The series roots itself into a fantasy retelling of our own world. Most of the cities and nations are slight renames of what actually existed in Europe. Looking at the map below will actually show you many of those names.
Nevertheless, the Ys series is rooted in old Breton mythology, of all things. Often called ‘Caer Ys,’ the myth tells the story of a beautiful city built by Gradlon Mawr, that was said to be once located in the Bay of Douarnenez in Brittany. After Gradlon’s conversion to Christianity, he intended this city to be a great capital to his newfound faith. However, his first love, was enraged by this, and her daugher, Dahut, vowed vengeance.
Dahut would find different suitors and bring them with her each night. So they could never see her face, they were given a mask- which would then strangle them and kill them, after which she would throw the body into the sea.
This continued until a knight in red came to Ys, and met with Dahut. As a storm broke that night, the knight convinced her to steal the key from Gradlon, and used it to open the gates, which caused the city to be flooded.
I’ve read different versions of the myth- some where it claims where the main in red is the devil, trying to destroy a capital built to Christianity, or that it was an agent of God starting a chain of events to rid the world of a demonic princess.
In the end, as Gradlon and Dahut went to escape, they couldn’t, because the weight of them combined was too much for Gradlon’s winged horse- and Saint Gwenole showed to tell him to kill her- to throw Dahut into the sea. It was then when Gradlon realized the true nature of his child and he did as commanded, where she was with the god of the sea and turned into a mermaid.
Some sailors even say that in the Dournenez Bay, if you listen at night, you can hear Dahut’s singing as she sits upon a rock, brushing her hair.
Now, to get to the title used in the series, and the continuous use of ‘Y’s.’ You have seen the image at the top of the page- this is a t-shirt that Falcom released with cooperation from Mars16. The text on the shirt says the following:
Ys is a Japanese-origin computer role-playing game series, and Nihon Falcom corporation’s flagship franchise. It started on the NEC PC-8801 in 1987, Ys titles appear on the MSX2, Sega Master System, Sega Mega Drive, Famicom, Super NES, PC, Playstation 2, PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 CD-ROM, and cellular phone.
“Y’s” arises from a typographical error in the packaging of the English-language versions of the Sega Master System.
(Emphasis is mine)
Y’s is a typo that happened early on with the series, and as it seems to be continuously propagated by many different sources, it seems to be confusing to this day whether the series is ‘Ys’ or ‘Y’s.’ Don’t worry. It’s definitely ‘Ys.’
And it’s pronounced like ‘fleece’ – just without the ‘fl.’