This page contains lore theories by Rakuyo. Please understand these are musings and interpretations by a player, and are not to be taken as official or representative of other's views. Warning this page contains depictions of extreme graphic violence.
Launched in 1990, Berserk is a dark fantasy manga that may be considered one of the most profound sources of inspiration behind the Souls Series.
Berserk is centered around a cursed swordsman by the name of Gutts. Marked as a demonic sacrifice, Gutts is locked into an eternal war with the dark.
Among the many traits assimilated by Souls series are: "giant swords", "crazy armor", "crazy monsters", "undead", "the dark" and the extreme aversion to religion.
Various set pieces, weapons and enemies look like they came straight from Berserk. You can find a list of them below.
Undead in Wheels
Skeleton Wheels are among most characterizing enemies of Dark Souls, but they're not as original as you may think.
Like Pinwheel, Rakshas is defined as a floating, black shroud wearing a mask. The difference being that Pinwheel has three masks and six arms.
Seeing as that commander is Griffith, the design choices behind the Child's Mask could be pretty eerie.
Skillwise, Rakshas is more of a ninja than a necromancer, though he's started displaying more morbid powers since 2016.
This vampire is plausibly one of the reason Bloodborne was ever made.
A recurring antagonist, Zodd lives to fight. He's a challenge seeker and desires only to face a worthy opponent.
Vengarl's Helmet - "Helmet worn by the ferocious Vengarl of Forossa. As Vengarl's helmet suggests, he was not unlike a mad beast on the battlefield."
When the fight is over Gutts tortures the fiend for information, then lets him burn to death.
The Mad King
In the Souls universe, The Mad King is among its most tenacious themes.
It all started with Demon's Souls' King Allant. Who - overcome by melancholy - fed his own kingdom to the Demons.
"Surely you have seen for yourself… the pain and suffering that fills this world!
But fight poison with poison. God is merciful, and so, created the Old One.
The Old One will feed upon our souls, and put an end to our tragic realm of existence!" - King Allant
"I have had enough of this rotten world. No one wishes to go on…" - King Allant
In DS1, the protagonist embarks on a journey through the land of lords, Lordran. But the lords have lost their minds, and madness rules the kingdom.
The once great king of this realm - Gwyn - has been reduced to a mindless hollow. The whole world in fact, is doggedly going to hell.
In DS2, the great king Vendrick falls under the influence of Nashandra, fragment of the Dark Soul, who engineers a war between Giants and humans.
As events unfold, he and his kingdom end up cursed. Vendrick finally retreats to the Undead Crypt, to forever wander as a mindless giant.
There are many other fallen kings: The Four Kings, The Sunken King, The Iron King, The Ivory King, The Nameless King, Oceiros, Lothric, ...
Logarius is King, only in theory. He is warden to Queen Annalise, usurper of her throne and wearer of the Crown of Illusions.
In Berserk, the King of Midland is an important antagonist.
Originally he was a patron of Griffith and his Band of the Hawk, but this changed after Griffith kills his wife and seduces his daughter.
The King lusted after his daughter himself, and tried to ravage her. This led his daughter, Charlotte, to run away with the Band of the Hawk.
Griffith, who's since become a demon king, later returns to Charlotte and marries her, substantially increasing Griffith's power.
The Collapsing Pupil
The Eye of a Blood-drunk Hunter is an important key item that provides access to the Hunter's Nightmare. Available after Amelia's death, it may actually be hers.
"The eye of a Blood-Drunk Hunter. Its pupil is collapsed and turned to mush, indicating the onset of the scourge of beasts.
A hunter who goes drunk with blood is said to be taken by the Nightmare, destined to wander forever, engaged in an endless hunt. It is a fate that no Hunter can escape"
A collapsed pupil is a symptom of the Scourge of Beasts, its structure may therefore infer something about the essence of Beasts.
A first possibility is that the pupil indicates the spreading of "darkness". For the pupil is that part of the eye that is dark and shadowy.
If the dark, shadowy area of the eye enlarges, this could symbolize the "dark" taking over. This would fit my theory that Beasts are fundamentally dark.
My alternative theory focusses on the iris, not the pupil. The iris is a muscle, designed to constrain the pupil. Its destruction may symbolize the end of "restraint".
In Berserk, the collapsing pupil belongs to Casca. It symbolizes a flashback to the demon eclipse, during which she was violently raped by demons.
The dark figures, swirling in her eyes, actually portray these very demons towering over her. This backs my theory that the expanding pupil depicts the dark.
The demon eclipse launched Griffith's ascension into a demon king. Griffith, who she adored, participated in the rape. The whole of which destroyed her mind.
With her mind destroyed, Casca becomes a childlike fool and is left incapable of speech. She also responds with extreme terror to anything reminding her of the event.
Casca's madness also provides backing for the alternative "no-restraint" theory. She's no longer a rational agent and goes into a frenzy whenever she's touched by a man.
Besides Casca's tragedy, the imagery of the collapsing eye may be used to depict the eclipse itself.
It appears in one striking monologue by the Demon Wolf, a manifestation of Gutts' dark side and/or the dark spirits that gather arround him.
During the eclipse, the eclipse itself behaves like a morbid and changing eye. In the end, the Skull Knight shatters the eclipse, proving it was an illusion.
In Berserk, Gutts upgrades his sword to what is frequently referred to as "more a massive slab of iron than a sword".
Called Dragonslayer, it is forged by an especially talented blacksmith, not long after the Demon Eclipse.
At the same time, Gutts starts to wear the black armor that will make notorious as "The Black Swordsman".
His left arm, which was lost during the Demon Eclipse, is replaced by a prosthetic. This iron arm can be outfitted with a crossbow and a cannon.
The Greatsword would return another two times in DS2 and DS3, always paying reverence to the inhuman strength required to wield it.
Bloodborne has no lack of oversized weapons, but it's the Church Weapons in particular that adhere to being blunt and oversized.
Their item descriptions reveal that the Church began creating gargantuan weapons for the purpose of facing gargantuan beasts.
This creates a parallel with Gutts, who upgrades his weapon because he knows he will have to fight Apostles, not mere men.
The Asylum Demon
Also know as the Stray Demon, or the Demon Firesage, The Asylum Demon is another one of Dark Souls' most recognizable enemies.
Smough - The Executioner
First appearing in DS1, Smough belongs to a long line of over-gluttonous, morbidly obese enemies created by From Software.
Smough is a repulsive maneater who served Gwyn's divine family. Despite his strength, he was never raised to the rank of knight.
This is the same executioner who creates the Undead Wheels in Berserk, from which the Logarius Wheel and the Skeleton Wheels of Dark Souls derive.
The Berserk "executioners" are a band of torturers who work for the Holy See Religious Order, under Father Mozgus.
These apostles are modeled after angels, despite their wickedness. Mozgus even declares them proponents of God's fire, whose will is the only truth.
It's possible that Kentaro Miura sought to crack people's presumptions by giving monsters angelic designs, to not be fooled by appearances.
As if to say: "That which looks like an angel, is just a demon with the animal traits of a bird, just like a devil is only a man with the animal traits of a snake or a goat."
In this context, the childlike features represent a mockery of innocence. It invokes the idea that genetic abnormality caused the executioner's evil acts.
Smough is a product of the same line of thinking. His small head symbolizes microcephaly, his fair face insinuates mental retardation.
Winged Knight exist in fully fledged forms, and those whose wings are merely ornamental. The fledged forms are adept at using "Miracles".
This implied but fraudulent opposition between "light" and "dark" traces back to Demon's Souls, to Saint Urbain and the Talisman of Beasts.
"An old wooden amulet resembling the Old One.
It can utilize both miracles and spells.
The symbol of God was nothing more than the Image of the Old One." - Talisman of Beasts
"If you truly are a disciple, then you must have a talisman in God's image.
After the dark arts spread across the land, holy miracles were witnessed once again.
It is God's way of telling us we must stand up to the Demons." - Quotes from Saint Urbain
Saint Urbain is the one who turns Demon Souls into Miracles, perhaps a hint as to their true commonality.
He becomes confused near the end of the game, as he does not recognize the call of The Old One as anything demonic, but rather the call of a child.
"From where does that howl come?!
That is no Demon. It sounds more like a poor hungry child.
Do you have any idea what it might be?
Something about it sets me at great unease." - Saint Urbain
Using angels in this way is not uncommon for Japanese designers, who often use angels as "daemons", "kamis" or spirits.
Some titles are well known for demonizing angels, like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. The Final Fantasy series too has often depicted villains as angels.
It's a tradition that gave rise to characters like Sephiroth, FFXIII's Orphan and more abstract villains like FFX's "Sin".
One series stands out for creating worlds where angels and demons are pitted against each other, based on their opposing, but equally monstrous belief systems.
The Shin Megami Tensei series released its fourth installment in 2013, it's set in a post-apocalyptic world where Law (angels) are pitted against Chaos (demons).
As the plot unfolds, it is revealed that the creator - YHVH - is behind both sides, who created them to keep humanity in an endless cycle of despair.
Could this be true for Dark Souls as well? Are Frampt and Kaathe two sides of the same whole? It would explain a great deal.
Shin Megami Tensei series is developed by Atlus, who were also involved in creating the original Demon's Souls. There are similarities between Souls and SMT.
Both series are very difficult, both began with very humble graphics but great atmosphere, that atmosphere being one of pervasive emptiness and foreboding.
It's quite possible that people at From Software like SMT, and that they might also incorporate elements like the final boss of their most recent title.
SMT has always accomodated a pessimistic view of Christian/Judean mythology, what with YHVH being an evil boss in two of their titles.
So if the comparison with Souls holds true, then clerics may not have to be viewed as a band of good people gone wrong but rather as the puppets of an evil god.
In Bloodborne "The Executioners" form an obscure band of church assassins. There's many things suspicious about them, beginning with their strange hats.
Over time, it lost its innocuousness, it became a hat of shame which criminals were made to wear as they were spat on and humiliated.
These hats became part of the mass executions performed by The Spanish Inquisition, who forced them on those sentenced to death.
The meaning of "Ardeo" is "to burn" (again thank you Mitch L), which does suggest that the Executioner serve something akin to "Fire".
The main theme of the first KKK was the "purification" of race and society. Something that is also symbolized by their burning crosses.
There's another quirk to the Golden Ardeo, in that it is shaped like a "candle snuffer". "To snuff someone" is slang for murder.
"Snuff" refers to a morbid internet phenomenon, involving the torture, rape, and murder of a person, for the purpose of circulating the recorded material.
Not much is know about The Executioners from Bloodborne itself, only Logarius' seemingly tenderhearted motto:
"Acts of goodness are not always wise, and acts of evil are not always foolish, but regardless, we shall always strive to be good." - Executioner's Garb
Beside that, there is Alfred, maniacally laughing as he's covered in Queen Annalise's insides. He then commits suicide, for reasons not well understood.
Just as I feared.
Then a beast-possessed degenerate was I, as my detractors made eminently clear
Does the nightmare never end?!" - Ludwig
Then there's Logarius, whose occupation of Cainhurst Castle, and apparent refusal to kill Queen Annalise, bring doubt to his supposed motives.
From Software does know how it has used the term "executioner" in the past. Executioner Miralda of Demon's Souls was the first, she was distinctly evil.
In DS1, Smough took on the role of executioner. In DS2, The Executioners were hunters of the undead, but they would go hollow themselves.
They became The Skeleton Lords, a band of pyromancing undead. The Executioner's Chariot seems to be the guardian of The Brotherhood of Blood.
The soul of the Executioner's Chariot has a peculiar description:
"Soul of the Executioner's Chariot, that holds control over the Undead Purgatory.
The chariot was created only to torment Undead, and it took the form of a horrendous mad steed, a window into the soul of its master."
The Chariot, created only to torment the undead, took the form of a horrendous mad steed, a reflection into the soul of the executioner.
Ludwig is another, horrendous, mad steed. An executioner, who torment a sea of undead without relent. Until the player stops him.
The Chariot Lance, which can be forged from this soul reads:
"Lance forged from the soul of the Executioner's Chariot. Its cross-shaped blade causes bleeding.
The perverse design of this spear mirrors the chariot from which it came, a merciless creation that endlessly tortured the Undead."
The Shield Crossbow which can be forged from the same soul reads:
The merciless chariot inflicted agony upon others with utter impunity,
and the crossbow created from its soul strives to protect from possible retribution.
Such descriptions don't bode well for the morality of "executioners". There's another theme worth discussing, the theme of "the chariot".
Shin Megami Tensei IV's final boss "Merkabah, the Throne of God", is a real mythological entity, and is also known as "the chariot of God".
Present in The Book of Ezekiel, Merkabah is a high celestial entity accompanied by so called "Ophanim", wheel-angels or "thrones".
Esoteric thinkers have seen in Merkabah a symbol of man's ascension. In Bloodborne, it's probably whatever comes down from "heaven" to crush "filth".
"Now, there is one thing you must know.
By the oath of the League, those who bear its rune will see vermin.
Vermin writhe deep within all filth, and are the root of man's impurity.
…All vermin are to be crushed.
The League exists to expunge all vermin,
ridding us of any trace of human corruption.
And so, until we are rid of all vermin,
you must continue to hunt and kill.
This bloody fate is ours alone.
Do not expect the world to grasp our work…
Members of the League cleanse the streets,
of all the filth that's spread about during the hunt.
Like any half-decent hunter ought to, you know?
Haven't you seen enough of these wretched beasts,
freakish slugs, and mad doctors?
Sentence these fiends to death.
Now you're all set to hunt and kill to your heart's content.
What do you say? Why not join the League?" - Valtr
It is quite possible that all these thrones symbolize Merkabah, and that the shroud is yet another rendering of the same thing.
As stated earlier, Merkabah is a symbol of man's ascension. In the Bloodborne universe it could also be an idol of extreme intolerance to what is considered "filth".
These two ideas "ascension" and "intolerance" may not be independent. History has often pursued the idea that ascension may come from intolerance.
This recurring idea has many forms. The ascentic form is that a human being may ascend spirtually by rejecting his/her "lesser traits".
What exactly these lesser traits are varies by time and place. On a social level this idea has produced abominable oppression and ethnic cleansing.
It is an idea closely related to both hatred and self-hatred, but it is not an evil idea, rather it's an idea that's open to a great deal of abuse.
Depending on what is considered "an objectionable trait" and how people approach the problem, it can produce very benevolent results.
The likes of Smaugh may display the most primitive form of this idea, where an evil being seeks redemption - ascension - by killing other evil beings.
So while Smaugh is opposed to a Dark Lord, and opposed to Demon and Dragons, there may not be much of a distinction between Smaugh and his enemies.
This would explain why Dragons, Miracle users, Hex users and Pyromancers cannot be cleanly grouped into a good vs evil analogy.