“Darkness signifies the uneasiness, black signifies the sorrow. They are the colors of Rose.”
In the case of Rose, we made her hair black without question. Her outfit’s black, her hair is black… We want people to be able to tell what type of characters they are just by looking at the colours. I guess you can say each character’s colours match their personality.Director Yasuyuki Hasebe, Famitsu Interview
Beyond mere recognizability, a considerable amount of thought went into the choice of colours for the main characters’ design, whether in their normal form or Dragoon form. While some may laugh at the “convenient” colour coding of the characters’ attire and the Dragoon Spirits that resonate with them, colour coding is an effective way in a work of fiction to convey messages and to encourage certain associations. (Not to mention that the game would be far from the only piece of Japanese media to take inspiration from the Super Sentai franchise.)
This page is dedicated to the symbolic elements that make up Rose as a character, whereas her mechanical design along with the visuals of her Dragoon spells warrant their own page. Her element darkness in particular is covered under the symbolism of the colour black, whereas as an elemental affinity in the game, it is addressed as part of her mechanical design.
Sources of associations and ideas I’m rather unfamiliar with or that I haven’t seen echoed in many different places are linked at the end of the respective section.
The Flower Rose
Rose is named after the flower, as is pointed out repeatedly during Disc 4, whether in Miranda’s characterization or when the group spends time in Ulara. Roses are first and foremost associated with love, beauty, passion and courage. When given to someone, they carry slightly different meanings depending on their colour as well as their number, with a single rose of any colour conveying utmost devotion.
Flowers open their heart only to the people who appreciate their beauty. Loving is very hard but important. The thorn of the rose is the reverse side of their tenderness. Don’t you think so?A Wingly, Disc 4: Spring Breath Town Ulara
It is commonly said that to fully appreciate a rose’s beauty, you must also learn to accept its thorns. Less known is that even the leaves of roses carry a meaning of their own: hope.
All these elements may very well have gone into the decision to name Rose after the flower. After all, she’s noted to be beautiful and alluring, with love, passion, courage and undying devotion making up the person she was and still is underneath the debris of thousands of years. The thorns that are part of her are her initially cold, sometimes downright harsh personality, and eventually, her identity as the Black Monster. The group first struggles somewhat with both, but eventually learns to accept Rose as she is. (This is best shown in Dart voicing his appreciation of Rose when Meru questions her secretiveness on the Queen Fury, and Dart forgiving Rose for the killing she has done.) Dart and the group’s tremendous influence on Rose’s development is what makes them her comrades: leaves that grow and support her while giving her new hope.
It’s worth noting that roses are perennials — plants that live longer than a year to return the next. Unlike annual flowers that only last a season and then die for good, only the above-ground part of perennials die when the cold sets. When spring returns, they regrow from the base and the roots to bloom once more. Perennial flowers manage to return by having developed specialized structures that allow them to survive extreme temperatures, i.e. the cold and the heat, while they lay dormant in the soil. In contrast, annual flowers produce far more seeds so that when the original dies, these seeds survive the temperatures to continue the species when the time has come.
Not only did Rose accept immortality, she returns every 108 years as the Black Monster at the birth (“spring”, if you will) of a Moon Child to carry out her mission. She has lived so much longer than any Human, longer than many Winglies even; and unlike the new Dragoons, who are chosen by the Spirits in times of need, she is the sole original Dragoon to still be active after all this time. Unlike humankind, Rose’s duty did not allow her to retire and to relay the killing to “new seeds”. She had to shoulder the burden herself, continuously regrowing herself to withstand the coldness of death and immortality so as to keep going. Only in her case, the “specialized structure” that allowed her to withstand the horrors of the last 11,000 years is the shell she has become when the group first meets her: detachment and emotional death.
Several aspects of the rose are also associated with suffering. Thorns on their own convey pain and hardship, and in Christianity, Jesus was made to wear a crown of thorns as a gesture of mockery. In medieval Europe, roses stood for the Passion (the suffering) of Jesus as well as the blood of the martyrs.
While the symbolism of colours is discussed further below, it’s worth mentioning that certain colours of the rose are associated with something primarily sorrowful rather than love. Rose’s main colour may be black, but there’s a fair amount of red in her design too. Black roses don’t actually exist, and are in fact particularly dark red roses. On the one hand, roses of that shade convey regret, sadness, mourning and death, which explains their presence at funerals and farewells. On the other hand, they signify rebirth and new beginnings.
Suffering is a large part of Rose’s characterization even if it isn’t exactly spelled out: To live for 11,000 years and to sacrifice your entire being is suffering. Loneliness is suffering. Forgetting what it means to be alive and to be human is suffering. To be the only person tasked with repeated and endless killing is suffering. And for all that Rose does, her efforts are mocked — hated — by the very people she wishes to protect. It’s interesting that black roses don’t exist, because neither does the Black Monster, which is a construct by the people. The real being behind the Black Monster is something else, and the actual reasoning behind its actions is something beyond the destruction plainly visible.
For Rose, whose long suffering started with death and farewells, the most important lesson on the journey is learning to shed death’s grasp on herself. Rather than deteriorating any further, Rose learns to laugh and to feel again. What’s more, she is forced to face death by facing victims of her actions, and after having her identity as the Black Monster revealed, she takes the full brunt of Dart’s hurt. It almost shatters her, but due to his encouragement and forgiveness, she is able to find the confidence and courage to resist fate again. At the end of the game, she fully turns away from the cycle of death Endiness’ is caught in, and gives her own life for the birth of the future.
Roses are also featured in the Tarot as part of the major arcana, namely in the Fool, Magician, Strength and Death cards — cards which
“hold strong meanings of balance and equilibrium”. In The Fool, the single rose may be a reminder to halt so as to appreciate the beauty in life. In The Magician, roses may stand for a passion for life. In Death, the five petals and the centerpiece represent the five senses and inner knowing respectively. The black of the banner that Death carries stands in stark contrast to the white of the rose; the white may symbolize
“beauty, purification and immortality in the absence of light” or
“rebirth after a passage through darkness and the unknown”. Overall, roses in the Tarot are generally used to symbolize the
“promise of new beginnings and hope”.
All of that resonates with Rose’s development and how she has always been fighting to preserve the balance, to preserve the world as it is. She has gone through an immensely long period of darkness without any light, but after she meets Dart, the gears slowly start to turn again — even Shirley says as much. Rose has to learn to see the good parts about both life as well as herself again so that she may regain a sense of self along with the ability to feel. The new beginnings in Rose’s story are her personal reawakening as well as the new age she eventually brings about.
Many colours went into Rose’s design, above all black. In the following, analysis is limited to the colours black, red and gold. Rose’s normal attire and Dragoon armour may look purple, violet, indigo or blue, but I believe that to be a stylistic choice to make them look more colourful (especially in contrast to her hair) rather than pitch black. What’s more, with no distinction made between different shades of the same colour, blue is already Meru’s colour, and purple Haschel’s. When you consider the rest of Rose’s design, her element darkness and the quote at the beginning of this page, the game clearly associates Rose with black first and foremost.
Darkness signifies the uneasiness, black signifies the sorrow. They are the colors of Rose.A Wingly, Disc 4: Spring Breath Town Ulara
Black holds a vast amount of meanings, though most associations with the colour are negative. When you speak of colours as light, black is the absence of all colours and thus not a colour itself. It symbolizes detachment, darkness, emptiness and the void. Black establishes
“a barrier between itself and the outside world, providing comfort while protecting its emotions and feelings, and hiding its vulnerabilities”. Black is further associated with darkness and the night as well as the fear of the unknown, as darkness hides depths while affecting your vision. It is a colour of mystery and secrecy. It is perhaps due to all of this that black is the colour of evil itself, of demons and of dangers.
In everyday life, black is used to express sophistication, formality and authority, perhaps precisely due to its detachment. But black is also seen at the scenes of tragedies and funerals as it expresses sadness, remorse, mourning and the ceasing of activity. Because black is so closely tied to depictions of death, it is also a symbol of the underworld and resurrection.
It’s easy to see why black is Rose’s signature colour: She’s the Dark Dragoon, whose element is darkness, she’s the feared Black Monster (evil itself if you ask the people), she’s the mysterious stranger with vast amounts of knowledge and hidden depths. She’s the voice of authority in the group, seemingly always serious and in control of herself, but she’s also emotionally detached and empty as a result of her constant involvement with death, and her heavy past hides an unbearable amount of sadness and remorse. Choosing black as Rose’s colour manages to evoke all these associations when Rose is first introduced, only to change and gain additional meaning when you eventually make the connection with the Black Monster and the surviving Dragoon.
What’s more, when you speak of colour as pigment, black is a colour — the colour you get by mixing other colours, as it absorbs them all. In terms of symbolism, Rose joins the group not as a colour, but an absence of colours (see above) due to the emptiness within her, but gradually becomes a true colour by absorbing the feelings and thoughts of those around her. It’s two different theories of black, but they’re black all the same.
Aside from their signature colour, the characters all sport a secondary colour in their Dragoon form. For Rose, that colour is red. Much like black, red is associated with very different things. On the negative side, red is commonly used to signal danger. It is the colour that conveys warnings, anger, hatred, and as the colour of blood, it’s also associated with death and war, or, as mentioned above, martyrs and sacrifice. But precisely because it is such a strong emotional signal colour — unlike black, which is cold, detached and shrouded in mystery —, it also has plenty of positive associations: love, passion, courage, desire, and also determination, drive, energy, ambition, confidence.
Amusingly, red and black are both considered colours of seduction, which may play into Rose being presented as the alluring mysterious beauty. At first sight, the red of Rose’s Dragoon armour is possibly meant to convey danger and war, the context of her first meeting with Dart. Later on, you learn of Rose’s involvement in the war 11,000 years ago and her determination and courage that have survived to the present day, even if much, if not all of her passion may have faded. In her role as the Black Monster, red issues a warning, symbolizes the blood she has stained her hands with, and the hatred that she has drawn — and her personal sacrifice behind all of it.
I think it’s no coincidence that Zieg and Dart’s primary colour are red, and that Rose’s secondary colour is the same colour that signifies her strongest bonds in past and present. Red is a colour that energizes and stimulates, exciting emotions and motivating people to take action. Dart’s passion and drive inspire Rose and reawaken her old self, and she finds herself going along with the group even as she doesn’t exactly know why.
As for gold, it’s mostly dominant in her normal attire. Gold seems a superficial colour to me due to its one-dimensional associations: justice, power, royalty, prosperity, success, achievements, triumph and even the heavens. As such, it mainly serves not to characterize Rose, but to speak of her deeds and her authority.
Distinctions and Contrasts
Finally, there are several things I want to draw attention to: Firstly, the colour red is absent in Rose’s normal attire, whereas the colour gold is not featured in her Dragoon armour. When the Black Monster appears in flashbacks during the story, it is always Rose in her Dragoon form, presumably because she needs to call upon that power to quickly wipe out settlements, but also perhaps because she does not want to appear as a Human while taking so many lives (see “Monster” below). Rose being a Dragoon and swearing to protect the world is a fundamental aspect of her character; the killing that she does as the Black Monster, however, isn’t. It’s a necessary means to protect the world in the absence of alternatives. Neither the killing nor the Black Monster are what Rose truly is, and perhaps that distinction is expressed in the differences between her Human attire and her Dragoon form: Whereas the red of her Dragoon form may conjure up the image of bloodshed, in her Human attire, the gold expresses her achievements in the long history of humankind. Yet, it is only together — as a Human and as a Dragoon, as a protector and a killer — that you grasp the person Rose is.
Secondly, I’d like to address and contrast some of the colours among the Dragoons in the group. As mentioned at the beginning, Rose’s particular shade of “black” in the game comes close to a deep purple or dark blue (or violet or indigo; I have no idea what the shades are typically referred to in English), with purple being Haschel’s and blue Meru’s colour. Rose has plenty in common with the two, but there are also distinctions to be made. While Rose and Haschel both enjoy authority within the group and have plenty of knowledge to share due to their long travels and vast experience, I’d say Rose’s knowledge is the knowledge over facts: history, ancient languages, and how the current world has come to be, because she has lived through all of that. Haschel’s knowledge, on the other hand, is the wisdom and experience that comes with age. That’s precisely what purple as a colour symbolizes: wisdom (different from knowledge) and spirituality. As for Meru, her shade of blue is the light end of the spectrum. Blue in general stands for confidence, loyalty, trust, intelligence, which do apply to Rose as well. But it also encompasses faith, truth and understanding — the trials that Meru faces as a Wingly questioning the ways of her own species so as to unite the two species.
The party members that share the colour red in both their normal attire and Dragoon armour are Dart and Miranda. As mentioned above, red is primarily associated with energy: passion, drive, the desire to take action. These are the common elements between Dart, Miranda and Rose indeed (as discussed). Dart’s passion is the one to pull people along, and Miranda’s passion and impatience are connected to her anger. In contrast, Lavitz and Albert, though unquestionably just as passionate, are not so much about taking preemptive action as they are about preserving, which is why their colours are green and ochre: the colours of nature, of hope, harmony, fertility, stability and service.
Lastly, but most importantly, Rose’s colour and role are in direct opposition to Shana’s: It’s black versus white, night versus day, pure evil versus pure goodness if you go by symbology. In the aforementioned additive and subtractive colour theories, if black is a colour, white, by the same standards, is not, and vice versa. Rose and Shana do seem to be pitted against each other at first: as women, as potential love interests, in their elemental affinities (darkness is weak against light, light weak against darkness), in their battle roles, in the way Rose’s skills destroy while Shana’s restore. As the group advances, they learn about the Black Monster and the Moon Child being each other’s nemesis, with the Black Monster repeatedly devouring the Moon Child to prevent the heavenly blessing. In Human understanding and myth, the Moon Child, much like light and the colour white, signifies purity and innocence, whereas the Black Monster is corruption and evil personified. Surprisingly, the truth is the direct opposite: The Black Monster has been saving the world for 11,000 years, whereas the Moon Child has been the instrument of destruction for just as long. So, not only does the game like to play with myths, it also plays with the symbolism of colours due to their associations — and that’s quite impressive.
And in the end, the game goes beyond even that: The tension between Rose and Shana is one-sided, and what false rivalry there is eventually fades as the two women gain mutual understanding of each other, with Rose even seeing some of her former self in Shana. Although cast in opposing roles and colours, neither Shana nor Rose are “good” or “bad”. Although born with the soul of the God of Destruction, Shana is kind and caring through and through and never treated as an antagonist. And despite all the destruction the Black Monster has caused and being presented as evil throughout the first three discs, Rose as a person does not equate to the perceptions of the Black Monster.
The Choker Accessory
Interestingly, Rose didn’t obtain immortality in an irreversible way, but through a device imbued with Wingly magic — more precisely, a choker. I have no means of verifying the original script, and as mentioned, the accessory isn’t visible anywhere despite having presence in the game itself. What’s striking is that it’s not just any necklace (or any other accessory for that matter). A choker is a necklace worn tightly around the throat rather than resting on the collarbone or the chest, resembling a collar. I assume its name is meant to conjure the image of the wearer being choked if the accessory were any tighter.
The Wingly magic in play combined with the choker’s ability to dispel the illusion that protects the Spring Breath Town Ulara signify the forged union and bond between Rose and the surviving Winglies, which, to an extent, is also the union between Human and Winglies. Rose’s immortality is more precisely her frozen time: I don’t think she’s immune to death, she “just” doesn’t age, and thus doesn’t die of old age. Ironically, the choker that bestows her with “life” and “time” isn’t a blessing, but a collar that chains her to her mission. True to its name, its grasp on her has slowly been choking her, draining her not of lifetime, but of everything it means to actually be alive, combining physical life and emotional death in one. And yet, most importantly, the choker signifies Rose’s choice in the matter: It’s an accessory she can, physically speaking, take off at any time. The fact that she doesn’t is ultimately what makes Rose’s perseverance so powerful.
An interesting tidbit that I found while looking up the history of chokers (though I heavily doubt this came up while designing Rose) is that these necklaces may have been inspired by a trend during the horrors of the French Revolution. Young women started to wear red ribbons around their throats as a gesture of sympathy and solidarity to those who lost their lives to the guillotine and in memory of their friends and family members. That’d be fitting for Rose, the sole surviving Dragoon of the Dragon Campaign, as the choker also symbolizes her commitment to keep protecting the world that her fallen comrades gave their lives for.
The Monster Label
Let’s be honest: When Dart mentioned that he was looking for the Black Monster that had destroyed his hometown in early parts of the game, everyone, NPCs and players alike, thought of a literal monster: a creature and existence not human, but beast. To the Humans of Endiness, these particular deaths must have been brought about by something horrendous, as they can’t imagine one of their own causing that much destruction. We label things that we do not and cannot understand as monsters so as to isolate them from human associations. We even elevate them to the subjects of myth and religion to keep them out of our mundane reality and to reassure ourselves. I’ve mentioned in several parts of this shrine that one of the most fascinating things about The Legend of Dragoon is how it plays with history, myths and religion, and how certain perceptions change depending on the region or the time that has passed. When Rose’s identity is revealed, the surprise that the group — most of all Dart — feels is, I assume, also about the horror that comes with the knowledge that a human being was responsible for all of it. The knowledge that a human being can be that much of a murderous beast.
Rose must not have wanted to be called a monster. I believe that being remembered as the Black Monster in Humankind’s history must have caused her anguish on top of everything else, even if it didn’t change what she had set out to do. But in part, I think Charle and Rose wanted it that way. They did not want to share the knowledge with Humans as it’d be very likely that Humans wouldn’t cooperate in the repeated killings of entire villages just to ensure the death of the Moon Child and its influences. Considering that the cycle repeats every 108 years, it’d also mean having to convince people to cooperate time and again, since they don’t live that long. I doubt Charle and Rose would have been ready to compromise, because the two of them know and remember better than anyone else what it’d mean to allow the Moon Child to live — as two people who have experienced the horrors of the war (the Winglies’ prime and their domination) and still carry its consequences to this day, horrors long faded from the memory and history of humankind save for a few scholars.
A Cycle of 108 Years
In the game, the number 108 is associated with several different things that are all connected to each other. The creator Soa envisioned 108 species to be born of the Divine Tree, with the God of Destruction, the Virage Embryo, as the last. When its body and soul are torn apart as a precaution of the Winglies, the transmigration cycle repeats every 108 years as the Moon Child, the soul of the God of Destruction, is reborn. Due to this, the Black Monster shows up every 108 years to take Human lives.
The number 108 carries many different meanings and has big presence especially in Eastern religions and traditions, namely in rituals. It has, for example, a part in spiritual completion, the whole of existence, paths to God, finishing the old year and welcoming the new one, and astronomy. Among all the associations, what makes me think of Rose the most are the 108 beads of malas, rosaries or prayer beads: Malas beads are counted as a mantra is repeated so that the mantra is remembered
“with sincerity, devotion, feeling, and full attention”. Perhaps the number 108 was chosen for its ritual significance, as Rose’s actions are determined by the transmigration cycle and there is a mission — a mantra — she must not forget.
Life and Death
In summary, many of the narrative and symbolic elements that went into Rose seem to stress her weight in the balance of life and death and their importance to who she is and what she has done. Death and rebirth, farewells and new beginnings, despair and hope are present in the symbolism of the black roses, in the rose banner of the Tarot Death, in the colour black and in the connection between black and white, night and day.
Rose is the Black Monster, who takes lives to give life to the world. Rose is the surviving Dragoon, who prolongs her own life even if it means emotional and personal death. Rose is the Dragoon of the Dark Dragon, whose spell set reflects the inseparable connection between life and death. Rose joins the group when she barely feels alive anymore, but slowly moves away from death towards life again as she regains her ability to feel. Rose ends death’s grasp on Endiness by offering her own life, this time for good, to ensure Endiness’ future.