Great Ones are a type of "being" in Bloodborne.
They are extremely powerful, multi-dimensional beings that can exist across several planes of existence. They have often been described as gods, and play a mysterious yet crucial role in the game's plot and lore.
There is a certain amount of confusion surrounding what constitutes a true Great One and how to distinguish them from a Kin. This stems from the fact that Kin bosses have tremendous power and/or abilities that can considered to be "god-like", and since both have an alien appearance, it becomes hard determine whether one is a "True" Great One, or an extremely powerful and oversized Kin.
To put it simply, the Kin are human beings that were graced by eldritch knowledge, through the contact with the Great Ones. Great Ones themselves are unknown beings that are impossible to explain and comprehend through human thought. They merely exist, and they have desires and motives.
Some fairly simple distinguishing factors are:
- Great Ones bleed red when struck. Kin will bleed a pale yellowish fluid.
- Great Ones are unaffected by "Kinhunter" Blood Gems, that boost attack against Kin.
Regardless, and most interestingly, this confusion that is made between Kin and Great Ones is not only true for players who try to understand the game, but also in-game, as many of the people will wrongly assume oversized and mighty Kin to be Great Ones.
The Healing Church has pursued a strange goal for a long, long time; a goal that has been hidden from all but the highest of rank among them: to summon or harness the power of the Great Ones, beings not of this world, powerful enough to be seen as gods. Worshipped by most Yharnamites, either directly or indirectly, Great Ones are Eldritch beings that reside on a higher plane than humanity. Initially revered by the scholars in Byrgenwerth, the Great Ones either directly or indirectly caused the Scourge of the Beast, a blood-borne affliction tracing back to contaminated blood found within the lost labyrinth of Pthumeru.
They were here, in the labyrinth, long ago. They appear to be much closer than you'd think at Byrgenwerth, men were sent into the labyrinth, and an academy was built to understand the strange discoveries inside, generally called the Truth. It seems the Truth is a terrible thing, slowly breaking the mind of anyone who delves too deeply. Awful things happened at Bygenwerth, and as a result, the church closed off not only the academy, but the entire forest, calling it "forbidden".
Whether or not the Great Ones are actually gods or just higher levels of beings is inconsequential, the question itself is entirely academic. The important thing is: They exist. They have an influence on the world. They appear to be ageless, but they can be killed. Their powers are strange things, often involving teleportation or energy or things that the human world cannot do. Even perceiving the Great Ones properly requires great amounts of Insight--something Master Willem tried to do, at his own cost.
The strongest of the Great Ones appears to be the Moon Presence, the creator of the Nightmare the Hunter is trapped within. Others are Oedon, Rom, Mergo's Wet Nurse, Amygdala, the Celestial Emissary, the Brain of Mensis, and Ebrietas. Oedon, one of their number, has transcended even the others, to the point that he no longer has a physical body but instead is just a voice and an influence. He is very powerful and has become sort of "timeless", thus potentially making him the most powerful, yet the most indirect, of the Great Ones.
He is also the only Great One explicitly referred to as male, with all the others' genders either female or undefined (assuming the Great Ones even have humanly-definable genders). Some items' descriptions tell about Great Ones living in "The Dream" and others living in "The Nightmare" (Which is the case of Amygdala whose function is still to be defined, and Mergo's Wet Nurse). Humans have been able to contact them through the use of Phantasm, little invertebrates found in the Labyrinth. Interestingly, Mergo's Wet Nurse and the Moon Presence are themselves never directly identified as Great Ones. Whether this is merely an oversight or an indication that they are indeed a different class of being is unknown.
The plague was used as an outlet by the Great Ones as an attempt to find a surrogate for their lost children. As evidenced in description of each One Third of Umbilical Cord, this process involved the Paleblood Moon and an attempt to foster a new child for a Great One that lost their own. In the world of Bloodborne, babies that are treated as “special” in one way or the other are offered as lures to the Great Ones. When it comes to living creatures, the stronger or more advanced you are, the fewer offspring you produce in your life. The Great Ones have all lost their children because of their positions, and as a result, they're attracted to these special babies. The babies are one way of calling them.
"Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate, and Oedon, the formless Great One, is no different. To think, it was corrupted blood that began this eldritch liaison."
The Great Ones are supernatural beings with incredible strength and stamina. They are demonic and godly in both appearance and abilities. The Celestial Emissary has the ability to disguise itself as a lesser Kin to deceive enemies, the Brain of Mensis can cause Frenzy with its stare, Mergo's Wet Nurse can summon illusionary copies within a nightmare realm, the Moon Presence has the ability to levitate and controls the Hunter's Dream, Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos is able to create a more powerful star explosion akin to A Call Beyond, Amygdala resides within the Nightmare Frontier and can create devastating lasers with its eyes, and Rom, the Vacuous Spider is able to summon spider-like underlings at will. As seen with The Hunter, it is possible for humans to become Great Ones.
"True" Great OnesThe following is a list of Great Ones:
This being takes a form that is more or less arachnoid, with eight arms and a lean, almost sticklike body with an opening in the chest. It has six clawed fingers on each hand, two of which display a glowing light on the palm, and its legs are hunched and bent like a reptile. The head consists of an almond shaped organic cage containing the brain, which is host to dozens of large lidless yellow eyes, and it has a short tail.
Very little is known about this being, but it has by far the most prevalent iconography in the world, with statues of the being's likeness common in Yharnam, with the Grand Cathedral sporting a line of statues along its inside stairs. A very clear statue of it can also be found in the Hypogean Gaol. In addition, two tentacled versions of it appear in Yharnam and will draw the player into their hand with a vortex, which terrifies and inflicts Frenzy before simply dropping the player, and under special circumstances will send the player into a specific part of the Nightmare, with one giving access to the Hunter's Nightmare and the other given access to the Lecture Building.
Patches is a devoted worshipper of Amygdala, and is apparently on relatively good terms with it, jokingly asking it to have mercy when it encounters the player. Though he is shocked when it dies, Patches eventually leaves to find a new god in the labyrinth and states "Think not of poor Amygdala. Upon that piteous bastard, you bestowed salvation" before leaving, though it is not certain as to why he considered that being as such.
When they entered the Nightmare, the School of Mensis retrieved an immobile Great One from the depths of it, appearing as multiple horrid eyes within a rotting brain equipped with a claw. Though they knew the being, whatever it was once, had somehow gained the "eyes on the inside" that all seek, the eyes were of a clearly evil nature and had left the brain rotted, and neglected to pursue whatever methods were used to ascend its mind. Despite this, they recognized that it was a true Great One and left it in a tower within the Nightmare to serve as a guardian from intruders, and to stand as a living relic.
It is first encountered when approaching the castle in the Nightmare of Mensis, emitting a maddening aura that damages and induces Frenzy on whatever is caught in the light, requiring the player to sneak past the light to reach the door. Eventually one can discover the lever that keeps it suspended, and drop it down into the depths of the Nightmare, where it cannot do harm. Later it can be reached by elevator, where one can use the Make Contact gesture to eventually gain a Moon Rune before slaying the being.
Resembling one of the Crawlers, but without tentacles and with a human face and arms with hands, it was the object of worship for the residents of the Fishing Hamlet. Due to this, they became fishlike in appearance, and when they were discovered they were attacked by a group of Byrgenwerth's scholar hunters. Confirmed members of the party are Gehrman and Maria, but it is possible that Willem, Laurence, and Ludwig were involved. They slaughtered the villagers, opening their skulls to find eyes, and eventually discovered Kos. It is unknown whether they killed it first, but they did some horrid thing to it, possibly harvesting the blood and parasites from it (due to the nature of the Orphan, they were likely the ones who killed them). When they were finished, Maria is thought to have become so disgusted that she threw her weapon into a well, unwilling to even look at it.
But the mind of Kos remained, and it laid out a plan of vengeance for its dead child, seen by mortals as the curse of the hunters. Those that became drunk with blood were pulled into the Hunter's Nightmare, where they are trapped for eternity, living in an endless hunt. Most of the old hunters that killed the Orphan were trapped by this world, except for Gehrman, who became imprisioned by another being.
When the player finds the corpse, they see the Orphan stillbirth from it, trapped by the curse as well. Once they kill it and banish its essence, the Orphan is "returned to the ocean" and the curse is lifted, likely due to the mind of Kos being satisfied by the freedom of its child.
Resembling a six armed Grim Reaper with no head, this being appears to be the prime Great One associated with the School of Mensis, and is located atop the castle in their Nightmare. As the name implies, it likely attended to the needs of Mergo, the child of Yharnam, the Pthumerian Queen. By using one of the Three Third Cords, the members of the School of Mensis were able to have an audience with Mergo and the child's attendant, but it damaged the school members' brains and left them inert.
When the player arrives, Yharnam is found looking up at the roof of the loft, her bloody dress implying a birth or cesarian that my or may not have caused the death of Mergo. They fight with Mergo's Wet Nurse atop the loft, and its death causes the death of Mergo, ending the Nightmare and halting the spread of the beast plague. Yharnam bows to the player and disappears after the fight, likely because her child was kept in the Nightmare by the Great Ones or the School of Mensis, and has been freed from it.
Pure black and made of human flesh and bone, with the exception of its Messengerlike tentacled head, it was the being called forth by Laurence and the old hunters using one of the Three Third Cords. They were, in turn, beckoned back by the pale moon, a huge red moon of eldritch nature, which caused the hunters to receive their extraordinary abilities. Using Gehrman as a surrogate child, it used his memories to shape the dimension it rules into the likeness of the workshop and create the Hunter's Dream, and kept him there to both serve as assistance for the hunters and simply to exist as its replacement child.
By consuming three of the Three Third Cords, the player gains the fabled eyes on the inside, sought by Willem to elevate his mind to the sort that the Great Ones have. When the player defeats Gehrman, the pale moon Great One manifests in a physical form (this physical body is the embodiment of the pale moon that is called Moon Presence), and attempts to use the player to replace Gehrman as its surrogate child. Due to the power of the player's mind being of the sort that a Great One's is, the Moon Presence cannot shackle the player to the Hunter's Dream, and realizes that the player is a danger to them and any children it may find and replace Gehrman with. Upon killing the pale moon being, the player transcends the bonds of humanity and becomes an infant Great One, adopted by the Doll and fated to lead humanity into its next stage of evolution.
This Great One is thought to be incapable of taking a physical form, and so exists only in voice, though is symbolized with a rune. Referred to specifically as a male (though this is likely formality and not actual biological fact), this being is the reason that the blood is able to heal people, as the blood serves as a medium and essence for Oedon to interact with the world. Due to this, it can be said that all of Yharnam inadvertently worships and serves the will of the formless Great One, but what exactly it wills is uncertain.
Heard of throughout the story, Oedon only has two key roles, in which the being attempts to have children with mortals. One of those moments is with Imposter Iosefka, whose experiments on people appeared to be in the effort of using one of the Three Third Cords to acquire the fabled eyes on the inside, and ascend to a higher plane. If she is killed before this can happen, she will drop a rune signifying her attempt to utilize the power of Oedon (she is clearly writhing when she is found and the rune is called Oedon Writhe), possibly meaning that she was pregnant with a child.
On the part of Oedon, the child birthed by Arianna is said to be born of "eldritch liaison" from her corrupted blood. By the sexual definition of liaison, her corrupted blood and sultry work likely made her a vulnerable candidate for Oedon to impregnate, using the transfer of blood as a medium to reach her. She goes mad from her child, and the death of the child's Three Third Cord is accessed by killing it, through Arianna will be killed as well.
Child of the being called Kos, it resembles a huge wrinkled pale man, with eldritch wings and using its placenta as a weapon. Killed by the defilement of Kos' body by the old hunters, it became trapped in another reality which the old hunters would also be pulled into as punishment, called the Hunter's Nightmare. It sobs clearly, showing the sentience of the being, trapped by the sins of Byrgenwerth.
When it is encountered, it violently lashes out at the player, and remaining in a cosmic form after its physical body is destroyed. Banishing the remaining essence frees the Orphan, which pleases Kos to the point of lifting the curse of blood, and preventing those that have not yet died from ever becoming trapped inside that world
"Kin" Great OnesThe following is a list of very powerful Kin, that have a power almost equal to that of a Great One. And which are considered, even by the inhabitants of the game as Great Ones.
Little is known about the Byrgenwerth Spider, but it is said to actively prevent things from being discovered, as there are those who seek a sort of master (likely Willem) and are unable to because of the being's interference with their search. It is also said that Kos granted the being with the eyes on the inside, ascending it into a Great One, though why Kos would do this to Rom and nobody else is not certain. This being is said to have the knowledge of all secret rituals, and reveals nothing to others for no reason other then it being unnecessary, allowing it to hide knowledge from the naked eye. In an interview with Miyazaki, he states that Rom is female, making this the only Great One of specified gender.When the player encounters Willem, he points towards the lake, wishing for the player to go forth an uncover the last secret. Entering the water reveals the bulwark mentioned in some runes, which guards the minds of those who are asleep from accessing the higher planes, and is an auger for the world beyond humanity. Destroying Rom reveals that she was the guardian of the bulwark of the eldritch Truth, and her death dispels the power of the bulwark, unleashing the higher planes onto the world visibly and revealing what is required for the School of Mensis to accomplish their rituals.
This being is one of the more human of the Great Ones, with a bulbous head containing feelers that channel the energy existing in the cosmos, and a body more or less in resemblance of a giant blue martian. Its humanoid form is likely because it is the result of the Healing Church experimenting on patients located in the Orphanage, in an effort to create a sort of cosmic think tank, by having patients gain eyes on the inside by imbibing parasite infested water. The patients would hear the sound of water deep in the ocean, described as a "sticky" sound, which was the inhuman voice of a celestial being. Eventually a patient gained the ability to see the voice itself, and transcribed the Milkweed Rune from it, allowing others to become Kin.
Several failed attempts, called the Living Failures, were kept in the gardens above the one where those in the process of becoming Kin were permitted to be amidst the flowers. This location is where players fight the Celestial Emissary in the real world, and the patients there can utilize the same power, implied by an item there to consist of phantasms using the body to generate cosmic fields.
Due to the Communion Rune it drops, the being is clearly important to the Church, but its exact role is not certain. Most believe it to be the means of communication between humans and Ebrietas, and it is possible that it is the leader of the Orphanage, and by extension the Choir.
Known by some as the left behind Great One, it was first met by the Choir after they used the Great Isz chalice to have an audience with it. It became the source of most of the Choir's cosmic knowledge, and caused an inquiry into the cosmos from Isz, which was transcended partially throughout reality. Together they look towards the sky, attempting to discover the secrets of the cosmos, and possibly allow Ebrietas to return to it.
It is encounter in a secret cavern beneath the Grand Cathedral called the Altar of Despair, bowed in front of some form of ascended being's remains, only attacking once it has been attacked. This being resembles Rom, but it is not known what it is, though it reverses time.
Failed Great Ones
The Healing Church, even in its infancy, began experimenting methods to trigger the evolutionary process of humanity, all in order to transcend it beyond its mortal coil. As such, they experimented with the patients in the Research Hall and despite their many tries, they only managed to be the source of several insane, screeching humanoid beings, with bulbous leathery heads and bodies that became stretched.
The only patients that came close to success, were ultimately failures. That is what the Living Failures are. The prototype to what inevitably became the Celestial Emissary. And their paralels are not only evident by their physical appearance, with a pale blue body, stretched limbs and bloated heads; but also by their abilities, as they are capable of unleashing several Arcane blasts, and even one that appears to be similar to Rom's Arcane Meteors.
- Great Ones are not Kin, but Kin can become so large and powerful, that in-game they might be recognized as such.
- The Great Ones are inspired from the works of H. P. Lovecraft, who wrote various books about eldritch horrors called "Great Old Ones"; cosmic entities with god-like powers and forbidden knowledge.
- Ironically, the term "Great Ones" in his fiction actually referred to the true gods of the human race, and the beings of this game are closer in nature to the "Great Old Ones" that subjected the gods of man. Lovecraft's Great Ones were also residents of "The Dreamlands," much like the Great Old Ones of the game.
- While many assume that beings such as Rom and the Celestial Emissary are not Great Ones, it should be noted that trophies gained for defeating them identify them as such. According to their lore and implications, however, they are still technically Kin. This can be explained as a result of their human origins, but they have been able to reach a point where they transcend humanity entirely, be it from whatever process it may.
- Due to the nature of the cosmos, and of the Great Ones, it can be theorized that killing a Great One does not truly kill it, but only what physical form it has taken.
- This would make sense considering that in Lovecraft's stories the Great Old Ones are far too powerful and unknowable for man to defeat.
- The nature of Isz may have allowed the Kin that you killed, such as Ebrietas, to return to this physical plane after defeat. If that is true, it could mean the bosses there are have returned to physical existence instead of having copies (Loran Darkbeast and Paarl are not the same lifeform, but perhaps the two variants of Ebrietas are).
- A Lore Note at Byrgenwerth states "When the red moon hangs low, the line between man and beast is blurred. And when the Great Ones descend, a womb will be blessed with child." Interestingly, the same states is applied for the Amygdalae in the artbook. Arianna gets pregnant during Blood Moon and a lesser Amygdala lives just outside the Oedon Chapel.
- This begs the question whether Oedon or the Amygdala blessed her with a child, although the most widely and logical assumption is that Oedon is the cause of the pregnancy since the Amygdalae are associated with that note merely because the sheer amount of them there are in Yahar'gul. This place is where the player is taken after the Blood Moon is triggered, so it makes sense.