Lethe and Aletheia
The Essence of the Soul in Dark Souls
Light from an overhead lamp flares, swinging back and forth like a pendulum, and waking John Murdoch with a start. The bathroom is green, garish, and dingy and Murdoch is in a filled bathtub; a symbol suggesting the womb, baptism, and ablution in equal measure. This begins the odyssey of a man, recently stripped of his memory due to a mishap in the experimentations of The Strangers, trying to rectify the identity he was supposed to be given versus the identity he claims for himself in the 1998 film Dark City, directed by Alex Proyas. (Renegade Cut, 2017; Proyas 1998)
Though he is without any of his own episodic memories, or remembrances of scenarios in the past (Klein and Nichols, pp.5), John still holds a firmly entrenched moral compass; an innate sense of right and wrong that the film suggests is intrinsic to a core ‘identity’ or ‘self.’ John is horrified at the sight of a murdered woman in his hotel room and also stops to save the life of a dying goldfish in the opening minutes of the film.(Renegade Cut, 2017) Another example of this core sense of being are the landlord and the newspaper salesman. Although the memories of a landlord, are swapped with a newspaper salesman’s, each still retain tics that mark them as them. (Renegade Cut, 2017)
Dark City, in its 90 minute run-time, is replete with questions about identity, personal responsibility, and the essence of the Soul. Though it doesn’t seek to answer them in any ontological sense, it does hint that though memory might be stripped away, there is still a vital spark to that person’s ‘self’ that persists and is inexpugnable. (Renegade Cut, 2017)
Similarly, Dark Souls, also asks questions about personal identity, personal responsibility, and what this means with regards to the nature of the Soul. In addition, Dark Souls takes it a step further, asking questions about the ideas of Collective, or Social, Identity. And with those questions, explores the inherent biases of a History that relies on the memory of the populace to construct. While the protagonist of each of the Dark Souls games and John Murdoch follow similar tacts, and John is left with a sense of victory — the victory of the protagonists in Dark Souls reach are hollow.
In the world of Dark Souls, Memory is tangible and can be interfaced with. In simpler terms, Ash in the world of Dark Souls, are memories; the remnants of the ‘self’ or the ‘Soul.’ Ash, the remnants of something consumed by Fire, carries with it the vital spark of who and what it was. With this in mind, many points within the story of Dark Souls suddenly make sense: the nature of the Ashen Mist Heart in Dark Souls 2, the abilities and the how’s and why’s of the Shrine Handmaid in Dark Souls 3, and even, who and what the Ashen One is in Dark Souls 3. It is easy to see, therefore, the importance and power (supernatural and otherwise) of Memory, is an underlying theme within the Dark Souls franchise. Troublingly it is also a concept that hasn’t been truly explored in depth.
This essay hopes to change that and open up the discussion on this important point of the Lore. It will briefly examine the nature of philosophical Memory Theory, and how this contributes to the debates about the nature of ‘self’ and ‘identity’ in the Real World. Armed with this knowledge we’ll bring this about to how this is examined in the Dark Souls franchise.
Memory Theory and Personal Identity:
What is the ‘self’? What creates our own personal identities? These are the questions that philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists have been wrestling with since the age of Plato (or even earlier). More questions spiral out from these: ‘Are you the same person you were yesterday? 10 or 20 years ago? Are we our bodies? If we don’t have the memories, are we still responsible for what we may have done?’ However, many consider Locke the grandfather of Memory Theory with his essay, ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’ (1689). (“Personal Identity,” Wikipedia)
In his work, Locke contends that our memories of our pasts, and our past actions, prove that we are the same person we were yesterday. It offers us a link to a sense of time, anchoring us to our realities and thus contributing to our sense of identity. Reid and Butler disagree with Locke in the details, suggesting that our Memories don’t so much contribute to a sense of identity but do contribute to our sense of time and time passed; proving our existence. Both sets of philosophers, however, believe in a sort of enduring core to our personalities even though our lives, feelings, and beliefs might differ entirely ten to twenty years or more from this date in either direction. (“Personal Identity,” Wikipedia; Klein and Nichols, pp.2–3; Nimbalkar, 2011)
Hume, however, rejects these notions almost entirely. For Hume, there is no such thing as an ‘enduring self.’ Furthermore, he believes that memory only contributes to an illusion of personal identity (Klein and Nichols, pp 2–3, 29). For those who ascribe to Hume’s thoughts on the matter, you are not the same person you were when you were a child. You have truly transformed into someone new and different. In this, I find that Hume is very similar to Lord Aldia in Dark Souls II.
Dr. Krauss-Whitbourne tells us that in its simplest form, our identities, allows us recognize ourselves as ourselves and not Greirat.(Krauss-Whitbourne, 2012) Further she instructs that we “become aware of your own identity early in life, perhaps as young as 18 months, when you recognize that the toddler you see in the mirror is really you, and not another child.” (Krauss-Whitbourne, 2012)
First, we have to talk about what memory is. Neuroscientists Klien and Nichols write that according to psychologists there are two main branches of Memory. The first is procedural, which is our knowledge of how to do things such as swing a sword or the knowledge of how a weapon art works. Muscle Memory, essentially. The second branch is Declarative which are beliefs, facts, and what a person thinks of when they think of memories. (Klein and Nichols, pp.4–6)
Within the Declarative realm Klien and Nichols further write, that there are two smaller branches: semantic and episodic. Semantic memories are simply context free facts — e.g., 2+2=4. Episodic Memories, however, are scenarios: those memories that play out like movies in mind. (Klein and Nichols, pp.4–6) For the purposes of this essay, keep in mind that when I mention ‘memories’ these are the type of memories that I am referring to.
People tend to recall what it was like to be a child, although as an adult your thoughts, minds, and desires are completely different. It is our memories that tell us that we are the same person. John Murdoch, in Dark City, for instance goes to who he is told is a trusted-family friend and looks over pictures supposedly from his childhood drawn towards the idea of ‘Shell Beach.’ Realizing that the photographs were falsified because of a missing burn scar on his arm, he rejects what he is being told wholesale. (Proyas 1998; Renegade Cut, 2017).
Amnesiacs, Klien and Nichols tell us, usually don’t lose their semantic memories. Rather, they tend to lose their episodic memories. Klien and Nichols further argue that our episodic memories offer us a sense of our self across time and ownership. (Klein and Nichols, pp.7–12) That we, as a person, have a past and a history as well as a future. Because of this, we are therefore anchored to a span of time which also then begins to feel more real and ours. (Klein and Nichols, pp.7–12)
Another film about memory, La Jetée , illustrates this rather poetically. (Marker, 1962) It is shot like a collage of snapshots, pinpricks of moments in time and episodes, and allow one man to travel back in time. Time doesn’t slow down until he meets his love, what other ‘spiritual’ adaptations call the Time Traveler’s Wife, for one continuous scene.
Our memories also contribute to our humanity and how real our humanity feels.
Memory in Dark Souls: (Fire is the Alpha but not the Omega)
Everything in the Dark Souls universe begins with Fire. Fire, itself, is a great many things: it can devour but at the same time it can offer comforting warmth as well as Light. This last point is striking since Dark Souls III reveals that Light is Time (“Repair Sorcery”, DS3 Wikidot). Therefore, one can surmise that Fire is Time. Fire in Dark Souls is more than just a force, it is another word for reality, agency, time, and of the Soul itself.
In fact, Pyromancers know this implicitly as Laurentis of the Great Swamp tells us, “A pyromancer’s flame is a part of his own body. The flame develops right along with his skill… When I gave you that flame, I gave you a part of myself.” (“Laurentius”; DS1 Wikidot) This point is hammered home visually by the appearance of different Souls in the inventory, each of them their own small flames. These flames suggest to us that without the body — the Soul remains alive. In Dark Souls our identities are not our bodies our identities are our Soul.
When a fire fades, having consumed everything that it can, only ash and darkness remain. More importantly, without the light of fire, time ceases. The only thing left is Ash. And Ash, like Fire, takes on an ontological meaning: Memory.
In Dark Souls I we travel to Ash Lake, which is in-fact the Method of Loci (colloquially known as a Memory Palace) of an Everlasting Dragon. (“Method of Loci”, Wikipedia; “Ash Lake,” DS1 Wikidot) It is not a coincidence that we travel here through a tree, the Great Hollow, as trees turn out to be portals into and out of memory palaces, specifically collective memories; a point of which we will return to later on in the piece.
Outside of this ‘memory palace,’ the Everlasting Dragon who resides here in all of his splendor, is in the grim reality of Blighttown just outside of the tree, dead. The power of Dragons and their immortality, means that it’s memory lives on. It is ‘everlasting’ away and apart from Reality, but bound and anchored by Nature and so powerful as to allow those who know the way, into it. Through the great Hollow, into a place of Ash — hence the name, ‘Ash (Memory) Lake.’ In fact, those who join the Path of the Dragon covenant unknowingly fuel the existence and tangibility of this ‘memory palace,’ with their offering of Dragon Scales. (“Path of the Dragon”; DS1 Wikidot) Ash Lake, in Dark Souls I is part of the core personal identity of the world.
Dark Souls II brings Memory further to the forefront of the story. Here, Dark Souls II introduces questions of memory and Personal Identity most pointedly through Lucatiel of Mirrah. A foil to the Bearer of the Curse, she is slowly succumbing to the curse while at the same time searching for a cure for her brother, Aslatiel. (“Lucatiel of Mirrah”, DS2 Wikidot)
Unbeknownst to Lucatiel, Aslatiel has more than likely succumbed to Aldia’s machinations rather than the Curse, as we only find his Black Phantom at the entrance to Aldia’s Keep and find nothing else pointing to his remains. (“Lucatiel of Mirrah”, DS2 Wikidot)
Lucatiel, however, is losing her memories. In your second encounter with her, she trails off mid-sentence, struck by her inability to recall what happened in Mirrah. (“Lucatiel of Mirrah”, DS2 Wikidot) Later, Lucatiel tells us, “My memories are fading, oldest first. The curse is doing its work upon me. I am frightened…Terribly so… If everything should fade…What will be left of me…” And later, she tells us, “Loss frightens me to no end. Loss of memory, loss of self.” (IBID)
Here, the game via Lucatiel take a very Lockean stance, suggesting that our memories constitute not only our Personal Identity, or the ‘self,’ but also have a nod towards Locke’s opponents, Reid and Butler, by suggesting our Memories are also our link to the/our own pasts. When we leave Lucatiel, she begs us to remember her name. Asking us to remember her to keep her memory alive even when she, herself, succumbs to the Curse and is unmoored from time as well as herself. (Klein and Nichols, pp.4–6; “Lucatiel of Mirrah”, DS2 Wikidot)
Dark Souls II even continues with its examination of Memory with a rather important item given to us in the final acts of the game, the Ashen Mist Heart. (“Ashen Mist Heart”, DS2 Wikidot) The Dragon Shrine is an almost literal inverse of Ash Lake from Dark Souls I. The Dragon Shrine is not a memory like Ash lake is, you do not go through a Tree to get to it. Instead of being deep within the world — the Dragon Shrine is high above it. (“Dragon Shrine”, DS2 Wikidot; “Ancient Dragon’s Memories”, DS2 Wikidot; “Ancient Dragon” DS2 Wikidot)
The Ashen Mist Heart, “allows one to delve into the memories of the withered. (“Ashen Mist Heart”, DS2 Wikidot)” With it in hand, we are able to see through the memories of the corpse of the Ancient Dragon in Freja’s boss-room. The revelation within, is that the being presented to use as the ‘Ancient Dragon’ is simply an imitation placed there by Aldia; put there after he and Vendrick killed the real deal — and the memories of the Ancient Dragon in Freja’s boss-room, serves as a clue to attack it. (“Dragon Shrine”, DS2 Wikidot; “Ancient Dragon’s Memories”, DS2 Wikidot; “Ancient Dragon” DS2 Wikidot)
In addition, the Bearer of the Curse is able to change their own memories and thus their own perception of themselves. They are able to re-allocate their levels as well as to change every facet of their identity and be symbolically rebirthed in a Coffin.
With Dark Souls III these themes are subtle but are no less important. The Ashen One, themselves a vessel for souls, is a ‘special being’ by director’s Hidetaka Miyazaki’s own admission. (Famitsu, 2016 | trans. tierencia 2016) What makes the Ashen One, a vessel for Souls and so ‘special?’ It’s simple, the Ashen One is a Memory or an Amalgam of Memories that takes the form of a specific Person. As a facsimile of a person created by memories, they have no Soul — no true memories — of their own.
And thus, the Ashen One cannot Hollow naturally — in fact, you need Yoel’s Help to gain Hollowing (being given the Dark Sigil — possibly his own — with free levels) but even so doing the Hollowing is strangely different. In fact, this gets us into the question of ‘What even is Hollowing?’ With all of this in mind, Hollowing is actually quite simple: a person who has lost their memories and thus the essence of their Soul. They have become unmoored from themselves and so time has ceased for them, leaving them in darkness. They are literally then, hollowed out — leaving nothing but their bodies and filled with simple procedural memory.
As the Ashen One is made of Memories, and isn’t truly real themselves, they cannot Hollow like any other protagonist within the franchise. Even the Bearer of the Curse in Dark Souls II is different because they are both controlled by the Player — and thus are anchored by our own memories — and are clinging onto a duty and through that duty hold onto their own memories.
Embers in Dark Souls III as stream-watcher “Tobi” pointed out, are so coveted by Ashen Ones because with an Ember an Ashen One becomes more real. In gaining a heightened sense of tangibility, the Ashen one gains a heightened power and health. It is this sense of tangibility that becomes something Ashen Ones fight, die, and kill for. It is this dizzying high of tangibility that causes some Ashen Ones to kill the Firekeeper and take the First Flame for themselves in the Secret Betrayal — “Easter Egg” ending.
Ash or Memories, being what is left after a flame has finished going out is, then equated with death in Dark Souls III much like how colloquially ‘In loving memory’ is used in Memorial dedications. “Is it not our sorry fate to sup on death?” (“Shrine Handmaid”, DS3 Wikidot) The Shrine Handmaid’s power capitalises on this, and her curious power reaches into ashes, into the memories that remain, to pull forth the items that person remembered having or items most connected to that person.
Ludleth’s power is similar to that of the Shrine Handmaid. However, his ability and the Transposing Kiln was both feared and deemed forbidden. (“Transposing Kiln”, DS3 Wikidot) What makes Ludleth of Corland’s power so fearful is that Transposition doesn’t wait for the Soul to fall to Ash, and important distinction, to pull its memories from it. In this, it kills — or consumes the soul — to create the boss weapons from it. But, as Ludleth says, “What’s to fear from a little transposition, now?” (“Ludleth of Courland”, DS3 Wikidot).
The Cemetery of Ash is a Purgatory built on Memory in the same way the Ashen One themselves manifests, and uses the same ontological basis presented to us in Ash Lake. It is an in-between space, much like how Things Betwixt was in Dark Souls II. Dark Souls I is unique in that there is no place in between save for the Northern Undead Asylum; itself a sort of purgatory. But the pendulum from a place based in Reality — Dark Souls I — to a place based more on Memory — Dark Souls III — is quite a bit striking.
The Cemetery of Ash, is connected to the living Memory Palaces of each of the Lords of Cinder; their own ‘personal hells.’ This is how and why all of these realms can ‘churn’ around the Kiln. Memory shifts and drifts, and these places too, reflect that.
In fact, the only places that could be based in reality in Dark Souls III may be said to be the Kiln and the Rubbish Heap.
At the end of Dark Souls III, at the literal and figurative end of the world, the world is crumbling into Ashes. There is one more Memory Palace to enter, The Ringed City, itself accessed through a rotting, hollow great tree and guarded by Demons that, prior, are gatekeepers between distinct realms in all of their previous iterations.
After your character defeats Gael, you stand in a wasteland surrounded only by Ashes; by the dead memories of an unmoored world. Darkness has fallen and time no longer matters, if it ever mattered at all. The whole world is no longer tied to the past or even the future, without its memories.
The essence of the Soul, the Fire within each person, is our Personal and collective Identities that are fueled and cemented by our memories and which anchors us to Time and Place. When the fire fades, only a semblance of who we once were, or our Memories, remain as ash left by fire. When characters Hollow it is their memories that leave first and their Soul vis a vie their identities fade. The Fire of the Soul is the vital Spark of our being. Without either, we are unmoored in a world without time enveloped by the Dark and a peace that is nothing more than a form of stasis.
And that Identity and Will are products of the Fire, along with Shadows which produce doubt. True Darkness robs people of their will (“Chancellor Wellager”, DS2 Wikidot; “Yorshka’s Spear”, DS3 Wikidot).
Lapp / Patches Case-Study:
Once I find it, everything will come back to me. Who I was, what I lived for, what my name was. And….What terrible grudges I held. …I dunno, I just have this feeling. That that’s the kind of man I was. — — Amnesiac Lapp, The Ringed City DLC (“Amnesiac Patches”, FextraLife)
In their work examining memory from a neuro-scientist’s point of view, Klein and Nichols explain the cases of ‘D.B.’ and ‘R.B.’ Both present interesting perspectives of how our memories and our memories of ourselves, shape how we feel about the ‘self’ or our personal identities. (Klein and Nichols, pp.7,11)
An amnesiac, ‘D.B’s’ semantic memories were intact, however everything else was missing. Though, as Klein and Nichols explain, ‘D.B.’ “had knowledge of his own traits, and yet he was ‘unaware that he had a past and unable to imagine what his experiences might be like in the future’” (Klein and Nichols, pp.7) Similarly, ‘R.B.’ a man suffering from severe brain trauma, lost all ownership of himself, explaining that when he remembered an episode from his past that it was like, “looking at a photo of someone else’s vacation.” (Klein and Nichols, pp.14)
Both men seem to have been unmoored from time, because of how severed they were from their memories and their sense of self. ‘D.B.,’ could not even imagine himself in the future. ‘R.B.’ didn’t feel as though he walked before and when undergoing physical therapy felt as though he was learning to walk for the first time despite memories of himself walking. (Klein and Nichols, pp.7, 17)
In Dark Souls then we can make the startling conclusion, that when we lose our memories and thus our sense of self we are also unmoored from time, and therefore light or succinctly, fire — as Oolacile Magics in Dark Souls III connect. The Dark, then, is connected with this forgetting and a place where Time has no bearing. Nowhere is that more apparent than with the curious case of (Trusty) Patches (the Unbroken)/Lapp.
Patches, in the Dark Souls Universe (thus discounting his appearances in Armored Core, Demon’s Souls, and Bloodborne) is a knave in the truest sense of the word. He is a mysterious man who holds a severe disdain for clerics and a sarcastic insight into the characters of the World. After he punishes us for our greed, by kicking us into a pit, he normally asks for our forgiveness and becomes a valuable merchant.
For most, Patches is a lovable nuisance. This changed with the Dark Souls III DLC, The Ringed City. Close to the start of The Ringed City we meet what the Stone-Humped Hag calls him, ‘the Tin Can.’ A Hollow, by his own admission, who earnestly tells us that his name (for now) is Lapp and has lost all of his memory. He is on a quest, the only thing keeping him together, to regain his Memory and to remember who he is. Purging Stones, he further tells us, are no longer enough for him and he is searching for the Purging Monument. Lapp is everything that Patches isn’t: open, earnest, and honest without the undercurrent of smarm. (“Amnesiac Lapp”, Fextralife)
In fact, Lapp tells us of a Treasure to be found within the Rubbish Heap — Earthen Peak. And, if we don’t get it, Lapp will retrieve it himself and offer it to us. All while still using William Vanderpuye, Patches’ long-time Voice Actor’s voice. Lapp’s identity, has completely changed in the wake of his memory loss into someone else entirely. Is Lapp, then, responsible for all of Patches’ shenanigans?
Together, we enter the realm at the end of the world — The Ringed City. Unable to find it, Lapp crumples into a chair. Waffling between his encroaching Hollowing, slowly forgetting why he even arrived into the Ringed City and chanting to himself that he is Unbreakable like a prayer. The feeling that he is failing his quest, tips the scales of a would be his own Ego-Death. He even tells us, when we interact with him, to ‘forget all we told him, like a good Hollow would.’(“Amnesiac Lapp”, Fextralife) Intimating that the forgetting of self and memory is a well-known symptom of Hollowing.
Telling him where the Monument is, renews him, and Lapp swears that he is our true friend, no matter what.
When we see him next, we see Lapp in a familiar pose — the Patches Squat — and after kicking us (something he doesn’t do for the entirety of Dark Souls III up until till now) tells us that he is devoid of all worldly wants. A marked difference to every other incident this echos and in fact, Patches’ kicking us reveals (if the player hasn’t figured it out) the way forward in the Shared Grave. He has regained his memory and regained his identity and Patches reverts to who he is and how we know him.
Regaining his sense of ‘self’ through the restoration of his memories, Patches has renewed his anchors to the span of time that he has lived in. After kicking us down a floor, Patches muses that ‘every age,’ is tainted by the Greed of Men; in this he intimates that he has an intimate knowledge with these ages and he claims a sense of ownership over those memories.
However, one thing has become part of Patches’/Lapp’s identity — and that is his friendship of us. After assisting us in the Shared Grave in the only way Patches knows how and wishing us a, “… fine Dark Soul,” Patches departs to wait for us by Half-Light to assist us as a true-friend.
Collective Memory Theory:
The realm. Do you know what the realm is? It’s the thousand blades of Aegon’s enemies, a story we agree to tell each other over and over, until we forget that it’s a lie. — Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish (Season 3 Episode 6)
As individuals carry personal identities, so too does the collective or a society. Scot A. French writes that, “Social memory is a concept used by historians and others to explore the connection between social identity and historical memory. It asks how and why diverse peoples come to think of themselves as members of a group with a shared (though not necessarily agreed upon) past.” (French, 2017)
James Young disagrees with the term ‘collective’ memory and though he prefers the term ‘collected’ memory, his thoughts also hold some weight here. He believes that the memory of the Society, and thus the identity of a Society, is inherently fragmented. (“Collective Memory”, Wikipedia) Nowhere is this more true than in the History of Dark Souls. Which, for instance, forgets and remembers Gods and Goddesses the further society has lost its identity and becomes unmoored from Time.
In former essays, we’ve lightly explored the impact of this collective memory on various NPCs, such as Anri of Astora in Dark Souls III in the essay Dreamchasers. So, here our focus is purely on the ontological.
In Dark Souls:
The Soul of the World is in its Memories. But this presents issues with the History of Dark Souls, as this also admits that due to its reliance on Memory and how people remember makes this history itself inherently flawed and biased. Take for instance, Elizabeth’s collusion with the Chosen Undead at the end of ‘Artorias of the Abyss’ DLC, agreeing upon a History to tell that eventually becomes a mythologized history. (“Saint Elizabeth”, DS1 Wikidot)
Dark Souls II presents an extreme case of a society having forgotten its identity. Gods and Goddesses have become forgotten and ‘reconstructed,’ a poor facsimile of the truth seen in its Miracles, Spells, and Hexes. Due to the global forgetting and the world, itself, in the process of Hollowing in Dark Souls II, so much of what we find in it is a ‘reconstruction’ or an out and out ‘imitation.’
This wasn’t done with any maliciousness in mind, it was all in an attempt to grasp at any whiff of a memory as society struggles to maintain its collective identity and struggles to keep the First Flame lit. Because of how far advanced this forgetting has gotten, Dark Souls II is so very far afield from the rest of the franchise; a terrible price for the forgetting of itself.
It makes absolute sense, that Dark Souls II masterfully makes a lore point about how unmoored it is from the Timeline, because Society’s own Identity is so, very far from the Light or Time in and of itself.
Furthermore, within Dark Souls II, with the Ashen Mist Heart we discussed earlier in the essay, we are able to use the portals held by the Watcher/Giant-Trees in and around the Forest of the Fallen Giants. Again, trees are portals into Memory Palaces and, are portals into the Collective’s Memory, more pointedly. (“Ashen Mist Heart”, DS2 Wikidot; “Seed of a Giant Tree”, DS2–3 Wikidot)
Through these trees we enter the memory of the Giants, Orro, Vammar, and Jeigh we link ourselves into the Collective’s Memory. This, in itself, might be a very vague reference to Yggdrasil or the World Tree that connected the nine-worlds of Norse mythology and is believed to itself be an Ash tree. (“Yggdrasil”, Wikipedia) Within these Memories, we re-write the collective’s memory and in so doing, History. Because of this, we are able to steal Vendrick’s Giant Souls, but also perception shifts so that it becomes our character who defeats the Giant Lord (a feat previously credited to Vendrick) and becomes the target of the Last Giant’s ire in the process.
In much the same way as the above, ‘Ashes of Ariandel’ might as well be called ‘Memories of Ariandel.’ The Painting, an image and thus itself a memory, might as well be Ariandel’s memories and fueled by his blood — much like the Stone Dragon of Ash lake, but with a far more volatile fuel source. And even beyond the ‘Ashes of Ariandel’ DLC, The World of Dark Souls III, at least 9/10ths of the Game, takes place in the Memory Realms created and fueled by each Lord of Cinder.
Once most of the Lords of Cinder have fallen, the power that maintains these memory realms begins to fall apart, resulting in the unveiling of the Dark Sign in the sky in the final Acts. Even Archdragon Peak is a memory realm of the Nameless King, accessed through Meditation and Lucid Dreaming. We don’t seem to enter into the real world, at all, until we take the memories from the fires of the Lords of Cinder, surrendered to us as the True Heir, to enter the Kiln of the First Flame and the periphery of the Rubbish Heap.
Even with the darkness and the wastes of ash that surround us just after our fight with Gael, there is a moment of hope. Once we offer the Blood of the Dark Soul to the Painter, does she begin to paint a new painting, a new vision built off of the memories of the Dark Soul.
Where does this place us? What does Dark Souls say about what we discuss? The first thing, is that the essence of a Soul is memories and our memories take on the symbol of Ash.
This is what Vendrick and Aldia found when they looked into the essence of a Soul and through this discovery in Dark Souls II are you able to enter into the Memories of the World, through the Watcher Trees. The fleeting form, as Aldia puts it, is our body and he explains that Dark Souls rejects the notion of our Bodies being our Identities. (“Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin”, DS2 Wikidot) Our bodies are not our Identities. Our Memories, our Soul, are.
Memories, according to Dark Souls comprises not just our own personal identities — and is something you can re-write as both the Bearer and Ashen One — and comprises Society’s identity.
In Dark City, John Murdoch finds that Shell Beach, the place he so fervently sought after hoping that finding it would somehow validate himself, was revealed to him as non-existent; a pleasant idea in the consciousness of the populace put there by the Strangers. An idea that obfuscated that the whole population and the city they live on was nothing more than a spaceship. In response, after finding himself and his own internal power, John creates his own Shell Beach and creates his own identity.
Similarly In Dark Souls, our Identities and our Memories are ultimately for us to decide upon. And, triumphantly, our protagonists do find our so-called ‘Shell Beach.’ But even so, in Dark Souls our memories are are nothing but the Ash swirling up away from the First Flame.
- French, Scot A. “What is Social Memory?” Accessed September 3, 2017 https://muse.jhu.edu/article/423703/pdf Project Muse Except. From: Southern Cultures Volume 2, Number 1, Fall 1995 pp. 9–18 | 10.1353/scu.1995.0049 UNC Press.
- KLEIN, STANLEY B. , and SHAUN NICHOLS. “Memory and the Sense of Personal Identity.” Accessed September 3, 2017. http://dingo.sbs.arizona.edu/~snichols/Papers/MemoryandSenseofPersonalIdentity.pdf. Also published in MIND.
- Krauss-Whitbourne, Susan , Ph.D. “What Your Most Vivid Memories Say About You: How self-defining memories shape your identity.” Psychology Today . November 20, 2012. Accessed September 3, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201211/what-your-most-vivid-memories-say-about-you.
- Hidetaka Miyazaki. “Dark Souls III with Hidetaka Miyazaki.” Interview by Famitsu. Famitsu Magazine. Translated by, “tierencia” https://www.reddit.com/r/darksouls3/comments/4by6iv/spoilers_complete_miyazaki_interview_with_famitsu/
- Nimbalkar, Namita. “John Locke on Personal Identity.” Mens Sana Monographs. 2011. Accessed September 03, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115296/.
- Dark City, DVD, directed by Alex Proyas (1998; Los Angeles: Warner Brothers Home Video, 2008)
- “Dark City — Renegade Cut,” YouTube video, 13:32, posted by “Renegade Cut,” July 4, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9HH4ab07Sc
- La Jetée (The Pier), BRD/DVD, directed by Chris Marker (1962; New York: Criterion Collection. 2012)
- “Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin” Dark Souls 2 Wikidot. Accessed September 6, 2017. http://darksouls2.wikidot.com/aldia-scholar-of-the-first-sin
- “Ancient Dragon.” Dark Souls 2 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls2.wikidot.com/ancient-dragon
- “Ash Lake.” Dark Souls 1 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls.wikidot.com/ash-lake
- “Ashen Mist Heart.” Dark Souls 2 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls2.wikidot.com/ashen-mist-heart
- “Chancellor Wellager” Dark Souls 2 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls2.wikidot.com/chancellor-wellager
- “Collective Memory.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 5, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_memory
- “Cultural Memory.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 5, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_memory
- “The Demon Prince.” Dark Souls 3 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls3.wikidot.com/bosses:the-demon-prince
- “Dragon Memories.” Dark Souls 2 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls2.wikidot.com/ancient-dragon-s-memories
- “Dragon Scale.” Dark Souls 1 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls.wikidot.com/dragon-scale
- “Dragon Shrine.” Dark Souls 2 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls2.wikidot.com/dragon-shrine
- “Elizabeth.” Dark Souls 1 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls.wikidot.com/elizabeth
- “Lapp” Fextralife Dark Souls 3. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls3.wiki.fextralife.com/Lapp
- “Laurentius.” Dark Souls 1 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls.wikidot.com/laurentius
- “Lucatiel of Mirrah.” Dark Souls 2 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls2.wikidot.com/lucatiel-of-mirrah
- “Ludleth of Courland.” Dark Souls 3 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls3.wikidot.com/npc:ludleth-of-courland
- “Method of Loci.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 14, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci
- “Path of the Dragon.” Dark Souls 1 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls.wikidot.com/path-of-the-dragon
- “Personal Identity.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 5, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identity
- “Repair.” Dark Souls 3 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls3.wikidot.com/spell:repair
- “The Ringed City” Dark Souls 3 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls3.wikidot.com/locationgroup:the-ringed-city
- “Seed of a Giant Tree” Dark Souls 3 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls3.wikidot.com/tool:seed-of-a-giant-tree
- “Shrine Handmaid.” Dark Souls 3 Wikidot. Accessed September 4, 2017. http://darksouls3.wikidot.com/npc:shrine-handmaid
- “Transposing Kiln.” Dark Souls 3 WIkidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls3.wikidot.com/key-item:transposing-kiln
- “Yggdrasil.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 8, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yggdrasil
- “Yoel of Londor.” Dark Souls 3 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls3.wikidot.com/npc:yoel-of-londor
- “Yorshka’s Spear” Dark Souls 3 Wikidot. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://darksouls3.wikidot.com/equipmentgroup:yorshka-s-spear