Even after the events at the end of Shadow where all is told, Dormin is still something of an unknown quantity. Its initial appearance was a voice from the sky, and though the lightning storm and dark creatures which accompanied the voice would prompt misgivings, a voice from the sky discussing bringing someone back from the dead is a fairly compelling godlike appearance. The vagueness of the deal it makes does nothing to break this illusion, so it is only when it emerges from Wander in its true form that we see it for what it is. Or rather, for what it is not, since its true form does little does educate us on what it actually is, but very effectively breaks the god illusion. The original image of some greater being that could grant the wishes of mortals is replaced with something more mundane, a more physical creature which, though powerful, had to bargain for freedom from its prison.
The countering view is offered by Emon, who pronounces Dormin to be evil, says the humanoid shadows are the dead, and tells Wander that his entire adventure was nothing more than Dormin using him for his own ends. This view is diametrically opposed to the one established by Dormin's initial appearance, but is similarly debunked by other facets of Dormin's character. While Dormin's appearance certainly suits something evil, even after being brought back it doesn't appear to possess any particular malice, except perhaps towards those who sealed it. And while it was supposedly only using Wander, we later see that Mono has indeed been brought back, that Dormin has apparently kept its end of the bargain. In reality, the truth lies somewhere between these two points of view.

Based on what we see in Shadow, Dormin's dealings with mortals appear to be honest, but devoid of any recognisable morals. When it offers the deal to Wander, it warns him that it may cost him dearly, and does not guarantee that Mono will be brought back. In the end it keeps its end of the bargain despite everything going wrong for it at the last moment. On the other hand, it isn't in a hurry to explain exactly why it wants the Idols destroyed, and shows no concern for what will happen Wander. In its own way Dormin is honourable, it plays by a set of rules, but those rules aren't compatible with those of mortals. What we see from this is that Dormin isn't evil in its intentions - it lacks the necessary malice. Rather it is 'evil' in its actions - reversing the course of nature by bringing a dead person back to life being a perfect example. It isn't that Dormin desires to disrupt the natural order, as far as we know, more it is that such disruptive actions are part and parcel of its existence.
We know that Dormin is a supernatural being closely related to the dead. This leads to an obvious explanation for Dormin's supposed 'evil' - it is essentially something from another world, something which has violated the rules of the living world simply by existing. Such a being is of course going to be harmful to the world it forces its existence into. Every physical appearance of Dormin reinforces this - its physical forms are made of pure darkness, when Wander first got its attention there was a brief thunderstorm, as it possesses Wander his condition deteriorates until finally he barely looks human anymore. That his power was used in this case with good intentions in mind can insulate us - and certainly did insulate Wander - from the fact that this is a being which breaks the fundamental rules of nature, and which is thus intrinsically destructive to the living world.
This is where the idea of Dormin's 'evil' comes from. It is somewhat akin to a natural disaster - an earthquake or a hurricane has no intention, it is merely destructive by its nature. People who did not understand what they were attributed them to angry gods and similar - a harmful action attributed malicious intent due to lack of complete knowledge. Dormin is even more threatening due to being more of an 'unnatural disaster', and so it will obviously be seen as evil by people who do not understand its perspective. Whether the Ancients also saw Dormin as actually evil or merely recognised a danger that must be contained is unknown, but doesn't really matter - however you see Dormin, it presents the same danger.

While Dormin is, from its perspective, neutral, and is honest with Wander, elements of its desire to get free do show through. Dormin obviously knows that Wander is from the people who originally sealed it - it later recognises Emon as one of those people. With Wander it realises that it is dealing with someone it can use - someone who wants something from it, rather than someone who sees it as an enemy. Initially it is somewhat cautious, reminding Wander almost sarcastically that his request violates the law of mortals. But later on, once Wander has taken the task on, it urges him to finished quickly as Emon approaches. When it finally recombines in Wander, it stops holding back, announcing its revival and that it is borrowing Wander's body. So, while it is honest, it is also obviously desperate to escape, and thus is very careful in what it reveals and when.

Thus far I have examined Dormin as it appears in Shadow. A significant question is where it came from, how it came into existence. We can't be certain of any details, but a very important hint is given. As I point out in the magic analysis, each segment is associated with a humanesque manifestation in the Shrine. Dormin refers to itself in the plural, and these sixteen humanlike beings seem to combine to form the single entity called Dormin. It is only logical to assume that these manifestations accurately reflect some aspect of Dormin, which suggests that the individual parts of Dormin were once human. Emon refers to Dormin as 'the dead', and powers over life and death are certainly appropriate to a being which has returned from beyond the grave. It seems distinctly possible that Dormin is a being created through the fusion of a number of humans in whatever world they came from. How and why, we can only guess.



Emon is the representative of the people who sealed Dormin in the 'modern' age. How his people and the people who sealed Dormin relate exactly isn't clear. Such a direct link is not needed however, since Emon demonstrates the requisite knowledge of the Forbidden Land and the Seal to play the role of one the people who sealed Dormin. Dormin itself also recognises Emon in this role, addressing either him personally or his group as the one who sealed it away. Obviously it couldn't have been Emon personally who sealed Dormin, since centuries or even millennia have passed, but Emon must in some way resemble those who came before. While Dormin saw in Wander an opportunity for escape, it recognised Emon as a threat before he even arrived. Thus we can accept Emon as the voice of the people who sealed Dormin.

Exactly how much knowledge of and control over Light Magic Emon has is not clear. By all appearances, all he has is second hand knowledge. He knows about the Seal, is able to recognise that it has been broken, and recognises Dormin. He also knows how to use the sword to activate the second Seal. That he uses the sword is the key point - he came to the Forbidden Land with the express purpose of stopping Wander, or resealing Dormin if it was already too late, but has to use the sword to do so. He brought nothing, neither power nor relic, with which to fight Dormin. His men are armed with conventional weapons which pose no threat to Dormin. So it would seem that Emon has no power of his own beyond his knowledge of the situation. Just as is the case with Wander breaking the Seal, the real power is in the sword; the person wielding it merely needs to know how to use it correctly.

We can learn more about Emon's perspective from the fact that he accuses Wander of using the 'forbidden spell'. While there were obvious ritualistic elements to the breaking of the Seal, to call it a 'spell' assigns it mystical aspects which simply weren't present. All Wander was stab creatures in marked places in order to kill them, which in turn broke some kind of magical seal. Releasing Dormin by killing the Colossi was no more a spell than finding treasure by digging at the spot marked by an X is. Emon's view of such a mundane procedure as a spell suggests he sees the magic and associated relics as more mystical than they actually are.

It has obviously been a very long time since the Forbidden Land has been inhabited, and knowledge of Dormin, the Seal and the sword must have been passed down by the people who lived there, so that future generations would know not to tamper and how to seal Dormin again if necessary. When Emon describes the Forbidden Land at the start of Shadow he does so in a mythic way, as if he is describing a legend rather than a place which actually exists. It would seem that the passing down of the knowledge of the Forbidden Land has been going on so long that it has become more folklore than fact.
This would account for why Emon sees mystical aspects where there are none. He possesses no first hand knowledge of the magic of the Forbidden Land, merely inherited stories to guide him. He obviously knows enough to get the job done, but does not possess the personal knowledge of those who actually lived in the Forbidden Land. Thus he sees Dormin and the Colossi as mystical beings beyond his understanding, and can merely play the role which was passed down to him by those who sealed Dormin all that time ago.

Whether Emon is motivated more by actual relevant knowledge or impressions and bias that were introduced over the centuries is questionable. When he commands his men to kill Wander, he has to first goad them and finally harshly order them to get them do it. They are uncertain about killing one of their own, even in this state, whereas Emon doesn't waver. Something in the way he is so adamant that Wander is possessed and must be killed suggests that he is driven by his preconceptions of what is happening rather than true understanding. Of course, we have the benefit of knowing that Wander is still in control at this point, which would make Emon's condemnation of seem unfair to us. On the other hand, since Emon supposedly knows what is going on, why is he so quick to jump to the conclusion that Wander has been completely taken over and is beyond help? It is in fact the attempt to kill Wander under Emon's orders which causes Dormin to appear. This suggests that while Emon has the essential knowledge to play his part, he actually doesn't understand what is happening, though he believes he does and thus makes this one mistake.
Whether the source of this harsh judgement of the possessed Wander is a demonic overtone added to the story of Dormin over the centuries or an intentional spin put on it by the original inhabitants of the Forbidden Land, it serves Emon well. While it does lead him to cause the release of Dormin's complete form, he was no doubt correct that Wander was indeed beyond help, and would have to be sacrificed in order to deal with Dormin. His unshakable commitment to do what is necessary allows him to play his role effectively, even as it betrays the fact that he is doing so without understanding what exactly he is doing.


Written by Crumplecorn
Last Updated 24/02/2010


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