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This May Not Be The First Time Elden Ring's Erdtree Was Burned

When "Elden Ring" launched, players delved into The Lands Between with fresh eyes and wandering minds looking for everything the game had to hide. Like its predecessors in the "Dark Souls" series, "Elden Ring" has tons of secrets for players to find — like powerful weapons hidden just below a ledge or entire zones kept behind illusory walls. FromSoftware has something of a reputation for not giving direct answers, especially when it comes to worldbuilding and lore. Though "Elden Ring" got a nomination for Best Narrative at The Game Awards 2022, many still don't know exactly what is going on in the game — or what happened before the events of "Elden Ring."

One of the biggest reveals of the game happens about two-thirds through, when players learn that they can't gain entrance to the Erdtree to become Elden Lord and must burn it instead. This comes as a shock, especially because the Erdtree was such a huge focus of the game's marketing and promo images, but there's actually a lot of evidence to suggest that it's not the first time it's been ignited. In typical FromSoftware fashion, nothing outright confirms this, but the armor sets for Knight Bernahl and the Prophet class, a painting found in the Volcano Manor, and environmental storytelling in Leyndell strongly suggest that the Erdtree has burned before.

Armor sets, a painting, and Leyndell itself contain hints

The "Elden Ring" subreddit has been busy with fan speculation since launch, and the topic of whether the Erdtree burned before came up in a post on December 24, 2022. The post showed a painting in Volcano Manor depicting a burning Erdtree, but this can be found long before the player sacrifices Melina to the Forge of Giants. It might just be a painting of the Volcano Manor's ultimate goal, but there's evidence that there could be more to it.

According to the armor set for Recusant Bernahl, he was befitting of a lord until his maiden threw herself into the fire. To enter the Erdtree, the thorns must be burned, and the Forge of Giants can do just that. When his maiden sacrificed herself to set it alight, the Erdtree may have caught fire but not fully burned down, leading Bernahl to turn against the Golden Order. Another piece of evidence for the painting being based on historical events is one of Leyndell's biggest mysteries — where all the ash came from. If the Erdtree burned before, it makes perfect sense for the Royal Capital to be already blanketed in ash. 

One other tidbit that could explain the painting comes from the Prophet armor description, which says they saw visions of flames and were exiled. The painting could therefore be a fictional rendition of these visions, but Bernahl's attempt to become Elden Lord could have also caused its burning, evidenced by Leyndell's ash, strongly hints at it being based in reality.