What exactly is the Fire Emblem? Throughout the thirteen games of the series, the Fire Emblem has appeared without fail, seeming to be almost reborn within each installation. Playing through the remakes of the first two games of the series led me to a more thorough investigation on what the Fire Emblem actually is and what is represents. (Note that these are my notes from my own investigation and there may be points I haven’t taken into consideration and these probably aren’t full facts).
First, I would like to theorise that the Fire Emblem appears to be a counterpart of sorts, as in almost each game it appears to be accompanied by a holy Sword. This sweet duality is first forged by the divine dragon Naga, who created both the Shield (that is, the Fire Emblem) and the Sword from her/his own fangs. The Sword seems to differ in importance according to the different games however it appears to have more or less the same significance in the stories as the Shield itself. Continuing the idea of a ‘duality’, another trend I noticed was that the Shield frequently appears in the possession of women, while it is the men who hold the Sword. It is this idea of equality, harmony and balance that is retained in each game, with all the storylines of our characters seeming to revolve around a restoration of order and justice in an unbalanced world.
The Fire Emblem most commonly manifests in the form of a Shield, yet it has also surfaced as a Seal of some sort, and a Medallion, while in Fire Emblem Sacred Stones FE8, it is a single orb. This is what I believe to be the female component of the pair, as upon tracing back the possession of the Fire Emblem, it follows the same system; initially it lies within the possession of a significant female who is usually of royal or noble birth, who in times of great peril then bestows the Fire Emblem to the maleHero of the story. This acts as a symbol, a blessing of some sort that gives the Hero the right and honour to wield such power, and shows the trust and destiny placed in our young Hero.
The divine dragon Naga herself (or himself in some versions) is the first to wield the Fire Emblem. The next account we have is of a princess of Arkaneia named Artemis who bestows the holy Shield to the hero Anri. The Fire Emblem appears again in the possession of princess Nyna, also of Arkaneia, who then lends it to our Hero King Marth. In Fire Emblem Awakening FE13, Emmeryn, exalt of Ylisse (a kingdom that I have already established sits in what used to be Arkaneia in an earlier post) is also initially in possession of the Fire Emblem and she passes it onto her brother and main protagonist Chrom. In the same way, the evil Zephiel’s gentle half-sister, princess Guinevere, stole the Fire Emblem to deliver it safely into young Roy’s hands. See the trend?
Let’s take a look at a small deviation from the Shield form of the Fire Emblem to the Tellius FE9/10 reincarnation which is Lehran’s Medallion. Echoing Naga, it is the goddess Ashera who first seals her counterpart (another goddess) Yune into this Medallion (see the duality again?). In both instances, it is a divine being who creates the Fire Emblem and thus makes it sacred, almost holy. The Medallion passes into the evil hands of Ashnard who then forces it upon a heron princess Lillia with orders to awaken the “dark god” Yune. Lillia is unable to awaken her and so passes it onto Elena, who is Ike’s mother. From Elena, it is inherited by Mist, who is Ike’s sister, and then finally to Micaiah who is able to rouse Yune from her thousand year slumber. In all instances, it is passed purely through the women- in fact all the men who did touch it suffered a tragic downfall. Coincidence?
The Shield as a female counterpart is so strong that while men are able to wield it temporarily, those that are not worthy are doomed. Both the Shield and the Medallion were said to be cursed- indeed the Medallion in particular required a perfect balance of order and chaos within oneself to be possessed. Examples of victims include Hardin FE3/12 (who possessed only a single orb of the five that make the Shield), poor Lyon FE8, Zephiel FE6, and even Ike’s father Greil FE9 whose single, accidental touch resulted in a fit of madness that he killed his own wife. So why are the women not affected? Here, I think that the stereotype of women being inherently “good” and “pure” with a selfless need to “protect” (hence the shield symbol) is the reason they are worthy to possess such power and yet not use it, and indeed the Fire Emblem seems to enjoy being safe in the hands of gentle and noble women.
Now, about Falchion, or the Sword- the male counterpart to this duality that is again always wielded by male Heroes. Most notably, it is Falchion that is most significant in these games, while other reincarnations of the Sword are rarely named nor play as large of a role. The purpose of the Sword is always to slay or seal dragons, who are usually the antagonists and final bosses of the games, such as Medeus FE1/11, Duma FE2 and Grima FE13. Naga was again, the first to use this Sword, and the next was the peasant hero Anri who is Marth’s ancestor. Like how the Shield passes through female lines, the Sword goes through the males, from Anri to Marth, Marth eventually to Chrom and then eventually to Lucina who admittedly breaks my theory a little here (although any of her siblings including her male ones are also able to wield it). Roy similarly possesses a Sword of Seals, which although is not Falchion, inherits the same dragon slaying properties. Alm is a bit of a quandary here, since he also possesses a Falchion but a different one to Marth’s; man-forged and with a goddess sealed within it. However, Chrom’s Falchion is also said to have “spirits” inhabiting the blade and indeed, they were able to be unsealed in some way to become Exalted Falchion.
With the feminine Shield as a symbol of protection and peace, and the masculine Sword as one of justice and restoration it is rare indeed when a Hero goes to the final chapter without both the Sword and Shield duality and it usually takes the entirety of the game to fully possess both.
I’m almost finished here but I also want to mention the curious outlier of Fire Emblem Sacred Stones FE8 where both the Shield and Sword are entirely missing from the game and only remnants of either are the orbs from the Shield and a compilation of various other holy weapons (Not even our male hero has a sword! Ephraim wields a lance!). We don’t know the strict timeline of the games so we are not sure when FE8 occurs, however it could be that by this time, the Shield and the Sword no longer exist. In fact, at the end of this game, only a single orb out of the five remains and the rest have been shattered. Is this what’s left of the Fire Emblem?