Elden Ring: What Shadow of the Erdtree’s Strange New Story Trailer Means

Here's what we think the latest trailer For Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is really all about.

Elden Ring Trailer
Photo: Bandai Namco

Watching the latest trailer for Elden Ring‘s Shadow of the Erdtree DLC will likely make you feel like Homer Simpson watching Twin Peaks. It’s beautiful, it’s brilliant, but, if you’re being honest with yourself, you probably have no idea what is going on. Well, join the club.

While there are aspects of that trailer that are seemingly meant to remain unanswerable for the time being, there are other elements of the preview that are slightly easier to speculate about. At the very least, we can give you a little context about what this trailer is (besides incredibly well-made).

Essentially, the latest Shadow of the Erdtree is a set-up for the story of Miquella: the legendary and mysterious figure in Elden Ring lore that we’ve discussed in great detail before. The trailer’s opening narration describes Miquella as “Miquella the kind” which is one of the many times we’ve heard Miquella described in a largely positive light. Granted, there have also been suggestions that Miquella can manipulate people into loving him, so take all that praise with a grain of salt. This is a FromSoftware game after all.

What we see in the beginning of the trailer appears to be Queen Marika using a rune to create…something. Given the red shading of the environment Marika is in, she is possibly standing somewhere in what is often referred to as The Crucible (the birthplace of known primordial life). Considering that the Erdtree was essentially born of the Crucible, we may be witnessing its “planting” during this sequence. At the very least, we know that the Erdtree’s roots run through the Realm of Shadow where Shadow of the Erdtree takes place.

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The line “an affair from which gold arose and so to was shadow born” is the biggest hint towards what may be happening here. When Marika used the Rune of Death to create the Golden Order and become an immortal, she committed an act of defiance against Destined Death that led to much conflict and Marika’s eventual rise to power in The Lands Between. We also know that Queen Marika has a “shadow” known as Maliketh who players battle in Elden Ring. That information would seem to suggest that we’re witnessing the birth of the Golden Order and the battles of Maliketh against the Godskin Apostles who fought for Destined Death.

However, the next part of the trailer hints at a slightly different meaning. Perhaps “shadow born” refers to the “creation” of the Realm of Shadow. That would certainly help explain the prominent presence of Messmer the Impaler (a figure we know inhabits the Realm of Shadow) who we see waging a war that is referred to as “one that could never be put to song” and a “purge without grace or honor.”

Here’s where you have to submit to best guesses and theories. It’s possible that the war the trailer references was a battle between Messmer and The Golden Order that Marika essentially had stricken from the record when she moved to The Lands Between and closed the door between those worlds. However, the theory I subscribe to suggests that Messmer is an operative of Marika who waged war against the largely helpless Realm of Shadow after Marika left in order to purge that land of its inhabitants, rule over it, and eventually guard it against those who would seek to use the power Marika once claimed. In other words, the beginning of the trailer is the “birth” of Elden Ring and the section that follows is the previously unspoken account of how the full history of Marika’s ascension was buried by Messmer’s war. At least that’s the theory.

That brings us to Miquella. Some speculate that’s actually Miquella at the beginning of the trailer trying to use a rune from the Realm of Shadow to ascend to godhood and free himself and his sister Malenia from their curses. It’s a fascinating theory I won’t entirely count out yet. However, I believe that we first see Miquella at around the 2:08 mark when Miquella travels to the Realm of Shadow after being kidnapped by Mohg. We know that Miquella had to sacrifice their flesh to escape Mohg, which explains the line about Miquella abandoning “his golden flesh, his blinding strength, and even his fate” to reach the Realm of Shadow. The popular theory at the moment is that Miquella not only traveled there to escape but because he believes there is something in that realm that will allow him to ascend to godhood.

The rest of the trailer is slightly easier to unpack. We already know Shadow of the Erdtree will see players follow Miquella’s footsteps into the Realm of Shadow. The shot of the Tarnished we see near the end of the trailer is either a kind of meta reference to the Elden Ring players who will follow Miquella in the DLC or a shot of Miquella’s in-universe followers all pursuing him to that land. Whether that section is a sneaky piece of lore, a clever bit of marketing, or a little of both remains to be seen. In either case, it seemingly leads us to the opening moments of the upcoming DLC.

This trailer largely shows us what we already knew or suspected about Shadow of the Erdtree. Miquella has escaped to the Realm of Shadow and players will follow him while encountering Messmer the Impaler who rules over that realm. The section of this new trailer that occurs before those events seemingly tells the story of Marika’s ascension and Messmer’s own eventual rise to power in the Realm of Shadow. Whether there is more to those opening events than that (and if Miquella is the noble figure they’ve been presented as thus far) will likely remain unanswerable questions until Shadow of the Erdtree is released on June 21 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows PC.

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