Yes, I’m back, slinking into my favoured fortress of Lorequest. Late, as per usual. But these walls are mine and I will defend them with mass conjecture to the best of my ability!
So we finally come back to Shadow of the Colossus, do we? Well good, I was tired of lying to myself and saying I didn’t have time for this anyway. But to be honest, we’re going from Avion, my favourite Colossus, to Barba, my least favourite. So you can understand my hesitation.
Dormin has this to say about Barba:
Thy next foe is…
A giant lurks underneath the temple…
It lusts for destruction…
But a fool, it is not.
This one’s actually pretty interesting. Not very helpful at all to poor little Wander but still interesting nevertheless. We’ll get to that later!
Barba, otherwise known as Belua Maximus is the sixth Colossus that Wander will encounter in the Forbidden Lands. He, by my investigation, was a god of the dead and guarded over them in their eternal slumber. He’s the third of the five “humanoid” Colossi and represents the next stage in the craftsmen’s attempts to create a more realistically humanoid statue. Barba is also the second and final Colossus concerned predominately with death, as he presides over a large underground catacomb and sports many ghastly and boney appendages like Phaedra, the other Colossus of the dead.
Barba’s appearance makes it fairly obvious that he’s a god of the dead. His exposed spine and even what appears to be ribs near the armour on his waist are evidence of that (and are quite similar to the other god of the dead, Phaedra). What else is interesting through is that Barba is not only sporting a tremendous beard but also dappled skin. His skin, when combined with the long beard, actually makes me think of liver-spots and thus, old age. And what’s more ancient than death itself? Not a whole lot. So Barba’s not only a wizened old caretaker of the dead and their resting places but he also represents the timeless force that all those that live must eventually fall to. He doesn’t carry a weapon, either, being the only humanoid Colossus to not have one (Malus’ exploding-lightning magic counts as its launched from his hands. Also, that big lighthouse totally has huge claws. Just saying.). This may have been a design modification by the Shamans so Barba didn’t totally wreck up the place or it may have just been that, as a god, Barba embodied death so much that a weapon was unnecessary. Barba is a representation of death and entropy as a force, a largely unfelt passage of time slowly sapping life away from bones and body while leaving its marks on skin and the beards of old men.
In other words, Barba has quite a wizened and respectable air about him, perhaps feeding into his reputation great intelligence. Like Hades with a huge beard and made out of stone that can totally beat the crap out of you. Not to say that Hades couldn’t beat the ever-loving snot out of you. Barba will just be much more direct about it.
And I can respect that. Even if I’m not the biggest fan of his actual battle.
So let’s finally get to unpacking what Dormin said about the big bearded oaf.
A giant lurks underneath the temple. Well, it’s fairly obvious that Barba is a giant, so that’s clear as it stands. But what isn’t is that Dormin says that he’s “underneath the temple,” implying that the actual temple is not where he actually is. But the rest of Barba’s building is just one big path down to the crypts he’s guarding. So that must mean that the actual temple is somewhere above him and where you can’t get to. In other words, unlike most other Colossi which directly guard their places of worship and veneration, Barba is guarding the place underneath it. But, given that he’s a god of the dead, perhaps presiding over where the living tread is a bit out of his job description.
So, if where Barba is waiting isn’t his temple, what’s all that down by him?
I first want to look at the structure at the far end of the room which I’ll just call the scaenae frons from now on. For those who don’t have much of an interest in Greek and Roman history, a scaenae frons is 3D backdrop used in (predominately) Roman plays. They’re actually quite beautiful being constructed like facades of buildings to give the appearance of a real structure. They were also sometimes carved into rock walls to serve as a natural stopper to the structures. The structure at the end of Barba’s arena not only has the appearance of a scaenae frons in that it looks like the façade of a structure jutting out from a wall of rock, but it even hosts Romanesque Doric columns like said scaenae fronses (What do you know? “Fronses” is the correct way to pluralize “frons”).
SO since scaenae fronses were used in Ancient Rome as backdrop to plays… well, what if the people of the Forbidden Lands used that structure as a backdrop to perform plays about the life of a dead person or of some kind of celebration of the dead? Seems possible. Probable? Eh. Possible? Yeah, why not.
Day of the Dead celebration in the Forbidden Lands? Makes sense to me! I had mentioned in the Colossus page, I mentioned that since the dead play such a huge role in the plot and in the Forbidden Land’s culture (Phaedra and Barba themselves are good examples of that), there may very well be some kinds of celebrations held in the dead’s honour down there in Barba’s tomb with Barba himself looming from the other side of the room. I have no idea how people would get down to the “theatre area” and the scaenae frons since it’s just a big ladder all the way down with no steps.
Well, I mean, somehow Dark Souls is lauded as having one of the best game worlds in recent memory and IT is totally illogically built with thin walkways and impossible terrain for work animals and construction materials.
That doesn’t prove my point so much as take a pot-shot at Dark Souls. Which I still consider a win. But anyway.
So I think that idea of the structure at the end of the tomb being a scaenae frons holds water, personally. Now, what those walls and urns in Barba’s arena is a bit easier to explain. The urns are likely burial urns containing the ashes or bones or the deceased and the walls seem to have gates or windows made up of metal bars installed in them that stop Wander from walking straight through them. I wager those were added later. Symbolically speaking, I see these walls as “gates” that the dead have passed through on their way to the afterlife. More materially, I see those walls as ways for people attending the plays and celebrations at the far end of the room to reflect on the lives and deaths of those buried there. The ways through the walls were probably sealed off one Barba was in order to keep intruders from defiling the scaenae frons.
That may also be why Barba doesn’t just smack the structure when Wander is hiding in it unlike how Argus smacks the fortress with his full force. Even if (Argus) doesn’t wreck the pillars he swings at, although he totally should, he will destroy the bridges running from the two sides of the fortress. So Barba’s taking real care not to totally ruin things.
And yet, if we look again at what Dormin says about Barba, he is known for trying to be intelligent and precise with his attacks. And truthfully, if you let Barba do it, he will beat the ever-loving snot out of you with nary a hesitation when some other Colossi stop and investigate Wander at first before trying to exterminate him. So perhaps that precision mixed with brute strength helped to give Barba his reputation for intelligence. Or it could just be that he likes to investigate the scaenae frons in the far back of the tomb with his big monster golem hand. Then again, Cenobia will knock down the pillars in his city and Argus will swing his weapon at you while you’re in the fortress.
So I guess Barba’s not that intelligent after all. Meaning, he simply must have an overly-long lore explanation for his supposed intelligence. Oh and I’m sure the Wiki (you know, that site that’s actually much better-constructed than what I’ve got ambling on here) will also tell you that Barba’s Magic Sigil on his head is on the left side of his head, that being the logical side of the brain.
The more you know (before a little mite of a man climbs up your head and stabs it out)!
But can we stop for a second to just talk about Barba’s door? What the heck is up with that thing? Firstly, it’s a door that’s intelligent enough to realize that there’s an intruder so it lowers itself to allow Barba out of it. So, the actual engineering skill of the craftsmen of the Forbidden Lands must have been quite impressive at that point if they made a fully operational door for Barba but poor Quadratus has to bash through a wall. And yet, I think his seclusion behind the wall has two-fold reasons for it. Like Cenobia, as we’ll see later, confining Barba behind a wall that only falls when an intruder enters could stop Barba from waking up and wrecking the place as he is front to do when you fight him. I chalk this up to another instance of the Shaman’s souls being at odds with Dormins’, causing a conflict in the Colossi’s personality.
I wanted to give this final section its own little place rather than spreading it out just so I can talk about it all at once— that being Dormin’s advice of, “It lusts for destruction.” Given that I’ve already established that Barba is likely some kind of tomb guardian, it really shouldn’t lust for destruction in its nature. And yet, it was locked behind its huge door in order (in theory) to keep itself from destroying out of rage what it was supposed to protect. But its intelligence should be able to keep those instincts in check unless somebody threatens the tomb as a whole or the safety of the seals keeping the piece of Dormin’s soul in Barba’s body. So what’s this “destruction” referring to?
Dormin may actually be referring to Barba’s role as a god, that being a god of death. If that’s the case though, Barba hardly seems like the kind of Colossus to “lust” for destruction. Instead he appears to just be more of a passive embodiment of it. So this may be Dormin’s own opinion here, adding a sideways insult at Barba’s expense due to his influence over the dead in the Forbidden Lands (at least from a religious/spiritual standpoint). Given that Dormin receives so much of Its power via death and rebirth, perhaps Dormin really is just letting a little bit of Its own anger show through here.
Then again, there is another Colossus that Dormin mentions having “a lust for destruction,” so we’ll examine that when we get there. A looooong time from now.
Because God knows I’ll be taking another two or three months to do another one of these! But hey, Hydrus is next! My 2nd favourite Colossus!
Like that helped me doing Avion after Phaedra.
Until we meet again (in the far future) Questers!
Hydrus is next, I swear! I might end up tackling Over the Garden Wall in a special November version of Lorequest. That show’s got more autumn in it than a room filled with pumpkin pies and maple leaves. So it’ll be a great way for me to close out autumn!
In theory But that’s just a theory.
Ha. Haha. Ugh. I’m so funny.
Good luck, you brave writer (and gamer) folk!
1. Images from the Team ICO wiki.
2. Image from Wikipedia- “scaenae frons”