Perhaps the one thing about H.P. Lovecraft known more than his horror is his xenophobia. The man’s fear of the unknown in fiction reflected his same feeling with people in his personal life, particularly foreigners. But despite the discomfort that fact might inspire, Bloodborne‘s director Hidetaka Miyazaki doesn’t shirk away from this element of Lovecraft’s work. To define from initial observation is inherent to the human condition, and the setting of Yharnam embodies that sometimes ugly unease at what we can’t immediately discern with a surprising amount of nuance. In the end, when it comes to fear, there is a fine line between rational and irrational, and wrestling with that has its own merit.

Drink by Day

The long and storied history of Yharnam naturally begins with its people. The Yharnamites dress not too different from any other working class urban citizen of the era, their common clothes worn out from day-to-day use. What sets them apart from their contemporaries is their choice of liquor, derived from blood instead of alcohol. No true Yharnam citizen fails to partake in a blood cocktail, getting drunk on that invigorating feeling. Naturally, it is always in limited supply, but that just makes the occasional swig all the sweeter. Such an arguably cannibalistic culture unsurprisingly earns scorn from outsiders, apparently flaunting their “superiority” over these backwood yokels in the remote mountains. Yharnamites don’t take kindly to being looked down upon for their favorite pastime, so they never miss a chance to gloat when foreigners get themselves killed in town for their ignorance. In the end, the mutual prejudice has only served to make Yharnam a more insular society even while becoming so metropolitan.

Common hat of the old capital of Yharnam.

Worn out and battered.

Aged blood liquor that releases a strong smell if thrown. It strongly attracts blood-starved beasts.

A precious thing whose output is very little. Liquor doesn’t suit Yharnam. For it instead gets drunk on blood.

With blood drinking so deeply rooted in the culture, it is no accident that the city is built atop the Pthumerian labyrinth. They certainly weren’t ignorant about the underground ruins. Gehrman acknowledges how few chalices have been brought out from the labyrinth, yet a Pthumerian chalice is enshrined at the large church in Old Yharnam. This “Holy Grail Church” (聖杯教会) also features the statue of a veiled woman presiding over a wrapped body, two similarly robed women flanking either side. Leading up to this altar are figures of hunchback men in bandages on their knees, giving the impression that these women are spiritual healers looked to for guidance regarding disease. More effigies of men masking their affliction pervade the city, sharing motifs with those in the Chalice Dungeons. All of this betrays Pthumerian influence, as does their burial practices. Graves are erected on the city streets, presumably ceremonial given that they sit cluttered atop cobblestone. Nonetheless, it shows the compulsion to leave these markers for interment underground, again harkening back to Pthumerian culture.

Most of the Holy Grails are in the gods’ graves themselves… and the Holy Grails which have been brought back above ground are very few.

I don’t know where they are, but… if the hunters’ tales of yonder are accurate even now, one of the Holy Grails should be enshrined in the city of the valley.

But for all these traditions borrowed from Pthumeru, we see no signs of Yharnam historically digging down to explore the ruins like with Loran. Instead, we find that even the name Yharnam is taken directly from the current Pthumerian Queen residing in the deepest, most secure, depths of the labyrinth. This cannot be coincidence either, since it is an older word from the earliest period in the Pthumerian civilization; the Yharnamites would need to have known the queen. In that case, how could Yharnam’s founders have been so familiar with the heart of Pthumerian society? The answer is obvious: they were Pthumerians themselves. If the city was established by Pthumerians under their Queen’s jurisdiction, then it would be natural to have inherited her name in the same way that many historical colonies are named after their royal sponsors. Indeed, the chalice the local church enshrines is from the uppermost layer of the ruins, so the latest queen’s colony would need to be the layer above it.

Proof of this earliest site still exists in Yharnam city. Yahar’gul is large enough to be considered its own town, a district distinct from the parts of Yharnam now regarded as the “old city”. However, its neighboring position suggests that it is still part of the city, even older. Hunters of Yahar’gul wear iron helms of soldiers from a bygone era, presumably collected from town. The name itself is unlike any other encountered above ground, uniquely Lovecraftian in style. Indeed, the Lovecraft influence pervades the architecture, buildings adorned with gargoyles in alien shapes; contrasting the same found around Old Yharnam, which take on a distinctly avian flare. More specifically, the Yahar’gul gargoyle heads resemble Amygdala, which is fitting since statues of the Great One and star children are also found around town. This is especially true at the local church, where the “gods” are enshrined alongside the same idols of veiled men hiding their illness that we see throughout Yharnam.

Iron helmet that hunters of the Hidden Town wear.

That which removed the black hood is associated with soldiers of a previous age. It is metal armor, unusual for hunter garments, and boosts defense efficacy if limited to physical attacks.

All these differences reflect a Pthumerian origin point at Yahar’gul. When the settlers first came from underground, they settled at the bottom of the valley where direct sunlight would be less prevalent. With memory of their heritage fresh, their icons would depict their gods and the transcendent transformations all descendants of Pthumeru strove for. But life above ground is a completely different experience, their funerary culture now threatened by scavengers like crows. And as we witness throughout the region, there are no shortage of crows ready to gobble up the carrion, to the point that they can only crawl on their fattened bellies. The gargoyles thus came to depict the birds of death as the demonic entity to ward off evildoers, coinciding with memory of the Great Ones fading. Rather than address the gods directly, the later church has the human figures almost universally look toward the sky for guidance — the new distance from their gods, the arcane, and their religious roots nowhere more palpable. They still prayed to cure illness, but the form they prayed to was forgotten.

As added evidence, there are the residents. The School of Mensis is working with pale-skinned folk in Yahar’gul. All of these enemies are also encountered in the Chalice Dungeons, and it is easy to mistake them for Pthumerians. However, they all lack the sunken black eyes characteristic of that race. Why them specifically? Maybe because they were conceptualized as entities who historically lived under the sun rather than absent it. With that in mind, the kidnappers only prowl the upper half of the underground ruins, their burlap sacks serving no purpose for a Pthumerian — who exactly would they be trying to kidnap? The eye collectors might be native to the Hintertombs, but their hobby proves replicable by their counterparts above ground. And while the bell ringers in the Chalice Dungeons are stated to be mad Pthumerians in item descriptions, those same women facilitating online invasions up top or within dreams is simply unlikely. In short, it is easy to imagine the dungeon enemies as either from Yahar’gul or reused to reflect its Pthumerian origins.

This explains why Pthumeru left such a huge imprint on Yharnam culture, surviving remnants of their heritage. Perhaps Queen Yharnam wanted a head start on constructing the next layer of her underground labyrinth, or perhaps she hoped to preempt new outsiders from settling the land like Loran. Regardless, her intention was clearly for kin to construct a colony under the sun; the reason so much culture was lost can be blamed on the obvious disconnect with Pthumeru in the years since. Based on the presence of soldier equipment, the Yharnamites most likely fought for independence somewhere down the line. Why should they be governed by a queen and nobility living all the way down five strata deep? Those haughty elites never knew what it was like to toil under the sun, fend off crows, or build in open air. And Yharnamites hate being misunderstood. After achieving self-governance, a new phase began for this isolated town: integrating into the wider societal system.

As we can see, new cityscape was built to accommodate a flourishing population, the original Yharnam now regarded as “Yahar’gul” — perhaps meaning something akin to “old city” as with Old and Central Yharnam. Yet the modern Yharnamite has strayed far from his Pthumerian blood, whereas the denizen of Yahar’gul has better preserved the gene pool. The most notable factor between them is contact with outsiders. Despite its isolation, Yharnam still receives plenty of outside contact, and their prejudice doesn’t stop them from trading with foreigners — incorporating their fashion and technology — or welcoming them as residents. It is only natural that such intermingling lead to interbreeding, diluting the Pthumerian blood already diminished by generations of sunlight. And with how foreigners view Yharnam’s lingering heritage, the cultural markers witnessed in Yahar’gul must have been completely unpalatable, in which case moderation would be the only course of action. The city’s most alien elements had to be stripped out and left to be forgotten, sanitizing the culture for foreign lovers.

This integration evidently didn’t sit well with those remaining in the original town. The reason may be inferred from the straw rope which Yahar’gul hunters wear as a charm. Such rope has spiritual connotations in Japanese religion, but rope itself invokes the image of a tie, keeping things tethered together — whether that be the charm owner’s life to his body or a people to their heritage. Simply put, the citizens of Yahar’gul probably feared losing touch with their roots and so doubled down on their insular community, keeping to the “old ways” as their icons and arcane arts demonstrate. Meanwhile, those branching out wanted little to do with their traditional cousins, hence the “hidden town” (隠し街) is walled off from the rest of the urban infrastructure; only formally accessible via a church atop the valley leading to the one down below. Yahar’gul could still make necessary exchanges, but clearly contact with the outside was kept limited.

This divide may have had a downstream effect on more than just culture. Yharnam has a notable number of hunchbacks with slurred, almost juvenile, speech. Indeed, they appear to suffer from infantilism. The first we meet bangs on a locked gate without thinking to try going around through the open side street. The coins they carry suggest a fascination with shiny objects, a stereotypical sign of simplemindedness. Such a hobby also explains why they so commonly attract giant crows, the ravenous birds often found surrounding the giants without fear of reprisal — likely because the giant is afraid of them, standing frozen stiff as he is. These adult men occasionally even look to a “dear sister” for warmth as they idle about, indicating coddling from an older sibling which left a lifelong impression. In short, there is a notable portion of the population suffering from mental disabilities on top of physical deformities. We don’t see this from the Pthumerians, so it may be a result of introducing outsiders into the gene pool, which would naturally bring with it foreign illnesses and congenital abnormalities.

If so, then Yahar’gul society had more justification for their xenophobia. As for Yharnam, these disabilities are at least tolerated. Despite their problems, the hunchback men are still big, hulking brutes capable of swinging around large stone blocks or even an entire statue with one hand. This makes them ideal for hard labor as “manservants”, (下男) the kanji of which can be more literally read as “inferior men”. In other words, they are treated as an underclass, loved by no one except family. At the same time, the hunchback statues in their church implies that they do recognize their plight with some sympathy. The Victorian era did see a shift in viewing the generically disabled with pity and later disdain, giving rise to eugenics. The Yharnamites look to have embraced the former while the Yahar’gul community seems more inclined toward the latter, sequestering themselves away for population control. Yharnam turned the page on its past, and in doing so set the stage to retread it.

The Hunt Begins Again

With blood drinking remaining a staple, it is inevitable that Yharnam’s emphasis on disease primarily concerned the beast scourge. Ignorant of the cause, degeneration into a beast was just a bizarre kind of sickness and, helpless to solve it through any medical science, they relied on appeals to the gods. But the gods rarely took interest in the affairs of men, so this left the matter of exterminating the diseased. The Church Pick affirms a history of hunting beasts with stakes — presumably through the heart — in its description. However, that same description alludes to the method as impractical, hence why such accounts had remained old legend. Instead, it seems to have been more common to drive the beast out of town. Both a group of western constables and the eastern samurai Yamamura pursue a beast to Yharnam, implying that the monsters were fleeing back to familiar territory after causing more trouble in surrounding communities. Yharnamites simply offloaded the problem onto foreigners.

One of the old “trick weapons” of the Treatment Church. It made the large stake in the old beast legends into a weapon.

It functions as a large sword pre-transformation and a long-haft warpick post-alteration. Extremely practical weapon unbecoming of its origin.

Uniform of a group of constables who once visited Yharnam in pursuit of a beast. It is said that they all became the beast’s prey and that the one who survived ate the beast.

That is the kind of gossip the Yharnam citizens like. The overbearing and prejudice-filled foreigners don’t understand Yharnam and thus expose bloodied bodies in its darkness. How can the gloating abate?

In the end, Yharnam wouldn’t have its first proper beast hunter until Gehrman, who had been just an ordinary resident prior. His hunting attire is simply modified plain clothes, which the description makes a point was because there wasn’t yet a hunter’s workshop to craft something more proper. In other words, this wasn’t a man particularly equipped to be the local beast exterminator. But the fact that he became just that reveals his will to hunt. The terrifying beasts so consumed Gehrman’s thoughts that he made it his life’s mission to eliminate the scourge. How many innocents needed to suffer at the hands of an afflicted neighbor before someone did something about it? Gathering up a mob to force the beast out of town wasn’t the answer; the beast might come back. There needed to be a more permanent solution, and not just for the victims. The description for Burial Blade reveals that Gehrman viewed hunting as a funeral, allowing his prey to rest in peace freed from their nightmare. For Gehrman, giving men those last respects even as beasts was his calling.

Hunting apparel of Gehrman, the first hunter.

They are modified ordinary clothes, when there was yet no workshop, but it became the prototype for later hunting apparel.

The tendency for hunters to emphasize speed and for hunting apparel to be very light probably has Gehrman and his fighting style as its source.

“Trick weapon” that Gehrman, the first hunter, used.

It is a masterpiece that serves as the starting point of all workshop weapons, and rare meteoric iron originating from the stars is used for its blade.

Gehrman probably likened the hunt to a funeral. May you at least rest in peace and never again awaken to a painful nightmare.

“Calling” is the apt phrasing for it, for it proves true in more than just the idiomatic sense. The first hunter’s choice of weapon has a blade made with meteoric iron, a rare mineral from the stars as the Japanese description acknowledges. Indeed, meteors are typically how the Great Ones respond to attempts to contact them, at least when the attempt actually reaches. In short, Gehrman must have made a fervent prayer to the gods, begging them for answers to Yharnam’s beast dilemma. His sincerity brought that small prayer to one’s attention — to which the Great One promptly threw a rock down at him. How Gehrman interpreted this message from god can be seen in him using that special iron mass to forge a reaper’s scythe: he was to bring death to the beasts. The divine had revelated his vocation, and the citizen of Yharnam simply embraced it. And so, a hunter was born.

If Gehrman had any talents, it was his creativity. Even without a workshop to work with, he managed to craft a masterpiece — not only because the meteoric iron provided the blade with superior sharpness, but also because of its novel mechanism. Gehrman’s blade had a little “trick” allowing it to quickly fold the long-handled sickle and detach the blade so it could be used as a curved sword. This enabled the wielder to adjust his fighting style on the fly, adapting to the needs of the hunt. Combined with his very light clothing, and Gehrman became a speedy and nimble hunter, dodging away from beast swipes only to leap back in just as quickly and press the attack. This meant that a single mistake on his part would be costly, but Gehrman’s perseverance shone through and he always emerged victorious in the life-or-death struggle. He possessed that single-minded conviction to the hunt, to survive until it was completed. And with the beast scourge being what it was, that day was far off.

In the meantime, Gehrman settled into his new role. To repair or tinker with his equipment and invent new hunting tools, he established a dedicated workshop. This hunter’s workshop may be built on the site of his fateful prayer. Beside the building is a small cliff curving around to form a slope with which we can access the side entrance. Was this just a convenient quirk of the land, or was the depression the aftermath of a meteoric impact? There is an inexplicable doorway overlooking the cliff, and the messenger baths in the Hunter’s Dream are both placed around this curious spot. And with all the trees and foliage, the property certainly wasn’t integrated into its urbanized surroundings at the time. Of course, even if natural, the location was still prime real estate, lying roughly between the entry points for both Old Yharnam and Yahar’gul. Wherever Gehrman was needed, he could quickly be called upon and mobilized. For that reason, the building likely doubled as his residence, several private items unrelated to hunting found on the premises. This work was his life now, and he made sure not to disappoint.

Follow the Leader

Gehrman set the precedent for more to follow in his footsteps, and these apprentices were soon issued a badge to signify their admission to the Gehrman school of hunting. The emblem was, of course, a miniature scythe blade, echoing just how much the earliest hunters looked to Gehrman as their original model. Not only was his gear the prototype for later hunting apparel in both utility and fashion, but even his scythe served as the basis for all workshop weapons going forward. This, at its core, meant some kind of trick for flexibility in combat, but early on applied to even the manner of blade. For one example, the Beasthunter Saif looks and functions almost identical to the Burial Blade in sword form, reaping beasts with the additional edge lining the inner curve in a single sweep. The main difference is that its mechanism instead folds the blade so as to better use the outer edge to carve into beasts at close range. It was all about the sharpness and elegance of the cut to complement the hunter’s emphasis on speed. And these weapons weren’t the only tools in their arsenal.

Hunter emblem issued in old Gehrman’s era. It no longer holds any meaning, just reminiscing about days past.

That is a privilege of the old folk and shouldn’t be infringed upon. Best leave it alone. Unless you actually are one who inherits their left will.

“Trick weapon” that had been used by the old hunters.

An additional blade is built into the inner part of the curved blade and can be swung vertically and horizontally as a long-haft curved sword pre-transformation. Also fold the blade via transformation and drive a series of short attacks in.

It was a “trick weapon” that made flexible tactics feasible, but it was eventually replaced by more beast-unfriendly weapons such as saws.

Fire in a bottle (火炎瓶) is one of the simpler and thereby longtime hunting tools, burning the beast with a mere throw of the Molotov cocktail. Although various item descriptions cite fire as only becoming a staple after the burning of Old Yharnam, this is a mistake from the localization. Rather, that tragedy serves as an example of the hunters’ bias toward flames, “purification” as it is so often framed. It is that compulsion to burn their prey for which oil urns were also added to the hunters’ toolbelt; anything to better cleanse the streets of the beastly filth. But when not consumed with pyromania, hunters did employ some more cunning tools like throwing knives. However, these were mainly used for distraction, since a small dagger could hardly be expected to deal the finishing blow. Pungent blood cocktails were similarly clever means to distract their bloodthirsty prey. Conversely, hunters generally don’t incorporate poison into their toolkit, since a beast is often too dangerous to succumb before killing its prey. Beast hunts needed to be crafty but short and swift, so the hunters designed their tools accordingly.

Molotov cocktail that violently combusts if thrown. One of the hunting tools that has been in the workshop since long ago.

As was the case with the tragedy of the former Old City, there is a bias for the purification of disease, and fire is indispensable for beast hunts.

Is that why it is said that certain kinds of beasts pathologically fear fire?

Jar that oils the target it is thrown at. Oily targets burn very well.

Fire is indispensable for beast hunts, and the hunting tool further boosts its efficacy.

A hunter who burns beasts might get drunk on the excitement of purification.

Ironically, one of their most effective “tools” then wasn’t designed in the mechanical sense. We see that dogs have been used in beast hunts since the old hunters. The breed accompanying them in the Hunter’s Nightmare resembles the Doberman, which serves primarily as a guard dog. In other words, the old hunters repurposed the pets protecting their domiciles as hunting hounds, their job to keep the beasts at bay while the owner went in for the kill. This breed evidently wasn’t ideal, however, as modern Yharnam uses another resembling the Irish Wolfhound; a dog specializing in hunting beasts the shape and size of wolves and bears. Most likely, the guard dogs died out, requiring the new and better-suited breed be brought in — the rabid hounds in the cages they were imported in stacked together on one side street in town. Even so, fighting beasts with beasts is a wise move, since there is no better tool than something that can do harm without the owner having to risk getting close.

Perhaps then there was no better addition to their arsenal than quicksilver. Once the hunters had been introduced to the literal silver bullet, they could finally incorporate firearms into their methods. Some preferred pinpointing shots with a pistol, others like Gehrman preferred catching the giant speed demons in a wider net with a blunderbuss. Regardless, having a bullet which could actually kill a beast expanded the hunters’ options in battle. It wasn’t just the damage, range, or speed of fire which they could appreciate; a single well-placed gunshot would, at minimum, stun the creature long enough to perform a visceral attack, plunging an arm into that torn open flesh and ripping out the organs. Without a heart, guts, or brain, even the most fearsome beast will fall — and in a life-or-death struggle, sometimes things get a little hands-on. Thanks to quicksilver, hunters can now really engage in intense battles to the death.

Maybe their thanks should instead be directed at the Healing Church. Church weaponry commonly employs silver and developed new quicksilver firearms at its own workshop. Meanwhile, the old hunters understood certain kinds of metal exorcise beast blood, but their garments are only ever adorned with “poor” metals. Therefore, the church had more than likely introduced quicksilver to Gehrman’s workshop without clarifying the specific mechanics behind its efficacy, resulting in superstition circulating among the lay hunter. This would imply that the two institutions shared a close relationship. Gehrman does indicate close association with the church’s first vicar, Laurence, and the hunters come to be symbolized by one of the Caryll runes employed by the church. And, of course, it was the clerics’ blood treatment which gave them work.

This era was defined by “many” beast hunters according to descriptions for their equipment. With the Healing Church promoting a novel new medical practice that resulted in a beastly transformation, the disease was guaranteed to become an epidemic — especially when receiving that treatment is highly addictive. The cityscape above Old Yharnam reflects this shift, incorporating canine beasts alongside the avian gargoyles. No longer was it just the random odd beast that needed to be exterminated in one corner of town. Many more Yharnamites were exposed to the terror on a day-to-day basis, and some would undoubtedly follow Gehrman’s train of thought. Hunters were in greater demand, and the crisis created the supply. As a result, the old workshop massively expanded operations, supporting at least dozens based on those we see in the Hunter’s Nightmare. The influx of members brought with it a slew of new ideas, not all of them friendly to Gehrman’s way of things.

The Beasthunter Saif was ultimately retired, the elegant slice simply not as effective without the strength of meteoric iron behind it; far easier to grind through the thick flesh and bone with saw blades than a razor’s edge. We can already see the move away from Gehrman’s design with other old hunter weapons like Beast Cutter. As the name “beast meat cutter” (獣肉断ち) would imply, the weapon carves up prey with a hefty cleaver, using the weight of the blade and the curved teeth along it to tear through sinew. With that, of course, comes the connotation of a butcher, revealing the grisly new direction for beast hunts. In the end, the old hunters’ design was refined to the modern Saw Cleaver, incorporating the saif’s folding trick for options between emphasis on the saw or cleaver aspect. The weapon became so ubiquitous that the workshop began issuing badges in its shape instead, relegating Gehrman’s sickle emblem to a nostalgic trinket of his heyday. But it was all a sanguinary affair, regardless.

“Trick weapon” that had been used by the old hunters.

The bulky iron hatchet for carving apart even hard beast flesh can split its blade via the trick and swing it around like a heavy whip.

That rustic, power-based weapon can hardly be called elegant. Thus, the old hunters’ hunts were grisly, their form stained in black and red blood.

Hunter emblem that the workshop once issued. Proof of beast hunt hunters recognized by the workshop.

There is no longer a workshop and no organization to seek proof, but the messengers of the water basin alone will find meaning in it. It seems that there are things that should only be entrusted to hunters with an emblem.

This change in philosophy at the workshop naturally spawned its own counterculture. Aside from minor iterations on the core design like Saw Spear, some hunters homed in on the centrifugal force present in all the variations to develop the Hunter Axe, which transforms an ordinary hand axe into a pole arm — very medieval, and very intentional. These hunters thought themselves executioners of the modern age, wanting to bring their axe heads down on the necks of mad beasts. For that, they needed the extra reach of a long haft to cleave through efficiently, the mundane hand axe we see some old hunters use in the Hunter’s Nightmare simply not enough. But this attitude also betrays how they treated their prey like condemned criminals. Such hunters didn’t deny their quarry’s former humanity, they damned them for it; as if it was the diseased man’s fault that he had become the monster. To wield the axe was thereby to say that the hunters were the necessary evil for the societal good, the brutality of their kills just part of the job.

One of the workshop “trick weapons” that hunters use in beast hunts.

It functions as a saw that lacerates inhuman beasts’ fleshy hide pre-transformation and as a long-haft hatchet utilizing centrifugal force post-transformation.

The saw lined with blades and carving out blood is a weapon symbolizing beast hunts in particular, so it was supposed to be valid only against the horribly beastified.

Others rejected the sordidness of the whole affair, trying instead to reclaim the elegance of the earlier hunts. These hunters took the Beast Cutter’s trick to split into segmented blades swung around like a heavy whip and apply it to something more “civilized”, namely a gentleman’s cane. This Threaded Cane shrinks the serrated edges locking together to form the staff’s length for a lighter, wieldier weapon. When not segmented, the tip is still pointed and exterior apparently uses silver instead of iron to make up for its lack of sharpness. Considering how little silver is used here and at the workshop in general, the cane’s creation was probably sponsored by the Healing Church; most of its known users are church affiliated. Indeed, the result was something far more refined than its rustic predecessor, allowing for less bloody battles at range to keep the hunter’s clothes free of beast splatter. This was important since such hunters continued to dress like gentlemen in top hats mirroring Gehrman. They wanted to maintain the clean form of human civility, not wallow in the blood of filthy beasts like their peers.

One of the workshop “trick weapons” that hunters use in beast hunts.

The hard cane crammed with a blade functions sufficiently as a weapon as is, but the blade can also be segmented and swung just like a whip via the trick.

The form of a weapon imitating a cane and swinging a whip at beasts has a kind of sophistication to it. It is the intent to not be eaten away by one’s own beast hunt blood, isn’t it?

Apparel of an old hunter. Features poor metal ardornments.

In those days, some hunters believed that certain kinds of metals exorcise beast blood. It is natural for people to cling to something on hunt night.

Although extreme, this gentlemanly hunting sect highlights an important truth: the hunters feared the beast hunt blood. The reason the old hunters, especially the gentlemanly types, wore metal trinkets was because they were desperate for some amulet of protection. They feared infection from the disease and so tried whatever they could to avoid becoming beasts themselves. Unfortunately for them, they were kept in the dark about the precise cause and suffered for it. Another superstition arose that “beast blood creeps up from the right leg” in obvious reference to how hunters — mostly right-handed, like people as a whole — inject their right legs with blood vials from the church’s transfusions. Failing to make the connection and perhaps encouraged by the thought that it helped treat the disease, the ignorant old hunters kept using the convenient source of instant healing with reckless abandon in ever riskier hunts. When they did feel the transformation begin to stir in the leg, they used belts to restrict blood circulation and thereby slow if not halt the disease’s progression.

Pants of an old hunter. Apparel of the old era where many hunters hunted beasts.

“Beast blood creeps up from the right leg” was a superstition of those days, and the two-coiled belts are probably remnants of that.

However effective this was, it is presumably why Yharnam today is home to so many old men in wheelchairs. Official websites make note of this point, indicating that most even count themselves among the wealthy — they are affording those fancy wheelchairs somehow. They have also retained their weapons over the years, which include not just pistols and rifles like most Yharnamites but also gatling guns and flamethrowers. How were these wheelchair-bound men so consistently affluent, armed, and aging? If they were retired hunters, this wouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the workshop wasn’t a charity. With the explosion in beast cases, hunters must have been paid handsomely for their key and highly specialized contribution to society. We also see the more militant arsenal developed for their use. Aging out of the role is likewise a given, especially when losing function of a leg from extended constrictions to blood flow. Better to retire a cripple than become an impediment, either as dead weight or another beast to hunt; many understand that fact, even if only out of fear of the blood.

But not Gehrman. We see that the feeble old man in a wheelchair possesses a peg leg, proof that his right limb was amputated to stop the beast scourge. And yet, this wasn’t what caused him to retire. When he challenges us as a hunter, his younger, able-bodied form retains the peg leg, his only hindrance being a slight limp. Clearly, Gehrman is used to fighting with this disability and continued to hunt even as he grew grey and wrinkly. His single-minded obsession with ending the beast scourge threw out all common sense. He was willing to do anything, even hack off a limb, to see his god-given mission through. He feared the blood only so far as it hindered his ability to hunt. So long as he didn’t become a beast, the rest didn’t matter. Perhaps the loss of his leg did compel him to moderate with blood vials. But at heart, Gehrman never changed. And so, even in retirement, his will perpetuated the hunt.

All in a Night’s Work

One consequence of beasts becoming a regular occurrence in Yharnam is an equally regular schedule to the hunts. Nighttime became the domain of the hunters, which isn’t without logic. Citizens were more likely to transform at different points throughout the day whilst out and about the streets, certain to be infested with beasts by the dead of night. Therefore, when people begin to lock themselves indoors and close shop as evening approaches, the streets would be clear for hunters to prowl. No one would open their doors or head outside for fear of infection. And if anyone else transforms, it would be within the confines of their home, protecting neighbors from the new beast until the hunters pass by. The populace could sleep soundly knowing that by morning, the streets would be cleansed. The process would then repeat whenever there was another surge in beasts. And with hunters becoming creatures of the night, it is fitting that they would eventually come to dream.

The Hunter’s Dream is modeled on Gehrman’s now abandoned workshop. The old man describes it as a refuge, literally a “hidden home”, (隠れ家) with all that the terminology entails. In this dimension, hunters receive respite from the chaos of the waking world, free to make themselves at home away from judging eyes. Of course, this peace is merely an opportunity to catch their breath before heading back into the hunt. For that reason, the workshop had been outfitted the same as its real-life counterpart, with various tools to make or modify their arsenal. Carving blood stones into weapons, screwing blood gems into the metal, repairing parts in the mechanisms, storing equipment with spares, burning runes into the mind, carving arcane haze from materials — all of these options existed to improve the hunter’s chances. And as that last tool foreshadows, those odds were on occasion bettered by arcane means.

Ah, are you the new hunter? Welcome, to the Hunter’s Dream. Even if for just a moment, this place will be your “home”.

This place was originally a hunter’s refuge. Altering the hunter’s weapons and flesh with blood. A workshop for hunter works.

Gehrman recommends we follow in our predecessors’ footsteps in seeking the chalice enshrined in Old Yharnam. Hunters apparently borrowed the holy grail from the church whenever they found themselves incapable of handling the larger, more fearsome beasts. The reason, of course, was that it could be used as a catalyst for a ritual in the Hunter’s Dream. At one of the grave altars, offerings of things like arcane haze were made to transport the hunter to the chalice’s dungeon of origin. This version of the underground ruins proves to be another dream tailored to our offerings, certain materials deciding not just which ruin we visit but what state it will be in and who we will find lurking inside. In short, it is a supernatural form of simulation training, hunters testing their mettle against threats which existed — or at least could have existed — in the labyrinth at whatever period the ritual produces. The church chalice only takes them to the uppermost levels of the ruins, but if they find more from deeper dungeons in the dream, they can then bring it back for use in the next ritual.

If the beasts are too huge and horrifying for your capabilities, seek a Holy Grail. It is what many hunters once did. The Holy Grail opens the gods’ graves, and their blood becomes provisions for hunters… For they receive the Holy Body…

Ceremonial Holy Grail that was enshrined in the Holy Grail Church. If you perform a ceremony at the grave altar in the Hunter’s Dream, a seal of the underground ruins will be broken.

The Holy Grail opens the gods’ graves, and their blood becomes provisions for hunters… For they receive the Holy Body…

This practice may have again taken after Gehrman. The first hunter is credited for making the arcane bells discovered in the ruins a special signal for his successors to cooperate across dimensions. Hunters could already send notes to each other through the dream’s messengers, adopting notebooks to that end. But if a hunter was ever in dire straits, a simple ring of the bell summoned aid from those willing. Should the help proved unsatisfactory, the workshop developed a special “resonance-disrupting blank gun” (共鳴破りの空砲) to return the summoned hunters back to their original plane. It is an efficient system that makes travel time negligible on hunt night. The fact that Gehrman took the lead in formulating this convenient option suggests that he made use of it himself or was at least familiar with the bells’ workings. This plus the familiar statue erected in his workshop implies that he too had explored the labyrinth at some earlier point, making the hunters’ decision to hone their skills down there not without precedent. This even extended to bringing back goodies from their travels.

Large old bell that was discovered in the underground ruins. Its sound crosses planes, and the first hunter made it a special signal. For the sake of hunters of other worlds nevertheless cooperating across the divides.

You expend enlightenment to ring this mysterious bell with a human body, but you can seek cooperation from hunters of other worlds.

Besides the chalices, the dungeon divers’ primary goal was to collect blood of the Great Ones from their graves — brought back to ultimately take the form of echoes. This is because we give those wills of the dead to the doll, which possesses the ability to incorporate them into our own will. Instead of waiting for wills to naturally assimilate through conventional ingestion, we have a third party do it instantly; a way to compel the will, thereby the blood, thereby the body, to improve specific aspects of ourselves. This aspect, however, isn’t decided by the nature of the assimilated will. Rather, the doll seems to filter out those qualities and simply incorporate the raw essence, leaving the choice to the hunter. Strength of the arm, deftness of the hand, sensitivity to the supernatural — all of this can be enhanced with enough echoes. We can, of course, accomplish this using wills from anywhere, but the Great Ones buried in the Chalice Dungeons are the strongest source of power easily available. There are risks, but the dream enables hunters to take those risks.

Nice to meet you, sir hunter. I am a doll. The one who takes care of you in this dream. Sir hunter. Please seek blood left wills. Allow me to make those, the wills left all over, into your power. For the sake of hunting the beasts… and, above all, your will, please do make use of me.

A hunter of the dream cannot truly die, body and mind warping back to their refuge with any injury or ailment healed. Bound with such immortality, they can always reliably return if things don’t work out. This is true even in cases where the hunter is captured or otherwise immobilized. Our connection to the dream is embodied by the Hunter rune etched in the mind, so focusing on that symbol allows us to manipulate the tie and return from anywhere. The downside is that this doesn’t bring our blood echoes back with us, though hunters have circumvented this limitation by using sheets of paper with the rune drawn on it; unsurprisingly, this simple and convenient tool has become a good luck charm in their eyes. As for when we wish to leave the dream, lanterns arise in safe spots in the waking world to be our anchor points. The connection, of course, works both ways, but we must first light the lantern and ring the small bells attached to establish it either way, and the lantern later broken in Yahar’gul proves that they aren’t as reliable as our direct tie to the dream.

Although everything seems set up to be the hunter’s ideal, there comes the question of why this pivot toward the arcane was necessary. The fact that “many” hunters before us retrieved the church chalice and performed the dungeon ritual implies an equally many beasts too big and scary for them to handle. Indeed, the bells facilitating cooperation require insight to power, which hunters would typically acquire from witnessing those most terrible monstrosities beyond human imagination. Even the doll rapidly strengthening our body and soul suggests a certain urgency for power-ups. Taken together, Gehrman’s hunters were finding themselves up against prey they couldn’t hunt more and more often, a scenario which would inevitably cost lives and strain resources. In order to continue existing and be effective, the Hunter’s Dream was required. As a result, hunters became immortal warriors who could quickly train new recruits and compete in the proverbial arms race with the beasts.

One concern might be that this system is ripe for abuse, but it has the perfect adjudicator in Gehrman. The first hunter remains in the dream as its immortal advisor, providing the rest counsel on their best path forward. This role seems rather flaccid for the father of all Yharnam hunters at first glance. Gehrman can only recite words from his or past colleagues’ experience, unable to leave and continue the hunt himself. But if there is ever a mess, Gehrman admits to taking care of the cleanup. Specifically, he is the custodian of hunters who no longer have a place in the dream. Hunters drunk on the blood pumped into their veins, hunters too comfortable to awaken, hunters failing to play nice with their fellow hunters, hunters wishing to simply walk away from hunting — whatever their reasons, Gehrman removes the also-rans by force. Killing the person in the dream severs the connection, freeing them to live and die in the waking world. Gehrman tries to make this process quick and painless with a single swing of his scythe through the neck, but that is only if the other party cooperates.

I see, so you were swallowed by something, too? Was it the hunt, the blood, or maybe the nightmare? Well, which doesn’t matter. Cleaning up after such people is also, what you call, the duty of the adviser…

With someone like Gehrman managing the hunters, they can all be expected to toe the line. This likewise means that everything else has had his tacit approval. For despite how some revered Gehrman’s more genteel aspects, the outward appearance is just an accident of his personal preferences. He didn’t regulate how others chose to hunt no matter how ugly and inhumane the methods became. In fact, he shared their same penchants. As we reach the end of our journey, we find the workshop of the Hunter’s Dream in flames, with only Gehrman and the doll there as suspects. The doll, of course, is subservient to hunters, and cut dialogue confirms that Gehrman wished to “purify” the place. That horrifying side to hunting existed within the first hunter, even if it doesn’t all manifest in his boss battle. So long as the prey was “freed” from their nightmare, he didn’t care who suffered; he would see it through. When men become beasts, men become beasts. And soon they too required freedom from this nightmare.

Burned Your Bridges

The Saw Hunter Badge’s description confirms that there is no longer an organization to which it represents. Talking to the Doll, we learn that the hunters who preceded us have all left, the gravestones littering the area marking their memory. Some like Djura or Eileen have personal reasons and bear no ill respect to those who continue the hunt. Others behaved far less grateful, taking with them the workshop tools that could aid future generations of hunters. By the time we arrive, the place is bare bones with mere “wafts” of our predecessors’ wills still hanging in the air. The Healing Church has likewise “forgotten” the hunters despite their past importance to keeping the streets safe. All of this indicates that there was massive decline in membership to the dream workshop coinciding with a huge loss in popularity. The doll implies that this mass exodus took place a decent while ago, though still well within the lifetimes of the older hunters. In that case, it was probably a result of the Old Yharnam Incident.

In the past, many hunters visited this dream. The gravestones here are all that… remains of them. It seems like a story of so long ago now.

As various item descriptions relate, the old city suffered a massive outbreak of the beast scourge, resulting in its fiery cleansing. The ones performing that cleansing were, of course, the hunters, wearing special damp equipment designed at the workshop so that they could leap through the flames without fear of getting burned themselves. Covered in soot, they hunted the beasts trapped within the purifying boundaries to ensure none escaped. But the blaze also trapped the people, charcoaled corpse piles of men still smoking around the area. So many were sacrificed in order to stop the beasts. But in the end, that burning part of Yharnam was simply abandoned, earning its current name as the Old City. This left many of the beasts still alive, the occasional howls emanating from the valley below continuing to haunt those who remember this incident.

That last detail, shared in official websites, reaffirms how traumatic this incident truly was for Yharnam. Even Gehrman seems to understand how unpalatable Old Yharnam’s burning is even for hunters. When talking about the old city, he pauses before summarizing the incident, making sure we know that this was just what he heard. Considering that the equipment used for the burning couldn’t have been made without his knowledge at minimum, his careful wording is an obvious attempt to remove culpability. But no matter how much the first hunter distanced his involvement, the damage was done. The men in wheelchairs — along with presumably other armed citizens — keep their weapons expressly because of the Old Yharnam Incident, wanting self-defense. The question is, from who? The epidemic of bloodthirsty beasts, or hunters? The citizens knew that their lives were disposable if the hunters ever felt that the disease was widespread enough; their systemic obsession with cleansing the streets could never be seen in a purely positive light again. Trust was forever broken.

In those circumstances, it is no surprise that the Healing Church abandoned the old workshop. Even if only to save their own skins, they couldn’t continue to be associated with the city’s “saviors” after everyone witnessed the horrific lengths they went to. With reputation hitting rock bottom, hunter morale likely couldn’t have been worse — civilians eyed them with suspicion wherever they went, they lost all support from the church, and some were liable to be suffering from their own post-traumatic stress given the innocent blood on their hands. The fact that this is the last major event known to involve Gehrman’s workshop proves how their numbers soon after dwindled until the organization was effectively defunct. Only Gehrman remains, waiting for new hunters like us to someday join the fray. As for the others, most seem to have remained in Yharnam, though being sure to keep out of the public eye.

On the south side of Yharnam City lies the shady part of town. Gilbert confirms the place isn’t normally traversed by outsiders, and for good reason; the south side looks to be for the poor working man handling the dirty jobs. The area’s most prominent feature is its main sewer line spanning across the valley to the Cathedral Ward, connecting the two sewer systems. Managing this alone would provide plenty of work to the residents in the area, and it does look to have been a major hub of activity. An entire dock for dingeys, barrels and sacks of supplies to transport — the sewers look to have served as more than just waste disposal. The “human” enemies there are either shirtless with a spear or wearing a coat with a saw; likely a fisherman and butcher, respectively. Their work seems aimed at extracting the oil carried on their persons, which they then package and move to the city above. Whether or not they also package the leftover meat, relying on fish occasionally flowing into a sewer line speaks to the locals’ desperation to get by. This is not a place for anyone to be if they can help it.

There is a, what you call, not so good part of town on the south side of the city on the other side of the great bridge, but from there should span a sewer bridge to Church Town.

And yet, this unsavory aura is what makes the south side perfect for laying low. Corpses in the sewers carry the equipment, badge, saw spear, or good luck charms of hunters, with the rats which feed on the bodies possessing the throwing knives. This indicates a huge presence of hunters in the area, hunters who might choose such lowly employment alongside others who don’t care much for background or celebrity. If hunters were unable or unwilling to leave Yharnam, this part of town would be the best place to disappear. Of course, living in anonymity doesn’t solve all their problems. The fact that the doll detects the “nostalgic” old wills of past hunters on us toward journey’s end implies that we do collect their blood at some point. And between all the beasts we hunt and corpses we loot, we are sure to have come across our predecessors in one form or another. If nothing else, they are continuing to help their successors despite losing sight of the dream themselves.

Hunter… I feel nostalgic from you…  A hunter really is one who inherits the old wills…

If Want Done Right

Scapegoating the hunters for the Old Yharnam Incident ultimately didn’t assuage the citizens’ anxieties. Inside one building, we can find a wheelchair-bound man feigning sleep in the darkness, a note left on the cubpoard just in front of him. Survive his clever ruse and we can read that the writer — presumably that old trickster — infers the Healing Church’s plan to abandon Yharnam just like the old city on account of the clergy closing the gates to their ward. Considering that the disabled but armed men are exemplary of the paranoia gripping the populace, their trust in the Church clearly never recovered from the incident either; only the most sycophantic residents living in Cathedral Ward still believe in their protection unconditionally. And with the beast scourge becoming ever more endemic, graves beginning to crowd every street corner, it is obvious that the current powers that be are either corrupt or incompetent. Whichever it is, the situation called for a revolution.

Many of Yharnam’s men have formed a mob to join in on tonight’s hunt; the results are shown in the few beasts burning on crosses in the streets. Going by the corpses around town, the mobbers have amassed all the oil and Molotov cocktails possible for this endeavor. Still, these civilians are nowhere near as prepared as a proper hunter. Ignoring attire, most wield nothing but tools from their day jobs such as meat cleavers, wood axes, farming scythes, and pitchforks — one corpse carries only a bunch of pebbles. Some even fashioned crude wooden shield for protection, a poor choice against beasts as its own description acknowledges. These are instinctively reactionary, frightened men only rising up for survival. And yet, deciding to take matters into their own hands has proven successful with enough flame and quicksilver.

Crude wooden shield that the mob who have risen up to beast hunt used.

Hunters generally don’t use shields. Because they are too powerless against a beast’s strength.

Shields are nice. But don’t get overconfident.

In fact, the mob apparently breached the Cathedral Ward before its gates had closed. Individual gangs have taken over different parts of the district. One has entrenched itself in the Healing Church Workshop, perhaps in an attempt to seize the hunting equipment for themselves while cutting off the church’s supply. One more has set up camp at the Lower Church to Old Yharnam, mayhaps looking to soon end those howls from the bottom of the valley once and for all. Another such camp can be found in front of the gate linking Oedon Chapel directly to the Grand Cathedral. A different gang looks to have slipped through the backstreets in similar hopes of circumventing the main plaza to reach the cathedral. Based on how the mobbers call for our death if we are dressed as a cleric, their intention is to massacre the whole clergy. With blood and silver, the Yharnamites are taking back their homeland gone awry.

This sentiment of rebellion has spread to the south side, though the sleazier nature of its residents hinders the cause: a blazing ball of kindling is rolled down the sewer bridge while some of their fellows are still patrolling it. That said, their craftiness is on full display. To use another example, when we visit the sewers, the water level has been drained to the bottom, essentially cutting off the plumbing for the Cathedral Ward from their end. How long can the Healing Church hold out under siege while it lacks running water? This also adds another avenue to get across the bridge, climbing down and through the emptied main line before using the emergency ladder back up. This makes a hypothetical counterattack to reclaim the waterways that much harder to pull off. If nothing else, the south side has added one more thorn in the church’s side, a prick the mob must relish.

Indeed, the beast scourge has flourished on the south side especially. It is this part of town where we begin seeing particularly beastified members of the mob, as well as madman’s knowledge. Many decomposing corpse enemies with bold hunter’s marks lie in the sewer line, implying that former hunters there drowned themselves upon realizing the disease’s onset. Their attempt to stop it failed, but evidently the horrors didn’t elude them. The fact that we find so much hunter equipment there suggests that some retirees dusted off their old gear to help quell the threat in their new home — the corpses reveal the outcome. Two of those particularly beastified rebels stand over one body carrying bold hunter’s marks, and the cadaver with the saw spears hangs from chains above the dock with another. The Yharnamites don’t take kindly to hunters considering them the beasts.

But denial won’t change the reality. It only takes one glance to see that even the more human citizens are transforming beneath the bandages, one arm longer than the other and growing fur. Their pupils are likewise clouding as telltale sign of blood-drunk beastliness setting in, best showcased in the game’s cinematic teaser trailer; the nightmare edition artbook even notes this “Yharnam Visage” to be responsible for their behavior. True enough, those mobbing consider everyone to be at fault for the scourge’s spread except each other, ignoring the obvious signs. They can’t think of themselves as part of the problem, or else they would be on the receiving end of the merciless judgment. And with how the disease agitates blood, it is certainly possible for them to be so delusional as to only see what they wish to see with those clouded eyes.

Of course, the same can be said for the rest of the city locking themselves in their homes. Many can be heard partying behind closed doors, undoubtedly drinking oodles of blood as they laugh and make merry. Yet not even those hunkering in depressing isolation will let in an outsider for fear of getting infected. Between their ignorance and their prejudice, the Yharnamites refuse to recognize their own part in escalating the scenario. Perhaps their culpability should be reduced in light of the Healing Church making them addicted to blood treatment. But waiting for the streets to be cleansed while they drive themselves into a frenzy only adds to the beastly filth, a fact made apparent as the night progresses and the laughs are replaced with cries, howls, and ultimately silence. Whatever angle you look at it, the scourge is undoubtedly driving Yharnam to madness.