"I had no reason to come to this age. I'm not an ally to anyone. I'm not an enemy to anyone. But still, if an age is about to end right now... I might awaken once again."
Zeref Dragneel (ゼレフ・ドラグニル Zerefu Doraguniru) is considered to be the strongest, most evil Mage of all time, who possesses extremely dangerous, and powerful Magic. In reality, he is a reclusive, self-hating youth who cannot control his powers. He is the founder and current Emperor of the Alvarez Empire, under the alias of Spriggan (スプリガン Supurigan), and the older brother of Natsu Dragneel.
Despite being hundreds of years old, Zeref has the appearance of a young man. He wears high-collared red (black in the anime) and tan robes with gold trim, along with a large, flowing white toga draped around his torso. He has short black hair, dark eyes, and abnormally sharp canines. He also wears a circle-shaped necklace. When Zeref returned to the Alvarez Empire, he changed his wardrobe to a black and white outfit.
In the modern era, Zeref seeks to isolate himself and is very calm, sincere, and conflicted. He wishes to die to atone for all the sins he has committed, and may commit in the future. He shows concern for others when he warns them not to come near him, knowing that they would die if they did. He is also somewhat emotionally fragile, as when he realizes that Natsu is not ready to kill him yet, he breaks down in tears. Zeref often kills with no prior incentive or knowledge.
In spite of all this, Zeref is very vindictive, and will punish those who he believes to be evil. This was shown when he ruthlessly killed Hades, whom he thinks has committed a number of unforgivable sins. As a result of his immortal life, Zeref has developed a misanthropic loathing for humanity and its repeated idiosyncrasies of hatred, evil, and conflict.
Nevertheless, Zeref is also shown to be a man of the people as the Emperor of Alvarez, and is shown to display good will and friendliness towards his generals and subjects, which is also reflected in their opinion of him, sincerely cheering and welcoming him as he returns to the capital after a long absence. Zeref also compared running the Empire akin to playing a game, making the Curse of Contradictions' symptoms to go away while at it.
At some point in the distant past, stated to be around 400 years ago, Zeref witnessed the deaths of many people. Around this time, he also became cursed, and unintentionally took the lives of all those around him. Zeref was described as having alighted in an ancient land, mastered Black Magic, given birth to tens of thousands of Demons, and thrown the world into chaos. However, according to Mard Geer, Zeref cursed himself for becoming immortal, desiring to die and eventually created the Etherious born to kill him with E.N.D. as his final masterpiece.
In actuality, Zeref was a student at a Magic Academy in Mildia, where he researched the connections between life, death and Magic to revive his brother Natsu, whom died at a young age. After creating things such as the R-System and the Eclipse Gate, he was expelled from the academy for breaching the sacred teachings of Ankhseram, however he was cursed by Ankhseram and then killed everyone around him with his newfound, unwanted curse of contradiction. After this, Zeref wished to die and wandered around, creating the Etherious in the hopes that they would kill him, but instead turned to reviving his dead brother, having preserved his body, as an Etherious, thus fulfilling his goal of bringing his brother back and creating something that could kill him: E.N.D.; Etherious Natsu Dragneel.
At least a century ago, Zeref founded what later shaped itself to become Alvarez Empire, which united 730 guilds of Alakitasia by martial force, but he rarely dabbles in politics unless necessary, preferring to stay beyond the capital, or even the empire itself, while his ministers and generals do the majority of the work.
Tenrou Jade arc
Sometime later, Zeref is found taking a bath in Western Forest near Magnolia by Mavis Vermilion. He was surprised that someone would want to leave, noting it was a "bad habit" of his own, and unwillingly used his Magic, which robbed the forest of its life force, which Mavis quickly recognized as Ankhseram Black Magic. Zeref was surprised and commended Mavis' knowledge, and told her to not feel bad for him. Nevertheless, he felt joy about his conversation with the girl, but was also worried about himself unwittingly killing her, which he never wanted to do to anyone. Mavis then cast an illusion of wildlife, which initially startled Zeref, because of his lack of control over his powers, but after Mavis explained to him the nature of her Magic, he was happy at the notion and thanked her sincerely. After this, Zeref agreed to teach Mavis and her companions Magic (while keeping a safe distance much to Warrod's chagrin), having noted to Precht in particular that he had an affinity for several different kinds of Magic. After having taught them Magic, Zeref left to seclude himself once more, happy that he made friends.
Six years later, in X696, Zeref happened upon Mavis one more time. In spite of his attempts to remind the girl of his Curse, she ran to Zeref to give him a hug, thanking him for what he had done for them. Zeref then revealed his true identity, shocking Mavis, however, she was unable to believe the rumors surrounding the Black Wizard's name. After a short discussion, Zeref learnt that Mavis had used Law, soon realizing that she had stopped growing. He identified that as the Curse of Ankhseram and when Mavis argued against this, Zeref noted that there had been no casualties yet because of the war era. As Mavis ran away, in tears, Zeref thought to himself that she had the potential to "walk alongside him".
After searching for a year, Zeref found Mavis again after her curse had finally taken effect. Seeing her in true despair, Zeref told her of how he had suffered for centuries and now how much they tried, they could never kill each other but he had taken steps to attempt to end it all. When Mavis gave him hope again and offered to join him in a quest that they together could find a way, Zeref confessed that he was deeply in love with Mavis and was happy to see the feelings were mutual. As the two cursed immortals shared their first kiss, they performed the ultimate contradiction, and Zeref unintentionally killed Mavis even though she was a cursed immortal like him, granting her peace. Though Zeref freed Mavis from their curse, he sunk even further into despair.
Tenrou Island arc
On Tenrou island, Zeref lays peacefully, asleep, on the ground. When night descends, he is attacked by a pack of wolves. Their efforts to kill the Dark Mage are, however, in vain, as he releases a wave of Magic, killing not only the wolves, but much of the surrounding ecosystem. Zeref then apologizes and wallows in misery, wishing to meet Natsu soon. Later, Carla has a vision, and sees that Zeref will somehow be involved in the S-Class Mage Promotion Trial.
During the trial, he runs into Elfman and Evergreen and warns them to stay away from him, as his Magic is beginning to run rampant. However, when the wave is released, Natsu arrives and saves his fellow comrades from the deathly black wave. Zeref is then shocked to see his brother Natsu, saying that he has "grown", but Natsu says that he doesn't recognize the Dark Mage. When he tells the Fairy Tail Mages that he has been expecting Natsu's arrival, Natsu misinterprets the statement as a declaration of challenge and rushes towards Zeref, landing a fierce blow to his face.
Zeref is unfazed by the punch and stands up, disappointed that Natsu is not ready to kill him, causing him to shed tears of frustration. Zeref then unintentionally releases another wave of his Magic, but Natsu's scarf absorbs the blast, saving the lives of everyone present. Zeref then proceeds to make his escape, however, Grimoire Heart is now aware of his presence, and seeks to hunt him down. Zeref then rests next to a tree and claims that the world continues to reject him, before crying once more.
He then crosses paths with Ultear, and comments how sad it is for Grimoire Heart to have managed to anger him. After Zeref asks Ultear if it is power they want, Ultear claims that she wants his entire existence, but Zeref states that he has no intention of assisting them or having anything to do with those in the current era, and that he doesn't want to witness wars or the death of innocent people. Zeref then tells Ultear to stop the attack and leave the island at once, repeating that he is angry, visibly terrifying her with his power. Rustyrose states to Elfman and Evergreen that when they acquire Zeref the current Magic world will end and a new one will begin, an Ultimate Magic World, where those that don't possess Magic will suffer and die; the other Grimoire Heart members say similar things. Zeref himself, however, is powerless against Ultear in his sleeping state and is defeated by her, being warned to not underestimate her as she is the eldest of the Seven Kin of Purgatory. Ultear then says that they have the key which will awaken him; Zeref begs Ultear to stop, but she ignores him and revels in her victory. As Zeref lies unconscious, Ultear holds onto him tightly, stating that he now belongs to her and that he will become the King of the Ultimate Magic World.
While he is still unconscious, he is seen being dragged around by Ultear, and later by Meredy, who ends up heading to the "escape point". While on their way there, they are chased by a persistent Juvia, who received orders from Gray to keep track of Zeref. The trio are later confronted by Zancrow, who attacks the two girls, and tries to take Zeref back to the airship. Zeref, at this point, stirs, speaking one word ("Acnologia"), and awakes. Zeref and Zancrow then lock eyes, and Zeref releases a wave of Magic at the Grimoire Heart Mage, instantly killing him, and knocking out Meredy and Juvia.
After Zeref casts his spell, he regains control of himself and apologizes to Zancrow for having killed him, closing the former Dark Mage's eyelids in sorrow. He expresses his relief that both Meredy and Juvia survived and then walks away. As he walks, he states that he had no reason to come to this era, and that, to anyone, he is neither enemy nor ally. Zeref then adds that if the current era is about to end, that he may awaken once more, and wishes for Natsu to kill him before that time occurs.
At the end of the war, an enraged Zeref sneaks aboard the Grimoire Heart airship and confronts the remainder of the Seven Kin of Purgatory, including their Guild Master, Hades, about the horror they have brought upon the world. While there, Zeref reveals that he was never "asleep", but, rather, he was always "awake". He also reveals that when he understands the weight of human life, his cursed body will eliminate his surroundings; but when he forgets about it, he is able to fully control his terrible Magic. He blames Grimoire Heart for the summoning of Acnologia, claiming that it will now end the current era. He then tells the group to repent for their unforgivable sins and casts a spell on Hades. The power of the spell causes huge damage to the airship and slays Hades, sending him plummeting to the sea. Zeref then senses something and wonders if it's Acnologia. While looking down at Tenrou Island, he ponders if it is time for the island's destruction as an enormous winged beast emerges from the clouds.
After Acnologia, "The Black Dragon of the Apocalypse", starts destroying Tenrou Island and attacking the Fairy Tail members, Zeref senses Wendy's attempts at communicating with the Dragon. Zeref states that Acnologia sees humans as little more than insects, and adds that no dominant being would bother communicating with a lesser life form. Zeref then realizes that mankind will, once again, be embarking on a long, arduous journey, and bids Natsu farewell. As the airship continues to fly onward, Zeref witnesses Acnologia destroying Tenrou Island and shuts his eyes, stating, tearfully, that Natsu's journey has ended.
Grand Magic Games arc
Zeref is stated to still be at large, with the Magic Council trying, unsuccessfully, to track him down. He is later mentioned by Arcadios, who claims that Zeref was the one who turned Acnologia into a Dragon. Arcadios says he is preparing something called the Eclipse Project which requires Yukino Agria and Lucy Heartfilia's Golden Zodiac Keys. Arcadios intends to use Lucy and Yukino's Celestial Spirit Magic to travel back in time and kill Zeref before he can transform Acnologia into a Dragon and before he can be immortal.
As Fairy Tail celebrates their victory in the Grand Magic Games after returning to Magnolia, Zeref sits, deep in thought, in the nearby forest; Obra runs up his shoulder. Zeref then senses Mavis Vermilion behind him and states that even though he cannot see nor hear her, he can sense her presence. With a smile on his face, Zeref repeats Mavis' statement that they were close to one another seven years ago, and answers that he has decided on where he is going to die when she asks him so. Zeref states that he's lived for centuries and has seen the rise and fall of different ages, and that he's seen the cycle of hatred continue on and give rise to new evil and conflict between people, but adds he's looking forward to the new age that will end all this.
With his attitude growing more solemn by the minute, Zeref looks down and asks Mavis how many times people have repeated the mistakes of the past, but is told that despite that, humans will continue to live on. Zeref, however, counters this statement by explaining that if humans continue to repeat mistakes, then they aren't really living and that he is no longer anything that man can come to love. Now removing himself from the ground, Zeref tells Mavis that he has reached a conclusion about humanity: if the world continues to reject him, then he shall reject the world; Mavis tells him that Fairy Tail will be its salvation. Bowing his head, the Black Wizard tells the deceased First Guild Master this will be his gift to humanity, thereby allowing them to start anew. Zeref then tells Mavis that he will not start a war but, rather, will simply cause a one-sided annihilation of humanity of which no human soul will survive, earning him a glare from Mavis, who tells him that Fairy Tail will be the one who will stop him, and he will be the one to be destroyed. Destroying the forest with his Magic, Zeref smiles and internally concludes that his and Natsu's final battle is drawing near.
Zeref later appears at Tartaros' headquarters. As Natsu is cleaning out the troops of Tartaros, his enemies are suddenly stopped in midair and Natsu finds himself standing in front of Zeref. The Dark Mage smiles, noting that he expected Natsu to come this far and then states that Tartaros is Zeref's bookshelf: where all of his "books" reside. Zeref continues by explaining that he wasn't the one to establish Tartaros, but rather, it is a guild made by the Demons that he created, namely their master, E.N.D. Natsu catches on to the name of the Demon, noting it to be the one that Igneel wanted to kill, but Zeref corrects him, stating that the Dragon couldn't do so. Natsu then takes out the Heat Blade, claiming that he will be the one to defeat E.N.D. to inherit his father's will. However, his attack is deflected by the aura surrounding Zeref, cutting the blade in half. Zeref then encourages Natsu but also warns him that E.N.D. is the strongest Demon he created and that he, too, will face the decision of whether to let the Demon live or to kill it. The Dark Mage gets ready to leave, leading Natsu to protest. Zeref explains that he cannot show himself in front of Tartaros as they have gone through so much trouble to find him; just appearing would be a "kill-joy". Bidding farewell, Zeref notes that only Natsu or E.N.D. will be able to reach him, vanishing shortly afterwards.
Some time later, Zeref reappears to interrupt the argument between Natsu and Gray on who takes the book of E.N.D. He summons the very book to his hand, claiming that it is something very important that belongs to him. Zeref then praises Mard Geer for his attempts to revive E.N.D and when Mard states that he can realize what Zeref wishes for, the Dark Mage turns his Demon into a book, burning it subsequently. Zeref then tells Natsu that he wanted to finish their fight today, but Acnologia got in the way. He states that if Natsu can survive this desperate situation, he will give him even more despair. Afterwards, he vanishes yet again, taking E.N.D. with him as well. Later, at an unknown place, Zeref ominously remarks that Natsu has to try and overtake him, calling the Dragon Slayer "Etherious Natsu Dragneel".
Zeref, with E.N.D.'s book beside him, wakes up from a dream about his time in the Mildian Magic Academy and addresses the book as Natsu, explaining that he once had a younger brother that died several years after birth, which resulted in him beginning his research into the connection between life, death and Magic. He then begins to reminisce about his creation of the R-System and the Eclipse Gate, both of which ultimately lead to his expulsion from the Mildian Magic Academy and his obtaining of the curse of contradiction from the deity Ankhseram, which killed all his fellow students and teachers. Zeref continues to monologue, citing his immortality as being his key to continuing his research, which ultimately led to the creation of the Etherious in the hopes that they would be able to end him, and the revival of his dead brother, Natsu, as an Etherious. Zeref then ceases talking with Natsu's book, citing that he must go meet "someone".
Zeref then travels some distance, ending up near a cave in a remote mountain range, where he greets a human figure sitting on a rock, sarcastically mocking his lack of an arm and assuming human is his preferred form; Zeref is immediately questioned by the sitting Acnologia as to what he wants, however Zeref tells Acnologia that he desires destruction but causes very little of it, citing that he could rule the whole world if he wanted to, but does not, calling his motives unclear. Zeref then tells Acnologia that he will not side with him or against him, but rather that he will simply kill him alongside everyone else, and ponders that Acnologia has been waiting for someone to give him a true challenge; Zeref tells Acnologia that he will be the challenger he desires, provided he waits for the impending clash between humanity, Dragon and immortal.
Alvarez Empire arc
Zeref returns to the Alvarez Empire after a year of absence, cheered on by his subjects coming out to meet him and revealing himself to be Emperor Spriggan. At the palace, he is greeted by Invel, and Zeref asks him to gather the rest of the Spriggan 12. As they converse, Dimaria and Ajeel appear and Invel chastises them for the manner in which they speak to Zeref. At that moment, August walks in asking Zeref if he found his answer to Ragnarok, to which Zeref replies that in Ishgar Ragnarok is called the Dragon King Festival. Yajeel then enters the palace and greets the emperor, but backs away as he remembers the effects of Zeref's curse. Yajeel introduces Makarov to him and says that he is seeking an audience with the emperor. As the others leave, Makarov and Zeref then converse privately about the Dragon King Festival, Fairy Heart, and Alvarez Empire's origin. Afterwards, Zeref thanks Makarov for raising Natsu and prepares to kill him, but at that moment, Mest appears and teleports himself and Makarov away. Through this, Zeref learns of Natsu's presence in Alakitasia and smiles. After Natsu and the rest of Fairy Tail successfully escape, Zeref thinks to himself that "it" finally begins.
Magic and Abilities
Black Arts (黒魔法 Kuro Mahō): Zeref was able to master all forms of Dark Magic at a very early age, and brought countless Demons to life. His Magic Power is enormous; so enormous, in fact, that he cannot consciously control his own Magic, though whether this was always the case is unknown. Zeref's lack of control over his Black Arts seems to come from his emotional state. He, himself, has stated that when he cares of the lives of others, his Magic becomes uncontrollable and randomly bursts outward, killing all those around him, but, when he no longer cares about others, he gains complete control over his Magic, and becomes the ruthless, cold-hearted Zeref spoken of in legend.
- Ankhseram Black Magic (アンクセラムの黒魔術 Ankuseramu no Kuro Majutsu): It is a Black Art that allows Zeref to kill any living thing he desires. This Magic seems to be uncontrollable at times, causing it to burst out randomly, killing anything within a certain radius around him. However, when Zeref forgets the value of, and no longer cares about, a human life, he can fully control this Magic. Certain Magic Items can protect people from Ankhseram Black Magic, such as Natsu Dragneel's scarf. This Magic also appears, contrary to the nature of the Black Arts, unable to be learned, as Zeref only gained this curse-like Magic by upsetting the ancient God of life and death, Ankhseram, who apparently bestowed this upon Zeref due to his making light of the connections between life, death and people in his race to bring his brother back to life. The side effect of this Magic is immortality and the inability to age.
- Death Pillar: Zeref swipes both of his arms in a circular motion until the bottom of his hands meet. The hand on top has the index and middle fingers pointing upwards, while the other hand has the little and index fingers pointing downwards. While doing this, he is surrounded by a dark aura. This spell creates a huge vertical explosion, and it's blast radius is seemingly controllable. It was used to kill Hades. (Unnamed)
- Living Magic (生活魔法 Seikatsu Mahō): A very ancient, long-forgotten form of Magic that breathes life into an object. Some of Zeref's creations are sentient, and seek to further Zeref's former, as-of-yet unknown, evil desires. Most of the beings that Zeref created were Demons.
- Deliora (デリオラ, Deriora): One of Zeref's many creations, Deliora was a monstrous Demon that attacked the icy villages in the North. Deliora was imprisoned in a block of ice by Ur. Lyon Vastia tried to unfreeze it so he could kill the Demon, however, after years of being imprisoned in Ur's ice, the Demon's life force was greatly reduced, so much, in fact, that simply upon being released from the ice, it died.
- Lullaby (ララバイ, Rarabai): A flute that can transform into a giant Demon. Whoever hears Lullaby's song (aside from the caster) will die. Erigor hoped to use this to kill the Guild Masters at their meeting. As Kageyama failed to carry out the mission, Lullaby transformed into its Demon form to feast upon souls. However, Natsu Dragneel, Gray Fullbuster, and Erza Scarlet were able to defeat the Demon flute. It currently is in the Magic Council's possession.
- Nemesis (裏魔法・天罰, ネメシス, Nemishisu): This spell creates Demons from rubble. It can create an entire army of Demons with just a few rocks. This spell was used by Hades while battling Fairy Tail. Hades learned this spell from Volume 4 Verse 20 of one of the Books of Zeref.
- Tartaros (冥府の門, タルタロス, Tarutarosu): Zeref stated that all of Tartaros' members are Demons he created.
- Immobilization Magic: A Black Art of Zeref's that allows him to freeze time for all except those he specifically chooses to remain mobile. After casting this Magic, the surrounding area and all those affected by the Magic appear inverted in color, whilst those unaffected remain as they are. (Unnamed)
Enhanced Durability: Zeref is quite physically durable, as he was able to take a punch from Natsu Dragneel (no visible marks were left), and return to his feet, completely unfazed.
Immortality: Approximately 400 years ago, Zeref successfully attained immortality, which is revealed to be a byproduct of him being cursed by the God of life and death, Ankhseram, with Ankhseram Black Magic. In addition, he is also unaging.
Battles & Events
Appearances in Other Media
Fairy Tail: Zeref's Awakening
- (To his surroundings) "I'm sorry. It's not as though I want to steal anyone's life... but the world rejects me. I want to see you soon, Natsu."
- (To Ultear Milkovich) "I see... so you people are the Apple of Discord here. It's sad, how you've managed to anger me."
- (To himself) "I had no reason to come to this age. I'm not an ally to anyone. I'm not an enemy to anyone. But still, if an age is about to end right now... I might awaken once again."
- (To Hades, Kain Hikaru and Rustyrose) "It is people like you who carved me into existence. It is wicked thoughts like yours that summoned Acnologia, heralding the end of this age. No one can stop it now. The world will be finished here." 
- (To Hades) "Trash that doesn't even know it's trash deserves to fall into the abyss."
- (To Mavis Vermilion) "I've lived for many centuries and watched the rise and fall of different ages. People hate and evil causes conflict, but I'm looking forward to a new age that will purify all of this. How many times has this happened...where people make the same mistakes over and over again?"
- (To Mavis Vermilion) "If this world continues to reject me, then I shall reject the world."
- (To Makarov Dreyar) "The real Dragon King Festival is about to start. Black Wizard, the Dragon King, and you humans. It is time to decide who will survive."
|Imperial Family||Ajeel Raml • Yajeel|
|Spriggan 12||Ajeel Raml • August • Bloodman • Brandish μ • Dimaria Yesta • God Serena • Invel Yura • Irene Belserion • Jacob Lessio • Larcade Dragneel • Neinhart • Wall Eehto|
|Brandish Squad||Brandish μ • Marin Hollow|
|Wall Squad||Wall Eehto|
|Ajeel Squad||Ajeel Raml • Bakel • Kareem|
|Dimaria Squad||Dimaria Yesta|
|Neinhart Squad||Four Heraldry Knights • Neinhart|
|Irene Squad||Heine Lunasea • Irene Belserion • Juliet Sun|
|Deceased||August • Bloodman • God Serena • Irene Belserion • Larcade Dragneel • Wall Eehto • Zeref Dragneel|