Swaying Bird

There is a bird’s
nest inside of
my body,
and I am so sick
of turning myself
into a home
for things that
only know how
to fly away. Y.Z

This shrine was created in September 2016, a short while after I finished Leifthrasir — which, by the way, only took about week since the game’s release because I loved it that much. (Play it!)

Sway is a word with many different meanings, all of which can be tied to Gwendolyn in some way. At first, it was meant to be a working title due to Gwendolyn’s Psypher and ultimate attack Gungnir, which is Old Norse for ”swaying one” — fitting, seeing how Valkyries sway in the air with their beautiful wings, and how Gwendolyn’s story is all about her swaying heart as she swings to and fro between so many different things: duty and love, death and life, listening to her own heart and denying herself, wanting to be loved by Odin and subconsciously knowing that it’s a lost cause, and later on in her loyalties. But to sway also means to move toward change, however slowly: and change is what Gwendolyn needs to embrace in order to grow.

Later on, I read that the verb sway can also be used transitively — and thus passively — to refer to the exerting of influence or control, similar to its noun. Given Odin’s reach in the game and the way he influences so many different characters, especially Gwendolyn, Sway makes for a great reference to the parent-child aspect of Gwendolyn as well as the other protagonists’ tales. And as if it couldn’t get better, archaic use of the word gives it the meaning of dominion, linking it to— well, you’ll have to play Odin Sphere to find out!

As for the site’s layout, I aimed to capture the storybook feel of Odin Sphere, from the design elements to the structure, including the sub-headings in covering Gwendolyn’s story and the poetry across the shrine. (And if you managed to catch the two obscure Revolutionary Girl Utena and Kingdom Hearts references, yes, you’re seeing it right!)

In Search of Love

I’m drawn to fictional characters with self-esteem issues and those who present themselves differently on the outside while carefully keeping their true feelings under wraps: confident on the surface, insecure deep down. I love characters that are consumed by self-loathing, characters that won’t stop criticizing and questioning themselves— I love it when characters think so little of themselves, they think that the best they have to give won’t ever be good enough (how can it be good enough when you’re worth so little?)— But even more than that, I love it when these characters have overwhelming kindness and compassion for everyone even though they have so little for themselves, and even though the world has not treated them kindly.

While my childhood was full of heroines with a lot of love to give, they didn’t have anywhere as little regard for themselves as Gwendolyn does. And unlike them, Gwendolyn’s role isn’t to be a shining ray of hope — a heroine by virtue of her qualities, yes, but not an icon of all that is good — she isn’t there to unite a group or to spread love boundlessly: Gwendolyn goes on her own deeply personal and mostly solitary journey, and the compassion she shows to others is the compassion for those she happens to meet on the way. Her journey resonates with me due to how she thinks she only has love to give, and thus pours all that love into someone who won’t return it, while still blaming herself for said lack of response.

I have tried loving several people in different ways, putting my heart into it only to realize how little they value it, or how little they care about returning it — and especially their failure in recognizing just how much of me went into it. Nobody should talk down their own love: It takes tremendous strength to love someone and to show that love, for admitting your love means exposing yourself and opening yourself to the possibility of being hurt. Don’t devote yourself to someone who can’t understand even that much. Understand instead that what you give is enough, that you are enough, have always been enough — your love is worth more than that coldness, and you are right to leave when you find the other undeserving of that love. Of you.

Gwendolyn’s journey reaffirms what I consider one of the most important messages to embrace: Love yourself, and don’t hold back on that love. Love yourself as much as all the people you’ve poured your love into, and even more. Rather than thinking that you only have value when you are loved, and rather than waiting for love to come your way, have courage and enough self-love to leave people when it is time to leave, and learn how to direct all the love you’ve held for them toward yourself — because in the end, yourself is who you’ll always have.

Credits

Resources
Fonts Quando / Noto Serif / Vollkorn / Zallman Caps (content)
Praying Angel / Cambria (layout)
Patterns DinPattern / Starsunflower Studio
Scripts fancyBox / jQuery Tooltip
Game Script Neophoton (outdated, used for reference)
Official Art Emuparadise / Creative Uncut / Minitokyo / Macy@savingthegeneration
Poems see Poem Selection
Special Thanks
kairi@kougyokuss for forwarding the Leifthrasir Artbook scans and sharing her stash of Odin Sphere resources, Becca@grraveryl for taking pictures of the English Leifthrasir Artbook pages that I requested and transcribing the blurbs, Cherri for checking the PS2 Odin Sphere manual for me, dubiousdisc for repeatedly clarifying some funky CSS at great length to this noob, Laura for helping me optimize media uploads, Samantha for her enthusiasm and gift of buttons, and Megan for her continuous cheerleading (and suffering over buttons for my sake) — thanks so much, everyone!