Shinto-Style Heroic Narratives

November 5, 2006

I just watched a playtest of Shreyas’ hot new hotness The Golden Chain, which is probably the most focused thing he’s every written.

As with any of Shreyas’ games, I proceeded to tell him what the project was really about, under all the fun, flowery Shreyas prose and mechanical cuteness. It’s basically a mythopoetic version of Zelda or Shadow of the Colossus. Evil has come into the world and corrupted the land around it. The heroes have to rid the land of this sickness by destroying the “boss” monsters that are the sources of the taint. It’s that whole Miyazaki/Shinto “monsters as disease/pollution” thing.

Which brought me to the next step which is:

– heroes internalize external problems
– they consume monsters and try to digest their poison
– and when they can’t, the heroes die, but have weakened the monster
– or the monster dies, but hurts the hero in the process
– heroes can sometimes recover from the hurt
– but sometimes it becomes a lingering or mortal wound

This was not really a common feature in Zelda until the most recent game, Twilight Princess, which comes out in a week. In it, Link is cursed by the darkness and transforms into a wolf at certain times. But you can see it in a lot of Miyazaki stuff, like how the hero in Princess Mononoke has a magically diseased hand.

Basically, monsters in these narratives are there primarily to exact a cost from the hero, be it temporary or permanent. They are also the true agents of change They raise fundamental questions about the hero and the hero must address these questions in order to survive, in order to clense themselves of the monster’s corrupting sickness, the sickness they have absorbed into themselves in order to rid it from the land.

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