Fan theories about Ardyn

Final Fantasy XV fan theories and observations menu

Written by Glenn Morrow

What was Ardyn’s “sin”?

A prevailing mystery of Final Fantasy XV’s lore is precisely what Ardyn did to so earn the contempt of the gods, as well as to have his status as the Chosen King revoked by the Crystal. The best clue we’re given comes from Bahamut at the end of Chapter 13 when answering Noctis’s question “Who is ‘the Accursed’?”:

A man cursed with life eternal, whose immortality stems from the selfsame scourge that wrought the daemons. One so impure of body and soul was deemed unworthy of the Crystal’s Light, and forbidden to ascend.

Providing slightly more detail is the Japanese line originally spoken there:


“A foolish man who was rejected by the Holy Stone for that unclean body and was buried without ascending to the throne.”

We know from Ardyn’s revelatory speech to Noctis a few minutes earlier that he had absorbed the Starscourge from others and into his own body in order to cleanse them of its affliction:

Allow me to regale you with a tale. In an age long past, an incurable scourge ravaged mankind. A tiny menace that twisted men into monsters, the likes of which you’ve seen. In Lucis lived a savior who could cure the afflicted. His body would come to host myriad daemons, that countless lives be spared.

Given that he was doing good and saving people, one has to wonder why simply absorbing the scourge was such a crime as for him to be discarded by the divine forces inhabiting Eos.

One possible explanation is that the Crystal always intended its Chosen King to purge the scourge in the manner Noctis had to: by giving their life. It may well be that Ardyn didn’t want to die to fulfill his mission, and so he sought a method that would allow him to survive, thus circumventing the Crystal’s will and defying its authority. This alone, however, seems an unsatisfactory answer. Perhaps there is a second layer to it.

Indeed, there seems to be:

Recalling the similarities between the Starscourge and Jenova of FFVII (discussed on the “Allusions and references to past Final Fantasy projects” and “Theories and observations about the story and world” pages of our FFXV fan theories archive), it may well be that becoming so drenched in the hostile alien matter comprising the scourge made Ardyn likewise anathema to the Crystal — which you may recall is the heart of Eos. To the Crystal, the scourge was not just an infectious disease spreading across the planet’s surface, but an existential threat at the deepest level, seeking to contaminate the very soul of the world.

In light of this, the Crystal’s reaction and the gods’ enmity becomes more understandable, even if not less callous. At least if assuming Ardyn was unaware of all this.

In arriving at a satisfactory answer to this question, the possibility that Ardyn brought ruin unto the world due to an unwillingness to give his life raises another question worth pondering: Is this why the Ring of the Lucii — made from a fragment of the Crystal — drains life force? Could this be why Nyx Ulric had to give his life to use the ring in “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV”? And if so, did the former kings of Lucis decide on this requirement as a way to avoid repeating Ardyn’s mistake or did they just inform Nyx of a requirement chosen by the Crystal for making use of its power?

Is Ardyn related to Noctis?

An oft-pondered question about Ardyn is whether he and Noctis Lucis Caelum are related in (sur)name alone or if they actually share a bloodline. The signs seem to point to the latter.

As Exhibit A in this sanguinity test, let us recall and consider the “Magic of the Lucii” entry found in FFXV’s in-game Lore Guide from the opening tutorial:

The Crystal is the divine cornerstone of the Kingdom of Lucis. The Stone has a will of its own, and channels its sacred power through the Ring of the Lucii to the monarch who bears it. Monarchs in the line of Lucis have the innate ability to conjure magical weapons. A handful of close attendants are also afforded access to this selfsame power. The magical barrier known as the Wall has long kept the empire at bay, and thereby maintained the peace, yet not entirely without struggle. Sustaining the Wall imposes an immense physical burden upon the king, but to let it fall for even a moment would be to invite destruction.

Further, let us make note of the Cosmogony entry entitled “The Crystal”:

There once lived a man, born a mortal but blessed with powers divine. Conjuring a collection of glaives, he dispelled the darkness plaguing our star. As a reward for his efforts, the gods granted him a holy Stone—the Crystal, which he was to guard at all costs, for it would one day choose a King to see us through the coming disaster and lead us to salvation.

Finally, let’s look at the FFXV Scenario Side Ultimania’s entry on Elemancy (found on pg. 42 of the guide), those magical powers wielded by the Lucian royal family:

Power beyond human understanding wielded by royalty. Elemancy makes use of elements of the planet — such as flame, cold and lightning — refined from the elemental energy deposits that can be found in many places. Initially only able to be harnessed by members of the Lucian royal family, if refined and stored in a Magic Flask, the magic becomes available to others in a pseudo manner. Additionally, energy drinks such as Potions and Elixirs have a restorative effect due to their properties being altered by Noctis’s magical powers.

[Caption on a screenshot of Noctis using his Warp ability]
Teleporting to where one has thrown a weapon via Warp is also a form of magic. However, in order to master Warp, one must have not only credentials, but the appropriate training is also required.



In all this (“the innate ability to conjure magical weapons”; “born a mortal but blessed with powers divine”; etc.), it becomes clear that the ability to conjure weapons or throw them and warp to them are inherent to the Lucis Caelum bloodline. From the Cosmogony entry, it’s even clear that the family had these powers before the Crystal and Ring of the Lucii were entrusted into their possession. These powers are shared by all in the Lucis Caelum line, Ardyn included — and indeed he exhibits them liberally in the game’s final battle.

Speaking of that battle, there Ardyn wields the same royal arms as Noctis. That alone should confirm their relation to one another — but in the event it doesn’t, consider this optional conversation from Chapter 14 when examining one of the large murals in the hall of prophecy outside the Citadel’s throne room:

Noctis: Hmm. Guessing Ardyn was meant to appear in these, too.
Gladio: Hmph. Never would have guessed that guy for royalty.
Noctis: He’s been living a long time. In a world he could share with no one.

All details considered, it’s rather definitive that Noctis and Ardyn truly must be related.

The real reason Ardyn didn’t want to camp at a haven in Chapter 4

An easily overlooked detail about Ardyn related to the game’s lore concerns this seemingly inconsequential exchange from Chapter 4:

Ardyn: What say we call it a day here?
Ignis: “What say” we continue on to Cauthess?
Ardyn: The Archaean’s not going anywhere.
Ignis: Neither are we, under your stewardship.
Prompto: So we make camp…with Ardyn.
Noctis: Hell no.
Gladiolus: Might as well get the tent up.
Ardyn: Oh, I’m afraid I’ve never really been one for the outdoors. I shall foot the bill, so let us stay at the caravan over yonder.

While it might at first glance seem that this is due to nothing more than Ardyn preferring finer creature comforts, upon further analysis, it more likely is due to precisely what manner of creature Ardyn had become: No longer an ordinary human, Ardyn is a supernatural being — a daemonic entity, to be precise.

Blessed by the Oracles, the world’s havens repel daemons. If Ardyn’s reaction when touched by Lunafreya in Chapter 9 and during the game’s ending are any indication, he wouldn’t want to go near havens, and, in all likelihood, probably couldn’t without experiencing similar harm to that caused by Lunafreya — or some measure of discomfort at the least.

Did Ardyn want to die?

[Note: Before reading this analysis, it is suggested that you first read the section of this archive of fan theories discussing references to Sephiroth in Final Fantasy XV and the “Where did the Starscourge come from?” section of the “Theories and observations about the story and world of FFXV” page]

Since FFXV’s release, some fans have speculated that Ardyn may have been engineering his own death — that even as he was “in thrall to darkness,” as Lunafreya put it, he was subtly working to undo it by making sure Noctis acquired the power he needed to end the Starscourge. Others have suggested that he may have been acting on both his desire to see the Lucis Caelum line (which he was part of) end as well as a wish to see his own life — and the Starscourge — end.



While both ideas make for remarkably interesting interpretations of the story, and while Ardyn does comment at the end of Chapter 12 that his immortality is “my blessing and curse,” Final Fantasy XV’s director, Hajime Tabata, has clarified in an interview from FFXV’s Scenario Side Ultimania that there was no hidden motivation at work:

——Ardyn tries to complete his revenge by defeating Noctis, who had become king, but was his motivation entirely revenge?
Tabata: That’s right. There’s no profound reason behind it, as his actions were for the sake of reveling in the greatest possible pleasure for himself, to achieve revenge on Noctis at his strongest. Noctis’s misery is his own happiness.

Though we must accept this explanation, this fan can’t help but wonder. It’s probably left unclear on purpose, but it seems possible to this dreamer at least that Ardyn was so corrupted by the alien influence of the Starscourge that — in addition to being unable to die and join with Eos’s river of souls without first being cleansed — his very actions were being influenced on some level by what had happened to his body.

Though he most likely did so with awareness, Ardyn was inarguably working to the benefit of some Jenova-like entity rather his own goals alone, even as his human heart was genuinely and inarguably filled with anger over how he was mistreated. Certainly he realized his role in the parasite’s activities. Perhaps he never actually fought it. Yet perhaps the human side of him was still ready to die while the daemonic side embodying the Starscourge was not — and being, thus, unable to simply made whatever was left of his humanity all the more bitter.

When Luna touches Ardyn’s arm in Chapter 9 and heals a little of the corruption within him, he at first appears as though deep in thought, perhaps even tender toward her — then he reacts with a harsh smack. Were all those expressions simple mockery and contempt … or did he feel pensive at a touch of his humanity returning? Perhaps even some happiness — at least until an influence within him reacted defensively? The way his face contorts, one wonders.

Luna’s own words to him here certainly imply that she recognized him as a victim “in thrall to darkness” as well — and as he walked away from her, he stopped to look where she had touched him as though deeply moved and unable to shake the feeling.

These observations in mind, it’s difficult not to think about how his spirit reacted when Noct finally crossed over to put him to rest during the ending. As he lay dying at Noctis’s hand in Insomnia a few moments earlier, Ardyn had seemed at peace with his passing and respectful toward Noctis, even addressing him as “majesty” without his voice dripping with its usual sarcasm. “I will await you…in the beyond,” he says, then closes his eyes and passes on.

And indeed, when Noctis arrives in the spirit realm, Ardyn initially bows to Noctis in a seemingly friendly gesture — before his head suddenly thrashes violently and distressed growls arise from him, as though overcome by something forcing its way to the surface. Ardyn’s face twists into its more daemonic visage, and his thrashing becomes even more violent once Lunafreya’s spirit appears and touches his arm a second time.

Based on the observation that Ardyn does appear to have some sort of introspective reaction to Luna touching him with her healing power near the end of Chapter 9 — as well as the arguably even more startling observation that he appears to be wrestling with possession just before his face transforms when he’s confronted by Noctis in the hereafter — this fan does like to think there were two things guiding Ardyn: His genuine bitterness over how he was mistreated 2000 years ago, of course; but also the parasite infesting his body.

This notion, at least, doesn’t appear to be completely mutually exclusive from the disappointing explanation provided by Tabata — Ardyn’s motivation was his revenge. It just so happened that any impulses the scourge may have given Ardyn to serve its purposes could also be fulfilled by the same plan as his own genuine desire for revenge. At least up to a point.

Allowing — aiding even — Noctis to acquire his full power before fighting him was actually a threat to the Starscourge, but one Ardyn was willing to allow. It also meant arming the only mechanism by which Ardyn could be permanently killed: the Lucian king acting with the full power of his ancestors and the Crystal.

Ardyn was either going to finally die and be at peace while the last King of Lucis also died … or he would kill that last king while Eos slowly died. Either way, he would personally win.

This fan will continue to wonder (perhaps wish) that, on some deeper level, Ardyn’s buried humanity wished to see the Starscourge undone. He certainly set events in motion resulting in its end that otherwise would not have taken place — and perhaps, from where he’s concerned, it would still be victory enough either way that the line of Lucis would be ended.

Regardless of the official word on the matter from Tabata’s Ultimania interview, the on-screen depiction of the character does imply more going on with Ardyn: more than absolute hate every second; less than full control of himself at all times. Either Tabata let others on the team insert differing subtext into those scenes without his express direction, or he was speaking merely in terms of the broad strokes and didn’t consider the rest of this personal motivation for Ardyn.

In either case, Tabata’s comment remains nonetheless disappointing — if for no other reason than that he should have had more to say about what really is a fascinating character.

Where did the name “Izunia” come from?

At the time Final Fantasy XV was released, many fans came to an “informed misunderstanding” regarding the pseudonymous surname Ardyn introduced himself with. This confusion stems from the Japanese text of the scene from Chapter 13 in which Ardyn reveals his history and true name to Noctis:

“Allow me to regale you with a tale. In an age long past, an incurable scourge ravaged mankind. A tiny menace that twisted men into monsters, the likes of which you’ve seen. In Lucis lived a savior who could cure the afflicted. His body would come to host myriad daemons, that countless lives be spared. But a jealous king, one not yet chosen by the Crystal, ostracized and demonized this healer of the people. Making a true monster of him. I gave you my name earlier, but you should know that it was not the name given to me at birth. Ardyn Lucis Caelum is my proper name. You’ll never guess whose name Izunia was. Noct, killing you as a mortal will bring me scant satisfaction. Claim the Crystal’s power. Arise as its champion. Only once the Crystal and King are no more…can I know redemption.”

In the Japanese script, the line rendered as “You’ll never guess whose name Izunia was” in the official localization above was ああ イズニアは誰の姓だったか―― (“Ahh … I wonder whose surname was Izunia …”). Learning of this, a misunderstanding followed in which many a fan reported that Ardyn didn’t remember where he had gotten the name — it was just something he had made up and forgotten about. In other words, they were taking the rhetorical question he posed here as him literally pondering the question.

This confusion demonstrates why simply copying a Japanese line down and running it through an online translator is insufficient, just as it would be if translating English into another language. Divorced from all context — inflection, body language, even the rest of the backstory Ardyn is revealing here; as well as his reason for delivering this very monologue in the first place — it’s little wonder such an inaccurate conclusion came about.

Had Ardyn truly forgotten the name’s significance, how does one conclude that he remembered all else he spoke of here in such detail? Is it a reasonable notion that he can do that, but then — in the same speech he’s clearly been rehearsing for a long time — namedrops someone irrelevant? He plans everything else in the game to such fine detail, and has carried a blood vendetta for two millenia, but this fake name he’s been going by for more than thirty years holds no meaning for him? Does he then even remember why he has a vendetta against the Lucis Caelum line to begin with?

Why would Ardyn hate Noctis in the first place if not over this? Why would he be telling Noct all of this to begin with?

Ardyn didn’t wait 2000 years to deliver his real name like this — with creepy organ music kicking in as he does so, no less — to deliver a random sidebar unrelated to his villainous revelation. Certainly he isn’t going to drop a throwaway comment in that could only hurt the dramatic impact of said revelation.

Just look at Ardyn’s eyes and listen to the sarcasm in his voice. Sarcastically say “I wonder who” out loud to yourself, and you will have your answer, just as Noct did.

Another point to consider — one that was completely lost in the English localization, for whatever reason — is a subplot with Dave the Hunter’s mom and aunt that serves as a direct parallel to what happened to Ardyn (see the very next entry on this page, immediately below).

Izunia and Izania

A parallel to Ardyn’s story is found in some of the game’s NPCs. You may remember Ezma from the Meldacio Hunter HQ. She’s Dave’s mother, and the leader of the Hunters community. “Ezma” is what the English localization calls her, but in Japanese, her name is “Izania” (イザニア) — strikingly close to “Izunia” (イズニア), the surname Ardyn took from Noctis’s ancestor, who he claims betrayed him.

During Dave’s last quest, “The Witch of the Woods,” we learn that Izania vilified her sister, Kimya, spreading lies that she was a witch, and causing her exile into a forest:

Kimya: Brew potions, I do. But very special, they are. Understand them, some do not, so “witch,” they call me.
Noctis: What kinda potions?
Kimya: Repel the daemons, they do. Used at havens, they are. The Oracle’s blessing, my potions strengthen. Long ago, healing potions, the Hunters wanted. Brew them, I did, but very angry, their leader grew. Dangerous, my potions are, my sister said. Make them, if I must, but alone, I shall be. Receive help, I shall not.
Noctis: So she made the woods off-limits.
Kimya: Terribly cruel, it was. But fault her, I cannot. Follow her heart, she did. Very important, that is. Learn to decide for himself, her son must. If he does, lead the Hunters, someday he will.

In case the hints seem too vague, FFXV’s Scenario Side Ultimania does outright show that Kimya and Izania have the same last name.

This would then seem to also inform the derivation of Ardyn’s first name. Kimya lives in exile in the Malmalam Thicket. William Shakespeare’s “As You Like it” is set primarily in the Forest of Arden (“アーデンの森” in Japanese translations; note that the spelling “Arden” takes in Japanese is identical to that of the Japanese spelling our Ardyn’s name takes), where a duke has been exiled by his brother — the usurper of his duchy.



You may well remember that Final Fantasy XV has borne the influence of William Shakespeare from early in development, when it was still entitled “Final Fantasy Versus XIII.” This was, perhaps, made most obvious by the inclusion in early trailers, such as this one from 2008, of a quote from Act II, Scene 2 of “Hamlet”: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Parallels with “Hamlet” are numerous in FFXV: betrayed kings; usurpers; a decaying world; avenging (or vengeful) princes who die while lifting decay from the lands; the princes’ drowned betrotheds; the brothers of those betrotheds, who maintain long rivalries with the princes until their animosity is put to rest. To be sure, there are a few reversals at work as well, even within the imagery in play (e.g. imagery of the sun denotes corruption in “Hamlet,” while Noctis seeks to restore the Dawn in FFXV), but for the most part, the themes remain reasonably intact and readily identifiable.

Of those themes, usurpation is prominent and highly visible, as is also the case in “As You Like It.”

The parallels we’re concerned with should now be obvious: both Izunia (イズニア) and Izania (イザニア) spread lies about someone close to them, attributing to them an evil, supernatural nature (Ardyn as a daemon; Kimya as a witch), leading to the other person becoming a pariah within their community while Izunia and Izania (the Izzies?) became the leaders of those communities.

An interesting contrast to be found here, though, is that while Kimya wishes her betrayer’s heir well, Ardyn most obviously does not. Kimya sends encouraging advice back to Dave by way of Noctis, while everything Ardyn does is ultimately for the purpose of making Noctis miserable. Much like the exiled duke in “As You Like It,” Kimya seems to find contentment in her situation and remains kind.

All that we’ve examined here in relation to Izunia and Izania, as well as in relation to FFXV and the work of Shakespeare, makes for yet another hint, via thematic parallels in this case, that Ardyn and Izunia — and thus, Ardyn and Noctis — are related.

Does Ardyn’s black wing represent his black chocobo?

Recall the black wing Ardyn is sometimes seen carrying. Now, consider this concept art that features Ardyn riding a black chocobo while a crowd showers praise upon him:



In particular, consider two things this concept art tells us: First, it informs us that some 2000 years ago — before the public was poisoned against him, turned on him, and killed him because of the person the “Izunia” name originally belonged to — Ardyn was glorified. Second, it tells us that he had a black chocobo.

Those things in mind, a question presents itself: Did Ardyn’s executioners also execute his chocobo? Is that what Ardyn’s wing represents: a lost companion?

Obviously, it’s at least in part a reference to Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII, but it can still serve a function specific to this game and this character, just as so many other references throughout the game are more than Easter Egg alone.

For this fan, it’s remarkable how much the notion humanizes Ardyn, who has long since lost his humanity in every sense of speaking. Sure, once one learns that he was scorned by the Crystal and the gods for helping people who were suffering, albeit in a way they didn’t approve of, one is already aware that he was given a raw deal. At the least, one is aware of this in an academic sense — and for some of us, that and the lore associated with him is sufficient to make him an interesting character.

Unlike some Final Fantasy villains with unfair treatment in their backstories, we do learn that Ardyn had been doing genuinely good things before betrayal and divine indifference left him abandoned some 2000 years ago. While one may feel an inkling of a sense of injustice for him, there are ever present reminders that he has done inexcusable things to people who had nothing to do with his suffering. Even if the Starscourge is actually influencing his negativity some level, he’s still very much aware of what he’s doing and why. And it’s extremely petty.

Without being able to apply more than just the betrayal he faced to Ardyn’s past, it could be difficult to feel for him as much as one would like to. However, looking at that concept art above, as well as the piece depicting him with his arms shackled above his head … picturing him possibly having gone on a long, lonely adventure to save innocent people with just his trusted chocobo for company (maybe he’s had this chocobo its whole life, or maybe he met it in the wild during the journey); doing these great things; receiving the gratitude and love of people everywhere like Oracles receive in the present; and then being betrayed by someone trusted — seeing those looks of thanks and adoration twist into repulsion and loathing; watching his beloved companion be dismembered before him; feeling helpless as he is stripped of clothing and dignity, then shackled and perhaps tortured; eventually slipping away into what should have been the release of death only to then become aware of the contamination caking his very soul, rendering it unable to find rest within the literal heart of the now contemptuous world he had tried to save; and finally finding himself back in the realm of the living that had become nothing but pain and horror to him …

Headcanon or not, fanfiction or no — it’s the push needed to make Ardyn fully into a fascinating character, simultaneously pitiable and detestable. He needs this so that we can feel the compassion for him that Noctis was able to in the end.

Of course Noct is able to do it: he’s the King of Light, the Chosen who will bring the Dawn. He’s us as we really would like to imagine we could be. You expect him to pity the villain who has hurt him so much even if we can’t — but as the player, you’ve probably bonded with a chocobo during your travels. For that matter, you’ve even bonded with a car and experienced heartache at watching it “die.”

For this fan at the least, making this connection added a valuable dimension to the character.

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