More than Meets the Eye
In the GCN game Tales of Symphonia, you meet many characters that have some sort of scarred past. But then there was Zelos Wilder, the Chosen of Tethe'alla, who was all smiles. Never serious and quite the joker, he often was the "comic relief" of the group and was always ready to bring life to an otherwise heavy-hearted group. Or... at least, that is how he seemed to be. First impressions are hard to live down. Especially when your first impression is that of a skirt chasing, red-haired, pink wearing guy. Unfortunately for the talented Zelos, the player's impression and expectations of him don't grow brighter, especially after his grand betrayal. But... throughout the game, clues are dropped - hinting to the past of this two-faced man. Not enough to gain a full understanding of who he is or what makes him tick, but enough for those who are looking to know that he is more than what he seems. That everything is not sunny and bright in the land of Zelos. So, in honor of this misunderstood man with his sad blue eyes, I've decided to collect as much info on him as I can. He deserves that much, at least. There is still much to learn about him, as the game is pretty vague in certain areas, but I've done my best to find correct info, and have my theories fill in the blanks.
Age: 22 Height: 5'10" Gender: Male Race: Human Hometown: Meltokio, Tethe'alla
Weapon: Double-edged sword Class: Mage/Swordsman Role: Chosen, comic relief
Life Motto/"Magic Words": "Whatever will be, will be"
Weapon: Double-edged sword Class: Mage/Swordsman Role: Chosen, comic relief
Life Motto/"Magic Words": "Whatever will be, will be"
Mother: Her name was Mylene, and she was told by the Oracle of Cruxis to marry the current Chosen, Zelos' father, and had no choice but to obey. Considering that she was blonde, chances are the father had red hair like Zelos. However that's about all we know about those two, other than how Mylene was murdered. It was a record snowfall in Meltokio and Zelos, still a child at that time, was building a snowman. A half-elf woman threw a magic attack that should have killed him, but his mother was caught in the crossfire. Since then, Zelos harbored a grudge against the half-elves and avoided the winter by staying in a small town in the south until spring. Younger half-sister: Her name is Seles, and she is high-society bred and is experienced in the martial arts. However, it was her half-elf mother that killed Zelos' mother. Seles' mother was put to death because of her crime, and Seles was forced into isolation at the SouthEastern Abbey. There is a lot of resentment between Seles and Zelos, but deep down they still worry and care about each other. Other: When Zelos' mother died and Seles was sent away, the butler of their grand estate, Sebastian, became his guardian and only family. Because of Zelos' role as Chosen, he couldn't live near any of his other relatives because if a disaster struck, the whole Chosen lineage would be exterminated.
Zelos was born and raised in Meltokio, a large city in Tethe'alla that is home to the King, and where social status is everything. The areas in Meltokio are clearly marked by the wealth of its residents, or the lack of said wealth. Zelos though, being of the Chosen lineage, is very wealthy and his family's power is second only to the King. So growing up, Zelos had the best toys, the biggest house, went to all the fancy parties, and went to the most prestigious school in the country, the Imperial Research Academy in Sybak. Which was no problem for him, since he was considered a prodigy. In actuality, Zelos excelled only in math, but still managed to graduate at the top of his class. How? Zelos wasn't only clever; he was handsome. He used his charms to trick his "hunnies" into taking notes for him and giving him the answers to all his tests. ^^; But why would the girls do that for him? Because he was Chosen, and that meant he was rich and powerful. And because he was also cute and charming, the girls flocked to him like birds of a feather. But Zelos learned soon enough that the girls that hung on his every word were more interested in being affiliated with the Great Chosen, then actually knowing him as a person. But it was only a matter of time before Zelos grew up and decided to take advantage of his title, and all the girls became known as his hunnies. Not to mention his house is *filled* with gifts from them. But an interesting thing I noticed is that most of the gifts seen lying around in his house.... are unopened. It was only natural that Zelos would develop an arrogant and egotistical attitude in his surroundings. But in truth, that large ego of his is quite empty. He often questions his worth as a person and Chosen when not joking around, and has a really low self-esteem. Many people call him irresponsible, as he is constantly running away from his responsibilities. Not only that, he doesn't seem to be a fan of his wealthy peers and their "fake smiles" as he said to Lloyd at a dinner party in his honor. Throughout the game, Zelos voluntarily helps poor people out of tough situations by using the power of his title, like that lost little boy in Sybak. Yet in each situation, he says that what he does is no big deal. Could Zelos be... modest? o_O' Who knew! But despite his insecurities, he grins and bears it, telling jokes and surrounding himself with women all the way. But he can't live with that mask forever. Zelos said to Genis, a half-elf, in one z-skit that one of the things they had in common was the fact that no one wanted them to be born. Now what would make Zelos think something like that? How about everyone! All his life he's been "rejected by his parents, shunned by the Church, and viewed as a threat to the royal family." When his mother was dying, her last words to Zelos was "You should never have been born". Just what an impressionable child needs to hear to make a traumatic experience even more damaging, right? Plus, the clear lack of mention of Zelos' father shows that he had little if any influence in Zelos' upbringing. (which is a major no-no in good parenting). It looks like he left Mylene and Zelos for another woman, which brought forth Seles. Then there was the Grand Pope of the Martel Temple. Quite the power-hungry fellow, it was his dream to rule Meltokio if not all of Tethe'alla. He began plots to take over the thrown including poisoning the King, but one person stood in his way to power and that was Zelos. As Chosen, he had the final say in almost any situation, and could change even the will of the King. But if Zelos weren't around, the Pope would have fewer problems, so the two have always been at each others' throats. And surely the King was miffed by having his almighty power rivaled by such a young irresponsible Chosen. Especially with the constant flirting with his daughter, Princess Hilda. Yet another person that made Zelos doubt why he should still be around was his half-sister, Seles. As I've explained in the Family section, Seles wanted to be the Chosen. And if Zelos hadn't been born, she'd be the best Chosen that Tethe'alla had ever seen. But because he was born and made Chosen, his entire life took twists and turns that could not have been avoided.
What is a Chosen?: Every generation has a Chosen of Mana - a person specially picked to save the world by opening seals to awaken the goddess Martel when the world's mana supply runs thin and monsters run amok. The people refer to this quest as Regenerating the World. But because the world was split in two (Sylverant and Tethe'alla), there's a Chosen for each world, and double the complications. But what determines who the Chosen will be? Well, I'm not exactly sure. ^^; But I do know that their Mana lineage is key, so only people who meet certain standards can become the Chosen. And the Chosen are chosen (^_^;) at a very young age. Marriages are pre-determined to keep their Mana blood "pure", and if those marriages are fruitful, there will be Chosen "understudies" in case the first Chosen of that generation dies. Zelos, the Chosen: Zelos never wanted to be the Chosen. He openly admits it a few times in the game, and often remarks how he isn't suited for such an incredible burden. The reason his mother was killed was because Seles wanted to be Chosen, and the only way she could was if Zelos died. But her mother's plan backfired and both children lost their only family. Zelos once said that he would have given his title to Seles in a heartbeat if it were that easy. But he was stuck with it, and he hated it. So much so, that it would eventually lead him to give his friends up to their ultimate enemy in exchange for his freedom. And depending on whom you spoke to in Flanoir, that decision costs him his life. Why it SUCKS to be Chosen: Being the most special/important person of your generation, and given the chance to save the world and be a hero, that sounds great doesn't it? You'd have to be crazy to not want to be Chosen, right? Wrong. Not only is it a dangerous mission to go across the world fighting insanely-strong Summon Spirits that protect the seals you must open, fighting millions of monsters every step of the way, the ultimate ending for a successful Chosen is to die. And if you fail, you also die. It's a lose/lose situation, folks. Being Chosen takes away any hope of having a normal life, including whom you marry and y'know, living. On top of all that, the whole mythology and reason why the Chosen tries to awaken the "goddess" Martel is a complete lie. The "Chosen" are simply people of a certain lineage who's individual mana frequency closely matches that of Martel, a girl who was killed over 4,000 years ago whom her brother is trying to revive. By releasing the seals around the world, the Mana flow reverses -- so a dying world will be replenished while its mirror world begins to die. And thus, the world is "saved" until the other world's Chosen "succeeds" in opening their own seals. So what does being a Chosen have to do with reviving some heroic dead girl? Everything. Martel is a spirit, and her brother is looking for a vessel for her. And if your mana frequency is a close match to hers, it's your body he's coming after. And if it's still not good enough for his beloved sister, he'll kill you anyway. Heh, sounds like a horror movie, doesn't it? But thanks to the sugarcoated mythology, people who don't know better are eager to help the Chosen on their quest, and are completely blind to the truth. Although it's not really their fault - they've been raised on this myth for countless generations, including the Chosens. A Chosen's Trial: One of the first things that happens when a Chosen is visited by the Oracle (signifying the beginning of the World Regeneration quest and proof that he or she is indeed the Chosen of Mana), is that they are given a pair of wings. These wings are transparent, are kinda crystal shaped, and look more like fairy wings than fluffy angel wings. Nonetheless, a Chosen with wings (or anyone with wings for that matter) is called an Angel. However these wings do not come free of charge - there is a price to be paid, or as the Oracle Remiel said, a trial of pain. Colette Brunel, teenage girl and Chosen of Sylverant, is a prime example as throughout the game you see the cost she pays for becoming an Angel. At first, she loses her ability to taste food, then the inability to sleep, then feeling warmth, cold, or even pain, then she loses her ability to speak. Finally, she loses her very heart and becomes cruel and zombie-like, a perfect vessel just waiting for Martel to occupy. But how did she (and the others) become an Angel? It's easy, really, just be exposed to a Cruxis Crystal for a while. A Cruxis Crystal is an evolved form of an Exsphere, a mysterious gem that is made from people's essence. You read right. These jewels suck the life out of people, and when those people are suffering, the jewels grow even stronger. Anyway, the Cruxis Crystals give the user wings. But if a Key Crest does not contain the Cruxis Crystal's power soon after, the power goes rampant as it sucks the life out of the host, making them lose their humanity. Colette was saved though and returned to her normal self, thanks to Lloyd's help, although she did still have wings. But Colette, in a sense, was very lucky. She was a happy, spirited girl who sincerely wanted to save the world, even if it cost her humanity. On top of that, she had friends who really cared for her and were willing to help her every step of the way. However Zelos was not so lucky. He saw what happened to Colette and was certain that he didn't want to go through it too. Not only did he lack the strong will to endure for the sake of saving the world; he wasn't completely trusting in his friends who thought of him as a joke. But unfortunately for Zelos, every Chosen becomes an Angel.
Zelos earns his Wings
If you spoke to Kratos in Flanoir, Zelos will unleash his wings when he betrays you at the Tower of Salvation. (There's so much irony in this game, it hurts) But exactly when Zelos became an Angel is uncertain. We do know that he didn't go through the Transformation when Colette was still a zombie angel, because he comments how he 'really doesn't want to go through that' in a z-skit around that time. But during the return to Fooji Mountains, and the trap laid by Pronyma, it's clear (if you pay attention) that Zelos is working for her group, Cruxis. That also is the same time that Colette regains herself. However, Angels have an incredible amount of strength, and Zelos was unable to pick up Regal, a full-grown man, in the Gaoracchia Forest later on in the game, where as Colette was able to with one hand. So he clearly wasn't an Angel then, either. Perhaps he became an Angel when he retrieved his Cruxis Crystal from Seles, who was holding it for him, on the group's first trip to the Tower of Salvation. I don't know if he had a Key Crest for it, so if he didn't, he would have begun the Transformation then. Whenever it was, the point is Zelos became an Angel whether you spoke to Kratos or not. But how far into the Transformation did he go? Did he lose any of his humanity or did he receive a suitable Key Crest after he developed wings? Considering the way he acted at the end, I'd say something more happened, something that drove him off the edge and made him betray his closest friends. I can see him losing the ability to eat, sleep, or feel without the others noticing, since they never really paid attention to him anyway except to mock him and roll their eyes/hit him when he made a crude joke; but what about talking? Zelos is quite the chatter, and I can't recall any time in the game where Zelos *didn't* speak his mind. I have nothing but questions and I don't think Namco will answer them any time soon. But in my honest opinion, I believe that Zelos did experience it.
Whether you saw it coming in the game or not, Zelos revealing his true intentions at the Tower of Salvation was a major shock. However there was a 1-in-4 chance that the situation would get worse, but that depended on whom you spoke to in the snowy city of Flanoir. And if that person was Kratos..... Things got a LOT worse. But first, the reasons behind Zelos' betrayal. The two main reasons Zelos gives as to why he became a traitor is 1) Mithos promised to relieve him of his fate as Chosen, and 2) He sides with the winning team. Always. He said this quite a few times during his little speech, along with insults to his former friends. His overall attitude was very cold and to the point, something Zelos rarely did. He then left with Pronyma and Colette to Mithos' chamber, leaving you to fight some high-ranking angels. But if you spoke with Kratos, Zelos stayed and had more to say. He went into further detail of why he would betray his friends, and how much he hated being Chosen. He said that he wanted a "fun, easy life. Nothing more, nothing less". He has all the money, power, and women a guy could want, and yet he wishes for a nice, simple life? If Zelos was as insensitive, superficial, and arrogant as he made himself seem, he would not have made such a wish. And yet he did. Afterwards, he released his wings and the battle began. Either way, after the ordeal, Lloyd and the others finally realize how much he was suffering, right under their noses. But by the time they realize this, it looks like it's too late to do anything about it. And if Zelos showed his wings to the group, then it really is. But if he didn't, there's still hope. While I won't spoil everything that happens in between Zelos' betrayal and Lloyd getting to Mithos' chamber, I will say that Zelos rights his wrongs. And when Mithos asked him about it, he simply said he "changed his mind" 'cause "it won't matter after we beat the snot out of you". ^_^ I love him. Zelos also made up for his betrayal by finding Aionis, a substance that once properly forged, could let a human (aka Lloyd) wield the Eternal Sword. The only way Zelos could get this rare stone was if he was working on the inside. Although that wasn't really why he betrayed the others; it's simply one more excuse as to why the others should forgive him. However.... If you battled Zelos in the Tower of Salvation, it's very clear that he made a dire mistake in underestimating the power of Lloyd's group. The turn of events humbled him, and he showed his true colors, which may have resulted in something you didn't expect. He really was a good person.
Zelos seems to be quite the triple agent when it comes to whom he's sided with. Overall, there seems to be three main groups: Cruxis/the Desians, the Renegades, and Lloyd's group. Zelos apparently joined with the Renegades first when they gave him an Exsphere long before Colette began her Regeneration journey. He joined Lloyd's group when they first came to Meltokio, as the only way the Pope would let them travel around Tethe'alla was under the observation of the Chosen. Although it originally was Zelos' idea. Then at some point he joined Cruxis and acted as their spy for Lloyd's group. He joined Cruxis because of a deal he made with Mithos (see Betrayal section), but also was leaking information to the Renegades all the while. But Zelos seemed to have grown attached to his new friends in Lloyd's group as he traveled with them and shared their hardships. But did Zelos really have loyalty to anyone? That's hard to tell. One thing that Zelos said during his betrayal, that he really seemed to believe in, was that he "sides with the winner" so that it was only a matter of "deciding who was the strongest". Maybe Zelos really was only looking out for number one, and didn't care who got screwed along the way. But that just seems so cold-hearted, and considering when Zelos was true to himself throughout the game, I just can't see him being like that. Besides, he did say that Lloyd was growing on him. ^-^
One Final Dance
It may seem like this is the end to Zelos Wilder's story, but in truth it's not. This is just an insight to his true character and nature, if you will. Like most of the Symphonia cast, Zelos is full of surprises and misunderstandings. But Tales of Symphonia is not the only place where you can find this red-haired man. He is also in the Gameboy Advance game "Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeons 3", along with other lead Symphonia characters. In addition, he and the rest of the Symphonia main cast are back in the Symphonia sequel for the Wii, "Knight of Ratatosk"/"Dawn of the New World" which takes place two years after the first game. One can only guess what new twists and turns await our heroes, and what new truths will be revealed about their past. But until then Symphonia is the place to be, where the secrets run deep and the people are not how they seem.
Images of Zelos are from the Official site and Mizuho, a now-defunct ToS fansite.
Tales of Symphonia, Zelos, and all related characters and plots are © to
Namco LTD., all rights reserved; Art is © to mastermind Kosuke Fujishima.
This article was written by Jade - if you claim that you wrote it, I will eat you.