How Do Mario and Luigi Fit Into The Medieval Three-Estate Model?

Know, however, that in this world three orders are established. These are laboratores, oratores, bellatores. Laboratores are those that labour for our sustenance. Oratores are those who intercede for us with God. Bellatores are those who protect our towns and defend our soil against the invading army. Now the farmer labours for our food and the warrior must fight against our enemies and the servant of God must continually pray for us and fight spiritually against the unseen foes. It is therefore a mighty fight the monks wage against the unseen devils who plot against us while men of this world fight with worldly weapons against earthly foes. Now earthly warriors should not compel the servants of God to earthly warfare away from the spiritual war, because their service is greater, the unseen enemies are greater than the seen, and it is a great hurt that they forsake the Lord’s service and divert to the worldly warfare that is not their concern.

-Aelfric of Eynsham, Lives of Saints XIII


While some wage war and others till the soil, you are that third order whose members he has appointed to a private duty, so that the less encumbered you are with worldly things, the more you are able to devote yourselves to the duties of his service. As the others endure on your behalf the hard conditions of war and toil, so you are beholden to them, continuing steadfastly to give them the unfailing service of your prayers and office.

-Haymo, abbot of Auxerre, in a letter to King Charles the Bald


Dear Mario,

I’m in a faraway place. But I’m all right, because you’re coming to rescue me! P.S. I hope this gift will come in handy.

From Peach

-Princess Peach, Super Mario Galaxy


You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play….For us the chief point of interest is the place where the game is played. Generally it is a simple circle drawn on the ground. The circle as such, however, has a magic significance. It is drawn with great care, all sorts of precautions being taken against cheating. The players are not allowed to leave the ring until they have discharged their obligations. But, sometimes a special hall is provisionally erected for the game, and this hall is holy ground. The Mahabharata devotes a whole chapter to the erection of the dicing hall - sabha - where the Pandavas are to meet their partners. Games, of chance, therefore, have their serious side. They are included in ritual.

-Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture


“Similar to their appearance in Super Mario Bros. 2, each of the characters possesses unique abilities and controls differently: Mario has balanced running speed and jump height; Luigi jumps higher and falls slower, but has slightly lower traction; Peach can jump and briefly float through the air, but runs slowly; Toad runs the fastest, but cannot jump as high and falls faster; Rosalina can use the spin attack move as seen in the Super Mario Galaxy games, but has the slowest running speed.”

Mario exists in a condition of harmony, of the type of balance between the basic elements Galen termed eucrasia. Neither warmth, nor cold, nor dampness, nor dryness predominate. He sometimes rides Yoshi; as a mounted warrior we can consider him at least part of the class of the lower nobility.

How are we to take the claim that Luigi “jumps higher and falls slower” than Mario? He moves in ascension, yet lacks traction — a burgher. “The petite bourgeousie [is] spiritless…devoid of imagination…he lives within a certain orbit of trivial experiences as to how things come about, what is possible, what usually happens, no matter whether he is a tapster or a prime minister” (Kierkegaard, Sickness Unto Death, Penguin ed.) Attached to nothing, bound to no one, laboring alongside his employees (the Toads) when the occasion calls for it. He births, but does not generate, the fourth estate.

Princess Peach contends against the forces of sin and devilry (Bowser) according to the three classical divisions of the church: the Ecclesia militans or Church Militant (in playable form, as in Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario 3D World, and Mario Golf), the Ecclesia poenitens or Church Penitent/Expectant (in non-playable form, as in Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Galaxy), and the Ecclesia triumphans or Church Triumphant (in Princess Toadstool’s Castle Run and Super Princess Peach). Through the communion of the saints, that spiritual union of the living and the dead in a confirmed hope within the mystical body of the church, Princess Peach offers succor, relief, and aid to her subject-companions according to their unique circumstances. She might take up a sword close at hand. She might offer prayers and consolation from a great distance. Whether at rest or engaged in the great work of contention, she appoints appropriate tasks to each soul, that they may better devote themselves to the duties of her service. Some endure the conditions of war, others of toil; Peach continues “steadfastly to give them the unfailing service of [her] prayers and office” (Haymo). Also, sometimes she is huge

Toad’s mushroom-like structure might prejudice an uncareful reader into dismissing him as a mere social climber, an upstart (mushrooms are born in filth and grow quickly), but make no mistake: Toad is a worker. He labors for collective sustenance, is ready to assist his social superiors, and always wears a hat. Cheerful, frank, incapable of deception, naturally fearful, instinctively loyal (as when he weeps in Luigi’s Mansion after Mario has been kidnapped by ghosts), content with his position (instinctively staying close to the ground even while jumping), powered by personal locomotion, as it would be an insult to his betters were he to ride a mount.

As Bishop Adalbero of Laon puts it, writing in 1020, “This luckless breed possesses nothing except at the cost of its own labour. Who could, reckoning with an abacus, add up the sum of the cares with which the peasants are occupied, of their journeys on foot, of their hard labours? The serfs provide money, clothes, and food, for the rest; no free man could exist without serfs…And the serf never sees an end to his tears and his sighs…The three groups, which coexist, cannot bear to be separated; the services rendered by one are a precondition for the labours of the two others; each in his turn takes it upon himself to relieve the whole. Thus the threefold assembly is none the less united, and it is thus that law has been able to triumph, and that the world has been able to enjoy peace.”  

Rosalina is the Regina Coeli, the Queen of Heaven, bodily and spiritually assumed into oneness with God, of practically unlimited power (spin attack) and the distribution of graces (Luma babies). In Super Mario Galaxy, she selects Mario as her chief knight to retrieve the lost Power Stars (fifth element or quintessence), in exchange for which she will help him rescue the kidnapped Princess Peach (the church penitent/expectant) from Bowser (the force of Belial, who stands outside the cosmological order).

Which brings us to the question: Is the devil a worker?

In the sense of applying power to a task — yes. 1 John 3:8 says “the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil” (emphasis mine). Yet of the kind of labor that life and society require for continued existence the devil is a stranger. He does not till the soil, does not harvest wheat, does not herd flocks, does not keep the peace, does not expand the boundaries of Christendom, honors no allegiance (although he frequently enters into contracts), concerns himself neither with prayer nor contemplation of God, weaves not, bakes not, clears no forests — the devil, it might best be said, is busy without ever having once been employed or occupied by labor of either the body, the mind, or the spirit.

The world (Toadstool Kingdom), the flesh (Wario), and the devil (Bowser) might best be understood as the three implacable enemies of the soul-in-society, and it is for this reason man has been rightly divided into three classes, those who work (against the world), those who fight (against the flesh), and those who pray (against the devil). Let those who think themselves to stand take heed lest they fall, and with fear and trembling work out their salvation, in labours (Tanooki suit), in watchings (high jumps), in almsdeeds (feeding enemies to baby Yoshi), in prayers and oblations (letters from Princess Peach), in fastings and chastity (light blocks for defeating ghosts).