The Soul Stone was finally unveiled to Thanos and the audience in Avengers: Infinity War, but who may have found it before the Mad Titan? The final Infinity Stone had been the subject of intense speculation among viewers for years, with it eventually found on the planet Vormir; Thanos sacrificed his daughter, Gamora, in order to gain possession of the Soul Stone.
According to the Red Skull, Thanos was only the latest in a long line of seekers who had found their way to Vormir. None had proven worthy of the Soul Stone, although there's evidence some committed sacrifices to it; eagle-eyed viewers have noticed old blood spatter patterns on the ground at the bottom of the sacrificial cliff right next to Gamora.
While the blood is surely just a subtle detail and not a plot clue, the evidence of prior, failed sacrifices raises a tantalizing question: just who were the mysterious beings who previously discovered the Soul Stone's location? Some of the seekers were no doubt characters viewers and even comic book readers have never heard of before; the cosmic equivalents of Indiana Jones, wandering the cosmos in search of lost legendary treasures. Others, however, could conceivably be characters from the comics themselves, or indeed could later be retconned as such.
Before we try and deduce who the previous seekers could have been, though, we have to understand a little about the prize they sought. The Soul Stone is considered the most mysterious of all the Infinity Stones, even within the MCU; although legend claims it to be the most powerful of the Stones, its true capabilities have been lost in the mists of time. Assuming the Stone's powers roughly correspond to those seen in the comics, it could grant the power of life and death on a planetary scale. Mastery of the Soul Stone can give a being control over all life, and nothing can protect a victim from the Soul Stone's power.
No doubt scientists and explorers would have pursued the Soul Stone, purely for knowledge or the thrill of proving a legend to be true. It would certainly be appropriate if the MCU's equivalent of the High Evolutionary had found his way to Vormir, for example. An amoral scientist who burned with a passion to unravel the mysteries of the universe, the High Evolutionary was the first being to possess the Soul Gem in the comics. He failed to understand its power, though, and simply gave it away. It's likely he'd show a similar lack of knowledge in the MCU too.
Some would pursue the Soul Stone for more innocent reasons, perhaps desiring to bring a loved one back to life - or even to restore entire worlds. That leads perfectly to the Gardener, another figure associated with the Soul Gem in the comics. This powerful being is an Elder of the Universe who sought to bring life to barren planets through its power. His morality - far purer than the likes of his fellow Elders the Collector and the Grandmaster - would mean he was unwilling to commit a sacrifice to the Soul Stone.
Finally, and more dangerously, there are the most power-hungry beings in the cosmos. They would find the Soul Stone an irresistible prize, a means to exert their will upon the universe. The prime contender is Thanos's fellow Deviant, Ereshkigal, who in the comics suffers from an insane inferiority complex due to her knowledge of the Multiverse. Her blundering attempts to gain omnipotence have actually threatened the fabric of reality itself, and she'd certainly be interested in an Infinity Stone. Ironically, though, this kind of person would be the least likely to gain the Soul Stone; supreme egotists, beings like Ereshkigal love nobody more than themselves, and any sacrifices they'd make would be meaningless.
According to the Red Skull, many have sought out the power of the Soul Stone, but until Thanos none had been found worthy. That, presumably, is how the Soul Stone's location remained a secret for untold millennia. Few who had failed to take possession of it were particularly keen on admitting their failure on Vormir.
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