Final Fantasy has long been a series steeped in lore and mythology taken from the real world. The first Final Fantasy game is no different, and established much of what made the series so great. In the previous edition of Breakdown, I focused on weapons and armor that drew inspiration from the myths, legends, and epic fiction of the real world. The sword Excalibur, the incredibly strong mythril, Thor’s hammer mjolnir, and the legendary master swordsmith Masamune were all covered. While these examples were all very noticeable to a good majority of gamers, there are also a few references in the game that aren’t quite as obvious.
There are several situations with specific characters that draw inspiration to mythological stories in Final Fantasy. Of course, you have races such as the dwarves and the elves who have obvious origins in European stories, but some of the situations these characters find themselves in are also stuff of legends.
Matoya, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and the Graeae
In fantasy fiction, witches are a pretty common staple. These women of magic are all depicted as old, powerful, and oftentimes have something the protagonist needs. Final Fantasy wouldn’t have been complete without some sort of reference to a witch. Legends of witches and witchcraft have been around longer than recorded history. Witchcraft has been largely condemned as an evil act by many cultures, but sometimes the act and it’s practitioners are seen in a grey area, where their magic isn’t necessarily good, but good can come from it. Other times, good witches are portrayed in fiction and legends, where they act as benevolent beings using their abilities to help people rather than curse them.
In Final Fantasy, Matoya is a witch who lives in a cave with a slew of animated brooms. She has lost her crystal eye, the object that allows her to see. When you return her eye to her, she is able to see, and gives you a potion to help wake a sleeping prince (we’ll get to that later). Matoya is obviously a good witch, or at least a grateful one, seeing as she helps you in your quest.
The brooms can be linked to the Goethe poem, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, where the titular apprentice brings a broom to life to do his chores. This is also most famously remembered as a Disney cartoon in the movie “Fantasia”. Matoya herself seems to be reminiscent of the Graeae, three witch sisters that appear in Greek mythology. They all share one eye and one tooth, and if one sister doesn’t have the eye, she cannot see. In the tale of Perseus, the hero steals the eye from the three witch sisters to persuade them into revealing the location of the water nymphs, who knew the location of the helmet of invisibility. The Three Fates in the Disney Movie “Hercules” are an amalgamation of the Graeae and the Moirai.
Sleeping Elf Prince or Sleeping…Beauty?
The prince of Elfland falls to a spell cast by the dark elf, Astos. The warriors of light defeat the dark elf, return the crystal eye to Matoya, receive the cure for the prince, and awaken him. The elf prince gives the party the mystic key, a key that is able to open any door that may bar our heroes from advancing in their quest.
Sleeping Beauty is an obvious reference for the sleeping elf prince in Elfland. Sleeping Beauty is a classic Grimm fairy tale that appeared sometime in the 14th century. This is the second time that Disney appears in this article, because the most famous modern depiction of the snoozing siren appears in the 1959 film, “Sleeping Beauty”. The titular character is a princess who falls asleep due to a spell by an evil sorceress or fairy. In the end, a prince awakens the princess with a kiss, and they are married.
But Sleeping Beauty isn’t the only reference. Kenji Terada, the scenario writer that has a degree in European History, must have done some reading on the numerous other sleeping prince and king myths across Europe. One particular myth stood out to me, however: Endymion. Endymion was an incredibly good looking and youthful prince…or shepherd…or hunter…or king…depending on the translation. The handsome youthfulness definitely falls in line with the Elfland prince’s race. Elves in a lot of more recent fantasy fiction tend to be pretty attractive. As far as we know, the prince of Elfland didn’t father fifty daughters as Endymion did.