Finding Destiny’s hidden lore through concept art: the Truth of the Hive

oryx concept

I think that some aspects of Destiny’s lore that have yet to be revealed about the Hive can actually be guessed at by looking at some very old concept art from early in Destiny’s development.

TL;DR: There’s a “Conclusions and Theories” section all the way at the bottom of the page which sums everything up.

I made a post about this on reddit. It’s slightly more succinct and better organized, but doesn’t cover all the same topics.

There’s some holes and loose ends to my theories, so let me know your own thoughts.

EARLY CONCEPTS

I was looking at this Hive concept art by Daniel Chavez, which I found at the two following links:
http://conceptartworld.com/?p=36293
http://www.videogamesartwork.com/artists/daniel-chavez?page=1

It appears that early in their design, the Hive were heavily influenced by moth imagery and biology. If you look at the concept art (some of which I’ll post here) you’ll see what look like Hive knights with colorful and elaborately detailed armor that is evocative of moth wings.

Other artwork shows that early Hive were infected by a “worm” which burrowed through the back of their throat to the front of their face, replacing their lower jaw. The appearance of the Hive in this form is done subtly so that at first you don’t realize that their lower jaw is actually the mouth of a worm.

Let’s look at some of the concepts and the text accompanying them.

Some studies of the Hive worm-infected face:

destiny hive face

One caption says, “Playing with value, darker skin, lighter worm, earlier proposition. Explanation would be the worm sucking out the face’s materials with time.”

Another, “Jaw pushed out to make room for worm.”

Multiple concepts of early Hive, although they bear little resemblance to final product:

destiny hive monster concepts

In the upper right corner, text says, “Stuffing of rejected worms [sic] skin.”

The middle, slightly right, “the ravenous, asking for more by eating away its invoked soul (making its material constantly trying to follow the flowing of the mist)”. Were the Hive originally called the Ravenous?

And there’s mentions of “rock armor” and armor made of “liquid rocks flowing slowly but continuously”.

Some moth studies of the Hive:

destiny hive moth

Text, “Starts as moth hair, finishes as armor/cloth.”

Text, “Dozens of layers of dead wings. The older, more experienced ranks would get more armor ?”

That’s a pretty interesting look at where the Hive started out conceptually. There’s a lot of ideas going on there, and there’s some really awesome visual experimentation being played with. I actually prefer some of these strange, colorful, and ornate concepts over the dark, drab Hive of the actual game.

Anyway, it seems that originally the Hive were constantly hungry because they had been infected by these ravenous worms. Then maybe the worms grew and went through a metamorphosis and became the moth-men we see in some concept art, or maybe they fused their bodies with the Hive body to produce the moth-men we see. Or maybe there was no connection between the moths and the worms at all.

MOTH INFLUENCES

Looking at the final game, you might think that the moth imagery was completely abandoned by the time of release, but if you look more closely you’ll still see its impact on the final design.

Take a look at this grimoire card image of the Hive Acolyte:

acolyte moth wings

The cloth “tunic”, or whatever it is, actually kind of looks like folded moth wings.

Then take a look at these Hive Thrall (for later, pay attention to its head and keep in mind how its stomach looks eaten away):

thrall face paint

That “face paint” is reminiscent of the patterning on certain moth wings.

moth

Also, remember how in the early concept art it talked about how the moth hair or wings would layer up over time to produce armor? Well look at this excerpt from the Hive Knight grimoire card to see that same idea in its current iteration:

“Centuries of battle have toughened the bony protrusions on its body into an armor as hard as relic iron…”

Then there’s this concept art from Dorje Bellbrook’s blog http://dorjebellbrook.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/destiny-hive-environments.html

destiny hive cacoon

The caption on his blog says, “A soft cocoon room to contrast all the hard Hive architecture.”

Take a look at this excerpt from the Destiny grimoire card “Ghost Fragment: Hive 2”, which I’ll refer back to again later; it’s from the perspective of a captured ghost being taken into the Hive’s lair on the Moon:

“They took me down… Past grisly nurseries hung with pupae. Past writhing worms that they swallow whole.”

(The life cycle of certain insects is: embryo, larva, pupa (cocoon), imago (adult).)

So, we have “pupae” referring back to that whole moth/cocoon concept, and we also see a connection to the original worm concepts we saw as well.

So, we can see that the moth inspiration still had an effect on the final image of the Hive.

THE WORM NARRATIVE

What I’m going to suggest next is that the worm-infection narrative has also been preserved in the final iteration of the Hive, although like the concept art, it’s subtle.

If you look at the Thrall, as in the previous image I posted, or this subsequent image with a rare side-view of a Thrall, you’ll notice a few things.

side thrall

First, their stomachs are eaten away and they’re emaciated, as though they’re wasting away from some disease or infection. It’s similar to how in the earlier worm-infected concept art, the Hive had its face eaten away and its jaw pushed out.

Second, look at the top of the Thrall’s head. That dome on the top DOES NOT look like its part of their skull. It is very clearly something separate from the jaw bones.

If you ever see Thrall with the three eyes (I can’t find a good image of this) you’ll notice that it’s as though the eyes were glowing THROUGH the dark part of the skull. It’s almost as if that dark dome was a translucent material covering up their actual head.

It’s interesting then that the coffee table book “The Art Of Destiny” describes this as “the smooth carapace on their heads”. It’s a shell and the eyes are underneath.

If you look at the heads of Knights or Acolytes you’ll see that they don’t have a carapace. They have a pasty white fleshy head, with beady eyes sunken into it.

Take a look at this Acolyte:

acolyte

That is very clearly a wrinkled, fleshy head. Kind of looks like a worm if you ask me. (Also worth noting is how, to me, the jaw does not look like a real jaw. It looks like a face mask.)

Also check out this youtube video where someone captures a very rare sight of a Knight without its helmet right as its dying [EDIT: forgot my manners and didn’t mention the uploader’s youtube name. Thanks for uploading that video, Carnivorian!].

Here’s some stills I captured from that video:

hive knight no helm 1
hive knight no helm 2

That white fleshy texture makes the head look a lot like a larva or a worm. Or at the very least, it looks like flesh and skin that’s been weakened and drained of all their health.

Bonus Image! One of the stills I took of that video shows that the Knight’s eyes are actually floating about an inch in front of his face. This does not have anything to do with lore (I hope); it’s probably just designed that way for the engine to display them right, I bet.

hive knight floating eyes

It seems that the idea that the Hive are infected by a parasitic worm has not been abandoned in the final version of Destiny. The lore of Destiny often describes the Hive as being hungry, but perhaps this is only because their life is being leached away by these parasites.

The exact nature of the worm is unclear in the final product. In the original concept art the worm took the place of the individual’s lower jaw. Did Bungie reverse that later on? Is the larva-like head of the Knights and Acolytes in fact a larva that has eaten through their skull? Is that what is beneath the Thrall’s head carapace, a growing larva? Could the three “eyes” of the Hive actually be three worms that have burrowed through their heads?

It’s worth pointing out that “the Art of Destiny” mentions that Thrall can become Acolytes, Knights, or Wizards (which implies that either the Hive are all female like the Wizards, or that the Thrall can change sexes). Is the change from Thrall to, let’s say, Wizard caused by some change in the Thrall’s worm(s)?

OGRES

And what about the Ogres? Like the Thrall, there seems to be something glowing beneath the surface of the Ogre’s head.

My thought was that perhaps those glowing shapes inside the Ogre’s head are MULTIPLE worms. The grimoire cards say that the Ogres are created through dark and painful rituals. Perhaps those rituals involve infecting them with multiple worms and letting their bodies grow as more and more worms are added.

If that’s the case, then the reason the Ogres are so powerful, intelligent, and can shoot lasers out of their heads is because the quantity of worms in their flesh give them their massive power. Which suggests that ALL the Hive powers come from these parasitic worms.

hive ogre face

And when I happened to look in the book ” the Art of Destiny” this is what I found.

In addition to stating that the Thrall and Ogres have the same anatomy because Ogres are corrupted and INFECTED Thrall, it also has a concept image of Phogoth the Untethered, a version of a strike boss. There’s a caption next to Phogoth’s head that says “writhing, wormlike texture under surface”. If you look closely at the concept art it does look like there are worms writhing within Phogoth’s head.

That certainly seems to confirm (even though it’s concept art) that the Hive are infected by worms, which was kind of the original concept shown in Daniel Chavez’s artwork.

WORMS AS THE SOURCE OF POWER AND HUNGER

I suggest that the Hive get all their powers from the worms. And that the more worms infecting an individual, the more powerful it is. This idea is supported by the grimoire card, “Ghost Fragment: Hive 2” which says:

“Their strength is not their own. They draw from another force, something that corrupts, that distorts, that eats and will not be satisfied.”

Which definitely supports the idea that the worms are what provide the Hive with their powers, but that this comes at the cost of being eaten away by the worms and being driven by the worms’ constant hunger.

Also, referring back to the “Ghost Fragment: Hive 2” grimoire card:

“They took me down… Past grisly nurseries hung with pupae. Past writhing worms that they swallow whole.”

At first glance it would seem that the Hive are eating the worms in that story, but if they’re swallowing the worms whole, then maybe they’re not eating the worms at all. Maybe that’s one way they infect themselves with the worms?

Anyway, this would mean that the Hive are kind of rehashing two narratives from the Halo series: the Hunters which are colonies of cooperative worms, and the Flood which are parasitic life forms that take over a host’s body. But let’s not dwell on that.

Noting the influence of moth imagery in the Hive, and the fact that almost certainly their lore involves them being infected by worms, there are a few more secrets we can draw out.

CROTA THE SON OF ORYX AND ORYX

crota eyes

In the Crota grimoire card it says, “The epithet Son of Oryx is an ambiguous translation, often disputed.” What could the ambiguity in the term “son” actually be? The card goes on to wonder if there is a pantheon of gods above Crota.

My suggestion is this: if the Hive are infected by worms, then those worms have to come from somewhere, and if there has been so much moth imagery then perhaps those worms are the larvae of enormous, interstellar moth-creatures, the oldest of which are Moth-Gods that the Hive worship.

The concept art at the top of the blog post shows an early Hive Wizard standing in front of a giant moth which I think is an early concept of Oryx. Then, Crota, “Son” of Oryx, would be a Hive knight infected by worms that hatched from Oryx itself.

Wait! There’s more!

ERIS MORN

eris morn face

What about Eris Morn? She survived on the Moon, among the Hive, for years before escaping back to the Tower. Everyone knows it changed her permanently.

Her grimoire card says this,

“Despite all odds she endured, using the very dark she battled to emerge a changed warrior…”

If the dark she battled were the worm-infected Hive, could it be that Eris has infected HERSELF with the Hive worms? Perhaps the worms can sense other infected, which helped her avoid running into the Hive and also helped her camouflage herself in their catacombs. Does her bulky headdress hide the same white, larval flesh of the Knights and Acolytes? Have her eyes been eaten out by green glowing worms?

This might answer the question of how Eris knows what the Hive are doing far away from her. If the worms are somehow connected, telepathically or mystically, then she’s able to use her own worms to sense all the other infected Hive.

In the grimoire card “Ghost Fragment: Hive 3” Eris is quoted as saying to Ikora Rey:

“My light is all but gone.”

This could mean a lot of things, but one thing that makes a lot of sense is that the worms feed on the Light, and they’ve been eating away at Eris’ for a while now; perhaps that is why here light is all but gone. If that’s true then it means that the worms have eaten away the Hive’s Light long ago, and that’s why the Hive look like emaciated zombies. And now the worms drive the Hive to look for new sources of Light to devour.

But, why doesn’t Eris get rid of these worms now that she’s away from the Moon? Why don’t the Hive just get rid of their infection as well? Perhaps no one knows HOW to get rid of a worm infection. Perhaps they can’t get rid of it because removal causes death in the host.

WIZARDS

So, if the Hive’s Light has been devoured by their worm infection, and they don’t know how to get rid of it, then what are they doing.

Consider the description of the Wizard in the grimoire card:

The Wizard is the scalpel with which the Hive vivisect the universe… dissecting and experimenting on anything that falls into her clutches.

That sounds sinister unless you consider that maybe the Wizards are just trying desperately to find a cure for the worm infection. The worms have devoured all of the Hive’s light and now the worms drive the Hive to look for more. The Wizards are experimenting and dissecting everything because they want to find some key to going back to normal and freeing themselves from the constant hunger caused by the worms.

Again, let’s refer back to “Ghost Fragment: Hive 2” which says:

“Their strength is not their own. They draw from another force, something that corrupts, that distorts, that eats and will not be satisfied.”

Maybe the Hive are being driven towards the Traveler, a massive source of Light, by the worms, but are simultaneously trying to find how to get rid of the worms. Maybe the Hive Wizards even believe that the Traveler holds the key to finding a cure to the worm infection.

Let’s wrap this up.

CONCLUSIONS AND THEORIES

To sum up:

1) The Hive were once a noble (?) civilization. Somehow they became infected with parasitic, “sorcerer” worms. Either it was accidental, or it was deliberate (they wanted the power that the worms granted), or it was out of desperation (maybe there was some catastrophe and the only way to survive was to infect themselves with these worms).

2) The worms are the larvae of enormous space moths (or some equivalent monstrosity), and the oldest, largest moths are worshipped by the Hive as gods. Oryx is one of the Hive’s God-Moths, and its larvae were used to infect a Knight to create the God-Knight Crota.

3) The Light is the worms’ food source; they constantly hunger for it. They have already devoured all of the Hive’s own Light and now they drive the entire Hive civilization towards more Light so that they can feed. This is why the Hive are driven towards the Traveler, the ultimate source of Light.

4) The Hive are tortured by worms and want to be free of the hunger. The Hive’s bodies are thin and wasted away, and the worms’ hunger never stops. This is why the Wizards are dissecting the universe. They are searching for a cure to their affliction.

5) Certain Thrall are chained up and forced to be infected by huge numbers of worms which turns them into Ogres. As they grow and take in more worms, they endure excruciating pain, but it leaves them with incredible powers due to the combined power of the worms.

6) Possible visualizations of the worms: a) The worms might be the white fleshy “heads” of the Hive, and the three glowing eyes of the Hive are actually the eyes of a worm. b) The worms might be the eyes of the Hive themselves. c) The worms are not visible to the players, and the white, larval shape of the Hive head is due to the worms draining nutrients from the Hive’s flesh and skin, and due to artistic symbolism.

7) Eris Morn deliberately infected herself with the worms. This has permanently changed her visual appearance, which she hides behind her bulky headdress and veil. The worms provide her with some mystical connection to the rest of the infected Hive.

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14 comments

  1. carnivorian carnivorian

    Hey there, I’m the guy who made the video of the helmless hive knight that you took the stills from. I like your blog! Lots of juicy lore here. Keep ’em coming!

    Like

    • Philtron

      Thanks for the comment and thanks for that video; I never knew the Hive’s helmets came off until I saw it. I also love your username, it’s got a nice ring to it.

      By the way, do you prefer if I link to your video through hyperlink the way it is, or do you prefer if I embed the video in the blog post? I don’t know if this makes a difference in any way.

      Thanks again for your compliment, Carnivorian. I’ll try and keep ’em coming if I can.

      Like

  2. lDieTrying

    how about that hunter cloak that drops in the Crota raid? Wings n’ all, New images of Oryx from the Taken King announcement and such. This needs a major update and more attention.

    Like

    • Philtron

      Good point about the Shroud of Flies; definitely adds to the moth imagery.

      I’d love to make an update with new information (including how Hive armor, especially Thralls’, has holes in it as though worm-like creatures have been burrowing through it), but I do this blog in my spare time. I have lots of ideas for posts I want to make (I have about 6 on the backburner right now, not Destiny related) but only so much time to write them up, edit them, search for images, and then post them.

      I’d love to delve some more into the Hive lore, but I only have so much spare time so I think I’m mostly done with Destiny for a while. I’ve posted my ideas on reddit too so they’re part of the community, and maybe other lore-masters will give this Hive-worm theory the attention and updates that it needs.

      Thanks for the comment, I hope you enjoy whatever else I manage to post whether it’s Destiny related or not.

      Like

  3. Chris

    Hi

    I have read several of your post about the species and I really like them all. Since I read this one I have been looking more into the game for details and it makes it much more fun to play. I have noticed one detail about the Hive which I don’t know if you have seen. But if you kill an acolyte the helm falls of and you can see that there are three large spikes that pierce the helm and probably goes quite far into the head. Don’t really know what this means. Anyways. Keep up the good work. I’m gonna try and read all your posts about the lore of Destiny

    Like

    • Philtron

      Thanks for the compliment. Let me know what you think of the other posts.

      And I think the spikes in the Acolyte helmet are evidence that the Hive’s bodies are mostly dead so they don’t feel pain. Or it’s because their brain is not located in their head.

      Like

  4. Scott

    Very interesting read. I stumbled across this while searching because I arrived at similar conclusions. Not the moth connection, but that the hive use worms that eat light, and that Eris used the worms to evade hive detection. My only thought is that in my mind, I expanded the light eating worms as a larger indication as to the nature of the darkness. Without drawing too many parallels to halo and the flood, my suspicion is that the darkness is a large manifestation of wormlike parasites that eat light, and infects its victims like it has the hive.

    I’m still debating on the nature of the collapse. If the darkness is in fact a parasitic infection, rasputins attack may have been more about killing potential hosts (humanity) than stopping the darkness itself, recognizing IT can’t be stopped. I’m curious to see if any off this gets addressed in the Taken King lore.

    I enjoy the read and look forward to more.

    Like

    • Philtron

      I see where you’re coming from but I hope that’s not the case. If the worms are the darkness and Rasputin was killing potential hosts then it’s an identical story to the one about the Flood and the Hall killing potential hosts.

      Thanks for the compliment I’m glad you thought the post was interesting.

      Like

  5. Oli

    Great theory man, reminded me of something I’d seen when scrolling through all the destiny art I could find when it originally released.

    Seems like you were right on the money with the ogres!

    Like

  6. David

    I really like this theory except for one detail that I kept expecting to see you address. If the worm infestation is apparent through the skull, I’m not sure that the “bodies” the worm occupy, or what you’ve been calling and thinking of as the Hive, would still be sentient being’s in their own right.

    From the Hive’s appearance in-game I’d suspect that they dropped the idea of Thralls being able to become Acolytes, Knights, or Wizards. I agree that their weird “face” looks like something separate from the jaw, and I think indicates that the Thrall are either infected with a different stage of the worm or a different form of the infection. Additionally I think the white skin of the Acolytes and Knights face is the flesh of the Hive race proper.

    I’m not sure what to make of the eyes specifically, especially since Eris has them. While I’m tempted to credit them to the assumed shared similarity, the worms, but if there was any significant worm infestation that high in her skull her brain shouldn’t be functioning properly or possibly at all. If it is the worm I don’t think “Eris” is Eris anymore.

    Alternatively perhaps the worm infestation theory is what was lost, and rather than infecting a host race, the apparent body is the carapace or some sort of exoskeleton of the worms themselves. This would mean that the worms ARE the Hive, and perhaps they require light in order to metamorphose into their final life stage.

    Like

    • Philtron

      This reminds me of a suggestion someone made on reddit. They said that perhaps they’re called the Hive because each body we see is an actual hive, like a bee hive, but with worms instead of bees.

      Like

  7. Bones_-88-_

    Nice post, Cayde will be proud on the progress of your research.
    By the way, I did notice some of those worms crawling around on the dreadnaught. I’ll make sure to eliminate them next time patrolling the dreadnaught.

    Like

  8. Pingback: Theories on the Ahamkara/Worm Relationship « The Osmium Underground

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