ICO You Were There

The Ancients

The story of Ico seems very much to be the final chapter of a much longer story about which we know practically nothing. Furthermore this final chapter is focused more on the newly introduced characters than it is on the climactic events which involve them. Due to this, attempting to determine how this story began and what may have happened that led to the events that we are aware of is probably the most difficult aspect of analysing Ico. All that can really be done is to take the elements of the story which we have seen, and to attempt to infer how they may have related to each other in the past. An obvious starting point for this story is the construction of the Fortress, and that began with the people who built it. I label this group of people the 'Ancients', simply for the fact that they lived a long time ago but don't seem to be around anymore. This is an entirely hypothetical group of people, assumed to have exist simply because someone must have built the Fortress. Who they might have been, and how they might relate to the people we do see in Ico is unknown.
One obvious characteristic of this group of people is that they must have been quite advanced; they did, after all, build the Fortress. The more familiar technologies found in the Fortress are quite primitive by our standards, however the ubiquity of Light Magic in the Fortress reminds us that they had use of unfamiliar 'technology' as well, suggesting that they may have been more advanced in other ways. By Ico's time they should be even more advanced, given the amount of time which has passed, except that they no longer seem to be around. They have vanished, either from the Fortress or from the whole world. It may be that they are simply gone, or that they lost their heritage and no longer appear as they once did.

One possibility to consider is the one group of people who we know are still in the area: Ico's people. It could be suggested that these people are the descendants of the people who built the Fortress. If this is the case they must have met with some kind of disaster in the past, for far from being more advanced than those who built the Fortress, what little we know about Ico's people suggests they may be even less advanced, regarding the Fortress their ancestors built merely as a fearful place from which the curse afflicting them originates. They also show no sign that they can manipulate Light Magic, relying on a magical sword already in the Fortress to gain entry to the Casket Chamber.
Of course, none of this negates the possibility; one could come up with explanations for these discrepancies. But it would require so much explanation that the view that the Ancients were a separate race who disappeared for one reason or another also remains a strong possibility. I will still refer to the Ancients as if they are an independent group of people either way, because even if they did eventually become Ico's people, who they are now and who they were then are so different as to be two different peoples anyway.

Yorda and The Queen present another interesting angle on the race who built the Fortress. Yorda is what I term a 'Light Being', a person who seems to have an intrinsic control over Light Magic, and the magic analysis leads to the conclusion that the Queen was once a similar being. Beings like these would be quite at home in the Fortress due to their powers, as many of the devices in the Fortress rely on Light Magic. While Ico and other normal humans require something like the Sword to allow them to activate these devices, Yorda, and presumably any other Light Being, can activate them with their own power. This suggests that the Fortress was built with these people in mind, and thus suggests that the Ancients have some strong tie with Light Beings.
Yorda is obviously too young to have been one of the original inhabitants of the Fortress, but we already knew that there were special circumstances surrounding her 'birth'. The Queen, on the other hand, is known to have been attempting to preserve her existence using Dark Magic, to the extent that even her Dark Magic body is beginning to fail her, whatever about her original physical body. The device which she intends to use to extend her life still further, the Casket Chamber, is likely also responsible for allowing her to get this far. Since she is obviously extremely old, and appears to have used a device within the Fortress to extend her life beyond its natural end, it possible that she actually is one of the original inhabitants, and given her title, may have been the most important of them.
The possibility that the ruler of the Fortress was a Light being, combined with the fact that the Fortress appears to have been built with them in mind suggests that the Ancients and the Light Beings may be one and the same, that this missing race were all people like Yorda. However, this is not certain; we aren't necessarily looking for a race, what we are actually looking for ar the people who built and lived in the Fortress, and this may have consisted of a mix of Light Beings and normal humans.

Yorda's presentation in the story as a special, unique being makes the idea of large numbers of people just like her seem counterintuitive. Furthermore, the references in the Fortress to the people with horns tells us that the Fortress is not connected exclusively with one group of unusual people. Finally, there is the design of the Fortress itself, which is in part certainly meant to accommodate Light Beings, but in other parts is quite mundane.
The extremes of this dichotomy in the design of the Fortress can be seen when we compare the Water Wheels underneath it which presumably power the various mechanisms, and the Reflectors which use a beam of light to power orbs that seem to shoot lightning, not to mention the self-opening Idol Doors and platforms which appear out of thin air in the Arenas. The extreme lack of magic in one area and the total dependence on it in another area certainly suggests that there were two groups of people involved with the Fortress. The Light Beings seemed to be in control of the top layer, the most important parts, such as the Arenas and the Queen's Tower, while the parts controlled by ordinary humans appear to have been the more mundane parts vital to the running of the Fortress. Thus it would seem that the magical beings were the upper class in the Fortress and, as the Queen's title suggests, ruled over it, which makes sense.
This view of the Ancients reopens the possibility of a link with Ico's people. Since this world appears to be governed by magic, it makes sense that technological development would take a backseat, as tends to be the case in fantasy settings. Thus the humans would have stayed at roughly the same level of development, as everything more advanced was magic based, and only certain people could use that magic. And if those people were to leave, or worse, then the humans who were left behind may well carry on at that level without them, and abandon their home that relied on magic they could not use. So Ico's people may in fact be the descendants of the humans who lived in the Fortress, which fits with their knowledge of the Fortress and how to use the Sword's magic to gain access. As for what happened to the people in the magical side of the Ancients, that remains a mystery.


Written by Crumplecorn
Last Updated 25/01/2010


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