A Narrative Dream… The Unfinished Swan

Posted by on January 6th, 2015 | 3 Comments | Tags: , , ,

Some of you faithful readers may know that my main occupation is a high school English teacher. I went to college for English, Creative Writing, and Film Studies, so I have a background that nurtured my naturally analytical brain. I can’t read a book without a pencil in hand, and I’ve even watched movies with pen and paper blazing. It is with this background that I tend to approach video games. One game I have been meaning to write about since I first played it years ago is The Unfinished Swan by Giant Sparrow. With its relatively recent rerelease, I had the chance to play and watch it through a couple of more times, taking notes as the game progressed before my eyes. You might have heard me riff on Journey, usually using The Unfinished Swan as evidence of a video game that does a better job weaving a compelling narrative. From chapter to chapter, TUS takes the player’s hand and guides him/her through consistently unfamiliar territory. Themes, allusions, and symbols are plentiful throughout, emphasizing the natural wonderment felt by the player and bolstering the experience with rich content. I’ve chosen to break up my writings into chapters to parallel the game’s structure/narrative. Some chapters may go off on wild tangents. You have been warned. Speaking of warnings, major plot beats will be discussed openly. The Unfinished Swan is a game that partially hinges on the player feeling lost and discovering her way. The game’s narrative is less effective when the player knows where to go, what to do, etc.

Read, comment, enjoy! If you disagree with me or would like to expand upon a point, please do! Discussion breeds new ideas; share your perspective if you’ve played the game!

Table of Contents:
Chapter One – Discovery
Chapter Two – Growth
Chapter Three – Motivation
Chapter Four – Realization

  • Midgetguy

    Spoilers ahead!!!

    I always thought of the King as the father figure to Monroe. Since he never really knew him, he had to fabricate his idea of who/what his father was.

    He finds similarities between him and his father along the way.

    The king, or father, left his unfinished creations to fend for themselves basically. And I feel Monroe sees his father as selfish and abandoning.

    There are also hints at the idea of divorce or separation in the third chapter. (The king was so distracted and obsessed with his creations that his wife simply left.)

    The nursery, I wonder, could very well be monroes.

    The king, during his dream sequence, could symbolically represent his side of the story.

    Monroe comes to terms with his mothers death and the fact that his father left him in the end, and holds his paintbrush proudly and ventures into the world, gaining closure by painting his own works.

    The game hints at the idea that we create our own place in this world, and regardless of our family, or genes, or our environment, we have the ability to create and alter.

    We all have this unspoken duty to create and always seek to improve.

    That is what it means to have ownership of ones self. That’s what it means to have identity. That’s what life is.

    The world, however, remains a vast and beautiful ever-changing but never finished painting…

    An unfinished swan.

    • Eric G


      I hope you keep reading as I keep posting. I definitely agree with many of your points, as you’ll read.
      Chapter 2 should be up in a couple of days. It’s finished, but I want to space the pieces out for some reason.

      Thanks for your input!

    • Midgetguy

      This was an absolutely wonderful read! I keep going back to this game and sharing it with others so I can hear their interpretations (and watch their joy as they experience it for the first time.) the symbolism in the game truly speaks to me. ^_^

      Thanks for writing this reflective piece!