Plot Interpretation – She had more than one problem – GRIS

Plot Interpretation – She had more than one problem – GRIS 1 -
Plot Interpretation – She had more than one problem – GRIS 1 -

This is a translation of my own article which I wrote in summer 2021 originally in Russian. It had very wide and positive feedback so I decided to share it in English as well. If you find any language mistakes please point them out and I will fix them.
Original ru version is here: – [] 
There was already one article with plot interpretation from another user. And I honestly like what is described there – author developed a touching theory that the statue / mother is the true hero of the game, and the girl we play is just a memory of a dead daughter, whom the mother imagines in order to console herself. This is a good theory, and I am not trying to belittle its author, but there are a number of reasons why it is not correct. Therefore, we need to look further, and I present my interpretation.

Beware spoilers

Please go through the game first and only then read this article.
You will really ruin your experience if you rush to find out everything in advance.

Why the heroine’s death theory is incorrect

Indeed, at first glance, the other theory seems logical – the mother is alive, but the heroine of the game has died and we see the memory of her. During the game, the statue of mother depicts even more emotions than the heroine herself, goes through changes in her emotional state and in the end lets her daughter walk stepping the stars into the eternal white beyond… That’s strong. But.
1. The composition of the game is literally built on the emotional model of “denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.” This is called the Kübler-Ross model, developed in 1969. But the ones who are experiencing this are not the ones who lost somebody. If you have lost someone close (a person or a pet), then you are well aware that after experiencing this, you can feel anger and depression, but what cannot be there is bargaining. The death once happened is absolutely final, and there is no one to bargain with.
So, in fact, the terminally ill ones as well as their loved ones, go through 5 stages of acceptance. This happens BEFORE the fact of death. That is why they may not believe at first, and after a while they may bargain with God / fate / the disease itself.
2. Quote from Wikipedia:
“Although the story provides room for interpretation, Mendoza [one of the authors of Gris] noted that he wanted to be careful and respectful of the topic, and therefore consulted with women. Mendoza also expressed pride that touches in his game that for many years was considered unacceptable in video games.”
The wording is rather tongue-tied, but this is precisely because the author does not want to name some very bad things head on. But let’s be honest, death in games has been viewed from all angles for decades, so this isn’t about it. And the author did not say that he consulted with different people, he said that he consulted with women. So we are talking about something more specific. We will come back to this later.
3. The heroine of the game experiences too much of what is inherent in the living ones, and not in any way the dead, even the most romanticized. She fights, she acquires abilities, learns resilience, she is afraid, runs, makes a friend, builds a castle in the sky, regains her voice, fights with her dark self. No, all this is not about the dead. Almost at the very end of the game, we have to sing over the grave of mother. But the dead do not sing over the graves of the living.
For these reasons, the theory of the deceased daughter must be discarded and something else must be sought. Fortunately, we have been given all the clues.

Of characters and names

I will not call the heroine as Gris, because we really do not know if it is a name. From Spanish and French the word is translated as “gray”. And the gray one we have in this game is actually a statue. In general, I will refer to them simply as mother and daughter. And we do know they are exactly mother and daughter from the secret scene “Childhood”.
One of the journalists was unhappy with this rude spoiler, which broke the possibility of other interpretations, but wait a minute, a work of art has its author, it has an idea, and I do not understand the objections to the fact that the work contains what is inherent in it by definition. Author himself decided that these were mother and daughter – this is the very essence of the work, and there is nothing to argue with.

Quarrel, anger and bad people

The game begins with the daughter singing in her mother’s hands. The image of song and loss of voice plays a big role in the game, and I am sure this is not a metaphor, but a completely real characterization of the heroine. Her incredible jumps, transformation into a granite cube, into a sea creature – these are metaphors, they are impossible and fantastic, while singing and muteness are real things and they take center stage! place in the plot plot tie-up. We can confidently assume that the daughter did vocals in reality, and that meant a lot for her, but she went through something that caused her to lose her voice. It was at this moment that her relationship with her mother collapsed. It was bad for both of them – we all saw the state of the heroine at the beginning, and the first statue of the mother (secret one, when moving to the left at the beginning) showing her in the most humiliated and broken state.
For some time, mother and daughter do not communicate. The heroine overcomes the white level alone, statues of the mother are not found here – only their fragments, i.e. shards of their relationship. The heroine experiences denial alone, resists the hurricanes of anger alone, alone finds firmness in herself (transformation into a cube), repairs her inner springs on her own.
Soon she will meet that black evil which will try to destroy her thrice. And now the question – who did create this enemy?
Yes, the heroine herself created it when – think of it – she smashed the statues of her mother. On the red level, she finds herself under the bell, but does not ring it, she breaks the floor under her in order to fall down. She finds herself in a black abyss, under an even larger bell, but prefers to fall again. To find herself in the darkest and most sinister place in the entire game – in the halls of loneliness, pain and hatred. Yes, it is enough to break only vases there, but the local achievement “Wrath” requires the destruction of three statues of mother. Anger at mother – how do you like that?
Plot Interpretation - She had more than one problem - GRIS - Quarrel, anger and bad people - 53FE3C2BF
Plot Interpretation - She had more than one problem - GRIS - Quarrel, anger and bad people - 140662B6A
This destruction is releasing the shadow-butterfly-birds, and interestingly enough, they are NOT our enemies in the beginning. It is they who carry us out from the abyss of loneliness into the cloudy heights.
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And for some time they do not touch us. They show hostility for the first time after daughter stands in her mother’s hands, begins to rebuild her soul’s castle and deals away with anger. At this moment, the birds are tearing down our bridge back, cutting off the path to mother and the comfort zone.
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The bird decides to attack us only when it decides it does not like us anymore. For the first time gathering from the pack into a gestalt, she first examines us for a couple of seconds, deciding – are we still the one from the pack?
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And then she starts an attack, but does not try to devour us, instead she throws us back, rejects, expels us.
This can mean two things. Either a metaphor for an internal struggle – negative emotions, insecurity, sins are trying to deprive the heroine of that little stability that she gained at the stage of bargaining with herself. Either these are real people – a bad company that accepted her as one of them, while she was as evil as they were, but as soon as the heroine began to grow above herself and restore relations with her mother, the deceitful friends showed who they were. And to be honest, I like the second interpretation even more, because black emotions that banish you somewhere are a too shaky metaphor on a metaphor, but a bad company that once helped, took away from home, and now turned away, is already specific, and it will evoke a response from those who encountered this in life.
One way or another, we defeat the bird by ringing the bell – daughter finally came to the conclusion that she needed the bell, not the bird, she made the right choice.
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What does this image mean? I don’t want to look for a religious connotation here, because there is nothing about religion in this game. Rather, the bell is the voice of reason, it is the inner purity of the soul, the right path. Heroine found the strength in herself and coped with the anger completely and / or managed to put her enemies in their place.
I want to emphasize that if we consider a bird as an allegory of enemies in reality, this does not deprive it of its personal connotation – getting into a bad company and getting rid of it is a consequence of changes in personality anyway.

Child or friend?

Shortly before the battle with the bird, in the forest we meet an incomprehensible creature who trusts us. Either a robot, or a pot, or a plant.
Plot Interpretation - She had more than one problem - GRIS - Child or friend? - EB5366610
We feed him with apples, and he runs after us like we are its mom. In general, it looks like a metaphor for motherhood, and you know… a failed one. The creature did not remain with the heroine and did not become human. And many may think that she had a miscarriage, and she is trying to cope with this loss through such a strange fantasy. But I have a much simpler interpretation. This is all about a pet. After all it’s simple – we feed it, care about it, it follows us and chirps.
So this fragment means that she had a pet for a short time, but she did not cope with responsibility. Most likely, the animal did not die, but she simply gave it away somewhere or released it into nature. You know, we meet him a little later in the hole with ones of its kind. His house is there, he feels good there.
This should not be a dead child, that’s why – very few time in the game is devoted to this image. The death of the unborn is such a grief so an entire game could be made about it, but here are literally 10 minutes of gameplay. So no, this is a pet, and it did not appear for long in her life.


The water level is, perhaps, the most complicated, both emotionally and in terms of the complexity of constructing meanings. At the beginning, it seems that the most gloomy period in daughter’s life has already ended, she is still swimming in the ocean of her depression, but she calms down, understands herself, and gradually cleans her soul. Here she meets the most beautiful and complete statue of mother and brings back the sky and stars to her. Actually this could even become the ending… in some other game. But at this moment, when we least expect it, the Shadow attacks again. When moving to the aquatic environment, she, like us, changes form to aquatic, turning from a swallow into a moray eel.
Honestly, after talking with people, I was surprised that almost no one understood this metaphor of violence, although it seems to be the most obvious and direct. Now I will raise a delicate topic, but I ask you to take it seriously and with understanding. In general, this moray eel, which splits into two in two narrow passages, and then a swarm of tadpoles breaks out of them, is an image of rape. And, you know, a double one. But please don’t ask me to explain what the things look alike here.
Plot Interpretation - She had more than one problem - GRIS - Violence - 672EDC851
Plot Interpretation - She had more than one problem - GRIS - Violence - AF60951DA
And this is exactly THE ONE TOPIC that had not previously been raised in games, about which the author consulted with women and which he wanted to show carefully, with respect to the problem, which alas touched many.
And do not think that I personally somehow interpret this in the wrong way and a completely different danger was meant. These other dangers were shown in the game as well, and they found their own images. But here everything is clearly readable.
But! This did not happen to her. Not to the heroine. And it took me quite a long time to decipher the further. The point is that the plot plays with the timeline to some extent. This is indicated by the state of the statue, as we meet it at different periods:
– After the white level – There is only a shattered palm.
– After red – There are two hands, the rest is not visible.
– After the green – We see the statue, but its upper part of the head is destroyed.
And here, attention, in the blue, water level, we finally see HOW the statue received this damage. It was the Shadow who had inflicted this damage on her!
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Plot Interpretation - She had more than one problem - GRIS - Violence - DB6A49B8E
Got it? We were finally shown that the statue of the mother had been in such a destroyed state all this time, because it had suffered not from something incomprehensible, but from the Shadow itself. From the moray eel. Which is a metaphor of rape. That is it, it all happened to her.
You might say this is a speculation. But there is some kind of proof this was the case. So, there are only two human images in the game – mother and daughter. Well, then who is THIS?
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This is not daughter. Because different hairstyle.
But she doesn’t look very much like a statue of a mother either, because here we see not an adult woman, but a very young girl. So, this is mother in her youth. It is barely perceptible, at the level of intuition, but this statue seems to depict abused girlhood – she is crying, and everything is broken down there. This is when it happened to her. And as a result our heroine was born. And that is why the girl’s mother is not old at all – such motherhood happened to her early.
It is quite obvious that such an injury will not pass without a trace. And although the heroine’s mother is good, it was still difficult for her to love her child. This was superimposed on a certain conflict that occurred between them. A teenage daughter, beloved, but unwanted, who lost her voice, got involved with bad people, and a mother who lives by the demons of the past and, apparently, is terminally ill… who did not understand each other.
Throughout the game, the daughter solves not one, but several problems, which is why the packaging of metaphors is so dense and rich. She loses her talent and, against this background, quarrels with her mother, who, due to personal trauma, could not give her enough love, and her daughter, turning from a good teenager to a bad one, finds a bad company, then breaks out of it, but they try to take revenge on her. She finds a pet, but does not cope with responsibility. Begins to reconnect with her mother and gets to know her and her dark past better. Unfortunately, they manage to make up too late.
The death of the mother is not something that happens at the beginning of the game, no. It happens at the end. When the daughter went through those five stages of accepting of the coming loss. She managed to make peace with her mother, get her help, let her go, and eventually sang over her grave. And in the end, she went by the stars not into the sky. Following her mother’s behests (making friends with stars is her lesson), daughter left the emotional model to which the game is dedicated and within which the whole story is told.

Of turtle

A strong and ambiguous image which is really hard to figure out. The turtle looks strange, its image is somehow abnormal and as if hinting at something, and in first edition of article I invited people to join the sense decryption.
We know a couple of things about her. Although the turtle seems to be a true inhabitant of the water level, in fact it is not from here. Her element is not water and depression, but stones and anger. On the red level, we were helped by a walking tower made of red stone; similar stone creatures of various sizes walked next to us. In the same place, we inserted stars into stone cubes to activate mechanisms. The turtle is exactly the same, its shell is made of the same stone and it is awakened by the stars – this is the creation of anger. Ours. Righteous.
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Plot Interpretation - She had more than one problem - GRIS - Of turtle - 9FDCD4F2F
Although many creatures helped the heroine, it was always soft, passive, insecure help. And only the turtle showed the most direct and formidable furious help – tore the moray eel to shreds. When it was needed the most.
Here are the interpretations from the comments from various people with my resumes:
1. A certain person, kind to friends and ruthless to enemies.
Participant said: “The turtle is a symbol of longevity, wisdom and protection. Most likely, it symbolizes a wise old person who intervened at the right time.”
This is a good interpretation, but it has one drawback: according to the symbols, the anger seems to be ours, but the person, it turns out, is someone else. This can be tied up, but it comes out a little tricky. Although if a swallow and a moray eel are humans, then a turtle, as an image of the same level, can also be a person.
2. A victory that never happened?
“The turtle symbolizes the trauma after what happened. Post-traumatic stress disorder”
From this interpretation it appears that there was no salvation at all. The victim just came up with a fantasy “what if they would save me.” Very gloomy, but it happens.
However, this interpretation is hampered by the following – at the moment of salvation, the music is too solemn, grandiose, major. Composer Marco Albano and his band Berlinist, who created the game music, are too good to make such a mistake. Therefore, if the victory were imaginary, there could be a different musical accompaniment in this moment.
3. Victory of mother instinct
“The turtle is a maternal instinct, rage and love for her child, which prevented this woman from having an abortion or committing suicide.”
Best interpretation. Because the previous ones explained that the same situation happened with the daughter too. And in this version, the essences does not multiply.
The young statue of the mother is depicted at the moment when she is ready to take a step down – to kill either herself or the child. But Mother won in her at the last moment. The saving shell is like a shelter, like a womb. Turtle – desire for motherhood. It is no coincidence that it destroys moray eel not from somewhere outside, but breaks through from within. Mother found the strength to change her attitude to what happened and her role, and our little fish got her chance to live.

Written by Ocean Echo

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