By Jonathan Wojcik and Rev Storm
ENTRY 31: THE ELDEN RINGMaybe Tolkien's influence had you thinking the "Elden Ring" would be some supernatural fashion accessory, but this game is named for an entity. The Elden Ring is more title character than prop, and it's a mighty strange one.
Malenia may be the final boss battle, but first you'll face the Elden Lord Radagon, and once he's been defeated, the mysterious Elden beast awakens. A dazzlingly peculiar entity, its big, barrel shaped body tapers into a long, flexible, wormlike head and neck, it has oddly human shaped arms and legs and it bears many pairs of wings down its back, the entire figure formed from a shadowy, sparkling blue-black mist - like a piece of a starry sky itself - with a visible "skeleton" of shining, golden root-like filaments and a single bright, circular light in its otherwise featureless nubby cranium.
...But I think the strangest thing of all is the fact that such a huge, alien looking lifeform still fights with something as ordinary as a giant sword. In fact, it's a fairly straightforward physical battle, even if the nature of this "beast" isn't so simple.
Radagon was, in fact, the male aspect of the goddess Queen Marika, ruler of the lands between for many centuries, mother of demigods and face of the Golden Order; the religious empire that worships and protects the Erdtree. This tremendous power and status was bestowed to the queen by the strange object known as the Elden Ring, actually more like a rune of multiple fused rings housed physically within the queen's body. This object arrived from the stars as the Elden Beast before taking this form, which like the Erdtree is an extension of the entity known as the Greater Will; an entity believed by most to literally be the conscious will of "order" throughout the cosmos.
The description for the spell Protection of the Erdtree states that "In the beginning, everything was in opposition of the Erdtree, but through countless victories in war, it became the embodiment of Order."
So the Erdtree is something of extraterrestrial origin, not natural to the Lands Between, and the inhabitants of this realm spent many generations attempting to prevent the tree's spread. But that same extraterrestrial force also came to inhabit a divine being (or made her divine?) whose followers grew in power through countless bloody crusades until most of the populace not only accepted the tree's presence, but came to believe it was always their true god. They worship, nurture and defend the huge plant as a holy symbol, suppressing anything that inhibits or threatens it in any way they can, even as it seemingly feeds upon their world and draws power from the souls of the dead.
IN OTHER WORDS: even the title of the game references a parasitic symbiosis. The Erdtree may even simply be the "feeding apparatus" of the Greater Will, and the Elden Beast, in the form of the Elden Ring, is some tiny piece of it implanted in a human host to help nurture that feeding apparatus, if the Greater Will is even really involved or really exists at all, and isn't just a lie to further the alien invader's agenda. It's not entirely unlike the real-world trees protected by colonies of ants, which even strip the surrounding land of competing plant life in exchange for the tree's food and shelter. Perhaps it's also a little like the parasitic caterpillars that delude ants into treating them as their queens even as the caterpillars feast on ant eggs. Actually, there sure are a lot of parasites that take advantage of ants. Could that be some subtly symbolic reason why giant ants are also in this game?!
We didn't entirely realize this until working on these reviews, but when you look back at other creatures, characters, events and forces throughout the Elden Ring world, there is an overwhelming theme of symbiosis, often of the parasitic variety, though mutualistic symbiosis and commensal symbiosis are also present. A demigod becomes one with a giant snake, and continues to absorb new victims. Animate jars combine fragments from multiple fallen warriors into one greater being. Wizards merge their brains together in an attempt to create stars. A force of fungal rot spreads through its Kindred and infested hosts. A dead demigod's malignant flesh infests the great root network with an insect-borne "death blight." There are brain crabs, haunted barnacles, grafting, things that absorb souls and control minds and puppet carcasses around, the fact that the Elden Beast looks a lot like a nudibranch and nudibranchs are capable of assimilating weaponry from their food, on and on the idea of many things becoming one or commandeering one another, whether as beneficial partners or malicious infestations.
Obviously these themes are very "me," and there are plenty of great creatures in this game, many more than I found room to fit in; the skeletal slimes, the giant crayfishes, claymen and plenty of others. But I also feel as if this final day of the feature, and of my whole October, came and went before it even really started, and it's probably because Elden Ring really isn't as thrilling to me as the topics I've previously selected as October Features. Researching Ultraman Kaiju or discovering Shinbi's Apartment, for instance, really made me feel like I was doing something fun and special with my entire birth month. They were also, however, such rigorous obsessions that they sort of took over the whole month every time. Reviewing monsters from a single currently-popular video game, day by day, has been smaller in scope and far more straightforward, but in a way that's also allowed me to enjoy what I can of what is, frighteningly, already one of the last Octobers of my thirties; quite possibly half way through the total number of Halloweens I'll ever live to see.
All that said, I'm actually considering doing another daily feature over the wintertime just to revisit Bloodborne monsters, which, truth be told, still feel much more epic to me than Elden Ring's bestiary. This may not quite pan out, but that's also because the coming months will demand new Pokemon and Digimon reviews along with whatever else I feel like scraping together for my ongoing Halloween, so this certainly still isn't the end of 2022's monster blitz.