Kings and Corpses: Speculative Lore in Dark Souls

Looking at the gaming industry, it can’t be overstated how often we take gaming lore for granted. When we start a new game we’re generally smothered in a generous heap of exposition in the form of dialogue and cut-scenes that flesh out the world we’re going to be living in before we are ever handed control of our hero. Who you are, why you’re there and the quest at hand is thrown at us to get the game moving. As the game continues more and more of the world and its characters is openly fleshed out through even more exposition. What we’re left with is fantasies that don’t really leave much to the imagination.

There are some titles, however, that take a different approach; games that give you just the bare minimum and leave everything else up to the player, making them all the more fascinating. The Dark Souls series are these kinds of games. The vaguest of broad strokes are given to the player while almost everything else requires that the player actively seeks it out. Some bits of story and lore are left in item and soul descriptions while others can be found in snippets of dialogue. Some are completely omitted, leaving only theory crafting and extrapolation from players.

A lot of time and energy has been dedicated to answering the questions that Dark Souls 1, 2 and 3 leave up in the air. We may never know the absolute truth of every aspect in the Souls lore, but that’s what makes the story so endearing. So, to join the illustrious crowd of Dark Souls theory-crafters, here are my theories on a few, somewhat enigmatic, NPCS from Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3.

The Nameless King and Solaire of Astora, Warrior of Sunlight

This is kind of a two-for-one lore theory that has quite the winding road, so bear with us. First, it has to be established that The Nameless King is actually the first born son of Gwyn. It’s not explicitly stated in any game, but it’s a widely accepted theory. It’s known that Gwyn’s first born son was a god of war that only really cared about fighting and weapons. He used a sword-spear, wielded lightning and trained Ornstein. At some point during the war with the eternal dragons he did something that caused Gwyn to disown him, erasing his name from history and destroying all of his statues. There is some talk that his name may be Sen, referring to Sen’s Fortress, but that’s best left for a different conversation.

The Nameless King, besides being referred to as ‘nameless’, carries a sword-spear, uses lighting, and wears a crown that’s very similar to Gwyn’s. The information attached to his soul also states that “The Nameless King was once a dragon-slaying god of war, before he sacrificed everything to ally himself with the ancient dragons.” It can’t really get more obvious than that. The common idea is that, for some reason, The Nameless King sided with the dragons and that is what angered Gwyn enough to disown him. This theory, however, is based on the idea that siding with the dragons was either in response to being disowned or just part of the reason. Now, on to everyone’s favorite Sunbro, Solaire.

Solaire is the jolly, ridiculously clad warrior of sunlight. He’s on a quest to find his own sun and his covenant, the warriors of sunlight, requires praying at an altar of sunlight. Solaire uses a unique weapon called the Sunlight Straight Sword, which is imbued with lightning. Bearing in mind that lightning is kind of a big deal, being Gwyn’s signature power and being the power of the sun that the nameless king was heir to, it’s likely that this unique sword is an heirloom Gwyn’s family. That same sword is seen depicted in a statue in the hands of a baby being cradled by his mother. The odds of a stray knight finding the weapon on his own are slim. It’s more likely that he is the baby from the statue and has always carried the sword. So, if the sword is an heirloom it was likely passed on from Solaire’s father. This would explain why the altars that he prays to are the specifically the broken statues of the Nameless King, instead of the intact statues of Gwyn, and why he says he’s searching for his own sun. He likely recognizes his father but, like everyone else he doesn’t know his true name. It’s also likely that he’d refrain from stating who he’s actually looking for, knowing that his father was cast out and considered and enemy of Gwyn.

This theory also serves to explain why The Nameless King was exiled in the first place, as reproducing with a human would have definitely been an issue for Gwyn. Humans are considered rather low in the Souls universe and creatures of the dark, which is in direct opposition to Gwyn’s kingdom of light. The Heir of the Sun breeding with a human would be a slap in the face of the gods, so Gwyn erases all traces of the Nameless King. The Nameless king hides his child away in the faraway land of Astora, where Gwyn can’t find him, and all that’s left is one lone statue of a grandson that Gwyn may have never known about.

The King’s Black Hands

Not to be confused with the organization of religious assassins from the Elder Scrolls, The King’s Black Hands of Dark Souls refers to a title given to elite hunters that served the kings of Lothric Castle. Lore wise, it’s established that there have only been three hunters that have been given the title of Black Hand and while many believe only two have ever been revealed, this theory states that all three are showcased in Dark Souls 3.

The confusion of the King’s Black Hands stems from a few different things, but to clear things up, players have to understand the tent-poles of the Black Hand. First, they wear a specific armor set of a black cape over black leather. Second, the armor they use shows their faces but it’s still hard to tell them apart. Lastly, they each wield paired blades.

The first Black Hand that the players interact with is Black Hand Gotthard, who wields a special set of twin swords. The established lore from the game states that he rose through the ranks of the hunters quickly due to his skill with his swords and then he fled the castle. He helps the player, despite being a protector of the Twin Princes, which seems to indicate that ‘fled the castle’ also means he turned against his former comrades. The next Black Hand that the player encounters is a hostile black hand named Kamui. He is just a small ways outside the throne room that houses the twin princes. He has no dialogue, but he is in full Black Hand attire and is wielding the paired katana.

Because no third Black Hand member is officially named, many theories abound that the player could possibly be the third Black Hand or that the character is simply missing from the game. The evidence, however, suggests something else.

It’s assumed that the last time the player crosses Gotthard’s path is when they find a body outside the Grand Archives. It’s not explicitly stated who the body belongs to, but he’s wearing Black Hand armor and the players can loot Gotthard’s twin swords along with the archives key from him. This body, however, clearly is wearing the scabbards of the same kind of paired katana as Kamui, rather than the unique scabbards that house Gotthard’s twin swords. Since we know that the player kills Kamui in a different location after finding the body, it can’t be his. We also know that Gotthard has turned his back on the kingdom and fled the castle, which means he would have had to pass the location of the body on his way out. Because of his history as a swordsman and his recent actions, it makes more sense that the body outside the Grand Archives is actually the lifeless corpse of the third, unnamed Black Hand and that Gotthard was the only one to use a unique set of swords. As he fled the castle, Gotthard was likely stopped by his former comrade and the two battled. Gotthard killed the unnamed Black Hand and continued into the world, leaving behind the paired weapons that would have identified him to those who are now his enemies.

 

These NPC lore theories barely scratch the surface of mysteries left behind in the Dark Souls series. Who was Sen? Where did Priscilla and Yorshka come from? Why are the Knights of Catarina cursed to misfortune? Was Gwyn truly trying to protect his kingdom or was he just doing whatever he could to hold onto the reign of Gods over humans? Men and women all over the internet have gone to great lengths to answer these questions and more, yet we may never really know the truth. But, that’s OK. The mysteries created by a well-crafted world just make it that much more fun to be a part of.

If you like these mysteries, the Dark Souls series or plot holes as much as I do, leave a like and don’t forget to leave your own theories and ideas in the comments below.

 

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