In my life I deal with publishing and since the first steps in that of Sepolcride, theater of a thousand battles and discoveries in the splendid world of Elden Ring, I could not help but think of the great titles of world literature. I’m not talking about Norse mythology or certain fantasy drifts typical of the pen of George RR Martin – who, as is well known, conceived part of the events that occurred before the appearance of the Senzaluce – but of three novels specifically, which, net of obvious differences, succeeded to arouse in me the same sensations and emotions I experienced during my long journey in the Elden Ring (150 hours are not a little, after all).
These three books are “The work in black“by Marguerite Yourcenar, the famous author of”The memories of Adriano“,”Drive your chariot over the bones of the dead“by Olga Tokarczuk (with whom she won the Nobel Prize for Literature) and last but not least,”Time refuge“by Georgi Gospodinov. To tell the truth I also like to mention the entire corpus of the Nibelungenlied, the cycle of the Nibelungen Ring, especially in the variant of the nineteenth-century opera librettos that accompanied Richard Wagner’s concerts. As you can see they are references very different from each other and distant in timewhich I will talk about in a sort of travel diary along the lands of the Interregnum, in an absolutely personal form and not linked to official statements by the development team.
The work in black: Nokron / Nokstella
The work in black by Marguerite Yourcenar (from which a good film with Marcello Mastroianni was also made), is a novel in which the stories of Zeno are told (you can find it on Amazon at 9.25 euros), a scholar, proto-scientist and alchemist of the sixteenth century, in search of the supreme knowledge and the philosopher’s stone.
Characterized by Yourcenar’s at the same time refined and simple writing, the book finds a direct correspondence of styles, situations and impulses when Nokstella is discovered for the first time in Elden Ring. As most of you probably know, to advance in Ranni the Witch’s “Age of the Stars” quest, it is essential to take the famous Darkwood elevator and venture into the bowels of the Interregnum. Here, descending into a brilliant abyss of Scintipietra gems, one discovers “the perpetual false night” of Nokron / Nokstella, the eternal city.
“I know I don’t know what I don’t know; I envy those who will know more, but I know that they too, like me, will have to measure, weigh, deduce and distrust the deductions obtained, establish in the error which part of the truth is and take into account in the truth the eternal presence of false“(L’opera al nero, Marguerite Yourcenar).
Here, if you pay attention to the type of spatial movement that is carried out to explore Nokron – go down to discover the top of the stars – you can see how this is the most classic of alchemical operations. In fact, just as Zeno himself recounts in “L’opera al nero”, during his feverish search for knowledge in a world full of prejudices such as the post-medieval one, the alchemists mixed proto-chemistry with a kind of elementary magic, and sought the so-called “Nigredo“, the great work in black linked to the path towards the philosopher’s stone.
Do you understand now why I thought about Yourcenar while facing the colossal draconid soldier in the lake in front of the Nokstella waterfall? In my and “our” little one, we had just done an alchemical operation: we went down finding the top to search for a stone, or rather “a destiny, a truth, a way”, which would (re) lead us to the stars together with our eternal consort Ranni.
Obviously this burning thought has distracted me several times and caused me to perish again and again under the jaws of the soldier-dragon. But in the end, the Stonebreaker magic proved stronger than the dragon’s jaws, and my journey continued.
Drive your chariot over the bones of the dead: Liurnia
And then, after crossing Nokstella and defeating Godrick the Grafted, the immense foggy area of Liurnia appeared in front of me. As I crossed the great lakes and explored the surrounding caves and dungeons, an idea, or rather a sentence, peeped into my mind.
“If we look closely at every fragment of the Moment, we can suffocate in terror. In our bodies decomposition is unstoppable, in short we will get sick and die. Our loved ones will leave us, their memory will be lost in the din; there will be nothing left. Only a few clothes in the closet and someone in a photo, now unrecognizable“.
These are words of the Nobel Prize for Literature Olga Tokarczuk, taken from her novel “Drive your chariot over the bones of the dead“. The references to these in Elden Ring are emotional, so to speak and “atmospheric” as the entire book is permeated by an atmosphere similar to that which one can breathe while entering the lands dominated by the Academy of Raya Lucaria.
In fact, everything appears idyllic in appearance, as if it had been taken from a dream, think of the great lake crowned by mountains on which spiers and pinnacles of elegant buildings soar or, moving on to the novel, to the village immersed in a motionless and green forest . In fact, the beauties of Raya Lucaria and the lands of Liurna they are a mere appearance and hide the terrible history of the Cariana family and the Stonebreaker sorcerers, two factions engaged in a war that has led to dire consequences for the entire Interregnum. Likewise, in Drive your chariot on the bones of the dead, the protagonist of the book is a very old English teacher with two strong passions: astrology (coincidentally!) And animals. Through the study of the constellations and the privileged relationship with animals, she is the first to realize the sad fate that awaits her not only humanity but the whole world.
Well, these omens of ruin can also be seen in the events of Elden Ring, from the enslavement of individuals who became puppets of sorcerers, through the disturbing story of Rennala’s death and rebirth, to the teachers of the Academy who turned into unscrupulous hit men. In short, everything in Liurnia speaks to us of the fate of death that awaits every living being and Tokarczuk’s novel, even with its robust ecologists, turns its gaze and thought in the same direction: and if they were precisely the signals of nature and heaven to tell us that our time on this earth is now destined to end?
Time refuge: the time of the interregnum
Despite the magical restlessness I continued the journey, beat General Radahn in a titanic pitched battle and overcome the pitfalls of the Altus Platus, until you reach the gates of the golden capital of Lyndellwhere I met a strange figure cloaked in gold who, however, was not really in that time and space.
Godfrey, the first Ancestral Lord, was just a sturdy echo of the past from the days when former barbarian warrior Hoarah Loux became Queen Marika’s consort and subsequently king and lord of the Interregnum. Here, this link between a past and a present in close communication but no longer able to talk to each other, aroused in me an immediate déjà vu effect about “Time refuge“, the much-cited novel by Georgi Gospodinov whose protagonist is the enigmatic Gaustìn, who holds a sort of” clinic of the past “in Zurich. client on duty, so as to make him experience parallel realities. Godfrey’s deception, which appears before us as if nothing had happened (but instead everything happened) it is the direct counterpart of the parallel realities evoked by Gospodinovthe papier-mâché shelters of those who reject the collapsing world of the present time to take refuge in “when things worked”.
“It is not accidental this flow of so many people without memory today … I’m here to tell us something. And believe me, one day, very soon, many will begin to descend into the past by themselves, to “lose” their memory of their own will. A time looms when more and more people will want to hide in their cave and come back. And not from a good situation, anyway. We need to be ready with air raid shelters from the past. Call them, if you want, time refugees“. (” Cronorifugio “by Georgi Gospodinov).
That’s why break down the golden reflection, the golden deception of the ancestral lord, it has given me such satisfaction. Because I experienced it as the affirmation of the real passage of time. Gospodinov among other things warns us about the loss of memory that afflicts Europe and the whole world and defeating Godfrey means rejecting all this: we live here and now, immersed in hinc et nunc. The past is important but it is in the present time that the game of the Interregnum is decided.
The Ring of the Nibelungen: Elden Ring
We are nearing the end of our journey. We are on the slopes of the forge of the giants and whatever path our or our Lightless has taken, we are facing our destiny. This is therefore the ideal moment to mention the last great group of works that aroused in me emotions and sensations similar to those I experienced in Elden Ring. I am talking about the tetralogy known as the Ring of the Nibelung (The Gold of the Rhine, The Valkyrie, Siegfried and The Twilight of the Gods) by Richard Wagner.
. In particular, I want to refer to the fourth and last part for its story of betrayals and family killings, because more than the others it seems to have come out of From Software’s work. Not only for the obvious references to the ancestral ring but above all for the solemn correlation between actions and consequences, which is of fundamental importance in both masterpieces.
“Rosy sunset tinges the sky; clear Shines the blaze faithful guardian. What is burning the vivid stream down there? At the top I see the swirling glow! Sky! Siegfried again! this is the ring of him, The well-known appeal! Arise! encounter movi, Infra your arms to God!“
(“The Twilight of the Gods” by Richard Wagner).
Isn’t this quote perfect for the titanic battle against the Fire Giant? We know well how Godfrey became the strongest fighter in the Interregnum precisely following the war against the giants. Our Lightless comes to things done, with the curse of Queen Marika already hanging over the lineage of giants and any enemy of the Mother Tree, the living symbol of the might of the Golden Order. If we add to this the battle with the former king of giants, who in a distant time had chased the colossal dragons from the tops of the world, it is easy to understand why I have found that sense of epicness in the end of the world sung in Wagner’s opera. .
On the other hand also in “The twilight of the gods” – as well as in the homonymous film by Visconti – the end of a world and the end of the pre-established order are told. In this regard, it makes us think that dozens of performances of Wagnerian opera were held in one of the darkest moments in the history of humanity, that is, during the Second World War: because the end of that world was the end of Hitler’s dream / nightmare. First we witnessed the work and then, in chilling rites of collective suicide, a fatal cyanide pill was ingested.
Elden Ring however, at least in more than half of its endings (to find out more, here all Elden Ring endings), grants a vague hope to the player: sitting on the ancestral throne in fact, as a new Lord or Lord of Death, you have the possibility to preserve or rebuild the Interregnum piece by piece. In any case, regardless of the endings – including the darkest and most nihilistic ones – Elden Ring’s journey is always worth living and in my case, thanks to the numerous references to literature, cinema and the world of art in general , has earned a special place in my favorite library, right next to the books I mentioned. Have a good trip and happy reading.