- "A Tantalus always gets what he sets his eyes on! That's our number one rule, remember!?"
- —Baku, leader of Tantalus
The Tantalus Theater Troupe (タンタラス, Tantarasu?) is a traveling group of thieves led by Baku in Final Fantasy IX. They appear as performers and entertainers to cover their thieving activity, and put on shows as a distraction while they perform a job.
The Theater Troupe, also referred to as the Tantalus Company, is famous throughout Lindblum, and many simply know them as star performers - clueless of their real activity. However, keen-eyed individuals such as Steiner could see that they - despite their fame - look like common thieves.
The main members of the Troupe are:
Other members include the humanoids Benero and Zenero, two youngsters, Bunce and Lucella, as well as an entire band.
It is unknown how the group got started, but as Zidane is seen referring to Baku as his adoptive father, it can be speculated that Baku founded the group and took in orphaned boys who grew up as the troupe's members.
The group's intention to kidnap Princess Garnet is what starts off the game's story. Whilst performing their version of the famous play I Want to be Your Canary for the princess's 16th birthday, their plan was to grab the princess and run whilst everyone was distracted by the play. However, Zidane runs into the princess and finds out that she actually wants to be kidnapped. Accepting the princess' request, they try to leave quickly.
Things soon go wrong, though, as the Captain of the Knights of Pluto, Adelbert Steiner, attempts to rescue the princess, refusing to accept the fact that she wants to go. In the turmoil the Prima Vista is shot down by a Bomb while trying to escape, crashing into the Evil Forest. Everyone survives, but their theater days are on indefinite hiatus.
The group escapes the Evil Forest, following a river outside before the forest petrifies, unfortunately having to leave Blank behind. In Lindblum it is explained that Tantalus were not responsible for the plot to capture Princess Garnet, in fact, Baku was ordered by his old friend Regent Cid.
The group refuses to give up on Blank, researching to find a cure for petrifaction, which leads to the discovery of the Supersoft, owned by Doctor Tot in Treno. After meeting up with Princess Garnet and Steiner at South Gate, the group travels to Treno with the intention of stealing the cure. However, they are discovered in the act by Doctor Tot, who happily hands over the Supersoft over to his former pupil; Princess Garnet.
After the death of Queen Brahne at the hands of Kuja, the members of Tantalus return to Alexandria for Garnet's coronation. They cheer Zidane up when he is depressed, encouraging him to pursue his "canary", rather than returning to the group. After Baku incapacitates Eiko whilst wandering around Alexandria Castle, she asks him to deliver her love letter to Zidane. He drops the letter, however, and it is discovered by General Beatrix who mistakes it for a letter to her from Steiner. Marcus and Blank somewhat inadvertently scare away Zorn and Thorn whilst patrolling Alexandria, which leads the jesters to join Kuja in his Desert Palace.
After Alexandria's attack Garnet goes missing and the group helps to search for her in Alexandria and Lindblum. She is eventually found by Zidane. As the troupe are based in Lindblum's Theater District, troupe members are often seen repairing their home after Queen Brahne's Siege of Lindblum.
In the game's ending sequence, Tantalus comes back to Alexandria to perform I Want to be your Canary for Queen Garnet. It is never mentioned for what occasion it was for, but as the play has been an annual tradition on her birthday, it can be speculated the tradition has carried on. This time, the play was not to cover up a crime, but instead to help Zidane reunite with Garnet after being away for "some time later" after the explosion at the Iifa Tree.
|"Tantalus' Theme" from Final Fantasy IX|
|Trouble with the audio sample?|
The theme of Tantalus is "Tantalus' Theme." It plays in scenes involving Tantalus Theater Troupe, such as during the restoration of Lindblum.
Tantalus was a Greek king who is well known for his attempt to hoodwink the Olympian gods. To test the omniscience of the gods, he had his own son cooked into a stew. The gods saw what the king had done after he served the stew to them, and reassembled the prince.
As punishment for his crimes, Tantalus was placed in the underworld, waist deep in water with a fruit bearing branch overhead. Whenever Tantalus bent down to drink, the water would recede, and whenever he reached to take the fruit, the branch would raise. This is also the origin of the word tantalize.
Tantalus is also the name of a large cinder cone and associated volcanic crater in the Koʻolau Range overlooking Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, where much of Final Fantasy IX was developed at the now-defunct Square USA branch. Tantalus is one of the principal volcanic features and geological tourist attractions of the Honolulu area, along with Diamond Head, Koko Head and Punchbowl Crater. Final Fantasy IX is sprinkled with references to Hawaiʻi, both subtle and not-so-subtle.
- The name Tantalus is mentioned in two later Final Fantasy games:
- In the original Final Fantasy's Dawn of Souls and Anniversary versions only, Tantalus is mentioned in passing on one of the floors of the Lifespring Grotto. A dancer says she is looking forward to seeing them, and their play I Want to be Your Canary.
- In Final Fantasy XII, while wandering the streets of Archades gathering chops, a woman mentions how she has just got tickets to the latest performance of the Mummers of Tantalus.
- In the quiz Brain Blast in Final Fantasy XIII-2, Tantalus is mentioned in several questions, and all questions involve some kind of love play.