Happy Earth Day everyone! What a week for Shovelry, am I right? Last Monday we crushed on Shovel Knight. Naturally, today's woman crush belongs to his fellow knight, the courageous Shield Knight. Fair warning for those of you who may be new to the game—it just released on Sony platforms—or those of you who just haven't beaten it yet: There are major spoilers in this post. If you wish to uncover the mystery of Shield Knight first hand, I advise you to turn back now. After you've beaten the game, come back and tell us what you think!
Now then, if I may, in an effort to garner the true essence and significance of our lady of the day, I'd like to present you all with a hypothetical outline of the events of Shovel Knight through the mind of Shield Knight. After all, the story of the game revolves entirely around her. Even though you never get a chance to play as Shield Knight, she is arguably a more interesting and meaningful character than our titular hero, Shovel Knight. If you aren't already, I encourage you to have today's suggested reading music playing in the background. Trust me, it will enhance your experience. Before I take you through the bowels of the unknown, let's begin with what we do know.
The Story As We Know It
The game opens by introducing Shovel Knight and Shield Knight together as the greatest heroes in the land. They are both presented in a very heroic manner and certainly seem to be successful heroes judging by their massive stash of loot. From there, we learn that upon adventuring to the Tower of Fate one, (ahem), FATEFUL DAY, calamity struck after they encountered a cursed amulet.
What happens next is not explained, but during the chaos, Shovel Knight was rendered unconscious. When he wakes, Shield Knight is no where to be found, her battered helmet the only remains of her existence. The Tower of Fate now sealed, Shovel Knight, stricken with grief over the loss of his questing companion, gives up his life of adventuring for one of mourning and solitude.
One day, the seal on the Tower of Fate breaks and the evil Enchantress and her villainous Order of No Quarter appear to bring devastation and destruction to the land. Shovel Knight, motivated by the chance to discover the fate of Shield Knight for himself, steels his shovel and sets out solo for his biggest adventure yet...
Our Interpretation of Shield Knight's Untold Story
Now for the hypotheticals. If there's one thing I love in narrative, it's the idea of everything coming back full circle to the starting point. That's what made the TV sitcom Seinfeld so successful. Each episode tied everything back together to whatever happened in the very beginning. This post will follow that same pattern, beginning with Shovel Knight's iconic campfire scenes.
Early on, we see Shield Knight and Shovel Knight together at a campfire celebrating a successful quest, as pictured above. At the end of each level in the game (save the last one), Shovel Knight can be scene at a campfire, alone, as pictured to the right. It's a much different and solemn scene than the other. There's no loot. No celebration. Only a stoic knight against the starry night sky. These scenes will sometimes introduce a dream sequence in which Shield Knight is falling. The words "- Catch Her -" appear on the screen and the player is tasked to do so. Whether you catch Shield Knight or not, the dream promptly ends and Shovel Knight wakes up the following morning to continue his quest.
It's interesting that the narrative specifically phrases it as "- Catch Her -" for 2 reasons:
1) It's a command. An order if you will. Shovel Knight is a knight; a type of soldier, and soldiers are suppose to carry out their orders.
2) The words are accompanied by dash marks, which suggest that they are not spoken, but thought. This could be Shovel Knight's subconscious commanding him during his dream, which is a recurring scenario of potential PTSD in which he attempts to save Shield Knight in a way that he could not in the Tower of Fate. Which brings me to what may have happened that fateful day. Consider the following:
After encountering the cursed amulet, it's magic had a terrible effect on Shield Knight. I believe she was the one who, caught off guard and under the effect of the amulet, rendered Shovel Knight unconscious. Let's assume that Shield Knight is able to fight the effects of the amulet to a certain degree before if fully took over and transformed her into the Enchantress. She carries Shovel Knight away from the Tower of Fate, likely makes a campfire for him, all the while internally battling with the amulet's curse. In narrative, a heroic figure who has reached a critical point of no return will often remove their helmet. Darth Vader does this at the end of Return of the Jedi to reveal himself to Luke, knowing full well he will not survive without his helmet. In Star Craft 2, there is a cutscene where Sarah Kerrigan removes her headwear and drops her weapon when she realizes she's been left for dead by Arcturus Mengsk to the Zerg swarm. It would make sense for Shield Knight to remove her helmet in this way as the effect of the curse takes over, but she doesn't give up there. Shield Knight would then journey back to the Tower of Fate, sealing herself within, where she would use the last of her power to fight the curse. When she is no longer able to fight, she succumbs to the amulet's power, becomes the Enchantress, and the seal of the Tower of Fate breaks. Enter Shovel Knight as you know it, until the end.
After Shovel Knight manages to free Shield Knight from the curse, the two of them defeat the evil spirit that was none too happy about being beaten out of Shield Knight. It is during this fight that we can gleam something from seeing the two knights in action together for the first time. Shield Knight, as her name suggests, is a protector. I even think that she is Shovel Knight's mentor in a way. He (literally) looks up to her and only seems to have the strength and courage to do battle when she is involved in some way. When Shovel Knight's hope was crushed and he believed Shield Knight to be lost forever, he stopped being a hero. She inspires him. She brings out the heroism in him. She may have even taught him how to fight. The player can feel a sense of this in the way that the final fight plays out. You need her to be able to defeat the evil spirit.
However, after the final blow is struck, the evil goes berserk and Shovel Knight is, again, rendered unconscious and we are presented with a familiar scene to what I described earlier. Only this time, Shield Knight is prepared. She enlists Black Knight to take Shovel Knight to safety as she holds off the assault. Black Knight is opposed to this idea, but Shield Knight makes him promise. It can be debated that as the Enchantress, Shield Knight was able to provide Black Knight with an opportunity to be a hero himself, which would explain why he was there this time and was not there the first time they reached the Tower. In the next scene, the Tower of Fate collapses and it appears that Shield Knight has gone down with it. Black Knight fulfills his promise and takes Shovel Knight to the safety of a campfire. More credits roll, and then we see a wounded Shield Knight, limping towards the campfire, and she lies down next to Shovel Knight. The game brings us back around, full circle. I find that, for the purposes of this post, the following picture best describes that final scene.
We could go deeper with our theory on this narrative (time travel and alternate timelines anyone?) but we think today's point has been made. Behind every great shovel is a very large shield. For me, that's MasterWife. For you, perhaps a relative, a friend, or a significant other. People who we may think need us, but if we're being honest with ourselves, we need them. And who's not to say that every shield needs a shovel? Appreciating and valuing each other is important. That's what guides us when we lose our way; when we make mistakes or forget who we are. The people in our lives that bring out the heroic qualities in us and have our backs no matter what. That's the essence of Shield Knight.
I can't stress just how amazing this game is and I sincerely hope you give it a go and pick it apart yourself to see what kinds of interpretations you get from it. Shovel Knight dug itself onto Sony platforms yesterday, and news has surfaced that Xbox owners will get their chance to Strike the Earth on April 29th! The Sony release features a special boss battle with Kratos of God of War and the Xbox release will feature content from Battletoads. For Shovelry indeed!
Until next time, peace out heart pieces!