Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree: Who Is Messmer?

The first trailer for Elden Ring's Shadow of the Erdtree expansion has left fans everywhere asking "Who is Messmer?"

Shadow of the Erdtree
Photo: Bandai Namco

While the trailer for Elden Ring’s Shadow of the Erdtree DLC has fans buzzing for many reasons, that preview was clearly designed to leave us with at least as many questions as answers. Yet, few of those questions feel more pressing than the one many fans are asking at the moment: “Who is Messmer?”

First off, Messmer (aka Messmer the Impaler) is the gangly character with a red cloak that we see throughout the Shadow of the Erdtree trailer. Perhaps more importantly, he’s also the character featured in the Shadow of the Erdtree promotional art that you see above. 

We know that’s Messmer in that art because Elden Ring creator Hidetaka Miyazaki confirmed that information in an interview with IGN. More importantly, Miyazaki had this to say regarding the significance of that promotional art and what it reveals about Messmer’s role in the game:

“And you may have seen at the end of the trailer, there was this piece of key art where it shows Messmer sat in this throne-like chair, and people who’ve played the game may recognize this throne to be one of those from the boss room where you battle Morgott. And this represents the thrones at the base of the Erdtree. And it’s supposed to symbolize that Messmer stands on equal footing to these other demigods and children of Marika who sat around in these thrones and held the rooms of the Erdtree. So he is an important figure who rivals these other demigods. And as you play the DLC, you will learn a little about why he wasn’t featured in the legends of the Erdtree, the lands between. You’ll realize why he exists in this shadow, this land of shadow.”

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The Elden Ring website expands upon Messmer’s role in the game in this official description of the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC:

“The Land of Shadow. A place obscured by the Erdtree. Where the goddess Marika first set foot. A land purged in an unsung battle. Set ablaze by Messmer’s flame. It was to this land that Miquella departed. Divesting himself of his flesh, his strength, his lineage. Of all things Golden. And now Miquella awaits the return of his promised Lord.”

The reference to Miquella in that description makes the Messmer mystery that much more intriguing. See, Miquella is the twin brother of Malenia (a.k.a. the hardest boss in Elden Ring). They are also Empyreans: beings with the capability of becoming Gods. The other notable Empyreans in Elden Ring are Ranni, The Gloam-Eyed Queen, and Miquella and Malenia’s mother, Queen Marika.

For quite some time, Miquella’s greatest desire was to cure his sister Malenia of her Scarlet Rot. Though Miquella seemingly never succeeded in doing so, we see remnants of his failed (or partially failed) attempts throughout Elden Ring. For that matter, we seemingly see a bit of Miquella in the base Elden Ring game. Remember that arm that Mohg, Lord of Blood speaks to before you fight him? That’s Miquella’s arm trapped in a cocoon that presumably contains the rest of him. Interestingly, Miyazaki recently revealed that players will travel to the Shadow of the Erdtree‘s Land of Shadow area via the Mohg boss fight arena where that cocoon rests.

Perhaps more importantly, Miyazaki revealed that Miquella has already traveled to the Land of Shadow and that players are essentially following in his footsteps. While Miyazaki stops short of revealing what Miquella intends to achieve there, he crucially mentions it is related to the reasons that Queen Marika traveled there years ago. 

It’s around this point that we need to start veering into speculation. If we assume that Malenia is canonically dead (she was technically an optional boss), then perhaps Miquella is no longer driven to cure his sister. That would mean that he may be attempting to complete one of his other major goals: curing himself of the curse of eternal youth that he is seemingly still plagued by. 

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That description from the Elden Ring website suggests that Miquella’s trip to this world robbed him of “his flesh, his strength, his lineage.” If that is the case, then Miquella seems to be looking for a way to restore himself, remove the curse in the process, and complete his ascension into Godhood. Indeed, in a separate interview, Miyazaki mentions (via translation) that the Land of Shadow is where Marika first became a god.

That brings us back to Messmer. If the Land of Shadow is where Marika formerly achieved Godhood (and Marika’s offspring and Empyrean companions previously sought to achieve Godhood in Elden Ring), then perhaps Messmer was left to guard the Land of Shadow or otherwise conquered it around the time of Marika’s ascension. At the very least, we know that Miquella desires to travel to this land and re-trace Marika’s footsteps, presumably to utilize the power that Marika once discovered.

Messmer appears to be either the guardian of those steps or perhaps just a prominent being that exists alongside them. Given that Messmer mentions “mother” (presumably a reference to Marika) and his disdain that one “bereft of light” (the player, we think) was granted “Lordship sanction,” I’d sooner guess that Messmer is still serving Marika’s interests in some way. If pressed for more specifics, I’d guess that Marika had her son (Messmer) purge the Land of Shadow to ensure that its power could not be utilized by another (at least not so easily).

Yet, Messmer’s status as a pure villain remains questionable. After all, FromSoftware games often force players to face morally ambiguous antagonists who at least do not see themselves as evil but stand in opposition to your existence, survival, or goals.

So, while Messmer and Miquella appear to be in direct opposition to each other and players are following Miquella’s path, it’s worth noting that Miquella may not be so innocent himself. The Shadow of the Erdtree trailer strongly hints at Miquella’s previously suspected ability to manipulate “the hearts of man” and even mentions that “nothing is more terrifying.” Could the player be acting as a pawn of Miquella throughout this expansion? Is Messmer in direct opposition to us, or is he trying to prevent Miquella’s rise to power? In any case, those two seem to be directly linked, and we seem to be caught up in their struggle.

So while theories abound regarding Messmer’s true identity (some believe he is actually Miquella while others argue he is related to Rykard, Lord of Blasphemy due to their shared appearances), we do know a few things with reasonable certainty. Messmer is a major figure in the Land of Shadow who has a prior relationship with Marika (who achieved Godhood in that realm). The player follows Miquella to the Land of Shadow, and Messmer appears to stand in the way of Miquella’s goal in that land. That means that Messmer will likely be one of Shadow of the Erdtree’s final bosses and greatest challenges. 

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Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to learn more as Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is scheduled to be released on June 21 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows PC.