Today is the Christian celebration of Epiphany so I’m going to blunder along by making a tenuous connection with it and Dark Souls. That connection is the lore surrounding the three kings who visited baby Jesus and the lore surrounding The Four Kings of Dark Souls.
The lore of Dark Souls is woven through the game; it’s not presented in an opening cut scene with an expository voice-over but is instead hinted at in the items one finds, the conversations one has with NPCs, and the land itself. The player has to actively seek it out and really pay attention to get the back story of Dark Souls. It would be very easy to complete the game and come away no wiser to its background. The great point about this is that the player can take as much or as little attention as he or she likes and one’s enjoyment isn’t impacted in any way – the story is simply there.
Here is a video on the lore that has been teased out about the The Four Kings.
Considering the amount of effort it would’ve taken to search through the game and piece all that together, It’s a pretty impressive video.
So now let’s turn our attention to the three kings who visited baby Jesus. What lore is known about them? They came from the East. There’s three. They brought one gift each for the Messiah – myrrh, gold and frankincense. They followed a star. It led them to the stable Jesus was born in. You know the drill.
Well, it turns out that none of it has any evidence to back it up. The Bible is surprisingly light on any details about the three kings. That is if they were kings at all. They may have been kings… or magi… or wise men. Equal care was taken in not making a note of their place of origin as they are simply ‘from the east’. They were so important that no one asked them who they were, for their names are as unknown as their homelands.
Even the most basic fact of the story, that there were three, is not even stated. The number three was settled upon because there were three gifts, so it was assumed that the visitors brought one each. Likewise, when they visited was unknown. Any time up to about the age of two is justifiable on what is presented in the Bible, but traditionally it is now thought that they visited Jesus when he was a newborn. Neither a stable nor manger is mentioned.
The star that they followed is unknown by astronomers, and whatever it was – comet, supernova, miracle (take your pick) – it attracted no other visitors. And the same can be said for the kings themselves, as there is no record of their journey from any other source. Wherever they did come from, three important members of society (possibly kings!) leaving to follow a magical star in the hopes of finding a messiah, was as far as we know not note worthy. The Gospels also find the four kings lacking noteworthiness, with the story having about 300 words devoted to its singular appearance in Matthew.
Pretty much everything we think we know about the story is assumed or made up hundreds of later. Above I said that the great point about the lore of Dark Souls is that the player can take as much or as little attention as he or she likes and one’s enjoyment isn’t impacted in any way – the story is simply there. I wonder if the same can be said about the Epiphany?