I hope you have all settled in for this one. Shadow of the Colossus, initially released on October the 18th, 2005 and produced by Team ICO, is one of my favourite games of all time. I have never seen any other game match its sheer sense of scale, awe, and mystery. And when you put all of those attributes together, you get the single best source of material for Lorequest! Oh and liking the game to death and back again helps quite a bit too.
So, sit back and behold the finest, largest, most comprehensive ramblings of a man who somehow finds pleasure in being the equivalent of being a videogame archeologist.
The most important thing we must tackle in this Lorequest should be fairly obvious. It is around them that the entire game’s story revolves and, indeed, the entire game world revolves. I speak, of course, of the colossi. Also, that was the title of this entry. So naturally it’ll be focused on. Yeah. Anyway.
Before we start delving into the colossi as individuals, I think that this first entry into this new Lorequest should be spent discussing the nature of the colossi, where they came from, why they’re there, and so on.
Thesis: Allow me to put forth, for your reading pleasure and consideration, the idea that the Forbidden Land’s sixteen Colossi have been there for a very, very long time. And that is not evidenced by the amount of moss and stones that have covered the dormant Colossi’s bodies (though that is evidence of their long existence regardless), but instead by their presence in the Shrine of Worship. The Shrine is the sole standing structure of any significant size that still remains in the Forbidden Lands and appears to be of paramount importance, being in the almost exact middle of the Forbidden Lands and the terminus of the bridge leading to the Lands. Inside the Shrine there are sixteen idols, each to a Colossus. Those idols are destroyed when a Colossus is slain. Therefore, I see that the idols are bound to the Colossi, meaning that their existences are at least congruous, though I would like to put forth the idea that the idols were made in the Shrine beforehand and later on in the Land’s history (but before the Dormin incident), the Colossi were writ large in a different form- as enormous statues that embodied their strengths and roles as gods.
The list that follows gives a brief outline of the Colossi and their importance as gods to the people of the Forbidden Lands. The list will also serve as a table of contents which allows easier navigation to the Colossi in detail.
Note: I will be using the fan-made names for each of the Colossi for the sake of organization and the names all sounding really, really cool.
Oh, and of course: Spoiler Alert (for this and all entries in this Lorequest)!
- Valus, the Spirit of the Mountains– The god of the mountainous regions in the Forbidden Lands, including its rough terrain and robust life.
Primary Evidence: The hawks that fly around Valus’ heads are unique in that no other Colossi has wildlife surrounding them. Valus is also high up in a canyon, which itself is in the mountains. There is also the remains of a temple in the area that appears to once have been devoted to Valus by way of its close proximity.
- Quadratus, the Ploughbeast– The god of work animals, tilling, farming, labour, and industry (primarily agrarian).
Primary Evidence: Its appearance is bovine and its hooves are the most important part of its body in the fight. If it is damaged enough in one exchange, it may attempt to run away from Wander by ignoring him completely and moving in the opposite direction despite knowing full well where he is (I have seen this first-hand. It’s really weird and a little sad). The sandy expanse (The Northern Span) above its lair was not always so, evidenced by the grasslands surrounding it and the remnants of water. Meaning, it was likely large, open plains previously. The path leading down to the Colossus is wide and robust enough to accommodate a lot of traffic and the pond on the bottom makes for a convenient watering hole.
- Gaius, the Paragon of Battle– The god of honourable battle and duels
Primary Evidence: The sword it wields is evidence of its warrior nature. Its appearance is also very armoured and seemingly battle-ready. Its arena is very arena-like indeed being a round, raised platform above a lake. Also, the smaller metal disc in the arena may be a spot for human duelists to fight with the colossus-statue standing nearby, as if in judgment.
- Phaedra, the Warhorse of the Graves– The god of shepherding souls away to the afterlife and protecting above-ground gravesites
Primary Evidence: Its appearance is ghostly and skeletal, standing on stilt-like legs and showing a protruding rib-cage and shoulder bones as well as possessing a skull-like head. Is also presides in an area that sports a large underground grave and an almost hauntingly quiet and empty grassland.
- Avion, the Alpha Hunter– The first of the “water Colossi,” first of the airborne Colossi, and the god of airborne life over water and hunting from the air
Primary Evidence: It presides in a large lake area with temple-like structures scattered around it. Is a bird, obviously, and its beak appears to be more in-line with a seagull than a bird that primarily flies over land.
- Barba, the Slumbering Gravekeeper- the god of protecting souls and the bodies of the dead that have been entombed underground
Primary Evidence: It waits in what appears to be a large underground grave site (with a rather conspicuously scaenae frons the chamber’s end) and has a similar skeletal appearance to Phaedra in that its spine is shown protruding through its skin and fur. Also, the door that Barba appears from seems built perfectly to its proportions.
- Hydrus, the Storm of the Deep- the second “water Colossi” and the god of waterborne life that resides deep beneath the surface
Primary Evidence: It lives very deep underwater in probably the deepest accessible body of water in the game. A temple-like structure exists in the area, as well as statues of Hydrus’ spines just outside of its lair, showing its importance as an idol. Its electric spines are reminiscent of a stereotypical electric eel, a limbless deep-water creature like Hydrus itself. Also, the tendrils that branch off of its face resemble that of a catfish.
- Kuromori ,the Jailer in the Shadows- the god of prisons, suppression, and watchfulness
Primary Evidence: Its arena seems very jail-like with its winding structure, barred windows, moat positioned on the outside, and general isolation from surrounding areas. Though it was only a statue before Dormin’s spirit was sealed inside of it (see “The Colossi’s Animation”), once it was animated, its ability to walk on walls and fire clouds of exploding fiery electro-sand shows that it was believed to have similar powers in the corresponding religious lore (again, see “The Colossi’s Animation” for more details on that particular aspect). Also, the song “Liberated Guardian” plays during its fight. This song also appears in Celosia and Cenobia’s fight, who are both clearly guardians by nature.
- Basaran, the Dweller in the Shallows- the third “water Colossi” and the god of shallow waters and the hearty life that thrived within
Primary Evidence: It possesses a very tortoise-like appearance and would have been almost total invulnerable, much like the tortoise’s throughout the Forbidden Lands, if not for the geysers in the area. Its lair is called a “dry lake bed,” by Dormin and its violent nature can be seen as an extension of its rage that its home is no more.
- Dirge, the Deathmonger – the god of death and punishment for the wicked
Primary Evidence: It is the most aggressive colossus in the entire game and even possesses its own unique battle song to accommodate for that fact, “A Messenger from Behind.” Its appearance is downright terrifying, being a kind of psychological weapon even in its inert statue form. The top of its lair is breached by a large hole where, I suspect wrong-doers were flung from. If they survived the fall, only sand and Dirge’s statue awaited them, ready to bring death.
- Celosia, the Firetender- god of fire and the fierceness that lies within it
Primary Evidence: It presides over a shrine seemingly dedicated to fire. Dormin’s description calls it “a guardian set loose,” that “keeps the flames alive.” It is also kept from leaving its area by water, of all things. Its ironic fear of fire is addressed more in-depth on its dedicated page and in the “Colossi’s Animation” section below.
- Pelagia, the Waterborne Citadel- the fourth and final “water Colossus” and god of humanity’s interaction with the water, namely humanity’s structures that are built to relate to water
Primary Evidence: It is the most architectural of the Colossi, looking the most arcane and building-like and it presides in a large lake. The structures in the area are very shrine-like but also mostly well-preserved and ornate. The entrance to Pelagia’s lair also sports a large aqueduct-like structure, one of humanity’s most ingenious structures made to interact with water.
- Phalanx, the Rider on the Winds- the second of the airborne Colossi, the god of the desert, primarily of the sky where its easy, carefree movement is uninhibited by the sands
Primary Evidence: It is the only entirely non-violent Colossi (see, “The Nature of the Colossi” for more details on this point) in the game and it flies carefree over a large swath of the enormous desert. However, its ability to burrow beneath the sand shows that it can interact with the desert terrain on a more direct level as well. The temple/shrine building that Wander reaches to trigger the fight with Phalanx shows its importance religiously.
- Cenobia, the Raging Guardian- the protector-god of a sealed-off city, charged with its protection (Maybe. See the full page for more details)
Primary Evidence: It is described as a “guardian” by Dormin and it waits for Wander on top of the largest structure in the city, which looks like a mixture of citadel and temple. However, its tendency to destroy its own city throws its exact nature into question (once animated of course, until that point it was a simple idol to represent the protector-god).
- Argus, the Gatekeeper- the protector-god of the desert fortress, charged with its protection
Primary Evidence: Dormin claims it “acts as a sentry to a destroyed city,” and its war-like appearance (carrying a sword-like weapon and wearing armoured bracers) makes sense given that it waits in an area called the “desert fortress.” Its own unique song, “Gatekeeper of the Castle Ruins” also seems fairly self-explanatory.
- Malus, the Guiding Light- god of safe travel by sea and guiding lost travelers (dare we say, wanderers?) back home. Its purpose may be a double-entendre as well after it was given part of Dormin’s soul (see its full page for more information), turning into a last-ditch beacon for hope against those trying to revive Dormin.
Primary Evidence: It is seemingly bolted to the floor, being unable to move or even fall over once it has been killed. It is positioned atop a large hill overlooking the ocean and its glowing bracers (which I suspect glowed, whether by magic or a more mundane fire, even before it was animated by Dormin’s soul) would serve as fantastic beacons for travelers at sea. There is no altar near it and its location is very isolated, implying it served a much more passive role before its animation. Post-animation however, its isolation was taken advantage of and Malus was made into the last resort protection against Dormin’s revival. Evidence for this includes its door which cannot be opened until the other fifteen Colossi have been killed, the barriers set up in its arena that face away from the Colossus and appear to have arrow slits in them, and its enormous long-range firepower and virtual lack of weaknesses.
Now, something very important that I wish to clear up immediately (though I hinted at it earlier) is that I do not believe that these Colossi were not animate until they were infused with Dormin’s soul. They were simply constructed as statues meant to embody what the gods were about. A roughly analogous situation would be ancient Greek or Roman statues displaying the gods in appropriate attire (Athena with spear, helmet, and shield with owl motif for instance) but they didn’t get up and jog around the place. The Colossi were only constructed to be religious idols on a much larger scale than those at the Shrine of Worship.
The Nature of the Colossi: Now, it may seem strange for me to say this, but I think it is a little bit odd that the Colossi fight Wander when he comes to slay them. Allow me to explain.
You see, it is clear that Dormin’s soul is kept inside each Colossus; there are sixteen Colossi so there are sixteen parts of Dormin’s soul that have been split up. Again, that is very clear. But, if the Colossi held only Dormin’s soul inside, why do they fight Wander? Wouldn’t the Colossi just want to lay down and let Wander kill them? After all, Dormin wants to be free and even helps Wander figure out how to kill the Colossi but, despite having Dormin’s soul inside of them, the Colossi still fight back. In other words, Dormin cannot be the only force controlling the Colossi’s movements. What really inhabits the Colossi is, I will argue, threefold.
- Dormin’s Soul
- The soul of a Shaman of Emon’s tribe
- The Colossi’s embodied personality
Again, allow me to explain.
Also, do keep in mind that when Dormin was resurrected and was staring down Lord Emon and his men, it said, “Thou severed Our body into sixteen segments for an eternity in order to seal away Our power. We, Dormin, have arisen anew.” Meaning, the Shamans were involved with Dormin’s original entombment. I do not believe that Dormin is speaking about Emon specifically however when it says, “thou,” due to the amount of time that has evidently passed due to the rampant decay of the Forbidden Lands. Therefore, Dormin must be referring to Emon’s ancestors. And since the Ancient Sword was clearly used in the Colossi’s creation/Dormin’s entombment, as evidenced by its ability to fully destroy magic seals and Emon’s use of it to strip Dormin’s essence away from Wander, and the sword was owned by Emon before Wander stole it, it is deeply connected to the Colossi and their history.
The Animation of the Colossi:
- Dormin’s soul immediately gravitates towards Wander when a Colossus is killed. This is odd for the soul. Shouldn’t it fly directly back to the Shrine of Worship and rejoin Dormin there? Well, I would argue that the soul of Dormin needs some kind of vessel in order to survive, hence why it gravitates towards Wander. Incidentally (and I’ll go more into this on the dedicated Dormin page), Dormin eventually possesses Wander, rather than appear in its own physical form. In other words, Dormin appears to be very parasitic in nature; whether this was always so or a (relatively speaking) recent development based on Its obliterated body and soul, is unknown however. But, with that all in mind, I would argue that the Shamans from the same tribe that Emon would later be born into, decided that sixteen of their number would be the vessels to contain Dormin’s soul.
- The strength of mind and spirit allowed the Shaman vessels to resist Dormin’s influence (it helped that they each held only 1/16th of Dormin’s soul) as well as make them prime candidates to “pilot” the Colossi. Using the Ancient Sword, the Shamans were sealed inside the Colossi and the Colossi were sent to sleep so they could not be roused unless somebody with the Ancient Sword returned to challenge them. This idea of two-fold personality is also the only way I can begin to understand Celosia, the guardian of fire… who is afraid of fire. That will always be puzzling to me, but I think that the Shaman who controlled Celosia wasn’t entirely in agreement with the temperament of the Colossus and resolved to “keep the flames alive” in a different way. This adherence to a strict code of self-defence is also shown in the fact that the Colossi (minus Avion, Phalanx, and Basaran [the latter’s original habitat was destroyed though, and likely wasn’t part of the original plan by the Shamans]) are sealed in their environments and cannot leave. Even those that could are kept from wandering off. The exact reason why may have something to do with Dormin’s nature.
- After an unknown amount of years (though I suspect it was a very, very long time) of people projecting personalities and mythologies onto the Colossi, when the Shamans bearing Dormin’s soul were sealed inside the Colossi, their personalities merged. Where this can be seen the most clearly is in Phalanx and Avion, the two most peaceful and two airborne Colossi. Wanting to keep Dormin’s soul out of reach at all costs but still adhering to the Colossi’s set mythology, the two flying colossi appear to practice strict avoidance of conflict, as that would only bring them into greater danger of being counterattacked and destroyed (more on that in the Colossi’s individual pages). Kuromori and Dirge are other examples of a clear example of Shaman-Colossus merging. Kuromoir, the jailer, climbs the walls of its prison arena and suppresses Wander with its sand-cloud-attack-thing and Dirge is fittingly the most aggressive Colossus in the game, being a creature that death has been projected onto for years.
It is through the merging of the Shamans and the Colossi’s personas that Dormin’s gigantic walking prisons do not wander around the Forbidden Lands, nor do they simply lay down and die to the Ancient Sword, which would be the most beneficial to the reuniting of Dormin’s soul.
What is also worth remembering though is that these Colossi needed to be built at some point, meaning the people who constructed them must have been not only very pious but relatively wealthy economically and rich culturally. Unfortunately, the cataclysm of Dormin caused irreparable damage to the lands of the Colossi, now known as the Forbidden Lands, and now it is a place of ruins, mystery, and LOREQUESTS.
Next Entry: The Forbidden Lands
And so ends the first entry into this new Lorequest adventure. Hopefully it was worth a read and if it wasn’t, well the pictures are always pretty to look at. I can’t say when the next entry will be coming out, but it’ll likely be pretty soon. I just need to find all of the pictures necessary since I’ve written out a lot of the Forbidden Lands content already.
Oh and expect this hub-page to eventually fill up with links to all sorts of things, from Emon to Dormin to the Colossi in detail and so on and so forth into an infinite singularity.
This is going to be a long one, folks so better settle in.
Good luck, you brave writer folk!
- All images from this page are from the Team ICO wiki.