Monster Hunter World

Theory: The Elder Dragons Started as Bioweapons

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So the title says the basics of this. Monster Hunter has never been a theory where lore has been important (and the devs have said that any lore came after all other aspects of the game). In any case, connecting little details and building theories is a fun exercise, so let's begin. This is my first post on Reddit after a years-long hiatus, so please be nice 🙂

What are the Elder Dragons

The monster class of Elder Dragon is strange for a number of reasons. It is a monster class that has contains dragons, unicorns, floating squids, giant sand whales, and very very giant snake monsters. So unlike other classes of monster, there is no internal consistency in what an elder dragon is, at least on the basis of physiology. The Elder Dragons are basically the class for monsters that don’t fit anywhere else, despite there being an official ??? class. One of the little loading tidbits in Monster Hunter World states that the Elder Dragons do not fit into the tree of life that contains all other beings. This means, despite how similar some elder dragons look to the wyverns of the Monster Hunter world, they are as could be as different as animals and fungi or, possibly, have a completely different origin point. The final strange thing about Elder Dragons is that they cannot be trapped, at all. The Elder Dragons are always immune to traps and never even set them off. There are other monsters that are able to resist traps, like a non-enraged Nargacuga immediately jumping away from a deploying pitfall trap, but these examples are a far cry from the Elder Dragons, as they still set off the trap.

In addition, the elder dragons possess a level of power beyond almost all other creatures in the monster hunter world, and, in many cases, these powers aren’t really explained.(at least to the extent that all the other fire-breathing lizards are). The powers of the elder dragons include, among other things: summoning targeted lightning strikes, conjuring long lasting tornados, passively summoning strong winds around them, passively generating enough heat to damage humans, summoning meteors, unleashing an ecosystem destroying rage/zombie virus, super regeneration, passively causing a hurricane around it, being incredibly massive, being sapient, superheating sea water to the point of killing all other life, having jet-engine wings, having just an exoskeleton, and being able to regenerate fully even after being made into a suit of armor. Other than Teostra and the Magala line, I can’t recall any other attempts to explain how these Elder Dragons possess these abilities, and even these explanations are a little lacking, especially when compared to the more realistic tone the series has picked up since MHW.

The Dragon Element

The dragon element has always been a bit of an anomaly in the Monster Hunter universe. The dragon element seems closely related to the thunder element, as many monsters which are weak to thunder are also weak to dragon and both elements, according to lore, attack the nervous system. However, the dragon element has two aspects which set it apart from any other element. The first is how it affects hunters afflicted with dragonblight. Unlike all other elements, which affect the hunter’s body, and in logical ways, the dragon element affects the hunter’s weapon, temporarily sealing the elemental properties, Secondly, the dragon element is closely related to elder seal. Elder seal is a property that only affects Elder Dragons, and functions similar to how the dragon element affects hunters, as enough damage from a dragon element weapon will suppress part of the Elder’s powers. The dragon element is also connected with the previous societies of the monster hunter world. In previous games, there was a chance you could mine heavily rusted weapons from the past. These weapons, once restored, possess large amounts of the dragon element. This suggests that the older societies of the monster hunter world heavily utilized the dragon element.

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The Elder Crossing

The elder crossing is a strange event, in an ecological sense. While there are certainly cases where a large number of animals in a species migrate together, sometimes with the purpose of dying together, there is never a case of this happening with multiple different species that are openly hostile to each other. For multiple hostile species to be drawn to a particular place on such a regular schedule is ecologically unlikely. MHW focuses a lot on how the elder crossing brings immense amounts of bioenergy to the new world. This elder bioenergy is enough to build massive crystal formations, power the final boss of MHW, fuels all the life of the coral highlands, and, if too much is placed in the wrong place, immolate the entire island. Again, it is very strange, ecologically, for the elder dragons to go to a random, kinda tiny, island to die and put their energy back into the ecosystem, especially considering how much they can take from the ecosystems they inhabit.


It all comes together

So why do I think all these factors suggest the Elder Dragons originated as bioweapons? The first reason is the unique body shape of most elder dragons. The extremely unique 6-limbed body shape of most elder dragons allows them to maintain mobility, and offense presence, in both the air and on the ground. In addition, the more fantastic abilities and power scale of the elder dragons are extremely well suited to combat (like does a fire-breathing physically powerful dragon also really need the ability to cause explosions in order to hunt prey?) and do not make ecological sense. While this does not apply to all elder dragons, most elder dragons can single-handedly destroy entire ecosystems, which, as a species is not something that would lead to long-term survival, as all your prey in that area would be severely depleted for decades, if not forever (see Easter Island for an example of how badly ecological destruction messes things up). The strange inability to trap elder dragons would also make sense if these elder dragons were designed to be bioweapons, as it would prevent these extremely powerful weapons from being captured alive to be studied and reverse engineered. The way the dragon element interacts with both elder dragons and elemental abilities in general, suggests this mystical element could have been used in the distant past to depower and control the elder dragons, making them easier to contain transport or fight. Finally, the elder crossing, especially with its focus on recycling the bioenergy of migrating elder dragons, would have served as a way to recycle the energy of older dragons into the creation of newer dragons. The trigger for the crossing would be built into the DNA of all the elder dragons, which explains why so many different types of elder dragons would cross to the new world.

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Flaws, holes, and questions

No lore theory is perfect, and I’ve noticed ~3 monsters that pose a problem for my theory. The first is Kirin. Kirin is technically an elder dragon but it is very different from other elder dragons. Kirin has the more fantastic powers of the other elders, but has a more realistic body shape, does not participate in the elder crossing (as far as we know), and is incredibly peaceful. However, Kirin still drops dragon pods and can its aura can still be limited by the dragon element, but this could just be due to the general effect of the dragon element (or because of gameplay). Ultimately Kirin doesn’t really fit in with the other dragons, and, ultimately, I think Kirin is natural in origin. The other 2 monsters break the divide between the elder dragons and other monsters I set up earlier. These 2 monsters are Deviljho and Lucent Nargacuga. Deviljho is able to harness the dragon element somehow and has the power and rage to possibly contend with elder dragons. I can think of two non-theory destroying reasons for this; either Deviljho has the same origin as the elder dragons, which seems unlikely considering it fits into the ecology of all the other wyverns, or that Deviljho is one of the creatures that managed to evolve to adapt to the new element and creatures in its environment. The Lucent Nargacuga breaks the divide even more than Deviljho. The Lucent Nargacuga has many unique abilities, but its most standout is the ability to turn invisible, and it is able to do this better than an elder dragon. While this is explained, it still pushes into elder dragon levels of fantasy. The Lucent Nargacuga, however, is only found in the Tower, which is an ancient building which is built, at least partially, with elder dragon materials, so possibly there was some contamination there which led to Lucent’s strange abilities.

Tl;Dr The strange traits and exceeding combat abilities of the Elder Dragons suggests that they could have originated as ancient bioweapons.

I have a google doc with an overall chronology, miscellaneous extrapolations, and possible roles for all of the Elders in the works if anyone is interested in that.

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