Here's another citation, a conversation about hollows between myself, Knight_of_Mirrah and Skarekrow13
"The Rotted Greenwood is a great, hollow, animated tree. This means it's at least like the Bed of Chaos.
The Bed of Chaos is a living tree that's hollow and contains a demon.
It is of course related to fire.
Swamps and blight tend to be related to pyromancers.
Pyromancers live in swamps, pyromancy produces poison spells (hexes do that too, but w/e)
The Rotted Greenwood attacks by dropping poisonous fruit.
This certainly resembles the strange growths in the Farron swamp, though those don't drop.
The Great Hollow is found in Blighttown, in the swamp of the heretical pyromancers.
All kinds of "Great" trees or roots can be found in the Demon Ruins and Lost Izalith.
Warmth, gained from the Mound Makers is a pyromancy.
Hedrick wears "Sunset" armor.
One one hand this could refer to the night or the eclipse.
On the other hand this could refer the "the Sun traveling through the underworld" = night.
This is an important myth in Aztec mythology and Egyptian mythology.
It creates the image of "fire" in the "underworld" of the "dead".
If not for the purpose of making pyres, the mounds could form a seedbed for Greatwoods.
Knight_of_Mirrah wrote:While we're all giving our take on the mound makers, I may as well give my own opinion."I believe the Shackles of the Gods refer to the curse of the undead."
The important thing to remember is that they're referred to as Mad Phantoms. Hodrick himself says something to the effect of "If you feel your sanity slipping, etch this on your heart." He repeatedly talks about hollows and madness, and I think this is what the whole covenant is about. I believe the Shackles of the Gods refer to the curse of the undead. Aldia refers to the curse as such a few times through SOTFS. Throughout Dark Souls 2, we're told that the only way to stop hollowing is to claim the throne and link the fire. In this sense, we're shackled because we're a slave to the desires of the Gods. Either link the fire or lose your mind. It seems the Mound Makers believe, probably more out of desperation than anything else, that the shackles they claim can somehow stave off hollowing. This, to me, explains why Mad Phantoms can attack literally anyone. Lucatiel tells us, as the curse begins to consume her mind, that if she could save herself by killing you, she would, and what do you get from Pickle-Pee for a Vertebra Shackle? Lucatiel's mask. Why they believe this, I'm not sure. Could have something to do with them being crazy.
I'm not 100% sure on this, but it suits my head canon just fine as I see enough evidence to support it.
I can offer some enlightenment here."Ahh…
If you wish, I shall grant the art of Lifedrain,
the legendary power of the Dark Lord.
It can preserve your humanity while Undead,
and cast off the shackles placed upon your brethren." - Darkstalker Kaathe
It's more straightforward than you think.
Lifedrain will completely drain the victim of "Souls".
Without Souls there is nothing to hold back the wild humanity within.
The victim will become ravenous, unshackled, this is in a sense a liberation.
You say that they claim shackles to stave off madness, but this is not the case.
They actually worship "Hollowness", with each shackle their "family" grows because there are then more Hollows.
Perhaps they just want to be insane, kind of like Navlaan in his alter ego.
Perhaps, like the Curse-Rotted Greenwood they want to be "incubators" for something big and dark.
While that does hold up, to a degree, there are a few problems with it. You have made me alter my idea slightly though.
Firstly, Kaathe is a very unreliable source. Not only that, he's opposed to the linking of the flame. For him to cast off the shackles placed upon the undead would be simply to stop them from being forced to do just that. I don't think anyone would really consider a hollow free in any sense.
Secondly, the language used by Hodrick doesn't sound favourable towards the idea of shattering the shackles. Quite the opposite. First, he warns us that the shackles are fragile. Then he tells us that should we feel our sanity slipping, we could join the mound makers. He offers us the use of the Pit of Hollows to pile up our victims "for that will form your anchor" The vertebra shackle is just that. Another shackle to either bind us to the Gods, or this new family we're creating.
I don't think Hodrick believes this will work forever, or maybe he doesn't believe it will work at all, because he does say that someday we'll all be mad, and goes on to say that when that day comes the victims will be your family. Perhaps it's really just about comfort when that day comes. The description of Warmth, a Mound Maker pyromancy states "They feared separation from the Gods, and sought a familial bond, perhaps leading to the creation of this flame of harmony."
Again, to go back to the example of Lucatiel, she feared the loss of herself. It could be about just not being alone in madness. The Mound Makers seem to be a covenant that's terrified of whatever they believe awaits them.
I can elaborate.
Kaathe is indeed not a reliable source. "Cast off the shackles placed upon your brethren." is so vague it's deceptive.
On the one hand it means "liberation" which is positive, on the other hand it means "hollowing" which is negative.
This is a form of freedom. King Allant claimed his subjects were better off dead than living, better mad than sane."Surely you have seen for yourself… the pain and suffering that fills this world! But fight poison with poison. God is merciful, and so, created the Old One. The Old One will feed upon our souls, and put an end to our tragic realm of existence!""I have had enough of this rotten world.""You fool. Don't you understand? No one wishes to go on…"
This state of being may be related to "moksha", being liberated from a sense of self.
Moksha may also mean embracing Śūnyatā (emptiness).
Coming back to the Mound Makers' Shackles and hollowing: Wolnir also sought shackles.
Wolnir is a hostile skeleton covered in dark aura, he may be already hollow, so why the shackles?
The hollows don't fear going hollow, they fear The Abyss.
The Abyss contains a darkness much deeper than that of one's personal humanity.
They feared this darkness, so they sought anchors, so they could remain hollow in this world
This is similar to psychopaths trying to deal with the fact that they're going to hell.
skarekrow13 wrote:If we're using "shackle" to mean "connection to a preferred existence" then I think we can apply it to most everyone in the game. I'd agree Wolnir sought shackles to prevent the Abyss from taking him, but he sought it in a different way than the mound makers. He sought it through religion. Yes, he tried to force the answer out of religion by what appears to be stealing relics. But his path took him toward that direction, which is reflected in his use of miracles (at least with his sword).
Lucatiel sought a shackle to her existence via her brother. She feared the loss of self, and hoped the family connection would be her anchor.
Gwyn sought a shackle in the flames, so that the world he helped to shape could remain anchored.
Every covenant seeks a different token to promote their connection and anchor themselves similarly.
These are some excellent points and show very deep analysis. I reply mainly to add that a term defined more broadly will always add more possibilities to it's interpretation and use. So I do agree in principle that Wolnir sought shackles of a kind and even went down a similar path to the Mound Makers, but so do most NPCs and characters in the game. The theme is a consistent "The world is collapsing around us" and survivors will find some connection they'd like to retain or "shackle" themselves to.
I think it's important to weigh specific behaviors in context which is why I brought up the various meanings of "mound" earlier. When using general terms and motivations, it again seems true that Wolnir and Mound Makers do share a common theme (create mounds).
But examining specific behaviors shows contradictory paths. To reiterate, all of the Mound Makers are forming a collective pile in one location, with no barriers between their collection. They are trying to make all beings connected into one. The Old Mound Maker even sacrificed himself on the pile to be closer to his "family." Wolnir is doing the exact opposite. Firstly, there's no reason to think in the first place that he created mounds himself. It would appear more likely he just set up shop in a burial place. So he's "around mounds" not necessarily creating them. Second, he is not attempting to make a deeper connection with his victims and calling them "family." He is characterized as a conqueror and seemingly portrayed as very self centered. He didn't just conquer other lands. He took the symbols of the other kings (crowns) and ground them into dust.
Ideologically, Wolnir appears to be systematically attempting to erase other kingdoms and proclaim himself as "The One High Lord." He seeks a path toward ascending only himself above all others. And when the Abyss came, his motivation went from ambition to terror. Seeking anything that would keep him anchored to his present condition.
The Mound Makers on the other hand believe they are bringing the world closer together and see everyone as equals. Even...especially actually...their victims. This is why killing an ally is not seen as "sinful" or "wrong." Being added to the pile brings us closer to each other. Rather than fear a change in their present condition, they actually seek a change. Where Wolnir wanted to avoid the Abyss as his motivation, Mound Makers seek their Gods with their actions. Again going back to the Old Mound Maker, he sacrificed himself to the pile and even offered a gift for his family. A gift that will help the person finding it ALSO sacrifice themselves if they desire.
That certainly adds a human touch to it.
Consider tough, in Berserk it is stated that the evil dead are attracted to warmth.
A mound could serve as an anchor to a group if it was magically endowed.
Should these mounds be pyres, then they could be Bonfires.
Bonfires do indeed shackle the undead to them.
Be warned, the truth may not contain much in the sense of "warmth".