Griffith from Berserk is more than just a meme, and this deserves to be discussed.
… Is about as close as you can get with most fans of the long-running Berserk series about Griffith, the main antagonist. The meme comes from the nature of what he did, a despicable act that sends series protagonist Guts into a dark quest for revenge.
— Rumor Has It (@GeoffThewRumors) January 2, 2017
To say that Griffith did nothing wrong (another meme) would be incredibly wrong, but so would simply condemning all his actions as evil. He is a character that deserves to be discussed fairly, while most people would not hesitate to slander his bad points, I think his good points, his desire to follow his dream to the bitter end, are something that’s interesting to discuss.
Because, in reference to his good points, I can kind of relate to Griffith.
About Griffith and the world of Berserk
The world of Berserk is set in a world reminiscent of 14th-century Europe. The cursed protagonist Guts travels through the world slaying demons in a brutal quest for revenge. Nearly every contemporary fantasy setting features demons as fallen angels. The demons in Berserk are fallen humans. They all possess an item known as the Behelit, a creepy-eyed egg shaped object. In a moment of desperation, they sacrificed something important to them in order to gain demonic power, becoming an Apostle. Often the sacrifice is a loved one, but a certain Apostle sacrificed “his world” in order to become what he is.
On top of all these Apostles are the God Hand, powerful Apostles who come about when two conditions are met. One, 216 years has passed. Two, they possess the Crimson Behelit. A very certain Behelit which only comes to chosen ones to ascend to the God Hand. Griffith was one such person.
Before we discuss Griffith, we need to understand him. He was born an orphan in a small city. He played with other orphans to ‘go to the castle’ that overlooked his town. For Griffith, this was more than just a game. While for most of his fellow orphans it was enough to simply win junk toys, he actually wanted the castle. At a young age, he got an item from a gipsy fortune teller that would decide his life. It was an item that would allow him to “obtain the world in exchange for his own flesh and blood.” This was a behelit, but not just any behelit. It was the Crimson Behelit! The threat didn’t bother him in the slightest, because to Griffith, Muh Dream is all that matters. He was so focused on this tiny dream that outside of it nothing mattered.
Through a battle, Griffith ‘claims’ a younger Guts, telling Guts that he belongs to Griffith. Not only is this creepy, but it gets to the very core of Griffith. He loves control. He never lost a fight. His army trusted him almost completely in every situation. The king of Midland trusted him more than his own brother. He rose, time and time again, to power. That’s why when Guts left the Band of the Hawk it destroyed him as much as it did. For the first time in his life he wasn’t in control. Guts had left him and there was nothing he could do about it. This explains why he slept with the princess, he needed to feel that control that was normal to him again.
Because of this, he spends a year of torture which destroys his body so much that not even the normally super graphic and explicit Berserk couldn’t show it to us. After nearly a year of torture, he is rescued but attempts to commit suicide rather than live the rest of his life as a cripple. Which activates his behelit.
Griffith brings about the Eclipse and sacrifices the entire Band of the Hawk (Or Falcon…) to become the fifth member of the God Hand, Femto. Only series protagonist Guts and his lover Casca survives, although she is mentally broken from the Eclipse. This is where both memes, he did nothing wrong and fuck Griffith came from.
“It’s a blood smeared dream after all”, Griffith says to Casca in a surprisingly self-aware monologue. When Griffith talks about dreams, he doesn’t mean some vague hand-wavey “I wanna do this!” style thing, but a goal to which you aspire to.
In his discussion with Princess Charlotte, it becomes evident just how important his dream is. He holds the idea of a dream above all else, friends, love, power. To Griffith, the only person who could ever be his true friend is someone who follows his dream and opposes everyone in his quest for it. Ironically, Guts overhears this, and his leaving the Band of the Hawk (Or Falcon…) is what causes Griffiths dream to collapse.
Griffith’s dream is a central idea that defines his character. After a young boy dies, he reflects that he hopes that the boy died happy following his dream. This boy, only 10 years old, wanted to be a knight and followed Griffith to the end. Even at the Eclipse, the boy is still with Griffith.
His subconscious is delved into during the Eclipse, in the form of Griffith trying to get to the castle1. He meets an old gipsy woman, who directs him onto a literal mountain of corpses, the only way to get to the castle. Then the boy appears again before him, asking Griffith to take him to the castle. But the younger Griffith replies that he can’t because the boy is dead. Hundreds of other people come to ask to be taken to the tower with Griffith, but he has to reject them because they’re already dead. Coming to the conclusion that the only way to get to the castle is to keep stacking the corpses, he places the boy on the top. And so the Eclipse commences.
Griffith did stuff, right?
Well yeah, he did. I suppose at this point in this editorial I should tell how I relate to Griffith without coming across as a complete psychopath. I admire Griffith (Or at least the good parts of Griffith) because he let nothing stop him. Despite his birth from nothing, he started a mercenary band all on his own, led it to victory countless times and eventually rose to the rank of general.
His men loved him not because he was the best swordsman or the best strategist, but because ultimately he imparted his dream of greatness and glory. In fact, Griffith realises this and it is what keeps him going. He devotes his body to winning battles after battles for the men who died for his dream.
If there is anything good to take away from Griffith, it is his dream and the way he strives for it. But a dream is a fragile thing you must be very careful in completing. Taking Griffiths ideology, a dream is something you place above all else. Casca notes that most people abandon their dreams as “Childish yearning” but Griffith held onto his dream long after most would’ve given up. For your dream, you must give up friends, family, even to your extent yourself. But you must also be careful not to be consumed by the dream. Griffith talks about dreams that consume thousands of people, even the dreamer itself in its course. Griffiths dream is such a dream that consumes thousands, quite literally in the culmination of the Eclipse.
What would I do as Griffith?
Of course, the answer to the question of what I would do in Griffith situation is a tricky one. On the surface, I could think of it as “I’d hold it together better.” But you would also have to resign yourself to the knowledge that you will never attain any of your goals. For the remainder of your life, you will have to rely on other people for everything. I know some of you may be comfortable with this, but Griffith wasn’t, and neither am I with the propect.
Maybe some of you may disagree, but in Griffiths situation, I don’t think there is a right answer where everyone comes out on top. Maybe it’s just because I’m near Griffiths age at the time of the Eclipse. He can sacrifice his whole life to save his friends, or he can achieve his dream. Am I saying what Griffith did was right? I’m not trying to justify his choice. Was it selfish? Absolutely! It was a choice that Griffith had to consciously make and did because he knew it would be the best for himself and no one else.
Griffith represents what I aspire to be (Within reason of course!). He is a young man who saw the world before him and took it for all it was worth. I’m studying for a degree in engineering right now, and it is hard. But I see Griffith taking the world with nothing, and I can’t help but see his good qualities as inspiring. I can just hope that like Griffith I can get where I want to be by nothing more than my ambition and hard work.
- It’s symbolic that his subconscious takes the form of a young boy, to reflect the fact that his intense desire for his dream is somewhat of a “childish yearning” as Casca calls it. ↩