To celebrate the release of Fire Emblem Heroes, I’m going to take a look at all of the lords who have graced the various titles of Fire Emblem. Let’s start with the first and foremost among the lords, Marth!
What’s in a Name?
Marth is a curious name, even by the standards of some of the other names in Shadow Dragon. In fact, it comes from a double transliteration. Shouzou Kaga, the creative force behind the early Fire Emblem games, took a lot of inspiration from Greco-Roman mythology. One influence is Mars, the Roman god of war. Mars, when transliterated into Japanese, is “Marusu.” When Marusu was transliterated back into English, it became Marth. This is because there is no “th” sound in Japanese; the closest sound in the Japanese language is “su,” so the localizers chose to transliterate Marusu as Marth. For comparison, note how Final Fantasy VII‘s Aeris is a transliteration of “earth” from English to Japanese and then back into English.
Interestingly, the Fire Emblem OVA reflects the quirk of Marth’s name. In the ADV Films English dub, everyone refers to Marth as “Mars.” Perhaps even more oddly, the OVA gives him the last name “Lowell.” I’m not sure where that came from, since none of the games make reference to it.
Marth’s idealism (and even pacifism) inspires and rallies troops from across the continent to his side. This comes with the caveat that he is very credulous. His consequent naivete leads him into danger. There’s nothing really wrong with that – he is 16 during the events of the first game – but there is something wrong with the adulation he gets. As the last male descendant of the hero Anri, Marth’s fate is already determined. Well, that’s what everyone else tells him, anyway. He is already bound for greatness as the savior of Archanea. Much of his greatness comes from people talking about it. While prophecy says Marth is the hero Archanea needs, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy because more than a handful of people join Marth’s cause because everyone says he’s destined to be the hero.
It’s doubly funny to me that Marth’s first English voice actor was Spike Spencer, best known as Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion. His current voice actor is Yuri Lowenthal, who voices every emo young man in anime today. It really paints Marth as an awkward and weak-willed individual. Fate has called him and he mustn’t run away!
Marth’s story is a long saga. The son of King Cornelius of Altea, Marth starts his tale in his own castle. Cornelius dies while fighting the invading Dolhrian Empire. Gra, a nation that pledged alliance to Altea, backstabs the Alteans and tries to kill Marth and his sister, Elice, in their own castle. Elice allows herself to be captured so Marth can escape. He and his knights go into hiding for a few years. They strike back at Aurelis and win the support of Duke Hardin, the Aurelian king’s younger brother. Marth then meets Princess Nyna of the Archanean royal family and gets the Fire Emblem. Marth leads the liberation army across Archanea and frees Altea. His war leads him to clash with Medeus, the Shadow Dragon, who was resurrected because an evil wizard inexplicably thought this was a good idea. Marth slays Medeus with Falchion, the legendary sword his father wielded before him, and the War of Shadows concludes.
Sometime after, Marth receives orders from Hardin to go put down a rebellion in the nation of Grust. When Marth arrives, he finds the rebellion led by Lorenz, an old friend. Before dying, Lorenz warns Marth that Hardin has become a tyrant. Then, Hardin sends Marth to Macedonia to put down another rebellion. He encounters Linde, a mage he met during the War of Shadows, who gives him the Fire Emblem on Princess Nyna’s orders. When Marth gets more orders from Hardin, he ignores his new directions. Hardin declares Marth a traitor and sacks Altea. Marth flees once Hardin gallops in, since Hardin is imbued with dark, magical powers. Marth goes on a voyage to gather magical stones to negate Hardin’s power and then kills Hardin in a clash in Aurelis. Marth learns that Elice, Nyna, and several clerics were kidnapped as part of a summoning ritual to reawaken Medeus once again. Using the power of Falchion and the Fire Emblem, Marth slays Medeus a second time and ends the War of Heroes. With the continent of Archanea in tatters, most nations cede sovereignty to Altea and Marth becomes the first ruler of the United Kingdom of Archanea, propelling Archanea into a golden age.
Marth is an interesting character more for his place in the series and less for anything he actually does. Marth is the first and worst of the generically good Fire Emblem lords. However, his inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Melee helped bring Fire Emblem to the West, so I can’t begrudge his existence too much. He just happens to be such a nice guy that it’s hard to say much more about him. As a hero of prophecy and a prince, his life is already predetermined, which does little to make him an engaging character. On the other hand, his good heart at least makes him likeable enough.
That’s it for Marth. We’ll be back next time to talk about the lords of Fire Emblem Gaiden, Alm and Celica!