If you’re wondering why I haven’t yet talked about Fire Emblem Heroes yet, it’s twofold. One, I didn’t really have anything I felt was meaningful to say, and two I honestly hadn’t played much of it. It wasn’t a testament to the quality of the game, per se, just a testament to how busy I’ve been… and also how disappointed I was in my summons. For awhile I had to get through the game with one five star Merric, one four star Donnel, and a three star Lissa and Henry and it was… disheartening to say the least. I have some experience with luck-based pull style games (coughcoughLoveLivecoughcough) and I’ve never been the luckiest with them.
And then, lo and behold, last Sunday, my luck changed completely.
Yes, the beautiful goddess Camilla has finally blessed me with her presence. And because I know a lot of people playing the game don’t know much about her and why she’s such a wonderful character, I’m here to provide a loving thesis on the princess of my heart, Camilla, so that when you are lucky enough to draw her, you know just how appreciative to be.
The Story so Far
Camilla comes from Fire Emblem Fates. It’s a really great game that I highly recommend, but I know not everyone has played it, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of the plot so that you can understand where Camilla fits into it all.
Fates tells the story of two warring kingdoms, Hoshido and Nohr. You play as a young prince(ss) of Nohr, who, for their entire life, has been kept in a tower far away from the Nohrian capital and the main castle. However, war is brewing once more between the two kingdoms, and they want to help. Unfortunately, on the front lines of your character’s first battle, they are captured by Hoshidan forces. In the beautiful, prosperous capital of Hoshido, they learn that they’re actually not Nohrian royalty by blood… instead, they were captured from their true family, the royal family in Hoshido by Nohr’s King Garon many years ago. The player is faced with a choice, and two game routes – stay with their birth family and defend Hoshido or return to the family that raised them in Nohr. (There’s also a third route where you can choose neither and attempt to reconcile the two forces… but that route is only available if you’ve played through one of the first two routes.)
Camilla is a princess of Nohr, your character’s older sister. Depending on which route you choose, she becomes either an ally or an enemy, but exactly how she plays both roles is what fascinates me.
If you want to understand Camilla’s character, it’s important to understand where she comes from. Nohr is a super fascinating location in the game. It’s definitely painted as “the bad one” of the two options with its dark, gothic imagery and violent, warlike tendencies. Plus, its ruler, King Garon, is definitely Not a Nice Guy™. Yet, throughout the game, it’s heavily implied that Nohr’s warlike tendencies come from a place of necessity. Nohr is not a very fertile land and has very few resources compared to their neighbors in Hoshido. This can be inferred in several places in both routes, but this is also seen in the collectibles available in each route. In both games, the player can collect crops to exchange for items, and the crops available say a lot about each kingdom. On Nohr’s route, the player can collect meat, wheat, cabbage, milk, and berries, while Hoshido sports soybeans, fish, daikon radishes, peaches, and rice. As you might be able to tell, Nohr’s only two “crops” are cabbage and wheat. Wheat is of course used for bread, but that’s not the most luxurious of foods. And then there’s cabbage. Which is, you know, cabbage. The other available “crops” are simply animal and foraging products.
Compare this to Hoshido, which grows the staple rice and beans as well as a fruit and vegetable for the side and fish. While yes, Hoshido is a paradigm of peace and harmony, it’s also pretty clear how they can be. When your kingdom has a history of being able to provide for all of its people, it’s easy to preach pacifism. Yet, while Nohr isn’t excused for its actions, it’s at least implied that there’s a reason for them.
So, when am I going to talk about Camilla?
I Finally Talk About Camilla
So, Camilla, right. That’s who this whole post is about. Camilla.
As I said, Camilla is the player character’s older sister from Nohr. Of the four Nohrian royals, she’s the second eldest, and acts as a motherly figure to her three younger siblings (the player character, Leo, and Elise). She cares deeply for her family but shows no mercy to her enemies. But… I’m pretty sure you could guess that last part. I mean, she rides a giant undead dragon, wears hardcore black armor, and swings a big ol’ axe around – I’m fairly certain just about anyone could see she’s a bit of a bruiser.
But, of course, the elephant in the room regarding Camilla is not her personality. Right, yes, her looks. Her appearance is… a little exaggerated, I understand. Fire Emblem has always had a little difficulty giving its female characters realistic battle outfits, especially recently, but Camilla’s appearance is perhaps one of the most out-there designs to date. It caused quite a stir when Fates was first being teased. And yeah, I have some issues with the way she’s depicted at times, but when it comes down to it, there’s a pretty interesting reason why Camilla looks (and acts) the way she does.
See, Camilla, as well as three out of four of the royal Nohrian siblings, are not actually full-blooded heirs to the Nohrian throne. It’s not like anyone cares succession-wise, because they’re all still children of King Garon, but Camilla, Leo, and Elise are all illicit children of Garon’s various concubines. While none of these concubines are ever seen, they’re discussed in detail by Leo and Elise in a few of their supports. Basically, after the eldest Nohrian royal and only child of the late Queen Ekaterina, Xander, was born, there was a power struggle known as the Concubine Wars, where several of Garon’s lovers hoped to take the queen’s place. Leo specifically discusses how his mother tried to use him to gain power.
Judging by the fact that none of these women actually appear in-game, and the word choice in “Concubine Wars“, I’m assuming it didn’t end well for Leo and Elise’s mothers, and while Camilla never really talks about her own mother, I’d be willing to bet a hearty sum of cash that her mother probably was caught up in this conflict as well. In fact, I think of the three Nohrian royals who came from the wars, Camilla seems the most affected, even if she never even talks about it.
For one, Camilla’s motherly instincts immediately calls attention to hers and her siblings lack of a mother figure. And while yes, Camilla does really care for her siblings, there’s something… just a bit sinister about her method of motherhood. I mean… one of her lines when you invite her over in-game is literally “Tell me who I need to kill to make you happy, sweetie!” Camilla seems to very often confuse love and violence… and it brings me to some interesting conclusions not only about her but also about the world around her.
See, if we make the assumption that, like Leo and Elise, Camilla’s mother was a concubine hoping to take advantage of the power vacuum by Garon’s side, and if we add on the idea that Camilla’s mother was hoping to use her as a weapon to achieve this purpose, it sure does make sense why Camilla would so often confuse love and violence. I mean, if your own mother tried to use you for her own selfish means, and then presumably died in what must have been some sort of violent conflict, it would probably mess up your perception of what motherly love really is.
But Camilla’s problems with love and violence extend far beyond just an explanation of her personality. Her role in the story too hinges on this, excuse the pun, conflict, especially in the Birthright route. If the player character chooses to side with Hoshido, Camilla’s first appearance is… jarring, to say the least. She is at first loving and warm, seemingly happy to see her runaway sibling, but she very quickly becomes hostile.
Plus, this particular clip brings up another important point about Camilla’s character – her sexuality. Yes, Camilla is a very sexual character, but it’s something I once again relate to her background. Consider the fact that her mother tried to use her sexuality to gain power and Camilla’s own behavior becomes clear.
Her incredibly volatile attitude is one of the most fascinating parts of her character, to me. It’s pretty clear that she’s not the most mentally healthy character. Really, none of the Nohrian royal siblings are – probably due to the less-than-stellar parenting they received from their father. However, Camilla in particular seems to struggle the most with the player character’s betrayal. Throughout the route, she is shown falling into bouts of depression. Elise mentions her refusing to leave her room. Even at the end of the route, when the sudden death of Xander gives Camilla the chance to take the throne, she gives up the throne to Leo, apparently due to her lack of confidence in her own ability to rule.
Honestly, it all seems connected to her upbringing. It’s pretty clear that Camilla’s main motivation is her family, so experiencing the betrayal of one of her beloved siblings sends her into a tailspin that is simultaneously interesting and tragic to behold. While all of the Nohrian royals suffer if the player decides to side with Hoshido, it seems Camilla is the one who is dealt the worst hand, losing three siblings and losing an entire war.
Plus, her character parallels Nohr itself surprisingly well. Remember what I said about Nohr having to resort to violence out of necessity, because they don’t have any other choice? Well, Camilla seems pretty similar, doesn’t she? Yes, she’s very violent and merciless, but what she does is not without reason. The turmoil and dysfunction in her family life has led her to clutch onto her loved ones with an iron grip (literally) and defend it with blood if necessary. Like the kingdom she hails from, Camilla has had to fight to survive all her life, so it makes sense why she acts the way she does. (Plus, just look at her design. She’s the only one of the Nohrian royals with purple hair – and it sure does connect her pretty easily with the purple-and-black color scheme of Nohr proper…)
Obviously, she’s a character with a surprising amount of emotional depth and complexity, and it really makes me love her. Despite her relative silence on her own background, the conclusions one can draw on it based on the ways she looks and acts make her a fun character to analyze. That’s why I love Camilla… yes, boob window, brutality, and all.