- “We call our world Gaia.”
- —Hildagarde Fabool
Gaia (ガイア, Gaia?) is the main planet in Final Fantasy IX that consists of four major continents: the Mist Continent, the Outer Continent, the Lost Continent, and the Forgotten Continent. Majority of Gaians live on the Mist Continent, and few travel to, or are even aware of, the other three continents that make up their world, largely because the main mode of transport, airships, run on Mist, meaning they cannot fly outside of Mist Continent.
Gaians are diverse ranging from humans to moogles to dwarves to animal-like humanoids, such as the rat-like Burmecians, frog-like Qu, and an unnamed hippo-like race. Gaia has two moons, a blue moon, and a red moon.
Memoria is a place borne out of the memories from all walks of life on Gaia, including the earliest recollections of the planet itself from its conception as a sphere of roiling flame, to being entirely covered in water, to the more recent events.
The Planet and the CrystalEdit
Every planet has a crystal at its core, which is the source of all life on the planet. The crystal sends out souls to make new life, and upon death the souls return to the crystal and bring with them the memories of the life lived. The memories accumulate within the planet's crystal and allow it to grow, making it able to create ever more complex beings. Once the crystal grows old it will become unable to create new souls and the cycle will slow down.
According to the Final Fantasy IX Ultimania, there will come a time the crystal's glow will dim and it will be sent out to the cosmos along with the planet. It can be speculated to be part of the universe's flow of life, and that the planets' lives are similar to the lives of beings living on them; upon a planet's death, its "soul" returns to the maker, bringing with it the accumulated memories, allowing the universe to grow.
Every planet's crystal has a unique glow, and Gaia's crystal glows in blue.
- “The light remains Gaia's for now, but when the blue changes to crimson, all will belong to Terra, and its restoration will be complete.”
Gaia is a young planet and thus the people of a much older planet, Terra, saw it as a candidate for assimilation. Terran civilization had thought they had found the key to eternal life, and believed they could preserve their civilization and technology forever by fusing with young planets. During this time Garland was created to watch over Terra.
Gaia's crystal rejected the fusion process and Gaia's surface was left in ruin, its civilizations wiped out. The planet of Terra shifted to the inside the planet of Gaia with Terra's red moon moving on Gaia's orbit, giving it two moons, and many Terran locations ending up on Gaia's surface. The Terrans retreated into slumber and ordered Garland to create a plot to assimilate Gaia anew. Garland moved Terra's magical tree Iifa to Gaia to oversee the planet's recovery, but it took millennia for Gaia to recover from the failed fusion attempt.
Garland's new plan was to deprive Gaia's crystal of souls to weaken it enough for Terra's crystal to assimilate it. He used the Iifa Tree to block the flow of Gaian souls to their crystal, allowing only Terran souls to cycle, and built a Soul Divider to disperse the Gaian souls and replace them with Terran ones. Terran flora and fauna began to revive on Gaia's surface as the planet was recovering while Iifa Tree would expel the rejected souls through its roots which would manifest as Mist.
Civilizations took root on Mist Continent, but the presence of Mist allowed monsters to grow fierce and hardened people's hearts leading to wars even if the populace settled to regions above the Mist. One of the numerous peoples living on Mist Continent were the summoners, students of summoning magic and eidolons, powerful creatures made manifest from the collective memories stored within the planet's crystal. One day the summoners called forth Alexander, the most powerful of eidolons, but were unable to control it. Alexander was extracted from its summoner into a summoning gem, which was divided into four fragments to ensure it could only be summoned with the mutual agreement of all the world nations as well as the summoners, as each fragment was given to the three ruling kingdoms of Mist Continent: Alexandria, Lindblum and Burmecia. The last fragment was kept by the summoners who emigrated to the Outer Continent and established Madain Sari to where Gaia's pulse ran closest to the surface to carry on their studies in summoning magic.
The Mist Continent civilizations forgot about summoning magic and Alexander's crystal fragments became known as royal heirlooms. The continent was plagued by war with Burmecia splitting and half the population taking the crystal fragment with them to Cleyra, which they in time shut off from the world entirely behind a massive sandstorm. Eventually, engineers in Lindblum developed airships that run on Mist, and the wars came to halt with one nation domineering the airspace and thus gaining an advantage. Instead of exploiting this advantage, however, Lindblum projected its power to bring peace to the world.
With the wars ended, Garland back in Terra grew frustrated over the slow pace his plan was advancing and created a Genome to be his "Angel of Death" to incite war in Gaia. His creation, Kuja, developed a strong mind and wished to break free from Garland and become the ruler of Terra and Gaia both. While Garland saw the flaws in his creation and decided to try again with a Genome he would eventually replace Kuja with, Zidane, Kuja began plotting for his master's demise while kidnapping Zidane and abandoning him on Gaia, where he grew up unaware of his origins. Terra's crystal was too weak to create eidolons, and thus Garland feared the power the summoners could potentially wield against him, and ordered Kuja to decimate their village. Kuja followed suit but became fascinated with eidolons and decided to obtain Alexander to gain the power to challenge Garland.
Kuja manipulated Queen Brahne Raza Alexandros XVI of Alexandria into his scheme by promising her world domination. Kuja had realized Brahne's daughter, Garnet, was a summoner whose latent eidolons could be used to conquer the other nations to capture their shards of Alexander's summoning gem. Using his knowledge of how Genomes are manufactured Kuja established a similar process on Gaia to produce black mages, a race of living dolls to create an army of unmatched power. With these advantages Alexandria grows mightier than Lindblum and destroys Burmecia, Lindblum and Cleyra.
Kuja never succeeds in collecting Alexander's summoning gems as Princess Garnet escapes Alexandria with Alexandria's shard of the crystal, and the last piece remains in Madain Sari in the possession of the last summoner, Eiko. Brahne deems she no longer needs Kuja and seeks to destroy him with an eidolon stolen from Garnet, but Kuja enslaves it and orders it to destroy Brahne's fleet. After Brahne's death the crystal shards in her possession pass on to Garnet who becomes the new queen of Alexandria.
Kuja attacks Alexandria with the eidolon Bahamut, but Garnet and Eiko bring Alexander's crystal shards together atop Alexandria Castle and summon Alexander that annihilates Kuja's Bahamut. Kuja is at awe over Alexander's power and intends to enslave it, but Garland arrives to the scene aboard the Terran airship Invincible and destroys Alexander leaving the town of Alexandria and its castle in ruin. Kuja, having lost his eidolon, flees.
With Garland and Kuja in open war against one another Kuja is more adamant than ever to find another eidolon. Kuja kidnaps Zidane's party who are on his tail to avenge for what he has done to Mist Continent, and orders Zidane to retrieve the Gulug Stone from Oeilvert to open the path to the sealed off Mount Gulug where previously unknown eidolons had been recorded of been seen as per old summoner legends. Oeilvert is an ancient Terran library that hosts records of its civilization, the fusion process, and the designing of an ultimate Terran airship. During the failed fusion process thousands of years ago Oeilvert ended up on Gaia, and Zidane learns only he can decipher its ancient language.
Kuja kidnaps Eiko and via the Gulug Stone opens path to Mount Gulug where he finds remnants of a lost Mole People civilization and not much else. Kuja has his lackeys Zorn and Thorn extract eidolons from Eiko even if she is too young to withstand the process. As Eiko's pet moogle enters Trance to defend Eiko, Kuja realizes he does not need an eidolon: all he needs is to enter Trance. Kuja flees letting Zidane and his friends kill his lackeys and save Eiko and recover the airship Kuja had been using until then, Hilda Garde I.
Kuja is unable to naturally enter Trance due to having been created as an adult and lacking the capacity to express complex emotions. However, as Genomes were originally created to be soul vessels for the Terran souls once the fusion would be complete, Kuja can absorb souls. Zidane and his friends open the portal to Terra, and Kuja follows riding on a silver dragon. On Terra Zidane meets Garland and learns of his origins, but having lived his life on Gaia he considers himself a Gaian soul and refuses to aid Garland in his master plan of letting Terra assimilate Gaia. Kuja absorbs the souls held within the Invincible and enters a powerful Trance. He deposes of Garland who divulges Kuja has a limit put on his life that will soon expire. Enraged he should die right after gaining power, Kuja unleashes his magic on Terra leaving it in ruins, and Zidane and his friends return to Gaia on the Invincible, taking the soulless Genomes, now the only inhabitants of Terra, with them.
Iifa Tree goes wild and expels Mist across Gaia. Its roots that form the planet's substrata break through the planet's crust in many places causing earthquakes and destroy many locations while a portal to Memoria opens above Iifa Tree. Zidane's party ventures inside during their hunt for Kuja and learns Memoria is made manifest of Gaia's memories retelling its history. They travel back in time to Gaia's earliest memories until they face a void, having come so far back in time Gaia had not yet been created. Crossing the void, the party arrives in Crystal World where they find Kuja about to destroy the origin of the universe, the crystal from where Gaia's crystal was once born. They defeat Kuja whose final attack sends them to the Hill of Despair where they meet Necron, the embodiment of death. Seeing how Kuja's fear of non-existence made him rebel Necron seeks to return the world to a Zero World with no crystal to give life to release living beings from fear. Zidane and his friends prove their will to live despite their mortality, and Necron disappears while Kuja teleports Zidane's party to outside the Iifa Tree back in their own time in Gaia. Iifa Tree collapses and with the tree's death Gaian souls are free to return to their crystal restoring the normal cycle of life.
By the time of Final Fantasy IX, Gaia is almost ripe for assimilation. Much of its cycle of souls, or "lifestream" (concept used in Final Fantasy VII) has already been depleted, as is evidenced by the lifeless appearance of much of Gaia; mainly the mountainous Mist Continent has lush vegetation. Most of the Gaian inhabitants live on the upper reaches of Mist Continent to live above the Mist, but there are settlements further afield. The Mist affects the landscape in numerous ways: it freezes the Ice Cavern, enshrouds Burmecia in eternal rain, and leaves the ground level in permanent darkness as sunlight penetrates the layer of Mist poorly. Monsters grow fierce with the influence of Mist, leading to places such as Evil Forest where the entire forest becomes a monstrous organism. This is why the inhabitants of Mist Continent rarely ever explore the lower reaches of their continent.
The barren Outer Continent has the Black Mage Village where the black mages live, Conde Petie of the dwarves, the ruins of Madain Sari of the summoner tribe, and Kuja's underground Desert Palace. The landscape is desert-like, and though the Black Mage Village is situated deep within a forest, the forest appears to be dying. The gigantic Iifa Tree and its roots dominate the view from Conde Petie, the whole village being supported by Iifa roots. Near the colossal tree's base nothing else grows, the ground being entirely covered in Iifa roots, and the nearby Madain Sari ruins are void of vegetation as well.
The Lost Continent is a tundra landform with a single town, Esto Gaza, built to overlook the mystical Shimmering Island, and the no-longer inhabited Mount Gulug where the volcano appears to remain active.
The Forgotten Continent is a rocky wasteland with no settlements as the high cliffs that surround it prevent access outside of airships or a flying chocobo. Ipsen's Castle and Oeilvert are the continent's sole structures, neither of which are populated as they are not of Gaian origin.
South of the Forgotten Continent continent lies a chain of tropical islands, with the populated village of Daguerreo, and Chocobo's Lagoon. Furthermore, three of the four continents have a Qu's Marsh and the Mist Continent marsh works as the entrance for the undersea passage called Fossil Roo leading to the Outer Continent.
- See also: Final Fantasy IX/Timeline
Gaia's calendar is highly similar to the real-world Gregorian calendar, in that it has the same twelve months and year system. Year 0 is the date when Gaia's environment is recovering from the attempted fusion with Terra and the Shimmering Island begins to shine, marking the beginning of Gaia's modern civilization. Final Fantasy IX's story begins on January 15th, 1800 and ends on March 16th.
- See also: Gaia#Etymology
Gaia shares its the name with the Planet in Final Fantasy VII, mentioned to be called "Gaea", a misspelling. Gaia is a classical Greek deity who guarded the Golden Apples at the end of the world. The name also has Celtic traditions, and has long been associated with the earth element. Terra has also been used previously with a main character from Final Fantasy VI. The word Terra is Latin, Italian and Portuguese for Earth. Terra is a red planet, a contrast/inversion of Gaia, whose crystal is blue.
For unknown reasons, in the French version Gaia is called Hera, the name of the Greek goddess married to Zeus. This may be due to confusion with the Greek Titan Gaia, who filled a similar role in the Titanic era of Greek mythology, as Hera did in the Olympic era.
- The world map for Final Fantasy IX resembles the world map of the first Final Fantasy with almost identical positioning of three of the four continents. This may be coincidental, but judging from the various tributes to the series, they may be purposely similar. The most obvious of these similarities is in the shape of the Outer Continent, which resembles a bird like the northeast continent in the original Final Fantasy, and the mountainous Mist Continent in the same location as Final Fantasy's most mountainous region.
- Gaia appears during the EX Burst animation of Zidane's EX Burst in Dissidia Final Fantasy and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. As Zidane builds up power an image of Gaia slowly merges with an image of Terra, Gaia overtaking Terra as a reflection of Zidane's allegiance.