Friday, January 13, 2023

Thoughtlets: Final Fantasy IV's Rydia Characterization and Narrative

(Commenting on this video)

I think that Rydia's character is actually handled rather well. She's always been my favorite Final Fantasy character from the first time I played Final Fantasy IV.
Her actions in the beginning of the game echo when she returns. At the start she's a child running away from a scary man in black armor. She's lost her entire world. Her mother is gone, her town is gone, she's in the company of the man responsible for her mother's death.

Her entire world is gone. She has nothing left. For all she knows her traumatic summoning of Titan killed everyone left in the town. She very well might have killed people, in the original Mist goes from being 2 tiles wide to 1 tile wide. She literally destroyed half of her already bomb-scarred town.

The General tells Cecil to stand aside, but rather than do so and let Rydia be killed, he defends her, putting himself in danger on her behalf.

He didn't mean to kill her mother, he doesn't want forgiveness, he just wants to make things better.

So that's what Rydia does, that's who she patterns herself after. She wants to be like Cecil to defend people.

And the first person she encounters after that is Tellah, who is determined to rescue his daughter from "a wicked bard," only to have her die at his feet.

So little bitty Rydia takes the example from her two adult role models and sees in Edward a reflection of herself that she dislikes. She stood over her mother's body and cried and nothing positive came out of that. Crying and lamentation did nothing for her, while Cecil stood steadfastly in the way of the soldiers come to kill her, remorseful but steadfast.

And Tellah, rather than weep over his daughter's corpse marches off to go and kill his daughter's killer.

Rydia is a traumatized child trying to emulate the two adults that she looks up to now that her mother is gone.

Her character is literally what you see in Dwarf Castle.

She is a LITERAL child who was forced to grow up too soon. And not only one made to grow up too soon, but is an inverse of Cecil in a way. Cecil abandoned his darkness. Rydia abandoned her light.

Adult Rydia traded away her capacity for white magic in order to specialize in black magic and summoning. She doesn't think of herself as a healer, a remover of afflictions. She's like Cecil, she's a soldier, a walking artillery piece with the capacity to lay waste to any battlefield before her.

And that's what she does for the rest of the game. She comes along with you, she learns increasingly greater and more powerful magics and summons.

She does have some healing capacity with Sylph and Asura but the Sylphs hide away from the world and Asura is fickle and unable to be truly relied upon when you need her most.

And that's Rydia's character. She has everything she's ever known ripped away from her in one instant by a soldier who didn't know what he was doing and killed her mother by accident.

In a moment of panic, Rydia did something similar, calling the Titan and laying waste to a significant portion of her town. Cecil wants to atone, wants to do better. She uses Cecil and the wrathful Tellah as role models, and in the Feymarch she chooses her path where her only purpose is war.

And when Cecil is facing death at the hand of a leader of Baron's military forces, Rydia is there to step in and stop it like Cecil did in Kaipo. She's a child orphaned by war who loses her innocence and is made to grow up too quickly and fight in the very same war.

Her narrative arc effectively concludes at Dwarf Castle because she's attained her goal and shown that she's somebody that can defend people, just like Cecil did for her.

He banished his darkness, and she left behind her light. 

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