For this essay, I would like to talk about the art of French Illustrator, Gustave Dore, and how I think it has shaped the world of Dark Souls 3. Some of Dore’s best known work consists of illustrations inspired by Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, and it is this dark, Gothic work in particular that strongly mirrors an abundance of imagery from Dark Souls 3, a game about cycles of life, death, and rebirth.
The first art piece that I would like to focus on is “Dante’s Inferno – Canto 13”, sometimes known as “The Harpies’ Wood” or “the Suicides” and how it links to the imagery for the High Wall of Lothric. “Harpies” is a piece of art that Dore created as an interpretation of Dante’s Wood of Suicides from the Divine Comedy, “in which the souls of the suicides are altered into twisted, thorny trees, surrounded by Harpies”. This piece of art shows imagery of people who have become one with trees, and is somewhat unnerving to view because of the screaming faces in the trees. This imagery of dying souls in trees also exists within the world of Dark Souls 3, in the early game section of the High Wall of Lothric, and gives a similar chill down your spine to look at. In Dark Souls 3, the trees look less aggressive, and less tormented, because the trees mostly seem to have grown around the skeletons, however the imagery is so similar that it is hard not to compare.
Dore, G. (1861). The Killing Trees from Dante’s Inferno.
Polygon (2017). High Wall of Lothric.
I would next like to talk about Dore’s series of illustrations named “London: A Pilgrimage”, and how it links to the Undead Settlement in Dark Souls 3. Dore’s London series is inspired by his interpretation of the overcrowded and overpopulated streets of Victorian London in 1872, which was created as a statement about the unhygienic living standards of the time. Dore’s art depicted squalour and deprivation, which wreaked havoc through the streets, and it was Dore’s harsh use of dark and light shading that was celebrated for driving home how awful the living conditions were. The imagery in the Undead Settlement reminds me strongly of Dore’s depictions of London, because both show scary living conditions, and the lighting in the Undead Settlement is really dark. The shadows are dark inside the settlement, and looking at the settlement from a distance atop the High Wall of Lothric feels like you are looking at a void that barely looks survivable. Even the locations parallel each other, because both Victorian London and the Undead Settlement have poor hygiene and poor living conditions, along with really overcrowded populations. The Undead Settlement is populated by countless undead that keep on coming back to life, and the citizens of the town don’t know how to deal with the overpopulation, so the city is full of corpses that keep on reanimating, more hollow every time.
Jerrold, W. and Dore, G. (1872). London: A Pilgrimage..
Wallhaven (2017). Undead Settlement.
The next piece of Dore’s art that I would like to talk about is “The Descent of the Spirit”, and how this mirrors the Deacons of the Deep. In 1866, Dore created a series of wood carvings for the French translation of the bible, and among the many art pieces that he created, one is named “The Descent of the Spirit”. To the untrained eye, the robed figures depicted in “The Descent of the Spirit” look very similar to the Deacons of the Deep from Dark Souls 3. In Dark Souls 3, there is a religious following of clerics dedicated to sealing away the horrors of “the Deep”, donned in red robes that symbolise their blessing of fire. The Deep became a final resting place for many bad things, and it is symbolised by darkness and abhorrent beings, things that are profane. The Deacons eventually succumbed to the Deep, and dedicated their life following to aiding their leaders it in destroying the Gods of the land to bring in the age of the Deep Sea. The similarities between Dore’s “The Descent of the Spirit” and the imagery surrounding the Deacons of the Deep feel strongly connected, because both, at a base level, depict holy figures wearing robes that are surrounded by darkness. However, there is one big difference between the imagery shown here, and that key difference is that “The Descent of the Spirit” is an interpretation of the Holy Spirit guiding holy men, with the beams of light shining down on them, and the dove is there as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, however, the Deacons of the Deep don’t follow divine holy figures anymore, their focus is no longer to the light and holy, but to the dark and profane. The arena that you fight the Deacons in is a big, dark, circular room that contains a crypt in the middle, with any light coming down from above. This, ironically, mirrors the environment in “The Descent of the Spirit” with the imagery of light shining down from above, and the watery deep ground beneath.
Dore, G. (1866). The Descent of the Spirit.
Souls Lore (2016). The Deacons of the Deep
In conclusion, the art created by Gustave Dore is work that heavily uses light and darkness. It is speculated that he was colour blind, because most of his work is created in black and white, with heavy emphasis on shading and shadows. Dark Souls, as a series, also uses light and darkness as key story elements and themes. Few things are ever just black and white in Dark Souls 3, because it has characters and storylines that don’t file under good or bad, but are morally grey. The main character can be another fated undead to kindle the flame and feed the cycle, or they can usurp the throne and kill the cycle to bring in the age of man, no longer depending on the flame. The other Dark Souls entries focused more on black and white, darkness and light, but Dark Souls 3 was a final game that allowed more greyness and tone, it didn’t just have to be “kindle the flame” or “usher in the age of darkness”, and it really reflects through the art and tone of the game, which is why I wanted to compare it to Gustave Dore and his dramatic shadows.
Dark Souls 3 ► Lore of the Main Bosses. (2016). Available at: https://youtu.be/8ma-l-9zC3M
Dore, G. (1861). The Killing Trees from Dante’s Inferno. [image] Available at: http://www.estherlederberg.com/EImages/Extracurricular/Mayhew/Gustave%20Dore.jpg
Dore, G. (1866). The Descent of the Spirit. [image] Available at: https://uploads0.wikiart.org/images/gustave-dore/the-descent-of-the-spirit.jpg!Large.jpg
Jerrold, W. and Dore, G. (1872). London: A Pilgrimage.. [image] Available at: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/london-illustrations-by-gustave-dor#
Polygon (2017). High Wall of Lothric. [image] Available at: https://www.polygon.com/2016/4/12/11412746/dark-souls-3-high-wall-of-lothric-walkthrough
Souls Lore (2016). The Deacons of the Deep. [image] Available at: http://soulslore.wikidot.com/data:deacons-of-the-deep
Wallhaven (2017). Undead Settlement. [image] Available at: https://alpha.wallhaven.cc/wallpaper/393751