Fire Emblem Three Houses: The Battle Of Philosophies: Which Position Was Most Justified?
I will start by stating that there is not one right answer here, per se. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, there are three main routes you can choose to take (there are four total routes, but for the sake of this piece, I will be focusing on the routes of the three house leaders). Each of the three leaders—Edelgard of the Adrestian Empire, Dimitri of Faerghus, and Claude of the Leicester Alliance—have the desire to improve Fódlan and take care of its people. Unfortunately, the visions between the three leaders clash, resulting in the main conflict of the game: who will rule and unite Fódlan?
For context, it’s demonstrated right at the beginning of the game that Fódlan has fragile stability, and that stability rests upon the central Church. Archbishop Rhea rules the central church, and she ensures any who oppose her are put to death. It seems that Rhea has turned a blind eye to issues that have been caused by the church in the first place. The Empire has been dealing with religious extremists, the Kingdom is still recovering from a genocidal war against Duscar, and the Alliance continuously struggles with fights with Almyra and repercussions from being indecisive. In short, it’s clear that Fódlan is in desperate need of reform, and one of the house leaders is going to lead it. But who has the most justified approach to tackling the situation?
The Black Eagles Route/Edelgard
Due to the situation in Fódlan, Edelgard sees the Church as the equivalent of an oppressive dictator. Her plan since day one has been to become the crowned Adrestian Emperor and to declare war on the Church. She will kill or allow anyone to be killed to achieve her goal, but in her mind, it’s for the good of the people. Edelgard holds the position that for the world to become a truly better place, lives will be lost and sacrifices need to be made. The path might be a bloody one, but it’s only to achieve the result of true peace, unlike the false sense of peace that people in Fódlan currently feel. Not to mention, she believes that many people dying now will result in less people dying over time. According to Edelgard, people do not even realize that they aren’t free, so she must open their eyes and show them true freedom by eliminating the corrupt power of the Church.
However, when she talks with Dimitri, she explains that her way is how she is going to change the cycle of the strong dominating the weak. But isn’t that exactly what she is doing? Her plan is to strip people of their faith and force them to open their eyes to her way of seeing the world. While I (and I’m sure many) agree with her view of the world and the fact that many people do have their eyes closed regarding many topics, taking over power and forcing people to see things differently is also corrupt and also does not grant people freedom. It wouldn’t be too different for an atheist to take over the world and try to force any religion out of it because the world would be “better for its absence.” Despite whatever you believe about religion, I think few would agree that that’s the best way to go about dealing with the problems it can create.
The Golden Deer Route/Claude
Considering he is the leader of the Leicester Alliance, Claude takes a more neutral stance on the happenings in Fódlan. This isn’t to say he doesn’t care—in fact, he seems to be deeply bothered by all the suffering and hatred in the world. Furthermore, he (like Edelgard) is opposed to relying on blind faith. But unlike Edelgard, Claude does not believe the way to achieve peace and stability is through declaring war against the Church. In Claude’s mind, working to incorporate new ways of thinking throughout the country and into the lives of its citizens is what will achieve the best results with the least amount of casualties and suffering. Considering that bigotry is one of the worst causes of suffering, Claude argues that working to change peoples’ perspective on this will, over time, bring people together and the hatred will slowly but surely start to fade away.
While I love Claude so much and his goals are admirable, this approach is, unfortunately, unrealistic. For as strategic as Claude is, this plan to better Fódlan is severely lacking. It’s pretty obvious, even if we look at today’s society, that it doesn’t really matter how much information and perspective you spread—if people want to be bigoted and hateful, they are going to be. Without actually rooting out some of the problem by force, nothing is going to actually change, no matter how hard you wish for it. Sorry, buddy.
The Blue Lions Route/Dimitri
In his conversation with Edelgard towards the end of the Blue Lions route, Dimitri makes the argument that people are weak, but they can find the right path eventually, together. He points out that Edelgard is talking about bettering the world for the weak while simultaneously ignoring the cries of those same people. He argues that ripping them of their faith will simply leave them lost and confused after many would die before even getting to that point, and putting herself in power and forcing her views on them is simply self-righteousness that has nothing to do with actually saving anyone. In his mind, the best way to deal with the issues in Fódlan would be through treating the symptoms of the problem, instead of rooting out the core problem like Edelgard is planning to do. Through a combination of dealing with the problems that have come from Fódlan’s current setup and educating future generations to ensure that conditions will get better over time, war can be avoided.
Unfortunately, while Dimitri’s criticisms of Edelgard are spot on, he doesn’t offer much for an alternative approach. At the end of the day, Dimitri’s methods are too similar to Claude’s. If simply educating newer generations worked, Fódlan would likely not currently be in the situation that it’s in to begin with.
Ultimately, All Three Leaders Are Doomed To Fail
If I think through how life would go in Fódlan many years after each one of these leaders influenced the country, none of the results look too spectacular in comparison to how things are at the start of the game. Through Edelgard’s leadership, we are going to have many lost people and another ruler who thinks they are right with zero exceptions, just like Rhea.
Through Dimitri’s leadership or Claude’s philosophies, the picture pretty much looks exactly like it does right now. At the end of the day, the cycle that the characters have referred to seems realistically doomed to repeat, no matter who takes power or whose methods are used. But considering that Edelgard’s route results in significantly more death with likely the same conclusion (with a slightly different twist) at the end, her philosophy seems to be the worst to adopt of the three. While on the surface it would seem that action must be better than inaction in the face of a problematic country, sometimes you just must recognize when something broken is probably the best that it’s going to get.
Sometimes, there just isn’t a realistic solution to world problems, and there is strength in understanding that concept too. Implementing the ideals from Dimitri and Claude, though not effective enough to completely reform Fódlan as they desire, is the best way to make positive changes, even if they’re small scale.
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Stephanie is an Editor at TheGamer, solidly aligned chaotic neutral. Though her favorite game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, she vows to do everything in her power to one day see a Legend of Dragoon remake. Absolutely nothing can top her immense love for The Lord of the Rings.
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