Editorial: Are Dragon Age's
Old Gods the Forgotten Ones?
If you're a dork who likes reading codex entry and pouring hours into looking over the history and mythology of entirely fictional worlds, Dragon Age is the perfect franchise for you. Layered with lore, the guiding principle of Dragon Age and its interweaved mythologies and histories is often that the gods of legend exist, but may well not have been gods - that the legends have truth behind them, but are in some fashion distorted.
(Except the Maker. There is startlingly little evidence in-universe that he existed, bar the Black City, purported to have once been his home of the Golden City, existing. We'll get to that in due time, however.)
With Dragon Age: Inquisition it was revealed to us that the elven gods existed - although the jury's still out on if they're genuine gods, spirits, ancient elven nobles, or something else entirely. Late in the game, it is revealed that Mythal, the elven goddess of love and justice, is a real being, one who is vengeful at an unspecified but brutal betrayal, and who sought out the similarly betrayed Flemeth to act as her host. Later still, it is revealed that Fen'Harel, elven trickster and wolf god, is also a real figure - he is, in fact, your party member Solas.
Since then, there has been much pondering over whether there is any connection between the Old Gods (the great dragon gods worshipped by the Tevinter, who we know are very much real) and the elven gods. I propose that there is, but that the Old Gods and the elven gods are still two distinct groups.
Elven mythology tells of two groups of being - the Creators, the benevolent gods of the elven people, and the Forgotten Ones, creatures of deception and violence who exist to lead the virtuous astray. The two are both akin and in opposition, with Fen'Harel being both and neither - it's a set-up very similar to the Aesir and the Jotunn in Norse mythology, who are in essence the same kind of beings (enough so that several Jotunn become Aesir) but who are also diametrically opposed to each other, with Loki being both and neither.
Why do I think this? Well, for starters, we can say almost for certain that there is some connection, maybe even kinship, between the elven gods and the Old Gods: Flemeth (acting under the will of Mythal) goes to great effort to preserve the spirit of an Old God, despite the fact that doing so represents an enormous risk to her and the world - while the preserved spirit would be free of the Blight, Old Gods naturally draw the darkspawn to them, after all, and Flemeth risks another Blight by going to such efforts to keep an Old God alive. Solas, too, has thoughts on the Old Gods, responding with disdain and even outrage when he learns of the Grey Wardens' plan to kill the two remaining Old Gods while they still slumber - and he never really gives a clear answer why.
There is also every suggestion that the elven gods and the Old Gods are similar beings.
For starters, they are both divine or semi-divine beings sealed away in some fashion - the elven gods are purportedly sealed in the Eternal City, which might well be one and the same with the Golden/Black City, while the Old Gods are sealed beneath the earth (according to legend, the Forgotten Ones are sealed in 'the Void', something which is otherwise never mentioned).
We know that the relics used to worship them and draw on their power were often similar - that the orbs used by the ancient elves (Corypheus has one, you'll recall) have a parallel in Tevinter in the form of the Somnoborium, meant to draw on the power of the Old Gods.
Solas remarks upon the elven gods visiting their worshippers in their dreams, something which we know the Old Gods did - enough so that the Tevinter worship of them revolves heavily around themes of sleeping and dreaming.
We also know that the elven gods do, at least in modern times, have to assume a host: And we know that the same is true of the Old Gods - after all, according to the Tevinter, they aren't truly dragons, despite those being their physical form, but spirits who have clothed themselves in the bodies of dragons. Not to mention that Origins outright showed us the spirit of an Old God simply passing to a new body upon the death of its old one.
The idea of turning into dragons shows up elsewhere, too, of course - it is one of Flemeth's abilities as Mythal's vessel. That's surely no coincidence.
In almost every fashion, the elven gods and the Old Gods seem to be identical. Why, then, do I think that the Old Gods are the Forgotten Ones, and not just the elven pantheon?
Well, to start with, the elven gods are also known as 'the Creators', and attributed with the creation of the world, something which the Old Gods are explicitly noted as not being able to do. Both the Chantry and their own Tevinter worshippers claim that creation was an impossible feat for the Old Gods, which would seem odd if they were part of a pantheon named for their creation of the world - but would make perfect sense for the pantheon that exists in opposition to those creators.
There's also the fact that the numbers are wrong. The Old Gods number seven. Including Fen'Harel, the elven gods number nine.
There is the fact that several elven gods walk the world still, whereas we have been given time and time again on various good authorities that all seven Old Gods were sealed beneath the earth.
Then there's the location of their sealing: The elven gods, the Creators, were purportedly sealed within the Eternal City - if that's the Golden City, then it's one place the Old Gods seem unable to go, instead having to send agents in their stead: The entire shebang with tempting seven Tevinter magisters to tear open the Veil and enter the Golden City (which, according to Corypheus, was already corrupted on arrival - editorial for another time) reeks of this being a task the Old Gods are unable to perform on their own. Even while sleeping, they cannot dream themselves into the place where the Creators are supposedly trapped.
Underground, meanwhile, makes much more sense as 'the Void'. To someone trapped deep beneath the earth, where no light can reach you, underground chambers may very well seem like a vast, empty void, after all.
If the Creators and the Forgotten Ones are enemies, though, why would Mythal be interested in saving Old Gods? Well, they're purportedly enemies. Mythology in Dragon Age is always a mass of half-truths corrupted by time. Either way, though, Mythal wants vengeance on somebody for a betrayal: We know that her betrayer wasn't Fen'Harel, we were told as much - in fact, we were told that even the betrayal that caused the elven gods and Forgotten Ones to be sealed away was not, as mythology states, his betrayal. It's unlikely to be the Old Gods. It doesn't seem to be the Dalish elves, who she still provides with blessings.
What we also know is that Mythal's betrayal parallels Flemeth's to at least some degree - Flemeth, whose husband killed her lover and imprisoned her in a jealous rage. Could Mythal have been betrayed by Elgar'nan, then, her husband and the elvish god of vengeance? It would certainly fit with his character in mythology to lash out violently, and who then could Mythal turn to for allies in seeking justice against him, if not the Forgotten Ones?
(Worth noting, also, is that Elgar'nan is associated with the sun. The only other god associated heavily with the sun in Thedas is the Maker, jealous and wrathful god of the Chantry, foe of the Old Gods, and as mentioned earlier, resident of the Golden City that might very well be the Eternal City of elven legend. Like Mythal and the Old Gods, the Maker is sometimes associated with dragons as well.)
It's just a theory, obviously, and until the next story DLC of Inquisition comes out, we're unlikely to get any clear information that will confirm or even give us hints as to what's going on. I'm personally greatly looking forward to that, though. I do love some theorising.
Gosh, this was a long post.