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Elden Ring story explained: everything we know about the lore

Elden Ring landscape
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The Elden Ring story and lore behind the game is, much like the Souls games, a bit hard to decipher. We pieced together the little bits of information from the trailers (especially the most recent story trailer), and the network test. There’s also a fair bit of theorizing going on if you visit the Elden Ring forums.

If you’re curious to learn more about the world that sprung from the minds of George R. R. Martin and Hidetaka Miyazaki, here’s an overview of everything we know about the Elden Ring story so far.

Elden Ring universe origin: the Age of the Erdtree

Elden Ring Erdtree

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The Elden Ring story takes place in the Lands Between. The player will get to know it as a desolate and dangerous place full of undead soldiers and the occasional dragon, but it wasn’t always like that. A long time ago, the once beautiful and prosperous realm was peacefully ruled by Queen Marika, ‘The Eternal’, and her children, the Demigods. 

For a long time, this noble family and their people lived under the blessing of the Erdtree and the Elden Ring. This is where it starts to get a little complicated; the Erdtree (as the name suggests) is a massive glowing tree, but the Elden Ring is not really a ring. Unlike the one written by the other R.R., the Elden Ring is a mysterious force that kept the ‘Golden Order’ of the Lands Between in place. 

Based on the events that follow, it seems that the Elden Ring is the source of the Erdtree. It is comprised of Great Runes, including a so-called ‘Death Rune’.

The Rune of Death

The Rune of Death in Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

So, what happened to the Elden Ring? Well, it all seems to have started when the Death Rune was stolen. We don’t know why this event took place, and who the perpetrator was. The only glimpse we get from the story trailer is a bunch of dark, cloaked figures fleeing the scene on horseback.

It’s highly likely that these guys were also responsible for the murder of the Demigod Godwyn the Golden. They may have killed the other Children of Marika too, but that remains a bit unclear. What is clear though, is that Godwyn’s corpse gets reanimated (making him much more scary-looking), which promises an epic future boss fight.

Based on all this, it looks like the Death Rune was stolen with the intent to rid the world of the Demigods. It’s also possible that one of the Demigods did it, to win power over the others. But without the rune in place, the dead don’t seem to stay death anymore, thus flooding the Lands Between with undead monsters.

As for Queen Marika, the storyteller in the trailer says that she was "driven to the brink" by the death of Godwyn, but we don’t know exactly how the fall of the Golden Order affected her, or where she currently resides.

The Shattering and the Demigods

The Shattering in Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

After the Rune of Death was stolen, the six Demigods started to wage war against each other. In the story trailer, it’s this war that is referred to as the Shattering (rather than the destruction of the Elden Ring). As it turned out, none of the Demigods was able to come out victorious, and so the Lands Between were left destroyed by a never-ending conflict.

When you enter the Lands Between yourself, you’ll find that each of those six Demigods is dominating their own corner of the realm, and holding on to a Great Rune. The Great Runes have given them enormous power, but also corrupted their minds (unfortunately for you).

The Tarnished and the Elden Lord

The Tarnished and the Elden Lord in Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Legend says that the one who recovers every Great Rune and restores the Elden Ring will become the Elden Lord. And as the storyteller suggests, the one destined to follow this path might be you, the ‘Tarnished’.

Who’s the Tarnished, you ask? Actually, it’s not just the player, but a whole group of exiled people. The Tarnished used to live under the grace of the Erdtree, but they lost its blessing a long time ago (the reason for which remains unknown). Now, the Tarnished have returned to find the shards of the Elden Ring and claim the Elden Lordship.

General Radahn and Malenia the Severed

General Radahn in Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The last part of the story trailer can be somewhat confusing. We see a massive troll-like figure (on a very tiny horse) fighting an armor-clad woman. They are General Radahn and Malenia the Severed, two of the mightiest leaders in the war-torn Lands Between. 

But are they Demigods? Honestly, we can’t be sure. The way it’s phrased in the trailer, by first speaking of Demigods and then calling Radahn and Malenia "the mightiest to remain", seems to suggest this. Their current status (alive, dead, or undead) remains to be discovered.

The Elden Ring storyteller and Melina

The storyteller in Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

If you’ve played the network test, you’ve probably met the NPC called Melina. She offers to act as your "maiden" and help you get stronger. She also appears to be a spirit linked to the Erdtree. 

How she came to be this way is a mystery, but there seems to be a link between her and the Elden Ring storyteller who appears in the trailer. As many people have pointed out online, both the storyteller and Melina only got one functioning eye (on opposite sides of their face though). This has led many to believe that they’re either the same person (storyteller could be Melina in spirit-form), or related in another way.

What part of the Elden Ring lore was written by George R. R. Martin?

Elden Ring lore

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

In case you’re wondering what part of the Elden Ring story was created by the A Song of Ice and Fire writer, here’s the answer: the ‘mythos’. By mythos, the developers mean the game’s lore. 

Martin did not write a full storyline, but he created the foundations of the fictional world, which would roughly include the Lands Between, the history involving the Erdtree, Elden Ring, and Queen Marika, and possibly also some of the important characters like the Demigods.

All we can do now is wait for the release of the Elden Ring to find out more. Who knows, maybe the whole Death Rune theft thing was just a practical joke that got out of hand. We’ll see!

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Marloes Valentina Stella

I’m a freelance journalist who (surprise!) kind of has a thing for videogames. When I’m not working on guides for GamesRadar, you can probably find me somewhere in Teyvat, Novigrad, or Whiterun. Unless I’m feeling competitive, in which case you should try Erangel. You can also find my words on PCGamesN, Fanbyte, PCGamer, Polygon, Esports Insider, and Game Rant.