Friday, March 20, 2009

The Doom Train Cometh

Though I may geek out on video game mistranslations and other such manglings more so than other people, this one, you have to admit, is pretty phenomenal.

Early on in Final Fantasy 6, characters fight a boss known alternately as the Doom Train or the Phantom Train. Of course, it’s the train that takes the dearly departed to the afterlife and, of course, it’s ill-tempered and challenges living humans to a physical fight.


Like many Final Fantasy bosses, it showed later on in the series as a summon — that is, in Final Fantasy jargon, a thing your characters can call into battle to attack their enemies. For the Phantom Train, its return to fame was Final Fantasy VIII. For no apparent reason, it bore a different name in the Japanese version: Grasharaboras. Inexplicable though this name might have been, the hellish locomotive was all the more fearsome in this second incarnation.

But why Grasharaboras? The compendium of name origins offered at Final Fantasy Compendium suggests that the name might be a corruption of Glasya-Labolas, the name of a demon featured in the anonymously-written demonology tome The Lesser Key of Solomon — an earl and president of hell, no less. Realistically, this name probably existed prior to the book, but the internet was not helpful in determining where it might have come from.
According to Wikipedia, Glasya-Labolas is the “author author and captain of manslaughter and bloodshed [who] tells all things past and to come, gains the minds and love of friends and foes causing love among them if desired, [and] incites homicides and can make a man invisible.” I have no idea how the name ever came to be associated with a sentient train, especially since Wikipedia concludes the entry by noting that Glasya-Labolas is traditionally depicted as a dog fitted with a griffin’s wings.

The use of the name in Final Fantasy VI doesn’t mark the only use of the name in a video game. It appears in at least one of the Tales Of games in its traditional “griffin dog” form. Furthermore, Grasharaboras isn’t the only way its name can be mangled: other interpretations include Caacrinolaas, Caassimolar, Classyalabolas, and Glassia-labolis.

So that answers that. No idea why the character’s name would have ended up the way it did, but it’s certainly allowed for some fun mistakes.

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