Today I will be going over some of the basics for the legends that served as the basis for the Lancer and Archer characters in Fate/Zero. So SPOILERS for their identities, but I’ll mostly be focusing on the real-life stories as I did last time for Saber and Rider.
Lancer – Diarmuid Ua Duibhne
Lancer is certainly one of the lesser-known combatants in the Holy Grail War–or at least, I had never heard of Diarmuid before watching Fate/Zero. He is a figure of Irish mythology though, which is a whole world of stories I am unfamiliar with. The story of Diarmuid can be found in The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne, the two characters being found together in most all of the artwork I found for Diarmuid.
The story goes like this. Fionn, the leader of a group of warriors, is set to marry Gráinne, the beautiful daughter of a king. But Fionn is old, and Gráinne instead falls in love with one of Fionn’s handsome warriors–Diarmuid. (In some versions of the tale, Diarmuid has a “love spot” on his face [e.g. on his forehead] that makes him irresistible to women.) Gráinne runs off with Diarmuid, who at first is reluctant since he is super-loyal to Fionn. But Gráinne threatens him with her geis (AKA geass, a magical contract where the person will die if he doesn’t uphold his end of the bargain), and the two flee from Fionn’s warriors. (At one point they use a cloak of invisibility.) Then there are a variety of stories about Diarmuid and Gráinne.
Eventually things quiet down with Fionn (I guess he gives up), and so Diarmuid and Gráinne are able to settle down and have children. But one day Diarmuid finds himself killed by a wild boar during a boar hunt with Fionn and Co. Fionn has the ability to save Diarmuid with healing water from his cupped hands, but Fionn is a troll and lets the water slip through his fingers. In some stories Gráinne dies of grief, and in others she has her children get revenge on Fionn.
Interesting stuff, right? I find these kinds of stories pretty fascinating, albeit pretty random and bizarre at times. I feel rather bad about how Diarmuid died in such a lame way, but I suppose that adds to the tragedy of it all. Lancer’s situation seems pretty similar to Diarmuid’s, in just how loyal he is to his master–even if his master is a LAMER.
It looks like Lancer’s spears appropriately come from stories of Diarmuid as well, including Gae Buidhe, a spear that causes wounds which can not be healed naturally or by regular magic. I do like how Fate/Zero has paid attention to details like these in its world-building.
Archer – Gilgamesh
So Archer is quite the arrogant one, but he certainly has a lot of power to help back up his lofty claims. And if you read the Epic of Gilgamesh, you’ll find out that Gilgamesh is, indeed, quite epic. He also likes lions, if these stone carvings are reliable to go by.
It appears Gilgamesh was a real king of Uruk, Sumeria (in modern-day Iraq), who lived a really long time ago–somewhere around 2700 to 2500 BCE. For thousands of years after his death, Gilgamesh was held in the highest esteem as a legendary king, warrior, and city builder. Keep in mind just how long ago this took place, and his achievements become quite impressive indeed. Stories of Gilgamesh have been found on many clay tablets–the most complete story excavated in Ninevah (the tablets dating back to around 600 BCE). Fame of Gilgamesh pretty much died out with the fall of the Assyrian Empire (conquered by the Persians… who would later be conquered by Alexander), though the 1800′s would bring his name back into the world when English travelers would discover these stone tablets.
I read the Epic of Gilgamesh in college, and it plays out much like other mythological tales that may be more familiar to students. Gilgamesh had a human father and a goddess mother, which somehow made him two-thirds god and one-third human (that’s just how epic he is). He built and ruled a magnificent city, but was also a cruel ruler who utilized strenuous forced labor, and had his way with all the women he wanted. To put Gilgamesh in check, the gods create Enkidu, a wild man who is just as strong as Gilgamesh. The two end up becoming best friends, fighting monsters and having a great time, but unfortunately the gods give Enkidu a fatal illness. Depressed by the death of his friend and the possibility that he too will one day die, Gilgamesh travels the world to learn all its secrets, including the story of the Flood (which is very similar to the Biblical story of Noah), where a ton of people died.
Essentially, the tale is about mortality. Gilgamesh accepts that he will one day die, but when he returns to Uruk and sees the magnificent city he has built, he understands that humanity will live on. The city of Uruk will long stand as a testament of Gilgamesh’s glory, and is about as close to immortality as a person could ever hope for.
In Fate/Zero, Archer certainly thinks highly of himself, and could perhaps make a decent argument for being the first magnificent king in the world (or, “first and only,” as he might put it). Archer has an interesting discussion with Kirei, where we learn of Archer’s interest in all types of people, as well as his advice to enjoy all the pleasures in life. Overall I think Archer fits the personality of Gilgamesh pretty well, though the oozing arrogance would probably hearken best to his earlier days as king. The fact that Archer has achieved a sort of immortality (or at least return to life) via the Holy Grail War is an interesting one though, and may play a major role in his personality as well.