From Shattered Shards: Dissecting the Mythology of Fabula Nova Crystallis

on January 12, 2012 4:00 PM

The third  installment to the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy series is due out at the end of this month. Literally translated as “The New Tale of the Crystal,” the series once included the numerical XIII in the title and spanned the grouping of games under the same moniker: Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, Agito XIII, and Versus XIII. Agito XIII has since been renamed Type-0 and removed from the XIII universe, but still retains the “vague crystal theme” and mythos present in the other titles. All are the work of different production teams, with almost no communication between them.

The four games (we can only make assumptions as of now regarding Versus XIII) make liberal use of the crystal ideology that runs through previous Final Fantasy titles and is comparable to the mythos that links the first five games in the series, presenting worlds that rely heavily on crystals as plot mechanisms. These crystals are often sources of power for the game world or fantasy-flavored symbolism. While not the central focus of the games, they do feature prominently — in the XIII titles and Type-0 an individual’s body turning to crystal is indicative of having completed a divine Focus, or task. A crystal is often a source of sacred power or an item intimately tied to biological life and the passage of time.

Past Final Fantasy titles make use of crystals as sources of organic power. In III, for example, the four Warriors of Light are drawn to and empowered by mysterious crystals that contain the world’s life force. IV and V require the player to stop the antagonists from seizing the elemental crystals that maintain the world’s balance. Later games such as IX use the equipping of crystals for characters to use summons — XIII uses this same strain as IX in that each character possess gems that allow them summon an Eidolon. Even if the term “crystal” isn’t outright used, the ideology is the same; in VII we have materia and in XII nethicite.

The return to a crystal world is not new, but by using crystals in a way that is linked not with the earth and more with human life, Fabula Nova Crystallis puts a dark spin on the typical shiny ideology. If you really think about it, really think about it, the idea of having your body turned to crystal and dreaming forever — or morphing into a creature that will roam the earth for eternity before losing the will to live and fossilizing — is absolutely terrifying. Fabula doesn’t make use of crystals as a source of power so much as it uses them as the byproduct of supernatural meddling on a large and destructive scale, of deus ex machina at its most potent and selfish, indications of divine glory and failure.

To understand this better, we need to look at the creation myth crafted for the series. The universe is divided into two worlds: the Visible World, the world of the living; and the Invisible World, where the dead reside. A handful of gods and goddesses reigned over these two worlds, including Muin and her son Buniberzei. Buniberzei, wanting full control over the Visible World, killed Muin and threw her into the Invisible World. He believed that before passing into the other world, she had placed a curse on the Visible World so that one day it would be utterly destroyed. Paranoid and distraught, Buniberzei tried in vain to enter the Invisible World but discovered he could not without relinquishing control over the realm of the living. So Buniberzei created the fal’Cie Pulse to seek the door the world of the dead. Note that there are other fal’Cie on Pulse around this time – they’re just not the Pulse.

This is where things get dense. The fal’Cie Pulse is referred to by Barthandelus and Orphan as the Maker. Analects the player picks up throughout the game refer to this fal’Cie as “Hallowed Pulse”, and say that while it lived on the world of Pulse relations were peaceful between the humans and other fal’Cie. Pulse created life forms, flora and fauna, that soon populated the world. Eventually this Maker departed the world, and the events of XIII reveal that the fal’Cie are trying to bring the Maker back in an attempt to erase humanity and allow them to restart civilization.

From Shattered Shards: Dissecting the Mythology of Fabula Nova Crystallis

Because Hallowed Pulse could not find the door to the Invisible World, Buniberzei created Etro to assist him. Etro, as we have all figured out by now, is the patron goddess Lightning now defends in Valhalla at the start of XIII-2. Buniberzei accidentally created Etro in the likeness of his mother Muin, and because of this he gave Etro no powers and replaced her with the fal’Cie Lindzei. Lindzei was tasked with protecting all life and Buniberzei himself. While these fal’Cie worked, Buniberzei put himself into — you guessed it — a deep crystal sleep and asked to be awoken when the door to the Invisible World was found. Lindzei and Pulse began creating more fal’Cie to help them take care of other business while they searched for the door.

Etro, distraught at having no powers or purpose, killed herself and entered the Invisible World. From her spilled blood humans were born — making the creation of mankind a huge and sad mistake, explaining why the fal’Cie in XIII are so intent on wiping them off the face of the planet. In the Invisible World Etro found Muin, her body being consuming by the black energy mass known as Chaos. The idea of “Chaos” has been used before and alluded throughout the Final Fantasy series as the ultimate evil entity (although nowhere more flagrantly than Dissidia). Muin,with her last breath, tasked Etro with protecting the balance of power between the Visible and Invisible Worlds, for it was the Visible World’s fate to be destroyed and preventing it would bring about the collapse of the universe.

Etro loved humans and placed a piece of Chaos in each one, calling it their “heart” — symbolism for a human’s free will. As long as the cycle of birth and death continued, the balance would be maintained. Meanwhile humanity was frightened by the creatures Pulse created and petitioned Lindzei to help them. Lindzei therefore made Cocoon and housed humanity within its crystal shell. The fal’Cie came to be revered and worshiped as gods, and Etro Goddess of Death waited at the door to the Invisible World to greet each human who died. Buniberzei continued to sleep.

From Shattered Shards: Dissecting the Mythology of Fabula Nova Crystallis

The fal’Cie of Cocoon, lead by Lindzei, proceeded to eradicate all life on Pulse. Pulse and its own fal’Cie fought back, and l’Cie were recruited and given power to fight as soldiers of the divine. The fal’Cie of Pulse believed that if Cocoon could be knocked out of the sky, the simultaneous death of millions of humans would release enough energy to call the Maker back.

The infamous War of Transgression mentioned in Final Fantasy XIII is actually a war between Lindzei and Pulse, carried out by the fal’Cie of Cocoon and Pulse and the l’Cie they gave power to. Lindzei and Hallowed Pulse may have left the building, but the fal’Cie of either world seek to wipe each other out — hence the grand scheme to call the old gods back into the world and have the slate of life wiped clean.

From Shattered Shards: Dissecting the Mythology of Fabula Nova Crystallis

The mythology of Pulse and Cocoon is similar to that of the Emishi, an ancient indigenous people that lived in what is now Hokkaido, Japan. The notion of a world doomed to be destroyed and defeated, powerless goddesses hiding in an unseen world are taken from their creation myth. If the War of Transgression happened about 500 years before the events of Final Fantasy XIII — we know this because Fang and Vanille, branded to become the apocalyptic beast Ragnarok, say they have been in crystal stasis for this amount of time — and that is when Lindzei and Hallowed Pulse left the world, then the world we are looking at in XIII and XIII-2 is either still in its infancy or kept its gods on the ground for an absurdly long amount of time.

Fal’Cie — demigods or angels, you could think of them as — have a wish to start the world over without humanity. The idea of divine beings pushing the restart button because they feel humanity is unworthy is a staple of religious tradition. The Christian story of the Great Flood and Noah’s Ark is the best known example of the destruction of all life for a divine cause. It is no small wonder the enemy-spawning training vessels used by l’Cie to hone their skills are called Arks.

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A High Summoner from the Woods of the North (read: New England), Alexa and her ragtag band of comrades have saved the world from cataclysmic destruction countless times -- you just didn't notice. When she isn't writing or gaming, she enjoys baking, long walks at dusk, and cosplay.