The Gravemind holds Master Chief, Arbiter and Penitent Tangent captive in Halo 2

Gravemind is a fictional parasitic intelligence in the fictional Halo universe. While only one Gravemind is ever seen in the games, the title is given to the final stage of Flood evolution. The Flood is a highly-infectious parasite which is released several times during Halo's story. The human supersoldier Master Chief and Covenant warrior Arbiter happen upon Gravemind in the bowels of the ancient Forerunner ringworld Installation 05, where the Flood creature forges an alliance between the two foes in order to stop the activation of the ring—an event which would destroy all sentient life. The character is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker.

Making its first appearance in Halo 2, the Gravemind was introduced to dispel the idea that the Flood is a mindless virus. The character was designed by a Bungie Studios team including artists Robert McLees and Juan Ramirez, and slowly developed into a massive creature with tentacles and a frightening level of intelligence. Driven by a desire to spread, Gravemind is cunning and manipulative; he forges alliances as often as he tries to consume his allies, tricking the Master Chief into aiding him while infecting the Chief's compatriots at the same time. The character was not well-received by many critics upon his appearance in Halo 2, and reviewers including found his role in Halo 3 confusing and without clear motive. More positively critic Aaron Sagers used Gravemind as an example of a frenemy—the creature's appearance made the Master Chief's fight against the Flood more personal and more dramatic.

Design and attributes

Gravemind mclees

One of Robert McLees' early designs for the Gravemind.

Early Concepts for the Gravemind were done by Bungie artist Robert McLees. McLees is known at Bungie as the "architect of the Flood",[1] and had done the early concepts for the Flood forms in Halo: Combat Evolved. McLees' original drawings were then added to by Juan Ramirez.[2] The Gravemind's form and design constantly changed during development. Early versions of the creature had a basic shape of a mass of tentacles, with a jagged tear in one large appendage forming a rudimentary mouth. Later on, the mouth was studded with the skulls of human and Covenant corpses for teeth.[3] This design was later revised due to practical considerations about lip syncing the character for speech. Despite these design changes, the Gravemind's size was always meant to be huge;[4] early concepts showed the Master Chief dwarfed by the Flood intelligence.

Unlike the mindless 'zombie' nature of most Flood,[5] the Gravemind is depicted as intelligent and cunning,[6] and acts as a collective mind driving the Flood. It lyrically speaks prose in a form of trochaic heptameter.[7][8] While capable of subterfuge, Gravemind is seen to use the brute strength and sheer numbers of the Flood to further its aims. When attacking planets, the Gravemind of the Forerunner's time used smaller craft as ablative armor, sacrificing countless Flood so that larger ships can land and infest major population centers.[9] In a more strategic move, Gravemind uses logic to sway the Forerunner's own artificial intelligence, Mendicant Bias, to his side. While Mendicant Bias had been specifically created to defeat the Gravemind, the Flood leader convinces the AI that the Flood is a utopian ideal, and that its conquest of the galaxy is inevitable. While the Gravemind's motivations and goals are not made expressly clear in Halo 2, Halo 3 reveals Gravemind's ultimate goal is to consume all thinking beings in the galaxy.[10]

The Gravemind's physical form is depicted as composed of rotting corpses and biomatter, towering nearly eighty meters high as seen in Halo 2.[11] Gravemind resembles a large Venus Flytrap with many tentacles, but is capable of movement and linguistic communication via its large mouth formed from overlapping fleshy 'leaves'. Though an animal, the Gravemind's somewhat plantlike appearance has drawn comparisons to Audrey II from the 1986 film Little Shop of Horrors due to the "swarms of sinuous tentacles" about a central mouth.[7][12]


Halo 2

See also: Halo 2

The Gravemind makes his first appearance halfway through Halo 2's campaign. Using his tentacles to save the Master Chief and Arbiter from perishing, Gravemind brings them face to face in a chasm on Delta Halo. Gravemind reveals to the Arbiter that the ring's architects, the Forerunners, died when they activated the installation in order to stop the threat of the Flood; the Master Chief verifies what the creature says, having stopped the firing of another ring in Halo: Combat Evolved. Though the Arbiter does not accept the truth immediately, Gravemind sends the Master Chief to the Covenant city High Charity and the Arbiter to the Halo's control room in order to stop the deluded Covenant from killing all sentient life a second time. Though he promises an alliance, Gravemind has ulterior motives. His Flood infest the human ship In Amber Clad and makes a slipspace jump into High Charity itself, in an effort to use the station to escape the confines of Halo.[13] Having taken over the city, Gravemind questions the A.I. Cortana, who was left behind to destroy High Charity if Halo was activated. Gravemind says that he has questions that he will ask, and Cortana agrees to answer them.[14]

Halo 3

See also: Halo 3

Gravemind is one of the primary antagonists of Halo 3. While the Master Chief and Arbiter have returned to Earth in order to stop the Prophet of Truth, the religious leader of the Covenant, from activating a Forerunner artifact buried in Africa, Gravemind turns High Charity into a Flood hive and sends an infected cruiser to Earth in an effort to infest the planet; this plan fails, and a message from Cortana informs the Master Chief and allies of the existence of the Ark, a special installation built by the Forerunners outside of the Milky Way galaxy where all the Halos can be fired remotely. Gravemind, the Arbiter, and the Master Chief all want to stop Truth from activating the rings, so the Flood once again ally with the Chief and Arbiter. As soon as Truth is killed, however, then Gravemind betrays both the Master Chief and the Arbiter,[15] The Chief escapes the Flood's clutches and rescues Cortana from High Charity. Despite being tortured by Gravemind, Cortana has managed to keep a secret safe from the Flood; she has the activation index of Installation 04, which she captured from 343 Guilty Spark during Halo: Combat Evolved.[16] Using the index, Cortana can activate the local ringworld, destroying Gravemind but sparing the galaxy's sentient life. Gravemind finally gains this knowledge, but too late; the Master Chief escapes with Cortana, destroying High Charity in the process. Gravemind survives the blast and attempts to rebuild himself on the new ring. Despite his best efforts, the Master Chief and company activate Halo, stopping the Flood once again. Gravemind, resigned to his defeat, nonetheless insists that it will only slow—not stop—the Flood.[17]


Critical reception of the leader of the Flood was generally poor. In a review of Halo 2, Mike Leonard of the AllXbox community said that the introduction of the Gravemind character had him "rolling my eyes hard enough to get motion sickness from seeing the back of the inside of my skull";[18] Leonard went on to say that the "Little Shop of Horrors reject" ruined the "cool" of the Halo franchise.[18] Jeremy Parish of bemoaned the fact that Gravemind was never explicitly stated to be the Flood leader in either Halo 2 or Halo 3 and was hardly seen in the third installment.[19] Publications also took issue with the fact that the character's motivations were never fully explored; the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said that the "unique and compelling characters" of Halo 3, such as Cortana and the Master Chief, were overwhelmed by Gravemind.[19][20]

More favorably, Aaron Sagers of the newspaper The Morning Call saw Gravemind as a perfect example of a trend in pop culture called a "frenemy". Frenemies, according to Sagers, is a friend or rival "with whom [the protagonist] feuds; an individual who reinvigorates the sense of self-worth and drives up one's visibility in the public's eye." Gravemind, operating as a frenemy, served to personify the Master Chief's otherwise nebulous fight against the Flood.[21]


  • In several Forerunner data logs, the controlling intelligence of the Flood is referred to as a Compound Mind.
  • The Gravemind resembles Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors, a tentacled, plant-like alien who is fed humans to grow and who is bent on world domination. Parallels can also be drawn with The Overmind from the StarCraft franchise, the Hive Mind creature from the survival-horror game Dead Space, and even Sauron from Lord of the Rings. It also resembles the Blob, which in 1988 was depicted as a tentacled creature that tries to consume all life so that it may grow.
  • Originally, the Gravemind was meant to have skulls as teeth; this was cut from Halo 2 and Halo 3 because it would have made it difficult for the parasite to speak.[22]
  • The Gravemind seems to speak almost as if he is writing a morbid poem. He frequently speaks in trochaic heptameter.
  • Bungie employee Jason Jones initially didn't want the Gravemind to speak in an iambic rhyme, but he was persuaded by Joseph Staten.[citation needed]
  • Bungie staff and fans jokingly call it the "Little Shop of Horrors Reject", after the story in which a man creates a blood drinking plant batch and ends up having the plants grow so large as to attempt to kill and eat him.[citation needed]
  • He was initially going to have a much bigger presence in Halo 2 and would have his big introduction in the level Forerunner Tank, but due to time constraints, Bungie removed the level and instead made a long cinematic for his introduction.
  • According to a quote made by Bungie developer Jason Keith,[23][24], it is implied that the Flood Hive of High Charity and the Gravemind were one and the same during Halo 3, thus making the level Cortana a boss fight, in a sense.
  • Gravemind is the largest Flood form in the series.


  1. Smith, Luke (2007-09-06). "Halo Universe: Covenant Weapons" (HTML). Retrieved on 2007-11-09.
  2. Trautmann, Eric (2004). The Art of Halo. New York: Del Ray Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 0-345-47586-0. 
  3. Staten, Joseph. (2007-09-25). Halo 2 Developer's Commentary [Halo 3 Legendary Edition]. Bungie Studios. Event occurs at 54:00.—Staten: " originally designed, the Gravemind was this seething mass of corpses right, his teeth were skulls and he talked from the shadows. When we moved to the world where we wanted him to have lip sync and actually speak... maybe not the best decision in the world."
  4. Trautmann, Eric (2004). The Art of Halo. New York: Del Ray Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 0-345-47586-0. 
  5. Godinez, Victor (2006-07-16). "Review: The Halo Graphic Novel", The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved on 6 September 2007. 
  6. West, Steve (2007-09-09). "CB Games Halo 3 Primer: Characters". Cinema Blend. Retrieved on 2008-01-04.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Gravemind @ Everything2". (2005-07-28). Retrieved on 2008-01-04.
  8. Parrish, Jeremy (2007-09-07). "The Halo Story: A Primer". Retrieved on 2008-01-30.
  9. MB: 2 hours ago 12,423 small recreational vessels appeared inside [CE-10-2165-d's] orbital perimeter. Hidden within that vast swarm were seven massive freight carries. The smaller craft were employed as ablative armor, allowing the carriers to descend through the atmosphere; landing on top of major population centers. Despite the fact that the naval garrison was aware of the likelihood of just such an attack, their ability to effectively defend against it proved insufficient. This has always been the enemy's [modus operandi]: [flood] your opponent's ability to process information with so much noise that no meaningful resistance can be put into action. - Bungie. Halo 3. (Microsoft). Xbox 360. Level/area: (Terminal 1). (2007)
  10. Bungie (2007). Halo 3 Instruction Manual. Microsoft.  (online version)
  11. Loftus, Stephen (2005). "Determining the Real Sizes of Objects in Halo". Halo.Bungie.Org. Retrieved on 2008-01-04.
  12. O'Donnell, Marty. (2007-09-25). Halo 2 Developer's Commentary [Halo 3 Legendary Edition]. Bungie Studios. Event occurs at 53:00. - O'Donnell: "It's not a plant, it's not Audrey, although I don't know why I keep thinking about Audrey."
  13. Cortana: Flood-controlled dropships are touching down all over the city. That creature beneath the Library, that "Gravemind", used us. We were just a diversion; In Amber Clad was always its intended vector. There's a conduit connecting this tower to the ship- head back inside, I'll lead you to it. - Bungie Studios. Halo 2. (Microsoft). Xbox. Level/area: High Charity. (2004)
  14. Gravemind: Silence fills the empty grave, now that I have gone. But my mind is not at rest, for questions linger on. Now I will ask, and you will answer. / Cortana: Alright, shoot. - Bungie Studios. Halo 2. (Microsoft). Xbox. Level/area: The Great Journey. (2004)
  15. Gravemind: Now the gate has been unlatched, headstones pushed aside, corpses shift and offer room, a fate you must abide! / Arbiter: We trade one villain for another. - Bungie Studios. Halo 3. (Microsoft). Xbox 360. Level/area: The Covenant. (2007)
  16. Cortana: The activation index, from the first Halo ring. A little souvenir I hung onto, just in case. - Bungie Studios. Halo 3. (Microsoft). Xbox 360. Level/area: Cortana. (2007)
  17. Gravemind: Resignation is my virtue. Like water I ebb and flow. Defeat is simply the addition of time to a sentence I never deserved... but you imposed. - Bungie Studios. Halo 3. (Microsoft). Xbox 360. Level/area: Halo. (2007)
  18. 18.0 18.1 Leonard, Mike. "A mega-look at the biggest Xbox game ever". Retrieved on 2008-01-03.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Parish, Jeremy (2007-12-31). "6 of '07: Halo 3". Retrieved on 2008-01-05.
  20. Jones, Scott (2007-09-25). "Out With A Bang", South Florida Sun-Sentinel, p. E4. 
  21. Sagers, Aaron (2007-10-03). "Finding a frenemy to feel fine", Morning Call, p. M2. 
  22. The Art of Halo, page 56-57
  23. 2old2play Blog
  24. Hindisight Halo 3 by Ascendant Justice

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