Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice — Poem of duality
What would you define as “Tragedy”? The loss of a loved one? The inability to achieve your most desired dreams? Living in turmoil every day of your life without the faintest idea of why you’re feeling the way you do?
Senua can’t answer these questions, but she can express them through a desperate, unique glare in her eyes. Right there, in ”the seat of the soul”, as the head is called in Celtic and Norse mythologies, you’ll uncover Senua’s fears, hopes, dreads, reasons or the absolute horror of her transformations.
Her identity is ever-changing, therefore, you can’t fathom the idea of asking her to explain herself. That’s what she’s been doing, wandering endlessly and purposelessly because her father weaved a thin fake reality.
A corrupt mind, a devil, that’s what Senua taught she was. She never believed it, but the voices in her head did.
A warrior’s rage
How do you confront “tragedy”? Can you even sense your enemy? Does it exist in the real world? Why would you want to win?
I believe these are questions people with depression face daily. One of humanity’s greatest foes is the “unknown”, and to not be able to answer, to identify yourself because of this block, I gather that’s a concept incomprehensible to most of us.
Senua found meaning in her lover, Dillion. He accepted her Psychosis, encouraged her to trust herself and supported her in becoming a great warrior. She wasn’t cursed, as Senua’s father foretold, with darkness. Her mental illness could be both a bad omen to some and a blessing to others.
This is the reason Senua aims to face Hela, the Goddes of Death. The goal is to bring back her soulmate and get rid of her recurring darkness for good. She is so determined to fight everyone and everything in her path that she doesn’t stop for a second to think of the disillusion she’ll find at her journey’s end.
Although, who’s even righteous to predict that she’ll be disappointed? Everything she sees, hears, touches or senses might be an illusion. She’s been living like that since she knows herself, without discerning hallucinations from reality. But here’s where Senua’s Sacrifice begs the most important question: don’t we all?
Maybe that’s why people fear seeing the world through her eyes. Because if you believe Senua’s reality is twisted, you must also accept yours might be too.
Senua and us must make a sacrifice
Again, we are afraid of the unknown. Of darkness, of nothingness, of meaninglessness. Until our very end, we sacrifice our total freedom and acceptance in favour of living a happy, blissful life. Is this all that we’re gaining for trading off true perception?
Senua teaches us by living vicariously through her redemption arc that overthinking can lead to great pain. Patterns can be traced almost everywhere and, with a little more than focus, we can all recognise them. But, doesn’t this “task” hinder us from experiencing life the way our minds perceive it?
It’s funny. We all want to see behind the veil, don’t we? But once we do… we mostly just close our eyes again and pretend what we saw was never really there.
There’s nothing wrong with looking for deeper meaning in simple customs, but when all we find is darkness, maybe concealing ourselves from it isn’t so much an act of cowardice, but of bravery.
Senua fought her darkness, the Psychosis. She asked for help, she received it unconditionally at times, she mixed up all her sufferings and joys into meaning, she tried with her last breath to break from it. But she can’t. None of us can. If we’re to engage in such a fight, we’ll most certainly lose, because it’s a battle of attrition. We and the enemy lose at the exact same time, in the face of death.
Through Hel and back
“Normal” is the most subjective adjective humankind has ever created. My life experience will forever be different from yours, and that’s ok.
Senua has a mental illness, maybe several. No, Senua has a gift, she senses patterns, puzzles, symbols and other arrangements that we can’t. Her affliction is both her greatest vulnerability and strength.
This ambivalent life is one that the average people can’t recognise as truth and often won’t. In my opinion, that’s a pity, because they close themselves off from another world. Real or not, who’s to say, but if it means something to someone, they’re just a bigot for ignoring it.
In Hellblade, Senua didn’t go through Hel to save Dillion. She already lived in it, her mind has been too moulded by it to believe anything else. After his death, Dillion lives in her mind, like all the other voices who tried to guide or mislead Senua.
She can’t bring back her lover because, for Senua, he will never be dead. Dillion aids and soothes his baby girl, resting in Senua’s seat of the soul for all eternity. Like he always did.
Imagine having hundreds of voices judging and analyzing your every action. Not only that, but other people’s as well. It can drive you mad, just because some synapses in your brain misfire.
At the same time, you see shapes, colours, shadows, all kinds of illusions that others can’t. You urge your friends and family to believe you, to treat you as a sane person, but they won’t. They aren’t sane.
In that scenario, where do you put your trust? The voices that live in your head 24/7 seem the most logical candidate, so you embark on a river carved by these voices and apparitions.
For a time, questioning if it was a healthy decision or not is one of your trifling concerns. Right now, you struggle to understand if hurting yourself physically was the best decision of feeling something.
Most of us don’t know how to respond to these very real scenarios, but we can empathize. A world full of wonder and apathy is behind a hidden veil, but not an inaccessible one.
If you truly want to help and communicate with such a person, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice serves as a simulation of a Psychotic mind. It is the most comprehensive gateway through tragedy, whether or not we’re talking about mental illnesses.
At the end of the game, a lesson of utmost importance can be learned: everyone makes a grand sacrifice, so what will yours be?