The Forces of Light and Dark in Ico
Spirits As Dual Beings
In the original section on the Spirits I showed how we can determine more or less for certain who the Spirits that Ico and Yorda encounter throughout the Fortress are; they are some remnant of living people. How exactly they relate to the people they once were is still unknown though. We know that people can be brought back as Spirits, this is done to Yorda at the end of the story, and it is apparent that the Queen did something similar to herself at some point in the past. However, aside from lacking an explanation as to why these other people would be brought back, they are also a different kind of Spirit than the Queen and Yorda. And so we are still left with the question of exactly who and what they are.
The first question to ask then is, why did they become Spirits in the first place? As I mentioned in the original Spirits section, the fact that the Spirits all bear horns similar to Ico's suggests that in life they all bore these horns as he does - and thus had also inherited the trait which results in the horns in the first place. Since it was horned boys in particular that the Queen was sacrificing, we can safely assume that this trait is also the reason that they were of use to her. And since all the Spirits come from this group of people, it is not a stretch to imagine that it is also this trait which is responsible either for them becoming Spirits, or at the very least for making it possible. As mentioned before, it is possible that being sacrificed in the Casket Chamber is the common thread for becoming a Spirit, but not only is it difficult to explain so many sacrifices, the Spirits of the people who were sacrificed seemed to be destroyed to complete to process anyway. That it is directly linked to the trait itself seems more likely.
So we have a mark, a 'difference' in this group of people which sets them apart from everyone else, and somehow ties them in with the goings on at the Fortress. Since this trait is useful to the Queen, and it seems to be tied to them becoming Spirits - Dark Beings, if of a lesser kind - it appears that this trait is tied to Dark Magic. Now we need to take a brief look ahead at the Spirit they become. They too bear a mark which sets them apart - the 'eyes' which resemble Light Magic. Let us assume for a moment that this is Light Magic. This means these Dark Beings have an impurity of sorts which manifests physically. I'll get back to that in a minute, the point for now is - what if the same is true of the people with horns? What if the trait they carry is some aspect of Dark Magic which was passed down through the generations, and manifested in them. The horns would be a physical change resulting from the Dark Magic, and it would go some way to explaining why they are of use to the Queen and why they in particular become Spirits.
This idea can be taken without any background assumptions other than those presented with strong evidence in Part I of the analysis. However, greater support comes from a separate bit of speculation from Part II, so I will mention it here, as the two taken together build into a greater whole. It is obvious that Dark Magic, whether magical or supernatural, is at least related to the supernatural. We know this because it deals largely with the return of the dead in Spirit form. A less well supported idea which in turn supports this idea is something along the lines of what I suggest in 'Light Magic as a Natural Force'; that not only is Dark Magic a manifestation of the supernatural in the natural world, but that Light Magic is its counterpart from the natural world, a natural power derived from the world itself, rather than some power which merely resides there.
This assumption is helpful because it assists in explaining why there is Light Magic present within the Spirits. The people with horns seem to have some aspect of Dark Magic about them, which leaves a mark on them. The Spirits they become are Dark Magic, but have a mark of their own, the Light Magic. This next part can be taken as a blind assumption, or logically follows on from the 'Light Magic as a Natural Force' line of argument if you accept it.
A way of looking at this is that the person and the Spirit are one being with two aspects, Light and Dark. The living person is one aspect, the Spirit is the other. Each one carries a mark of their other aspect, an impurity. And the other aspect is a manifestation of that impurity. So, the people with horns do not become Spirits as such, rather the Dark Magic within them manifests after they die. When they die the Light aspect of the being is dead, so the other aspect takes over. But the person they were is not completely gone, it remains as the Light Magic within the Spirit, reduced to an impurity in the other aspect rather than being the dominant aspect. Hence, 'dual beings', two sides to the same coin. When the Dark aspect is also destroyed, the Light Magic also disappears as the whole is finally dead.
Types of Spirits
This is not to suggest that the person and the Spirit are the same being in identity terms, that the Spirit is the person in another body. The suggestion is more than they are two beings in one, and when the 'real' person dies the metaphysical aspect of them, which is the trait the Queen seeks, takes over in physical form. To support this, we need only compare these Spirits to the Queen. One of the differences I highlighted in the original section was that their behaviour is different, they do not seem to be complete people. Yorda and the Queen in Spirit form seem to be proper people, and in Yorda's case still herself, merely with a new body. The 'impure' Spirits seem to be simpler creatures, which may not even have a will of their own. Another difference is that they are far weaker than either people or the 'real' Spirits, easily dispatched even by Ico.
Another element which is explained is why, as discussed in the original section, the Spirits appear to take human form initially, but then shift to more unusual shapes. Since this Dark Magic has been residing in a human form for all the person's life with no form of its own, when it finally manifests a physical form it is no surprise that it would resemble the original person. However, being magical, it can do things people cannot, such as fly, and being magical, its form will come to reflect this over time.
In the section on the Casket Chamber I point out that it is a particularly troublesome source of Light Magic in terms of analysis as it creates a Dark Being, despite the fact that Light and Dark magic seem to oppose each other at every turn. However, there is also a sense of 'balance' to this unusual interaction in that this device which brings back the dead requires sacrifices to function.
The central point of this idea is that the Spirits which chase Ico and Yorda throughout the Fortress, rather than being proper independent creatures, are in fact merely manifestations of Dark Magic power carried by the people with horns. This central point could be applied to different interpretations of the magic in the story, I merely presented it in the context established by the analysis thus far.
Written by Crumplecorn