Garland is the secondary antagonist of Final Fantasy IX who works behind the shadows. Before Garland reveals his identity, he is known to the player as the Old Man. He is an elderly-looking man in dark armor with great knowledge and mystical powers.
Garland appears as an old man with pallid skin and pointy ears. His hair is long and white although he is mostly bald. He has a mustache and a beard and white eyebrows. His head is the only organic-looking part of him, as his body is mechanically constructed from black armor-like material, and he has long pointy robotic hands. His torso is hollow with a shining red orb implanted into his chest cavity. He wears a long black cape.
To live is to give life meaning, yet one must take others' lives to survive... Terra's souls will sleep until they forget such nonsense. They will begin a new life in a new dimension. It's a world in which life and death become one... That is the dimension in which we are meant to live, as beings that transcend life and death!Garland
Garland is devoted to his mission, wishing to see the planet of Terra revived. He has been working tirelessly for millennia to this end. He cares for nothing else and he has no special attachments to any living individuals. Garland has a paranoid streak, as he takes drastic measures to ensure his plans will be carried out without hindrance, preferring to take preemptive action to future obstructions he sees lying on his path.
He is led into clashes of ever-growing intensity with Kuja, who is not pleased with his role in Garland's grand scheme after Garland makes it clear he only sees Kuja as a pawn for his master plan. Garland appears emotionless, as neither destruction nor companionship elicit much response from him. The only pangs of remorse he feels are when it comes to the mistakes he has made in carrying out his mission.
Upon their confrontation Zidane asks if Garland has any goals or desires of his own, but Garland does not mention any. However, afterward he (or his "spirit") appears to act on his own will to guide the party in pursuing the omnicidal Kuja.
Garland is a being Terrans created. In official guides he is referred to as a Genome, indicating he is similar in nature to the beings he himself creates. Garland appears to have the same abilities as the Terrans, being able to guide the course of souls and merge planets.
Life is connected, one to another... If you trace the root of all life, there exists one source. The same can be said for memory. All life constitutes an intelligence that holds memory beyond experience.Garland's voice in Memoria
Garland was created by the Terrans to accomplish their plans of "survival" five thousand years ago. Terra had always assimilated other planets to survive, and when the world was dying, the Terrans sought for a newborn planet to merge with. No such planet was found in time, and the Terrans made the risky decision to fuse with the young planet of Gaia. The Terrans entrusted Garland with their plans and slept, their souls placed in dormant bodiless state in Pandemonium.
Garland attempted to fuse Terra's crystal with Gaia's, but Gaia's crystal rejected the process, and the fusion failed with disastrous results, leaving Gaia's surface in ruin and shifting the world of Terra inside the world of Gaia. Garland transplanted the magical Iifa Tree from Terra onto Gaia's surface to oversee the planet's recovery, but it would take thousands of years for Gaia to recover from the disaster.
According to the Final Fantasy IX Ultimania, Garland started creating Genomes around 3000 years ago. The Genomes were to be vessels for the Terran souls to live again, once the fusion would be complete. To control the cycle of souls in Gaia Garland used the Iifa Tree to prevent the Gaian souls from returning to the planet, trapping them within Iifa's roots. Later, Garland constructed the Soul Divider at the Iifa Tree's base that allowed the souls of Terra to flow into Gaia instead.
The rejected Gaian souls were expelled through the Iifa Tree's roots to the continent where civilization had taken root, and the anguished souls manifested as Mist, leading to the continent being known as the Mist Continent. The presence of Mist had a hardening effect on the people who had to live among it. Though the people of the Mist Continent chose to migrate to higher ground to escape the Mist, its presence still brought forth many wars and conflicts. This was all according to Garland's plan, who wanted to speed up the rate in which Gaian souls would attempt to return to the planet.
After the advent of airships that fly using the power of the Mist, the wars that had plagued the Mist Continent came to a stop. Garland's plan was to construct a Genome with a mind of its own whom he could send to Gaia to incite war and destruction. He named this Genome Kuja and sent him to hasten the Iifa Tree's soul dividing process by killing more Gaians.
Kuja's role as the Angel of Death was not meant to last, due to Garland initially viewing him a failure. Garland created another Genome, Zidane, to eventually replace him. Kuja, jealous of Zidane but unaware of his own mortality, kidnapped Zidane and abandoned him in Gaia. As punishment, Garland banished him from returning to Terra.
The summoners' tribe living in the town of Madain Sari on Gaia had mastered the art of summoning eidolons. Garland, fearing their power, ordered Kuja to destroy the summoners' village. Garland eventually created another Genome, Mikoto, to replace Zidane, whom he thought was lost.
When Kuja begins his plan to control the eidolons, beginning with Bahamut and Alexander, Garland can no longer tolerate Kuja's rebellion and travels to Gaia to stop his subject's schemes. Garland wrests control of the Invincible from Kuja and destroys both Alexander and the town of Alexandria, leaving Kuja to formulate a new plan involving the power of Trance.
When Zidane arrives in Terra, Garland reveals everything about the purpose of his existence. Zidane refuses to accept his destiny as an Angel of Death, so Garland imprisons him within Pandemonium, planning to remove his soul and regress him into a regular Genome. Zidane's friends convince him that he has control of his own life, and together they confront Garland on the highest ledge of his fortress. As Zidane presses him for more answers, Kuja arrives on the Invincible, touting his new soul-driven powers.
Rendering the party unconscious with a blast of Ultima, Kuja turns on Garland, intending to gain total control of both Terra and Gaia. Garland wearily informs Kuja that his powers would come to nothing, and in a fit of rage Kuja kicks Garland to his death off Pandemonium's precipice.
Garland retains his presence as a formless, omniscient voice. He reveals to Kuja his limited lifespan as the plan had been to replace him, pushing Kuja over the edge and causing him to seek a way to end all life. Kuja destroys Terra with wave after wave of Ultima spells while the Iifa Tree goes berserk and expels Mist all over Gaia. Memoria, a realm made manifest of the memories of all living beings, manifests above Iifa Tree and Kuja traverses through it to get to the beginning of all time.
When Zidane and his friends follow, Garland's voice assists them, Zidane being the only one who can hear him. Garland reveals the origins and true nature of Gaia, Terra, and the crystal: that which is the source of all life. In the void of space, before the entrance to the Crystal World, Garland's presence fades away, asking Zidane to take care of Kuja and protect the crystal. In his last words, Garland expresses no regrets for being created as a savior to a world which would perish by his creation's hands.
The party fights Garland as a boss in Pandemonium.
Garland's theme is known as the "Master of Time" (時の管理者, Toki no Kanrisha?).
Garland appears in Final Fantasy Trading Card Game.
A subtle allusion to Garland is present in Dissidia, when Kuja briefly clashes with Garland in a cutscene. Both Kuja's and Zidane's opening battle quotes to Garland have a level of animosity not explained by the events of Dissidia.
Behind the scenes
Garland is a reference to the antagonist from the original Final Fantasy. The use of the Four Fiends is one of the similarities between the two. Concept art shows that Garland was originally going to bear more of a resemblance to Garland from the original Final Fantasy.
Kuja kicking Garland off the edge of Pandemonium resembles to an event in Final Fantasy VI where Kefka ejects Gestahl over the edge of the Floating Continent, including the presence of the player party as witnesses, as well as both Kefka and Kuja betraying what could best be called their creators and mentors.
Garland's role and appearance is similar to Fusoya from Final Fantasy IV. Both are caretakers for their sleeping species and are old, white-bearded men with great magical prowess. They both reside on red planets, and serve similar roles to the two sibling pairs Cecil Harvey/Golbez and Zidane/Kuja. He also shares similarities to Zemus, as he intends to populate a planet with his own kind.
Etymology and symbolism
Garland is named after the villain of the original Final Fantasy. A garland is a wreath of flowers worn on the head, usually given to great military heroes in ancient Greece and Rome, not unlike the medals of today are. They were also sometimes left on the graves of fallen soldiers. In reference to Garland, the name may be symbolic, as he was a great hero who had "fallen" (corrupted by evil), possible a reference to the original Garland being killed in the first dungeon the player completes in Final Fantasy. The name may also stem from a garland being something that forms a loop, alluding to the time loop in which the first Garland in Final Fantasy becomes involved.
Garland's story arc about going to extremes to ensure the success of his creators' mission to revive Terra and lacking any attachment to his creation takes from Japanese cultural views, in particular the concepts in Zen Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism and Shintoism regarding how one should not be overly-conformist due to it ultimately rendering them soulless (a stark contrast to his rival and "son" Kuja who insists on remaining eternal regardless of what happens to anyone else, and to a lesser extent Zidane, who is merely content with where he fits in once finding it).
- Final Fantasy IX Ultimania, p.032
- FFIX World Chronology – p.44-46 of the FFIX Ultimania - Characters' personal timelines (Accessed: December 07, 2018) at The Lifestream
- World Establishment (development materials) continued – p.41 and 42 of the FFIX Ultimania (Accessed: December 22, 2019) at The Lifestream