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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Undertale Discussion - Asgore Dreemurr




Okay, now that that's out of the way, I'd like to talk about Asgore.

I think Asgore Dreemurr gets short shrift from the fandom.  I understand why, but I see no recognition of something very central to his character:  Asgore is the second nicest NPC in Undertale, second only to Toriel.

Asgore is a nice guy.  He is a very nice guy.  He is a ridiculously nice guy.  He is kind, generous, sweet, and responsible.  His subjects spend large portions or their time telling you how kind he is.  He sneaks into Snowdin at night and leaves presents.  Undyne and Alphys worship the ground he walks on.  Half of Alphys's self-hate is because she failed Asgore, who she reveres, and while she can't hide what she did to his son, she can at least hide what she did to his subjects.

Asgore has one flaw, and does one bad thing in the entire game.  He tries to kill seven humans.  Pretty horrible?

Well, he shares that flaw with every single other character in the game, with only two exceptions.  Toriel doesn't.  It's hard to tell if she tries to protect you just because you're a child, or if she has completely refused to take any part.  I see hints suggesting the latter.  Toriel is the #1 nicest person in Undertale, and deserves the love everyone has for her.  Alphys does not take part, but it's not a moral objection.  She doesn't even slightly blame Asgore.  She's just not a fighter herself, and is too wrapped up in her crush on all things human.

Papyrus is signed on for this plan.  He's just too goofy to stick to it.  Papyrus is a very good guy, but he's not a better person than Asgore.  Sans is signed on for this plan.  He has a whole conversation with you to let you know that.  He would have killed you the second you walked out of the ruins, except that he made a promise to his Secret Crush.

Undyne is the major player in the 'kill seven humans' process, will not accept a peaceful resolution to your battle, does her best to try and stop you from running away (she just isn't able to as thoroughly as Asgore), tries to kill you even after seeing that you're a nice person, and only gives up when you hold her life in your hands, and save it instead of killing her.  Asgore does the same thing, with only one difference.  Instead of being enthusiastic about this plan, he hates it.  He drags his feet, does a half-assed job that's basically letting you kill him, and hangs his head in shame the entire fight.

In fact, that reluctance is a plot point itself.  The True Ending happens because Toriel decides, not that Asgore is evil and has to be stopped, but because she can't stand back anymore and accept that it's either you or Asgore, and one of you has to die.  When she does, she chews out Asgore and makes it clear she's never coming back to him.

But... what does she chew him out about?  It's not 'trying to kill you'!  Her complaint is that he does a half-assed job of it.  Specifically, he could have gone out and killed six more humans the moment he got the first soul, but he makes everyone suffer because he hates his own plan so much, he's hoping everyone will die before it's finished.  In the non-True pacifist ending, when you spare Asgore's life he is incredibly relieved.  He will give up his entire plan, even though it means dooming everyone, because what he really wants is just to be Goat Dad.  All that sad kindness he shows you when you show up is the real Asgore Dreemurr.

Asgore, as King of the Monsters, has a horrific moral decision in front of him.  One option is to kill seven humans, so that he can take their power and free his people from imprisonment.  The other option is to let his entire race die, to do nothing and watch the people who it's his responsibility as king to protect die in misery and absolute despair.  They drum that point home quite hard in the early game.  Those are his only two options.

Like any really good person, he refuses to accept that.  He believes there must be a third option.  That is Alphys's plot arc.  Rather than killing anyone, he gets the smartest monster in the kingdom to research the power of humans, because surely there must be a way to obtain it without murder.

The result?  His son dies, and is turned into a sadistically evil abomination.  His wife leaves him.  That is what his kindness gets him.

This is some serious tragedy.  Asgore is stuck in the most no-win of situations.  If he made the wrong decision, it's hard to blame him for it.  I'm sure glad I didn't have to make it.

Asgore is a nice guy, and I don't think he's given enough credit for it.

And now, we come to the other side of this discussion, equally or more fascinating.  A friend suggested, and I am now certain of it, that you are supposed to hate Asgore.  You are led to hate Asgore.  Tobyfox, very specifically, manipulates the player into not liking Asgore.

First, this is not a stretch, because it's completely like Toby.  The whole game is full of meta commentary.  It's full of secrets, and playing off of the expectations of players used to regular RPGs.  How many players killed Toriel, not realizing that she would indeed die, and were horrified at what they'd done afterwards?  Not a rare experience.

Well, Asgore is the boss monster, and you're trained by all computer game experience to view the final boss as the truly irredeemable evil that causes all badness in the world.  (Fascinatingly, Toby then plays that AGAIN with the Flowey fight.  He really works both to put the information in that Flowey=Asriel=a tragic victim and to make you ignore it.)  Asgore comes at the end of the game.  You never get to meet him beforehand.  Unlike all the other characters, you never get to know him.  This is a giant difference.  You've had time to warm to Undyne already when you fight her, she's presented as silly, and you have lots of time after the fight to learn to like her.  You meet Asgore only briefly, under very serious circumstances similar to those normally played in stories as betrayals.

Of the tiny amount of interaction you get with him, Toriel yelling at him is the most memorable.  By then you (rightly) adore her, and she's just given a speech about her embrace of pacifism.  It's such an emotional moment, it dominates your view of Asgore.  Asgore = That guy Toriel is mad at for trying to kill you.  Except that's not really true, it's just what Toby is trying to trick you into seeing.

That's a neat theory, but it would just be a theory except for one thing.  Toby manipulates you in a way that can't be accidental.  It would just be too unlikely to be random chance.

For a large portion of the game, you don't even know 'Asgore Dreemurr' is one person.  'Dreemurr' is a nice name, and when his subjects praise his kindness, that's the one they use.  'Asgore' is a threatening name, and when they talk about how strong he is, or his plan to kill humans, that's the one they use.  It's colored red, no less!  And 'As-gore'?  What a mean sounding name!  By the time you're presented with enough information to know they're one person, the pattern of 'Asgore is the bad guy' is thoroughly set, and they stop using his last name 'Dreemurr' at all.

Toby sets you up, and almost everyone falls for it.  I figured out that Asgore Dreemurr is a nice guy, and I still have trouble feeling it emotionally.

I think that's neat, and it's worth dragging out for people to think about.


  1. Thoughtful, well considered and, I think, correct.

  2. Sorry, don't play Undertale, it distracts me from rereading Please Don't Tell...

  3. It's kind of telling that through the first part of the game, whenever he's discussed in a negative light he's Asgore, and whenever something nice is said, he's Dreemur. I don't think the two names get put together until Mettaton's quiz, though I could be wrong.

    But yeah, Asgore's a nice guy, who made a grief-fuelled decision and regrets it hugely. It was a pretty good fake-out, up until I saw his house, the mirror of Toriel's, and went OOoooohhhh...

  4. Great article! Asgore is a wonderful character, and - more importantly - a great guy.

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  6. I will say that this is quite a good article. People often burn on Asgore, but the truth is that he had to bear both the weight of life and death, and he had to bear that weight for centuries. And worse? He had to bear it alone because his wife decided to abandon him when he, like most men would, reacted to the lost of his beloved children with what I would consider to be righteous indignation. He was justified in his fury, though he did come to deeply regret it shortly thereafter. All signs point to him having never killed a human with his own hands--it was always his servants--but the fact remains that it was by his decree. It all could have been avoided if Toriel had just done what any responsible wife would've done and stayed with him, sharing their combined grief and dealing with it in non-ridiculous ways.

    Interestingly, Asgore (as confirmed by Gerson on the genocide route) understood that the monsters leaving the underground would result in their complete annihilation. Even seven souls would not have given him the power to destroy humanity--it's more likely he would've fallen victim to a mob shortly after emerging, though an argument might be made that he would be taken down by a regiment of trained soldiers instead. The rest of the monsters, powerless as they were against even just one human child, one without any proper weapons, would have been utterly helpless once exposed to the near-literal hive of hatred modern day humanity has become. His hesitance to bring them to the surface was far more than simply a lack of the desire to kill; he did not wish to do harm, but he was also far more wise than anyone realized-the surface was death waiting to happen.