Chapter Six: The Pthumerians, Arianna, Mergo, and Oedon
“In the age of the Great Ones, wedlock was a blood contract, only permitted to those slated to bear a special child.”
-Ring of Betrothal
The Pthumerians existed long, long ago, long before the events of Bloodborne take place. And yet the echoes of what happened in old Pthumeru resonate very deeply in the current city of Yharnam, moreso than Yharnamites can possibly know.
For starters, I will use only information and evidence that can be found inside of the game. I will save my personal interpretations and beliefs for the end, so that you can make up your own mind about the evidence presented.
The Pthumerian Society existed long, long ago, centuries or even millennia ago. They were a people who were masters of ancient arcane arts, specifically relating to arts of Fire and arts of Blood. The Pthumerian People seemed to be Matriarchal, or at the very least the most important positions were often held by women. The hallways of the ancient Labyrinth echo with the Sinister Bells rung by the Bell Ringers. When we look at the description of a Sinister Root Chalice we are told: “When used in a ritual, this sinister chalice summons the Sinister Resonant Bell. The bell-ringing woman appears to be a mad Pthumerian.” Aside from the Bell Ringers we have the Keepers, a group of eternal warriors who wander the Labyrinth caring for its denizens. The Bone Ash Armor states:”The keepers, who mind the slumbering Great Ones, gained eternal life, preserved in ashen form in a ceremony of flame that cremated body and soul.” These women clearly held positions of importance, and we do know they are women despite their masks, as the voice clips they play during their combat and death animations are that of a female voice actress.
Finally, we have the Pthumerian Queen. Originally, the Pthumerian people had no ruler, they worked as simple caretakers of the ancient Labyrinth. The Great Pthumeru Ihyll Chalice: “While early Pthumerians were mere humble guardians of the slumbering Great Ones, their descendants felt entitled to name themselves a leader.” As Pthumerian society advanced, they grew into a more stable society with a Queen as their figurehead. The capital of Pthumeru, Ihyll, was named after one such Queen, possibly the first. However it is the last Queen of Pthumeru, Yharnam, who will be the focus of our analysis.
As for the men of Pthumerian Society, they seemed to provide more of a workforce and military for Pthumeru. The Hintertomb Chalice tells us: Hintertombs are the peripheral catacombs of the old underground labyrinth. To this day, the Watchers continue to expand the hintertombs, unceremonious catacombs filled with graves and death. Indeed, very often will the clanging sound of a pickaxe fill the Player’s ear as the undead Pthumerians toil away to expand the Labyrinth further and further. They are overseen by the Watchers, fat and girthy men wielding cudgels, cleavers, burning irons and even shotguns.
此外还有亚南之影：第一次在禁忌森林里遇到时，暗影们远在我们得知女王真名之前就出现在了玩家面前。唯一两个能找到亚南之影的地方是禁忌森林和曼西斯噩梦，都非常接近亚南女王出现的地方。有趣的一点是，如果玩家愿意的话他们可以把食人野猪勾引到曼西斯噩梦中的暗影们边上。暗影会与野猪作战并杀死它们，尽管过程中他们自己也可能会死。暗影并非与曼西斯学会是盟友关系。根据牛津英语词典， “暗影”这个字词有着许多种释义，最为少用的一种意思是一个形影不离的随从或是伴友。From Software非常巧妙地玩了一个文字游戏，让玩家们在第一次看到亚南之影时，自然而然地把暗影看作是亚南城市的影子，而不是亚南女王的随从。
There are also the Shadows of Yharnam; first encountered in the Forbidden Woods, the Shadows are presented to the player far before we know of the Queen’s true name. The only two places the Shadows are found are in the Forbidden Woods and in the Nightmare of Mensis, both times in places very close to Queen Yharnam herself. Interestingly enough, if the PC Hunter wishes they can lure the Maneater Boars into the Shadows found in the Nightmare of Mensis. The Shadows will fight and kill the pigs, while some of them will die in the process. The Shadows do not appear to be aligned with the School of Mensis at all. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word shadow has many definitions, the most lesser used being An inseparable attendant or companion. It’s a very clever use of ironic wordplay by From Software, to introduce the players first to the Shadows of Yharnam, leaving them to naturally associate the Shadows as being associated with the City Yharnam, as opposed to the Queen.
The Pthumerians were, as the Chalices imply, superhuman beings. They were close to the eldritch Truth, and achieved evolution and metamorphosis through the use of blood ministration, as evidenced by the fallen Pthumerian City Loran. According to the Ailing Loran Chalice: “The tragedy that struck this ailing land of Loran is said to have its root in the scourge of the beast.” When the PC Hunter travels to the ruins of Loran, they find a city that in many ways resembles Old Yharnam. It is a place ravaged by the Scourge of the Beast, as the vast majority of its inhabitants are either mindless beasts or mad Bell Ringers. There is even a Darkbeast, the mightiest of the beasts, that lurks on the lowest level of the fallen city, just as there is one that dwells in Old Yharnam. In Old Yharnam, the Scourge of the Beast was a result of the rampant blood ministration by the then newly-founded Healing Church in an attempt to cure the horrible disease ashen blood. The Lower Loran Chalice states: “There are trace remains of medical procedures in parts of ailing Loran. Whether these were attempts to control the scourge of the beast, or the cause of the outbreak, is unknown.”
We can now put the pieces together and see that what the Player is currently experiencing in Yharnam once occurred a long, long, long time ago in ancient Pthumeru. Through the use of the Old Blood of the Great Ones, the Pthumerians were able to ascend and evolve, and yet with the tainted blood came the Scourge of the Beast, and possibly even what we would refer to in the modern era of Bloodborne as a Hunt, along with a Blood Moon. This brings us back to the Queen.
When the red moon hangs low, the line between man and beast is blurred. And when the Great Ones descend, a womb will be blessed with child. -Note found in the Byrgenwerth Mansion
The PC Hunter first encounters Queen Yharnam after the death of Rom the Vacuous Spider. The most immediately horrifyingly apparent feature of the Queen is the blood staining her stomach. It’s a sickening moment for the player, at least it was for me. She is found at the bottom of the Moonside Lake, having seemingly appeared out of nowhere, staring up at the sky and weeping. There, the PC Hunter sees the Blood Moon for the first time, and hears the cry of a newborn baby. In ancient Pthumeru, the Scourge of Beasts ravaged the land. It must have been then that the Blood Moon arose, perhaps for the very first time, and a womb was blessed with child. It’s unknown if Yharnam was impregnated by the Great Ones specifically because she was Queen, or if she was simply a woman chosen at random, but she is most assuredly assumed to have been, in that Hunt, the potential mother of a Great One. As we can see from the bloodstained rags around her stomach, the birth did not go well.
Let us now jump forwards hundreds of years back into present day Yharnam, and discuss Arianna. The PC Hunter encounters Arianna living in the Cathedral Ward of Yharnam; the Lady of the Night mistakes the Hunter for a potential customer and sends them away, telling them that she takes Hunts off. Once the PC Hunter has defeated Vicar Amelia they can convince Arianna to seek shelter in either Oedon Chapel or Iosefka’s clinic. Sending her to the clinic will end all further interaction with her, while sending her to the Chapel will allow the PC to encounter and speak with her further.
Once Arianna and the PC Hunter become acquainted, she does what any good Yharnamite would do and offers her new friend a vial of her blood. If the Hunter accepts, they receive the item Blood of Arianna. It is with this item that we see the first inklings that Arianna may be much more than she first seems. “Blood taken from Arianna, Cathedral Ward woman of pleasure. A member of the old Healing Church would know that her blood is similar indeed, to precisely what was once forbidden.” Why would Arianna have blood similar to something that was forbidden? After all, blood flows like water in Yharnam; anyone and everyone shares and imbibes in blood with one another. What makes Arianna’s blood special? Let us, for a moment, take a look at what the PC Hunter encounters should they go to the very depths of the Pthumerian Labyrinth, to the very bottom of Pthumeru Ihyll. It is here that the Hunter fights against the weeping Yharnam, Queen of Pthumeru.
But take a closer look at her as you fight her and notice that she seems bound, chained. There is cloth bound around her eyes, blinding her, and her wrists have been tightly chained together to keep her movement restricted. She is restrained for apparently good reason; during the fight with Yharnam she will free herself from her bondage and display a mastery over blood that can only possibly be defined as magic. She melts into blood, using it to travel distances; she uses blood to create false copies of herself, she sprays blood from her fingertips; she stabs herself through the wrists and chest in order to summon blades of blood that swing through the air and impale the Hunter.
Let us now take a look at what lies directly above Queen Yharnam’s chamber: the corpse of a Bloodletting Beast that appears to have been cleaved almost entirely in half. The corpse is headless, its neck a bloody stump, and only moves because an enormous centipede-like creature lives inside of the dead body and controls it like a puppet. This is not the first time we have encountered the remains of a beast that has been cleaved almost in half. In the Grand Cathedral, the centerpiece of the sacred altar of worship for the Healing Church is a Beast’s skull, with a large cleave running down one side and almost cutting it in half. The skull is a perfect fit for the headless corpse. To quote Miyazaki: “[The] skull served as the start of the Healing Church itself, but it’s taken the form of a twisted beast.” As Master Willem warned Laurence: “Fear the Old Blood.” Laurence, founder of the Healing Church and purveyor of Communion. It would appear Laurence found the evolution he craved. Laurence fell to the Old Blood and was twisted into the Bloodletting Beast, whose corpse wanders Ihyll. From this we can conclude one thing: The Healing Church was in Pthumeru Ihyll. They very likely encountered Queen Yharnam. Perhaps they feared her mastery over blood or feared her connection to the Great Ones. Perhaps there was something about her blood that was especially tainted and wrong, possibly as a result of her being impregnated by a Great One. It is likely that the Church restrained and sealed her away, marking the Pthumerian Blood as being forbidden.
Returning back to Arianna, one only needs to take a brief look at her features to see the similarities between her and Queen Yharnam. Their flowing hair, long sweeping dress, and obvious beauty are all shared. Perhaps Arianna is a descendant of the Pthumerian Royal Family, or if not royalty perhaps she simply has Pthumerian Blood in her genes. Either way, her blood is forbidden. If the PC Hunter has also rescued Adella the Nun in addition to Arianna the Whore, they may notice that, when talking to Arianna in the Oedon Chapel, if they angle their camera to the side they can notice that every time they speak to Arianna, Adella will rise from her seat to stare and watch the conversation. When the Hunter finishes speaking to Arianna, Adella will immediately look away and pretend as if she wasn’t watching. It’s a brilliantly subtle way to show that Adella has her eye on Arianna, and is possibly aware of the blasphemous nature of her blood.
But the similarities between Arianna and Queen Yharnam do not end with their clothing and facial structure. The fate that befell Queen Yharnam would, centuries later, befall Arianna.
Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate.
亚南女王的分娩并不顺畅。根据她腹部的大量血迹以及她在梅高的顶楼那里的哭泣姿态，我们只能推测是婴儿并未能活着成功出世。当血月高悬于亚南智商，雅莉安娜最先感受到来自腹内的痛苦。 “哦……我身上有些问题。”她会拒绝再提供更多她的血给玩家，并且会在玩家击杀曼西斯噩梦的米寇拉什之前不会有其他新的内容。如果玩家猎人在此之后回到教堂区的盏灯处便会发现雅莉安娜的座椅空着，以及一道清澈的血浆构成的拖延过的轨迹，一直引向欧顿墓地。沿着血迹我们可以找到，在我看来是整个游戏中最为令人厌恶的场面：啜泣着的雅莉安娜边上趴着一只浑身是血的蠕动着的天庭幼种。这场面给人一种……十分令人不快的感觉。雅莉安娜则是完全发疯了，呢喃着，啜泣着，狂笑着。“这不可能……这一切都只是场噩梦……” 幼体则是除了可悲地扭动在她脚边之外什么也不会做，直到玩家击杀了它。无论什么武器攻击方式（对于幼体）都是一击致命的。从这生物的尸体上可以获取到一个脐带：“每一个旧神都失去了自己的孩子，也因此都渴求着一个凡胎宿体，而无形的旧神欧顿也是如此。仔细一想，正是堕落之血开始了这场可怖的联络。”
Queen Yharnam’s childbirth did not go well. Judging from the massive amount of blood staining her stomach and the way she is found weeping in front of Mergo’s Loft, we can only assume that the child did not survive the birthing process. When the Blood Moon rises over Yharnam, Arianna first starts to feel pain in her stomach. “Oh… there’s something wrong with me.” She will refuse to give the PC Hunter any more of her blood, and will have nothing to say until after the Hunter has slain Micolash in the Nightmare of Mensis. If the PC Hunter returns to the Cathedral Ward they will find Arianna’s chair empty, and a trail of Serum, clear blood, leading towards the Tomb of Oedon. Following the blood trail we find what is, in my opinion, the most disturbing scene in the entire game: A sobbing Arianna next to a squirming, wriggling Celestial Larva, covered in blood. The implications are… unpleasant. Arianna has gone completely mad, muttering, sobbing, and laughing. “It can’t be… this is a nightmare…” The Larva will do nothing but squirm pathetically at her feet until the Hunter kills it. A single attack from any weapon will do the trick. Recovered from the dead creature is an Umbilical Cord: “Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate, and Oedon, the Formless Great One, is no different. To think, it was corrupted blood that began this eldritch liaison.”
What follows is purely my own interpretation and belief based on the evidence I have gathered. Do not consider any of this as solid fact. Instead, use it as my interpretation, so that you can gather your own beliefs.
Centuries ago, the Pthumerian people discovered the Old Blood and the Great Ones, using the blood to elevate themselves beyond humanity. Their height grew, their strength was magnified, and they gained arcane control over fire and blood. However with the Old Blood comes the Scourge of the Beast. The Pthumerian city of Loran was the first to succumb to the Scourge, as an outbreak spread throughout the populous and the Pthumerians were infected by the scourge. And when the line between man and beast is blurred, the red moon will hang low; the Great Ones will descend, and a womb will be blessed with child. Queen Yharnam was impregnated, but every Great One loses its child.
Every Great One loses its child and Mergo, Queen Yharnam’s child with a Great One, was lost as well. Born in stillbirth, the only thing that would be salvaged from Mergo would be his Umbilical Cord. Found from the defeated boss fight Mergo’s Wet Nurse, the cord reads: “A great relic, also known as the Cord of the Eye. Every infant Great One has this precursor to the umbilical cord. Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate. This Cord granted Mensis audience with Mergo, but resulted in the stillbirth of their brains.” When the School of Mensis attempted to use Mergo’s Umbilical Cord to commune with Mergo himself, the ritual was an enormous and terrible failure. It’s unclear exactly what it means for a Great One to be lost, or even to be dead. Can the Great Ones even truly die? They exist on a plane of existence so far above our own. It is likely that the School of Mensis made a connection with Mergo by using his Umbilical Cord. But what they found was an eldritch concept of death so inconceivable that it resulted in the obliteration of their minds.
But the Hunt will always begin again, and so it did. The red moon hung low and the line between beasts and men was blurred. And so the Great Ones descended, and a womb was blessed with child. A descendant of Queen Yharnam, Arianna, bore corrupted blood which began an eldritch liaison. But with whom?
This brings us to Oedon, the Formless One. The Formless Oedon rune states: “The Great One Oedon, lacking form, exists only in voice, and is symbolized by this rune. Human or no, the oozing blood is a medium of the highest grade, and the essence of the formless Great One, Oedon. Both Oedon, and his inadvertent worshippers, surreptitiously seek the precious blood.” Of all the Great Ones, Oedon is the one most similar to an Outer God of the Lovecraftian Mythos upon which Bloodborne is designed. Oedon is a being of such absurdly complex design that it would be impossible for From Software to even put him in their game, for describing his shape is something human beings simply can’t do. Oedon is also the Great One most closely associated with the Blood, as both runes associated with him, Formless Oedon and Oedon Writhe, secrete a constant medium of blood, and provide the PC Hunter with ways of replenishing or storing the Quicksilver Bullets that are fused with their own Blood. While the Healing Church worships several Gods, it is likely that Oedon is very high in their pantheon, if not their Chief God. There is an entire chapel devoted to Oedon’s worship, the Great One of Blood, around whom all of the Healing Church revolves.
Oedon, the Formless Great One, exists quite literally all around us. He is literally everywhere, without shape and only carrying a voice. In this sense, Oedon could also possibly be referred to as the Cosmos itself. Micolash makes this discovery in the Nightmare, when he is found communing with a Great One. He begins by confusing Oedon with something else: “Ahh, Kos, or some say Kosm… Do you hear our prayers?” Halfways through the boss fight, Micolash has an epiphany. “The cosmos, of course!” It’s not Kos. It’s not Kosm. It’s Cosmos. The Choir would discover this truth as well, indeed their entire religion would be founded upon it as referenced by the Cosmic Eye Watcher Badge: “Badge of a member of the Choir, elites of the Healing Church. The eye signifies the very cosmos. The Choir stumbled upon an epiphany, very suddenly and quite by accident. Here we stand, feet planted in the earth. but might the cosmos be very near us, only just above our heads?” Oedon is so omnipresent that while he might not be God in the judeo-christian religious sense it is mostly certainly God-like. This would lead the Choir’s mantra, their epiphany: “The Sky and the Cosmos are one.” It was Oedon who impregnated Queen Yharnam, and it was Oedon who impregnated Arianna. But if Oedon is so formless, so shapeless, and so beyond us, how can we even examine him?
The vast majority of players will first encounter the crying of a baby when they are first presented with the Blood Moon after the death of Rom, the Vacuous Spider. It is at this point that the line between the Waking World and the Nightmare begins to blur. The Blood Moon hangs low, the Amygdala become visible, and the constant crying of a baby will begin to follow and haunt the PC Hunter as they struggle to understand what is happening.
Many players know that it is possible to see the Amygdala before the Blood Moon rises if they have at least 40 insight, but did you know it’s also possible to hear the crying baby before the death of Rom as well? I discovered this on my NG++ playthrough, in which I decided to start with 99 insight and see if anything happened differently. What I discovered is that if the PC Hunter has an insight above 60 they can hear the crying baby if they listen very closely, when they are standing directly next to Arianna in the Cathedral Ward.
But while many players think about it idly, we are never really forced to sit down and think about it: Who is crying? In the Nightmare of Mensis we are led to believe it is the child Mergo, however upon closer examination it becomes painfully obvious that the crying baby is NOT Mergo. Mergo is DEAD. The baby seems to haunt us at every turn. When walking up a random staircase, we hear the faint cry. When speaking with Arianna, we hear it off in the distance. When approaching Queen Yharnam at the Nightmare of Mensis, we hear it screaming. During the fight with Yharnam in the bottom of Pthumeru Ihyll the crying is at its worst. Every time the Hunter gets in close to try and hurt Yharnam, the shrieking wail of the baby seems to ripple around her. If the Hunter stands too close to her, they are frozen in place by the crying baby, paralyzed by an unseen force and bound by some unknowable eldritch power.
During the fight against Mergo’s Wet Nurse, we hear a haunting tune known in the Official Soundtrack as Lullaby for Mergo. Analyzed musically, it has the same shifts in tone and the same melody as Bloodborne’s main theme, the orchestral swell of power that, like many Souls fans eagerly watching E3 2014 in hopes that news of Project Beast would be revealed, I heard for the first time in Bloodborne’s official announcement trailer and was humming for weeks to come. Lullaby for Mergo is also the tune played by Gascoigne’s music box, given to the Hunter by his daughter at the very beginning of the game. If, after defeating Mergo’s Wet Nurse, the Hunter opens the music box and allows it to play, a faint giggle from a baby will be heard, followed by silence.
Perhaps the baby likes the tune, or perhaps it was amused at the Hunter’s attempt to understand or commune with it. After all, it is everywhere. The baby which we constantly seek has no form, no shape. It is a being that exists only as a voice, the voice of the Formless Great One, Oedon.