ICO You Were There


Yorda is probably the most enigmatic element of the entire story. There is virtually nothing we know about her for certain, and in this case to even speculate is difficult. The reason for this is not a lack of information, if anything the problem is the opposite. We are told and shown a number of things related to Yorda, but they are all so mysterious and unexplained in their own right that there is nowhere to start in trying to figure it all out. This is likely intentional since Yorda's mysteriousness is critical to the story, an obvious example of this is that the first time through the game the player is not even told what she is saying when she speaks.
However, while it seems to be impossible to approach an absolute explanation for Yorda's story, when examining detailed theories regarding the other aspects of the story complete potential explanations for the entire story sometimes emerge, and these can include limited explanations for the events surrounding Yorda. I will not be going into these here as they are closer to fanfiction than an analysis of what actually happens in the game, however it is beneficial to analyse what little information we do have as much as possible to see how it may all fit together when we use these other theories narrow down the possibilities.


Yorda's Forms

During the story Yorda is seen in two different forms. Her 'Light' form is the form she is in when Ico first meets her. She appears almost human in this form, though there are some notable differences, such as her exceptionally pale skin and her elf-like ears. She also seems somewhat luminescent, as if a light somewhere is shining which reflects only off her, though this is possibly a trick of the light due to her pale skin and white dress.
While she is in this form Yorda is physically very weak, however she has the ability to use Light Magic to activate the various devices in the Fortress which respond to it. It is also possible that she has other powers of which we are unaware. Using this power exerts a toll on her, and while activating most devices doesn't to affect her significantly, opening the Main Gate weakens her severely.
During their trip through the Fortress, Yorda's only independent action tends to be running away from the Spirits, or staying close to Ico when the Spirits are nearby. Aside from this, she does very little without Ico's direct help. However, she is aware of what is going on around her, she does know her way around to some extent, and on occasion she does act independently. The reason she acts the way she does is a separate topic and is irrelevant here, what is relevant is that during the brief time Yorda is seen in her other form she acts completely differently, rescuing the unconscious Ico from the collapsing fortress. Her timid behaviour throughout the story is actually somehow tied into her Light form.

Her other form is, predictably enough, her 'Dark' form. This is the form she has when she is a Dark Being, the same form that the Queen has. Physically she has the same basic shape as she did before, except now she is made of pure darkness, making her look like a silhouette of her other form. This darkness is in stark contrast to her Light form; they are more or less complete opposites.
In this form Yorda has far greater physical strength; she carries Ico down to the boat with relative ease. As for the powers she had in her other form, it is likely she no longer has these, since Light Magic tends to be destructive to Spirits. She may however have gained powers similar to the Queen's. As I pointed out before her behaviour changes in this form, rather than being reliant on Ico she actually saves him from the rapidly collapsing fortress. This may simply be due to her greater physical strength, or there may be a deeper reason.
A significant point is that when once again presented with an opportunity to escape, the boat Ico leaves in, she does not go with him. The reasons for this are unclear, whether she chose not to go, or actually physically couldn't for some reason. Her behaviour with regard to escaping both before and after her 'resurrection' is open to interpretation, however there is one difference which is notable with regard to the differences in her forms. While in her Light form she has no problem with being led to freedom by Ico, though due to her general demeanour she does not pursue it actively herself. When in her Dark form however, she declines what appears to be another opportunity to escape. Something has changed, be it her ability or will to escape.

An obvious question is which of these is her original or 'true' form. As with the Queen, the fact that the fortress she resides in is based on Light Magic suggests that her Light form is her true form. In the section on the Queen I point out that it is likely that the Queen was originally a Light Being, which supports the idea that Yorda's true form is her Light form. However in Yorda's case there is some suggestion to the contrary in the form of the dream.


The Dream

Yorda's first appearance in the story is actually before Ico meets her. She is the focus of the dream he has when he is knocked out after escaping from his casket. Since it is a dream it cannot tell us anything for certain, however there is enough in it to suggest various possibilities about Yorda's past.

In the dream Yorda appears in her cage through something which somewhat resembles the portals the Spirits appear through. Unlike the portals it seems to be an actual liquid which drips out of the cage, but given that it is only a dream it is close enough to remark on the similarity. I state elsewhere that it is likely that the Queen controls these portals rather than the Spirits themselves, as those Spirits never show any signs of having any significant power. If this is the case then this part of the dream would appear to be showing Yorda being put in the cage by the Queen.
It is suggested that more is going on in the dream than Yorda being put in the cage. In the background there is a storm, just as there is at the end of the story when the Queen is preparing to use the Casket Chamber and take over Yorda's body. This suggests that this is a significant event, not something as simple as Yorda being put in the cage. Since it is extremely unlikely Yorda was born in a normal fashion it is possible that part of what this dream is depicting is Yorda's creation, allowing us to relate what we see in the dream to the question of Yorda's origin.

Ico is also present in the dream. He approaches the cage in almost exactly the same manner as he does in reality when he wakes up. Ico's presence in the dream tells us that this is not a flashback of some kind, as Ico could not be present in a flashback, as he has not met Yorda yet. You could speculate that it is a past event and he is present merely as an observer, except that he interacts with the dream by being sucked into the portal in the wall, and his approach of the cage reflects a real event yet to come.
The fact that his appearance is identical to his later actions in reality suggests that the content of the dream, while not an exact replica of any given event, does draw upon real events, and does so regardless of whether Ico should be aware of them or not. Essentially, the dream is not completely literal, but is composed of things which really happened or will happen. This means that it can tell us something about Yorda if we are able to interpret it.

Probably the most significant aspect of the dream is the fact that Yorda appears as a Spirit in it. She is only seen in this form twice; in the dream, and at the very end of the story. Not only had Ico not met Yorda at this point, he had no way of predicting that Yorda would become a Spirit; even the player does not. That Yorda is a Spirit in the dream must be intended to tell us something, but exactly what, we cannot be sure.


Interpretations of the Dream and Yorda

One way to interpret Yorda's appearance in the dream is to take it completely literally. In this case it would be indicating that when Yorda was put in her cage she was a Spirit, the implication being that she originally was a Spirit, until she changed or was changed into her Light form. It is also possible that it is not attempting to indicate an exact series of events, but merely tell us that while Yorda appears throughout the story to be a Light Being, she is actually a Spirit and became a Light Being at some point before Ico met her. The fact that she appears as a Spirit in the cage may not mean she actually was a Spirit at that time; it may simply be a reference indicating that she was a Spirit in the past, and changed into her Light form at some point before Ico met her. Assuming that the dream is telling us that Yorda was originally physically a Spirit, it becomes necessary to explain why Yorda would later change into a Light Being, which is not made easy since the Queen's objective in Ico is to turn her into a Spirit.

It is possible to continue this same basic idea without taking the dream as literally. The dream shows her in the cage where Ico finds her, and depicts him finding her exactly as happens in reality. This may be a direct reference to this initial encounter, an attempt to tell us that what Ico will soon find in that cage, while it may have the appearance of a normal girl, is in fact something else. Rather than telling us that she actually physically was a Spirit at some point in the past, it may instead be indicating something about her true nature. So she may always have physically been a Light Being, up until the end of Ico, but is depicted as a Spirit in the dream because that is what she 'really' is.
This interpretation of the dream, that it is telling us one way or another about Yorda's true nature, is the only suggestion that Yorda is actually a Spirit. While it seems quite explicit, it is only a dream, and interpreting it this way may be reading too much into it. Whether Yorda is actually a Spirit or a Light Being is of course closely related to the Queen's true nature, so I will discuss this in more detail in the section on that topic.

We can consider interpretations of the dream in which the depiction of Yorda is not attempting to speak to her true nature. In this case the dream must be trying to tell us something else by depicting her in this way. Since her mother is a Spirit during the course of the story, it is easy to imagine that this depiction of Yorda is simply to make the connection between her and the Dark Magic forces in the Fortress, a connection which we are not aware of since we haven't even encountered Yorda yet at this point. This is similar to the less literal interpretation above, except that we are now not taking it as meaning that Yorda is a Spirit, simply that she has some relation to Dark Magic.

I pointed out above that what we see in the dream is not likely to be a simple event like Yorda being put in the cage, but is probably a more significant event like her creation. An obvious conflict in the story is that Yorda is a Light Being while her mother is a Spirit. The dream may actually be showing us the resolution of this conflict; that while Yorda is indeed a Light Being, her origins are related to Dark Magic due to her mother being a Spirit. The fact that it show accurately recreates Ico finding Yorda in the cage may be to tell us that it is referring to Yorda as he finds her on that occasion, not trying to tell us that the person he finds is not a Light Being, rather simply that there is more to her.


Some references are made in this section to Yorda's behaviour; I examine this in detail in the character analysis section.
The discussion of the Queen's true form in 'The Queen; Light or Dark?' is very relevant to Yorda's true nature and history.


Written by Crumplecorn
Last Updated 23/4/2008


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