Warning: This analysis is going to go in-depth with the game’s story. Major spoilers can be found throughout. If you’ve not played Bloodborne and you want to see what some of the fuss is about, you’ll find it here—but I do recommend playing it first yourself if you can. Read at your own risk.
S[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]o you’ve beaten Bloodborne. You reached the final boss, made your final decision, and completed the game. First of all, good job. Seriously, give yourself a pat on the back—the game isn’t easy, and only a small percentage of its players have made it this far.
But now you might be wondering what the hell just happened. Why was that Micolash guy chanting that weird prayer while he fought you? Was it all really a dream? What the sweet loving hell was that thing that hugged me at the end?
These questions and more can be answered if you search the game for clues and piece them together. Nothing will be spelled out for you, and a lot of finer details are left solely to speculation. Still, the community has a few things figured out. As we go forward, I should warn you: everything you are about to read is purely speculation. It is backed by evidence within the game, but nothing is concrete—it is simply myself and many members of the community theorizing about the game’s story.
Let’s start with the endings…
The Endings Explained
Throughout Bloodborne, there is a theme of opening one’s eyes to awaken from a dream or to gain divine knowledge of the cosmos. However, the truth slowly drives them insane, sometimes to the point that they’ll blind themselves to keep from witnessing the horrors of the world. This follow’s Lovecraft’s themes pretty well; most of his stories feature a protagonist who uncovers some deep, dark truth, and as he investigates further he learns more and eventually succumbs to madness or some other twisted fate. Bloodborne’s endings, and its entire lore really, fit this theme perfectly.
The first ending is the easy one: allow Gehrman to take your life and awaken from the terrible dream, emerging in Yharnam as day breaks. This is you facing the nightmare, uncovering some details, and saying, “you know what? Nah, I’m out.” You did only what was necessary to complete your task, and as a reward, you’re given a new life. You’ll forget the hunt, the dream, and all of the horrors you witnessed. But there’s something more, something nagging at your mind…and after all, is what you’re experiencing real, or just another dream? You’ll never know. You don’t care. You’re done fighting.
For the second ending, you refuse to let Gehrman kill you but have not eaten the three thirds of umbilical cords. This is the classic Lovecraft ending, and likely the ending most players saw: you dug deeper, explored the whole world searching for clues and for larger monsters to hunt, but in the end you missed a few crucial details. So you defeat Gehrman, and free him from his prison in the Hunter’s Dream. Then, you turn around and gaze upon the Moon Presence. It moves in, embraces you, and entraps you in the dream in Gehrman’s place. In essence, the Moon Presence represents madness overcoming your character. You’ve dug too deep, and now you’re trapped forever, aiding hunters and doing the Moon Presence’s bidding.
The third ending is the wildcard. You defeat Gehrman again, but this time, you ate the three thirds of umbilical cords. You’ve explored every nook and cranny for clues, and knew about the Moon Presence before going into the fight. You knew that consuming the three thirds of umbilical cords would ward off its embrace, but it didn’t ward off the madness. In contrast, you embraced the madness this time around. You consume the umbilical cords and defeat the last Great One standing in your way. Then, you ascend to Greatness yourself, and become a newborn Great One, the likes of which the cosmos hasn’t known. You usher in a new age for humanity, but what this means for the world is ultimately up to you.
The Choir, the Church, and the Plague of Beasts
This whole mess started when The Healing Church discovered the Chalice Dungeons, ruins of various ancient civilizations that underwent the plague themselves. It was here that they discovered Old Blood. The church set up Byrgenworth College to explore and study the labyrinths, and eventually set up The Choir, a segment of the Church that communicated with Ebrietas. Generally, only members of this rank knew about the Church’s most secret goal: to harness the power of Great Ones and to transcend humanity.
Master Willem taught at Byrgenworth and encouraged his students to wear blindfolds, speaking of lining their brains with their own eyes. His greatest teaching was the adage: “Fear the Old Blood.” Master Laurence disagreed—once he discovered that Old Blood had the power to treat disease, he left to found the Healing Church. As an aside, Rom is believed to be the first human who successfully “lined his brain with eyes”, thus allowing him to ascend to a Great One before losing his mind so that Amygdala could use him for her own goals. It is known that Amygdala also answers the prayers of one Patches, turning him into a human-spider hybrid that also does her bidding, and that she also uses Micolash to create the Nightmare of Mensis. Amygdala is kind of a dick, if that wasn’t made clear.
The Church founded Blood Ministration, and used the blood religiously for its healing properties. According to in-game lore, this healing blood was so intoxicating that it eventually replaced alcohol use in Yharnam. However, use of this blood came at a cost: men began to turn into beasts, and the problem became so endemic that nightly hunts were formed to stop the plague from spreading. Hunters are established to help fight back the more powerful beasts, but they too harness the power of blood, and many of them go insane as a result (hence the NPC enemy hunters).
Eventually, the Church makes contact with Great Ones. Ebrietas seems to communicate with them directly, sharing secrets of the cosmos with The Choir. How exactly the Choir “acquired” Ebrietas is unknown, but she was locked away beneath the Cathedral Ward and kept a secret for many years.
Laurence, realizing what he had done, leaves notes about Yharnam expressing his regret (“Master Willem was right…” “Hunt the Great Ones, Hunt the Great Ones” “Three Umbilical Cords”). These notes also clue the player in to the truth about the world. It seems he wished to push hunters towards destroying the Great Ones once and for all before their influence caused any more damage.
The Great Ones, the Umbilical Cords, and Mergo
What exactly the Great Ones are is vague. They are otherworldly beings, born in the cosmos—beyond that, who knows? Some worship them as gods, or simply wish to obtain their power.
Regardless, Great Ones have been making contact with humanity for some time, with seemingly one goal in mind: to embrace them as surrogates. Mergo, in particular, ties into this in a strange way, but the most popular theory is that Oedon—the greatest of Great Ones, whose presence is reduced to a Voice in the wind—wished to father a child with a human. It is said in-game that on the night of the Red Moon, the Great Ones lose their children, and then desperately seek surrogates. Once the Red Moon hits in-game, you’ll find several female NPCs are now pregnant. One of them gives birth to an abomination. Each of these NPCs can be killed to obtain one of the game’s four umbilical cords (three of which are required to reach the secret ending).
Yharnam, the Pthumerian Queen seems to be the first woman Oedon ever impregnated. It is strongly hinted that Mergo is her child, but this has yet to be confirmed. Whatever it is, Mergo is born but Oedon is nowhere in sight; instead, Amygdala—perhaps working with other Great Ones like Wet Nurse and that giant Metroid reference—set up the Nightmare of Mensis to protect it.
Moon Presence, freshly summoned by Laurence and probably Gehrman, saw this and was like “Oh, hell naw.” He establishes the Hunter’s Dream, entrapping Gehrman to forever aid new hunters in trying to destroy Mergo so that he can embrace humanity himself. The Hunters succeed, but with each Red Moon another heir is born. It appears that Master Willem and Master Laurence, by collectively pointing you towards Great Ones and the truth, sought to end this cycle by having you destroy Moon Presence (or perhaps Laurence simply wanted to free his buddy Gehrman).
Of course, humanity wasn’t going to sit idly by while Great Ones manipulated them or, you know, existed. Yahar’gul had another goal in mind. Basically, someone suggested the idea that humanity could create a Great One to harness its power. The result? The hilarious abomination known as The One Reborn, who appears to just be numerous body parts stapled together. Note that this is all speculation on my part, but the fact that the bell maidens summon it from the cosmos seems to suggest to me that it was some gross attempt to create humanity’s own personal Great One. They might’ve gotten help, though…
Kos, or some say Kosm, is believed to be a Great One, but the only reference to him in game is from Micolash. As he flees from the player, Micolash will constantly shout Kos (or some say Kosm)’s name, asking for it to “grant him eyes” as it did for Rom. Because its name resembles “cosmos” some players believe that Kos is the father of the cosmos, and that his power was used to create The One Reborn (hence why it seems to appear from space). Or perhaps it’s just the ramblings of a madman as a hunter mercilessly slaughters him. Remember, Amygdala—known dick—used him, and may or may not have warped his mind.
Then there’s that other, stranger goal…
Becoming a Great One
Some people yearned for more than just creating a Great One, or harnessing its power. Some sought to become Great themselves. We know of at least two humans that succeed in this: Rom, who become vacuous the moment he reached Greatness, and…
So why doesn’t the Hunter lose their mind like Rom did? It isn’t 100% clear, but consuming the three umbilical cords seems to be the cause. It is believed in the community that the umbilical cords grant players “eyes”, and that consuming them effectively transforms you into a Great One/Human hybrid. Utilizing this power, the Hunter defeats Moon Presence as it comes to embrace them, thus finishing what Master Willem and possibly Laurence started. You succeed where many have failed: you harness a Great One’s power.
In the end, you become an adorable little tentacle monster. More importantly, you are a baby Great One—in this sense, some players believe that you were Mergo all along. You are Oedon’s heir, ready to usher humanity into a new age of Greatness. Perhaps you’ll create peace between Great Ones and humans, allowing them to coexist? It is up to you.
Honorable Mention – Bizarre but Sound Theories
Blood = Menstruation: Redditor LucatielKnight poses that the blood is menstrual blood. This is evidenced by the fact that you get unique blood only from women (Arianna, Iosefka, Sister Adella) and that the moon ties to menstrual cycles. Also, “Mensis” sounds a bit like “Menstruation” doesn’t it?
Bloodborne is a Parody of Ovulation and Fertilization: Following up on LucatielKnight’s post, Redditor sugarporpoise posits that the entire game itself is a sort of dark, comedic take on ovulation. Read the whole post—it really does make sense, and From Software is weird enough that it just might stick.
Oedipism: A fascinating YouTube video theorizes that many NPCs in the game are blind due to a condition known as oedipism, or the self-removal of one’s sight/eyes. It is argued that people gouged out their eyes or blinded themselves so that they would not bear witness to Great Ones, the sights of which could make them insane. The coolest part of this theory? The idea that Oedon’s name is a reference to this.
Obviously, we’ve only scratched the surface here. This was my attempt to provide a sort of quick, cliffnotes version of the extensive research the community has done. If you’re thirsty for more, follow any of the links above, or check out The Paleblood Hunt, a 90-page analysis of Bloodborne. I also recommend checking out VaatiVidya on YouTube—he does lore videos and other fun things. Finally, sift through r/Bloodborne for some more crazy theories. There are about 5,000,000 different ones, many of which are consistent with one another.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! May the good blood guide your way, and all that.
Got any insane Bloodborne theories yourself? Think I’m a big dumb idiot that missed a ton of crucial details? Think that the time spent theorizing over this videogame could’ve been put to better use (like solving world hunger or whatever)? Sound off in the comments below!