The Witcher and SMT both present Kelpie
The Witcher and Shin Megami Tensei both borrow monsters from world mythology, but the Kelpie is an example of how they take different approaches.
While both franchises take inspiration from monsters from different mythologies and folklore, The witcher and Shin megami tensei use them in very different ways. A good example is the Kelpie, which appears as a horse in The witcher and like a monster in Shin megami tensei. Each version of the creature is linked to its origins, albeit in different ways. However, one is much more faithful to Kelpie’s Scottish origins, while the other draws more on similar stories from around the world.
Kelpies come from Scottish folklore, where they take on the appearance of a black horse that can transform into human form. These are malicious aquatic spirits living near rivers or lakes that lead or entice people (especially children) to drowning. As a horse, those who pet him or try to ride him stick to his coat and mane, which he uses to drag victims into the water.
Kelpie in The Witcher
While it is not known whether the creatures themselves exist in the world of witcher (as they are mentioned but never encountered) Ciri’s horse, Kelpie, is related to the real world legend. Ciri first meets this horse via a friend in the book, The tower of swallows. He responds to a magic bracelet and will come running when rubbed, even from a distance. The imagery surrounding it is linked to the legend: a flowing mane, a pure black coat and scenes with water.
Later, the horse’s owner dies and Ciri takes the bracelet and the horse. After finding out how superior he is in speed and strength to other horses, she calls him Kelpie. Although Kelpie does not appear in the games, he is mentioned during one of the main story quests when Geralt searches for Ciri and must dive into the water and face monsters to find a horse symbol and progress through the elven ruins.
Throughout the game and the novels, Kelpie becomes somewhat of a bad omen, as death follows her due to circumstances with the Wild Hunt and other parts after her. Other characters in the story are also beginning to recognize her by her black mare. As a death-followed maiden whose horse has Kelpie’s description and magical qualities, it’s clear Scottish legend has symbolic links to Ciri’s story. The witcher takes the lore behind Kelpie and founds it by turning it into an unfortunate circumstance associated with a girl and her horse, rather than a water spirit.
Kelpie in Shin Megami Tensei
Shin megami tenseiKelpie’s iteration is much more literal, as is the case with most of her demons. In previous games, he appeared as a dark horse, although Kelpie later turned green, likely to associate him more with swamps and wetlands. More recent CMS and Character the games portray Kelpie as a half-horse, half-kelp monster. These design freedoms help the creature fit into the dark worlds of the game, and its description comes from real-world lore. From a gameplay standpoint, Kelpie uses Ice Attacks, which is consistent with the fact that he’s a Water Spirit.
Kelpie doesn’t have much of a role in the CMS away games being a basic demon for players to recruit that have been around from the start. In most games, Kelpie is just another creature for the player to use. Shin Megami Tensei IV is the only exception, as it features a group of Kelpie fighting with another demon, and they decide to help the main character cross a river in exchange for taking out the problematic demon. In this case, it is truly a water spirit, although it does not take any casualties.
Which version of Kelpie is the most accurate?
Although not a literal mind as in Shin megami tensei, The witcher better captures the legend of Kelpie as a black horse that causes death, especially among young women. Many of the descriptions surrounding the horse (whether with Ciri or not) center on the water, and he is often seen as a magnificent steed with a black coat. This fits the description, and with Ciri, a young blonde woman, as a mount, The witcher‘s Kelpie is all about the transformation of legend.
While no one really drowns around Ciri or the horse, both are often surrounded by fighting and death by magic or other unfortunate means. Ciri herself often feels like a bad omen, and at one point, and after receiving her scar, she is described as looking like a demon having entered a tavern after riding Kelpie. Shin megami tenseiThe version of is all at the surface level, being simply taken from a caption and given a shape, while The witcher uses Kelpie in a way that is more consistent with her traditions.
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