The Path, for all its simplicity, is not a straightforward game. Go find a discussion board on the plot & see for yourself. A lot is left up to the interpretation of the player, & I’m pretty sure that’s how the developers wanted it. As one of them stated,
“We create only the situation. And the actual story emerges from playing, partially in the game, partially in the player’s mind.”
How the player interprets the story is just as important as how the developers wanted to portray it. Even the most well-laid out plot can be twisted by the interpretation of the player. Unlike in books, not everything is spelled out. Partly this is due to limitations of gaming technology, but it also allows the player to project themselves onto a character. A lot of times we give our controlled characters a personality, past or motivation that isn’t back up by the game. Check out the Game section of Fanfiction.net if you don’t believe me.
Where The Path is different is that this ambiguity was intentional from the start. Just as the point of the game is more about the path traveled than the goal, the draw of playing The Path is about your own experience with it. It’s about the journey, not the destination, to put in simpler terms.
I’ve seen many interpretations for what all the symbolism means & each girl’s story, & in some ways they’re probably all correct. However, I wanted to put my own two cents in as to what my impression was after finishing each chapter.
WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED THE GAME YET BUT INTEND TO, DON’T READ. YOU SHOULD MAKE YOUR OWN JUDGMENTS FIRST WITHOUT MY INFLUENCE.
Let’s start with the basics before going into each girl in-depth: the overarching story. The story holds a lot in common with the older version of the Little Red Riding Hood story. If you’ve never read it, I suggest looking up Charles Perrault’s version. Like the fairy tale, The Path is about growing up. The “path” represents the journey to maturity. I’m sure many of us would describe moments in our lives as dark forests. The wolf, then, represents the dangers of growing up. The Path illustrates this well, because each girl has her own unique wolf, which corresponds with her maturity trial. After her encounter with the wolf, each girl appears wounded, sluggish, & world-weary. (I read a post that referred to it as a ravaging, which I think is a good term.) They find that grandma’s house, once a safe place, is now twisted & scary. This, I believe represents how our perception of the world changes after such traumatic events. What was once safe & secure has become foreign to us.
So now that I’ve shared my interpretation of what I think the overall story means, let’s move on to each girl individually. As I wrote in my review of this game, I don’t think any of the ravagings are meant to be taken literally, so I’m going to ignore the obvious interpretations.
Robin: Because I played through the game from youngest to oldest girl, Robin was the first character I played through with. Robin is the youngest of the six (I believe she’s nine), & because of that I think her path is the easiest to interpret. Because she’s so young, Robin exhibits a lot of playfulness & naivety about the world. There are moments when she has surprisingly mature insights, but for the most part she’s more concerned about having fun & being a kid, & never seems to realize how much danger she could be in.
- Robin’s Special Place: Each girl meets her wolf in a separate area. Although all the girls can interact with this area, they hold special meaning for the girl whose wolf resides there. Robin meets her wolf in a cemetery. When she approaches, she comments about how it’s hard for a kid like her to understand death. She likens burying people to planting flowers. She can collect a dead bird there, but has no reaction other than realizing it’s dead. She can also pray at one of the graves, asking God to make Heaven a “fun place.”
- Robin’s Wolf: Robin’s wolf is an actual wolf… or at least a werewolf. I believe that’s correct because at one point Robin comments how wolves are like dogs but werewolves are like people. If you wander around with her enough, you’ll learn that Robin loves wolves but doesn’t understand the threat they pose. The wolf doesn’t attack Robin. Instead, she climbs on its back & tries to ride it. The wolf tries to throw her off but eventually stops, carries her to a tree & howls.
- Grandma’s House: After meeting the wolf, grandma’s house changes, showing images & symbols that relate to the girl in question. Robin’s house becomes dark with splashes of red. All the doors have claw marks on them, & the furniture is overturned. You can hear what sounds like a wolf growling. There’s a room with a baby bed & a birthday cake. In grandma’s room, there’s a full moon, a bloody bed & an empty grave, that she either falls or is pushed into. Images that flash by include a cross (possibly a gravestone), what looks like the wolf attacking Robin, & Robin laying in blood.
- Robin’s Path: Robin represents childish innocence & naivety. Her path is one of growing from a naive, trusting child to realizing that there is real danger in the world & that there are consequences to your actions… some of which can be severe. Like most kids her age, Robin doesn’t yet understand that death is permanent. She shows varying degrees of maturity. One minute she’s saying she shouldn’t run with a needle, but then turns around & says she wants to play with wolves. To me, the wolf is a manifestation of the danger in the world, but because it’s humanoid I don’t think it necessarily means from animals. Because Robin is so trusting, it’s very easy for someone to take advantage of her. There’s a lot of symbolism that alludes to her coming to terms with death & aging. Not only the cemetery, but the birthday cake & crib. After the wolf, Robin’s house shows a lot of damage & darkness, indicating fear. Perhaps she becomes paranoid, which could explain the grave she falls into. So what happened to Robin? I think she was physically hurt as the result of her trusting nature (either by trusting someone she shouldn’t or behaving in a reckless way) & afterwards came to view the world through jaded, fearful eyes.
Rose: Rose has the hardest path to interpret, because it seems so esoteric. She’s a very kind, sweet girl who loves nature & wants to help people. She also appears to have a strong religious or spiritual side. Her comments often revolve around the soul, referring to “evil powers” on one occasion. She also seems to have a preoccupation with floating.
- Rose’s Special Place: Rose meets her wolf at a misty lake. It’s raining & storming. She makes a comment about welcoming the clouds to earth. Rose climbs into a row-boat & rows out in the middle of the lake.
- Rose’s Wolf: Rose’s wolf is what appears to be a human covered in mist floating over the water. It appears to be male, but you can only see its arms & legs. They appear to have blood on them. When Rose gets close, the wolf spins around her, causing her to float in the air as well. The water turns red.
- Grandma’s House: It’s raining inside the house. In the livingroom, the fan is on the floor. There’s a bathroom with red walls & a tub, which expands into a long school bathroom with stalls. Next is a hallway with doors that’s filling with water, that leads to a flooded greenhouse (which you walk through at a tilted angle). In grandma’s room, the furniture appears to be floating & spinning around. Images that flash by include the misty man & Rose with her arms spread.
- Rose’s Path: Because of all the spiritual comments, I think Rose represents the struggle for spiritual identity. Her path is one of searching for what is beyond life. She clearly understands death, so the next logical step would be to wonder if there’s anything beyond that. I think this might explain her preoccupation with water & floating. She refers to the soul as floating in one of her comments. Also, water has strong religious connotations. Particularly in Christianity, water & blood are often linked (washing yourself clean in Jesus’ blood). However, I think Rose’s trial was a question of faith. Perhaps that’s what the hall of many doors means, & the water could represent being overwhelmed. All of us at some point have to struggle with faith. Should we stick with the religion we were brought up on, change to something else or abandon religion all together? And for some reason the misty man gave me the impression of martyrdom. So what happened to Robin? I think she had a crisis of faith brought on by maturing too quickly (red school bathroom representing early puberty?), & when she looked for answers she found there were too many paths, resulting in turmoil & confusion.
Ginger: Ginger is the tomboy of the group. She enjoys running around & playing more traditionally boys games. She makes comments towards playing hide-&-seek & making crop circles. She also seems to be mischievous perhaps a bit of a troublemaker. She draws graffiti & likes to set things on fire. She also shows a reluctance to accept a more adult role.
- Ginger’s Special Place: Ginger meets her wolf in a field of flowers. Ginger doesn’t seem to like flowers. She makes comments towards tearing them all up so nothing can hide from her. Her only real interest in them is flattening them down to make crop circles.
- Ginger’s Wolf: Ginger’s wolf looks lot like the Forest Girl you constantly see. The only difference is that she wears a read dress. If you try to approach her she’ll giggle & disappear in a cloud of butterflies. If Ginger just stands there, the girl will eventually come up behind her & cover her eyes. After that, the two run around & play together. The scene ends when the girl pulls Ginger to the ground & the two lay on the ground side by side.
- Grandma’s House: Ginger’s house is bright red, with alternating areas of hard metal grates & barbed wire with mattresses. There’s also a lot of black hair stretching about the place. After entering one room, she shrinks down & goes under the bed, looking at different toys (all masculine). The wallpaper starts to move with increasing speed as you near the door. Grandma’s room has a metal grate floor with mattresses lining the wall, barbed wire everywhere & feathers raining from the ceiling. Images that flash in the end include the wolf girl with barbed wire & Ginger either sitting or kneeling down.
- Ginger’s Path: To me, Ginger represents the difficulties in become a man or woman. She has a hard time accepting that she’s becoming a woman. She’s very tomboyish & tries very hard to avoid engaging in any feminine behaviors. Because Ginger’s thirteen, it’s likely she’s beginning to hit puberty but is afraid to let go of her childhood. Her wolf is very different from her & very feminine, likely representing the female part of Ginger that she has suppressed. Perhaps the playing together showed her that it was okay to grow up & accept new things, like the changes that are occurring to her. I think this also explains all the barbed wire & mattresses in the house; contrasting ideas of masculine & feminine. When we grow up, we all have to navigate how we’ll accept society’s ideas of what it means to be a man or woman. So what happened to Ginger? I think Ginger was forced to accept that her body was going to change no matter what she wanted & that she was going to have to make her own definition of what being a woman means to her.
Ruby: As well as being on the game’s cover, Ruby is a stereotypical goth girl. At fifteen, she is physically disabled, having to wear a leg brace (although the reason behind this is never explained). As with most goths, she has a fascination with death & decay. She has a very cynical view of the world, & appears very reclusive. She often makes comments about wanting people to leave her alone, but has undertones of loneliness (at one point asking why trying to have anything if you can’t have everything). She also seems to have a fascination with cars, perhaps because of her own lack of mobility.
- Ruby’s Special Place: Ruby meets her wolf at a rusty playground. Despite being a place for play, Ruby seems more interested in the obvious decay, commenting on how she loves rust. She can pick up a two-headed teddy bear, & after trying unsuccessfully trying to climb a tower, seems hopeful that she’s getting old.
- Ruby’s Wolf: Ruby’s wolf is a young man, although older than Ruby. When you first arrive at the playground, you see him dragging a rolled up carpet that appears to have something (or someone?) inside it. After Ruby sits next to him on the bench, he offers her a cigarette, something she’ll admit to wanting to try. She seems a bit shy, actually. The two sit & talk as the image fades, with the sounds of engines running in the background.
- Grandma’s House: The coloring in Ruby’s house reminds me of neon lights (bright reds & blues). There are lots of pipes, smoke & various car parts sticking out of the wall. A long, dark hallway appears with lockers on one side, & the lights continually going on & off. The room tilts near the end & has two steaming pots before going into a gymnasium. There’s a giant bird cage you ride down & a car on fire. The gym has lots of skid marks, even on the walls. Grandma’s room has a bed on top of a spinning carousel with a metal beam splitting it in half. Images that flash by include shattering pictures of Ruby & smoky images of the wolf’s smiling face.
- Ruby’s Path: I think Ruby represents the dangers of peer pressure. Although she acts like she wants to be left alone, I get the feeling she really just wants someone to accept her. Although it’s never explicitly stated, I think it’s safe to say that Ruby is an outcast due to her handicap, & has likely suffered a lot of ridicule. Because of this, she’s very susceptible to being manipulated by someone who seems to understand her, especially if they seem like an outcast themself. I also get the impression that Ruby’s house represents the dangers of reckless behavior, including but not limited to drugs. She clearly has no concern about doing things that could kill her. In fact, she seems to embrace it. At first I thought the burning car in the house meant she was involved in a car crash due to drug use, but now that I thin about it I think it’s more symbolic. At one point Ruby compares people to cars, so I think the one in the house means a damaged relationship. So what happened to Ruby? I think Ruby fell in with a bad crowd who seemed to accept her for who she was (& maybe they genuinely did), but they encouraged her to engage in reckless behavior which ultimately destroyed her relationships.
Carmen: At seventeen, Carmen has begun to gain the attention of men… & she likes it. In spite of her comments about not being a child anymore, her comments suggest that she is still very much immature. Her main concern is partying & having fun. She enjoys drinking beer & not doing work. Carmen also enjoys flirting with men. She particularly likes older, “dangerous” men. Men whose strength borders on violent. However, it’s obvious from her attitude that she has never had a relationship with anyone before.
- Carmen’s Special Place: Carmen meets her wolf at a campsite. There’s a large tent, shack & firepit. Carmen can interact with the fire, making a comment about how the fire purifies her. She can also interact with a crate of beer.
- Carmen’s Wolf: Carmen’s wolf is a woodsman. At first he doesn’t acknowledge Carmen, but continues cutting down trees. However, Carmen steals his hat & wears it (revealing that he’s actually middle-aged at least because he’s balding) likely in an attempt to flirt with him. The two sit down by the fire & the man hands her a beer. The two talk as the scene fades.
- Grandma’s House: Carmen’s house has a lot of nature & weaponry (ie. saw blades). In the main room, the fan is a giant circular saw & the doors all have X’s on them, similar to the X’s painted on the trees the woodsman was cutting down, & rhythmic clanking metal noises constantly play in the background. One room has a pool with a stump in the bottom & five chairs around it. As you head upstairs, the music changes to sawing sounds with female moans. Tree branches obscure the path. Grandma’s room has a bed in the middle with a tree protruding out of it. Images that flash by include Carmen apparently cut in half (her torso facing up but her legs pointing down), the woodsman holding an axe over his head, & Carmen kneeling in front of something.
- Carmen’s Path: I think Carmen has the only path that directly relates to sex. Carmen obviously represents the dangers of sex. Although she enjoys flirting, she doesn’t understand how dangerous her behavior can be, especially her fascination with older, dangerous men. Carmen represents so many teenagers & young adults today: they’re responding to their natural urges (hence the nature theme, in my opinion) but they’re not ready for the emotions & responsibilities that come with physical relationships. I think a lot of the symbolism in Carmen’s house relates to a bad first sexual experience. Not necessarily rape, though. There are a lot of men out there who would only too willingly take advantage of an attractive but inexperienced young girl. The encounter is likely consensual, but not what Carmen expects. So what happened to Carmen? I think Carmen’s first sexual encounter was with an older man who caused her undue trauma, causing her large amounts of regret & pain, also resulting her in distrusting any future relationships.
Scarlet: As the eldest of the sister, Scarlet is the one with the most responsibilities. As with older siblings, she has to take care of her younger sisters. However, Scarlet has a great passion for music & art in general. There are many hints that she’s a musician. She often quotes poetry. She also seems to idolize order & cleanliness, likely stemming from having to do chores around the house. At the same time, although she has a passion for music, Scarlet struck me as a bit reserved & cold. It’s never actually stated anywhere, but perhaps music is her outlet for emotions.
- Scarlet’s Special Place: Scarlet meets her wolf at the abandoned theater. There’s a large, open stage with a red curtain & a piano. As she approaches the stage, Scarlet comments on how she couldn’t live in a world without art. There’s also a mask on stage that she can pick up, resulting in a comment about how people hide behind masks & how it’s probably for the best.
- Scarlet’s Wolf: Nearest I can tell, Scarlet’s wolf is a male piano instructor (I say “nearest I can tell” because you can’t really see if it’s male or female). As Scarlet sits down the play the piano, he comes up behind her. There’s a strange cutting noise as he does so. Scarlet plays the piano & it appears that the man teaches her. The camera zooms out as the curtain falls & the scene fades.
- Grandma’s House: Scarlet’s house is very foggy & green. All of the furniture is either covered in plastic or gone, including the paintings. Empty jars line the floor upstairs in perfect order. One room has stacks of books all over the floor, & another has floating instruments. Grandma’s room is covered in glowing fog, with spotlights & raising curtains. Images flash by including the instructor with claws or needles coming out of his hands, limbs suspended by wire & a closeup of Scarlet’s face with wires coming from her eyelashes.
- Scarlet’s Path: Scarlet’s path is one of duty, sacrifice & failed dreams. Nothing is known about the girls outside of their mother & grandmother, but it’s likely that Scarlet has had to take most of the responsibility around the house. This leaves little time for music or art. For Scarlet, this is worse than death. The house is how she sees the world: bland & empty of art (covered furniture), filled with meaningless order & monotony (the jars). I think Scarlet fills resentful towards her family for taking her dreams from her. The wires or strings at the end symbolize her feeling controlled by others & having no control over her own life. The stage at the end represents her lost dream of being a musician. So what happened to Scarlet? I think Scarlet completely gave herself over to her duty & neglected herself to the point that her world now seems dull & listless, devoid of meaning or pleasure.
So now that I’ve given my take on what each girl’s path represents, I wanted to talk a minute about the Forest Girl. The Forest Girl is the girl dressed in white who appears in the forest. She leads you back to the path or to other important items. She’s very much an enigma. In the Epilogue, you play as her, & travel to Grandma’s house. She has no wolf, & can only pick up items. When you reach Grandma’s house, you go through each of the girls’ final rooms before arriving at Grandma’s room like you would if you go the fail ending. After that, you’re taken back to the select screen & the Forest Girl is there with blood on her dress. But who is she?
I believe that the Forest Girl represents the girls’ innocence. Firstly, she wears white, which is traditionally a sign of innocence & purity. She appears very kind, often playing or hugging the other girls. She tries to take them back to the safe path, but also appears near interesting items, perhaps showing naivety. Also, she looks almost exactly like Ginger’s wolf, but the dress is different. Given that I interpret her as being Ginger’s femininity, it makes sense that the Forest Girl is the embodiment of each girls’ innocent self. In the end, I think that by each girl accepting their path & growing from their experience, their innocence is restored to them, even if it is a little worse for wear (ie. the Forest Girl having blood on her).
As I said before, these are merely my interpretations. I think the developers designed the game so that all points of view are valid. It’s all about how you experience the game.