For the uninitiated, allow me to point out something. After Emilia finished her third trial, she proceeded to break the barrier surrounding the sanctuary. While doing so, she stumbles across Echidna’s grave. There she lay in all her beauty! The mechanism powering the Sanctuary’s barrier was connected to her grave. No surprises here right? Since she was the one who was responsible for this whole mess(?), it had to be connected to her very self somehow. But then, what caught my attention in this scene was something totally different!
When Emilia saw this “Echidna” in the grave, she was not able to recognize her. It was not a momentary lapse in judgement either. The half-elf clearly notes that the beautiful white-haired lady who was laid to rest in the grave was a different person. It clearly was not the Echidna that she had met in the trials.
If this indeed is the case; then what is happening? Who was the Echidna in the Tea Party and the trials? Who is the real Echidna?? Before your mind explodes with all these question. Allow me present you with some interesting observations!!
Are there two Echidna’s in Re:Zero?
Yes! From what the story has established so far, the Echidna that Subaru and Emilia met in the Tea Party, and the Echidna whose remains were at the grave in the Sanctuary are different. Well, are they totally different people? Or is it something else? Before we get to addressing that, let us note the subtle differences between the two “Echidnas”.
The differences between the two were hinted at in the Re:Zero anime, during the flashback arc of the Sanctuary in Season 2. Throughout the flashback, which included Beatrice and Ryuzu Meyer, we never got a proper shot of Echidna’s eyes. Not even once. Hiding eyes is an obvious way for animators to show that the identities or at least the personalities of Echidna that we have seen in the Tea Party and that of the one in the sanctuary were different!
Why does Echidna look different?
When Emilia came across the ethereal beauty who lay in the grave, she initially felt that it was the same face that she had seen multiple times in the trial. But, she immediately realised that this person was someone different.
This woman in the grave and the Witch of Greed that Emilia had met in the Trials of the Sanctuary had many similarities. Their facial features, including the structure of their eyes, bridge of the nose and lips, were quite similar. However, despite these common features, Emilia was sure that this was the first time she had come across the Echidna in the grave.
The major difference that she found between the two of them was their age. While Tea-Party Echidna seemed to be in her late teens, the Echidna who was in the grave was old enough to be in her mid-twenties. This made Emilia conclude that the woman in the Grave was probably Echidna’s older sister.
And yet, this isn’t Echidna, but she does resemble her. An older sister, maybe?[…] It’s reaaally weird for an older sister to be resting here even though it is Echidna’s tomb, but..Emilia’s thoughts about Echidna in the grave; Re:Zero LN Vol. 15, Pg. 91
In his tweets related to the episode (Season 2 finale), Tappei Nagatsuki, Author of Re:Zero, confirmed that there was an age difference of ten years between Tea Party Echidna and the Echidna we see in the grave. This is the reason why Echidna looks different!
According to him, the Echidna in the mind palace, who Subaru met frequently is around 18 years old. Whereas the Echidna whose remains were there in the coffin was around 28 years old; or in her late twenties! They are similar, yet different.
It was not just Emilia who saw the difference. Even Subaru, who had spent a considerably longer time with the Witch of Greed in the trials than Emilia felt that the woman in the coffin was someone different. While this part was omitted from episode 25 of Re:Zero season 2, we still get a glimpse of Dona’s face, which looks totally different!
However, when Roswaal and Beatrice come across the grave of this person, they confirm that this was the Echidna whom they knew. Meaning, the person who was in the grave was indeed Roswaal’s Teacher and Beatrice’s mother! If that’s the case, then is the Echidna from the Tea Party a fake? Or could she be the younger sister of the real Echidna?
It seems not! In his conversation with Subaru after the liberation of the Sanctuary, Roswaal confirms that Echidna had no sisters. In fact she had no family members or kids. She was a total loner. Beatrice was the only person who would even come close to being called family for her!
Teacher was assuredly alone without a single relative. That ofcourse includes any sisters. She had none save Beatrice she could call her own daughter. I know this better than anyone.Roswaal to Subaru; Re:Zero Ln Vol. 15, Pg. 245
Both Roswaal and Beatrice confirmed that the remains in the coffin at the graveyard were those of Echidna. If that was the case, then who was the Witch of Greed in the Tea Party? An even bigger question would be; which of these two Echidna got revived?
Difference in personality:
Apparently, appearance was not the only thing that separated Tea-party Dona and Grave Dona. There was a noticeable difference in their personalities too.
The Echidna in Mind Palace (Tea-party Dona) was someone who clearly lacked emotions. This could easily be inferred from her demeanor. Look no further than the contract that Tea-party Dona proposed to Subaru to understand what she really was like. While she did get riled up and said that she hated Emilia, it is safe to say that this Echidna was not someone who understood human emotions very well.
However, when Subaru heard about the past of the Sanctuary from Ryuzu Shiima, he couldn’t help but notice that the Echidna who was alive 400 years ago, the one whose remains were in the graveyard currently, was someone who was more compassionate. She cared for Ryuzu Meyer, and to a certain extent, wished for the well-being of others.
But after hearing about the past of the Sanctuary from Ryuzu, he felt like the Echidna in the tale was different than the twisted person he had met.Subaru’s thoughts on Echidna’s difference in personalities; Re:Zero LN Vol. 15, Pg. 13
Even Beatrice’s backstory confirms this. Her Mother, the Echidna who lived 400 years ago, was not someone who lacked a moral compass. True, she was a witch who wanted to satiate her Greed, but it seldom clouded over her judgement of good and bad. In fact, there is a clear difference in attitude towards Beatrice from both these Echidna.
The Echidna in the Graveyard wanted Beatrice to grow up well, despite the contract that she made with her. She cared for the spirit like a mother would.
However, the Echidna in the Mind Palace did not care about Beatrice’s well-being. In fact, she was more interested in the choices that Beatrice would make. This clearly showed that Tea- Party Dona lacked emotions. She was driven by her greed for knowledge and that alone!
Tappei Nagatsuki, the author of Re:Zero novels, often drops a lot of hints related to the world of Re:Zero and its character. This is done either during Q&A sessions on Twitter or as supporting information while the episodes of Re:Zero anime air. In one such Q&A session on Twitter, Nagatsuki mentioned that Grave Dona and Tea-Party Dona were separate people for the author.
The tweet translates to this (credits to the good samaritans on Reddit!) “To the author, this Echidna (Tea Party Dona) and the Gramardy Team Echidna (Graveyard Dona) are separate matters, but Gramardy Echidna’s good memory would be teaching Lewes to cook. A bad memory would be memories of their parting, likely.”
While Tappei is infamous for creating mysteries around everything related to Re:Zero, we can still go on to assume that something does separate both Tea Party and Grave Dona.
Now that I have established that, there is indeed a very high possibility that there is a difference in the Tea Party Echidna and the Echidna who is in the Grave, let’s move on to THEORIZE about why these differences exist?
Why are Tea Party and Graveyard Echidna different?
Before making assumtions, allow me to state some facts that we already know.
- The Echidna that we see in the Tea Party exists in a spirit/soul form. She only exists in the Mind Palace and has no physical existence whatsoever.
- The Echidna who is in the coffin is dead and looks older than the Echidna in the Mind Palace.
- Graveyard Echidna felt threatened by Hector and made the Sanctuary and a barrier just to protect herself and her works from him. We don’t know what happened when they clashed, or who came out victorious.
- She experimented on immortality in the Sanctuary, using Ryuzu copies. The method was known as Soul Transcription. It only worked in theory. When she tried to transfer her soul into the Ryuzu copies, she failed and ended up creating four different personalities.
In the Web Novels, Echidna tells Subaru that her soul was sealed in the sanctuary by the Great Dragon Volcanica. So going by that logic, the soul that was sealed could be Volcanica’s version of Echidna. Meaning, the soul’s personality is an image of Echidna that existed in Volcanica’s mind.
In the Echidna Birthday Q&A sessions on Twitter, author Nagatsuki did say that Echidna loved playing pranks on Volcanica. It was almost a hobby for her and as expectde, Volcanica was not a fan of being teased. This would explain why Tea Party Dona is shown to be too emotionless. However, this does not explain how this Echidna came to have memories and the knowledge of real Echidna. It is possible that she read them all from a book, like Nagatsuki says.
This brings us to the second possibility.
Based on the facts that we have stated above, we could say that Echidna split a part of her soul, and kept it in her Mind Palace as a contingency place in case Hector (or any other enemy) attacked and killed her. Think of this soul as a collection of her memories and her experiences. A living (?) walking set of data!
Echidna probably did this splitting before she thought of making the Sanctuary and the barrier, which explains why a younger version of her is visible in the Mind Palace and Tea Parties. Well, she is known for making copies of her soul after all. For instance, the spirit Echidna (Eridna or Scarfdona) that we see in Arc 5 is also a copy of Echidna’s soul, but without any of her memories!
This soul splitting may have been the base for Echidna’s soul transcription or Immortality experiments. But, she only began her immortality experiments after creating the sanctuary. If soul splitting was indeed the base and if she had done it before, why not start the immortality experiments right then, instead of creating the sanctuary.
The answer to this question is already given to us in the Re:Zero Novels. Before creating the Ryuzu Meyer copies with the help of the crystal, Echidna had no means of experimenting her theory. True, she managed to split her soul, but she had no vessel to transfer it to. And even when she had a vessel to transfer her soul into, she still failed, because the vessel couldn’t hold the vast amount of information that she wanted to transfer into it. Tch…poor Echidna!
While this assumption helps cover up the difference in age, it still doesn’t explain why they have different personalities.
Well look no further than the four Ryuzu Meyer copies that guard the sanctuary currently to understand why there is a visible difference in personalities of both Echidna’s.
The Witch of Greed’s soul was simply too much for the Ryuzu Meyer copies to handle. The whole of information could not be passed down to them, and hence it ended up creating an entirely new personality. Similarly, Echidna probably did not create a complete copy of her soul. She only took the parts that she felt was the most important and saved it in the Mind Palace Echidna.
This was essentially her backup. If something happened to her, her knowledge and important memories would continue to stay on in the mind palace until it could find a suitable vessel. Echidna probably thought that transferring emotions to this soul was not really important. She might have assumed that when these memories mix in with the consciousness that would be present in a new vessel, emotions would develop naturally (we see this happening with Omega in arc 5).
Or maybe there was some kind of a limitation with the amount of info that she could store in the mind-palace, and she opted to leave out the emotions to cramp in more memories and data. Probably. However, this Echidna was aware of the things that happened in the Sanctuary, but it was mostly from a third person’s POV.
Another possibility is that Echidna only understood and developed emotions by the time she set up the sanctuary. Almost ten years had passed since Echidna created that copy, it is highly possible that her behaviour changed. Was this because of Beatrice? Did her mother affection for Beatrice ultimately have her evoke emotions? Well, some questions still remain unanswered!
If you are still there with me, let us move on to address the next part!
What was the goal of Mind-Palace/Tea-Party Echidna?
It goes without saying that one of the major goals for Tea Party Echidna was to revive. Like I mentioned in the previous section, this copy of Echidna’s soul that existed in the mind palace was a backup data which she could simply transfer on to her new vessels in order to revive. So we could firmly assume that revival certainly the major goal of Tea Party Echidna.
And guess what, it happens at the end of Arc 4. For anime-only fans remember how Shiima’s voice changed for a second when she was talking to Emilia in Re:Zero Season 2 Episode 24? Heh, let’s leave it at that…
If revival was all that Tea Party Echidna looked for, then she could have latched on to any soul right? She could even have revived the original body right? Seems not! Not all vessels were capable enough of handling the vast amount of data that came with Echidna’s soul. So she had to wait for the right person! And it goes without saying that her original vessel, her original body was already destroyed (dead). So it was technically impossible to transfer herself (the data that is) into that lifeless body.
The need for the Trials:
When Echidna and Subaru met during the first tea party, she told him that the trials were unrelated to her. That she simply served as the examiner. Subaru would later consider that as a blatant lie. However, it seems that it wasn’t completely a lie. If Tea Party Dona and Grave Dona are different, then it explains Echidna’s statements at the Tea Party to Subaru!
The trials of the sanctuary were probably created by the “real” Echidna so that the Demi-Humans could one day venture of the sanctuary if they wanted even after her death. However, she did not want them to randomly take down the barrier. The trials of the sanctuary served as a means to test the resolve of the demi-humans. A test to see if they were really ready for the outside world. This is probably why each contender was forced to face their past, present, and future. This also explains why only demi-humans had the qualification to take part in the trials.
If there are tests, there needs to be an examiner right? Echidna might have used the copy of the soul she made and stored in the Mind Palace for this purpose. Why? Because the Witch of Greed was a familiar face to the demi-humans of the sanctuary! All that Tea Party Dona had to do was to judge the participants on basis of their merit. Being void of emotions or conscience was a perfect trait for an examiner. However, Echidna’s heavy dislike for Emilia seems to have crept into her copy too somehow!
In the end, it seems that the Echidna in the Tea party is just a copy of the real Echidna’s soul which she might have created during her younger days as a backup. It is just a large collection of her memories and her data. This would explain why this Echidna does not have any emotions.
The existence of Eridna and the immortality experiments only allude to this fact. Will the real Echidna come back in the story? We don’t know. If Roswaal succeeds in achieving his goal, it really might be possible! That said, let us know your thoughts on the two different Echidna personas that we encounter in Re:Zero in the comments section below!