Plot Explained: Shadow of the Colossus

That place…began from the resonance of intersecting points…

  • Written and Edited byIphisAria
  • Date Started ~ 11-22-2018
  • Revision Number ~ 3.8
  • Date of Last Revision ~ 12-24-2019


  1. Plot as Revealed in-Game
    1. Opening
    2. The Cycle
    3. Ending
  2. Connecting the Dots
    1. Main Theory
    2. Additional Points
  3. How to Credit Images

Track 22 Sky Burial, by Kō Ōtani.

Plot as Revealed in-Game [1]

Opening [1.1]

On a cloudy, moonlit night, a lone Kite flies past a horse and its young rider—Agro and Wander—as they carefully navigate a narrow, winding stretch of cliff. The pair has been traveling for many days, traversing rainy grasslands, shadowed forests and a treacherous mountain pass.

Eventually they arrive at their destination. Light pours in from between a tall and narrow gateway of stone. On the other side stands a majestic bridge, spanning miles into their view. They have reached the Forbidden Lands, a dramatic landscape of plains and canyons, arid deserts, lush forests, lakes, and cliffs pushed against a massive sea.

At the bridge’s end is a towering, fortress-like temple known as the Shrine of Worship. Wander and Agro slowly make their way down an internal stairway to a great hall lined with sixteen stone idols, eight to their right and eight to their left. At the hall’s end is a centerpiece altar. It is now revealed that Wander has been carrying with him a body wrapped in a blanket. This he gently places on the altar’s sunbathed surface, removing the blanket. The body is Mono, a young woman clothed in a white and lavender dress; her hair is silky black and her face is soft, the look of one in a very deep sleep.

As Wander takes a moment to ensure she is resting comfortably, he remembers words he once heard from Lord Emon, a spiritual leader in his society. Emon’s deep voice narrates esoterically:

“That place…began from the resonance of intersecting points…

They are memories replaced by ens and naught and etched into stone.

Blood, young sprouts, sky– and the one with the ability to control beings created from light…

In that world, it is said that if one should wish it one can bring back the souls of the dead…

…But to trespass upon that land is strictly forbidden.”

Back within the Shrine, Agro is spooked by an airy noise coming from behind. Wander turns to see five shadowy apparitions emerge from the temple floor, each a dark, human form. In response, Wander draws a mysterious sword from a sheath and points it towards the shadows. The blade emits an otherworldly energy and the creatures dissolve into thin air. Immediately, a booming pair of voices—one male, one female—fills the hall from the great aperture above, “Hmm? Thou possess the ancient sword? So thou art mortal…”

Wander replies, “Are you Dormin? I was told that in this place at the ends of the world—there exists a being who can control the souls of the dead.”

“Thou art correct…we are the one known as Dormin…”

The young man explains, “She was sacrificed for she had a cursed fate. Please…I need you to bring back her soul…”

“That maiden’s soul?” The voices laugh, “Souls that are once lost cannot be reclaimed… Is that not the law of mortals?” Wander bows his head in sorrow.

“With that sword, however… it may not be impossible.”


“That is, of course, if thou manage to accomplish what we asketh.”

“What do I have to do?”

“Behold the idols that stand along the wall… Thou art to destroy all of them. But those idols cannot be destroyed—by the mere hands of a mortal…”

“Then what am I to do?”

“In this land, there exist colossi that are the incarnations of those idols. If thou defeat those colossi—the idols shall fall.”

“I understand.”

“But heed this, the price you pay may be heavy indeed.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Very well… Raise thy sword by the light…and head to the place where the sword’s light gathers… There, thou shalt find the colossi thou art to defeat.” Wander looks through the temple pillars and toward the bright horizon. “Now, be on thy way.”

Agro shifts her weight between hooves as she waits for her young master to mount. One last look at Mono and Wander charges off to face their first giant.

The Cycle [1.2]

Following the death of each Colossus, an inky, smokey blood issues forth from its puncture wounds and its entire body grows black. An ominous darkness then leaves the corpse in the form of many roving tendrils; these single-in on Wander and dive into his body. He in-turn, emits a smokey blackness from his face and abdomen before losing consciousness. Following momentary darkness, he enters into an immaterial, otherworldly tunnel of white light and black energy. It is here he either hears his own pained breathing, endures an eerie silence, or perceives the sorrowful voice of his beloved Mono. Moments later Wander is shown lying face-down on the floor of the Shrine of Worship, and depending on the number of Colossi defeated, he is surrounded by an equal number of shadowy apparitions. Likewise, an equal number of pure-white doves come to flock around the base of the altar. The defeated Colossus’s idol collapses in an explosion of light, Wander regains consciousness and approaches the maiden, and the dual voices of Dormin reveal a riddle of his “next foe.” This process repeats until the death of the Sixteenth.

There is a notable pattern to follow throughout the cycle; every Four that are defeated, three things occur. Wander perceives something of significance, the degradation of his health is more than otherwise, and Mono’s complexion looks healthier than before. After the death of the First Colossus, Wander witnesses the collapse of its Idol (the only one he sees crumble) and, following the death of the Eighth, he has a dim and muffled vision of Mono waking up. More than anything else, these experiences maintain his drive to bring Mono back. At the same time, however, his health visibly degrades more strongly with these than after any other battle (save the last). At the sleeves of his shirt and pants and at the borders of his arm-guards, his flesh is paler and veins begin to look sickly. His hair also begins to discolor from its original auburn, darkening into black. Although his body is growing ill, his overall strength, health, and stamina increase with every slayed Colossus. Where Wander would fail to climb the back of the second and following Colossi with the strength of his own, human body, the darkness that entered him from the previous battle gives him just enough to conquer the next and release its darkness. It takes longer and longer for Wander to wake up once returned within the Shrine, but as time goes on, he collects an unnatural power that he shouldn’t have.

Mono seems to notice these changes in Wander. As her soul is gradually returned to her, equal to the fragments of Dormin’s essence that enter into Wander, one can hear her speak, sometimes weakly, other times in a weeping tone. No subtitles are given to translate, but it is fair to guess she is saddened by what she sees Wander going through; she must therefore, be aware of more than he is privy to.

Ending [1.3]

The final sequence of Shadow is most stunning. Creatively divided between cinematics and real-time gameplay, the epilogue reveals much that was once shrouded in mystery.

As Wander blacks out from absorbing the tendrils for the sixteenth time, Lord Emon and his men come riding across the bridge and into the Shrine, opening the door with swords drawn and bows ready. They gasp in astonishment and horror as the final Idol collapses before their very eyes and, as they view the other fifteen heaps of rock. Lying at the foot of the last Colossus, Wander remains face-down for a moment before his body begins to lift off of the ground.

Back within the Shrine, Emon and the others are standing before the altar, Emon speaking in a low voice over Mono. Silence permeates the hall’s cavity and diffused sunbeams stream in from between the aged columns.

Something thuds onto the floor behind them. They turn to see Wander lying on his stomach. His face is hidden from view but his clothes are noticeably blackened and disheveled. Breaking the silence further, the Ancient Sword comes falling through the circular aperture, sparking as it clangs hard against stone. It embeds itself within the stonework of the floor several feet away.

Emon exclaims, “I don’t believe this… So it was you after all.” Through distant-eyed pain and a hand to his abdomen, Wander manages to rise to his feet. Emon continues, “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?! Not only did you steal the sword and trespass upon this cursed land, you used the forbidden spell as well… To be reduced to such a sight… You were only being used.” Wander’s complete transformation is displayed in full view; his clothes are tattered in the black blood of sixteen giants, his veins, nail-beds, and lips are darkened, his hair is jet black, the whites of his eyes are black while the irises are the glowing blue of a Colossus’s eyes. Worse yet, he is beginning to grow a pair of horns on either side of his head. “Eradicate the source of the evil. Look… He’s possessed by the dead. Hurry up and do it!” One of the bow-men shoots Wander in the left leg, immobilizing him, while another draws his sword. Emon remarks, “It is better to put him out of his misery than to exist, cursed as he is.” The swordsman comes to stand at Wander’s head; Wander looks up the length of the drawn blade and into the masked face of his executioner. Panting, he is stabbed.

Wander reaches up to grasp the blade as it stands run through his chest. He lies there, stunned and, black blood suddenly spouts up from the wound in the fashion of the Sixteen. The swordsman backs away as he watches Wander painfully rise to his feet, stagger, and limp toward the altar. Just as Wander nearly reaches the steps, however, he feels his body failing on him. Reaching out to Mono in agony, he removes the sword—only to collapse to the floor and become, like the Colossi, bodily enveloped in darkness.

Emon looks on silently. For a moment they find respite.

The others gasp. Wander’s body grows quickly in size and the deep, dual voice of Dormin rings, “Thou severed our body into sixteen segments for an eternity in order to seal away our power… We, Dormin, have risen anew…”

Emon shudders, “He’s been resurrected…!”

Dormin continues, “We have borrowed the body of this warrior…” He slams his fist onto the temple floor. The five humanoid shadows come running up to enter into the great body and become one.

Emon shouts, “Place a seal over the entire shrine before it’s too late!”

Wander’s possessed body is now hard for him to control; it moves slowly and does not respond well to his will. Both Wander’s and Dormin’s souls are fighting for control, but Dormin’s is winning out. Through Dormin’s growls one can faintly hear Wander’s agonizing screams.

Emon and the others pull the Ancient Sword from out of the floor and, managing to evade Dormin’s attacks, reach the spiral stair in the back of the hall, heeding Emon’s command to ready his horse. Dormin growls and roars in protest, fighting against Wander’s struggles to take back his own body and, furious that the others just barely escaped.

At the top of the stairway Emon holds out the sword before him, and gazing down into the shallow pool below below he shouts, “Be gone foul beast!” The Sword is cast away and it falls into the water, creating a light within the pool that begins to drag Dormin away from the altar. As they are pulled back their form shrinks and the blackness dissipates. Dormin cries out in fury and despair until he is in Wander no longer and Wander screams as the demon’s soul is stripped of him. All that remains is a mere shadow of Wander struggling to return to Mono’s side. No matter how hard he tries he will ultimately become sucked into the pool of light.

Emon and his men ride away as the bridge between the Shrine and the entrance to the Lands collapses and falls away behind them. Upon reaching the other side, he shakes a weary head, “Poor ungodly soul… Now, no man shall ever trespass upon this place again. If it’s even possible to continue to exist in these sealed lands… One day, perhaps you will make atonement for what you’ve done.”

Within the Shrine, Mono stirs and gently sits up to find an empty silence. She looks out toward the same horizon Wander once gazed on when he made the Bargain. Then she looks within the hall again as she gets down from the altar and takes a few bare-footed steps over the stone. A whinny carries over the wind. Agro comes limping up to Mono and stops just before her. Mono takes the injured horse’s soft muzzle into her hands and looks downcast as memories enter her mind. Dirtied-film looking images of defeated Colossi come one after one, from First to Last, showing their demise. When the memories end, Agro starts limping down the hall. Mono looks back toward the Lands and takes a moment before following behind.

Nearing the shallow pool they come to find it is dry. In its center is a small, newborn infant with horns, eyes closed and hands grasping. Mono tenderly lifts the child into her arms and follows Agro up the spiral stair, walking up and around the outside stair of the Shrine until they reach a secluded garden. By the top, the infant has grown a full head of hair and his skin tone has improved. A deer, several doves, and other small wildlife approach the maiden. Just before the scene ends, infant Wander is shown to have grown in size to that of a toddler, his face looking more and more like a young child’s. A Kite takes flight out of the Garden and soars into the cloudy skies, returning to the moonlit night of the story’s Prologue.

Connecting the Dots [2]

Main Theory [2.1]

Dormin is an intelligent, crafty being who is willing to take any and every opportunity to get what he desires: freedom. He was battled, his body defeated, his soul divided into sixteen fragments, and his power sealed for eons. Possessing little care for the sufferings of the mortal world, Dormin has no problem abusing the pain Wander bears.

It is important to understand Dormin’s speech. Dormin never says that he is capable of reviving Mono. Nor does he reveal genuine interest in helping the boy. Instead, he points out that bringing the maiden’s soul back is a possibility, all because Wander has the Ancient Sword hanging from his waist. Dormin tells Wander that it is the only weapon capable of harming the Colossi and, Lord Emon condemns Wander, saying he had stolen it and used its power to perform the “forbidden ritual.” Furthermore, in the ending sequence it is this same blade which creates the cleansing pool of light. It is evident, then, that this Ancient Sword was the key used to seal away Dormin in the first place. Dormin knows just as much and so is all too willing to let the Wanderer make assumptions.

Regardless of Dormin’s ability or not to revive the maiden, he leads Wander into thinking that he can and that he will, and he carefully chooses his words so as to make the bargain of slaying the Sixteen sound like a fair exchange. Of course Wander has no second guesses; the words he recalled spoken by Emon were mysterious and vague, as if spoken in a riddle. Why would he think to associate the power of revival not with Dormin, but with the Land itself? Dormin must be the being Emon described. If Dormin can control beings of light, it must mean he can control souls, right? And why would he think that the Land was forbidden to enter on account of Dormin’s presence, not because of some selfish choice to keep the power of Resurrection a secret? He wouldn’t. He didn’t. Wander falsely associated Emon’s words and so missed the true meaning. Emon’s first line, “That place…began from the resonance of intersecting points…” describes the light glancing off the blade of the Ancient Sword and how it—a cursed land—was formed out of its use. The second line, “They are memories replaced by ens and naught and etched into stone,” describes how the intersecting points and the curse that they sealed in the Idols and Colossi were forgotten to time. The third, “Blood, young sprouts, sky– and the one with the ability to control beings created from light…” describes the blood spilled to defeat Dormin, blood and sprouting things of the Land’s own regenerative power, and a scantly described supernatural being. “In that world, it is said that if one should wish it one can bring back the souls of the dead…” does not mean the revival is by the supernatural entity, but by the Land’s very power itself. But something is wrong. “[T]o trespass upon that land is strictly forbidden.” The darkness which tainted that Eden-like earth is known for its deception; Emon did not go further to describe such a place as he would risk tempting the young generations of his people. Keeping it hidden was successful until Wander listened to the tale.

Wander’s misunderstanding was carried beyond simply misinterpreting Emon’s words. By telling Dormin what he understood to be true, he gave the demon all the room it needed to twist up a tale of its own. As Dormin has no obligation to revive Mono and, as he sees he will get nothing more out of the bargain by reviving her, it makes little sense that her return to the living was because he honored his end of the pact. In fact, her revival would have to be because of the absence of Dormin’s power. The Forbidden Lands are a cursed and desolate domain because Dormin’s essence is so widespread. It is more than that there are no people. The demon’s very occupation of the place has caused it to wither and grow dormant. It is as if time has been oppressed into a standstill. So, though Mono was indeed revived by the story’s end, Dormin lied about the source of the power, knowing she would come to life anyway if the fragments of his soul were consolidated and the Land liberated. Subtle changes in the weather are proportional to the changes seen in both Mono and Wander. For every Colossus defeated, the sky grows a little more dark. Rain begins to form. Winds pick up. By the time Wander is battling the Sixteenth, the Lands cannot hold back their return to life any longer and the clouds break loose, unleashing lashing winds and sheets of rain over the battlefield. It is during the Epilogue that the rains have ceased and a new sun emerges when wildlife finally returns.

It is important to note Dormin’s use of the word “mortal.” When Dormin’s essence was split into sixteen fragments and imprisoned, sixteen Colossi were created out of the same earth that possessed living power, granting them more than the architectural form men were limited to. It granted them organic qualities such as fur and bestial, if not human, forms. To complete and seal the Ritual, a stone idol imbued with the energy of the Sword was created for each Colossus. No-one with knowledge of the Colossi’s purpose would willingly challenge these beasts and win, especially if they lacked the Sword. It seems then, that the idols themselves held the power keeping Dormin sealed away, and not the Colossi, which are merely vessels. Otherwise there would be no reason to have the idols. Only the Colossi would exist. Furthermore, Dormin mentions that, “[T]hose idols cannot be destroyed—by the mere hands of a mortal…” Dormin knows that the Ancient Sword is the only way to destroy the monoliths and, thus, the only way to destroy any of the idols linked to them. Though Wander may be able to defeat the first by his own strength, Dormin foresees the remaining fifteen will easily outmatch him. Dormin cannot afford this, so he abuses a loophole in the Ritual; by granting Wander the power of his supernatural, immortal soul, the mortal boy will be able to destroy all of them. Unlike Dormin’s apathy toward reviving Mono, he is more than willing to ‘aid’ Wander through possessing him. After all, his own body was destroyed ages ago, and he now needs a new one. The body of this young warrior suits his fancy.

Wander is repeatedly transported from the battlefield into the Shrine of Worship. Pillars of light stream down from the sky that mark the place of each dead giant. In the cut-scene of the Twelfth, a massive form of these beams of light, as well as its portal-like hole in the clouds above, opens up over the Shrine. Though Wander’s unconscious body is lifted from where he lies on the earth, it is only in brief. Rather than floating all the way back, his body is instantaneously transported to the Shrine where it is released and hits the floor. His soul, however, is transported through the beam of light in a similarly quick fashion. The white tunnel is all that Wander sees of this unnatural transportation.

He hears Mono’s voice in the tunnel and not in the Shrine because only here is her soul reviving and gathering to itself. Is she attempting to warn him? Possibly. Is Dormin putting visions into his head to bolster his drive? Almost guaranteed. The dimmer look of the dead Colossi in the end credits is exactly the way Wander sees them in Reminiscence. It is also a look shared by his dream of Mono following the death of the Eighth. Because the memories that Mono experiences are so resemblant of Wander’s dream, it is more than likely Dormin fabricated it. In fact, the battles fought during Reminiscence are just that; experiences taken from Wander’s own memory. It is unlikely, however, that Dormin put the visions of the dead Colossi into Mono’s head as, Dormin was wholly and completely removed from the Shrine and Lands by the time she woke. (For those who have played The Last Guardian, one can remember how the boy’s memories and flashbacks also appear in flecked sepia.)

The bodies of each dead Colossus are heaps of rubble loosely resembling their original forms. Because brush and small trees are growing on their corpses by the time Wander rides out to slay the next, it appears that Wander lies unconscious for quite some time. Beyond this, the deeper implication is that this newly-liberated area of the Forbidden Lands is regaining the life-giving power it once possessed. The young trees did not grow on the giant’s fallen body because they had years to do so; the whole story of Shadow cannot be more than a few days. Rather, because Dormin’s evil power was removed, the Land’s good power could retake its rightful place, accelerating the growth of any plants that came to rest on the dead Colossus. The irony of the situation is magnificent. Wander is able to witness the true source of the power he so desperately seeks, yet is blinded by his faith in Dormin.

A fallen Colossus’s idol breaks apart only after Wander wakes up; only when that fragment of Dormin’s soul is fully assimilated. The first idol is no exception. Though this is the first and last idol Wander sees fall, only one of sixteen total fragments have entered into him by this point. It thus makes sense why Wander woke soon enough to see its destruction. Wander was not able to see the other idols fall, however, because of Dormin’s increasing presence within him. All considered, the idol of the Sixteenth is an interesting case. Wander woke relatively quickly following its implosion because all of Dormin had come to gather within him. Dormin used his power to force Wander’s weak body into regaining consciousness faster than it otherwise could.

If Mono’s soul was being restored to her in sixteenths, just as Dormin was entering into Wander in sixteenths, why didn’t she wake up as soon as the final Colossus fell? For one, the rate of her soul’s return was directly proportional to the rate at which the Land’s vitality was being restored. The Land’s regenerative power could only return as fast as Dormin’s presence receded. Thus, for every sixteenth Wander collected, one sixteenth of the Land’s life returned and, one sixteenth of Mono’s soul returned. Also, as it took time for Wander to wake up following each giant, she had to take time as well. Wander only woke up so quickly in the end because Dormin forced him to. By contrast, Mono had only her own soul and so, nothing accelerated the process for her. Furthermore, it required Dormin being completely removed from the Land in order for her to be brought back from the dead (opposed to merely being healed).

So what happened to Wander? He was possessed by Dormin long enough for his body to become permanently altered. The pool of light removed all evil and darkness from his body and the Land’s regain of power allowed him to be reborn as an infant. He retained his memories of his life and of his quest to revive Mono, especially of his actions while under Dormin’s possession. These memories and his sudden loss of age make for a scary experience; bare skin on cold stone, seeing visions of himself having been controlled “by the dead.” But when Mono picks him up, he feels comforted and reassured. One could claim that any infant would have such a reaction to being picked up and snuggled. From personal experience, however, infants are particular as to who picks them up. Some will whimper and cower, while others will scream if it is not mom. Infant Wander seems to have a very relaxed reaction to Mono. The player pressing buttons only confirms this notion as Wander begins to gently coo, not wail.

What about Dormin and his male and female voices? At the beginning of the game we hear both Dormin’s male and female voices. But as the story progresses, the female fades to the point where his male voice is the only one that remains. I do not believe this is because Dormin’s female side enters into Mono and that Dormin’s male side enters into Wander (and is subsequently sucked out and banished). Rather, it is something worse and more deceptive. As Dormin enters more and more into Wander, it is possible that Wander gains a second way to hear Dormin’s voice. At first he merely hears Dormin through hearing. But as he becomes a vessel for more and more of Dormin, gaining unusual strength and stamina, Wander may also gain the ability to “hear” Dormin’s voice from within his mind and body. Also, as Wander’s motivation to heal Mono increases with every step, so too increases the gathering of Dormin within him. He only has ears for Mono. And since Dormin is gathering into a male human, it only seems natural that his male voice dominates. We only heard Dormin’s male and female voices in equal balance at the beginning as, that was when Dormin was completely disembodied from any distinctly male or female form. Another reason why I believe Dormin’s female voice simply faded (and did not enter into Mono) is because his banishment was necessary for her revival.

One of the most important details to recognize is the rate at which infant Wander grows. In the short amount of time Mono takes to go from the circular pool to the Garden, Wander grows a full head of hair. Not only this, but his skin color and muscle tone have improved. In the second close-up it is revealed he has become as large as a toddler and his facial features are closer to those of a young child. At this rate Wander could easily reach his original age in a matter of weeks, if not days. This insinuates three things. Firstly, Wander’s human form will never be the same and, neither will any of his descendants. He will have increased strength, stamina, and health for the rest of his life (as having a body without these qualities would not have allowed him to survive growing so fast without breaking). And most obviously, he will always have horns. Secondly, it means that, of any human body Dormin might try to claim, Wander’s would be most suitable. His altered body may make him more susceptible to Dormin’s re-possession; either this or Dormin would single him out simply because he is a known target. Lastly, this means that, unlike many fan theories I have encountered, Wander will quickly return to the age he was at the start of the story, allowing he and Mono to soon live together as young adults.

It might seem odd that keeping Dormin sealed within the Colossi was the ultimate choice when, in a last-ditch effort, Dormin was sucked away by the pool of light created by the Ancient Sword. If using the sword as Emon did was so simple, why did his ancestors undergo the pain and sweat to use the idols and Colossi? While using the Sword seems simple, the chances that Dormin is now free to return is very high. As long as no-one killed the Colossi as Wander did, that method of imprisoning Dormin was permanent. Dormin in fact, remarked how Man “severed [their] body into sixteen segments for an eternity in order to seal away [their] power…” Dormin, an immortal being, could never be truly defeated, so the next best thing was to keep him from acting at will. The pool of light is powerful and swift, but it sends Dormin away with nothing to chain him down. It simply transported him to someplace else. This grants credence to the theory that Wander may yet again succumb to Dormin’s control. Without the Sword at his disposal, Wander has nothing to defend himself with against the demon.

Every time Wander goes to rest beside a Save Shrine and, every time he wakes up within the Temple, he is gripping the Ancient Sword. In the PS2 and PS3 versions, he never puts the sword away between the time he delivers the final blow to the time he wakes up. In the PS4 version, however, he puts it back within the scabbard as a Colossus crumples to the earth, lest he lose his grip on their fur and go flying; the next time we see him, he is on the Temple floor and the sword is in his hand, unsheathed. Though this could simply be a discrepancy, I believe that it is intentional. The whole reason Dormin told Wander anything–and let Wander go so far as to explain his situation in the first place–is because Wander had the Sword. If the Sword were to somehow slide out of its scabbard during one of the times Wander’s body rises into the White Tunnel, it would make slaying the remaining Colossi painfully more difficult, if not impossible. Thus, with what amount of Dormin’s essence is in Wander’s body, Dormin causes him to grab the hilt and prevent it from leaving his persona. In the PS2 and 3 versions, Dormin probably was still keeping Wander from letting go. The difference is that in the remake, Dormin goes a step further to pull the sword out again. This small change makes an otherwise neutral detail lend itself more fully to the story.

The White Tunnel following the death of the Sixteenth is the exception, of course. Dormin tolerated Wander holding the sword so long as he was furthering the Ritual but, when it was complete, there was no need to hold onto it any longer. For immortal beings, it is likely that contact with such a weapon causes them pain. Dormin’s first words to Wander are, “Hmm? Thou possess the ancient sword? So thou art mortal…” Dormin may not be capable of utilizing the Sword—even if he had his original body—as it may be like the situation in the Legend of Zelda where the gods and goddesses cannot wield the Triforce. Otherwise, it would make little sense why Dormin points out Wander’s mortality.

Speaking of resting beside Save Shrines, I believe Wander needs to in order to fall asleep and stay asleep by his own accord. Dormin told Wander, “If thou find an alter like this one, pray before it and thy woulds shall be healed.” These Shrines are probably the only places that offer him relief from the darkness collecting within him. In the least he rests by the Shrines because they are known, recognizable landmarks. If we take into account the natural, life-giving power of the Lands, it is likely that they are able to heal those that pray by them, regardless who the travelers pray to. Just as the Colossi house the degrading essence of Dormin, the Shrines act as conduits of the Land’s healing power. The Shrines are able to work regardless of Dormin’s presence because of their amplifying and harnessing nature. The Lands as a whole, however, are only able to return to the state they were once Dormin is banished.

Further Points [2.2]

[A] There is the idea that Wander is being painted as “the bad guy” because he is selfishly taking the lives of sixteen beautiful creatures in exchange for the life of one young woman. While I wholeheartedly agree that killing the Colossi evokes a deep sense of remorse and loss, I do not believe the game is putting Wander in an entirely evil, selfish light, and here is why. The story is about Dormin’s deception of Wander and, how Dormin intentionally did not tell Wander that his essence was imprisoned within the giants. It seems to me that players forget how connected the Colossi are to Dormin; without the demon’s soul residing within them, they have no life of their own. It is not like the Colossi existed for ages and then Dormin’s soul was put inside of living things. The Colossi were newly created so that Dormin could be sealed away. “They are memories replaced by ens and naught, and etched into stone.” Emon’s words literally mean that the true history of the Land was forgotten and, that something else came to take their place; the Colossi and their Idols. This does not mean that people correctly remember anything about the Lands’ new story either. Wander certainly didn’t. But in Fumito Ueda’s stories, anything that is man-made is ultimately futile. The truth will come out and what was made by mortal hands will fall. Wander learned what Dormin was really up to and, the magnificent Bridge linking the Lands to the rest of the world was destroyed. [It is uncertain whether Emon caused the bridge to fall, or if its destruction was a natural consequence of Dormin’s revival and removal.] I digress. The feeling players get that Wander is somehow being evil or selfish is a feeling mostly created by them. It is not an unintended consequence; the emotions are certainly warranted. But the game is not explicitly the player to think in this way. Rather, it portrays Wander as a victim. On the surface he is a predator of beauty. When more closely examined, he is the greatest victim of them all. As Emon said ever so truthfully, Wander was “being used.” Players see the Colossi as they do because that is how Wander sees them, not completely knowing what they are.

[B] The story of Shadow of the Colossus is not the player’s story. It is Wander’s. The identity separation between the player and the protagonist is crucial to keeping the tale intact. I say this because we are only presented with a mere snapshot of his life and, are not given details of past or future events. It is just as if we happened to cross Wander’s path. The player never takes on Wander’s identity and, never steps so far into his shoes so as to become him. We are simply curious observers. On the other hand, we are able to experience this snapshot as he does, an element which makes this story so appealing. It is only until the end that we are shown events which Wander remains ignorant of. This detail alone demonstrates how we are separate from Wander. If players really were intended to be him, we would not have seen Emon approaching the Lands, or Agro’s miraculous return to the Shrine, much less Mono’s awakening.

[C] The scene where Agro jumps the collapsing bridge is a parallel to the game’s Prologue where she jumps the daunting gap. In the latter, Wander makes her jump so that he can continue on his quest to find the “one with the ability to control beings created from light.” He is not particularly interested in the fears of his horse at the time, being preoccupied with reviving Mono and, so he makes her continue with little regard to danger. As he said to Dormin, “It doesn’t matter,” not with Mono’s life on the line. In the former, Wander is nearing the location of the sixteenth and final Colossus. The words of Dormin echo in his mind: “Finally, the last colossus… The ritual is nearly over… Thy wish is nearly granted… But someone now stands to get in thy way… Make haste, for time is short…” Again Wander is very eager to reach his destination and, again he makes Agro jump a perilous gap. But this time they are not so fortunate. As they land on the first stretch, stone begins to fall and crumble away, toppling down from under Agro’s racing hooves. She senses the ground is too unstable to try and leap herself, so she throws Wander to the other side. He scrambles back to the edge to watch his horse plunge into the abyss. Unlike in the Prologue, this time he feels remorse. This parallel of the two scenes causes Shadow to to not only tell a love story, but a boy-and-his-horse tale as well.

[D] In the Shadow of the Colossus Official Artbook and Guidebook, the “team considers Agro’s survival after her fall a miracle, as if something supernatural happened to save her from certain death” (TeamICO Wiki). Not only do I believe this notion, but I believe I can take it a step further. As the absence of Dormin’s presence allowed for the Forbidden Lands’ power of life to return and heal everything, resurrecting Mono and causing Wander’s rebirth in the process, Agro was also rescued by this revival. Her hind leg remained injured, however, just as Wander retained a small pair of horns. Not everything was able to be cleansed, but a new life was surely taking place.

[E] The “cursed fate” of Mono was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The very action people took to steer clear of destruction was what caused Wander to (inadvertently) resurrect the demon they feared. Her fate was her role in Wander’s journeying as, she acted as her lover’s sole motivation. Like Wander’s misunderstanding of Emon’s account and Dormin’s vague tale, this too presents a layer of irony.

[F] Though quite interesting, it is unlikely that there were other ‘Wanderers, not if we are considering the black shadows in the Temple to be their dead souls. The shadows that blew away in front of the Ancient Sword were the same as the shadows that appeared around Wander’s body each time he felled a Colossus. The ones around his body were the spiritual manifestations of each sixteenth of Dormin that was sealed away while, the shadows that spooked Agro and those that appeared behind cursed Wander were a spiritual way of representing Dormin’s audible presence within the Shrine. In this respect there is no evidence that other “wanderers” preceded our Wander. But there is the possibility that other people had tried entering the Shrine before. The only reason why their stories were not told and why their lives were not remembered was because none of them possessed the Ancient Sword. I think that the only reason why Dormin let Wander speak (and live) was because he carried the weapon. If he had not, he probably would have been attacked and killed by the five shadows that came out of the floor. Dormin would have remained in some form of dormancy and the shadows would have left nothing behind to tell tale of. Furthermore, even if travelers had managed to escape the Temple’s shadows, I don’t believe their presence within a Colossus’s arena would trigger anything. The Colossi are not woken by birds or other animals within their presence, so why should they do so when a human walks in? Other than humans having souls and animals not, there is little else inherently special about a human that would cause a Colossus to regain awareness. Again, it was because Wander carried the very sword linked to the ritual that evoked such a reaction. Especially considering that Dormin inhabits these giants, it only makes sense that he would not animate a Colossus until one with the ability to destroy them arrived. Their awakening is no small matter.

[G] One can hear thunder in three different places; moments before Dormin speaks to Wander for the first time, whenever Wander enters the White Tunnel and, when the Pool of Light closes. This sound seems to audibly represent Dormin’s presence and his supernatural power, both coming and going. In fact, in the ending when Wander regains consciousness within the Shrine of Worship, the sound effects that once played when Dormin’s presence came to tell the next riddle, now play as Wander wakes up and the shadows emerge from the floor. Here too is Dormin’s presence introduced…in Wander.

[H] I am wondering if there is something more to the shadows’ appearance in the Shrine at the time of Wander’s arrival with Mono. The design on Wander’s poncho is the same as the design on Mono’s dress (likely a dress she was made to wear for the occasion of her sacrifice) and, the same as the design that is on Emon’s poncho. Dormin immediately recognized who Emon and his men were. He easily called them out on their actions for having sealed him away (they being descendants of those who did it). It makes me wonder if, because he saw what design was on Wander’s poncho, he realized there was the slim chance of his freedom. So he caused the essence of himself that dwelt in the hall to confront Wander, hoping it would provoke him into brandishing the Sword. The sight of it emerging from the scabbard must have been mouth-watering.

[I] I personally believe that Wander and Mono knew each-other. Whenever I have read through fan speculation, I often find something to the effect of, “I get the impression that Mono really didn’t know Wander.” I understand where the notion is coming from, but at the same time, I see something very different from apathy or ignorance. She was saddened by the sight of Agro limping–particularly with no rider. If she had not known Wander or recognized Agro, I believe she would have had a different reaction to seeing the empty temple and an injured animal. She seemed too calm, too aware maybe?, for her to have not known who Wander was and, to not have known what happened. Especially since she was somehow privy to the demise of the forbidden ritual, both in the moments where her voice seemed to be weeping (in the white tunnel), as well as when she was seeing the corpses of the Colossi (through memory/reminiscence) during the end credits.

[J Here is a fascinating video by NomadColossus. It focuses on the light energy and darkness and how it shapes the ending of the story…

For those of you who have made it this far in the article, here is a bonus video of someone else’s analytical take on the story of Shadow. May I present Cinematic Overture’s “Shadow of the Colossus Analysis: A Ludonarrative Interpretation”.

How to Credit Images [3]

Unless credited otherwise, all PlayStation4 screenshots of “Shadow of the Colossus” and “The Last Guardian” (including header images) are my work.

2 thoughts on “Plot Explained: Shadow of the Colossus

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