The Forces of Light and Dark in SotC
Light and Dark V
From Ico to Shadow
Having analysed the magic in Shadow in isolation, it is time to combine this with what was learned in the Ico analysis. It is quite obvious from the outset that we are dealing with exactly the same magic seen in Ico . If we look over the course of the entire story we find that once again Light Magic is found in the devices and structures of the land, while Dark Magic is more closely bound to 'living' beings and their powers. Light Magic does have more of a magical appearance in SotC ; in Ico , with the sole exception of Yorda, Light Magic appeared to be used quite mechanically, like a power source. In SotC it appears to be an important component of the Colossi which persists after they are dead, stationary and without accompanying mechanisms or devices, balancing Ico 's overly mechanical presentation of it. The manifestations of Dark Magic are, especially at the end, stunningly close to those seen in Ico , and this is one of the aspects of SotC which is most relevant to Ico.
Focusing on Light Magic for a moment, the manifestations of it we see in SotC comprise of forms we have seen before and new takes on those forms, but nothing completely new. The first Light Magic object we encounter is the Ancient Sword, which sends out a beam of light somewhat similar to that projected by the Reflectors in the Fortress. Another beam of light similar to this, and extremely close in appearance to the beams seen in Ico , is that which appears from the bodies of the Colossi after they are defeated.
Moving on to Dark Magic, this is where things become particularly interesting. Just as with Light Magic, there are fewer instances of Dark Magic seen in SotC than in Ico , however in the case of Dark Magic the significance of what little we do see, namely Dormin, is far greater. Dormin is important for a number of reasons. As a powerful Dark Being it obviously bears comparison to the Queen, and indeed they seem to share several powers. They can both apparently both see and project their voice throughout their respective domains. Dormin appears to have telekinetic powers which are seen when he moves Wander back to the Shrine, powers which the Queen also appeared to have due to the indirect manner in which she closed the Main Gate of the Fortress.
Interactions between Light and Dark
In SotC Light and Dark maintain the same general relationship they had in Ico . In Ico Light Magic always beat Dark Magic. The Queen's magic had no effect in areas around Light Magic objects, and Light Magic from the Sword and the Idol Doors proved devastating to her and the other Spirits. In SotC something similar is seen in that Light Magic is used to seal away Dark Magic, and it takes external influence from a Light Magic object to remove that seal. After Dormin is resurrected he is once again sealed away using Light Magic. The humanoid manifestations of the segments of Dormin seen at the very start even shied away from the Ancient Sword, which is a Light Magic object. Here, as in Ico , Light Magic seems to dominate Dark Magic.
In Ico Dark Magic appeared to be associated with the dead, with the Queen and at least some of the other Spirits being directly related to dead people. This association is made even stronger in SotC , as the most significant power the Forbidden Land's Dark Being is seen to have is the ability to bring back the souls of the dead. Furthermore, Emon refers to Wander as being 'possessed by the dead'. While we cannot be certain that Emon knows what he is talking about, that it matches what I had already speculated based solely on Ico proves beyond any doubt that Dark Magic is very strongly linked with the dead, and may well be more of a supernatural power than simply a magical power.
In Ico there is an apparent theme of good vs. evil associated with Light and Dark magic respectively, a theme which is maintained to some degree in SotC . The concepts of good and evil are weaker in SotC as it is a more ambiguous and complex story, but there is nonetheless a similar association. Dormin's physical appearance, the fact that it was sealed away, and that it is associated with death give it a vague sense of something evil. The Colossi, which appear more related to Light Magic though they are used to seal away Dark Magic, are your enemies, but their deaths are presented as sad events, suggesting they could vaguely be associated with the idea of good. The good vs. evil theme is very limited in SotC , but in the limited degree to which it appears, both types of magic seem to share the same alignment they had in Ico .
Having looked at Light and Dark Magic in general in the context of both Ico and Shadow I will now dicuss a few particular points of interest.
The Queen and Dormin
The central Dark Beings of each story, the Queen and Dormin, have a number of traits in common despite being distinctly different in some ways. Aside from their appearance which is obviously similar, most of the powers they possess are possessed by both. They can both see throughout the region they inhabit, they can both use telekinetic powers anywhere within that region without even being present, and they can both project their voices to communicate with anyone who intrudes upon their domains. The one power they do not share is Dormin's ability to return the soul of one who has died; to manage similar, the Queen must rely on the Casket Chamber. This is likely because the Queen is 'merely' a single living being who has used Dark Magic to hold on to life, while Dormin appears to be a group of people who transcend life and death.
Dark Magic in Ico and Shadow
The difference between the Queen and Dormin highlights a difference in how Dark Magic is presented in Ico and Shadow . In Ico Dark Magic appears to be a magical power that happens to relate to resurrection and similar; the Queen becomes a Dark Being by using Dark Magic to extend her life. In Shadow Dark Magic is associated with one being in particular, and seems simply to be the manifestiation of its power in the physical world. Dormin seems to be a Dark Being intrinisically, rather than due to any particular use of Dark Magic.
As mentioned, in Shadow Dark Magic seems to be tied to Dormin in particular, in that it is the physical manifestation of its power. However when Dormin is sealed for the second time an infant is left behind which bears horns similar to Ico's. We know from Ico that such people have some aspect of Dark Magic about them, and that this can actually be passed down through bloodlines. We also know that these people can or possibly inevitably will become Spirits, manifesting Dark Magic independant of Dormin. So while the Dark Magic in Shadow seems to be a direct result of Dormin's presence, even in Shadow that power can be passed on and exist beyond Dormin. Furthermore, while the Queen presents a differing view of Dark Magic than Dormin, they are actually quite similar in the powers they share, as discussed above. So it would seem that despite one being simply the mainfestation of a foreign entitiy, and the other being a person using magic to extend their life, the result is actually the same. Dark Magic has a common nature between the two despite their differences. However, this still leaves the issue of Dormin apparently being a Dark Being by default, without the need for external influence as in the cases of the Queen and Yorda.
The critial difference between Dormin and the other two is that it is forcing its way into the living world from somewhere else. Ico shows us that Dark Magic can be used to resurrect or otherwise change people, and that doing so creates a Dark Being. However it doesn't tell us why this is, why they take on the form of the magic used to bring them back. This difference in how Dark Magic is portrayed with regard to Dormin and with regard to all the other examples may be telling us exactly that. We know that Dormin transcends the worlds of the living and the dead, having both a physical and metaphysical aspect. When it forces its way into the living world, Dark Magic is the form that supernatural power takes. And, knowing that that power is not unique to Dormin, it is probably the form which anything supernatural takes when brought into the natural world. It is the crossing from the supernatural side of the border between the worlds to the natural side that results in a Dark Being.
What all this boils down to is merely a clarified version of what we already knew - Dark Magic is a supernatural power. But specifically, it is the manifestation of supernatural elements from beyond the living world which for one reason or another appear in the living world. In the case of a person or similar, the result is a Dark Being, a being composed of Dark Magic, essentially a supernatural creature given form in the natural world. In the case of magic, such as the extension of the Queen's life, since that power also comes from beyond the natural world it manifests the same way, resulting in the Queen's supernaturally enhanced body being mostly Dark Magic.
One final loose end is Mono. She is resurrected, but seems to bear no taint of Dark Magic. As I said above, Dark Beings are created when something crosses the border between death and life. Mono did not have to do this. Because we have established that Dormin exists both physically and metaphysically at the same time, and it was Dormin that resurrected Mono, it is possible that Dormin provided a path for her soul to return in its original form. If Dormin naturally possesses the capability to manipulate souls, then it would not need to rely on Dark Magic trickery to bring her back as the Queen did with Yorda, it could use itself an a conduit for the soul to return, essentially picking her up in one world and depositing her in another. This would suggest that Dormin is not only the imposition of a supernatual power on the natural world, but that once manifested it has the ability to completely reverse the natural order of things.
Written by Crumplecorn