The Path: Carmen

By Shamus
on Aug 27, 2009
Filed under:
Game Reviews

I’m starting with Carmen because hers is one of the clearest stories. The imagery in her tale is very telling, and we can use it as a benchmark against the other tales when trying to figure out what they may mean. Here is her bio from the website:

Seventeen. A glorious age for a girl. Having left her childhood body behind, she enjoys parading the new Carmen. She is fully aware of the heads that turn when she passes by. She’ll give them a little bit extra to look at too. A shake of the hips. A wink of the eye. But no more. Carmen fancies herself a femme fatale perhaps. But inside she knows that all she wants is a little bit of attention. From a warm and handsome man, perhaps. Who can keep her safe. Hold her tight. With a strength that approaches violence. He doesn’t need to be as wild as she is, but it wouldn’t hurt.

Eugh. I know this girl. She drove me nuts in high school. These are the unbelievably hot girls who would find the biggest, strongest, best-looking complete jerk they could get their hands on, and then endlessly whine about how “men are such pigs”. They would usually aim these complaints at other girlfriends or at guys like me, thus insulting her boyfriend (for being a jerk) herself (for dating him) her friends (for dating men, who are all pigs) and me. (Because evidently I didn’t count as a man, since I wasn’t included in the “pig count”.) Thoughtless and short-sighted.

This is the kind of girl who would flirt with men to drive them crazy, and who would delight if they fought over her. Selfish to the core, she didn’t actually care about the men in question, and was thrilled with the way their violence made her feel valuable. Endlessly shallow, frustrating, and self-destructive, these girls did not do well beyond high school. A few leveled out. A lot had deeply dysfunctional relationships either because they constantly craved attention (which isn’t actually all that healthy to simply want men to PAY ATTENTION to you all the time, whether you are in a relationship with them or not) or because of their terrible taste in men. I was angry at them at seventeen. I feel sorry for them at thirty-seven. Carmen is an ultimately tragic figure.

Carmen’s Wolf

Her wolf is the classic forester, the supposed hero of the Red Riding hood story. Carmen comes upon his camp, drinks beer with him, fade to black. Because of my knowledge of the tale, I at first assumed she was raped. But after going over it several times in my mind, I’m convinced this is not the case.

Note that Carmen enters the camp and is completely ignored by the forester. He does not leer. He does not offer her any of his beer. He doesn’t do anything to make her feel welcome. He keeps working. But Carmen helps herself. She flirts with him, swiping his hat and putting it on herself. Again, he seems to take this in stride and doesn’t do anything threatening. He’s got an axe. It would have been very, very easy for him to appear threatening. But he never once gave her an unsettling look. Sure, he kept using his axe (on the trees) but he’s a forester and we just walked into his camp. Do you go to a shooting range and cry out, “OH MY GOSH THIS PLACE IS FILLED WITH CRAZED GUNMEN!” The fact that he’s so involved with his work is also notable because she is trying to provoke a reaction out of him.

She then lights the campfire, sits down, and drinks some more of the guy’s beer. (Note that these things can happen in a slightly different order, depending on where you walk. But the picture it paints is still the same.) At last he comes, sits down, and gives her a beer and has one himself. Unlike Ruby’s wolf (we’ll talk about him later) this guy does not seem to be making any effort to persuade Carmen to do anything. He’s not leaning towards her, coming on to her, or even looking at her improperly. They sit together and sip their beer as the camera drifts away and we FADE TO BLACK.

Did they have sex? Well, at grandma’s house, we see a bunch of crazy imagery. Including this:

Do we really need to call on the Power of Freud for this? You know, sometimes a huge wooden shaft penetrating a bed is just a cigar.
Do we really need to call on the Power of Freud for this? You know, sometimes a huge wooden shaft penetrating a bed is just a cigar.

O-kay, then. I think we can go ahead and say they had sex. The non-rape kind. During the spooky funhouse parade of disturbing imagery, we hear moaning, and it is not frightened or in pain or suffering but, you know, sex sounds. Looking at her bio and her behavior at the campsite, I think it’s very clear that she came on to him. She got a brain full of beer, lost her head, and forgot to stop flirting. This does not excuse the forester for sharing his beer and hooking up with a (in some states) underage girl. I hope I don’t need to list all of his crimes, but I don’t think he’s a rapist or an axe murderer. In fact, his strength and power isn’t what made him dangerous – it’s what attracted her to him. It looks like he’s a lonely simpleton who had a hot young girl throw herself at him.

I would say that Carmen’s “wolf” isn’t so much the forester himself, but the fact that her first sexual experience was a stupid, reckless one-nighter with an older guy, which is not an uncommon outcome for the sort of girl I described above.

Aftermath

Carmen may turn out all right in the long run. If you look at her post-wolf pose in the long walk to the house, she’s holding the back of her neck. She’s not feeling violated or injured. She’s hung over. She’s got a terrible headache and probably a double helping of regret, but she’s not physically hurt.

Maybe she’ll sneer that “men are all pigs”, and then go find the next wolf in her life. But maybe this one bad experience will make her more careful. Maybe now that she’s tried sex and the mystery is gone she’ll calm down, level out, and be more careful. Maybe the craving for male attention will fade now that she sees where it goes. She’s not the introspective sort, but just a spark of it could go a long way to helping her to find meaning in this mistake, and happiness later on.

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202020203There are now 83 comments. Almost a hundred!

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  1. Ryan says:

    I’m interested in hearing about what’s next.

  2. Thirith says:

    Cool series of posts about a much-maligned game. IMO the *intelligent* discussion about The Path is an indication that it’s not as pretentiously worthless as many of its detractors claim. Anything that triggers and stimulates intelligent discussion has some worth IMO.

  3. Awetugiw says:

    Though the “crazy imagery” does indeed suggest sex was involved, I am still not entirely sure it should be interpreted as Carmen having sex with the forester.

    He almost completely ignores her, and doesn’t respond to her flirting at all. He doesn’t put an arm around her shoulder, he doesn’t even lean towards her.

    While I do not consider it quite as likely as the explanation that they had sex, I am even considering the possibility that what “hurt” Carmen is not that they had sex, but that he treated her like a child, and as such refused to have sex with her.

  4. chabuhi says:

    Okay, fine, Shamus. FINE! I’ll go re-install it and play it again, jeez! And this time I won’t stop after just two girls.

    Wait, that sounded weird …

  5. Well, here’s my olden analysis of the sound files I dug through back in March, when I first played the game. May I call your attention, Awetugiw, to “Woodsman_sexmoan1” and its related 2 and 3 files in the music directory? I think the intention here was indeed sex. But, on the other hand, you should never let the author’s intentions sway your opinion.

    Your analysis is as well written as always Shamus. I look forward to your analysis of Ginger, my favorite of the characters. Spunk is awesome.

    Ben

  6. Shamus, my reasoning went along the same lines here. I feel that I got this episode. Some of the other girls did make my head spin.

    I can’t wait to hear your analysis of the creepy piano lady. I’m still not exactly sure what that one was about.

  7. Gregory Weir says:

    Shamus: I think the bloody axe and saw imagery and the violent imagery in the final montage after we dive into bed shows a more direct violation. I don’t necessarily see rape and murder, but the house images do speak “violation” to me. Now, this may just be a feeling of violation from an unpleasant but consensual loss of virginity (blood of the hymen?), but I think it implies something stronger than regret.

  8. BlckDv says:

    I agree with the general outline of Carmen’s story. I don’t want to say much about what I feel she may have learned from this episode, or how she may have developed her mindset so early in your series.

    I did find some interesting food for thought in the presence of the blanket (quilt?) from the bed in the dirty laundry in the forest.

    Overall my impression was that Carmen wanted to be an ‘adult’ so badly that she didn’t think about what you have to give up to stop being a child. Her story to me was learning that in life there are one way doors and what we think we want is often not what we think it is.

    Looking forward to more.

  9. radio_babylon says:

    I was angry at them at seventeen. I feel sorry for them at thirty-seven. Carmen is an ultimately tragic figure.

    personally, at 37 (a good age!) i find myself merely indifferent to them. they arent tragic figures, they are pathetic figures… and tend to wind up with precisely the kind of relationships they deserve. same goes for the men who wind up with them…

    better them than me, thats for sure.

  10. BaCoN says:

    This more or less matches up with my original analysis of Carmen. Looking forward to seeing if the next one follows suit.

  11. JohnW says:

    Not gonna play the game, but was looking at Carmen’s ending on youtube. What was with the girl-figure in the background standing up out of the tent and going down on all fours?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kp76VCOSDzQ

  12. Jazmeister says:

    Thanks for writing this, Shamus. It’s super-interesting.

  13. Awetugiw says:

    @Benjamin Finkel: I do not doubt that the ending represents, in some way, sex. However, what I am unsure about, is whether the things that happen in grandmothers house are basically what happens after the screen fades to black, or a risk that the girls ran but may or may not have actually happened.

    It could either be “the woodsman has sex with her, and perhaps even kills her” or “this woodsman turned out to be quite harmless, but you didn’t know that in advance, he might have been a psycho killer.”

    The problem with interpreting the ending as what happened after the fade to black is that it doesn’t make sense for some of the girls (especially Ginger). However, the interpretation that Carmen does have sex with the woodsman is far simpler, and simple solutions are often the best solution. On the other hand, he really does not seem interested in having sex with her, which wouldn’t make sense if the ending would have to be interpreted as having literally happened…

    All in all, I am really quite unsure which of the two options I find more convincing.

  14. Hirvox says:

    What was with the girl-figure in the background standing up out of the tent and going down on all fours?

    That’s the Girl in White, the only helpful character in game. Some have said that her crawling out of her (small) red tent symbolizes birth and innocence, but I’m not too sure about that.

    In any case, she and the campsite are present in all of the girls’ stories, even if the lumberjack himself is only present in Carmen’s story. Following her will lead you to various items and places that can trigger memories. These in turn unlock extra scenes in the Grandma’s house. Also, allowing her to help you is the only way to get back to the Path after you’ve wandered off it.

  15. In spite of the complex imagery in the game, would it have killed them to make the forest wandering less tedious? All of this artistry is rather pointless if the lead-up makes the player uninterested in continuing.

  16. Scott M says:

    By an appropriate coincidence, I’ve been listening to Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” soundtrack as I read this post. (In particular, Little Red Riding Hood’s “I Know Things Now” song.) I love different takes on fairy tales, and The Path looks like a fascinating game. Even though I probably won’t play it myself, I look forward to reading about the rest of the girls.

  17. SatansBestBuddy says:

    Ugh, so I’ve tried the demo for the Path, and wow, what a mess.

    Never before has a demo so thoroughly killed all interest I had in a game.

    I mean, okay, it’s interesting to try to figure out what’s going on in a game that leaves itself so open to interpretation, but when the game is such an unoptimized, buggy, laggy, ugly, hard-to-control mess, then it just reeks of lazy game design that gets a free ride thanks to how artsy it is.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with games being used as art, I’m sure Beckett would be proud, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for ignoring a game’s programming flaws, video problems and whatever that mess is that they used for the controls.

  18. Taellosse says:

    I tried to resist. I really did. But I can’t help it.

    @ Benjamin Finkel #5: I presume you are referring to Carmen’s fearless enthusiasm, rather than…something else…when you say you like “spunk”?

    Sorry. I’m done interjecting juvenile nonsense into an engaging intellectual discussion now.

  19. Maiven7 says:

    Things I’m vaguely surprised no-one seems to have picked up thus far (or if they did, I missed it): The uncommon slang term ‘axe wound’. We have sex with a woodcutter. Moreover, we have a loss of virginity, an event which can range through quite a spectrum of bloodiness…never mind the more regular linkages between blood and female sexuality or fertility.

    Maybe I just think too much about symbolism.

    To be fair, I haven’t experienced any of this myself having not yet played the game…but as Shamus asked: Do we really need to invoke the power of Freud?

    A first sexual experience doesn’t have to be non-consensual to be bloody, terrifying or bloody terrifying. It can certainly (very easily) be a choice you regret the morning after, or for the rest of your life.

  20. Maldeus says:

    I think it’s important we figure out what on Earth the Girl in White is. I have no idea right now, but maybe by the end of this I’ll have figured something out.

    Okay, so the “death” at the end of each girl’s path would represent a death of innocence, as few if any of the girls actually encounter a lethal wolf (yes, yes, several of them are potentially lethal, but few of them are hostile). The only way to avoid a death of innocence is to avoid the girl’s wolf by staying on the path. This, of course, is not the point of the game, so you keep playing the game until innocence is lost. This makes sense, really. You can risk losing innocence innumerable times before you manage to actually lose it, but you can’t lose it twice.

    If you stray from the path, you can only be brought back by the girl in white. What’s she doing in the tent? Why does she keep coming out and then going back in?

    The girl in white represents something which draws you away from things which may lose you your innocence. She doesn’t try to force you away from these things, however. She’s just there. At the end, she’s in the tent (she may be on all fours due to limited graphics capability, as this game’s graphics leave a lot to be desired), and comes out for just a moment before instantly retreating.

    Fear, perhaps? Fear which lurks around you whilst on the way towards the wolf to draw you back to the path, and which surfaces briefly whilst in the layer of the wolf before instantly retreating. Doesn’t seem quite right to me, but it’s the best I’ve got. Anyone else?

  21. I watched the video JohnW linked to, and what I noticed was… Grandmother’s house is big! Like “Damn, that’s big!”. What kind of property investment do you need to have to get a place like that in your elderly years? And I’m pretty sure that fire wouldn’t meet housing safety code. And I’m not sure there isn’t some interdimensional space/time convergences distorting reality there…

    But perhaps I’m interpreting on the wrong thing…

  22. Mari says:

    I took Carmen’s ending pretty much the way you did, Shamus. And taking her rooms one at a time and applying the most appropriate literary understanding sheds more light to me. First is the swimming pool room. Full of stagnant water, lost virility. Water frequently represents power but in its stagnant form could well represent a loss of such. The fire along the wooden path may symbolize the attainment of wisdom from the woodcutter. Fire is often associated with wisdom (think Prometheus) while the path made of logs brings an obvious connect to the woodcutter. Then Carmen moves into the bedroom. It’s easy to see tree and think “phallic” but I think it’s more subtle than that. Beds appear in many (if not all, can’t recall at the moment) of the endings and I think they represent the same general thing in each: ending or change. The bed is where we go to end every day and yet arise from it anew every morning. From that we move to the tree. The positioning of it is what suggests to most people that the tree is phallic in nature but more often trees symbolize the feminine and specifically feminine knowledge/wisdom. Perhaps this is what Carmen has craved and finally obtained a measure of altering her end?

    And from the near-subliminal flashes near the end, I think Awetugiw may be onto something. The images are a loop of the following: Carmen’s head with an X across her face, Carmen on hands and knees with red “squiggles” drawn around her (looks like fire to my eyes), and an upshot of the lumberjack’s red plaid shirt in a posture of chopping wood. The x is a universally understood symbol for “no.” No Carmen. Carmen on hands and knees, a begging/supplication posture. Begging for fire/wisdom. The woodsman continues to chop, ignoring Carmen’s pleading.

    I know, I know. But the sound file is called woodsman-sexmoan. And I don’t deny that it’s pretty clearly the moan of somebody having sex. But that may have been Carmen’s desire rather than reality.

    Anyway, just a few alternate thoughts thrown out there to consider. One of the things about symbolism and interpretation is that it’s somewhat personal. I may take something completely different away from it than somebody else does and in the absence of author comment nobody is wrong.

    And for the record, some few of the “Carmens” of the world did grow up to be productive semi-emotionally-stable human beings. And sometimes it happens because a woodcutter ignores our advances long enough for us to get the message.

  23. I just installed The Path yesterday and started playing it.

    For whatever reason, I spent quite a bit of time running in straight lines to see if I could find the edges of the game world (I was disappointed to learn that it just wraps around.)

    I also spent a lot of time bumping into random objects just to see what would happen. I was never quite sure what was ‘interactable’ and what wasn’t in the game.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I became immensely frustrated when the camera would suddenly develop a mind of its own. I’d walk up to an object to look at it, and suddenly the camera would pull way back. Or to the side. I was often yelling at the screen, ‘Hey! Wait! Come back here! I want to look at that!”

    I guess I’m not the right person for this game….

    Leslee

  24. Maldeus says:

    @Mari 23: Whatever happened between the two of them was evidently pretty thoroughly traumatic for Carmen. Granted, the “X meaning no” thing makes a great deal of sense, but could she honestly take rejection that hard? Possibly, I guess, but I have a hard time believing it. And the woodsman does seem to be in a position of attack in the very end. Could simply rejecting her possibly have caused Carmen to take such a blow to her self-esteem that her sub-conscious registers it as her being attacked with a lethal weapon?

    I’d say possibly. I know that I, personally, have a tendency to associate my personal demons with imagery worthy of Silent Hill, simply because it makes problems that everyone of my particular demographic goes through seem much more threatening, because it IS pretty threatening, to me, at least. It being common doesn’t help me very much.

    Also, what is the purpose of chopped down tree in the pool of stagnant water? What is the meaning of the chair atop the mattresses? It was elevated and decidedly had the look of a throne, and standing atop a pile of mattresses decidedly implies sexual conquest, given the context.

  25. Sheer_FALACY says:

    @Leslee:

    The camera pulling back was because certain areas – all the wolf areas plus a few more – are made more “cinematic”. What this means is a fixed or at least aerial camera and the inability to run. This is done, as far as I can tell, to annoy the player.

    And every object is interactable for someone. If you can’t use it it shows a big picture of the girl who can, which would be very helpful if I could identify any of them based on black and white pictures. Or if the objects were in the same place every time. Or if there were any reason at all to have objects you can’t interact with besides “ha ha, you ran to the girl in white and wasted your time”.

  26. Mari says:

    @ Maldeus Chairs in dreams and literature can frequently symbolize dismissal of feelings. And if we take the tree as a symbol for knowledge, then a cut down tree is lack of knowledge. So the contents of that stagnant pool are dismissal and lack of knowledge. The whole thing could be a metaphor for the woodsman. He seemed powerful and dangerous but turned out to be impotent (not in a sexual way) and dismissive which cut Carmen off from the knowledge she seeks.

    I take the mattresses a little differently. Mattresses can represent sexuality but they can also mean new responsibilities or duties. With the chair atop them it does take on a throne-like look but consider the possibility instead of a “seat of judgment” much like the raised dais that most judges sit atop in courtrooms. So perhaps from the distance of adulthood with its new responsibilities Carmen sits in judgment of the man who spurned her.

    Like I said, I don’t claim that my understanding is the only one. And yes, with Carmen especially it’s very easy for me to insert my own issues. But it’s at least an alternate view to “rape simulator and ax murder.”

  27. Maldeus says:

    @Mari 27: How does a mattress imply new responsibility or duties? I don’t see the connection. The interpretation of the rest of the pool room seems accurate, however, the chairs at least, as dream imagery seems exactly like the kind of thing these guys are going for. The entire Grandma’s House sequence for each girl is basically a nightmare. Also, the placement of the chair/throne/seat of judgment/thing is decidedly above both the chairs, the cut-down tree, and the pool of stagnant water.

    Here is my interpretation of the pool room (this, of course, does not invalidate anyone else’s interpretation). First off, the room is found past not one but two doors with X’s on them, X for rejection. So the woodsman says no twice. Then we see the seat of judgment, which stands atop a pile of mattresses, overlooking a pool of stagnant water (a once powerful thing rendered impotent) with chairs (symbolic of dismissal) and a cut-down tree.

    If the tree represents wisdom, it means that the wisdom has been destroyed or possibly, going with the chairs, dismissed. By this interpretation, the woodsman, from his seat atop either many previous sexual encounters (one of which was perhaps with another Carmen-like girl, hence his unwillingness to accidentally hurt someone again) or else from his place as an older, more responsible person, rejects Carmen twice and offers her his wisdom, and she dismisses it.

    If the tree is a phallic symbol, it means that the woodsman hasn’t been turned on by Carmen in the slightest. The tree is in the water, in the midst of Carmen’s sexual prowess, but is unaffected by it, dismissed, as the chairs imply.

    Moving on. The fire room. Going with a wisdom-tree, this is presumably the woodsman offering wisdom more forcefully, perhaps recounting the story of another Carmen who was hurt by an encounter like this with a man with less restraint. The fire is decidedly too close for comfort, close enough that you’d get a first or maybe second degree burn from it if you actually stood that close to it for very long, which implies that the wisdom, while valid, hurts.

    Going instead with a phallic-tree, this makes little sense. It could be a metaphor for Carmen turning up the heat (no doubt as she becomes increasingly drunk), but that’s seems pretty clumsy and not at all in keeping with the extremely subtle dreamlike quality of the rest of the sequence. Alternatively, in spite of his earlier reluctance, the man goes ahead and has sex with her, and the experience is both enlightening and painful.

    Final room with the phallic-tree is just another way of saying “Carmen had sex with the woodsman.” This, combined with the stretch from the fire room, implies that the phallic-tree interpretation is less likely to be accurate. I don’t think the game would be this redundant. And in retrospect, I think someone who used to be a Carmen is most likely to correctly interpret Carmen’s story and her wolf, because the story is decidedly intended to be viewed from her perspective.

    Assuming the wisdom-tree perspective, the final room represents either Carmen embracing the wisdom of the woodsman, and the tree of wisdom now stands fully grown at the end of the day, however she is also suffering an identity crisis. Her identity was founded around an over-sexualization of herself which she has now realized, through the evidently extremely persuasive woodsman, was nigh-unto suicidal. Although she accepts the wisdom (the grown tree), the acceptance causes an identity crisis.

    An “X” on her face. X means no. No Carmen.

  28. David V.S. says:

    As a guy, I never understood the “dangerous is sexy” girl-thing.

    Earlier this year, when the topic came up in conversation, my wife explained it to me.

    The conversation led to some nice marriage advice for husbands. :-)

  29. pneuma08 says:

    More food for thought: the tree in the pool is whole if you go to g-ma’s house without encountering the wolf. Also, the red “X”es are not present on the doors. Finally, the red “X”es are also on the trees that the woodcutter has marked for cutting, before the end.

  30. Maldeus says:

    Hrm. That throws off the “X means no” theory and switches it to “X means target.” That makes the wisdom-tree interpretation much less likely.

    It also makes the “mad ax murderer” theory a bit more likely. But still, the woodsman ignores her completely. That’s either really poor game design on the part of Tale of Tales or else it means he really didn’t want to have sex with her, let alone attack her with an axe.

  31. Guile says:

    Pretty interesting, Shamus. You’ve got my interest in The Path back up and running again, after it took a steep nose-dive after hearing stuff like ‘rape simulator’ and ‘buggy piece of crap’, so thanks for that.

    I’ll be keeping a close eye on your follow-up analyses. I do so enjoy games with strange imagery.

  32. Old_Geek says:

    Not to sound like a Shamus fanboy, but it seems like saying the Path is about rape is at best debateable, and at worst questionable. To say that is so obviously about rape that no debate is possible, seems assinine.

  33. Mari says:

    Mattresses as new duties/responsibilities comes from the “marriage bed” concept. In long ago times when girls in particular lived with their families until marriage, the establishment of the new marital household included a new mattress (albeit one stuffed with hay/straw/feathers rather than coils as we use now). This new marriage bed came to represent the assumption of new duties as the wife and female head of household. Obviously some of those new “duties” were of the sexual variety but they included much more than that. The management of the new family/household, the cooking and cleaning, all of the responsibilities that weren’t a part of her former life as a “child.”

    And as for X as target, it depends on how you look at things. The trees marked with Xes are to be cut down. No more tree. Still rejection. No more tree, no more Carmen. Although the “no more Carmen” can be considered either literal or metaphorical. It could simply mean that Carmen no longer exists as she was prior to her life-altering event. Have you ever experienced a turning point in your life so profound that you feel almost a wholly new person when it’s over?

    I think, though, that there’s a lot of merit to Maldeus’ interpretation. I’m going to be giving that one a lot of thought.

  34. Groboclown says:

    @Maldeus

    I think you’re on to something – the Girl in White (GiW) is definitely key to the story, in particular, in context with the Prelude (I keep coming back to that).

    For me, the whole story seems like the inner exploration of the girls. I see the girls as individuals, but tied closely together because they are sisters. They remember things inside their minds, and many things are shared, due to them being so close. I say it this way, because the forest is different for each girl. In particular, Ruby has the playground and graveyard, while Ginger doesn’t. In this sense, Gramma’s house represents the dark place in people’s soul where you don’t like to go, to see things about yourself you’d rather not know. I’m torn on two ideas about the wolf in this context.

    Through this, though the GiW is constantly there. She leads the girl to either interesting places / memories, or back to the path of safety. She’s loving and kind to the girls. This makes me think that she represents the mother.

  35. Hipparchus says:

    Perhaps the Girl in White is the representation of the girls’ childlike innocence Like the white she wears,she represents the unsullied innocence of the girls.

  36. Juni says:

    When I was playing as Ruby, the girl in white ended up leading me to the wolf.

    Maybe it was on the path to one of the “memory objects”?

    I haven’t played the prologue, but because of that incident I’ve ended up thinking of the girl in white as something a bit more sinister. Then again, she can’t be all bad if she leads you back to the path.

    So how about, “In the forest with Psyche, my soul”?
    Ruby’s soul which seeks destruction leads her to her own downfall.

    Those willing to trust the GiW and be led back to the path are saved. Perhaps it’s all a metaphor for confidence in yourself.

    I guess I’m probably just adding useless complications based on some random thing that only happened because of a pathing issue, though.

    Carmen’s soul going in and out of the tent is a metaphor for, erm, something or other, nudge nudge, wink wink. (Actually, it could mean any number of things- childbirth, uncertainty, wanting to leave her “shell”… I could probably go on, but that’s all that comes to mind now)

  37. OddlucK says:

    Haven’t played the game. But, I love psychological symbolism and a thought just occurred to me.

    The girls are not sisters. They are aspects of one person, in whose mind these symbolic narratives are taking place, each representing this unseen person at some significant age/point of life when something impactful happened to her(/him?). Perhaps the Girl in White is the Individual’s ego or super-ego, trying to make sense of and/or coax her(/him?)self through these clearly distorted and in some way traumatic memories. For example, Carmen’s is the story of how she(/he?) lost their (screw vague, yet gendered third-person pronouns) virginity, in a manner somewhat less than the sweet perfection the GiW/ego would like to admit. The drinking could be a literal memory or a symbolic representation of ceding control of themself. Or, for that matter, it may not be about sex at all. If the world is a symbolic representation of a repressed trauma, why does any of it need be literal?

    Then again, maybe it’s all perfectly literal, in its own world, and there really is that much ambiguous insanity (in that world, if not ours).

    Heh. I do love this sort of stuff. :)

    Now I want to play the game even more, take a look at it through those eyes.

    –OddlucK

  38. Ed says:

    I just wanted to say that I love the “DELETED” logo and I love the idea that somewhere on the internet immature jerks and getting whacked. A Great discussion and justice!

  39. neriana says:

    The girls like that I knew in high school had all been abused as children, usually sexually. I know guys don’t hear about this much and they just see some whore looking for attention. But a young woman doesn’t base her entire identity on male attention unless she’s already a complete mess. She doesn’t go after men who abuse her unless that’s what she’s used to. (No, women don’t like “bad boys”, they like guys who don’t just simper around pretending to be their “friends” while really looking to get into their pants, but without having the courage to actually make any sort of move.)

    17-year old girls also don’t run around going oh I’m a woman nao so I’ll manipulate guys hah hah hah. Women have sex drives of our own to deal with, we don’t need to waste time tinkering with men’s. And a girl doesn’t become a woman because she has sex, nor are virginity and sexual ignorance the only innocence or honor a woman can have. So your post makes me think this game is quite thoroughly shallow and terrible.

    • RebeccaS says:

      Thank you. Thank you for pointing out some of these things. It makes me sad that it never occurs to a large majority of people (male and female, usually for different reasons) to wonder “Why is this young person like this?”. Even when actual, direct physical/sexual abuse isn’t involved (which it is WAY more often than many imagine) you have to look at the messages that come from everywhere in our culture and have perhaps been validated over and over again by loved ones. All my niece (who is 5) EVER hears from anyone in our family, apart from me and my husband, is how beautiful and cute she. Never that she’s clever, or kind or funny or anything that pertains to her as a person. They also talk about her “Buddha belly” (again… she’s 5… sad face) and how she’d look like a perfect little doll without it. They all call her “beauty” instead of her name. Young teenage girls who behave like this are not evil lust succubi but human animals who are products of their environments. They did not incarnate spontaneously. Less than 5 years ago were little children trying to figure out what made them and others happy.

  40. Mari says:

    @Oddluck – I think you’ve got it with your first thought. I’ve viewed the “sisters” all along as a single person at major turning points in her life. As such, I view the GiW as..conscience? super-ego? I’m not sure how to put it, but she’s a positive aspect of self. I think that’s why you play as her in the epilogue.

    I discount the “everything is literal” argument simply because the developers describe the game as being about growing up. I fail to see how literal horrible, violent death is about growing up. You don’t grow up if you are murdered. You die. Depending on your faith system something happens or not to the soul but either way it’s not about growing up.

  41. Rutskarn says:

    Neriana: I think you might be reading too much into what the game’s saying. If Shamus’s interpretations are correct, then this is really just the story of a girl who was eager to validate herself through sex–not so much a male or female thing as a teenager thing–and did so with the wrong person, something she would later regret. A lot of people would regret that their first sexual encounter was a one-off unprotected affair with an older partner, done while under the influence of alcohol.

  42. Avilan the Grey says:

    @Mari:
    See, this is why this is not a game for me. I just don’t get symbolism. I find it unnecessary, boring, and simply a way to avoid saying things outright. Of course that means that I have no hope in “getting” this game, since I would have no clue what any of it symbolizes.

    @Everyone: Following that statement, I do find this game suffers from the same problem that a lot of temporary art does and this tend to lead to two behaviors by the “simple masses” (of which I am a part):

    1. The artist have something he or she feels is important, but it is so convoluted, or over-provoking (or both) that most people just disregard it as “just another artist doing artsy things” and not even consider looking at it closer.

    2. People do look at it closer but it is STILL too convoluted for anyone to get a clue what it is about and is therefore a failure anyway.

    Of course there is also reaction 3: Unstoppable rage.

    @Neriana:
    Actually, a lot of them do (run around thinking they are a woman now etc etc).

    Of course I find the whole concept of sex outside a committed relationship being a bad thing utterly infuriating. The fact that we still, today, judge girls and women (who are single, and not cheating on anyone) as sluts if they sleep around is making me very angry.

  43. ehlijen says:

    Seeing Carmen chuck beer after beer while the woodcutter was slowly going through his just reminded me of what happened when I saw a group of 17 year old australians on exchange in germany (where the legal drinking age is 16) ‘discovering’ alcohol the second they were out of sight of the host parents. So to me, the whole episode was more about uncontrolled drug (legal or otherwise) use, rather than about anything sexual. That was just the consequence, but not the actual ‘bad thing’ I saw in it.

  44. Zaxares says:

    Hmm, I interpreted things slightly differently on watching that ending on Youtube. I definitely agree that the chopped down tree in the stagnant pool represents a loss of some kind, most likely Carmen’s lost virginity, with the water probably a representation of tears, matched with the sound of constant dripping.

    Likewise, the red X’s on the doors stand for regret, a threshold that Carmen wishes she hadn’t passed.

    This, however, is mixed in with other feelings that Carmen has about the whole affair. The sound of the sawing mixed with rather throaty moans reminds me very much of hard breathing and gasps, sounds you’d hear in sex, not to mention the repitition of the sawing noise also matches sexual motions. The flames probably symbolise passion, a way of Carmen remembering (and possibly even enjoying) her first encounter. Humans are complex beings; I’m certain it’s perfectly possible for someone to enjoy sex, and yet feel ashamed or regretful about it afterwards.

    I’m unsure of what to make of the mattresses and the chair, although it may represent mixed feelings of conquest and exultation by Carmen, a knowledge that “I have experienced something new.”

    In any case, thank you for this analysis, Shamus. I’m still unlikely to play the game itself (the controls and sound of the game from the video made me wince), but I’m still enjoying the discussion we’re having about it. :)

  45. Jattenalle says:

    A thought occurred to me.
    You can play the game by staying on the path, am I correct? (Having not actually played it, this is an actual question)

    If so, then an argument could be made that people deliberately seek out the “bad” in the game.

    Making the whole argument of “rape game THINK OF THE CHILDREN OH MAI GAWD!” moot and stupid.

    It’d be like saying everyone is a murderer because everyone COULD go outside right now and kill someone.

    If this has already been pointed out I apologize.

    In addition people tend to forget this is supposed to be a game, from what I have seen and heard there’s not much actual gaming.
    How would those of you who have actually played it rate it as a GAME, ENTERTAINMENT, something you ENJOY and will go BACK TO and play over and over for months, perhaps even years?
    Will you play this with your friends?

    IS it really a game or just a glorified interactive movie?

  46. Avilan the Grey says:

    @Jattenalle:
    You can, but it is the one time (apparently, since i have not played the game) where the developers have decided to step out of “art” mode and suddenly do “game”: You get a big “FAIL” message if you do not leave the path.

    I think, personally, that is the one thing I find the most disturbing, not to mention it destroys the “this is art” concept for me.

  47. Your Bro Joe says:

    What up?

  48. Lockesly L'Crit says:

    When I first heard of this game, it was nothing but “OMG LOLI RAPE!” So, naturally, I was curious to find out what the hoopla was all about. My first game I started with Carmen, since she was the most sexual of the six Reds.
    My experience with the ending was pretty much the same as yours, Shamus. It didn’t allude to any rape to me, but rather flirtation (the hat), followed by a sexual mistake (sleeping with the guy while drunk), and finally regret (the long walk in the rain).

    The way I see it, The Path is more of a story (or, rather, six stories) of a Coming Of Age tale, representing the innocence and naivety of the children before the Wolf, and the problems faced with growing up (not just physical, but also emotional and mental) after the Wolf.

  49. Maldeus says:

    @Zaxares 45: I think you’re being too literal. The whole sequence is very dream-like, and probably relies on dream imagery, which is usually ludicrously obscure (chair=dismissal of feelings? The sub-conscious is weird). Also, whatever the tree represents, it almost certainly represents the same thing both times, which means if the tree is a phallic symbol then there must be a reason for the symbol of male sexuality to be depicted as having been cut down earlier in the sequence.

    Fire could represent passion, but remember it still seems threatening. And the image at the end is definitely representative of the woodsman attacking Carmen somehow, as the “X” almost certainly means a target, which is a shame, because I really liked the “no Carmen” interpretation. It could still be taken as an attack on Carmen’s identity, but the symbol of “X as no” made it all work a lot better. Meh. Oh, well.

  50. Maiven7 says:

    The ‘End of Carmen’/’No Carmen’ tree symbolism may be just that as well: A symbol for the end of an era in her life. We’ve touched on the loss of virginity already, and the process of making an irrevocable choice.

    The relevance of the woodcutter is unchanged by his own motives or understanding of the situation: Well meaning or ill, of her volition and his own, he is the one who cut her down.

    Like a tree.

  51. BlckDv says:

    From where I sit, I’m not willing to say that the woodcutter’s lack of overt flirting back with Carmen means he was unlikely to have had a sexual encounter with her.. after all the game always does fade to black when things get uncomfortable for the girl, perhaps it became uncomfortable for Carmen when he began to come on to her.

    To me the Red X / Carmen’s face thing ties into this, as it would make Carmen simply a “target” for him, an object to be used. To me this speaks to what was the trauma of the wolf… Carmen realized that she was not a special unique flower to be cherished by the Woodsman, but just the newest port for him to dock in. Her sexual pretensions did not make her as special as she had thought they would, and now she has to live with having been used.

  52. wumpus says:

    Howdy,

    I haven’t played the game, but have been somewhat curious about it since hearing a review of it on NPR (of all places). It sounds pretty interesting.

    I wanted to point out a meaning that seems to have been overlooked: the tree in the bed, while perhaps alluding to penetration (as well), seems like a pretty clear reference to pregnancy. A seed is planted, and it grows. The tree can refer to the woodcutter, as well as to knowledge or wisdom or… Multiple meaning is part of the power of symbolism.

    Is it possible that the ‘nightmare’ sequences in Grandma’s house are all potential outcomes of the encounter in the woods? That is, that each room is a _different_ thing that could have resulted? It seems to me that would make sense, but I have no direct experience of the game from which to draw any conclusions.

    Hope that helps,
    Alex

  53. Maldeus says:

    Some of the rooms’ symbolism is too sparse to mean much of anything, the fire room, for example.

  54. Ergonomic Cat says:

    If you’re going with the idea of sex, the woodsman’s “axe” having blood on it is very easily explained without murder or rape….

  55. Dane says:

    At risk of sounding jaded, I can’t help but think something that engenders so many different interpretations (all of which could be correct) is essentially meaningless.

    Everyone Is Jesus In Purgatory

    A lot of the analysis people are posting here would fit in great with the rest of the entries on that page.

  56. Maldeus says:

    All of them could be correct, but many of them are a greater reach than others. Regardless, the general consensus is that Carmen met a woodsman who is either benevolent or else burdened only by the simple human flaw of having sex with an attractive young woman who repeatedly comes onto him even after he tried to ignore her for about five minutes solid, and Carmen then learned some very painful lessons about her misguided sexuality. Rape/murder is unlikely.

  57. OddlucK says:

    @Mari: I don’t really think the game may be a literal world (even within itself). The first, more fleshed out argument is the one I find most compelling. I just threw the literalism in because I like extremeties and “it’s all literal” is certainly at the far end of the symbological spectrum. :)

    –OddlucK

  58. Somebody Else says:

    At the risk of overlooking something and/or looking moronic, I will, despite not having played this game, now post my interpretation:

    The tree doesn’t have to be a symbol for anything specific. A tree is generally seen as being strong, enduring and full of life. It also carries connotations of joy and wisdom, and it can hint at the slow decay of time (think roots ripping up a solid stone road).
    The woodsman cutting trees down while Carmen is watching and getting drunk may simply allude to witnessing a terrible event – the woodsman destroying the tree(s) – and feeling guilty that she couldn’t stop it. Flirting with him would then pretty much mean immersing oneself in something one fears and hates because one can’t get over it.

    If water means purity, then the dead tree would represent a terrible stain of guilt or depression. What kind of person would use a chair while it is sitting on a bed? Probably a child. And from the old, familiar vantage point of a child, she can’t help but seeing the tree in the pool.

    Visually placing something in a book usually alludes to the contents of the book. Placing the tree in the bed may simply mean that Carmen still dreams about whatever the tree represents, which is of course lost. A path paved with wood, surrounded by fire, would, to extend the metaphor, basically be “walking on corpses” while surrounded by passion or redemption, or possibly a cleansing/redeeming passion. Note that, while close, the path never actually strays into the fire. Carmen is close to it, but never actually touches it.

    “X” can mean “bad”, “wrong”, “no”, or “target”. All of these interpretations, except “no” work well in the above – the trees marked with “X” are targets, and chopping them down is bad/wrong. Carmen marked with “x”, if the “target” interpretation is used, can simply mean that she perceives herself as vulnerable. If it is “bad” or “wrong”, then Carmen is obviously upset with herself in some way. The “X”es on the doors might simply mean that Carmen doesn’t want to explore that part of her mind.

    So, basically, it seems to me that Carmen saw something horrible – an accident, a crime, a disease, or something less obvious – and blames herself in some way.

    This probably falls under the “Jesus in Purgatory” label, and it might just be random uninformed gobbledygook. Anyway, feel free to praise, harass or dismantle it as you will. These were my two cents.

  59. Maldeus says:

    Carmen’s path has something to do with sexuality, otherwise they wouldn’t have put so much of a “oh look how sexual and flirty she is, that silly girl” vibe in her little blurb. I think the encounter with the woodsman was literal, and only Grandma’s house is figurative.

    Also, concerning the soundtrack, the “safe” ending for Carmen plays that little “la la la la la la” ditty all the way through, with a piano piece in the background, and it only begins to sound eerie towards the end, when you get the feeling that a game like The Path couldn’t possibly be playing something so light-hearted so repetitiously without some kind of sinister intent. That same ditty is played in the nightmare house, but it sounds very uncertain, and thanks to the weird noises in the background, it also sounds REALLY creepy.

    To me, I think the audio symbolizes Carmen trying to reassert to herself that, in spite of having gone through some kind of unsettling experience with the woodsman, she’s still the same flirtatious, light-hearted girl she was before. It sounds unsure because, of course, she isn’t, and deep down inside she knows it.

  60. UtopiaV1 says:

    Wow, it’s like shouting into the storm at this point, but here goes…

    Nice article, you seem to share a more or less similar opinion to me (girls never confided or really talked to me much until college, and even then i went out with average looking but secure girls, so i never met the attention-starved pretty girls you know), and i do believe that she wasn’t mistreated by the wolf like the other girls, rather she mistreated herself (be it the drinking and possible sex).

    Love your Freud reference btw (though i think him and Satre should shut the hell up, even though they’re dead ¬_¬ ), wonder how many people actually got that? It’ll be more than i reckon, i think waaaay too little of people (one of the many curses of being ego maniacal)!

  61. swimon says:

    I haven’t played the game so perhaps I’m missing something but a tree sprouting from the bed seems to suggest that she got pregnant. Perhaps that’s the “wolf” of it all that in her need for male attention she got a child she did not want.

  62. Spider Dave says:

    More on the “x” on her face:
    The woodcutter is out all day chopping down trees marked as such; maybe it just represents something he has to do before he can finish his day, go home, and relax? Carmen then becomes not a target to him, but a minor annoyance easily gotten out of his way before continuing with his work. Chances are, he doesn’t get to choose the trees that he needs to fell.

  63. Avilan the Grey says:

    @Spider Dave
    …Having not played this, this does sound plausible. Is the X of the same type (looks the same) as the markings on the trees? Then, indeed, I think the woodsman just sees her as another thing to check off his list. One of many lovers, perhaps. And here she thought she was special…

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