FromSoftware just announced a major expansion for most people’s 2022 Game Of The Year, Elden Ring, is in development. It’s called Shadow of the Erdtree. But nevermind that. See that person at the bottom of the new key art? If you’ve played FromSoftware’s open-world RPG, then you likely have a good guess as to who we’re looking at here. This might be Miquella, the single Empyryan from the family at the center of the mess that shatters the Elden Ring who we never get to meet in-game.
Here’s the official announcement, which doesn’t mention the subject of the DLC at all. But if you’ve ever seen artwork that depicts Miquella, you know the person in the picture is a dead ringer for the young sibling.
Rise, Tarnished, and let us walk a new path together. An upcoming expansion for #ELDENRING Shadow of the Erdtree, is currently in development. We hope you look forward to new adventures in the Lands Between.
The game’s official site makes clear the expansion is coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
Miquella is all over the world of Elden Ring, but you never actually see them in person. We know that Miquella is Malenia’s twin who has been cursed to be forever young. Poor Miquella loved his sister dearly, and wanted to cure her of the rot via the Haligtree, a location that you visit late in Elden Ring. The Haligtree is supposed to be a haven for basically anyone who might be rejected by society, meaning anyone who has been spurned from the embrace of the Erdtree that you burn at the end of the game. Miquella grew the tree specifically as a rebuke of the Golden Order religion, which, despite its influence throughout the land, couldn’t find a cure for the thing rotting away his family.
Perhaps the scariest thing to know about Miquella is that Malenia swears he’s the most “fearsome” demi-god of them all. And after you spend hours trying to beat Malenia, well, what the hell is her even-more-powerful brother capable of?
The reason we never meet Miquella, of course, is because he is stolen away by Mohg, another demi-god. If you do this optional portion of the game, you find out that Miquella isn’t actually dead. He’s actually just sleeping in a weird flesh cocoon, where Mohg hopes to elevate himself to godhood through the blonde Empyryan that he’s basically feeding to his blood god.
Now, here’s where things get really interesting. The whole sleeping thing has huge implications for the bigger lore of the game, and indeed, data miners have found a treasure trove of cut content that highly suggest Miquella might very well be Saint Trina, a deity that seems heavily associated with the act of sleeping. Miquella stays alive by perpetually staying in a state of slumber according to Sir Gideon. And, incidentally, all those super rare Trina’s Lily flowers that you collect throughout the game? They are basically a roadmap to Malenia. One going theory is that, even in their sleep, Miquella has somehow orchestrated your entire quest. We know, after all, that Miquella’s big thing is that they are able to make everyone love them and do his bidding. That’s (part) of why Mohg goes crazy, basically: Miquella’s immense influence, which Mohg tries to convene with.
But back to Saint Trina. Part of the reason this Miquella theory exists, beyond the sleep parallels, is because the item descriptions really sound like they’re describing Malenia’s brother. Here’s part of what the text for the Sword of Saint Trina says:
Some say she is a comely young girl, others are sure he is a boy. The only certainty is that their appearance was as sudden as their disappearance.
If you ever see pictures of Miquella, then, you know the lad is pretty androgynous. Hence perhaps why it seems like the person in the Elden Ring expansion announcement art might be a woman. But if you look closely, the picture is also full of what appear to be ghostly versions of the Trina Lily (!) all around the person riding the horse. I mean, come on. Who else could this be?
And now it’s time for some deep (but I’d like to think heavily substantiated) speculation. At this point, data miners have put together all sorts of material that depicts what appears to be cut content, and it heavily has to do with Saint Trina and Miquella. Not long after Elden Ring released, we found out that it once had a mechanic where you found sleeping animals around the Lands Between to collect their “dream mist.” This mist was apparently a central ingredient behind a nectar consumed by the gods. And when you drank the nectar, you could find out someone’s secrets, something that seems consistent with Miquella’s ability to ply anyone around them.
Much later, a second and much more elaborate quest involving Saint Trina emerged from the tireless work of Sekiro Dubi, who actually went ahead and recreated it from files hiding in the game. There’s a ton of dialogue here, and it’s largely coming from Kalé, one of the earliest characters you meet in Elden Ring. Weirdly, despite seeming kind of important at first, Kalé is relegated to simply being your merchant. But at one point, Kalé had a much bigger role in Elden Ring.
If you venture into the catacombs hiding under Leyndell, you might come across the hellish location that is the Frenzied Flame Proscription. And strangely, it’s full of chracters that look just like Kalé. While the game never truly explains this, Kalé does tell us that he has a myriad of brothers who, as he puts it, have been “spurned by the grace of gold.” A group of people rejected by society? Sounds like a mission for the Haligtree, no?
And, sure enough, there is a connection between Kalé and Saint Trina, but it appears to not have made it into the full game. In the video above, Sekiro Dubi walks you through a big quest where Kalé gives you a crystal ball tied to Trina. The reason Kalé and his kind are damned is because they all carry the Flame of Frenzy, a condition tied to a god whose in-game ending is basically chaos. And chaos is in direct opposition to the Golden Order, right?
So in this cut quest, Kalé wants you to collect dream mist so you can soothe the flame that plagues the wandering merchants. As he tells it, the flame connects them all together, which may be why when you kill one of them, all of the merchants become hostile to you. That constant connection also erodes away their personhood, so it’s much like a curse. The flame used to be less of a problem when Saint Trina was around, because he would sing the merchants a lullaby that would soothe their curse. Doesn’t this sound a little more appropriate than the whole nothing that Kalé turns into like a third into the game?
God knows if we’ll we ever see any of this in Elden Ring or its upcoming expansion. FromSoftware might pull on what it already has, rework it, or leave it in the bin. But even if none of these quests come back, they give us ample lore to chew on that helps explain a lot of things in Elden Ring. And the fact it exists at all makes a good case for the likelihood that FromSoftware might double down on Miquella in one way or another in the expansion, even if its not in the exact way these cut quests depict.
Now let’s talk about the title of the expansion, Shadow of the Erdtree. In the picture, the tree appears to be leaking something golden. That’s likely the sap that we collect in-game to make ourselves stronger, which we also hear was once way more abundant throughout the Lands Between.
Per the lore of the game, the Erdtree isn’t exactly what we think it is. Instead, the Erdtree appears to be somewhat like a parasite that’s feeding off something called the Crucible. The game kind of masks this reality, but there are hints in the item descriptions. Root resin tells us there was once a a “Great Tree” in this world. You might think this is referring to the Erdtree, but it might not be. After all, the Crucible is described as a “primordial” version of the Erdtree. While this idea is never clarified, the implication seems to be that something existed before the Erdtree that we see in-game took over everything.
It makes sense, then, that the description for a spell states that at the start, everything was opposed to the Erdtree. It was only through endless war by Marika and her husband that the order of the Erdtree was enforced in Elden Ring. The Erdtree very well might be a vessel for an outer god, hence why the Two Fingers have to communicate with something that’s clearly very far away every time we speak to them. And all the outer gods we learn about in Elden Ring are basically fighting to take control of the Lands Between, why would the Erdtree be any different?
Think about Radagon’s whole “regression” concept, which refers to the idea that “all things yearn eternally to converge.” This regression idea sounds weird on paper, unless of course the very thing blessing you happens to be a parasite that’s “converged” with something else. If the Erdtree is a parasite, though, then that has some horrifying implications for what we see in Elden Ring. When people die, they are taken to the Erdtree because people believe their purpose was to return to the source of life. That’s why there are all these catacombs full of roots that appear to be merged with bodies everywhere, and why these roots are surrounded by jars that carry the remains of people. But what if “returning” to the Erdtree was actually just feeding this thing? No wonder it was so important for mighty heroes to get an Erdtree burial. Powerful feed likely helps the thing grow.
All of which to say, the ‘shadow’ referred to here might be the Crucible/Great Tree: in their original form, they are literally a darker-colored incarnation of the Erdtree. Even if what we’re looking at is the remains of the burned Erdtree (meaning that this would be taking place post-game), the thing lying at its center would be the original tree. It’s perfectly possible, though, that this is in the past and what we’re looking at here is the early convergence of the Erdtree and the Crucible. Did I mention that the cut content found by data miners heavily suggests there’s some time travel shenanigans happening in Elden Ring? But now we’re really going in the deep end!
This could simply just take place in Miquella’s dream, much like some fights against in-game dragons never take place in the ‘real’ world. A dream setup would let FromSoftware take whatever liberties they’d like without having to make it gel with any particular timeline or ending. And if it’s Miquella, it’s also conceivable that the whole shadow thing simply refers to the Haligtree itself, which is metaphorically the Erdtree’s shadow.
Anyway, the image up top had to be slightly cropped; here’s the full illustration:
2022 was the year of Elden Ring, of Miyazaki, of Malenia. The highly anticipated FromSoftware title held the industry by its throat for months, dominating the conversation around difficulty, damage scaling, and player builds (including everyone’s favorite nepo baby, Elon Musk). It took over streaming, it renamed every animal “dog,” it created legends.
After over a decade of FromSoftware games holding court as the quintessential “git gud” franchise, locking those of us without a masochist bent out of the discourse, Elden Ring’s open world opened up the gates for an entirely new player base. As such, it catapulted the work of Hidetaka Miyezaki to entirely new heights: Elden Ring is by far the best-selling FromSoftware title, it’s snatching up GOTY awards like Rowa Fruit, and it’s still generating passionate conversations 10 months after its release.
By subtly divesting from the tried and true FromSoftware formula and giving us a game unshackled by a single, punishing, linear path, Elden Ring offered up the Lands Between on a beautifully ornate (but slightly Tarnished) silver platter. And we gobbled that shit up.