Last updated on August 7th, 2015
While she’s not the first thing on our minds when we think of the gods in Anor Londo, Crossbreed Priscilla stands out as a uniquely powerful individual in the Dark Souls pantheon. According to her scythe, even the gods feared her life hunt ability. On top of that, Priscilla is the only known cross between a human and a dragon. As intriguing as her story is on the surface, there’s not much in-game material to go on as far as backstory. So let’s see if we can tie the story surrounding the Painting Guardians and pull in information from other sources to get a more complete picture.
The painting guardians are located in Anor Londo, though at first glance it appears one may have died in the Painted World. More on that later. The guardians protect the great painting of Ariamis, but they’ve forgotten why they guard it. Let’s check the description of their hood:
Hood worn by the alabaster-clothed guardians of the paintings in Anor Londo. Offers substantial protection against magic. They have guarded the Great Painting of Ariamis for ages, passing their duty down through generations, but the reason for doing so passed from all memory long ago.
An interesting note is that the reason they guard the great painting passed from all memory. The obvious meaning is that the guardians don’t know why they guard the painting, but is there a deeper implication? Have even the gods forgotten why the painting must be guarded?
Let’s talk about what their clothing is made of. The description specifically says that the painting guardians are clothed in alabaster. This is weird, because alabaster is a mineral. It’s not cloth; it’s solid. So saying someone or something is clothed in it raises a red flag. Barring translation issues, it seems the developers are telling us to pay attention.
In the real world, alabaster is primarily used to make decorations like statues. It was also rarely used in thin layers to make windows. It’s very fragile. And, it was made with gypsum. Remember that. Gypsum.
It’s fairly obvious that there are connections between the Lord’s Blades, like Ciarin, and the painting guardians. They fight with the same style and wear similar outfits. Quite a long time passes between the time we see Ciarin in the past to the time we see the painting guardians in the present, so many differences can be explained by the passage of time. Let’s focus on one particular similarity: Ciarin’s headgear, the porcelain mask.
Mask of the Lord’s Blade Ciarin, one of Gwyn’s Four Knights. The Cyclops headpiece is common to all of the Lord’s Blades, but Ciarin was determined to earn this soft porcelain mask as a unique decoration of honor. The mask is lined with ivory locks of hair.
So it’s porcelain and has one eye like the painting guardian hood. That’s great, but what’s the significance? Well for one thing, it’s described as softporcelain. This was put into the item description very deliberately. The word soft is unnecessary; the sentence would have made perfect sense without it. Furthermore, most of the porcelain we encounter is rigid, not soft. So soft porcelain stands out. Again, the developers are inviting us to pay attention and dig deeper.
Porcelain was originally made in China — which is why it’s also called China. When Europeans tried to create it themselves, for a while they couldn’t figure it out. But they kept trying until one day a painter decided to use ground-up bones in the mixture. This resulted in a slightly inferior product that was not as hard as the original. This is the origin story of “bone china.” If you’ve been following Dark Souls lore, you’ll know that this is not the first reference to ground-up bones in Dark Souls.
I told you to remember alabaster before. Well as it turns out, besides bones, another ingredient in bone china is alabaster. Gypsum is an ingredient in alabaster. So it seems this order — Ciarin, the painting guardians and probably all the Lord’s Blades — wore some form or derivative of gypsum specifically on their faces.
Where are we going with this gypsum connection? Who cares? If you’re a mythology buff like the Miyazaki, you may already know where I’m going.
In Greek mythology, Zeus was king of the gods. The connections between Zeus and Gwyn are pretty obvious, so I won’t bother. But according to Greek mythology, before the Greek gods presided over the world the primeval beings known as Titans ruled. The Titans were cruel and fundamentally evil, and were overthrown by Zeus and his followers in the aptly-named War of the Titans. Ever since they were overthrown, the Titans coveted the throne of Zeus.
At some point, according to one particular myth, Zeus momentarily stepped down from his reign and allowed the child Dionysus to take his place. So the Titans disguised themselves by covering their faces in gypsum, distracted Dionysus with toys, and killed him.
Rhea was able to preserve the heart of Dionysus in a doll. From this doll, a new Dionysus was made. Dionysus is the youngest god, the only full-fledged deity to have a non-deific parent, and in some stories dressed like a girl during his childhood.
We know that Miyazaki was inspired by Western myths. He’s mentioned in interviews that he read stories in English as a child but was unable to understand everything, so he would fill in the blanks using his imagination. This seems like a prime example of a myth Miyazaki read but didn’t fully get. It’s possible he read the first part of the story where Dionysus was attacked by Titans who disguised themselves with gypsum or alabaster. Then he read the end of the story that concludes with Dionysus apparently unharmed. Miyazaki might have failed to understand what transpired in the middle part of the myth and assumed the god had fled or escaped, remembering that a doll was involved.
I think we can say with relative safety that Priscilla is the Dionysus of Dark Souls. If you agree, you can help me by recommending this article; if not, let me know on Twitter!
Thanks for reading! \o/