A Gaze Into The Nexus: The Gender Mystery Of Either Eivor
Sorrosyss, May 16th, 2020
Warning: Spoilers from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Origins and across the wider franchise

It has been awhile since we've done a pure theory article from the Nexus of possibilities. Opportunity rarely knocks for these, but with the recent announcement of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, we have since learned that the popular gender selection option will be returning. Naturally this has come as a bit of a hot topic in the community, because this time it has an added twist. Both gender choices will be regarded as canon. This was confirmed by the narrative director, Darby McDevitt on Twitter:

Now I know what reaction that is likely to evoke in you. How is this even possible? Indeed, it even differs to the approach used in Odyssey last time around, where we had the choice between two distinct characters, with the unchosen becoming an antagonist in opposition to your chosen one. This time though, it is confirmed that you simply play as a male or female version of the same character – Eivor.

Let us have a look at some possible theories then as how this can come about within Assassin's Creed lore.

1. Valhalla Is Not Canon

Yes, shocking I know. But hear me out. As with the case of Odyssey, we have a branching dialogue system here in Valhalla. Ergo, events may play out differently for every player, so most likely no two players are going to have the exact same story experience. As a result, looking back you can clearly argue that the events of Odyssey are technically non-canon, unless you specifically follow the “canon path”. This path was dictated by the tie-in novelization of the game at the time, along with The Essential Guide, which together formed the basis of chronicling the lore for posterity. In that example, Kassandra was the canon protagonist, therefore anyone who chose Alexios at the start of the game was playing completely non-canonically.

Is the same going to happen with Valhalla? Are Ubisoft being deliberately crafty on their public statements on the matter? It's a possibility. After all, as many have pointed out, Eivor itself is a very distinctly female name. Assuming that it is not a surname, does that mean the female version is the true canon version? From the perspective of the player though, whatever we do in the game is our canon. But in terms of the true canon path? Well, we already know that there is a tie-in novel coming, that is directly connected to the events of the game...

2. They Are Animus Avatars

The Animus is an amazing machine. For Layla's purposes, she may simply feel more comfortable having the option to utilise a female form over a male one. It's a fairly lazy implementation, but it is something that fully works within the existing lore. After all, we have seen the capability of replacing the historical avatar completely many times.

Think back to Revelations, where you could overwrite Ezio with an older Altair skin, or even Desmond himself. In the end, it is a digital simulation, and rendering a different gender atop whomever existed is an easy fix. This theory does still raise the question though over what Eivor's original gender was. Perhaps this will be something we simply never find out, and left to the player's choice once more. Outside of the aforementioned novelization, how one records this individual going forwards for the AC Wiki and the Encyclopedia continuity though is a whole different line of questions that only Ubisoft can answer.

3. The Simulation Is An Extrapolated Memory

One of the oft-mentioned problems with the gender selection in Odyssey was the proposal that the DNA that Layla obtained was damaged and incomplete. The argument was that assigning the gender of two different DNA strands was impossible, thus giving the option of either sex. This is unfortunately countered by modern science, as even some of the oldest and most degraded DNA found in the world is still able to distinct the gender with relative ease.

This unique scenario bred another question though. If you cannot distinct even the gender of the main character from the faulty DNA, how can you make a viable and stable Animus simulation from it? We saw in earlier games that if you tried to jump into areas of the genetic memory with lower synchronisation, the simulation would corrupt and normally kick the user out. There was a solution provided therefore, known as extrapolation. This was first introduced in the Last Descendants novels, but all it basically means is that where the Animus is unable to render due to a lack of data, it can be substituted by allowing integration of historical information into the overall simulation – essentially plugging the gaps with the internet, or literal physical sources such as the “Lost Histories” book written by Herodotos that was used in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

Now in the particular case of Vikings, they are renowned for having very little in the way of their own recorded history, with most text and evidence submitted by their victims. If there is a large dearth of information available, then the Animus may well be forced to estimate and “best guess” the simulation to the best of its ability. It may be that Eivor has no recorded history or DNA at all, leaving us with an open question on their gender. It could even be the case that the actual person was a female by DNA, but English Kings insisted on depicting this Viking as a male to history books to save their own face. In this circumstance there are two conflicting truths, again offering the possibility of a gender select from it.

4. Eivor Is A Supernatural Being

Time for a completely left field suggestion. What if Eivor is a shapeshifter who can change gender at will? After all, the likes of Loki is well known for having this ability in Norse mythology. In effect, it would be a similar gameplay implementation to Syndicate, in that we can switch between genders on the fly.

It is clear from the early imagery that Eivor has a strong belief in Odin. This can be seen from the way that the two ravens of Odin, Huginn and Muninn, are clearly present on the sail banner to Eivor's longship. I suppose it would be fun to speculate that perhaps Eivor is a human form of both the ravens, and that the second raven is the one that flies around as our bird companion Sýnin. Odin famously also had two wolves as well, Geri and Freki, which combined with the ravens formed a collective symbiosis with Odin. I find it interesting then that Eivor's collectible figurine is therefore referred to as the “Wolf Kissed”, and that we apparently have the ability to summon a wolf and other animals.

Of course, this supernatural aspect would be an extreme stretch for the supposedly grounded approach to the story this time around in Valhalla. But Assassin's Creed has seen a similar shapeshifting approach used in the past, with Ratonhnhaké:ton able to change to an eagle, and summon wolves and bears within the Tyranny Of King Washington storyline.

5. Eivor Is An Isu Experiment

This is still leading with the assumption of shapeshifting, but a slightly different origin. As we have seen many times, most mythological entities and gods within the Assassin's Creed universe generally end up being either Isu themselves, or created by them. It is highly likely that the Norse pantheon is again made up of Isu, and as we have seen before, they do like to meddle in the affairs of humanity.

The precedent here was made by the Olympus Project as detailed in Odyssey, which was an experiment by the Isu Aita in combining humans and beasts using Isu technology. What if Eivor is a remnant of that experiment, or a further iteration created by Odin?

We have been told that social stealth is to return in this instalment of the franchise. Being able to shapeshift or hide amongst the masses instantly would be a very useful tool. Indeed, we have already seen this mechanic previously in the franchise, such as the “Disguise” skill that was seen in Unity. Having an in-lore explanation like this would in turn cover the genders both being canon if all aspects to the character are as fluid as this.

6. Alternate Realities

Ah this old chestnut. We've covered this topic repeatedly in our theory posts over the past few years, but I cannot help feeling that we may be coming full circle here as the seeds were sown for this already. As you will recall in Origins, Layla was exposed to the Empirical Truth. In short, she was informed that reality and time is subject to a code, and that her Animus was able to manipulate this code. By the time of Odyssey, she is actively reading books and articles about “Alternate Realities” on her laptop, not to mention the
various realities she was exposed to in Aletheia's Isu simulations.

If we take this a step forward then, and assume as with the Isu before her, that Layla can now see the different “calculations” of timelines in her Animus too. Perhaps the gender select is literally two separate realities where Eivor was a male in one, and a female in the other. It has been implied that Layla’s Animus can alter timelines, so perhaps by stepping into either (or both) of these past alternate realities, she makes them all canon – as they all exist. As mentioned by the Isu, certain points in time will be nodes, therefore players will experience some events exactly the same, but all other choice and decisions made will be leading to many different simulations and realities.

We've touched on the Norse mythology present in the franchise previously, and the prevalence of Yggdrasil – the World Tree – is plain to see. It is also heavily intertwined with multiple realities in mythology, and is reputedly the only place to escape Ragnarok (the perceived destruction of the cosmos). With Otso Berg already warning Layla that a new disaster is coming, perhaps her search of the Vikings era is to now try to find a way to Valhalla, and then on towards the reputed safety of the World Tree. It would certainly not be a stretch to see that this is a perfect way for Ubisoft to reset the franchise reality, and form a potential soft reboot of the lore that has come before. This would certainly tally up with the recent comments that Valhalla will be a “really good capper for what has come so far.

Well that was our exploration of some possible explanations to the gender select in lore. Which do you think is most likely? Do you have your own theory? Vote in our poll and share it with us in the comments!

Which option do you think is most likely?
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Is Not Canon
The Protagonists Are Animus Avatars
The Simulation Is An Extrapolated Memory
Eivor Is A Supernatural Being
Eivor Is An Isu Experiment
Alternate Realities

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