Who Is Tomb Raider's Mother of Death?

WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Warner Bros.’ Tomb Raider reboot, in theaters now.

Inspired by the 2013 reboot of the hit video game franchise, director Roar Uthaug's Tomb Raider is an origin story, so fittingly, Lara Croft is still pretty rough around the edges. As portrayed by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, this Lara is fierce young woman who lacks direction. When she stumbles upon her missing father’s secret study and, in turn, secret life, she's spurred to investigate his disappearance. She finds a letter from Richard Croft that reveals he wasn't merely a businessman but a tomb raider who believed there might be a supernatural force that would enable him to commune with his dead wife. The communiqué also instructs Lara to find and destroy his file on the Himiko Project, keep it out of the hands of the shadowy Order of Trinity.

But who, or what, is Himiko, and why is the information on the subject so dangerous?

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In the 2013 game, Lara Croft and her crew set out to find a lost island off the coast of Japan called Yamatai that was once ruled by Queen Himiko. They're shipwrecked by a vicious storm, but make it to the island, whose only inhabitants are members of a cult that worships Himiko, also known as the Sun Queen. It turns out this monarch has supernatural powers that include manipulating the weather and the ability to transfer her soul into new host bodies. This ruler, her shamanic powers and the area she ruled are based on history, and were recorded in Chinese classic texts as far back as the third century.

The Mother of Death from the 2013 Tomb Raider video game


In the new film, Lara has no archaeology background, and the only person who accompanies her to find Yamatai is a ship captain named Lu Ran. We also get an interesting new spin on Himiko, who's referred to as the Mother of Death; Richard Croft's notebook states that ancient texts of a woman who “spread death and destruction with the touch of her hand.” They also speak of the three levels one must descend to find Himiko: the Faces of Himiko, the Chasm of Souls and the Army of 1,000 Handmaidens. Sounds ominous.

We quickly learn that the Order of Trinity, fronted by the PATNA organization, have been on the island for seven years trying to find Himiko’s tomb. Although they don’t know what truth there is behind the Mother of Death myth, they hope to weaponize whatever they uncover. The big twist is that the legend of Himiko has been misinterpreted: It’s not through mystical means that she “spreads death,” but rather because she was the carrier of a deadly disease. Furthermore, she wasn't malicious; in fact, she exiled herself to Yamatai to prevent the spread of the sickness.

In theaters now, director Roar Uthaug's Tomb Raider stars Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, Dominic West as Richard Croft, Daniel Wu as Lu Ren, Kristin Scott Thomas as Ana Miller, Hannah John-Kamen as Sophie and Walton Goggins as Mathias Vogel.

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