Dullahan in Video Games – Caricature Development

Dullahan in Video Games – Caricature Development


Greetings, all, and welcome to another episode
of Caricature Development! Well, March is still in full swing, or at
least it was at the time this video was uploaded, so you know what that means: a love for Ireland
is in the air! (Or should I say “in the Eire”?) So while everyone gets together to celebrate
all things Irish, either for a single day or for the whole month, I might as well offer
my own 2 Euro cents by delving into the interactive medium and how it has taken in Irish legends. Celtic mythologies aren’t exactly a common
pool for inspiration as far as video games are concerned, but as always, that doesn’t
mean that exceptions can’t be ruled out entirely. In particular, the one Irish myth that seems
to be one of the most frequently retold is that of the Dullahan. But what exactly is a Dullahan? What do Irish legends have to say about it? And how have video games put their own creative
spin on these spirits? Are they accurate to the original tales? Those are all questions I intend to answer
today. I’m the Kitsune Hawk, and today, we’re
heading to the Emerald Isle of Ireland to talk about the decapitated bringers of death,
the Dullahan, and how video games have retold the old Celtic legends! I hope you’re ready to take notes, because
this is Caricature Development! Now what exactly is a Dullahan? Well, they have their origins in Irish mythology,
and the shortest way I could describe them is “an Irish Grim Reaper”. They’re one of many varieties of Dark Fairy,
meaning that they appeared on their own accord, and often with malicious intent. As the legends go, the Dullahan appears after
sunset on certain days, usually holidays and feast days, riding across the Irish countryside
on a black horse. The Dullahan was a creature on a mission,
for it would approach the residences of specific people and then call out their names. As soon as the Dullahan uttered a person’s
name, the victim’s soul left their body and departed for the afterlife. Unlike the Banshee, another harbinger of death
in Irish folklore, the Dullahan would always come without warning, and any gate, no matter
how tightly locked, would open before the Dullahan. They had only one weakness, and that was a
deep fear of gold, disappearing at the sight of it. Don’t think you were automatically safe
because you could drive off a single Dullahan; unlike the Grim Reaper, the Irish believed
that multiple Dullahan existed and that their fear of gold would only work for so long,
as nobody could escape death forever. The Dullahan were known for their unique appearance,
because they had no head on their shoulders, their necks either being a stump of severed
flesh or an open flame. Instead, a Dullahan carried its head in its
arms, often holding it high, so that it could see a wider view of the Irish countryside,
even during the darkest of nights. In their other hand, the Dullahan would often
carry a whip made from human spinal cords. Dullahan could be male or female, but either
way, their head was often described to have a wide grin and shifting eyes, while also
having the color and consistency of molding cheese. As out-of-the-ordinary as they looked, though,
making eye contact with a Dullahan was often a very bad idea, as they would react to observers
with one of three punishments: either they’d throw a bucket of blood in your face, they’d
knock you blind in one eye using their whip, or they’d call your name and take your soul
with them as they continued their journey. The exact origins of the Dullahan are… muddy,
at best. One of the most common theories is that they
might be a divine punishment from the Pagan fertility god Crom Dubh, who often accepted sacrifices
in the form of decapitations. As the theory goes, when Christianity was
brought to Ireland, the angered and abandoned god took his revenge on the people of Ireland
by sending the Dullahan, a decapitated figure, to make the sacrifices instead. Otherwise, origin stories of the Dullahan
vary by locale to locale in Ireland. Chances are, this image might seem familiar
to some of you, because the Dullahan myth was a primary source of inspiration for the
popular American author Washington Irving, who wrote “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
in 1820. Set in Tarrytown, New York in the year 1790,
the story establishes the area as being host to a number of ghosts and other spirits, the
most notable being the Headless Horseman, a German soldier who fought in the American
Revolution, only to have his head blown off by a stray cannonball in the middle of battle. Only his body was buried, so every Halloween
night, he rises from the dead, appearing as a decapitated cavalryman, angrily searching
the area of Sleepy Hollow for his long lost head. And while the idea of a headless horseman
shows up in other cultures, such as Germanic, Scottish, and Indian folklore, the medium
of video games seems to have taken most passionately to the Irish Dullahan and Washington Irving’s
vengeful soldier. So how have video games taken the Dullahan
mythos and run with it? Easily the most infamous example comes from
Golden Sun: The Lost Age, where a Dullahan appears as a notoriously difficult optional
boss guarding the game’s most powerful summon. Golden Sun’s interpretation of a Dullahan
is that of a giant knight in purple armor, with a flame in place of a head, though its
actual head is seemingly nowhere to be found. However, as if in response to that, the Dullahan
would make a return appearance in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, where it now holds up a shield
with a face on it. In both appearances, this Dullahan is capable
of calling death spirits to haunt your party members, as well as turn its sword into a
lightning whip, following the mythos quite well. Konami’s Castlevania series has featured
the Dullahan on several occasions, depicting them as headless skeletal enemies, decapitated
knights on horseback, or large, animated suits of armor missing helmets and bearing shields
with engraved faces. Sometimes they fight alongside their zombie-like
decapitated heads, but more often, their heads are absent entirely. Similar to the Castlevania interpretation,
Dragon Quest VIII introduces an enemy class based on the Dullahan; they’re depicted
as headless suits of armor, carrying a flail and a shield that makes their facial expressions
for them. In Capcom’s Devil May Cry series, enemies
named after and based on Dullahan appear in the third installment, Dante’s Awakening. Here, they are portrayed as headless suits
of armor carrying a sword and spiked shield, and are fully invincible unless the player
attacks the red gem embedded into the spine of their armor. Nobody said putting down Death would be easy,
after all. Vagrant Story features a Dullahan as an early-game
boss, and similar to Devil May Cry 3’s depiction, it’s an animated suit of armor with a sword,
and it’s invincible unless attacked at its prime weak spot; in this case, that would
be the straps connecting the two sections of its armor. During Overwatch’s Halloween-themed “Night
of Terror” event, the characters Reinhardt and Reaper both received new skins partially
based on the Dullahan. With regards to Reinhardt’s “Coldhardt”
skin, he definitely looks the part of the Dullahan, with the ethereal blue flame erupting
from his neck, but it’s hard to exactly tell if his head is encased in the flames,
or if the fire is forming in the shape of Reinhardt’s head. Reaper’s Halloween skin, however, is based
more on the image of a Headless Horseman, using a jack-o-lantern for a head instead
of carrying his detached head on his person, which honestly would have been more in-character
for Reaper. Speaking of headless horsemen, The Elder Scrolls
V: Skyrim has ghosts of decapitated cavalry sometimes found wandering around at night,
though they are of no threat to the player, and cannot be harmed. With its setting in revolutionary America,
it should come as a surprise to none that Assassin’s Creed III decided to reference
the literature of Washington Irving, as there’s a small easter egg where Conner can investigate
a claimed sighting of the Headless Horseman. He will, however, run away before the player
can do anything but catch a glimpse of him. The Headless Horseman even shows up again
in Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, where it’s possible to fight it, though it can only be
damaged by attacking the pumpkin on his tombstone. Starting in 2010 and continuing since, Team
Fortress 2 offers its own spoof of the Headless Horseman once Halloween rolls around. Appearing on the Mann Manor map, the aptly-named
Horseless Headless Horsemann will wander about the map, using his axe to chop down any players
in his path. It’s fully possible to attack and kill the
specter, too, and doing so will certainly… reap you some nice cosmetics and crafting
items! League of Legends gave its centaur champion
Hecarim a skin based on the Headless Horseman, complete with a jack-o-lantern floating above
where his neck would be. Amusingly, in this sense, Hecarim would be
a literal headless horse-man. There’s a bit of an odd case with the Touhou
Project, as the character Sekibanki is similar to a Dullahan, but not entirely. More accurately, she’s a type of Japanese
spirit known as a rokurokubi, who can detach their heads like a Dullahan, but also extend
their necks to great lengths. And yet, her character theme refers to her
as a Dullahan; this was, however, an inconsistency explained by the creator of the Touhou series,
ZUN, as he saw the term “Dullahan” as being the closest approximation of her species’
name for non-Japanese speakers. It doesn’t completely match, but it’s
still the closest the Touhou series has gotten to the Irish myth. The Disgaea series has the Living Armor monster
class, which appears in Disgaea 1 and Disgaea D2, where it has the appearance of an animated
suit of armor with a flame in place of a head, and also in Disgaea 5, under the new name
of Horsemen, where they now appear to be mounted units, better referencing the Dullahan legend. And lastly, it should come as no surprise
that Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series has included the Dullahan, though to varying
degrees with each appearance. They’re treated as normal enemies in Final
Fantasy III, Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XIV, and Final Fantasy Legend III, but they
also appear as stronger boss enemies in Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy
Mystic Quest. Its appearances vary just as much as its roles,
too, appearing as a horse-mounted knight with its head in its hand, a skeleton driving a
chariot made of bones, or simply as an animated suit of armor, all fitting the criteria of
the Dullahan to different degrees. And that’ll do nicely for an overview of
the Dullahan, their equally famous Headless Horseman offshoot, and brief coverage of how
video games have adapted both legends. It probably goes without saying that I’ve
only scratched the surface here, as there are plenty more video games that feature Dullahan
and Headless Horsemen; as many of the examples I mentioned show, they’re not an uncommon
sight in RPG games. Celtic mythology’s an odd topic when it
comes to the interactive medium; what does get in is usually much more narrow and specific
compared to, say, Greek or Japanese mythology, even moreso if you narrow it down to a specific
region like Cornwall, Scotland, or Wales. But in the case of the Dullahan, I find it
quite remarkable how much video games have warmed up to the Irish Grim Reapers, both
straight from the source and from branching off of one of Washington Irving’s most popular
and influential works. Just remember to always keep a gold coin or
two in your pockets if you go walking through the countryside, just in case. And that concludes this episode of Caricature
Development! March has certainly been an interesting month
for me, in terms of video production. While St. Patrick’s Day is only one day
of the month to celebrate Irish culture, I’ve still felt compelled to dedicate the month
to making videos related to the Emerald Isle, and I really hope you all have enjoyed them
as much as I have enjoyed making them! Something I’d also like to mention is that
I challenged my followers on Twitter to draw either an existing Dullahan character or their
own interpretations of Dullahan, and the results, as you can see on screen right now, were magnificent! I’ll also being using the description to
link you to each artist individually, so if you love their work, well, why not take a
second out of your day to let them know that? I’m sure they’ll appreciate your kind
words. And one last thing, if you enjoyed the video,
feel free to like it and type your thoughts in the comments, and if you’re new, you
can also subscribe to be notified of future episodes. If you’re interested in seeing the previous
episode of Character Development, on Scáthach from Fate/Grand Order, or the previous installment
of Caricature Development, on Fox Spirits in video games, then please feel free to use
the annotations on-screen Thanks again for watching, and take care everyone!

42 thoughts on “Dullahan in Video Games – Caricature Development”

  1. Honestly, the dullahan is oone of my favourite monsters in media in general ever since i met for the first time the super boss in golden sun and i raised a Durahan in monster rancher 3.
    I just love how intimidating they look in general.

  2. Character development dante from devil may cry and blu hair female character from superdimension neptunia vs saga girls what name is.

  3. Here's one more boss monster bearing the name of the Dullahan: In Tales of Berseria a headless monster mounted on a headless horse serves as a boss when you revisit the prison island of Titania, considering it was a place of death I'm not surprised it showed up. I literally fought it before watching this video.

  4. Dullahans are in Yu-Gi-Oh! as "Ghostrick Dullahan" and Monster Musume has Lala. Also, that "Dullahan for Kit". I LOVE IT

  5. speaking of Dullahans are you familiar with celty from the series named durarara. she is a dullahan who is searching for her head which she lost by a wielder of the cursed sword saika which she tracked down to japan. in the current day she is living with a human she has known for most of the mans life named shinra who share a mutual romantic relationship. she works as a courier on her horse named shooter who can take many forms due to its shadow mistlike body who in order to blend in with modern times takes the form of a motorcycle. this same shadowy material also seems to be most of celties body as well as she can change her outward appearance, form web like material, form various other items like bike helmets, form her scythe, etc. also due to her headless circumstances she communicates via text messages and other forms of word dialogue. she has also gained a reputation as the headless rider and a more notorious reputation as a criminal of sorts (specifically to a transfer officer taken in to catch her due to her vehicle being her horse not being properly registered).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMQPznuDgj8

  6. I find it weird how the most famous Dullahan, The Headless Horseman, wasn't made by an Irish person, but an American, and it's never even referred to as a Dullahan.

  7. quite surprised that Kitsune Hawk didn't notice the headless horseman manage to sneak in Fate Grand Order. I'm not kidding when I found out about it. O_O

  8. Extra credit on the Skyrim interpretation: It's heavily implined that the headless ghost on horseback there is the wanderer known as Ragnar the Red, the source of a rowdy drunken tale in taverns you overhear constantly. His path was supposed to take him between Whiterun and Rorickstead, and the ghost no matter where he spawns will always follow the road to a burial barrow between Whiterun and Rorikstead.

  9. the moment Sekibanki's theme showed up I knew I would be satisfied. even though it is a stretch thank you for talking about her. it's always great to hear Touhou Project get some love in lore videos!

  10. "Bandia dhaoibh!" Umm, as best as I can get out of it… Good evening? And goodness gracious, I just can imagine you internally screaming "Why can't I credit these people!"

    Oh right, this spirit/faerie! This… somehow did not come to one of my interests' radar. All of this was nice to know regardless, and lovely to hear the concept behind it, since I wondered what was behind the headless horseman in "Sleepy Hollow". Though to comment, just by observation, even though the design of it is… out there. The FF9 boss you showcased is probably the most accurate for one simple thing. Unlike most examples, it can not die. In fact, even though you can fight it, all it will do is stun it. Quite interesting to think about for a relatively minor moment, perhaps at that insignificant plot wise. Another reason why to love FF9 really. Great job as usual.

  11. I would love to see you do a Caricature Development episode of one of the monsters from HP lovecraft like Cthulhu.

  12. Great work as always Kit!
    By the way, there's another Dullahan like enemy that appears in Tales of Symphonia 2: Dawn of the New World and it comes in two different variants, both of which are depicted as headless suits of armor. But their faces appear more around the stomach and crotch area of these Dullahan. At least it puts a twist on the tale?

  13. so the dullahan is represented as not only a headless horseman but also a sort of grim reaper. so thats where monster musume got it from :).

  14. Another game that had dullahan enemies would be Shining Force. I might have missed the mention in the video, though. I also feel bad because I had no idea that a dullahan or that both Lancers (Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay) were from Irish mythos.

    And I know you mainly focus on video games or would you do Caricature for anime/manga, too?

  15. Adrian von Ziegler for some of your background music… I have his Celtic collection, and his four Seasons pieces, in my iTunes library. I first thought of the American folklore Headless Horseman when I saw the general shape of this spirit/creature on Yuki's deviantArt page; after some further digging around on Wikipedia for a general idea of them, I learned these are far scarier and more deadly than a horseman (or woman) or appears for just one night and is bound to disappear at a church bridge.
    Thanks Kit for covering a more obscure part of Ireland's mythical bestiary, which it shares partly with England and Scotland.

  16. Hey Kit, did you know that there's a headless rider on top of Fate/Grand Order's Hessian Lobo (Avenger) is the Headless Horseman? Why he's riding that giant wolf I can't tell ya, but I like the concept of a Dullahan-like being riding a huge wolf with both of them are summoned as one Servant in the Extra Class of Avenger in a Fate Series game.

  17. Yes awesome video I loved this one as the Dullahan is my most favorite creature in Celtic myths and legends and I would love to see a video game where a Dullahan is the main protagonist that we can finally get rid of the idea that Dullahan's role in video games is as a stock minion for the bad guys.

  18. Me: "Dullahan… Why does that sound familiar?"
    52 Seconds In
    "Ooooooooooooooh Now I recall. That manga……. So video games."

  19. I've been thinking. Remember when you said you got a lot of requests for Wukong for League? Let's take it a step further. Do a Sun Wukong Caricature Development to cover EVERY INTERPRETATION OF SUN WUKONG. Now that's something I'd love to see. I'd say I'd pay money for it but I'm not able to send u cash on Patreon yet. Still a minor lmao

  20. i know it has nothing to do with video games but i would like to give a mention to Konosuba for threir Dullahan

  21. I actually found this Irish lore of the Dullahan very interesting since I have some Irish in me and was always interested in Irish culture. It also helps explain why Disney decided to do a movie on the book, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", because a part of Disney's family was Irish and he had also done a movie that had the Banshee in it. I hope you keep on doing Character and Caricature Development videos in the future.

  22. I'm actually Irish by ancestry, and I really want to learn more about Celtic mythology, so this was really helpful!

  23. There were also Dullahan as an enemy type in the Lufia series (though the German translation of Lufia II I played had managed to transcribe it from Japanese in the horrible form of "Jurahan", so it took me months to figure out that they meant Dullahan).
    Outside of videogames in Manga and Anime there are of cause Celty from Durarara and Lala frm Onster musume as reoccuring Dullahan characters.

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