In this series of blog posts I’d like to explore the importance of religion, and especially faith, to the inhabitants of the dark souls world. Initially I will be focusing on Dark Souls III as the most recent game, but I would like to go back and examine the other games in this series too. See this post for an introduction and overview of faith in Lothric, and this post which focuses on the dark covenant the Mound-Makers.
The sun and all its related symbology has been a favourite of mine in the Dark Souls lore, and I’m not alone. Personified by fan favourite Solaire there has been no end to images and discussions amongst fans about the Sunlight Warrior and his object of worship. However with the release of Dark Souls III debunking the long held theory that Solaire was Gwen’s son, lore theorists have been working hard to come up with new ideas about the sun worshiping knight. One that caught my eye and inspired me to write this post next was this video by The Ashen Hollow. This video hypothesises that Solaire was more self serving than pious, something I strongly disagree with. To me, the sun in Dark Souls represents hope, and Solaire’s quest for the sun is a tale of the strength of faith.
Within the Souls games I read the sun as a metaphor for hope and life. So much of the world of Dark Souls is, well, dark and it doesn’t take much imagination to see the sun as oppositional to all this. In many religions and cultures the sun is viewed as life giving, a force for good, often worshiped as a mighty god. When the sun rises it dispels the dangers and fears of the night, it warms us, allows plants to grow and flourish. Without the sun we would not survive. It’s no wonder the positive associations with the symbol of the sun feel so innate to us humans.
Dark Souls too enters into this tradition, with the sun being associated with faith and godhood. In all three games the various sunlight covenants all reward miracles to their followers, which of course require high faith stats to wield. The sun is a symbol of Gwyn’s lost son, himself the god of the sun. Lightening, which is often an attribute of sunlight covenant rewards, is heavily associated with both Gwyn and his son. I’ve looked through most mentions of the sun and lightening in items from all three games, and they are all associated with faith and godhood in some way.
To me, it is telling that the sun in Anor Londo is only an illusion created by Dark Sun Gwyndolin, who has also created an illusion of Gwynevere, making it appear as if the old gods have not abandoned the city. These two illusions are linked – when the illusion of Gwunevere is broken, the sun disappears and the city falls into twilight. Gods, and the hope for a better, safer world and all tied to the image of the sun.
I do recognise that the sun is also linked to great power, even on a basic level the sun itself is a huge, powerful thing. The old gods like Gwyn and his son are powerful even in their decaying states. Lightening weapons and attacks are powerful within all the Dark Souls games – in lore they are the weapon that defeated the ancient dragons. However, I do not think this automatically makes any associated with these weapons corrupt.
I think the sun represents something older, purer than the religious and corrupt faiths we see in the game. The descriptions of Lightening miracles often mention the age of these spells, most being traced back to the old gods. The Sunlight Spear miracle from Dark Souls II (which is a reward from Heirs to the Sun covenant) states: “A Miracle that launches a spear of sunlight. Powered with immense wondrous souls. One of the ancient original miracles, said to have existed from the infancy of the very world.” This makes sense, worship of the sun probably dates back to the beginning of mankind, which coincides with the beginning of the Age of Fire. I think while the sun is tied to the gods, it is not necessarily belonging to the gods. Followers of covenants worship the sun, in fact I can’t recall any mention of them actually worshiping Gwyn’s son, but there is mention of them worshiping the sun itself. To me, this puts the sun outside of the old gods and their associated religions.
The Undead need a quest, a belief to stop them hollowing. The sun seems to represent life and hope. It’s unsurprising to me that many would turn towards worshiping it, as many cultures of our own world have. It may strike us as odd that Solaire is searching for the sun when it is right there in front of him – hence the well accepted theory that he in fact meant Gwen. However, with the symbology I’ve outlined it’s clear to me that Solaire is the image of someone who is trapped in a dark world, search for something good and pure. Something he cannot touch, or own. Perhaps something he cannot even find. And throughout his quest his faith wavers, and he can reach a tragic end. I would like to look at Solaire in more detail later (this post ended up longer than expected) and I’ll explain more on why I view him as a holy pilgrim than someone out for power. Please let me know your thoughts and theories regarding the sun, Solaire and faith.