Ever since I first read Jorrin Quest’s article, Monkey Island: The Revelation, I’ve been fascinated by piecing together a coherent explanation of what’s going on behind the scenes of Ron Gilbert’s two great masterpieces: The Secret of Monkey Island, and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. The article presents a conspiracy theory that suggests that the whole world these games take place in is actually a themepark, and that Guybrush is really a lost little boy with an over-active imagination.
There are three main problems with this theory:
- There is strong counter evidence – which some dismiss as just being attempts to throw us off the scent – such as the fact that Elaine seems to continue to exist in some sense “outside” of Guybrush’s fantasy. She suggests that LeChuck has put some kind of spell on Guybrush.
- It ignores many other clues about Guybrush’s family history. At best, it can only be a partial explanation of the facts.
- Ultimately, many people find it deeply unsatisfying – it seems to take the essence out of this world that they have derived so much enjoyment from.
In response to the feedback that I received from my last video – The TRUE Secret of Monkey Island – I have put together a sequel which attempts to do justice to ALL the facts. Behold: The OTHER Secret of Monkey Island (direct YouTube link here).
One of the key writers on Ron Gilbert’s Monkey Island games was Tim Schafer, who alongside Dave Grossman wrote a substantial portion of the dialogue for the games. Whilst it’s not generally believed that he knows the full details of Ron’s master plan, he must have been given a certain amount of information in order to be able to do his job. It provides a fascinating perspective on the world of Monkey Island to examine one of Schafer’s own games: Psychonauts.
In Psychonauts, the player meets various disturbed individuals. The hero, Raz, is able to “enter” their subconscious minds, and each level of the game is then a physical manifestation of the various neuroses and traumas of those characters. Take, for example, the asylum warden haunted by his poor performance at war strategy games despite his descent from the line of Napoleon. His mind then takes the form of one giant strategy game that must be won in order to free him from the tyranny of his failure.
Although it’s generally accepted that Psychonauts was inspired by a scrapped scene from Schafer’s Full Throttle game, it’s not impossible that there could also have been some cross pollination from Ron’s games. At the very least, it provides a fascinating lens through which to view the world of Monkey Island.
Could it in fact be a representation of Guybrush’s mental baggage? Might he be haunted by some past trauma that took place whist visiting a themepark?
LeChuck then truly does represent his mean older brother, Chuckie, with his “evil eyes” at the end of the second game indicating some kind of temporary triumph of this inner demon over Guybrush’s sanity.
Could the Voodoo Lady’s guiding presence represent some kind of psychiatrist helping Guybrush search out the suppressed secrets of his past and destroy his mental cobwebs?
Guybrush’s Traumatic Past
In a notorious interview on IRC, Ron Gilbert made the following comment about Guybrush’s relationship to LeChuck:
<Ron-G> In one sense, yes they are brothers, in another way, they are not. If you get what I mean.
Superficially, the evidence within the game backs up LeChuck’s claim: how else would Guybrush be able to use his own father’s bone to make the Voodoo doll that defeats LeChuck? Except that we only know he calls this man “Dad” – we have no proof that he is a blood relation of Guybrush. It’s interesting that Guybrush always chooses his Dad’s bone – is it possible that had he chosen his Mom’s bone, the doll would not have worked?
I believe so: Guybrush and LeChuck are step brothers. When you purchase the (otherwise useless) feather pen from the antique shop on Booty Island, Guybrush exclaims that it is “just like the feather pen from Mom and Dad’s wedding”. In other words: his parents married within his lifetime. We know that LeChuck is “Dad”‘s son, meaning that Guybrush’s mother must have married LeChuck’s father.
What’s more, when hanging above the acid pit in his dungeon, LeChuck claims that Guybrush was an orphan, meaning he must have been adopted by his Mom at some point before she (re-?)married.
In my view, frequently overlooked is the fact that Guybrush’s parents now appear to be dead. They turn into skeletons during his dream, and it’s their skeletons that you find in the Lost and Found at the end. Guybrush lives with the belief that they abandoned him, a claim that they strenuously deny. I’m now far into the realm of speculation, but given their warnings at the end about the presence of “murderers and white slavers” at themeparks, could it be possible that they were in fact MURDERED? Their sudden disappearance might appear to Guybrush as though they had abandoned him. It is, after all, curious that they should be found in a “Lost Parents” area – more naturally they are for “Lost Children”.
Such a traumatic event taking place whilst visiting a themepark would inevitably leave it’s mark on a young boy growing up. Who could blame Guybrush for having to do battle with the demons of his past in the arena of the Big Whoop amusement park?
But Who Is Elaine?
I’ll be honest that for me the big unresolved question is the identity of Elaine. Also in the IRC interview, Ron Gilbert says this about her:
<Ron-G> Elain never really liked GB and thought of him as more of a little brother.
Could she be some relation of Guybrush? Before you throw your arms up in the air in disgust at this idea, given her romantic involvement to Guybrush, just remember that Ron Gilbert was heavily influenced by the Star Wars movies – and who could forget that unfortunate kiss between Luke and Leia?
Guybrush does make a passing reference to having a sister in Wally’s house – although he could just be blagging in order to cover up his having owned a dolls’ house (he also says he has a lot of hairy cousins when you read a particular library book!)
In truth, we shall probably never know. But perhaps all this brings us one step closer to finally answering that great mystery: what IS the Secret of Monkey Island?
If you found this interesting, please watch my other video: Monkey Island meets the Old Testament.