I Will Watch My Shadow Grow

A post I saw on Tumblr made me think a post about Shadow from Final Fantasy VI might be an interesting task to take on. On the face of it, he’s a pretty archetypal character: a brooding ninja who dresses in black robes (not how ninja actually dressed, except in plays) and fights for money. When he first shows up at the bar in South Figaro, King Edgar comments, “He’d slit his mama’s throat for a nickel!”, even though I’m not sure there IS a coin called a nickel in this world.

He’s useful to have in your party, not least of all because his dog Interceptor will sometimes counter-attack enemies. What’s particularly interesting is the dreams he has when he’s in your party, all revealing details about events in his past. The first one, which shows his friend dying, is accompanied by a repeated droning sound. When you’re expecting to hear the cheerful rested-up music, this comes off as quite frightening. After seeing the other dreams, you can piece together that his real name is Clyde, and he and his friend Baram were train robbers known as the Shadow Bandits.

Baram and Clyde obviously referenced Bonnie and Clyde, but an interesting fact I only just learned is that Baram’s Japanese name was Billy (well, “Biri,” technically). I’m not sure why they went with a weirder name for the English translation. When Baram is injured trying to escape the authorities, Clyde runs away to the remote village of Thamasa, where he falls in love and fathers a child. This is also where he meets Interceptor. Some time later, he leaves town with the dog and adopts the persona of Shadow.

While the game never completely spells it out, it makes it pretty clear that his child is the playable character Relm Arrowny, who was adopted by family friend Strago Magus.

While it seems likely that Strago eventually figures out who Shadow is, and the developers had originally planned a scene in which he reveals his face to the old man, Relm never knows. Shadow accompanies your party for their adventure on the floating continent, and stalls Kefka by trying to push the goddess statues back into alignment. You can choose whether or not to wait for him before jumping onto the airship, and if you don’t, he presumably dies. If you do wait and he lives, you find him again wounded in a cave, and then fighting at the Dragon’s Neck Coliseum. At the end of the game, he doesn’t leave Kefka’s tower with the others, and it’s likely that he dies there. Either way, the poor guy ends up having a tragic ending to a tragic life. Then again, characters in these games can sometimes survive a hell of a lot. I remember some fan theories from back when the game was still relatively new suggesting that Baram actually lived and became the fake Siegfried.

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3 Responses to I Will Watch My Shadow Grow

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