Reclaiming The Throne
Final Fantasy XV and The Way of Men
III. Luna and Femininity
The story of Final Fantasy XV is fundamentally a tale of masculinity. As such, it is replete with male characters, masculine archetypes and heroic endeavors, at its core concerned with motifs of identity, strife and culture. But nevertheless, a convincing story about masculinity can hardly be told without also portraying it in the light of its complementary counterpart – femininity. The incandescent ideal of the feminine has motivated men to pursue strength, dominance and perfection throughout the ages, as attested by numerous great myths like the Iliad, the Odyssey or the Nibelungenlied. To attain a holistic understanding of masculine identity, it is of vital importance to also contrast it to its natural match and thus identify its limitations. For man is certainly no solitary, self-contained creature, but exists in close relation with women and the natural world, in whose light he must inevitably be judged. At this point, we digress from the writings of Jack Donovan, who is primarily concerned with an intra-masculine definition of manliness, as we take a closer look at the most important female character in Final Fantasy XV: Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, fiancée to Noctis and Oracle of the Gods.
Light and Dark
As with most characters in this game, Luna’s name is already an obvious indicator of her archetypal role within the narrative. Conjoining the ancient names “Luna” and “Freya”, it marks her as the embodiment of femininity in its most integral form: The young woman gets her moniker from the Latin name of the moon and the Roman goddess associated with it. Since times immemorial, the feminine has been connected to the lunar forces in myth and symbolism, as the moon’s transformations have inspired man to understand and internalize the cyclical nature of life, death and rebirth, which is inextricably linked to the reproductive capability of women. The moon has also come to symbolize the darker aspect of femininity: the night, keeper of secrets and mystery, the arcane and magical, prenatal existence, dreams and the subconscious. In contrast to this, the second part of Luna’s full name refers to the Norse goddess Freya, who embodies the “diurnal” characteristics of femininity, namely fertility, beauty and love. Thus uniting the celestial and telluric aspects of female nature, Lunafreya is portrayed both as a gentle, radiant maiden as well as a deep and sapient character, whose central role to the development of the heroic protagonist can not be disregarded.
The dualism of solar and lunar forces is commonly used to portray the complementary relationship between the masculine and the feminine, with the sun being equated with male power, intellect and nobility. Final Fantasy XV makes frequent use of this celestial symbolism by aesthetically juxtaposing Luna and Noctis while constantly playing with the symbols of light and dark, keeping their relationship fluent and ambivalent: Noctis is the designated “King of Light” and an embodiment of the solar hero, but the prince’s name literally means “of the Night” and his character design features black as its prime color. Luna, on the other hand, is by her name associated with the nocturnal, but stands as the epitome of a fair northern beauty and functions as the “light within darkness” for as long as Noctis is not yet ready to emerge from the ambiguity of adolescence and ascend his relucent throne. Both characters mirror each other in every possible aspect without standing in contradiction or opposition to one another. Instead, their mutual dependence makes them necessary parts of a greater whole. The male and female archetypes are not exclusively separated here, but rather intertwined and communicating, each supporting and complementing the other while still retaining their distinctive identity. Invoking the traditional Eastern symbol of Yin and Yang in this context may prove a fitting analogy.
Heaven and Earth
While the masculine is traditionally linked to the sphere of culture, as men have “drawn the perimeter” and established the dominion of their tribe since time immemorial, the feminine is universally associated with nature – gentle force of birth, growth and nurture but also a chthonic cradle of mystery and death. Women have therefore been considered closer to the primal forces of nature and Chaos, which form the basis of divinity. It is therefore not surprising to see the main female character in Final Fantasy XV also fulfilling the role of mediator between man and the gods in her function as Oracle. The pantheon of the game’s fictional world consists of six major gods and goddesses, the “Astrals”, who are actually recurring characters throughout the Final Fantasy franchise. Each of them is based on a god or creature of mythic lore and governs a natural element (Titan/Earth, Ramuh/Lightning, Leviathan/Water, Shiva/Ice, Ifrit/Fire, Bahamut/Steel). It is the sacred duty of the Oracle’s bloodline, whose latest and youngest inheritor is Luna, to act as a pillar of spiritual stability for the populace of Eos, easy their existential suffering and commune with the gods, for which she is ardently revered by the people of the world. Her character thus clearly harkens back to the figure of the sibyl, the “seeing woman” and priestess who appears in many forms throughout the traditional folklore of Europe, examples being the Pythia of Delphi or the Norse Völva.
Aside from her caritative duties to the people of the world, the Oracle’s contribution is also crucial to the prophesied ascendance of the Chosen King. A great part of Final Fantasy XV’s story is dedicated to Noctis’ quest to enlist the Astrals’ aid in his campaign to reclaim the Lucian throne. Initially, this proves a near indomitable task for the inexperienced and immature prince, since he isn’t capable of understanding the voices of the gods, let alone interpret their arcane demands and challenges. To succeed in this Herculean effort, he is therefore utterly dependent on Luna’s intervention. In the end, it is the Oracle’s unflinching trust and support for the future king that manages to sway the hearts of the divine beings, who eventually agree to lend their powers to Noctis, if he might prove his strength to them. Only through the aid and guidance of his betrothed Luna, who awakens the Astrals and lays out a path for him, is Noctis able to confront the deities and claim their loyalty.
This relationship between the Oracle and the King of Light paints a vivid picture of the existential interdependence between the masculine and the feminine: Man’s relationship to nature is primarily one of confrontation and struggle, with untamed nature representing the chaos that he must subdue and conquer in order to ensure the survival of himself and his tribe. He therefore considers himself largely separated from the forces of nature, which appear to him as menacing challenges to be overcome or as tools to be employed. But without a balancing force to harness and channel this destructive masculine energy and mediate between the combatants, men are prone to either fall to crippling Nihilism, due to a lack of transcendent value, or get tangled up in their own creations until they devolve into totalitarian edifices. To be able to create, protect and rejuvenate enduring frameworks of human society – culture, law and hierarchy – man is thus in need of a genuine link to nature and the divine, which is provided by the feminine. It is only through the female embodiment of Mother Nature, who gives life to all men and their descendants, that a man can truly be connected to the natural cycles of life and death and thus establish his place within the eternal recurrence of the cosmos.
Love and Sorrow
The archetypal characters that incarnate these life-giving qualities of women in relationship to men are that of the Mother and the Wife (who appears as an aspect of the Jungian Anima). While Lunafreya is neither the biological mother of Noctis, nor is she destined to join him in wedlock and bear his children, both of these archetypes are clearly intertwined in her character. It is certainly curious that Noctis’ mother is never mentioned throughout the whole game and only briefly alluded to once in the anime Brotherhood. Having been raised in a predominately masculine environment, encircled by the walls of culture, the prince is somewhat lacking his primal tie to the forces of nature, which only further emboldens the importance of Luna’s character in the narrative. Despite being Noctis’ childhood friend and wife-to-be, she clearly fulfills an additional motherly role for the young man by guiding him through the hardships of his travels and eventually using the last of her life’s energy to protect and strengthen the prince in his fight against Leviathan. It is also no coincidence that Luna is made out to be a full four years older than Noctis, which makes her the most mature of the prince’s close friends. While it is rather unusual for a young woman to marry an even younger man, the maiden furthermore exemplifies the ideal of a virtuous wife by showing unwavering loyalty, trust and support for her betrothed. The anticipated wedding of the Oracle and the future king is the initial reference point in the story and it is with their eventual meeting in the city of Altissia, precipitating the battle with Leviathan and Luna’s sacrifice, that the story reaches its dramatic climax within the classical five act structure.
The whole episode surrounding the confrontation with the Hydrean shines with an impressive cinematic presentation and is suffused with evocative symbolism. Its most interesting facet is, in my eyes, the allegoric quality of Luna handing over the Ring of the Lucii to Noctis during the epilogue of the battle. She had been holding onto the royal insignia for him ever since her escape from the fallen city of Insomnia, keeping it safe from the grasp of Niflheim. Following the prince’s triumph over Leviathan, we are presented with a sorrowful, dreamlike vision of Luna bidding farewell to Noctis and passing on the sacred heirloom of his ancestors to him as her consciousness slowly descends into the depths. Hidden in this imagery is a curious inversion of the traditional marriage ceremony and the symbolism of the wedding ring: Where the man would customarily present the woman with a ring symbolizing their union and thus win her as his spouse, the symbols are precisely inverted in this scene – the man receives a ring from the woman and looses her in the process. The anticipated unification of the masculine and the feminine is cut short by tragedy and the man is left in solitude, bereft of the the ideal which had driven and supported him up till now. But he has gained something from this loss, a treasure so to speak, which harbors a tremendous power and mystery. The deep meaning conveyed through this allegory can only be approximated by taking into account the dual nature of Luna’s character (Mother and Anima).
Death and Rebirth
Overall, the events surrounding Luna’s death attest to Noctis’ enduring immaturity and impotence at this point in the narrative. The prince has not yet shed his adolescent dependence nor fully embraced his destined role and the responsibility that comes with it. The departure of his beloved thus becomes an essential turning point in Noctis’ character development, which mirrors the process of male individuation: In order to become an adult man, the boy first has to let go of his attachements to the feminine and become independent of its nurture and protection (the Mother). Only by seizing control of his identity and shaping it in accordance with the masculine aspect of his culture can a young man assert himself as a valuable member of his tribe (the Ring of the Lucii). Only then will he be ready to reunite with nature of his own accord and achieve true harmony with the feminine, so that a new life may be born from their union (the Wife/Anima).
The initial detachment from the mother’s care can proof an existential crisis for the youth and a considerable amount of men never actually manage to develop a healthy independence of the motherly aspect of femininity. But “by all means, a man should manage to be a man” (C. G. Jung) and establish his identity beyond the murky and unconscious embrace of the maternal womb. It is therefore not unreasonable to illustrate this challenge as the Hero’s battle with the Dragon of Chaos, which is exactly what Noctis’ struggle against Leviathan represents. Not only has the dragon been recognized as a possible manifestation of the Mother archetype, but the element of water is also traditionally associated with Chaos, the unconscious, death and (re-)birth, due to it’s formless and opaque nature (note that Leviathan is explicitly portrayed as a female deity in Final Fantasy XV, akin to the primordial sea-dragon-goddess Tiamat). Through his eventual victory over the serpentine deity, Noctis is forcefully divorced from the sheltering influence of the Mother and is thus “reborn” as an autonomous man. This inevitable loss of security entails sorrow and confusion, bit it also provides the potential for growth and a heightened individual consciousness.
While the violent separation of the masculine and the feminine marks the climax of Final Fantasy XV’s story, their peaceful reunion constitutes the consummating final moment of the game. It is the transcendent reward for the Hero’s enduring struggle towards maturity and virtuousness. By embracing the duty towards his culture, family and friends, confronting and overcoming his Shadow (the antagonist Ardyn) and ultimately sacrificing personal comfort for the greater good, Noctis has finally earned the right to sit upon the throne of Lucis with his wife Luna at this side. At this point, she is no longer the protective motherly spirit sheltering a vulnerable child, but sits beside her husband devotedly, placidly resting her head on his throne, leaning on his strength and firmness. After the credits have rolled, it is revealed that this final picture is actually represented in the game’s logo artwork, which is now completed with a depiction of the king besides his resting wife. Encompassed in this image is the main aesthetic theme of the game: the eternal interplay of light and dark, a harmony of opposites, materializing transcendent unity in diversity. Not only does Final Fantasy XV explore The Way of Men in an intra-masculine sense, but it also excels in contrasting masculinity and femininity as indispensable polar forces of human nature that can only truly prosper by complementing and supporting each other.