In the early days of Final Fantasy, Garland appeared as the very first antagonist. When the fabled Warriors of Light appeared outside the gates of Cornelia, they learned of the missing Princess Sarah, kidnapped by the knight, Garland. It’s unclear if Garland is regarded as a once-knight because of his new status as a kidnapper, or if he committed some atrocity in his past. Regardless, at the request of the King of Cornelia, the Light Warriors set out to find Garland and rescue the Princess.
The Dawn of Souls version of Final Fantasy gives us a little more information about Garland, indicating he’s the finest swordsman in the land, and he’s already thwarted one attempt by the kingdom to recover the Princess. Please note Dawn of Souls also puts a twist on matters. The King bars passage from Cornelia unless the Warriors get the Princess back.
The Warriors of Light find Garland in the dilapidated Chaos Shrine to the north of Cornelia. Inside, Garland stands before the kidnapped Princess Sarah, threatening the Light Warriors:
The Light Warriors fight. Garland falls. The Princess is rescued, and while the Warriors of Light begin their journey across the newly built bridge leading away from Cornelia, Garland’s blood leaks out onto the pixilated floor of the Chaos Shrine.
Except that’s far from the end of Garland. While the Light Warriors travel the world in search of a way to restore their crystals to their former glory, the Four Fiends of Chaos revive Garland and send him 2000 years in the past. There, in the unbroken Temple of Chaos, Garland absorbs the power of the Four Fiends and becomes the powerful Chaos. With his newfound power, Chaos sends the Fiends into the future where they will one day send him back to the past, creating a paradox that only the Light Warriors can solve.
After the crystals are lit once again, the Light Warriors travel back to the broken Chaos Shrine and find the means to travel into the past. There, they meet their old foe Garland, now possessed with the power of Chaos. Once more, they do battle, and the Light Warriors win, supposedly breaking the Time-Loop. None of this tells us anything more about Garland’s character except perhaps his penchant for destruction and his wish for immortality. Too many questions remain about the Time-Loop to answer whether it will continue or not, of course, the epilogue clearly states Garland will be waiting for the Warriors when they return to their proper time.
The Final Fantasy game, Dissidia sheds a little more light on Garland’s character. Portrayed as a brutish warrior, relying on strength alone to overcome his enemies, Garland remains a constant ally of Chaos. He is a playable character, a villain whose only desire is to see the war between Chaos and Cosmos continue. In-game reports mention Garland has been freed from the Time-Loop, so perhaps he is truly in two places as once: Chaos is the Garland who will be, and Garland is what Chaos once was.
In the lore of Final Fantasy, the original Garland remains shrouded in mystery. He’s the first boss you ever face, and in the same game, he’s the final boss. It’s sort of poetic. His past is the one piece of his history we know nothing about, and so he may very well be a sympathetic villain. Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to ever find that out, and so Garland’s true character may have to reside in our imaginations.
FUN FACT: The word GARLAND refers to a round wreath of branches, flowers, or leaves that was once worn as a crown. Not only does this reference the Time-Loop Garland falls into, but it could also reference a claim to his kingship.
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