Back in 2007, Assassin’s Creed tackled mythology in a way that fascinated millions of players. Many previous games, most notably God of War, also had mythological foundations. However, it addressed mythology in a more historically accurate view. Assassin’s Creed took a leap of faith and based its mythological pillars in a science-fiction manner.
Assassin’s Creed’s mythology: Introduction
The first clue we are presented with at the very beginning of the franchise. Firstly, the opening scene is a glitch of memories and computer noises. Furthermore, we can observe that the music itself is a mixture of religious sounds and singing, while having static cuts, as if it were some sort of matrix. In here we have the first clue, this is not your typical history based game. The confirmation soon follows, as we hear a mysterious voice guiding us through the blurry start. The robotic, science fiction component truly starts after the opening scene finishes. Now we definitely know the twist on our typical history based game. But, how does this relate to mythology? To answer that question, we have to delve deeper into the Assassin’s Creed’s lore.
The Isu: Greco Roman connections
In the series, the Isu, or first civilization, are humanoid precursors to mankind. We can see that they are incredibly developed with technology. Moreover, they created humans as docile servants. However, Adam and Eve, two “hybrids”, born immune to the subjugator’s weapons, started a rebellion to free humanity from their slavers. It didn’t get any easier for the first Civilisation, as a catastrophe wiped nearly all lifeforms, both Isu and humans, from earth. The Isu, although extinct, lived in eternal mystery for humans, as they were tuned into godly figures. And thus, mythology was born.
While we tread alongside the game, we are introduced to Juno, Minerva and Jupiter. While you impersonate Desmond Miles, you learn about the second catastrophe that’s about to wipe the earth again. You then hear the holographic messages left by the isu attempting to preserve mankind. In spite of the warnings Minerva projects about not trusting Juno, Desmond decides to sacrifice himself for the good of humanity, hoping that the newly released Isu will someday meet her demise again.
The Isu: Nordic gods enter the scene
Lately, Assassin’s Creed has expanded its frontiers to engulf other religious deities, such as the Norse and Egyptian gods. Let’s focus on the approach of the Norse gods in the eyes of the franchise. The Norse pantheon, ruled by Odin, where another branch of the Isu.
If we delve deeper into the lore of the franchise, we discover that the Aesir and their Mediterranean counterparts fought against each other. However, both factions reached a stalemate due to the incoming great catastrophe. Odin, unlike the Capitoline Triad, was determined to cling onto life, prompting him to create a plan to steal the seventh method called the Mead, designed by Minerva and Jupiter. This method consisted of manipulating the DNA of some humans so that the god’s consciousness was reincarnated in the mind of the new host. Much like in Norse mythology, where Odin did as much as possible to prevent the end of the world, we can see how in the last minutes of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Odin and other Aesir uploaded their consciousness to Yggdrasil, an Isu device that would allow the seventh method to complete itself by uploading their consciousness to it.
If we do some quick research, we can see how the Nordic legends mention possibilities of rebirth. However, we have very little information. In AC Valhalla, we are provided with a sci-fi approach to the unfinished myth of rebirth.
Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad and Greco-Roman mythology
If we delve into Greco-Roman mythology, the name Altair is a huge easter-egg for those who know mythological trivia. Altair means eagle in Arabic. This might not seem a huge revelation until you realize that Zeus representation is an eagle. If we pull up some Greco-Roman related eagle facts, we discover that not only the eagle is the symbol of Jupiter, but its equivalent Greek god, Zeus, sometimes reincarnated himself as an eagle. To further the plot, Altaïr’s surname means “son of no one”. Could this be a reference to the fact that his parents died in his youth, or a deeper connection with the Isu? Could it mean that, much like Jupiter’s efforts to reconstruct humanity after imprisoning Juno, a parallelism of Altaïr murdering his mentor to rid the order of evil?
Assassin’s Creed and Ezio’s trilogy braid historical accuracy in an incredibly elegant way. While the Isu remain a distant mystery, the historical easter-eggs hidden across the games weave mythology so gently you barely notice it seeping into the game.
Eivor and Norse mythology
We get another juicy mythological easter-egg when we see that Eivor’s companion is a raven. Much like Altair’s eagle, it has a direct connection to the Nordic deity Odin. In this case, Eivor is an actual sage. Throughout the series, we come across other sages, most notably in Assassin’s Creed Blackflag, where the sage Aita, Juno’s husband, is reincarnated time and time again. However, it was a flawed experiment. Therefore, the sage normally becomes corrupted and ultimately goes mad.
We can clearly see a deep rift in Eivor’s personality as the player fights her past self, balancing the personality we chose versus the selfishness of Odin. However, similarly to the actual Norse mythology, Fate repeats itself time and time again. We can see this through Eivor’s brother, Sigurd, who is tortured to fully become his isu version or Tyr. We also get a glimpse of Loki, treacherous in and out of the game, always with hidden intentions. While the player plays through the game, Loki’s intentions become clear near the end.
While in the later part of the franchise’s historical references have diluted, the mythological sci-fi has come back stronger than ever.
Assassin’s Creed mythology: Conclusion
Even though I have covered just the tip of the iceberg, we can clearly see how the developers have weaved science fiction with mythology. It cleverly explains how many mythologies are so similar through the creation of the Isu. Moreover, while pure fiction, I admire how they weaved in snippets of actual mythology and history. Through a more futuristic approach, I loved how they applied it to the past. A twist that to this day keeps me hooked. The roots of this franchise’s lore extend way deeper, and its historical parallelisms never cease to intrigue me.