Ideologies in the Endings of Elden Ring

Elden Ring: The Age of the Stars

One morning, I found myself watching a video on the Flame of Frenzy, wherein the author mentions how he believes that forces like the Flame of Frenzy and the Scarlet Rot, as well as the different characters that directly affect the story of Elden Ring, correspond to different real-world concepts and ideas. I then thought about the different endings and realized how they indeed have parallels with the real world. This blog post ruminates on the ideologies represented in Elden Ring through its fractured and elusive storyline.

If you don’t know how the endings of Elden Ring work, most of them are just roughly the same thing with slightly different color and script in the ending cutscene. The ones that are different require going through long questlines that take most of the game to complete. There are six different endings, with four variations of the default ending and two unique ones. From how I see them, they each imply a certain ideology that can affect the future of the Lands Between.

NOTE: This blog post was written according to my own understanding of Elden Ring’s story and lore, so I may have made some mistakes. If so, you may correct me in the comments.

As of this writing, I have not finished a playthrough of the game. I already have four separate playthroughs with 30-90 hours played each.

Also, it goes without saying that this is full of spoilers, so consider yourself warned. Reader discretion is advised.

Analyzing the Ideologies in Elden Ring Endings

We shall start with the first four wherein the player character puts Marika’s head back on her body, presumably bringing her back to life in order to become her consort as the Elden Lord. Aside from being slightly different, they’re more or less the return of the previous authority with some changes.

We then look at the last two that have completely usurped the former authority, one in favor of taking all power into one’s own hands with help from an outworldly power and the other installing a new monarch instead. Let’s take a look at how different they really are and what ideologies they may represent.

Age of Fracture

This is the status quo as we know it. You put Marika back together and take your place as the Elden Lord, practically bring everything back to how it was before the Shattering. As we have now in this world, which is in an uneasy peace that can easily be shattered again (as we’ve been seeing recently).

The reasons why the player character would bring it back are likely twofold. First is that they just want to be the Elden Lord in the most straightforward way without any other thought put into it. Second is that there are likely no other options found or considered towards this goal.

It’s called the Age of Fracture because no other problems get solved aside from eliminating the preceding Elden Lord and taking his place. The player decided that the only way to go about becoming Elden Lord is to return Queen Marika the Eternal to her rightful place and be her third consort. It’s far from the ideal solution, but it’s also the most obvious.

Similarly, this is more or less what happened in the Philippines during the 90s. While the rest of the world was enjoying a post-Soviet world, as if world peace had truly come to pass, the Philippines was seeing the supposedly improbable return of an old power that would later culminate in the current state of the nation almost 30 years later.

Yeah, I know it’s kind of a stretch to shoehorn that in, but I feel it’s somewhat true when thinking of how this nation has ended up in this position after 30 years of being free from such a nightmare. Then again, detractors would say that the past 30 years had been a nightmare anyway. Such is our status quo. It never ends.

Age of Order

This is basically the Age of Fracture ending, but with its flaws repaired with the Mending Rune of Perfect Order. This is authoritarianism, perhaps even totalitarianism. The Golden Order does give off an air of absolutism, especially in an age-old godly monarchy like that of the Lands Between. You exchange the status quo for something even more ironfisted.

You can equate this to fascism or even the Spanish Inquisition. Perhaps it’s somewhat unfair to immediately compare this to something like 1920s Italy or even modern day China. Then again, it can also be compared to modern Vatican City, which is authoritarian at its root, but it’s not seen as a bad thing since that’s what you’d expect from the center of the Roman Catholic faith.

At risk of exposing myself as a pro-authoritarian hardliner (even though my spiel in the previous part supposedly goes against that), I can say that not all forms of authoritarianism are immediately bad for human rights and freedoms. You can refer to Singapore, whose system was also represented in Fallout: New Vegas through Mr. House’s New Vegas Strip.

Singapore has state capitalism ruled by the People’s Action Party, which was co-founded by Lee Kuan-Yew, the nation’s first prime minister. While it had everything against it, including its very founding as it was basically due to being kicked out by Malaysia in 1965, they were able to build one of the most prosperous nations in the world from that impromptu independence.

However, it’s also a place where you can get lashes for littering. It’s still technically a dictatorship via one-party government, but you can say it’s not on the same scale of totalitarianism as Cuba. You can watch this video by Soup Emporium to learn more about the ideology of Mr. House.

That’s the thing about authoritarianism, which is a spectrum much like democracy. The western mainstream have always painted authoritarianism as bad and democracy as good, but there are prosperous authoritarian states and floundering democratic states (like here). Whether you agree with it or not, it can work as long as it’s with minimal suffering.

Age of Duskborn

The next three endings can be seen as representative of nihilism, but in different flavors.

Ranni’s plan to escape the influence of the Greater Will involved her having the Black Knives, who are armed with one half of the Rune of Death, kill Godwyn and destroy his soul. His body remained, which transformed into a grotesque form and turned him into the Prince of Death.

His blackened blood then seeped into the roots of the Erdtree, which then formed pools that spawned the Deathroot and created Those Who Live in Death.

Fia then has you help her find the Cursemark of Death so that it can be used to bring Godwyn the Golden back to life, then you use the resulting Mending Rune of the Death-Prince to become Elden Lord in a new age of the Duskborn.

You basically helped Fia get laid by being her wingman (or woman). You were somewhat third-wheeling for a corpse and a necrophiliac chick. Alright then.

This ending is a regime change, with you as the Elden Lord and Godwyn the Death Prince instead of Radagon as the head of a new order that will rule over the Lands Between. I don’t quite understand the implications of this lore, but perhaps we’ll know more once FromSoftware releases DLC content for this game.

A historical example I can give is Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of a unified China. Before he rose to power, while he was still king of the Qin state during the Warring States period, a retainer of the crown prince of the Yan state named Jing Ke was sent to assassinate him.

The 2002 wuxia film Hero was loosely based on this, with Jet Li playing as a nameless Jing Ke. From what I’ve seen of various versions of the story, the portrayal of the would-be assassin is that of a hero being sent off to perform a noble task. The king of Qin was seen as a tyrant, at least by his political opponents. In the end, the assassination attempt failed, the state of Yan fell, and the king of Qin would become emperor of China united by his will.

Of course, in the case of Godwyn the Golden, his assassination was a success and his soul was effectively destroyed. He would become the Prince of Death, with Fia the Deathbed Companion becoming his consort as his body morphed into a giant decaying merman thing with a grotesque face that looks like a cross between a monkey and an oyster.

On a related tangent, I like how the undead are portrayed in this game with a seafaring motif, like the Tibia Mariner, Godwyn becoming a misshapen fish man, etc.

From a regime that’s all about golden light and strict order to one of darkness and unlife, it’s like when a country goes from monarchy to republic or from democracy to a totalitarian regime. The faction known as Those Who Live In Death, composed of the undead and its adherents, are a minority that has been oppressed and denounced by the Golden Order.

It’s a bit like how Fidel Castro and his boys took over Cuba. They ousted Fulgencio Batista and installed a communist regime, transforming the island from a Caribbean Las Vegas to what is still one of the purest communist states in the current day. If you ever watched The Godfather II, you definitely saw the part where Michael Corleone visited Cuba since Hyman Roth had been dealing with Batista, but then had to abandon the project due to the guerilla uprising.

No, I’m not saying Godwyn the Golden was a communist, but I’m realizing just now as I write this that I didn’t think this through well enough. But my point stands that while the Age of Order ending is about reinstating a previous regime while successfully fixing its perceived flaws, the Age of Duskborn ending is about totally replacing it with a new one.

Blessing of Despair

Dung Eater is an interesting character. His mission is to spread his seedbed curse throughout the Lands Between, turning every one of its denizens into omen who can never return to the grace of the Erdtree. He is seen as one of the most loathsome characters in all of FromSoftware’s games due to his quest being seen as one of pure malice since he defiles his victims to forever send them to this universe’s version of hell.

His reason for doing this is much like that of the recusants of Volcano Manor, which is their disdain for the dogma of the Golden Order in service of the Greater Will. The whole thing about 

An existing video game character who I think comes closest to Dung Eater and his beliefs is the main antagonist in Arcanum, my favorite game of all time. Kerghan the Terrible was a necromancer who was sent to the Void due to his immensely unethical experiments with the dark arts. In his continued pursuit of truth in darkness as he was supposed to languish in his exile, he came upon his truth that life is the problem and the solution lies in the death of all, bringing all living souls to peace and tranquility.

In his own screwed-up way, Dung Eater may be aiming for the same thing by cursing everyone to never go back to the Erdtree upon their death, thus bringing final death to all after living one last time as omen. I’m not sure if I understood that right, but that’s Elden Ring lore for you.

Lord of the Frenzied Flame

There have been quite a few videos made on the lore of the Frenzied Flame and what it stands for in the Lands Between. Shabriri is quite a character as your first encounter with him has you hearing him speak reason at first, then hear him ramble about chaos.

The philosophy of the Frenzied Flame has a lot in common with the Buddhist mantra that life is essentially suffering. That also means it crosses streams with German Pessimism, which was greatly influenced by Artur Schopenheur’s fascination with Buddhism.

Nirvana is said to be reached by extinguishing the “Three Fires” — desire, hate, and ignorance. Being unable to put all of them out throughout one’s life perpetuates the cycle of life, death, and rebirth in “samsara” — the mortal world we live in right now.

That seems to correspond with the Three Fingers of the Frenzied Flame, which works against the Greater Will. Since how things work in the Lands Between is the dead returning to the Erdtree in order to be reborn, that can be seen as the perpetuation of samsara.

Therefore, both Dung Eater and the Frenzied Flame seek to liberate everyone from this perpetual cycle of death and rebirth, but their methods do differ. The Blessing of Despair seeks to turn everyone into omen to cut them off the Erdtree, whether they like it or not.

The Blessing of Despair is treating the symptom and not the source while also not giving patients the right to choose. Meanwhile, the Frenzied Flame seeks to usurp the entire order by creating one of their own that’s born out of chaos.

The Blessing of Despair rebels against the Golden Order and the Greater Will while the Lord of Frenzied Flame completely usurps them. The former drags everyone into a fate that’s seen as worse than death, a curse upon the living. The latter creates a completely different paradigm altogether, as scary and chaotic as it may seem.

Age of the Stars

The gist of this is all about Ranni not wanting to follow her destiny set by the Greater Will, so she came up with a plan to leave her empyrean body and eventually usurp the Greater Will and the Golden Order with her own order that didn’t dictate 

This is likely liberal democracy as it directly opposes the authoritarianism of the Age of Order ending. Ranni’s mission is to totally upend the rule of the Golden Order over the Lands Between.

Thus, I’m getting Ayn Rand vibes from Ranni. If I haven’t mentioned it yet on this blog, I’m not a big fan of Ayn Rand. Therefore, I shouldn’t be following Ranni’s questline because of that.

(It’s also interesting that Amber Heard has expressed admiration for Ayn Rand and her books, which is why I’m not that surprised that she would figuratively and literally shit the bed.)

Despite her neoliberalist leanings, I find Ranni’s ending to be the most interesting of them all due to both their narrative and aesthetic quality.

Conclusion

Elden Ring doesn’t really have that much of a story to begin with as it’s mostly just visuals and tidbits of lore loosely stitched together from the ideas of Martin and Miyazaki to create this narrative mosaic.

It’s a collage similar to a child’s macaroni art, and yet put on the same level as the Mona Lisa. However, it somehow works in being more fascinating to me than the lore of most western role-playing games.

But with such worldbuilding that’s quite rich, yet also is full of gaps in its narrative, the audience who are engrossed in it get to fill in those gaps and have the lore make sense to them. This blog post is my attempt at doing the same.

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