ICO You Were There

The Queen; Light or Dark?


In the original section on the Queen I pointed out that there are a number of issues with the fact that the Queen is a Spirit. The Fortress she rules is based on Light Magic, which opposes Dark Magic. Her daughter is a Light Being, in alignment with the Fortress against her. Even her own appearance shows some kind of link to a form more like Yorda's Light form. There are also some further issues to do with the potential sequences of events.
The issues raised support the idea that the Queen was actually originally a Light Being, and became a Spirit at a later point. There is no solid proof for this, so it is possible to construct an alternative interpretation of the story in which the Queen was always a Spirit, which I why I will discuss that alternative, but it quickly becomes clear that her being a Light Being originally is far more likely explanation.
A proper analysis of this question also requires some analysis of the magic in Ico as a whole, the plot, and Yorda, which is why I have kept it in this section. This also makes this part of the analysis relevant to all these topics, especially Yorda, whose true form is almost certainly going to match that of her mother.



Making the assumption that the Queen was always a Spirit requires you to rework your understanding of the game around this assumption. This alone should be enough to suggest that it is incorrect, but I will examine it briefly nonetheless. The place start to start is the various conflicts raised in the story which we would otherwise resolve by assuming that the Queen was originally a Light Being.

The most obvious conflict is the Fortress she rules over. Why is her domain based on a power which is destructive to the power she herself is made of? Since it appears that the Fortress is designed to some extent to defend against Dark Magic, one possible explanation is that these defences did not work, and that the Queen is actually a Spirit who took control of the Fortress and made it her home. Another version is that she found it abandoned after the original occupants left. The idea here is that the Fortress was not originally hers, and thus there is no real conflict. To explain why she would want a Fortress which opposes her power, we simply have to remember that she required the power of the Casket Chamber to complete her plan. A minor problem with this is that she is referred to as the Queen, which isn't really true if the Fortress wasn't hers when it was inhabited.

The next conflict is why her daughter is a Light Being. Under this interpretation we must accept that the dream which depicts Yorda as a Spirit is showing us her true nature. This means that at some point since Yorda was transformed from a Spirit into a Light Being, despite neither her nor her mother having originally been Light Beings. Before attempting to explain why this might be done, a problem which must be pointed out is that according to the main analysis the Light and Dark magics are basically opposites, making such a transformation difficult, and thus requiring a very good reason to do it. Furthermore, the game suggests that the Dark Beings are actually dead people, or some kind of magical creatures created from magic related to the supernatural. An explanation is therefore also required for how a being which has never really been alive can be transformed into a living being.

The last conflict tells us how to explain this. The Queen's appearance, however you choose to interpret the story, shows a link between her and Yorda. If we assume that the Queen was always a Spirit, the fact that the humanesque face she shows resembles that of a Light Being tells us that there is a link between the Spirits and the Light Beings, between the Dark Magic and the Light Magic. While these two manifestations oppose each other, the logical conclusion is that they are actually different forms of the same magic, and neither is related to the supernatural at all, something which the story does not directly contradict. Assuming this, it makes Yorda's transformation from her original Dark form to the Light form Ico finds her in far easier, as she is not really changing from a supernatural being to a living person, simply from one form of magic to another.

This brings me back to my original point about this interpretation; it requires you to rework everything around it, including just about everything in this analysis, the inherent suggestions of the games presentation, and any explanations of the plot. While it may be interesting to do so, this does not seem at all close to a proper explanation for the events of Ico.



The assumption that the Queen was originally a Light Being fits well with many aspects of Ico. It also either completely removes or lessens all of the conflicts previously highlighted. The only issue raised by this assumption is how and why the Queen went from being a Light Being to being a Spirit, which is what I will start with
From the analysis thus far we come to the conclusion that the Spirits are the dead, and that Dark Magic is a supernatural power related to death and the dead. This leads to the obvious conclusion that the Queen became a Dark Being by being resurrected either by herself or someone else. We actually see this done in Ico; Yorda, who is a Light Being during the course of the story regardless of any debates about her history, is killed and then brought back by the Casket Chamber as a Spirit similar to the Queen. So the conclusion we reach about the Queen is actually shown to be possible in the story, and we even have a possible method. Unlike the assumption that she was originally a Spirit, this assumption even fits with the story. We know from the story that the Queen wishes to extend her own lifespan, that is what she intends to use Yorda for, and her reason for sacrificing all the horned boys. Since we know that she wants to continue living, and she knows a method that results in becoming a Spirit, it is obvious that she has done something like this in the past, and this is the reason why she was once a Light Being and became a Spirit.

The next point to consider is how this explanation ties in with the other related elements. The Fortress is the simplest one, given that she is called the Queen and was once a Light Being herself the obvious explanation is that she was the Fortresses legitimate ruler, who then used Dark Magic to extend her life. We even have a possible explanation for why the Fortress is abandoned, in that it seems very much that the Fortress, and by inference anyone associated with it, were opposed to Dark Magic. If the ruler of this Fortress then starting using this power for themselves, one way or another a conflict would arise, and the Queen and her Spirit minions being the only remaining creatures in the Fortress is one obvious possible outcome.

Yorda is still a more complicated element. One aspect can be simplified; since we know that her mother was originally a Light Being, to suggest that Yorda was nonetheless originally a Spirit and only became a Light Being later would be a huge contrivance. So we basically know that Yorda's true form is her Light Form, as is the case with her mother.
The issue with Yorda is that she is quite young, while her mother has been a Spirit for probably hundreds of years. It doesn't really come as any surprise that she wasn't born in the usual fashion but it still demands explanation. One possible answer to this is that, despite now being a Dark Being, the Queen was able to 'create' a daughter, who would be a Light Being because that's what the Queen was when she was properly alive. In the section on Yorda I noted that one possible interpretation of the dream is exactly this; an indication that despite truly being a Light Being, Yorda's origins lay in Dark Magic. I still consider Yorda an 'issue' because while this is a decent explanation, it is somewhat contrived rather than being suggested by the story itself.


The Queen as a Hybrid

The Queen's appearance merits closer examination, due to her having something of the appearance of a Light Being while she is really a Dark Being. There is nothing to say she couldn't appear that way if she wanted to, the backstory even states that she can 'magic herself into the form of both a spirit and a human'. However it does highlight that she is somewhat different from Yorda's Dark form. Not only does the Queen maintain a humanesque face, but rather than simply being made of darkness like Yorda, she appears to have wrapped it around herself like a cloak.
Their appearance is similar enough to consider them essentially the same thing, especially when they are compared to the other Spirits, which are distinctly different. It raises an interesting possibility though. The reason that the Queen retains some of the appearance of a Light Being while Yorda does not may be because the Queen never fully gave it up. Yorda dies and is brought back as a Spirit, she is completely made of darkness. While the Queen must have done something similar, her appearance suggests that rather than being resurrected as a Spirit, she may have simply used Dark Magic to keep her existing body alive, eventually becoming more Spirit than person.

Aside from explaining her appearance, this has a number of other interesting implications. The most important relates to a question I have not asked as of yet. If the Queen is someone brought back from the dead, why is she still mortal? It may simply be that even these beings have finite lifespans in the living world, that eventually their magical bodies will fall apart. It is still counterintuitive that a spirit can die of old age though. A better explanation we can now consider is that the Queen is actually just using Dark Magic to keep her old body alive, and while its longevity has been increased, it is still fundamentally mortal and will eventually die no matter what she does. By killing and resurrecting Yorda, however, she can create a true Spirit body for herself, which may actually be immortal.
Another question is why a Spirit can control Light Magic devices such as the Casket Chamber and, arguably, the Orbs. While this could be explained due to the Queen having control in some abstract way due to being the ruler, the idea that some small part of her is still a Light Being gives a concrete answer to this question: It is the last of her Light Magic power.

A question which this idea raises is why, if she is capable of doing a complete resurrection which is presumably permanent, she instead chose to merely enhance her living body. One possible explanation is again that no such Spirits are actually truly immortal, so she must continue switching bodies from time to time forever; but this once again runs into the 'mortality of dead people' counter-intuitiveness. A more insightful explanation might be more related to her own fear of death. The Queen has to use the Casket Chamber to resurrect Yorda. Doing so required killing her, so for the Queen to use it on herself, she would have to die and rely on the Casket Chamber bringing her back. Assuming this is even possible, it would certainly be risky, as there would be no undoing it if something went wrong. Instead, she may have chosen to remain alive and use Dark Magic only to extend her life, and then to instead sacrifice her daughter in order to create a more permanent spirit body.



Examining the question in detail shows that the Queen originally being a Light Being is the only option that fits in with the story properly. Accepting this as the case, it also effectively answers the question on Yorda's true nature. The idea that either or both of them were always Spirits is an interesting alternative interpretation, but nothing more. We can essentially state as fact that both the Queen and Yorda were originally Light Beings.
Assigning greater significance to the Queen's appearance and giving the explanation that she turned into a Spirit gradually rather than being resurrected not only works well, but actually gives answers to questions which wouldn't otherwise have such naturally fitting answers. While not quite as certain as the idea that the Queen was originally a Light Being, it is a very plausible idea. Assuming it to be true or not will not likely have any effect on any analysis other than that done here, as in practice she is a Spirit during Ico, whatever the details behind it.


Since the Queen's true nature is basically a certainty when examined closely, I would like to present this analysis in Section 1, however it involves too many aspects of Ico and too much discussion and speculation to do so.


Written by Crumplecorn
Last Updated 08/03/2010


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