Elden Ring’s story is often convoluted, but all of it comes back to certain actions taken by Marika before she is punished by The Greater Will.
Elden Ring is filled with mysteries, with several characters at the heart of it. One of those characters is Queen Marika, the Eternal, but unlike other mysterious characters such as Melina and Ranni, players never interact directly with Marika. Instead, her story unfolds as players learn more about the Lands Between, and her narrative slowly and subtly shifts throughout the game.
WARNING: There Are Spoilers AHEAD for Elden RingThe narrative players are first sold is that Queen Marika is a goddess tied to the Greater Will, who in a moment of heartbreak and weakness, shatters the Elden Ring after the Night of Black Knives. This is where her son, Godwyn the Golden, is killed. It seems like a grief-stricken act at the loss of her son, and the Greater Will punishes her for it. This Shattering leads to the events of the game, but the entire Shattering is brought into question throughout it.
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Marika is from the lands of the Numen, who—at least from what can be seen in Elden Ring—are all women. She’s also an Empyrean, which means that she has the ability to become a God with the help of an Outer God. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the short of it. With the Greater Will, Marika is able to become the rule of the Lands Between. All empyreans have a shadow, with hers being her brother Maliketh. They are one part protector of their Empyrean, but also one part overseer should they turn against the Greater Will (or presumably any Outer God).
After achieving her godhood and rule over The Lands Between, she would name Godfrey as her consort who would become the first Elden Lord. At some point, she removed Destined Death from the Elden Ring and gave it to her brought Maliketh. This meant her children would be immortal, though there was still a cycle of death—just under her watchful eyes.
It’s also notable that SHE is the one who had Godfrey lead wars to conquer more territory, including the war against Fire Giants. It was Marika, however, who fell the Outer God of the Fire Giants and cursed its final survivor to tend the Flame of Ruin. This would be the only real threat to the Elden Ring, all of which she did in service to The Greater Will.
Afterward, Marika and Godfrey would have children including Godwyn and the twins Morgott and Mohg. It was around this time, many believe, that Marika began putting a plan together to betray the Greater Will.
There are two major and questionable factors in regards to when exactly Marika decided to plan against the Greater Will. The first is motive. It is said that she simply learned that the Golden Order was not as kind and good as she first believed. Given that the Golden Order, in essence, is the Greater Will’s dictate for how the world works and yet Marika had already removed the Rune of Death by this time in Elden Ring's timeline makes this dubious. It would make more sense if she questioned the Golden Order all along, hence removing the Rune of Death as PART of that plan. Perhaps she foresaw (as she is a goddess) someway through her children (or Radagon’s) alternative options.
It's not really certain, but then there is the question of why betray the god while having a family. She is seemingly, per the original story told, happy as this god and happy to have her children, who can never die. It essentially screams that there’s more to this that goes unmentioned in Elden Ring’s story. But, perhaps, the most logical explanation is that she never wanted to be this Goddess. That most of this is a falsehood. This is pure speculation, but even her war against the Fire Giants becomes a major part of her plan to betray the Erdtree/Greater Will. Killing its Fire Giants presumably makes it even easier for a Tarnished to access this flame, especially after she led her potential daughter Melina to this very same conclusion. She was an empyrean, bound to a god, and just as Ranni destroyed her flesh to escape this fate, Marika could have been looking to escape this fate.
Thus, Marika could have been looking for her own free will all along, setting into motion a series of events that would eventually lead to this. The alternative is that Marika is the vile one for turning against the Greater Will, which could be a matter of perspective. After all, Sir Gideon Ofnir betrays the Elden Ring player after learning something about Marika: “Queen Marika has high hopes for us that we continue to struggle, unto eternity.” Gideon the All-Knowing may see her as the villain, but perhaps she’s the hero of her own story.
After all, every step of the Tarnished’s journey can reflect Marika’s plans.
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Regarding Elden Ring's Rune of Death and Fire of Ruin, it’s possible that Marika did these with an alternative motive—if players buy that she was not as impulsive as the original story suggests. First, removing the Rune of Death does protect her children, but her children may play some role in her plan—not to simply keep them with her always. But by this action, her children live long enough to enact this war and their own plans.
Many believe Melina is also Marika’s child and perhaps the one she entrusted most. Melina spends the entirety of Elden Ring searching for the purpose set upon her by her intentionally unnamed mother—to commit the cardinal sin of burning the Erdtree, made easier by the death of the Fire Giants. In other words, Melina was Marika’s plan to burn the tree, where her other children would plunge the land into chaos and serve as obstacles for Marika’s Tarnished to overcome.
After all, the very existence of the Tarnished is Marika’s doing too. Many believe that Godfrey didn’t lose his battle spirit, that he did not lose the grace of the Erdtree, but that Marika betrayed her husband and took it from him. This is supported by how he went into the Badlands and battled, showing his power and spirit. He was loyal to the Greater Will, and perhaps Marika knew she would not be able to sway him. Either way, her Tarnished would be guided by grace back to the Lands Between and play their role in her plan. Who’s to say that the Grace guiding players is the Greater Will’s after all? It could certainly be Marika’s power, as even restrained she is still a god in Elden Ring, and it would explain how it guides players to things that go against the Greater Will too.
Furthermore, she would imprison Hewg and give him an important task: the creation of a weapon that could slay a god. She must have some knowledge of the Elden Ring’s true form—the monstrosity of the cosmic Elden Beast (which spawns from the ring that is said to have arrived in the Lands Between by an asteroid as an embodiment of the world’s, perhaps universe’s Golden Order). But Elden Ring's Hewg could do this—she had to have known or have had faith that he could. Gideon Ofnir believes no man can kill a god after all.
Sometime in all of this, Marika would take a new consort as Radagon—who players learn to be her other half. This is where an already convoluted plan goes off the rails. Marika and Radagon are one and the same, somehow connected, but they were still able to procreate in Elden Ring. Radagon remains loyal to the Greater Will somehow, perhaps representing that part of her, but it wasn’t necessarily the marriage to Radagon Marika wanted in this plan—it was to his children.
She brought his children—Ranni, Rykard, and Radahn—to Godhood, thus making them immortal. Why she would do this, if unloyal to the Greater Will, only makes sense through Radagon’s relationship with them (and thus hers?). Unless, it is because Rennala worshipped the Full Moon and a different Outer God that Marika did this. Ranni was an empyrean and could thus contain a god like Marika, but Ranni did not want this—much like Marika did not want this. Perhaps there was some exchange where Marika led Ranni to this path, or perhaps it was something Marika foresaw as a goddess. In other words, the marriage of Marika and Radagon had more to do with Ranni—in relation to one of Elden Ring’s endings—than it did with Radagon.
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With all of this in mind, potentially the connection between Marika and Ranni, the Night of Black Knives also takes on a different telling. Players are originally led to believe that Ranni orchestrates this to kill her body, which is true, but that the death of Godwyn so upsets Marika that she destroys the Elden Ring out of emotion. But, it would seem that this was the crux of her plan.
Marika knew that she had all the pieces on the board for one Tarnished to return and end the Greater Will. She knew she could not be around for this entire time, and she knew she would be punished for the Shattering. The question becomes: how to put the entirety of Elden Ring’s story into action then?
The fact that Ranni works with other Numen women to do all of this, Numen women who do not significant reappear at that, would suggest that Marika had some connection to it. She clearly hated the Golden Order more so than her husband, so allowing her son to die does not seem out of character—especially not if her children were part of the plan the entire time. Godwyn’s death gives her an “innocent, grieving mother” role in the Shattering, kills off one big support of the Golden Order, and gives Ranni an out from her fate as an Empyrean. It all lines up too well for Marika to not have been involved.
Plus, every Elden Ring ending restores Destined Death and burns the Erdtree. Every Elden Ring ending fulfills the parts of Marika’s plans that free her from The Greater Will, through its death, and it would seem that she leaves the fate of the Lands Between to the Tarnished who would become Elden Lord. Yet, in line with all of this, it all supports why everyone thinks Ranni’s ending is the best one in Elden Ring.
It's a convoluted and sometimes ironic way for Marika to escape her fate as bound to the Greater Will. But it all works so well when viewing her not as a grieving mother but a powerful goddess who would do anything to slay the Elden Beast.
Elden Ring is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
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When Joshua Duckworth received Pokemon Yellow for Christmas at 5-years-old, his fate as a gamer was set. Since then, he’s been involved with every step of the gaming industries’ growth from the golden PS1 era and the dying days of the arcade to any current gaming trend. When he’s not writing, playing his own games, or thinking about writing or playing his games, he’s probably the second player to his son’s Pokemon Let’s Go, Pikachu! file. Joshua has an MA degree in English from Jacksonville State University, and the best way to contact him is at jduckworth874@gmail.com.

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