[Fire Emblem: Three Houses]Fire Emblem: Why Three Houses’ Rhea Is Misunderstood | CBR

07-19 19:43

  In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Archbishop Rhea is characterized as a tyrant, but her backstory proves there’s more to her than meets the eye.

  By Sam Rowett

  Published Apr 29, 2021


  rhea fire emblem

  Fire Emblem: Three Houses?created some of the series’ most instantly-popular heroes, to the point that they swept the mobile game’s popularity contest in 2020. However, within?Intelligent Systems’ epic strategy RPG,?Archbishop Rhea is the most misunderstood and controversial figure.

  Much of the criticism directed at?Rhea?stems from Edelgard, the leader of the game’s Black Eagles house. Edelgard?claims?that Reha exploits the faithful to control the world. However, examining the?game’s history reveals that?Rhea is a far more complex and tragic figure than?most of the characters in the game (or those who have played it)?fully realize.


  Related:?How a Japan-Only Fire Emblem Game Inspired Three Houses

  In?Three Houses, the continent of?Fódlan is split between the Adrestrian Emprie, the Kingdom of Faerghus and Leicester Alliance. These countries all have mixed relationships with Rhea’s Church of Seiros. Adrestia has all but cut political ties?to?it and the others, while nominally loyal, are not necessarily devout.?Their?leaders all have reservations about both its role in the world?and its?traditional Crest system,?which claims aristocrats should maintain power because they bear?brands?bestowed by the Goddess of?Fódlan.


  fire emblem three houses

  The?Crest system is?Fire Emblem’s way of gamifying the divine right of kings, the idea that monarchs are appointed by a god to rule, and it is integral to the plot of?Three Houses. Nobles often have Crests that provide gameplay benefits, such as improved strength or healing, and?can wield divine weapons called Heroes’ Relics.?This?gives them not only wealth and titles, but explicitly supernatural powers, making the gulf between rich and poor even wider than it would be in a mundane world.?Implementing?and upholding this system is what Rhea is most widely criticized for,?but her?motivations?are more tragic than despotic.


  Late in the game, Rhea is revealed to be one of the few surviving Children of the Goddess, a race of shapeshifting dragons.?The?rest of her people were massacred by the bandit king Nemesis, whose followers took their blood to become demigods and fashioned their bones into weapons.?This piece of lore reveals that the?Crest-bearing nobility are descendants of?those ancient bandits, and their Heroes’ Relics are little more than grisly trophies.

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  Rhea, understandably, exacted vengeance upon?Nemesis. However, it wasn’t until the Cindered Shadows DLC that her?reasons for?cultivating the Crest system were explored. By accessing the Shadow Library, a collection of ancient and censored books,?players can discover?records?from a warrior loyal to the bandit king. The unknown soldier mentions that, though Rhea will?hunt them down, their clan was spared for surrendering. This?implies she only took revenge against those who?personally murdered her race, leaving innocent or repentant family members?alive.


  Since Crests are passed down through bloodlines, Rhea creating a religion to worship her mother while ennobling the bandits’ surrendering children?may have been a?wistfully warped way of keeping their memories alive. The fact that she?spent the next thousand years trying to revive her mother (with varying?results based on the player’s choices) reinforces this idea of her clinging to a past that was violently ripped from her.

  fire emblem three houses

  Unfortunately, Rhea’s fear of losing anything else?had disastrous consequences. By the time of?Three Houses,?Fódlan is an elitist and insular society whose class and Crest-based divides threaten to plunge the continent into war. While Rhea does nothing to stop this, the Church’s gradually-waning power suggests?the situation has gotten out of her control. She may even see maintaining the system as the lesser of two evils.?Even after a millennia, she is still deeply traumatized by the loss of her people, to the point that she suppresses scientific advancement so that humanity?never again becomes powerful enough to threaten the few that remain.


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  What Rhea fails to realize until it is too late is that trying to stop humans from killing the surviving Children ensures they become desperate enough to try. Edelgard rebels against the Church in every route and, if the player joins her, they can wipe out the remaining dragons out of a misguided?desire to?free the world. Ironically, all Rhea’s death does is ensure that humanity is controlled by another false history.

  Rhea is far from saintly. The game itself deems her methods to be wrong, or at the very least, woefully misguided. After all, she either dies or relinquishes power at the end of the game regardless of which route players take. However, she is not the monster?her enemies make her out to be. Like most characters in Three Houses, Rhea?struggles to let go of a traumatic past. It is only by learning to do this and allowing the player character to assume her old role that her wounds — and those she?inflicted — can finally begin to heal.


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  About The Author

  Sam Rowett

  (39 Articles Published)

  Freelance writer and game designer with masters degrees in Game Design and Creative Writing. Builds his own games at @SamRowettGames

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