(Trigger warning for death, mass killing, and visceral descriptions.)
I know this is the first time I’ve broken my chain of world-building blogs in a while, but I don’t care. This topic has been boring a hole in my brain and I need to say something about it or else my appendix is gonna combust by the end of the month.
Now, if you don’t know much about Elden Ring or its lore, then this post probably isnt for you.
Anyway, more specifically the topic I wanted to talk about is one of the six possible endings in Elden Ring: the Frenzied Flame Ending.
To sum it up, the ending essentially brings the destruction of the world. Your character inherits the Frenzied Flame, burns down the Erd Tree, and kills almost everyone and everything. It’s implied that nothing will ever exist again, and the world is made eternally sterile.
Obviously, this ending is considered among the worst of the six, and it’s no wonder. Not only due to the blatantly evil outcome, but also its build-up. In order to achieve the ending you need to steal people’s eyes, feed them to an innocent blind girl (who eventually dies as a result), take orders from an insane ghost named Shabriri who is obsessed with destroying the world- who has also possessed the dead body of your friend, and you then need to strip naked and have a giant 3 fingered hand that’s also on fire hug you. If that sounded absolutely nonsensical, then that’s a good sign you’re a sane person.
However, it’s my personal favorite ending. With further context, it becomes the most thought-provoking question a game has ever asked me, and I think it’s criminal that people only see it at its surface level.
This all leads back to the in-game origin of the Frenzied Flame, which is a haunting story both due to its subject matter and how realistic it is.
A religious minority (the Merchants) was wrongfully accused of committing heresy by the standards of the people in power. As a result, they were all rounded up and systematically killed in a mass holocaust. When the people in power realized their mistake, they quietly swept their sins under the rug and sealed whatever was left of the Merchant people in the Catacombs, where the Merchants starved, fell into despair, and eventually went mad. Only a few individuals were able to avoid the wretched fate that befell their kin, and they were thrown to the wind— grasping at the few fragments of their lost culture and eventually piecing together the story I’m telling you now.
What does this have to do with the Frenzied Flame? Well, while the Merchants were locked away in the Catacombs they pleaded for something— anything to save them. They screamed for their suffering to end. And when their brothers and sisters began to die around them, and their vocal cords became too shot to scream they did the only thing left they could, they played their violins. With emaciated fingers, they orchestrated a melancholic tune that told of better days when their race wasn’t doomed to extinction. Their voices of anguish and miserable melodies congealed together and formed something new to end it all. Something to burn away all the suffering and pain of the world so it could never spring forth again, the Frenzied Flame.
The people that follow the Frenzied Flame for little more than chaos and evil like Shabrirri are missing the point. The Frenzied Flame isnt a malevolent force hellbent on killing for the sake of killing, it is a merciful hand turning the final page of a harrowing story that has run its course. It lulls the sick and demented world of Elden Ring into a silent peaceful slumber in the same way we put down an ill dog so as to not extend its suffering.
The question it poses, at least to me is “Does this world where so much untold suffering is able to form justify its own existence? Does the good of it all outway the bad, or is that just what the few comfortable people think so we can sleep at night? What about the children bleeding out in the ditches of a war-torn country? What about the leprose whose wounds are rotting as we speak? what about all the people to have ever died a slow and painful death throughout all of history? Would it not have been better for them to have never lived than to have lived and suffered?”
To conclude this little rant, I want to say I’ve always considered myself an optimist. And while I don’t agree with the Frenzied Flame, I still find it valuable to answer these questions it poses in a way that doesn’t paint the world in black-and-white ink. Because by all means, I don’t think the Frenzied Flame is “evil” just a misconstrued view of morality that is concrete enough to warrant further inspection.
I’ll also leave two links to both the in-game violin song and a rendition of it, as I think it adds to the heightened emotion of this subject.