The new Elden Ring story trailer that premiered during The Game Awards was clearly designed to trigger a few debates about the game’s lore, but the biggest question that the trailer raises has to be “What, exactly, is the Elden Ring?”
Ever since Elden Ring’s teaser trailer debuted in 2019, many fans have been working under the assumption that the Elden Ring is…well…a physical ring. It seemed to be the most logical explanation available at the time, and the idea of a magical ring as a McGuffin has certainly been featured in a few famous pieces of fantasy fiction.
However, the latest Elden Ring trailer already has some fans theorizing that the Elden Ring isn’t a trinket at all.
The trailer above starts with a narrator explaining that something called the “Rune of Death” was stolen and that Godwyn the Golden was seemingly murdered shortly after. That dialog almost makes it sound like the Rune of Death is what prevented Demigods like Godwyn from dying, but we’ll return to that idea in a bit.
The narrator then explains that the death of Godwyn caused Queen Marika to be “driven to the brink.” We then see someone take off their crown and set it upon a throne. At that point, the narrator tells us that “The Shattering ensued; a war that wrought only darkness” and that “the Elden Ring was broken, but by whom? And why?”
It’s easy enough to assume that Queen Marika is the one laying the crown down and that the war the narrator references was caused by both the death of Godwyn and the shattering of a physical item known as the Elden Ring. However, the shot below suggests a slightly different interpretation of those events:
Not only are those empty chairs arranged in a way that could certainly be described as a “ring,” but that image appears just as the narrator talks about the Elden Ring being broken. It is possible that is actually the ring that they are referring to?
If that is the case, then maybe the Elden Ring is actually a term used to describe the council of Demigods who presided over The Lands Between and were “shattered” following the theft of the Rune of Death (which perhaps prevented the Demigods from dying/being able to kill each other) and the murder of Godwyn. What if those events caused the members of the “Elden Ring” to wage war against each other?
While that’s an interesting theory that could shed a little light on elements of this game’s backstory, there are a couple of things we already know about Elden Ring‘s plot that strongly suggest that the ring is, in fact, a physical item.
First off, Elden Ring‘s 2019 teaser trailer not only prominently features a figure wielding a hammer who is either forging or destroying the Elden Ring, but the moment the narrator describes the Elden Ring being shattered is followed by a vision of what appears to be a large golden ring falling to pieces (which you can see at about the 1:15 mark in the video below).
The idea that the Elden Ring is a physical item is also supported by the fact that both the game’s official plot summary and creator Hidetaka Miyazaki reference the idea that the Elden Ring has not only been shattered but has been broken into “shards.” While “shattered” could be used to describe a group breaking up, the idea that the members of that group would then be described as “shards” is a bit tougher to justify.
In fact, the official Elden Ring prologue notes that “Marika’s offspring, demigods all, claimed the shards of the Elden Ring known as the Great Runes, and the mad taint of their newfound strength triggered a war: The Shattering.” Not only does that wording support the theory that the Elden Ring is an item, but it also refers to the shards of the ring as the “Great Runes.” Could it be that the ring was broken before Godwyn’s death and that the Rune of Death was actually one of the shards of the Elden Ring? If so, it’s likely that whoever broke the ring took that shard for themselves and killed Godwyn.
Finally, much of the game’s plot seemingly revolves around discovering who shattered the Elden Ring. If the Elden Ring simply refers to a council that was broken by certain events, there probably wouldn’t be a mystery about who “shattered” the ring (unless you want to suggest that we’re actually looking for whoever stole the Rune of Death and killed Godwyn, which really requires you to buy into the idea that the “Runes” are kind of their own thing).
For now, though, I’d say that most of the official information that has been shared about the game’s plot tends to suggest that the Elden Ring is an actual ring that was broken into shards by a mysterious individual at some point.
While elements of the ring’s origins and possible powers remain a mystery, it is worth noting that the Elden Ring prologue states that the player will be “guided by grace to brandish the power of the Elden Ring” and that the Elden Ring is the “the source of the Erdtree” (which is a kind of “World Tree” that some fans believe connects The Lands Between to the entities known as The Greater Will and the blessings they provide). That makes it sound like the person who controls the ring essentially controls the favor of the gods and the fate of The Lands Between. Presumably, Godwyn the Golden, Queen Marika, and their offspring shared that power prior to The Shattering.
Of course, if you have any additional theories about what the Elden Ring is, be sure to share them in the comments below.