Shadows House ‒ Episode 7

When the shadow is separated from the body, does that make it a different entity entirely? That’s certainly been a question throughout all of the previous episodes of Shadows House, but this one brings it into starker relief as Emilico finds shadow masters who aren’t her own. It’s a question that other works of fiction have brought up with varying answers – J.M. Barrie‘s Peter Pan has the eternal boy separated from a shadow that behaves very much the way its owner does (hence why it needs to be physically sewn to him) while Hans Christian Andersen‘s Shadow becomes its own person to the exclusion of its original owner in the short story of the same name. But in some ways, the literary fairy tale that best fits this episode is George MacDonald’s 1864 story The Light Princess, a Sleeping Beauty-inspired tale of a princess who is cursed to have no gravity.

Although shadows aren’t specifically mentioned in MacDonald’s story, the word “light” necessarily implies “shadow.” While there’s some clear wordplay – the princess is “light” in her coloring, her weight, and her temperament – no one sees the shadow that hovers just beneath her surface and manifests only in her love of swimming, because that’s the only time she has or is subject to gravity. Only one person, a prince, gets to know her well enough to see that shadow-self, and in the end her falling in love with the prince – thus having a heart weighed down with emotions – is what brings the Light Princess down to earth for good. In the case of Shadows House, Emilico and Kate can be seen as these two halves of the Light Princess, with Kate all anxiety and concern and Emilico lightness and joy. Most people who see them believe that they’re not a good match, because Emilico isn’t supposed to be her own person, but a reflection of Kate. But when Emilico, Shaun, and Rum find John this week, John comments that although Emilico and Kate don’t appear to be a good match, maybe the truth is that Kate “raised” (encouraged) Emilico to be the manifestation of her own lighter side. An Emilico-like self therefore does exist within Kate; she’s just unable to act on those feelings, being held down by the gravity of her situation. She therefore wants Emilico to represent the face she can’t show to the world, not because of her soot, but because of her anxiety and fear. Therefore, when Emilico is given the nickname “Sunshine,” it’s not the jab Barbie and her ilk intend; it’s a statement of who her shadow mistress wants her to be.

It’s hard to deny that her sunny nature and kindness have become her strength. Her choice of the wheelbarrow has proven to be a good one, as it allows her to carry things she finds on her journey, which again has a folkloric link – oftentimes in tales where a heroine goes on a trip of some kind, she’ll be given things by those she helps which will help her in turn. It’s hard not to think of that when she encounters a very scared Patrick locked tight in his wooden box. The isolation and small space are starting to take a toll on him when Emilico and Rum arrive, and Emilico helps to calm him down. She initially just wants to get him out, but Patrick points out that Ricky needs to do that for them to pass. So instead she gives him two things: a daffodil and an orange. Both are bright, yellow and orange in color, which certainly puts us in mind of sunshine. But more significantly, in the language of flowers, daffodils mean “chivalry,” which represents all of the qualities a knight (in the shining armor sense) must have: kindness, honor, a sense of justice, courtesy, and of course courage. These are traits Emilico absolutely displays, and the image of she and Patrick touching through the box can be interpreted as her hugging him in comfort, but also of Patrick accepting her favor, the daffodil, as a blessing for his battle, which is continuing to wait for Ricky. (And we can then compare that favor to the fève from the cakes, bringing us full circle.)

But it also raises a question that we haven’t really considered before: what happens if a face develops a fondness for someone else’s shadow? John is certainly taken aback by how he doesn’t see Kate in Emilico, and Patrick clearly appreciates Emilico for her non-Kate-like behaviors here. Ricky, meanwhile, has a blushing encounter with Lou, who is as far from Emilico as you can get. It’s all as tangled as the strings holding Shirley in place as she waits for Rum, and while it may not seem helpful during the debut, if everyone manages to survive it, those unorthodox relationships could prove the key to changing the way Shadows House is run in the future.

“If,” of course. Always “if.”


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