Precursor

There are several elements in Shadow which link it to Ico. Light Magic, Dark Magic, Dormin's appearance and Wander's possessed appearance, the infant at the end, and the general theme of living beyond your natural lifespan. Few of these can actually tell us anything though, most are just isolated pieces of the larger puzzle. Here I have collected some of the smaller pieces which don't directly connect to any others.

 

The Fortress and the Forbidden Land

The Fortress in Ico and the Forbidden Land in Shadow were obviously built by the same race. The architecture varies between similar and identical, and Light Magic plays a significant role in both. One interesting difference is that while the Forbidden Land is in ruins, the Fortress is still in pretty good condition. This is most likely explained by the Queen's influence; while she is alive the Fortress is mostly intact, but as soon as she dies it is completely destroyed. It is probable that, despite initial appearances, these two places are roughly the same age.
Both locations ended up abandoned by the original inhabitants, and the presence of a Dark Being seems to have played a role in both cases. In the case of the Fortress a Dark Being took over, whereas in the Forbidden Land a Dark Being was imprisoned there, but it is nonetheless a notable parallel. The Queen and Dormin aside, even the fact that both locations were abandoned is interesting. While there could be any number of reasons that a place like the Fortress might eventually be abandoned, the Forbidden Land is a vast place which must have housed many more people. Thus such a place could fall into ruin, along with similar happening to the Fortress, suggests something on the scale of the fall of a civilisation.
Though Light Magic is used in both, a comparison of how it is used in each isn't really possible since so few examples of it remain in the Forbidden Land. It is quite prominent in the Shrine of Worship, however the uses of it here differ from those seen in the Fortress, as they all relate to the Seal on Dormin. Were more of the Forbidden Land intact we might have seen more ordinary uses of it as we did in the Fortress. In this regard the Fortress is quite interesting, as what little we can learn from it is all the more important given how little of interest remained intact in the Forbidden Land. The Fortress is a place out of time, and as mentioned in the Ico analysis, part of the final chapter of a very old, very mysterious story.

 

Yorda & Wander's Fates

At the end of Ico Yorda remains behind in the collapsing Fortress in her dark form. Through unknown means she later turns up on the beach near Ico, back in her original form. No explanation is offered, and it can only be assumed to be the same kind of convenient occurrence which saved Ico more than once. However, in Shadow we see something quite similar; Wander is taken over by Dormin and becomes a Dark Being. When Dormin is later destroyed, Wander is returned to something like his original form, again somewhat inexplicably. In both cases someone becomes a Dark Being and then returns in their original form after the Dark Being is destroyed.
It may be possible that the destruction of the Fortress has a similar effect on Yorda to that the destruction of Dormin had on Wander. I think it is safe to assume that going down with the Fortress would destroy dark Yorda as effectively as the Seal destroyed Dormin. The destruction of Dormin seems to have removed it from Wander, it seems to pull its physical form apart. The infant may well be the incarnation of what is left of Wander when this is done - the only pure, untouched part of him that remained. Perhaps something similar happened to Yorda due to the fact that she was intentionally killed and resurrected in quick succession, and that it happened so recently. Even though she was a Dark Being, enough of her original self remained that it was able to return when the dark part of her was eliminated. Furthermore, she does not seem exactly the same at the end of Ico - it may just be the lighting but she seems more human. Perhaps she was restored as a human and so, like Wander, she was brought back, but not entirely.
An obvious flaw with this idea is that Wander is obviously still present within Dormin when it takes over and can be seen as Dormin is being pulled apart, whereas there is no trace of Yorda's old self. Another is that Dormin was destroyed by a magical seal which may have been intended to leave any humans caught within its power as intact as possible, whereas the collapse of the Fortress is just a random destructive event which would kill Yorda no matter what form she was in. Nonetheless, a process by which an apparently dead grown man can become a healthy infant is in principle no stranger than one which can turn an apparently dead girl back into her old self, so the parallel remains notable.

 

The Ancients

As discussed, the Forbidden Land and the Fortress appear to have been built by the same race, the race which I label the 'Ancients' in my Ico analysis due to them having been around long ago. That each was built by the same race does not necessarily mean they had any significant connection to each other, simply that they were closely related enough that these two different places ended up looking very much like each other.
When I originally discussed the Ancients in my Ico analysis I concluded that at least some of them must have had some kind of mastery over Light Magic since it plays such a significant role in the Fortress. The same is of course true of the Forbidden Land. In Ico we are presented with an image of these people in the form of Yorda and the Queen, in her hypothesised original form; people for whom it is an intrinsic part of their being. However, Ico also suggests that there were likely normal humans among the Ancients too, due to the prevalence of non-magical technology. So much of the Forbidden Land has been lost that we cannot compare them properly, however out of all the intact areas, only the Shrine shows any sign of Light Magic, so it is quite conceivable that the Ancients of the Forbidden Land were also mostly human. This brings us on to Wander's people.

In Ico we are left with the question of where the Ancients went when the Fortress was abandoned. There is no trace of the Light Beings, other than the Queen and Yorda of course, but there is one possibility on offer regarding the humans. I suggested that Ico's village may in fact be made up of descendants of the human population of the Fortress. Shadow suggests exactly this kind of scenario even more strongly. As I mentioned in both Resurrection and the character analysis, Wander's people, and Emon in particular, represent the people who sealed Dormin in the 'present day'. They have the sword, know the legends, and share the desire to see Dormin sealed, with the obvious exception of Wander who has an agenda of his own. It seems highly likely that these people are indeed descended from the Ancients who inhabited the Forbidden Land. In Shadow's case there is no reference of any kind to Light Beings, we would not know such people existed were it not for Ico, so while it is likely there were such people in the Forbidden Land, we know nothing of them or what became of them. However, the idea that there was a second group of people, who were more closely tied to the magic, who then disappeared while the humans lived on, may explain the more mystical view of Light Magic that Wander's people seem to take.

While Emon is apparently knowledgeable about what is going on, he nonetheless seems to have no power of his own, and must rely on the sword to seal Dormin, just as Wander has to use it to free it. This is very much like the role of the sword in Ico, which provides a way for humans to activate the Light Magic devices such as the Idol Doors. If the Forbidden Land was indeed inhabited by both Light Beings and humans, no doubt the former would have been responsible for all of the instances of Light Magic seen there. With the masters of that power gone, the humans would of course have trouble making use of it, having to rely on relics like the sword. Having a more restricted use of it for a long enough time may have caused them to assign it an undue mystical aspect. When we see Yorda use Light Magic, she uses it in quite mundane ways, to open doors and similar which respond to the power. However, if our only knowledge of Light Magic was a sword which had been passed down through generations and supposedly held power over the seal on a supernatural being who can raise the dead, your impression of Light Magic would of course diverge from the more practical view presented in Ico. Thus what may have been little more than an energy barrier to the Ancients ends up being seen as a mystical spell by their descendants.

 

Written by Crumplecorn
Last Updated 08/03/2010

 

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