Light and Dark III: Light and Dark Magic in Shadow of the Colossus

The magic in SotC is the key to understanding the events of the game and how everything Wander sees relates. While we are given the basic outline of what transpired by Emon and Dormin, the details are left to us, and the details involve the magic. Dormin, the Colossi, Wander's sword, the Seal he undoes, all of it is magical, and so to understand any of it we must start with an understanding of the magic underlying it all. Thus it is with the magic that I will begin my analysis of the background of SotC.

As you can see from the title, I divide the magic in SotC into two broad categories, Light and Dark. The examples of magic in SotC are few enough that any generalised classification is difficult, however every instance of the magic follows a general trend, a general association, the most obvious of which is its color, for which it is named. What these two types of magic are, how they relate, isn't completely clear, but whatever the details, there is enough difference between the two 'types' and enough consistency in the way each of them appears to divide the magic in SotC into these two broad categories.
Light Magic is the magic seen in Wander's sword, the Idols in the Shrine, after the Colossi are slain. Its colors are white and cyan. It usually manifests either as a beam of light or as light breaking free from a solid object.
Dark Magic is tied to Dormin; the large creature seen at the end, the humanesque Shadows that surround wander, the tendrils that emerge from the Colossi as parts of Dormin are freed. Its colors are black and teal, darker versions of Light Magic's colors. While Light Magic seems to simply exist in the environment, Dark Magic is what makes up the substance of Dormin's body, as well as appearing in more ordinary forms such as the tendrils.

Light Magic is connected to the Seal on Dormin. It is seen primarily in the Colossi, the Idols and the Pool in the Shrine, and in Wander's sword, all of which are connected to the Seal. The most impressive example is the pillar of light which appears at the site of each Colossus' death. These pillars are similar to the beams of light produced by Wander's sword; we should not be able to see the beam, not in broad daylight, but we can, suggesting that it is more than mere light. Another obvious example which appears similar to normal light is the magic within the Idols and the supports of the bridge leading to the Shrine. These both appear ordinary enough at first glance, but as they are destroyed they emit intense light, the Idols exploding soon afterwards, the supports of the bridge disappearing completely. The Shrine also features a pool which similarly goes from ordinary looking to lit up with Light Magic, although for a different purpose. An example of a very different kind of manifestation is seen in the form of the Sigils on the Colossus. Cyan and white in color, these light up in the presence of the sword Wander carries, and disappear completely when destroyed.
Since practically all the Light Magic in the Forbidden Land is directly or indirectly related to the Seal on Dormin, it stands to reason that the people who sealed Dormin were able to harness or control Light Magic. The Shrine is the focal point both of the Seal on Dormin and of the ruined civilization of the Forbidden Land, so it would also seem that these same people were the ones who populated the Forbidden Land before it was abandoned.

Dark Magic is connected to Dormin itself. It is a more magical kind of magic; while Light Magic is merely seen as something akin to a form of energy in the environment, various beings are seen which appear to be made of Dark Magic. I refer to these beings as Dark Beings. All the Dark Beings in SotC appear to be a part of Dormin. This magic can exist in a number of physical states, smoke, liquid, the solid blackness of Dormin's body or the tendrils which emerge from the Colossi.
Dark Magic appears to be dominated by Light Magic; the Sword scares away the lesser Dark Beings Wander encounters, the Idols which seal Dormin contain Light Magic, the weak spots through which the Dark Magic breaks free of the Colossi are marked with Light Magic sigils which Wander removes, and when Dormin's most powerful form is finally recombined Light Magic from the pool in the Shrine simply sucks it all away. These may all be because Light Magic was used as part of the seal rather than being a hard and fast rule on how Light and Dark Magic interact, but it is notable nonetheless.

The exact relationship between Light and Dark Magic is difficult to tell from a cursory examination, so it is time to being the analysis proper.

Written by Crumplecorn
Last updated 07/02/2010


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