The Tower of Rebirth

“Darkness. Deep darkness without even a trace of light. How much time has passed since I was cast into this darkness...? An eternity, but it also seems like an instant. All my senses are numbed and I can't feel a thing. What of my body? It's like it's floating in mid-air. Have I retained my sanity? Did I go insane long ago?” Griffith, Vol. 10 Ch. 2

There’s some amazing internal monologue in the prison that requires little commentary from me. Griffith was stuck there for a year, drifting in darkness, with time measured only by pain of torture. Or did he even care about that? Griffith seems to have a very high resistance to physical pain. The only things that really troubled him were his thoughts and his eroding sanity. He was losing touch with reality, his identity, and his memories.

“In all this emptiness only one thing is vivid. Only him. Like lightning on a dark night, he rises up within me, blazing. And again and again like a tidal wave, an infinite number of feelings surge upon me. Malice, friendship, jealousy, futility, regret, tenderness, sorrow, pain, hunger... So many recurring, yearning feelings.” Griffith, Vol. 10 Ch. 2

Griffith missed Guts. Through the mishmash of fragmented memories, Guts was the single spark of coherency. His image was seared into Griffith’s brain, reinforced by a storm of conflicted emotions. Their power was overwhelming.

That giant swirl of violent emotions in which none are definite but all are implied. That alone is the bond which keeps my consciousness from vanishing amidst the numbness. Griffith, Vol. 10, Ch. 2

In truth, Guts was the only thing Griffith felt anything towards anymore. He had vague recollections of his old life, his army, his comrades, but the substance behind those memories was rapidly fading. He knew they were important to him, and he tried very hard to cling to these shattered pieces of his humanity, but it was getting progressively more difficult. The fact that Griffith lasted as long as he did, and held onto his memories for as long as he did, is a great testament to his inner strength, and perhaps even his goodness. In response to his growing despair, he started having visions of demons coming to worship him and calling him Prince, even visions of the God Hand itself. These were no hallucinations. After all, he was imprisoned in the very place the first sacrificial ceremony took place this millennium.

“But why is it when it comes to him, I always lose my composure? He was the reason I've been thrown into this darkness, and now he's the sole sustenance keeping me alive. Out of so many thousands of comrades and tens of thousands of enemies, why just him? How long ago did someone I was supposed to have in hand instead gain such a strong hold on me?” Griffith, Vol. 10, Ch. 2

Griffith had a lot of time to reminisce about Guts in the prison. He could no longer deny that his feelings about Guts were very different from any he’s encountered before. He did not know when the balance of power shifted, but he resigned to the fact that Guts had somehow usurped control of their relationship. These realizations did not come without a sharp stab of pain, however. Griffith blamed Guts for his predicament. But how much, and in what way? Was it love or hatred that was keeping him alive? Was it his inability to answer that question that was driving him insane?

“That endless play begun so long ago on the cobblestone of the back alley. That pilgrimage to claim what to me was the most sacred piece of junk*. But now, as he shines so glaring within me, the junk grows dull. Guts...!!" Griffith, Vol. 10, Ch. 2

Griffith also blames Guts for bringing down his dream. No, overpowering his dream. All his talk of life purpose and equals pales in comparison to his feelings towards this one man he once considered his inferior. On the one hand, these feelings were a weakness that he violently opposed. On the other hand, they were a warmth that he desperately longed for. How could he allow himself to get so close to someone who could so easily walk out on their friendship? Of course the tragic irony was that Guts left in order to strengthen their friendship. Just a couple of volumes ago, it was Guts gushing over how grateful he was to have found someone to watch over him, and that despite Griffith’s harsh standards, “the more clear that becomes, the more dazzling he is in my eyes.” Now their roles were reversed. It was Guts’ turn to watch over Griffith, and Griffith’s turn to be blinded by Guts’ glory.

* Griffith does not belittle the castle by calling it "junk." This is the first time we see Griffith talking about his dream in his own head, and he still thinks of it in childhood terminology. Since he play fought with other kids over junk treasures, to him, the castle is "the most sacred piece of junk."

Berserk and all the characters, story, and art therein is copyright Kentaro Miura. No copyright infringement is intended, and I hope that this essay inspires more people to read/watch Berserk! Translation in the text is by Dark Horse, translation in the images is by The Band of the Hawk, unless otherwise specified.