Shadow Of The Erdtree Turns Elden Ring’s Greatest Hero Into A Monster


Warning: This article contains spoilers for the story of Shadow of the Erdtree, so if you haven’t finished the expansion or at least made it to the final boss, you might want to do so before reading on.

When it comes to the story told in Elden Ring, Shadow of the Erdtree is a bombshell. It focuses on one major character who wasn’t actually included in the base game–Miquella, one of the demigod children of the goddess Queen Marika–but whose presence cast a long shadow on events. Of all the demigods, Miquella seemed like the most virtuous, and the most tragic.

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Your path through the game repeatedly brings you into close proximity to Miquella’s story and actions, even though he’s not present, and you learn about the ways he apparently tried to help the people of the Lands Between and bucked the control of the Golden Order. Miquella seemed like the one person who could really have helped a world in chaos, but by the time you show up, others have already sealed his fate.

Turns out, all of that was wrong. Miquella might have had good intentions, but in Shadow of the Erdtree, we learn he was responsible for a whole lot of truly horrific things that happened in the Lands Between. By the end of the DLC story, it’s clear that Miquella was just as bad as the other demigods, and in some cases, maybe worse.

Miquella’s Story So Far

Much like in Shadow of the Erdtree, we spend a lot of time following in Miquella’s footsteps through the original story of Elden Ring. Where the other demigods seemed to consolidate power, warring with each other in hopes of becoming Elden Lord (although even that idea is a lot more complicated now), Miquella looked for a replacement for Queen Marika’s rule and government, the laws and religion known as the Golden Order.

We know Miquella spent a lot of time trying to find a way to heal his sister, Malenia, who was born with the disease known as the Scarlet Rot. That affliction is actually the influence of one of Elden Ring’s supernatural cosmic entities, the Outer Gods, and trying to heal Malenia eventually seems to have pushed Miquella to reject the influences of all the Outer Gods. That includes the Greater Will, the entity responsible for the Elden Ring and Marika’s status as a goddess. Miquella appears to have rejected the Golden Order in favor of something he called “Unalloyed Gold,” and he even fashioned the Unalloyed Gold Needle item to counter the influence of Outer Gods. Despite his best efforts, he seemingly was never able to find a way to really help Malenia.

Scarlet Rot is slowly destroying Malenia, and Miquella sought to heal her.
Scarlet Rot is slowly destroying Malenia, and Miquella sought to heal her.

As he looked for a new way forward for the Lands Between, Miquella tried to create a replacement for the Erdtree, called the Haligtree. You can visit this location, which is full of people loyal to Miquella and seems to have been fashioned as a haven for people who the Golden Order had oppressed, like the Albinaurics, a people who were said to have been created by the sorcerers of Raya Lucaria. Ultimately, though, the Haligtree began to wither. When you find your way there, you discover its roots are also afflicted with Scarlet Rot. Miquella had embedded himself in the tree, maybe in an attempt to save it, but when you show up, he’s already gone. Miquella didn’t leave the Haligtree, however–he was taken.

When we finally track Miquella down, it’s in Mohgwyn Palace, the home of Mohg, another demigod. Mohg is the brother of Morgott and Godwyn, the original children of Marika and her first Elden Lord, Godfrey. Both Morgott and Mohg are Omen, one of those people afflicted by horns growing all over their bodies, and because of that, both children were banished to the sewers beneath the capital city of Leyndell. There, Mohg discovered another Outer God to worship–the Formless Mother. He embraced his “cursed blood” and hoped to create a new dynasty to reshape the Lands Between, elevating himself to Elden Lord and consort, with Miquella serving as the lands’ new god.

To make that happen, Mohg abducted Miquella from the Haligtree, but for whatever reason, the plan never worked. When we find Miquella in the palace after defeating Mohg, his body is encased in a cocoon, one lifeless and blackened arm hanging out. It appears that Miquella was Mohg’s victim, and that whatever good he had hoped to bring to the Lands Between has been destroyed.

And then we start up Shadow of the Erdtree, and everything we thought we knew is changed.

Miquella The Kind

Mohg appeared to kidnap Miquella for his own ends.
Mohg appeared to kidnap Miquella for his own ends.

Standing in front of Miquella’s body in Mohgwyn Palace is where Shadows of the Erdtree begins. There, you find Needle Knight Leda, a follower of Miquella’s, who tells you that his body is actually a gateway to another realm called the Shadow Lands, and that Miquella has abandoned his physical body to travel there. You use his body to follow, and when you arrive, you meet several other warriors making the same journey. Like Leda, they’ve come from all over the Lands Between, compelled by a feeling of loyalty to Miquella. He helped each of them in different ways, and they’re hoping to find and serve him.

The story of the DLC has you following in Miquella’s footsteps, ostensibly as he executes his plan to become a god so that he can replace the Golden Order. That seems to require him to cast off all the elements of his human life–everything that might hold him back. Sometimes, that means pieces of his literal, physical body, so that he can become a kind of luminous spirit. Sometimes, it’s elements of his personality and his emotions.

Already, though, there are some strange questions arising. How did Miquella get here if he was abducted by Mohg and seemingly used in some sort of blood-worshiping dynasty-making ritual? It seems awfully convenient Miquella would have wound up in this place he seemingly wanted to be by mistake or coincidence.

Interacting with the various characters you meet who are also tracking Miquella starts to provide clues. They’re all exceedingly loyal to Miquella, despite the fact they previously served other demigod lords, including Radahn and even Mohg himself. In the Lands Between, you could uncover lore that discussed Miquella’s singular power: He had the ability to compel people to love him. He seemed to have virtuous intentions, sure, but the game is explicit about the fact that Miquella is also capable of a kind of magical mind control.

A number of knights head to the Shadow Lands out of loyalty to Miquella, but they soon found they were compelled by his magical power.A number of knights head to the Shadow Lands out of loyalty to Miquella, but they soon found they were compelled by his magical power.
A number of knights head to the Shadow Lands out of loyalty to Miquella, but they soon found they were compelled by his magical power.

Advancing through the Shadow Lands, you eventually get a point when you literally hear something break. This is the moment when Miquella discards his Great Rune, the piece of the Elden Ring he took after Marika shattered it. Talking to the other characters after Miquella abandons this power reveals that a spell over them has also been broken–they were all, in fact, magically compelled in their loyalty to Miquella. It starts a deadly chain of events, as each of the characters starts to go their own way and pursue their own goals, causing them to come into conflict with one another.

If you track down Sir Ansbach, one of Miquella’s knights who previously served Mohg, you start to learn a lot more about Miquella and his power. The spell breaking causes Ansbach to see Miquella as monstrous, using his “love” to completely overtake people’s wills. That starts Ansbach speculating about what happened to Mohg, and if you bring him the right item found within Messmer’s Shadow Keep, you can help him uncover the truth.

Miquella The Tyrant

Finding a particular scroll and bringing it to Ansbach starts to uncover what really happened between Mohg and Miquella. Ansbach explains that what Mohg did was actually Miquella’s bidding–to get to the Shadow Lands, Miquella needed Mohg to conduct a ritual, and that sure makes it sound like Miquella used his power to compel Mohg’s love in order to get him to do what he wanted.

What’s more, Ansbach also notes that after Mohg is killed by the player, someone stole his remains and brought them to Miquella.

If you keep following Ansbach’s storyline, you eventually uncover another secret rite that Miquella means to perform. Its results are made clear when you reach the final boss. Miquella needed Mohg’s body because the ritual for becoming a god requires the soul of a lord, and that soul requires a vessel. As Ansbach notes if you bring him into the final boss fight, Miquella used Mohg’s body as that vessel–for the soul of Radahn, once the mightiest warrior of the demigods. In the final boss fight, you battle the resurrected Radahn, brought back to life to be Miquella’s consort and help him attain godhood.

After the spell breaks, Sir Ansbach throws himself into figuring out what Miquella is really up to.After the spell breaks, Sir Ansbach throws himself into figuring out what Miquella is really up to.
After the spell breaks, Sir Ansbach throws himself into figuring out what Miquella is really up to.

This revelation changes a lot about our understanding of the story of Elden Ring. For one, Mohg didn’t kidnap Miquella, he was apparently used to fulfill a role in Miquella’s plan. What’s more, it seems that role was meant to include Mohg’s death, as well.

Finding Radahn resurrected by Miquella in the DLC also calls into question Miquella’s relationship with Radahn. After you defeat the final boss, you can see a short cutscene in which Miquella asks Radahn to be his consort, presumably long before the Shattering War that turned the demigods against each other. That suggests this has been Miquella’s plan for quite some time.

But if Miquella asked Radahn to be his consort in the past, before the shattering of the Elden Ring, then that raises another big question: Why did Radahn and Malenia square off in the largest and most devastating battle of the Shattering War? The battle implies that Radahn didn’t submit to Miquella’s request and had to be forced–Malenia went to Caelid to kill him, to stop him resisting becoming Miquella’s consort.

Instead, they fought to a standstill, until Malenia succumbed to the Scarlet Rot. The resulting bloom spread the pestilence throughout Caelid like a weapon of mass destruction, and while Radahn didn’t die, the infection invaded his brain and he lost his mind. Miquella’s actions doomed his brother and desired consort to torment, until the player finally showed up and managed to kill him, and that allowed Miquella to continue his plan.

The battle between Radahn and Malenia destroyed Caelid.The battle between Radahn and Malenia destroyed Caelid.
The battle between Radahn and Malenia destroyed Caelid.

And if Miquella was willing to do that to Radahn and Mohg, you can’t help but wonder about Malenia, too. Did she choose to help Miquella and try to kill Radahn, or did Miquella use his abilities to compel her? Is that why we find Malenia sitting at the base of the Haligtree, despondent and forlorn–because she’s wracked by guilt? Is it because she knows she was used as a tool by Miquella to do something terrible?

If Radahn manages to grab you during the final battle, Miquella will show you that power in action. First, he’ll whisper about the compassionate order he wishes to bring into being; the second time, he’ll compel you to join him, literally stealing your heart. It’s a demonstration of what Miquella is truly about. He might want to make the world a better place, but he’s going to do so by becoming a dictator. He’s willing to use people he claims to care about to bring about his goals and is perfectly willing to steal their free will to do so. And he’ll sacrifice them, the way he did to Radahn, Malenia, and even his alter ego, St. Trina, if that’s what it takes.

This new information also completely recontextualizes our understanding of the Shattering War. Before, it seemed like the demigods warred with each other in petty squabbles over personal power. Now, we know the truth: When Malenia faced Radahn, it was to murder him for Miquella’s benefit. What might have happened in the Lands Between if the two fiercest warriors hadn’t fought one another, destroying Caelid in the process? Could there have been peace and stability rather than endless war and destruction?

Through the movements of its story, Shadow of the Erdtree completely changes Miquella’s character, from someone heroic and virtuous, to someone monstrous and calculating. Even if Miquella really does have the best of intentions, he’s willing to ruin anyone and anything to enact them. Miquella’s vision of the future is one of a benevolent dictator, ruling over an enslaved Lands Between full of people who are forced to love him. For all Miquella’s talk of bringing more compassion into the world, what we learn in the DLC is that, for whatever good he did, Miquella was willing to use a lot of evil to achieve it.



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