Cloud Strife:
“Here I met a Flower Girl.
She’s a girl with impressive eyes.
She’s around my age, or elder by one or two years.
But the innocent radiance in her eyes simply makes her suddenly look younger.
Aerith Gainsborough: ”Excuse me, what happened?”
She asked me the question, and then I bought a flower from her, which is rare in Midgar.
Maybe she’s pleased that the flower was sold, because the worried look on her face had vanished.
If this smile costs only one gil, it is a good purchase.”
~Final Fantasy VII Dismantled; Square Enix

Denzel is Cloud & Aerith’s Symbolic Child

Every time I see Denzel I always want to discuss his importance to Cloud and Aerith and their love. It’s the middle of the night and I can’t sleep, so I want to do that now.

Physical aspects are the first thing we notice about a person, and when I look at Denzel all I see is Cloud and Aerith. 

I mean, can you blame me?

Cloud’s blue eyes, Aerith’s brown hair… Just a coincidence, right? That’s what I used to tell myself. But when Advent Children Complete was released and we were given more backstory for Denzel, my thoughts changed. 

The father having blond hair while the mother has brown hair… Pretty similar to Cloud’s blonde hair and Aerith’s brown hair. But it could be just another happy coincidence.

Oh, and his parents names? Abel (エーベル) and Chloe (クロエ)… I think their acronym would be “CA”, right? By now, you hopefully catch my drift. Denzel’s parents names are coincidentally the same initials as Cloud and Aerith.

Both Cloud and Chloe have “C” as the first letter in their name. Whereas Abel and Aerith both have “A” as the first letter in their name. Even the Japanese versions are similar to the Cloud and Aerith counterparts.

(Cloud) ラウド - Chloe  (ロエ) 

  • Their names share the “  / ku“ sound in Japanese.

(Aerith) アリス - Abel  (ーベル)

  • Their names share the “ / e” sound in Japanese.

But believe it or not, that’s not  where the symbolisms end. If you look at the family photo Denzel has of his parents you’ll notice something pretty interesting, too.

In the bottom right corner of the photo you’ll see the blurry silhouette of a small bouquet of white lilies. 

Why does that matter? Because Nomura has admitted that lilies, or flowers at all, are an Aerith-thing:

Nomura: “With Aerith, ‘flowers’ have been her image throughout the series. Before Crisis was the same. But this time I wanted to take a little risk at something different, and used white and blue to bring to mind the sky and clouds. Although she still has flowers on the designs of her shoes.” ~Crisis Core Ultimania

With “flowers” being apart of Aerith’s image, it’s strange that the flower she alone is associated to (the white lily) is randomly included in the photograph of Denzel’s parents… who happen to share similar names… and looks as Cloud and Aerith.

But could the physical traits, names, and lilies be just coincidences? Details the creator’s never intended? 

I doubt it. 

And the reason I say that is because Nojima made the connection between Cloud and Aerith and Denzel years ago. 

The first indication we had of the bond between Cloud, Aerith, and Denzel can be found in “On the way to a Smile: Case of Tifa”. In these chapters, Cloud tells Tifa that he believed Aerith had brought him Denzel. 

Quote 1:

Cloud: “Denzel had collapsed in front of Aerith’s church. That’s why I thought Aerith lead him to me.” (Case of Tifa)

This was reiterated in the later revision of Case of Tifa from 2009:

Quote 2:

Tifa: “Hey, do you remember what you said when you brought Denzel here?”

Cloud: “What did I say?”

Tifa: “A lot of things. Even if I opposed it, you would bring him back with you. I could just feel it.

Cloud: “That…”

Cloud was making a face like a kid who thought he would get scolded. (Case of Tifa: Revised)

Quote 3:

Cloud thought that Tifa would oppose. Even so he wanted to bring him back. Tifa wanted to know the reason, though after he was actually brought back those questions were lost somewhere during the time she was taking care of him.

The above citations proves that Cloud was going to bring Denzel back with him without Tifa’s approval, disproving any ideas that Cloud viewed Denzel as a child for him and Tifa. But you’ll also notice in quote 3, Tifa wonders what Cloud’s reasoning is… We find the answer on Tifa’s profile page in the 10th Anniversary Ultimania, which tells us exactly why Cloud wanted to bring Denzel back with him:

Tifa’s complicated feelings continue even in AC, two years after Aerith had departed the world. This was due to the fact that Cloud, succumbing to the notion that Aerith’s death was his fault and condemning himself, construed that Denzel was “the child which Aerith brought here” and took care of him. In addition, Cloud had also gone away to the church that Aerith had been in.

The thing which she is unable to hide in her irritation towards Cloud is the fact that he isn’t merely dragging the past around, but because that reason might perhaps be related to Aerith.

AC: Upon knowing that Cloud had been residing in Aerith’s church after leaving the place they had been living in together, her expression becomes complex.

Cloud’s reason for bringing Denzel back was Aerith… which caused “complicated feelings” in Tifa and made Tifa “irritated”. So even Tifa knows that Cloud only brought Denzel back because of Aerith instead of wanting a family with her.

Still,  some people argue that none of this matters because Aerith didn’t “actually” have any involvement in Denzel’s arrival at the church. ACC, however, disproves that quite well.

In Advent Children Complete, Aerith leads Denzel, Marlene, and other Geostigma infected people to her church. She may very well have even called Denzel on the phone towards the end of the film:

(In their room at the 7th Heaven Denzel and Marlene witness the explosion that “kills” Cloud.)

Denzel: He’ll come back. He said that he would.

(The phone rings. Denzel picks up the receiver and looks happy, but only gasps gladly.)

Denzel: Let’s go!

Marlene: Mm!

(All over Edge phones are ringing. Denzel and Marlene run through the streets, joining other children and some adults, all running and laughing. Moogle Girl meets Denzel and Marlene and they run hand in hand until they reach the church.)

But when they arrive at Aerith’s church, the “moogle girl” says this to Cloud:

Moogle Girl: It’s like she said: “Wait here and Cloud will come back.”

This is proof that Aerith can lead the living to certain places. So if she could do this, then nothing suggests she didn’t have involvement with leading Denzel to Cloud.

 But now we have to figure out why Denzel initially meant so much to Cloud.

Cloud wanted to help Denzel not only because he saw Denzel as someone Aerith brought to him, but because Cloud viewed Denzel as a way to redeem himself for failing to save Aerith. Why did Aerith’s death affect Cloud so badly? Because Cloud’s guilt stems from his romantic love for Aerith:

Cloud searched for help from Vincent by such question, and Vincent, who carried the heavy past in the same way, said that he had never tried.“ ~ FFVII Anniversary Ultimania 

The above quote states that Cloud’s guilt for Aerith is the same as Vincent’s guilt for Lucrecia… But Cloud’s love is further proven in the following quote:

Terra, speaking to Cloud: “So when you find him, what are you going to do?
Will killing him bring back the woman that you lost?
This isn’t in any way to honor her memory.
To take your love for her and turn it into hate? (World of Final Fantasy)

So while Denzel might not be biologically his and Aerith’s, the bond between Cloud and Denzel was conceived from Cloud’s love for Aerith regardless

It’s Cloud’s love for Aerith that is the main component in why Denzel means so much to Cloud… and that is why I view Denzel as a symbolic child between Cloud and Aerith.