The resulting concussion then confuses you and makes you have temporary amnesia for the next five or so seconds.
It’s not an immediately impactful plot twist, but it’s one that does change the way you perceive the story going forward, especially once you reach the final boss fight.
Whether you think it matters or not, you then meet up with Goldmask and Brother Corhyn and tell the perpetually silent NPC the revelation. You then talk to Corhyn, who is insufferable with his complaints about his master’s lack of movement, whining about being on the cusp of something even though his job isn’t to solve the mystery in the first place.
Corhyn would remark how he’s not smart enough to decipher the whole thing, and that’s where the real plot twist is. For the whole game, you get told about the Golden Order and how they have exerted their authority throughout the Lands Between for almost forever until the Shattering. The Golden Order is built up to be a monolithic presence.
It’s a lot like the Faith of the Seven in A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m not sure if there had been something similar in the previous FromSoftware games. Maybe it’s like that thing with the whole Cinder thing in the Dark Souls trilogy, but I’ll never know until I finally get to play those games.
You Gotta Have Faith
You see all the incantations and in-game items that have faith requirements in order to use. You see how powerful they are and that might make you think about pumping your faith to try them out. You can heal and buff yourself and your allies, shoot fire and lightning at enemies, and even use one of the cheesiest weapons in the game — the Sword of Night and Flame.
However, if you instead went for an intelligence build, forgoing those cool incantations and weapons for sorcery and big hats, then there’s a chance that you can uncover the secret. But if you’re either a new player or just someone who doesn’t like to read the descriptions of every item in the game, the latter of which is a great way to miss out on a big chunk of the story in this game, then you may miss out on the fact that the Law of Regression incantation is entirely intelligence-based.
You may even forgo incantations altogether since you wouldn’t be entirely wrong to think that all of them require faith to use. Whenever you pick up a prayerbook, you don’t care for it and may never think of giving it to either Corhyn or Miriel the Pastor of Vows in the Church of Vows (bless the turtle pope). You’ll never find the Law of Regression unless you somehow saw it in a guide or wiki, and you won’t see that if you’re especially spoiler-phobic.
It also helps that the Law of Regression is one of the best status ailment removers in the game.
But it does reward completionists who don’t leave any stone unturned. Since this is a FromSoftware game, there are plenty of those people around, which is likely why we know of this thing to begin with. Even without a quest tracking system in Elden Ring, as long as you’re able to remember or even take note of important conversations with NPCs, then you may actually come across this anyway.
ADD(30JUL2022@12:55PM): I found this comment in a Reddit thread discussing the plot twist, which puts things in a new perspective. The piece of wisdom the redditor talks about there is in a famous scene of Enter the Dragon, where Bruce Lee’s character lectures a student about a finger pointing to the moon. If you focus only on the pointing finger, you miss out on the whole picture.
Brother Corhyn is that student who focused only on the finger and not on either where it’s pointing at or what’s around it. Goldmask was already showing him the way, but all he could see was his finger movements (since Goldmask is mute), only writing down what he’s trying to say, but never figuring out what it actually means.
I may write more posts on Elden Ring’s story and lore like this in the near future. I’m very much enjoying the game, having logged 200 hours at this point (which is a lot for a guy in his mid-30s). The last game I obsessed over like this was DOOM Eternal, and I got into that primarily for its gameplay, just like I did with StarCraft II. But with Elden Ring, my focus is on the in-game world and lore, which has been incredibly fascinating thus far.
Yes, I know I went on for too long with this one as the ultimate revelation could be described in less than 200 words. But I wanted to have some fun with it and talk a good bit about the backstory as well. Something like Elden Ring can be harped on for years to come at length in blogs, YouTube channels, and forums, and I’m definitely all for that.
Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have in the comment section below.
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