at the loft

Bloodborne Theory Conspiracy: Programming Winter Lanterns

A popular theory about the Winter Lanterns is that they are entities warped from our Hunter’s memories of the Plain Doll. This works well because, when players finally connect the two entities, it hits on an emotional level; a figure that is normally extremely peaceful is twisted into a new entity that is both mechanically and visually violent in the other extreme.

Though this theory is simple and effective without much need for further explanation, I would like to approach them from a slightly different angle.

To me, last leg of Bloodborne’s story aesthetic seems to lean less toward cosmic horrors (from a weird-fiction or Lovecraftian angle) and becomes more about what happens when an eldritch child-thing has nightmares:

  • The last half of the map is called, “Mergo’s Loft”, named after an invisible, crying child.
  • Said building is populated by weird puppets, armored dolls/jesters, and messed up story-time animal things (pigs, pups, and crows).
  • The boss’s name suggests a nurturing figure for a baby yet it’s physical appearance is closer to a feathered grim reaper.
  • Said boss’s arena plays a song called “Lullaby for Mergo”.
  • The battle doesn’t technically end until Mergo stops crying (hopefully a sign of it finally resting at peace).

When following the grim-dark nursery aesthetic, I usually like to lean toward JSF’s theory for the Winter Lanterns. His idea holds that Mensis may have made copies of the Doll in order to be automaton nannies for Mergo and that said dolls became evil tsukumogami (self–aware, living magical objects) when most of Mensis abandoned them in the nightmare. However as we are exploring different angles on the WLs I’ve recently entertained a new idea that came about while chatting in reddit:

It’s recently been brought to my attention by reddit user Loran-Grey (and user Zephid7 via Loran-Grey) that the Winter Lanterns look an awful lot like the Brain of Mensis. L-G has also mentioned that there are two Nightmare Apostles (who according to Z7 may well be allied with if not actually a part of Mensis) that seem to be hiding from the Winter Lantern by the Choir bell. L-G is of the mind that the Brain may have created the Winter Lanterns in order to protect itself.

Looking back, the first WLs you meet in this area are indeed on a walkway that the Brain can’t reach with it’s Frenzy. Said walkway also happens to lead to the lever that could send the Brain plummeting into darkness.

When I heard of this, it really sparked my imagination and I think we can mash some of JSF’s idea with some of L-G and Z7’s ideas to make another theory:

If the Dolls were created as automaton nannies, then maybe the Brain needed to grow that organic matter around the dolls to forcefully override their “programming”.

All of the “regular” enemies in the building are/were organic (you can see inside the Mergo’s attendant’s masks that there is a body inside). Theoretically, we can surmise that all of the bodies of these enemies could be driven mad/influenced to patrol their areas and protect the Brain from curious hunters. If said enemies are not controllable, they can be killed with Frenzy. However, if there were automatons in the Nightmare to attend to Mergo, they wouldn’t have any organic material for the Brain to influence or Frenzy and would continue doing their job.

If you are a Great One that has been captured by a school of people that believes in hunting Great Ones, a small army of helpful automatons that can’t be influenced is dangerous. Especially if they are free to act as guides to curious Hunters and Choir members that might want to hunt you. A forceful take over is necessary, hence, the organic growths covering the automatons.

Admittedly, this idea is only really consistent within the main game; in the main game the Winter Lanterns are found in one other map from which you can see the Nightmare of Mensis. I take this to mean that the memories of the Brain and the scholars of Mensis have influence on the dream-logic of the Nightmare Frontier which is why Winter Lanterns spawn here.

What makes things complicated for this theory is the addition of the Fishing Hamlet in the DLC. It introduces one more area with Winter Lanterns, however, Mensis and the Brain are not shown to have any influence in this area. Instead, the Lanterns seem to be a stand-in for a figure we meet in the map prior to the Fishing Hamlet and this figure has nearly nothing to do with Mergo’s Loft.