Fire Emblem: Three Houses Has a Hidden Second Story in its Illustrations

Fire Emblem: Three Houses Has a Hidden Second Story in its Illustrations

Even in wartime, the Circle of Life churns ever on.

This article contains spoilers for the first half of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Tread carefully!

As much as we joke about using Fire Emblem's "Support" option to crush on our favorite characters, the series' Support conversations exist to remind us there's never a single narrative or ideal guiding a war. The history, fears, and motivations that each character spills in a Support interlude gradually weave themselves into a patchwork quilt of smaller stories that hang over the battlefield.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses has Support conversations, and even though it scales back the lovey-dovey stuff from previous games, said conversations are still full of delicious drama. (Let Ignatz paint, damn it! Let my boy paint!)

But I've noticed Three Houses doesn't restrict its smaller war stories to Support conversations. If you pay attention to the medieval-style paintings that precede the start of each month, you'll find a wordless tale about a yearling deer who grows, loses his father to a hunter, then has a gruesome reunion with the kingly stag months later.

I'm still playing Three Houses, so I can only piece together the little deer's story from the paintings that illustrate the first year of life in the Garreg Mach Monastery. Luckily, it's a contained tale. The game starts us off in early spring, where we can catch a glimpse of a stag fighting another stag for the attentions of a doe. When summer arrives, a deer is born to the mated pair. (Deer generally gestate for six months or more, but Fodlan is a magic realm awash in dragons and Pegasi, so I guess "express deer pregnancy" gets a pass, too.)

Nintendo/Nadia Oxford

When fall arrives, we see a blonde-haired hunter kill the stag. A kind woodsman then adopts the fatherless calf.

Nintendo/Nadia Oxford

Here's where the story diverges. While the calf grows in the care of the woodsman, we learn a bit about the hunter. As winter falls on Fodlan, we see the hunter in his study, where the stag's antlers are mounted as a trophy.

Nintendo/Nadia Oxford

Another month passes, and the hunter falls in love and gets married. He continues to hunt for food while the deer continues to mature.

Nintendo/Nadia Oxford

As the year's end, the entirety of Fodlan prepares to go to war. Even the woodsman is conscripted, and he rides into battle on the young stag he raised. At the same time, the hunter leaves his pregnant wife to obey his marching orders—but not before he puts on a helmet adorned with a now-familiar pair of antlers.

Nintendo/Nadia Oxford

The dam breaks, war grips Fodlan. The young deer and the woodsman clash with the hunter, who's still wearing the antlers of the deer's slain father.

Nintendo/Nadia Oxford

Three Houses' "Stag Tale" is the kind of storytelling effort I love seeing in games. It adds nothing to the game's main narrative. It exists simply to remind us everyone has their own tale to tell during times of strife and during times of peace. The events in Three Houses revolves around drama with the Church and the State, but none of that changes the fact people still need to perform the actions and rituals that take them from one day to another. The death of the young deer's father is sad, but the hunter who speared him did so because he needs to eat. And the hunter doesn't wear the antlers of the dead stag to spite the young deer; their meeting on the battlefield is just one of those coincidences. In fact, the hunter and the young deer know nothing about each other except for the fact they're on opposite sites of the battlefield. But when we observe the painting, we know what these two "strangers" mean to each other.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses doesn't have robust options for personal romance, but it excels at showing us the romances and connections that keep the rhythm of life flowing. I think it's a decent trade-off.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

Read this next

The Fire Emblem: Three Houses Student Ranking Thunderdome: 34 Students Enter, Only Shamir Leaves

We have no favorites among Three Houses' students, except for the ones that are our favorites.

Fire Emblem Three Houses Recruitment Students - All Recruiting Requirements for Students and Teachers

Here's our guide covering Fire Emblem Three Houses recruitment, including recruiting students, teachers, and more.

Fire Emblem Three Houses Romance Options - How to Romance Edelgard and Other Characters

This is our guide covering Fire Emblem Three Houses romance options, detailing how to romance Edelgard, and more.

Fire Emblem Three Houses Tea Guide - Get a Perfect Tea Party With Edelgard, Dorothea, and More Characters

Here's our complete Fire Emblem Three Houses tea guide, walking you through how to hold the perfect tea party in Three Houses.

Fire Emblem Three Houses Edelgard - The Fourth Edelgard Route Explained

In this guide covering the Fire Emblem Three Houses Edelgard route, we'll be explaining how to side with Edelgard for the fourth story route.

Fire Emblem Three Houses Dancer Class - The Best Dancer in Three Houses

Here's our guide on the Fire Emblem Three Houses Dancer class, covering the best Dancer in the game, and more.

More Opinions

The Fire Emblem: Three Houses Student Ranking Thunderdome: 34 Students Enter, Only Shamir Leaves

We have no favorites among Three Houses' students, except for the ones that are our favorites.

NBA 2K20 Finally Tackles the VC Microtransaction Grind: "We Didn't Want People to Feel [...] Trapped in This Grind Anymore"

Virtual Currency is here to stay, but at least the grind will be less painful this year.

No Man's Sky Beyond Is Finally Feeling Like the Game I Wanted Three Years Ago

The new Beyond update continues to make No Man's Sky the game it was supposed to be.

More on Switch

New Link's Awakening Video Shows Off Dungeon Creator and Map Markers

The adorable Zelda remake changes a few things.

NBA 2K20 is Still Very Committed to Switch: "The Flexibility Can't be Matched With That Console"

FIFA is scaling back on Nintendo's platform, but for the moment, Visual Concepts is here to stay.

The Fire Emblem: Three Houses Student Ranking Thunderdome: 34 Students Enter, Only Shamir Leaves

We have no favorites among Three Houses' students, except for the ones that are our favorites.

NBA 2K20 Finally Tackles the VC Microtransaction Grind: "We Didn't Want People to Feel [...] Trapped in This Grind Anymore"

Virtual Currency is here to stay, but at least the grind will be less painful this year.

Lego Jurassic World Cheats and Codes: Character Unlock, How to Use Cheats For PS4, Xbox One and Switch

Lego Jurassic World has some great cheats that you can make use of. Here’s how to enter them.

Microsoft Says It Has "No Further Plans" to Bring Exclusives to Other Consoles

The recent Ori announcement was honoring prior commitments.

More Role Playing Games Games

Cyberpunk 2077 Producer Details Law Enforcement and the Rich Areas of Night City

There are no cops in the poorer districts. That all changes when you get to the affluent areas of Night City.

The Fire Emblem: Three Houses Student Ranking Thunderdome: 34 Students Enter, Only Shamir Leaves

We have no favorites among Three Houses' students, except for the ones that are our favorites.

Witchbrook Dev Tweets Design Docs Revealing New Details on the Charming Magical School Sim

A rare look into the internal process of development as it happens.

Remnant From The Ashes Tips and Controls

If you’re playing Remnant From The Ashes, you’ll need these essential tips.