The Essential Lore of Dark Souls: What Happened to Lordran?

Image for the "prepare to die edition" of Dark Souls
The game is so unforgiving that even one of the editions is called “prepare to die edition”

The first entry in the Dark Souls series was some kind of baptism of fire for a lot of us.  
It was that kind of feat that you shared with your friend to achieve those bragging rights and reputation that nobody can ever stain. 

I always loved to find and overcome these challenges in video games. I still remember Hollow Knight’s path of pain (that by the way, here’s an article about the game’s lore) that tested 2 weeks of my patience, or the Adamantoise in FFXV which took me around 6 hours to defeat.  

Or anything in Cuphead. Better not forget about that nightmare. 

My Dark Souls experience. 

Before it took the whole YouTube Gaming community by storm, Dark Souls was shrouded in mystery. I remember that I was so overwhelmed by how difficult everybody was saying it was, that when I bought it and finally played, I was terrified of even moving outside the first prison area of the Northern Undead Asylum. Let alone the rest of Lordran.

I was right to be terrified. 

Dark Souls is relentless. It beats you down on the floor and tells you to “git gud” while showing you no pity whatsoever. Each of the bosses teach you a part of a lesson applicable in both game and life: learn from your mistakes; be patient. 

Each of these challenging experiences is surrounded by beautiful design. The orchestral music accompanying every boss fight; the “Berserk”-like art design which will then become a staple of From Software’s games, and the lore of Lordran: that beautiful world that hides so many stories and events that happened in the past and present. 

I will sound like a distant echo from this article about Silent Hill, but you can play the whole game without knowing anything that happened or is happening in Lordran. It is, however, a much more meaningful journey when you discover the history of the places or people you meet in the game. 

There is no way to cover every part of the lore of Dark Souls in a single article, lest I go mad, but together we can at least understand how it all started. 

How It All Started: The Age of the Ancients 

“In the Age of Ancients the world was unformed, shrouded by fog. A land of gray crags, Archtrees and Everlasting Dragons.”

– Dark Souls opening

We hear these words the moment we start the game, and it does a decent job at telling us how the world was at its infancy.  
The Everlasting Dragons were immortal creatures ruling over a still, gray world. The only thing breaking up the monotony was the presence of Archtrees: mysterious giant trees whose purpose is up to speculation.

Archtrees seen from the Ash Lake, via Reddit

Some people think that the Archtrees hold the world of Dark Souls in place, while others think that their branches connect other worlds in the Soul series (including Bloodborne, of which Archtrees can be seen from the Hunter’s Dream). Here’s a great reddit post with people speculating about it.

What we know for sure is that at a certain point in time, fire comes to be. This very fire will bring light and dark, life and death, and with it the concept of time and change. 

And life really came, but which shape it had, we do not really know. What we do know is that this fire held the core, called Lord’s Souls, of these four elements within it, and some of these new beings found it.  

They will later plunge the world into a massive war that will shape it into a new age. 

The Lord’s Souls 

The beings who found the souls now have a form that we may recognize: They are mainly humanoid although bigger than a human but smaller than a giant. 
As said before, each of them inherited a Lord’s Soul, which is a representation of the four elements brought by the fire. 

Nito, the First of the Dead 

An image of Nito, The First of the Dead

Nito is the being who finds the Death Soul, and because of that he will be the first being to experience death. He seems like a formless amalgamate of skeletons, but from the game files it seems like he is actually a big skeleton between the others, smaller ones. 

The Witch of Izalith 

An image of the Witch of Izalith
The Witch of Izalith, via Fandom

Resembling a normal human woman, the Witch of Izalith, whose name will unfortunately never be revealed, is the being who finds the Life Soul… and boy oh boy she will end up f*****g up a lot of stuff later in the lore. 

When she finds the Life Soul, she gains the ability of manipulating the chaos flame and will then have several daughters (and a son, who will become a ‘problematic’ one) with whom she will share the Soul obtained. 

Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight 


By a good margin the most important of the four Lords, Gwyn finds the Light Soul, which will share in part with his army, the largest in the whole Lordran. Tall and imposing, Gwyn gains the power of lightning, which will prove incredibly helpful for future events. 

The Furtive Pigmy (so easily forgotten) 

The Furtive Pigmy finds the Dark Soul

Another humanoid, even though we will not be able to see much of his shape aside of one single scene in the opening cutscene. The Furtive Pigmy is the owner of the Dark Soul and the progenitor of humanity. Playing the third, and last, game of the series will shine new light on his role and importance, which I will only partly cover in this article. 

The War Begins 

With that newfound power, the four Lords waged war on the dragons. The battles were fierce but ended up in stalemates, mostly because the dragons were immortal, and their scales made of stone. That is a tricky thing to manage, I guess. 

In that moment, we are acquainted with another particularly important character called Seath the Scaleless. Seath was a dragon that, as you may guess, was born with no scales at all. This did not cope well for him since the dragon’s scales are what makes dragons immortal: he grew jealous of the other dragons, which gradually led him to the decision of betraying his whole specie: he defected for Gwyn and told him the secret to defeat the dragons. 

They are, conveniently, weak to lighting.  

Gwyn shooting lightning at the dragons
Gwyn shooting lightning at the dragons in the opening cinematic, via Fextralife

The war did not last long after that: Gwyn, going full Zeus, destroyed the dragons’ scales while Nito, the Witch of Izalith, and the Furtive Pigmy finished them off. 
Almost all dead, the dragons left their reign over Lordran to the new Lords and a new age, the Age of Fire, began. 

The Age of Fire 

With the war in the past, the Lords can now focus on shaping the destiny of Lordran for better or worse… with a focus on “worse”, in my opinion. 

At least it started great! 
Gwyn founded the beautiful city of Anor Londo and established his throne there; Nito went underground and kept managing the dead; the Witch of Izalith started experimenting on several powerful sorceries and pyromancies, and the Furtive Pigmy split his Dark Soul in several fragments and created humanity. After being gifted a city at the edge of Lordran by Gwyn as a reward for fighting in the war, he will not be present anymore in any lore that we care about here.  

The city of Anor Londo
The city of Anor Londo, via Nintendo Blast

But a problem arose and was taking away the Lords’ sovereign: the First Flame, that same fire which created and still fuels the Lord’s Souls, is fading. Seeing how the flame is connected to their Souls, that means that their power would fade as well. 

It is in that moment that the Witch of Izalith did the mistake of trying to replicate the first flame. The experiment failed completely, and the result was a warped version of her expectation: she created the Bed of Chaos, an entity which will be responsible for giving birth to all the demons of the world.  

Maybe the First Flame must fade for another age, the Age of Dark, to start. 

The Curse of Undeath

But Gwyn did not want to hear any of it. He came up with a solution, later called the First Sin, that consisted of rekindling the flame with the help of a powerful soul: his own.  
Rekindling the flame will result in an endless loop, where others after he will be bound to do the same to keep the age going. 

But who would go after him? He had plans for that too: humans. 

The more the fire faded, the stronger the humans became. Gwyn inflicted humanity with the curse of undeath and its mark, the Darksign, which bound their lives to the Flame. 

A dead body and a woman praying for him
As the Flame fades, the curse spreads

This curse prevented humans from dying, hence the name, but came with a bitter cost: each death experienced would make humans hollow, which is another way of saying that they lose slowly their soul, up until becoming soulless and completely crazy. 

To prevent it, the first Flame must be kept alive, and to kindle the Flame a human must possess a soul as strong as a Lord’s Soul.  
And there is no better way to fortify a soul if not by acquiring other souls to merge with one’s… by the good old art of killing. 

This is when your character, human inflicted by the undead curse, wakes up in a cell and will get to know a prophecy that talks about the Chosen Undead and his pilgrimage to Lordran, the land of the Lords.   

It is now up to you to choose: will you link your soul to the Flame and keep the Age of Fire alive, or will you instead lead Lordran into an Age of Dark? 

Good luck, and git gud. 

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