A strange sight caught Cecil’s eyes as the boat sailed across the waves. There was a swirl forming, just a few yards from the port side, gaining speed and broadening. The ship tipped as it slowly sucked in. Cries of panic surrounded Cecil and his companions. Unable to do anything, Cecil watched as the water engulfed the sky.
Just before the sea swallowed the boat, Cecil saw an immense serpent coiled beneath the surface. “Leviathan!” yelled a crewman.
Summoning is often one of the strongest and most visually appealing forms of magic in the Final Fantasy series. First appearing as a summon in Final Fantasy III in Japan, Americans did not get introduced to Ifrit and pals until Final Fantasy 4 hit the SNES. Since then, these powerful beings have become icons, often being envisioned in many creative ways for each installment.
While there are many summons to elaborate on, there are a few that could use a bit more discussion. For some excellent insight into other summons, check out Gaijin Goomba’s series on Youtube:
Leviathan’s character is a simple design, a massive sea serpent that summons tidal waves to drown enemies. However, his size and immense power is better described in his origins. Sea serpents have been showing up in literature ever since the days of the Nordic folk. Even the Bible references this massive creature said to be immune to all weapons.
Interestingly enough, this same passage mentions befriending the creature or at least making a pact with it. Considering in Final Fantasy X, many summoners create bonds with their Aeons, this could be a potential influence to Leviathan being created as a summon.
“Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?” – Job 41: 4
The first Leviathan in Final Fantasy III showed a simple design and concept. He’s just a regal serpent with long whiskers that summons weather forces. However, in Final Fantasy IV, he becomes a king of beings called Eidolons. The Eidolons are powerful elemental beings that live in a separate plane of existence. It’s here that Rydia (the summoner of Final Fantasy IV) gains her mastery of summoning, also creating an interesting parental connection with Leviathan and his queen, Asura. Both of these royal beings offer rough battles, but end with the prize of being able to call on them.
It’s also interesting that Leviathan’s human form in Final Fantasy IV is that of an old man. He appears frail and wise, sporting a long beard like many of the other sages in the series. In many mythologies, higher beings often have the power to shape shift. For instance, Zeus regularly transforms into animals such as an eagle or a bull, usually to carry away maidens and sometimes young men for, well, coitus.
Leviathan’s human form could have connections to Proteus, son of Oceanus of Greek mythology. Proteus could call upon great storms and change his shape, one of which was a snake.
As far as his design goes, Leviathan does not see much change until Final Fantasy IX. In this game, he is given wing-like fins that give him a more imposing appearance. His color palette also expands to include many shades of purple to accent his blue skin. Also important to note is Leviathan is a female. This makes sense, as summoning is a feminine power used only by Eiko and Garnet. That same motif is carried into Final Fantasy X by Yuna.
Both MMO Final Fantasy games retain Leviathan’s wings, neither changing the design too drastically. Unfortunately, Leviathan has been absent in true form in later console games. The Sea King lives on in name as an airship and as a plaza.
As of now, its unknown what sort of role summoning will have in Final Fantasy XV. Will the tides rise with the revival of Leviathan? Or will he merely remain a memory? At least, early trailers suggest he (maybe she) will be a massive boss.
Thus Leviathan remains as a staple for those wanting to add some water to their magic repertoire. His role in the story of the series has been grand and subtle, but one thing is certain, Leviathan is an icon of Final Fantasy.
Drop by next week for a look at everyone’s favorite Celtic warrior gone toxic monster, Cúchulainn.