Mythological Accuracy?

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

by Dan Rupert

 

All pictures from video games are from ffcompendium.com, unless otherwise noted. All images come from the game FFVIII. After weighing the options of using one game or multiple games, I decided on one game for pictures, multiple (if applicable) for examples. My reasoning for this was that if multiple games were used, the pictures could look very different, and by that nature some would look more or less accurate just because of different software or hardware. Images from FFVIII were chosen for their clarity.

 

Huge props go to Gareth Long at webhome.idirect.com/~donlong.. His page comparing Greek and Norse mythology is where all the non-vg images came from, unless otherwise stated. Images that are the non-vg counterparts of the pictures represented are the best representation of the particular culture’s god/monster that I could find, and if none existed, taken from pop culture. All images not from video games were picked on the grounds of detail and accuracy.

 

A Few Terms...

Elements - in most games, the elements included are fire, ice, lightning, water, earth, light/holy, dark/evil, and poison.

Esper - is the term for a summoned monster in Final Fantasy 6 (FFVI).

FF - stands for Final Fantasy, and is usually followed by the roman numeral for whatever game it represents.

GF - stands for Guardian Force, the term for a summoned monster in Final Fantasy 8 (FFVIII).

Mute/Muting - when a creature/character cannot use spells.

Square - refers to Squaresoft, Square-Enix, Square Co. Ltd., and any other name that the company who produced the Final Fantasy games has been or is referred to as.

The Main Character- any time that the term main character is used it refers to Squall, FFVIII's protagonist.

 

Rating System  

A good rating means that the video game’s representation ranged from perfectly matching the legend to having some things in common with the mythological figure and nothing contradictory. A bad rating meant that the game’s usage had nothing to do with the classical figure, or it had some things in common and had contradictions. The ugly ratings are special, but they shouldn't be hard to figure out.

 

 

The GOOD

 

Catoblepas

Catoblepas is the Greek name for a legendary creature from Ethiopia. Its body was that of a buffalo and it had a hog’s head. While FFVIII’s version doesn’t like very much like the more classical painting, there is some degree of artistic vision involved, and if it didn’t have the red and purple body it would look similar to a buffalo’s body. What is more important is that both the video game and the mythology agrees on the creatures' greatest power, breath that turned their enemies into stone.

 

 

Chimera

In Greek mythology, the Chimera asked travelers a riddle, and if they could not answer or answered wrong, killed them.  In both FFVIII and in classical paintings it is represented as a creature with multiple animal heads. While the games do not include a real back-story for the chimera, they don’t contradict it either. In FFVIII the multiple heads are represented with different elemental attacks.

 

 

Ifrit

In Arabic lore, the Ifrit are a type of Jinn (a powerful summoned demon that became well known from their inclusion in the classic tale of the Arabian Nights). Both in FFVIII and in legend they use fire. I could not find a classical picture of an Ifrit, so I used a picture of a jinn. Wikipedia suggests that many of the attributes of Ifrit were created in the West instead of its origin, the Middle East. In the game and in lore Ifrit are very prideful creatures; in FFVIII the game's sole Ifrit is one of the many GFs that you have to defeat in battle before you can summon them.

(Non video game picture source: http://islam.r2.ru)

 

 

Sphinxaur

The Sphinx (called Sphinxaur in FFVIII) is a figure of Egyptian mythology. In FFVIII it is a boss monster with little to no storyline, just one of the final boss Ultimecia's minions that you must kill before fighting her. Because its physical appearance is similar to the classical renderings, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and a good rating.

 

 

Behemoth

The Behemoth shows up in early Sumerian legends and in the Bible. It is described as the beast that rules over all of the land, and in every game the Behemoth is in (including FFVI, FFVIII, and Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon, among others) he is found near the end of the game and is very powerful. It has become one of the trademark Final Fantasy monsters, and at least in FFVIII seems to appear close to the more classical rendering.

(Non video game picture source: http://www.tresi.org/)

 

 

Odin

Odin is the Norse god of war. In FFVI and FFVIII Odin can appear to kill every monster on the battlefield. In FFVIII there was also a puzzle where you had to replace the eye of Odin in a statue, and according to a Norse myth, Odin sacrificed one of his eyes. Odin is pictured atop his legendary horse Sleepnir. Square paid attention to detail because the horns and the sword are in both pictures.

 

 

Leviathan

The Leviathan is a Mesopotamian and Hebrew legendary sea monster, similar to the Behemoth but ruling over the sea instead of the land. Throughout history sailors have described whales and giant squids as leviathans. In FFVIII he is a powerful sea serpent that attacks the player’s enemies with water. Hebrew lore also claims that at God's banquet after the destruction of Earth, both the Behemoth and the Leviathan will be eaten.

 

 

Phoenix

The Phoenix is a Greek and Egyptian legendary firebird. It is associated not only with flame, but rebirth. In FFVIII Phoenix will randomly show up when a character dies and bring all characters back to life, heal your party, and attack the enemies with fire. It only shows up rarely, but when it does it can give a losing battle another chance. A very similar creature is known as Feng in Chinese lore.

 

 

Diablos

The name Diablos comes from the Spanish term for the devil, El Diablo. The devil is pictured many different ways, but often as a demon, and that is what Square made him look like in FFVIII. The symbols of bats and dark energy are also in both the game and in classical lore. In FFVIII you are given a magic lamp used to summon him, but before he joins you you have to defeat him. The aura of that whole scene is dark and eerie; using the magic lamp brings you to a netherworld, and the whole thing seems like making a deal with the devil.

(Video game image source: http://www.brighteffect.net)

(Non video game image source: http://www.marbolk.20megsfree.com)

 

 

Cerberus

Cerberus was the Greek, three-headed dog who was the guardian of the underworld. His job was to prevent those who were dead from escaping Hades. In FFVIII you find him inside Galbadia Garden, and like many GFs, he must be defeated before he will join you. When summoned in battle he casts Double and Triple on all of your characters, allowing them to cast two or three spells instead of one. Cerburus giving three characters the ability to cast three spells at once represents his three heads, and is a prime example of numerology.

(Non video game picture source: http://www.unc.edu)

 

 

Siren

The Sirens come from Greek mythology. They sung sweetly to lure sailors to the rocks they lived on, and after the boats crashed they would eat them. They appear in the legend of Odysseus (also known as Ulysses), and in one part of The Odyssey

Odysseus instructs his men to tie him to the mast and then stick wax in his ears, so Odysseus could listen to the music but not direct the ship to move towards the Sirens. In FFVIII Siren is pictured as a beautiful harp-wielding female humanoid who attacks and prevents your enemies from using magic with song, and in FFVI Siren is pictured similarly, but instead of damage and muting your enemies, only mutes them.

 

 

Quetzacotl

Quetzacotl is a misspelling of Quetzacoatl due to a limit on the length of GF's names. In Middle American lore Quetzacoatl was one of the most powerful gods, for he controlled the land (crops). Quetzacoatl was also said to have feathers, so making him bird-like was a good way for Square to include him. In their legends Quetzacoatl, while powerful, doesn't have a specific element, so Final Fantasy giving him thunder is allowable. My long shot theory on why his element is thunder is that the Toltec king Montezuma thought that Hernan Cortes was Quetzacoatl in human form, and when the Spaniards became hostile with the native people, the Toltec people thought said that the Spaniard's guns were like thunder.

(Non video game picture source: http://www.homepages.wmich.edu)

 

 

Minotaur

In Greek mythology the Minotaur lived in a giant labyrinth and was annually given seven boys and seven girls to eat as a tribute to Athena. Thesus dared to enter the labyrinth and killed the Minotaur, and similarly the main character must decide whether or not he wants to enter a confusing maze to search for the Brothers (a GF comprised of two Minotaur, a small one named Sacred and a large one named Minotaur). Just like many other GFs, you must fight the Brothers before they will join you. In FFVIII their element is earth, which is a good choice because their animation features one of the Minotaur's abilities, super strength.

 

Wendigo

The Wendigo were a race of forest monsters in many Native American legends. They were used as a cautionary tale to youngsters; it was said that if you wandered in the forest by yourself a Wendigo would find you and eat you. In FFVIII there is no such tale about them; they are just another monster you can fight. They passed over the line from bad to good because they are only found in forests.

 

 

The BAD

 

Eden

The only reference to Eden is that of the utopian Garden of Eden found in the Bible's story of creation. It seems that in this case, Square used the name with no correlation to it's source. Eden has no back-story in the game, and is the most powerful GF of all. Eden's summoning sequence is extremely long, but has nothing to do with a garden. What exactly Eden is or is supposed to represent is anyone's guess; my personal long shot theory is that he represents FFVIII's Gardens (in-game military academies/schools where the main character and most of his allies were trained) because he has a slight resemblance to them, and this is a reference to the Garden of Eden. This still ends up as bad because if it did represent the Garden of Eden, you really have to want to see the correlation; I haven't ever talked to anyone who has a clue what Eden might be.

(Video game picture source: http://www.ff7fin.cjb.net)

(Non video game picture source: http://www.ise.uvic.ca

 

 

Shiva

Shiva is by far the mythological deity Square mauls the most. In Hinduism, Shiva is a male deity who is one of the three gods that control most of existence; in Final Fantasy (including FFV, FFVI, FFVIII, and FFIX, among others) Shiva is a scantily-clad ice goddess. The only thing square could have been reading from the actual Shiva was that often he is pictured with bluish skin. Still, this mutated creature could be taken as an insult by those who worship him.

(Non video game picture source: http://www.byron-bay.com)

 

 

Tiamat

Tiamat is a goddess from Babylonian and Sumerian mythology. She decided that her children were annoying, so her and her husband Apsu (who appears nowhere in any Square game) planned to kill them. A different god, Ea (still not in any Square game) discovered this insidious plot and killed Apsu. Then, Tiamat took a new partner, her son Kingu (also isn't mentioned in any Square game) and created an army of monsters to vindicate her husband's death. Another god, Marduk (again, not in any Square game) led the gods against Tiamat, and then he cut her in half, using her top half to create the sky and her bottom half to create the earth. He then used Kingu's blood to create humanity. In FFVIII (and many others) Tiamat is the queen of evil dragons, the foil of the king of good dragons Bahamut. This has absolutely nothing to do with the mythology; it appears that Square just took the names from the game "Dungeons & Dragon's {also known as D&D). D&D created Bahamut and Tiamat as dragon rivals, and also stole the names with no relation to the actual legend.

(Non video game picture source: http://www.storm.prohosting.com/coleco)

 

Bahamut

Bahamut was originally a figure in Islamic mythology, but his modern day usage is due to Square and D&D. In the games he is pictured as the king of good dragons, or sometimes as the king of dragons or the king of summoned creatures. He is a GF found at the end of the game, and like many GFs, you must defeat him before he will join you. This need for deeming people as worthy is the only relation between the Islamic mythology and Square's modern day usage. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any specific stories about him or a picture of the legendary Bahamut, so instead I have included a picture of a dragon from ancient Islamic art.

(Video game picture source: http://www.eternal-legend.com)

(Non video game picture source: http://www.rpggamer.com)

 

The UGLY

 

Carbuncle

What is a carbuncle, you ask? A carbuncle is a nasty type of pussy boil. Why did Square create use such a disturbing name for a cute GF? The only correlation is the red dot on his forehead. He casts Reflect (a spell which causes spells to reflect and hit the enemies of whoever it has been cast on) on all of your characters in FFVI, FFVIII, FFIX, but this seems to have nothing at all to do with the medical condition.

(Non video game picture source: http://www.dermis.net)

 

 

Marlboro/Malboro/Oscar

Marlboro have been known by many different things in different games. In FFVII, FFVIII, and FFIX it is called Malboro; in IV and X it is called Marlboro; in FFVI it is known as Crazy Oscar and Mad Oscar. It uses a bad breath attack to inflict the characters with every status ailment (including poison, among many others). The obvious connotation is to Marlboro cigarettes, for they not only give you bad breath, they also give you lung cancer and emphysema, among other horrible ailments. It's reference in FFVI is due to it's visual similarity to Oscar the Grouch of Sesame Street.

(Marlboro cigarette image source: http://www.marlboro-cigarette.net)

(Oscar the Grouch image source: http://www.cs.odu.edu)

 

 

Information sources:

http://www.wikipedia.org
http://www.galbadiax.com
http://www.ffcompendium.com
http://www.ancient-mythology.com
http://www.collections.ic.gc.ca/folklore/
http://www.answers.com