Final Fantasy X: Mythology Paper
So…way back in my senior year of high school I wrote a paper for Mythology on Final Fantasy X. I remember writing it fondly…and here it is again, unedited from it’s original state. Enjoy.
Be wary…it’s a wall of text. 11 pages baby!
Can a Fake Culture Become Real?
Video games are just like stories. They mirror real life, and often create vast cultures within the realm of the game. Just like each country has a way of life, so do the characters in each video game. To give the characters a culture creates greater depth, and a story the players can associate with. However, video games are fake. They are dreamed up in realms of fantasy, and could never happen in the real world, right? Just like George Orwell’s 1984 could never happen. That’s just ludicrous…or is it? George Orwell wrote that story to warn it’s readers to beware of their government…and in Final Fantasy X, it could easily be seen as a warning to be wary of religion as well. Not only do that, but practices shown in Final Fantasy X do happen around the world. The culture within the game has many of the values shown throughout other cultures, and, as within a great story, the game culture is suppose to mirror real cultures so gamers can empathize with the main characters. Just take it one step further, and have some random individual start mirror the practices in the game, and then have other join in those practices…and boom! A new culture is born. Not saying that this would happen for real, but the fact that it might is still relevant because the culture within Final Fantasy mirrors other cultures, and also touches on the value that, within most cultures, humans should be bettering themselves in the eyes of a greater being.
Spira is the world within Final Fantasy X. It has one big land mass, with smaller Islands spattered around the main island. Within this world, there are deserts, swamps, snowy mountains, and vast plains. Just like our world, this world has many different climates. However, in our world, only different types of people live all around the worlds in the different climates and cultures. In Spira, there are different types of creatures. The basic type of creature found in this world is humans. They look just like us, and live in the milder climates (except for one group of humans). The humans can be divided into two main cultures: Al Bhed and those who follow the teachings of Yevon. Al Bhed do not follow Yevon (Yevon is basically “God” to those who follow it) because they do not agree with the church system. They use machina (will be discussed later), and have a different language from the other humans. They are found on Bikanel Island to the west, which is the harsh climate because it is a desert. Here, they have a stronghold called “Home”. Other than that, all humans can be placed under the teachings of Yevon. However, they can be separated into two subgroups: the Crusaders, and Yevonites. Crusaders are those who do believe in Yevon, but have gone against the teachings in order to fight Sin (will be talked about later). They are often made up of the younger generation. Yevonites have not gone against the teachings, and they often mock the Crusaders (actually, their name might not be Yevonites, but for lack of a better word, it fits fine). Guado live in Guadosalam, and look like humans. However, they are not humans. The face structure is different, and they usually have longer hair. The whole aura about them is different. They too follow the teachings of Yevon. Hypello look like an overgrown blue frog. They are agile swimmers, and handle the Shoopuf (a large creature that looks a bit like a mutated elephant). They do not seem to follow the teachings of Yevon, and not much is known about them. Then, there are the Ronso. They live on Mt. Gagazet (they are snowy mountains), and look like human lions. They are often blue in color, and have a horn that is a symbol of their pride. If that horn is broken, it is considered to be a dishonor. They do not seem to distinctly follow the teaching of Yevon, but they can. In conclusion, Spira is set like our world with different cultures and different mindsets. However, all of the Spira cultures deal with Yevon in some way, and the Yevon culture is the culture under discussion, so it is only fair to include the others. Yevon is like Christianity of Judaism. It is a religion forced to be reckoned with.
Transportation in Spira can happen six ways: walking, machina, boats/ships, airships, Shoopuf, and Chocobos (No cars or planes like our culture, their world is more rural then ours is). Walking is self explanatory, and is often when people do in the world. Machina is only used by the Al Bhed, and the Crusaders. Machina is forbidden by Yevon, which is why, w hen the Crusaders use it; they are going against the teachings. Boats and Ships cross the waters and travel between the smaller islands. All races but Hypellos use ships. Airships are the closest thing to a plane. They are run by machina, and Al Bhed use these as well. It flies through the air, and is often huge in size. Shoopuf is the transportation that Hypellos use to cross the water, and they use the Shoopuf like a horse and carriage. The Hypello steers the Shoopuf, and all other races can ride in the carriage on the back of the Shoopuf to get across the water. Chocobos are overgrown, yellow chickens basically. They are used on the plains, and through highroads (a long stretch of road between cities). They are breed by Chocobo breeders, and are used by all races except the Hypello (they just like to be different). Most of these modes of transportation are approved by Yevon (except for the Machina and Airships for a reason that will be covered when Sin is talked about). Yevonites (now used in a general term to refer to all those who follow Yevon, no matter what race) are supposed to be better off without using machina, because they are repenting to past sins. Now, Chocobos and Shoopufs are not alive in our world, but they are like horseback riding, or when we ride a camel or elephant. Airplanes are like airships, and machina are the closest thing to cars. So, in a way, they modes of transportation mirror each other.
Any major religion has temples, and Yevon is no different. Within six of the cities, there is a temple placed there. Then there are also three hidden temples, but they are not the main temples. The temples are watched over by monks, and often have statures of past Summoners. Summoners are like prophets. They are the only hope to fight sin, and they often have to go on a journey to the six main temples (not the hidden ones). Yuna, one of the main characters in the game, is a Summoner, and this journey through the temples is called the Summoners Pilgrimage/Journey (much like the Hero’s journey). In each temple, there is a Cloister of trials (basically a huge puzzle) that Yuna and her Guardians must solve before they can get to the cavern of the Fayth (A separate room after the cloister of trials where the Fayth reside). Guardians are friends that Yuna trusts to protect her on her journey. Fayth are souls Yevon took from still living, willing individuals. Fayth can be found on Mt. Gagazet, because the waterfall there is a holy place for them where most of them reside. Other Fayth are encased in stone within the temples, and they, when the Summoner makes it to the cavern of the Fayth (her guardians must wait outside the door for her) and prays for a way to defeat sin, take the form of an Aeon the Summoner cal call. An Aeon is a mythical being (often taken from stories of mythology from our world) that can come to aid the Summoner in fights. They take the form of Valefor, Shiva (Indian myths), Ixion (within Greek myths), and Bahamut (a great dragon in myths). Yunalesca and her husband are the sixth aeon…unfortunately, Yuna never acquires her. However, that is another story to be learned from playing the game, and has little to do with the actual culture of the land. The hidden aeons in the hidden temples are Yojimbo and Daigoro, Anima, and the Magus Sisters (three sisters that work together to fight). However, most summoners only go after the main six aeons. After a Summoner (which can be any race, but usually Hypellos, Al Bhed, Crusaders, and Ronso do not become summoners) gains an aeon in a temple, they and her guardians then move onto the next temple. If she acquires all aeons and defeats sin, that Summoner then gains the title High Summoner, and will be honored within the temples for their job well done. It is a difficult task though, and only if the Fayth deem the Summoner worthy of them can it be completed. Temples are also used for the folks to come to pray to. They often pray for victory, or for better lives. Like real temples in our world (Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, etc.), people go to pray and reflect on life, and also to ask for repentance. To better themselves, they go to the temples. Monks in each temple (or with other cultures, priests and such) bless them, and can answer questions. Also, they also pray for the Summoners safe journey, so that Spira can be safe again. All the praying in the temple is done for a better tomorrow.
Other rituals include a gesture that Yevonites use when praising Yevon. They say: “Praise be to Yevon” while holding their arms out to their sides. Then they bring the arms to their chest, and act as if they are holding a sphere. Then they bow, and that is the gesture. There is also singing of “The Hymn of the Faith”. These gestures are as common to those in Spira as making cross signs and singing hymns in our world. Each culture in our world has music to go with it, and each has its own gestures of praise and happiness. While doing these gestures and rituals, it is done in praise for a good game. Also, it can be done to be able to become more spiritual, and to also appease and repent. When Yevonites do their rituals, they do it for the same reason as Jewish people do, which is a lot of different reasons: to pray for victory, good health, repentance, and much more.
Sin has been mentioned many times before; it’s about time to talk about it. Sin is a huge monster. It destroys towns that are getting to technologically advanced (machina is a technological advancement, which is why it is forbidden because it will attract sin). Yevon used to be a real person, and years and years ago, Yevon used to live in a place called Zanarkand (which was full of Machina). Bevelle did not like the machina, so the Machina war was started. Yevon himself created Sin (and, ironically, it destroyed Zanarkand since it was programmed to destroy technologically advanced cities because Zanarkand could not stop Bevelle in the war because Bevelle had more powerful weapons), and it destroyed the cities. In order to bring hope to people, Bevelle (after hearing of teachings from Yunalesca (who later became an unsent and turned her husband into the final aeon)) implemented the current religion system in hopes to free Spira of its “Sin” someday in the future. Yevon was to be praised and glorified. The Hymn of the Fayth used to be a song Zanarkand used to sing in protest of Bevelle, but Bevelle switched it around, saying it was a gift from Yevon to sooth souls. Other ironies are found as well. Yunalesca was the first High Summoner to defeat sin (her husband had to become the final aeon…and afterwards, because of her want to keep the Final Summoning open to future Summoners kept her on the planet as an unsent (which is basically a ghost). However, Yevon wouldn’t be stopped. He would possess the Final Aeon once his “Sin” form was destroyed, and as the Final Aeon, would kill the summoner, and then start the process of becoming “Sin” again over. This period between Yevon’s defeat and his re-entrance as “Sin” is called the Calm. During the calm, everything is peaceful. Then Sin comes again, and a new Summoner follows in the path of Yunalesca. Spira is symbolical for a Spiral of death and destruction. The Summoner always gets killed, the Final Aeon gets possessed (The final aeon is always someone close to the summoner who willingly gets turned into the final aeon), and Sin returns (In the game, the cycle is broken by the main characters and the Eternal Calm happens, but that’s a different story). There is some controversy over whether it is worth the Summoner dying, and Yuna herself (a summoner) says that the Calm is worth it. The time that people can rest easy and relax for once is worth it. Each Summoner knows their fate, so it is not like they don’t know they are going to die. They do know, and that is why they are highly thought of and are honored after their death. The Summoners are like Jesus going to the cross (just not as many times). They are like the prophets in our world. Sin is like the Devil (or some other evil gods and goddesses). In myths all over our world, there are creatures like the hydra and such (which, can just be different forms of Sin) that heroes go and fight (like summoners and their guardians do), and such. However, the irony truly relies on the name Sin. Sin, according to the teachings Yunalesca gave Bevelle in hopes to appease Yevon) can only be truly defeated with Spira attaining purity and atoning for their past sins in dealing with machina and such. Sin was an act of revenge on Yevon’s part, but Bevelle turned it into a creature that was purposely punishing the world for its sins, and could only be destroyed by the good in people. It is ploys to have people better themselves so that Sin can be gone forever, but, unfortunately, the public is deeply blinded since that is not what is going on. However, that is the culture, and there is a happy ending in the game because of Yuna and her guardians (like stated before, they did achieve the Eternal calm, where Sin is dead).
Life after death is Spira is a bit different from our world, but not so much. It actually could be said that they have what we wish to have, and also what we don’t wish to have. When someone dies, they must have a proper burial, and usually a sending. A sending is done by a Summoner, and she dances to send them to the Farplane. The Farplane is located in Guadosalam, and the Guado keep tabs on the Farplane. They keep people away when it is dangerous, and tell travelers about it if they ask. The Farplane is otherworldly in a sense, even if it is in Spira. Those who are still alive can go there to visit those who have passed on. The souls of those who have passed on can be called upon by those who remember them. Once they are called, and image of them appears before the one who remembers them. No talking is done (at least, it wasn’t done in the game), but their soul is there (it is often a wish to see one who has deceased one last time here in this world). The Farplane itself is beautiful. It is full of meadows and flowing waterfalls. Those still alive stand on a cliff overlooking all of this. However, if a person has died and a Summoner does not send them, something very different can happen. First of all, Pyreflies are basically particles of the dead. Pyreflies can form together to show the form of the person in the real world Spira, and these are the unsent (basically ghosts). They can talk to those living, and can sometimes take physical form again (as in the case with Auron, a character in the game. He is an unsent that has taken physical form, but it is uncommon for the unsent to do so). Usually though, the dead, especially if they are killed quickly (like in an attack from Sin, or in a battle), mourn over their own death, and grow jealous over those still living. If that jealous continues to grow and turns to hate, the soul can become a fiend. A fiend is a monster that is the physical form of one (or many) dead souls that prey upon the living because of their anger against the living. There are ways to fight them off, and it is the only way the living can get rid of Fiends. There is no ritual for the fiends, and it is not sure what happens to them once a person defeats the fiend (kills it). Pyreflies are released for sure, but what happens after that is not talked about. Perhaps, only those souls can tell the story. However, the fiends, if they are mirroring our world, could be equal to phantoms and demons. They are the evil spirits within the world that attack and are found in myths about abandoned houses and sacred places that should never be entered (tombs and such possibly). There are friendly ghosts however, and those who help out the living like Auron. The Farplane can be viewed as a heaven (for the souls find peace there), and also a place to visit the dead (which would make it a bit like a cemetery without the dead bodies since those bodies are buried elsewhere).
Finally, one last major component of the culture in Spira: Blitzball. Blitzball is an underwater sport that is a combination of football and soccer physicality, and water polo hand passes. There are six players to a side (one is a goal keeper). The other five players are divided into two defenders, and three offensive players. The object of the game is to kick the blitzball (where the sport gets its name from) into the opposing team’s goal, and to have the most points at the end of the game. The game is split into two five-minute halves. Substitutes can only happen at half-time, and as said before, players have to be able to hold their breath for five minutes (or more) while doing all sorts of physical stunts. Only good swimmers qualify for blitzball, and it takes a bit of technique to become a good team. (They may have a technique that conserves breath or something, but it is never really discussed so it has to be taken that they are under for five minutes…which is something that can be possible, at least, it certainly isn’t impossible in our world). Blitzball uses Machina to run, but because it is Machina without a weapon based used, Bevelle is lenient and it is used. Blitzball is one of the only pastimes the people of Spira can enjoy, since with Sin returning every once in a while, there isn’t much time for fun and games. Blitzball is like American Football in how many people come to watch. All races can play in it (only Hypellos do not have a team in the tournament that takes place each year, teams practice all year for this tournament). Some names are the Besaid Aurochs (Yuna’s hometown, Wakka and Tidus (main characters) play for this team), Luca Goers, Al Bhed Psyches, and so on. Usually, it is common for the team to have the name of the city (or town in this case, usually, the people only create towns, Luca and Bevelle are the only cities). The Crusaders protect the Luca Dome (where the Blitzball tournament takes place) with their lives since it in one of the things that gives the people of Spira some fun in life, and something to be happy about. Bevelle, the main ringleader in the teaching of Yevon, allows Blitzball to happen, and the Maestor (in the political side of Spira, he is like the Pope in a way) comes to the tournaments to cheer on the teams as well. It is something Spira can look forward to even with Sin lurking in the background. It creates common ground among people, and builds relationships. Actually, Blitzball probably, even for all its competition, brings the people of Spira closer. It is a common interest among all races (except Hypellos, but they are gentle creatures and get along with everyone anyway). It betters Spira; at least, it gives people something to talk about. Teams play their hearts out for the people of Spira to see, and people are encouraged by it. It is a tough sport too, so people better themselves to play it, and they inspire other people. Sports in our world also do this. Anyone can talk about Football and bring up the Green Bay Packers, or the Chicago Bears. People will know what you are talking about. It is a common interest. Just like in Blitzball, those teams do play their hearts out, and even in other countries, you can talk about Soccer or Rugby. Most sports are almost universal around the world, or at least in many places. So, it is something that brings people together. If you don’t know what to say, start talking about sports!
Spira is truly a world of its own, and all this only begins to describe this fantasy. However, because it so closely mirrors our own, if the fantasy aspect of it is dropped (no Ronso or giant Sin or Chocobos), and that aspect is replaced with the things it mirrors (humans of different cultures, great monsters, and horses) this culture could exist in our world. Just like 1984 can exist (if we let it). All it takes in an idea, and then someone to believe in that idea. If that person gets more people to believe in it, it might be a movement. In myths and such, some of the cultures started with one man. Take Buddha for example. There was a guy looking for Enlightenment, and from that, a culture was born. So, Spira’s culture, more specifically when it is associated with Yevon, can become a reality here because practices here already mirror one of Spira’s cultures, and Spira does have the value that the people following Yevon’s teachings (Like in many other cultures throughout our world) should be bettering themselves for a better tomorrow. Now, just how many other video game worlds could exist in our own?