Note: This is the Editing Blog for my FFVII fanfiction Northern Lights (which you can find at the end of that link). I will be discussing a myriad of topics along with my frequently tangential and harried editing process. You should be able to garner some enjoyment and insight from this without having read the story and/or without prior knowledge of the original game, but if you’re a fan of paranormal romance and/or dark fantasy, you may find it to your liking. The story will be spoiled in this editing examination, though I will do my best to mark spoilers for any other narratives I mention. Thanks for your interest and enjoy!
Future Narcissist here. This is not so much an editing post as it is me talking about ASOIAF, the videos I found about it, and how it’s symbolically similar to FFVII. If you have no interest in this
feel free to skip this entry; however there’s some pretty interesting stuff contained within for ASOIAF/GOT lovers who’d like a little more depth with their Westeros.
Alright, back to the past.
Welcome old friends and newcomers!
Well, this was going to be the place where I started Chapter 2, but…I watched more of James Johnson and his mother LaDonna’s videos today and wow, just wow, do I have a lot to say. I mentioned above that I’ve been watching ASOIAF theory videos. Well below is the latest one I saw.
I have been yearning for intelligent, insightful, metaphorical conversation with literary references and symbolism and holy shit did I hit the jackpot. They are fucking phenomenal I highly, highly, highly, recommend you check out their channel on YouTube (linked above) if and only if you’ve read all five books and are interested in in depth discourse and discussion. I will say that while watching, I made numerous insights and connections with FFVII and realized that ASOIAF and it are symbolically similar. I always felt there was something about ASOIAF that spoke to me in a similar way. Surface stuff like the number seven and the killing off of a popular main character, but in my heart of hearts I knew there was more.
“It all goes back and,” Tyrion thought, “to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance in our steads.”
I use this as the quote for Chapter 16, which is appropriate for an installment called “Dutiful Daughter,” but this statement is tantamount in ASOIAF. Who is holding the puppet strings? This same question is at the crux of FFVII, as well, along with several other Final Fantasies.
With VII we know that Sephiroth is controlling Cloud, but there is a very compelling argument (what do you want from me? I’m a narcissist! Of course I’m going to link to any compelling arguments I, myself, have made) that I and many others accept as fact that Jenova is controlling Sephiroth. Final Fantasy has a precedent and an antecent (yes, a word I made up as an antonym for “precedent.” I studied English; I’m allowed) for this. In FFIV Kain is being manipulated/controlled by Golbez who is being controlled by Zemus. In FFVIII Seifer is being controlled by Edea who is in turn being controlled by Adele/Ultimecia or Adele or Ultimecia was controlling the other. FFVIII was convoluted in both that and time. In FFIX we have Garland controlling Kuja after losing control of Zidane, but Garland himself is being controlled by the people of Terra. In IX we see the first instance where the master manipulator is not doing so for nefarious purposes. Nefarious…funny I use that word as I first saw it in FFVI, which you’ve noticed I haven’t yet mentioned. This is because there is no layer to the manipulation in VI. Is it the simplest story of them all (in terms of manipulation at least). Kefka is controlling Terra by means of a slave crown. There is no question or argument about that. With VII we can argue. With VIII we can, too. With IV it’s straightforward, but Kain is a tortured and troubled character who believes he was able to be controlled because of his unrequited/unresolved love for Rosa and jealousy of Cecil.
In Northern Lights Sephiroth later tells Aeris that part of him wanted to believe Jenova’s promises, because part of him thought he was better. He “let the dark in,” and once inside it feasted on his soul. In the game he is robbed of his free will. That gift was twisted for an alien desire by the false mother. He lost his free will and free will is the main point of the video posted above. Free will with Paradise Lost as the guide. James and LaDonna purport this is what Martin is trying to convey.
Continuing with similar symbolism is the idea of in media res, which translates to “in the midst of things.” ASOIAF starts in this way along with every Final Fantasy I’ve played. It’s all about memory, the past, the future, and how it all repeats. I say again and again the best stories are about memory, but what is memory but our record of the past and how it will shape the future? A Game of Thrones starts 17 years after Robert’s Rebellion, but we are only spoon fed information from King Robert himself whom we find out is both jaded and drunken. The other side of the story is revealed in drips and drops and paints quite a different picture of events, but the point is Tyrion is right. It all goes back and back. What we do in the past ripples through time, another point I made much later in NL.
Another similarity is the usurper and the dispossessed. After Sephiroth’s “fall,” he is so vehemently angry that the humans who live here now stole the Planet from the ones before, the Cetra, of whom he believes he’s one of because he believes Jenova is one. This is an outright lie just as Jenova being his mother is a lie. All of his actions after the incident are based on lies, which just makes the story sadder. “But for the want of a true mother’s name how many lives would’ve been saved?” is what Aeris says later in NL, and though it’s a cliché, it’s accurate that the truth can and will set you free.
“The truth will transform you…” That’s why I used this as the hook and start of the blurb.
The usurper and the dispossessed also runs rampant throughout ASOIAF. The concept made Viserys bitter to the point of insanity. Because he believed his due was stolen from him. He was willing to sell his sister to what he believed were little more than barbarians. In essence he isn’t incorrect; he was robbed of his birthright when Robert rebelled and killed his older brother, the Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.
Going back to Paradise Lost brings me to the main question of Northern Lights. It is a redemption story, and a tale of forgiveness. Can the fallen ever come back into God’s good graces? Can anyone be redeemed so long as they ask? In PL that is one of Lucifer’s options, and just to restate what was said in James and LaDonna’s video; Lucifer means Light Bringer. In NL Aeris comments on Sephiroth’s glowing Mako eyes often saying that “he bears his own light,” and since Seph is already considered Luciferian in the original story, this only serves to remind him in rue. PL as explained in the video is the choice between submitting to God’s will and living forever or having free will and dying. The dilemma of valar dohaeris “all men must serve,” or valar morghulis “all men must die.” Do you serve in heaven, have no free will, but eternal paradise; or do you live on earth with free will but must suffer the consequences and die? This (as purported by the video) is considered the main question of ASOIAF. “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven,” or “Give me liberty or give me death,” as a tamer and more secular phrase.
Lucifer was an angel, the most beautiful and best.
This is how Sephiroth parallels him in the original story. Sephiroth was for all purposes created in a lab through the combination of eugenics and alien DNA. He was the best of all of their creations, and he rebelled against his creators all due to the lies they told and, well like Lucifer, envy. Lucifer wanted what God had, and after he found out God created man, his envy only grew.
This is not the only deadly sin Seph was guilty of nor is it the only parallel to Paradise Lost. If FFVII parallels Milton’s epic poem, then NL has to as well. Just as I can’t avoiding speaking about social (in)justice (which occurs in Chapter 9) because FFVII makes such a blatant statement about it, I can’t ignore the Paradise Lost implications and not wind them in.
- After the fall/contemplating sins while chained/seeking redemption. All of this occurs in Chapter 1. Sephiroth is not n forced bondage by any outside sources. He could break those chains easily, which he does once Aeris is in trouble. He is allowing himself to be bound and tortured because he believes he deserves it.
- Can the fallen come back into God’s good graces? There’s a quote in Chapter 4 about “gods’ grace” in Aeris’s church.
- In Chapter 7 Aeris notices that Sephiroth doesn’t even want to look up at the sky for trepidation of what it once and what it might contain again. He doesn’t want to witness “paradise lost” or the horror it’s been replaced with.
- The Seven Deadly Sins Subverted
- Envy – still exists in a similar way; however he envies humans’ normalcy in Chapter 8 and reflects on how he thought he was better, but now knows the truth. He wishes to be normal and not a “monster.”
- Pride – gone. He has none left. Pride led him to the fall. In Chapter 5 when he presents it to the Follower, Aeris sees through the mask. Sorrow is now his due
- .Lust – still exists but he feels unworthy of even the thought. This is present throughout but culminates in Chapter 19. He does not act on his lust until she recognizes it. It is purified by love and reciprocated.
- Greed/Gluttony – an interesting point is Seph rarely eats. The pain of hunger was forced from him long ago. He doesn’t need to and therefore has no reason to be greedy or glutinous.
- Wrath – changed. Now his ire is turned to those who seek to hurt Aeris, so it’s still there. A hound cannot change his spots, but he can perceive them differently.
- Sloth – he chases the futile hope of finding his true mother. Goes to Midgar to vanquish the false. Literally carries Aeris away. He’s no longer sitting (possibly dead) in a cave extending his consciousness/manipulation, which is really the false mother’s, out. He is a man of action in NL and never really still. Anxious in a way, vigilant. He has to do something and serve something, which is why he needs Aeris so. He tells her he’d “be nothing” without her love and forgiveness, which he sees as one and the same, and it’s true. Without that he’d still be the fallen. It’s her disbelief in that idea that makes it not so.
Sephiroth believed he was dispossessed, that humans had what he deserved, this world. The rebel character is often lauded in literature. How many stories do we know that have a rag-tag group of adventurers conspiring against the current order? I wasn’t fond of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn saga, but it presents that trope in the “we’re rebelling against god” sense. Stories such as Star Wars (I am NOT putting a link to that. If you’re reading this blog, you damn well should know about Star Wars) have the “fight against the establishment” idea to the point of being legendary, and it just trickles down. Rebelling against a perceived unfair order is the meat of human narratives. Lucifer and his expy Sephiroth do just that, but in far more momentous proportions. During Northern Lights, which takes place a hundred years later, Sephiroth is ruled only by regret, because he was made only to kill, but Aeris believes that just because you’re created for a purpose, it doesn’t mean that’s the only purpose you can ever serve. Even during this fanfiction, the Lucifer parallel holds, because the original fallen angel wasn’t (arguably) created to be God’s Accuser if free will exists.
Therein lies a huge argument I have. If free will exists how then can God be omnipotent? Unless he can see all possible futures with all possible exercises of free will and he knew that the devil was going to revolt for being an angel, he shouldn’t have had that free will unless it was given to him. Ah, it’s all twisted and corkscrewed, isn’t it? From both of these narratives we must take that even angels have free will, but Seph’s will was overtaken by the “false mother,” the “new god,” the eldtritch abomination. I think Galdalf said it best:
“Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day.”
And I take inspiration for this later to speak of “the things that gnaw at the heart of the world.” *shivers* I don’t like to think of them, but going back to Seph, the question comes on whether or not he really did have free will. It appears on the surface that he used that will to rebel against his creators and the world itself, but in all reality, his will was just usurped by a “nameless thing” (even though it has a name). And okay then…I just read the entry for Jenova on the FFVII wiki and I’m pretty fucking terrified right now. It reminds me a bit of Mother Brain from the Metroid series and that thing kept me awake and horrified for days. Nameless things indeed… Random, but there was totally an episode of Doctor Who that had something similar, something that had been around as long as earth itself. That spider chick that 10 totally drowned. Okay, I needed that. The doctor will always save us. The point I was going for in this whole abomination mess was that in Northern Lights Sephiroth finds his free will. He chooses to be bound in chains (another Paradise Lost reference) until he finds a reason to break them: Aeris.
I just have to say after that last paragraph, after reading about Jenova anyone who doesn’t believe that FFVII is the darkest Final Fantasy (or pretty damn close) is blind to what darkness truly is.
The next symbolic similarity is the Oedipus Complex and incest. FFVII is obviously riding the Oedipus Complex line with the Sephiroth/Jenova connection. There is a definitely obsession with the mother and an implied disturbing sexual factor. FFVII is filled with rape metaphors, so this is not a far-fetched extrapolation. In Paradise Lost Sin springs from Lucifer’s head, essentially his daughter and the result of free will. Free will will inevitably lead to sin ,which is what this action states. Sin and Lucifer mate and produce Death who proceeds to rape his mother, which creates all of the demons. The rape of the mother, the rape of Lucrecia was mentioned yesterday as one of two people in FFVII who were metaphorically raped. I failed to mention the Planet itself, which is also being raped for power. Rape is a crime of power and in all instances we see it being metaphorically used for such. So we have three mother paradigms: Lucrecia, Aeris (who is daughter and mother both. Her alternative name Aerith is an anagram of “I Earth”), and the Planet. In ASOIAF incest runs rampant starting with the Targaryens and continuing in the Lannisters. This was to keep the bloodlines pure. When Aerys was looking for a bride for his son Rhaegar and Tywin offered up Cersei, the king brutally refused him stating that he wouldn’t marry his son to his servant’s daughter. I believe there was a statement about the dragon not lying with the lower beasts of the field, but Aerys was not above rape as he did later on with his sister-wife Rhaella and possibly to Johanna Lannister. There is a theory that Tyrion is a Targaryen and not Tywin’s son at all. It was well known that Aerys the Mad King lusted after Johanna, Tywin’s beloved wife, and the theory goes that he did eventually have his way with her and got her pregnant with Tyrion. Other theories suggest that Jaime and Cersei are also byproducts of Aerys’s lust (can I just say how amused I am that I’m using both Aeris and Aerys in the same document), but this is highly speculative.
Now we go to the weirwood trees and the Tree of Life/Knowledge. In ASOIAF a greenseer can view the entire world, can watch, can be a watcher (the watchers on the wall…) through the weirwoods. They can gain knowledge of all that is going on. In the books we are presented with a limited third person perspective. We know only what that character knows and see only what they see. Now if there was a character that could access all of the weirwood trees, then we may finally have a truly omniscient chapter at last as suggested in the video. This paradigm of course creates a great deal of dramatic irony as we the readers know certain things that characters do not.
Such is the case in FFVII with Sephiroth and his true mother. It’s revealed to the player who she is, but he never knows…he never knows. This was of course the impetus for me to write Northern Lights, because it bothers me, really bothers me when characters don’t know this truth. ASOIAF itself does the same damn thing with Jon Snow. Jon not knowing his mother’s name irritates me to no end. The name of the mother is so important, so in NL when Sephiroth finds out the truth, he is absolutely floored. He believed the false truth about Jenova and so in this life afterwards he thinks he’s a monster, a piece of the abomination from which he was made. When Aeris tells him otherwise, he can barely comprehend it. He still thinks he’s a monster because the cells he bears within him will never die, but he has a new quest to find the grave of this poor woman who was forced to give him birth and beg her for forgiveness.
Going back to free will a bit, per Paradise Lost God says something along the lines of, “Don’t seek the truth. I’ll give you all the truth you need.” You can see how well that worked out for Seph in the story of FFVII and, well, for Jon Snow in ASOIAF, although the latter’s fate is far less ominous. *spoiler* (if you don’t consider getting stabbed in the back multiple times ominous…) *end spoiler* Jon still accepts that Ned isn’t lying to him. Why would he and why would Jon not believe him? To Jon his “father” is an honorable man with no reason to lie, but it is this very honor that makes the lie more solid than the truth. Now Ned is not nefarious and purports the falsehood for very good reasons, while in FFVII, the concealment of the truth just seems cruel. Unless it was meant to manipulate for some reason or (as stated prior) Lucrecia wasn’t even considered a person or entity, merely a vessel to produce what they wanted. That makes the feminist in me want to vomit, but FFVII is nothing if not complex and involved, and a feminist review of it is something I want to accomplish one day. Seph seeks the truth about himself, exercising free will, but it is in this journey that his free will is twisted by the false mother (total random side note, but the Other Mother in Coraline was a great inspiration for that). He looks for the truth, but only finds lies masquerading as such, but he falls for the masquerade. He becomes a fallen angel who persists even after defeat. In PL Lucifer is vanquished, but not destroyed. He’s always there. Waiting and watching. It’s not about winning; it’s about the climb. It’s about climbing the Tree of Life in order to get to God. Lucifer always comes back.
To compare this to Advent for Advent Children, the word comes from the Latin adventus, which literally means “coming.” Granted this is in direct opposition to what it’s supposed to be, but Sephiroth is the antichrist, so the advent is the coming of darkness, and darkness is always rising. There is no mistake that Sephiroth’s name is what it is from the Tree of Life/Qabalah, a name that means “emanation” or, as could be stated,“God’s light.” The light you carry, the light you bring…
It’s all about the past and the best stories are about memory.
Alright…I do have more, but I’m going to leave them for another day because I want to start the edit of Chapter 2. I really hope you were able to follow my certainly often incoherent babbling. I did take notes and tried to be cohesive, but a lot of this is stream of consciousness so it may just flow from one thought to the other with little or limited segue.
Until next time dearest friends, I bid you best wishes and fair fortunes.