A History of the Forbidden Land
Having analysed the magic in Shadow we can now apply what we know to the events of the story in order to determine what exactly happened and how it all started. Of course, even with the magic analysis, a lot about the story is still uncertain, and so this is merely one possible version of events, but one which seems likely given what we learned by analysing the magic.
The earliest point in the history of the Forbidden Land that we can reach back to is the point at which it was still inhabited, the point at which the events took place which eventually lead to the events of Shadow. Emon actually says a few things at the beginning of Shadow which may well reference how the land came to exist or came to be of importance, but the precise meaning of those words has long since been lost. Instead we must begin with the people who lived there once it was established, people who I term the 'Ancients' simply for the fact that they were there long ago.
The events surrounding the actual sealing of Dormin are probably the least clear element of the story. While we'll never know exactly how it was done, we can look a little at exactly why. Wander's people, Emon in particular, seem to be the 'modern' representatives of those who sealed Dormin. Emon certainly possesses the requisite knowledge about the Seal, and effectively reprises their conflict with Dormin. Dormin also recognises Emon in this role, as knew before the party even arrived that Emon meant to stop him, whereas in Wander he instead saw an opportunity to escape. Emon's view is that Dormin is an evil power which must be sealed, and Ancients' thoughts on the subject were undoubtedly similar. Whether this was due to Dormin's inherent nature or to some particular harm it did is unknown, however there may be a clue in the magic being used.
As I mentioned, the details of how Dormin was actually sealed are beyond us, so we shall skip from the motivation right past the sealing to the aftermath. Turning once again to Wander's people for some insight on those who came before them, we come to the obvious point that the Forbidden Land is indeed forbidden. The land is considered cursed, and although the Ancients may not have considered it 'cursed' in the same superstitious way as someone recounting a legend, this is obviously derived from how they perceived their land once Dormin was sealed there. Wander's initial encounters with Dormin show us that despite being sealed it was not entirely contained. This is probably why the land was considered unsafe, and is undoubtedly at least a factor in the abandonment of the land, if not the entire cause.
Skip forward a few centuries or even millennia, and Wander arrives. He has the Ancient Sword which is necessary to free Dormin, and unwittingly enters a deal to do just that. The process of releasing Dormin follows a specific ritual - the Sword leads him to the Colossi in the order the Idols are arranged in the Shrine. While Wander is doing this Emon is on his way to the Forbidden Land to stop him. He arrives just in time to see the final Idol fall, and shortly thereafter Wander is returned to the Shrine, looking much the worse for his pact with Dormin.
An aside about the humans we see in the story who, as mentioned above, are probably descendants of the Ancients. Since centuries or millennia have passed since they left the Forbidden Land, you would expect Wander's people to seem out of place upon their return. They should be far more advanced than they were when they left, but this is not the appearance they give. We can't be certain of the level of technology of the Ancients of course, especially since they were no doubt able to rely on magic for at least some things. But Wander and Emon's part do not seem particularly out of place, suggesting that they haven't advanced significantly at all. Furthermore, being descended from the people who sealed Dormin, you would expect them to have significant magical power, especially a party sent specifically to counter the release of Dormin. Yet they bring no such power, and must instead rely on the sword which Wander took to actually do Dormin any harm. This all tells us that for some reason the people who left the Forbidden Land did not advance, and apparently lost their mastery of Light Magic.
Emon speaks of the Forbidden Land as if it is a legend or even a myth. So much time has passed that if their history was properly recorded then it would indeed have gone from actual events to vague legends as it was told and retold. While the knowledge needed to deal with Dormin when it is released remains, any real practical knowledge of the land or its magic has been lost. In this, as in their advancement as a civilisation and in their mastery over Light Magic, they appear to have lost their heritage. They return to the land that their ancestors inhabited more or less as strangers. As for why, there are any number of possible explanations.
Written by Crumplecorn