Behind The Cards: Valley of the Shaddolls

Franco Ferrara

10/31/2014 11:02:00 AM

Many of you lore seekers might've already pored over and Wikipedia'd the Shaddolls to death, but in honor of Hallowe'en (a heavenly holiday regurgitated into what we now have), I want to present them to you myself as your treat. Borrowing elements from various archetypes, these monsters have their perverted roots tangled with the Yang Zing, Gem-Knights, Gustos and even the Flamvells. However, these monsters venture deeper into the world of religion than most Yu-Gi-Oh! themes, much like Archlord Kristya and the Forbidden series (which you can read about here).

Today I'll share with you all the accumulated knowledge that I've been secreting away. For some of you this may add to what you already know, or give you a better idea of what the Shaddolls are made of. Since I previously wrote about El Shaddoll Construct and El Shaddoll Grysta in a past article, I won't be discussing them in much detail today; if you want to learn more about those, check out my previous writings here.

Before we get started on today's journey, know that when I refer to the Tanakh, Midrash or Talmud that these are two important canonical Judaic holy books of scriptures. Remember, because we're working with texts and pieces of information that can be read and interpreted in different ways as they're rooted in religion, take everything with a grain of salt.

Riddler On The Roof
The Shaddoll monsters are deranged versions of monsters from past themes. Whether they're the ‘zombified' forms of other monsters is debatable. However, in the card Curse of the Shadow Prison, Satellarknight Unukalhai does seem to be having a hard time resisting an ensnaring shadow which looks to be dragging Unukalhai into itself. The “Shadoll” name alone would lead me to believe that these monsters are imprisoned within some shadow form of themselves.

The Shaddolls most notably resemble puppets whose strings are controlled by some unknown force – theoretically El Shaddoll Construct is the one pulling them. That brings to mind the Judaic golem creature, which were said to be created expressly by magicians with the purpose of serving their masters (the Shaddolls are Spellcasters, after all). In the Talmud, ‘golem' means ‘body with no soul' and a great example of that would actually be Adam, the first man, who was described as such. For that reason I believe the Shaddoll monsters are in fact a form of golem. Instead of inserting a magicalized scroll into the mouth or forehead, you insert a monster. Don't think about golems of pop culture in this context – mindless bumbling creatures – but as a soulless entity created to serve its builder.

 Sinister Shadow Games
Sinister Shadow Games92401
Set Duelist Alliance
Number DUEA-EN072
Type Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Send 1 "Shaddoll" card from your Deck to the Graveyard, then you can change any number of face-down Defense Position "Shaddoll" monsters you control to face-up Defense Position.

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In case you don't know who the Shaddoll monsters are I've broken it down for you as follows:

-Shaddoll Hedgehog is Neo Flamvell Hedgehog, albeit it's no longer a Tuner. Unlike...

-Shaddoll Falco, which was formerly Gusto Falco and remained a Tuner.

-Shaddoll Dragon is Suanni, Fire of the Yang Zing.

-Shaddoll Beast is Naturia Beast. Some parts of Naturia Barkion may be included as well – it's tricky to tell.

-Shaddoll Squamata is Stellarknight Unukalhai, whose mantle would be later transferred to Jiaotu, Darkness of the Yang Zing and Yazi, Wickedness of the Yang Zing from New Challengers.

-Shaddoll Hound is Stellarknight Sirius.

-El Shaddoll Winda is Winda, Priestess of Gusto riding atop Pulao, Wind of the Yang Zing.

-El Shaddoll Construct features pieces from Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli and some aspects of Gem-Knight Seraphinite.

-El Shaddoll Shekhinaga is a combination of El Shaddoll Construct, the staff of Constellar Rasalhague, and Apoqliphort Towers.

-El Shaddoll Grysta is an amalgamation of Gem-Knight Crystal, Gem-Knight Master Diamond, and Cairngorgon, Antiluminescent Knight.

Sinister Shadow Games has quite possibly one of the best names in the Yu-Gi-Oh world! The image of shadows attacking their hosts has been used in literary and cultural traditions since about forever, and here you can see the shadows of Pulao, Wind of the Yang Zing and Suanni, Fire of the Yang Zing coming for vengeance. The concept of the Shadow People is a modern urban legend, about figures that don't appear as real people but exist instead as a sense of something that you can see out the corner of your eye, just in your periphery. They linger between dimensions with no discernable facial features, making themselves apparent to their observers either by lashing out or quickly dissipating. Feelings of dread accompany their appearances.

How To Name Your Dragon
Like I explained in the Yang Zing article, the biggest question people seem to ask is always, “why the name changes?” We know that El Shaddoll Winda and El Shaddoll Construct didn't retain their original OCG names, but we do know that El Shaddoll Shekhinaga did. Why is that?

This isn't a case where the name is a retooling, or a simplified moniker to express a coherent idea for the English-speaking TCG market. Remember, although most of the player base we see at competitive events aren't kids, this is still a children's card game marketed for children. It turns out each example in this theme has their own reason, which I'll explain in the appropriate sections below. What I noticed is that the OCG fanlated names contradict the purpose of the meaning of 'El Shaddai' wherein one is a reference to a text, and the other to something as far removed from God as possible.

The names “Shaddoll” and “El Shaddoll” are obviously derived from ‘shadow' and ‘doll,' in the English sense of the words. The name can also be interpreted as wordplay for the word “El Shaddai.” The word for power, strength and might is rooted in “El,” which has also become synonymous with God. It's used when describing the God of Israel and is placed before a word when it's referencing God. “Shaddai” can be interpreted a few ways in Hebrew including ‘breast' (shad), ‘overpower' and ‘destroy' (shadad), and is referred to variously in the Tanakh. When combined, El Shaddai can be interpreted as ‘All Sufficient God' or ‘God Almighty' depending on the interpreter. As a monster card within the theme, the idea here is that the El Shaddolls are the highest and most powerful of the the Shaddolls and their strength in the game as a whole.

The idea that “Shadai” can mean ‘breast' is inspired by further breaking down the word into ‘sha' and ‘dai' essentially referring to something like God's ability to nurture and nourish a nation, like the breast of a mother. The idea that God has both feminine and masculine aspects has been studied for many years and is a fascinating point of discussion. The male and female dichotomy can be seen in the El Shaddoll monsters themselves, including El Shaddoll Grysta (masculine), as well as El Shaddoll Construct and El Shaddoll Shekinaga (feminine).

Wrong With The Wind
El Shaddoll Winda is coincidentally riding a former Wind attribute monster which is now a Shaddoll golem: Pulao, Wind of the Yang Zing. Much like how the Gusto monsters themselves had the ability to take flight with other Gusto avians, the former Winda, Priestess of Gusto takes up her mantle again, and in this case as a literal parallel to Daigusto Gulldos albeit with 100 more ATK.

 Daigusto Gulldos
Daigusto Gulldos57441
Set Hidden Arsenal 5: Steelswarm Invasion
Number HA05-EN053
Level 5
Type Synchro/Effect Monster
Monster Psychic
Attribute WIND 
A / D 2200 / 800
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

1 Tuner + 1 or more non-Tuner "Gusto" monsters // Once per turn: You can shuffle 2 "Gusto" monsters from your Graveyard into your Deck to target 1 face-up monster your opponent controls; destroy it.

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El Shaddol Winda's fanlated OCG name of El Shaddoll Midrash probably refers to how the midrash acts as piece of commentary that explains or answers questions about passages of text. One way you could interpret that, is how this card explains the fates of some past monsters, including Winda, Priestess of Gusto herself.

Unfortunately, the card doesn't act much like a midrash in gameplay terms because much still needs to be revealed. I can see why this card's name was in dire need of change for English-speaking markets, however, there are some traces of the literal translation there in the lore.

28 ATK Points Later
I've already covered Shaddoll Nephilim in the last round of double articles with the Gem-Knight monsters (if you missed it, clickhereand you'll see it at the bottom). El Shaddoll Construct's name is probably rooted in the fact that she herself is literally a construct. Not just because it's created from other monsters in a physical sense (Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli), and not just because it's a Fusion monster which is also a construct of monsters: it also epitomizes an idea or theory of what a Shaddoll is – a Puppet Master. Construct has no strings moving it: it's free to move itself and others as it pleases. Its ability to sends its Shaddoll ‘golems' to the graveyard really give you a sense of Construct's ability to influence them as it pleases.

As far as OCG fanlations are concerned, Construct's name was translated roughly as El Shaddoll Nephilim. While the nephilim were believed to be giants born of fallen angels and mortal women, there's different schools of thought on the root of their creation. One of the mythical theories was that the nephilim were beings made by God. Another is that they were people of power like priests and kings who took women to be their brides as they pleased.

They could be considered powerful mortals who were well known for their exploits, their violence, and their strength, all of which made them feared and known throughout legend. Finally, some stories suggest that nephilim were born from the unholy union of non-believers marrying those who had faith in God. In a more mythological sense they're described in scriptures as being three times the size of a normal person, with extra fingers and toes. El Shaddoll Construct's ‘strings' take the form of wings which spread from its back and connect to the other Shaddolls. Her gigantic form symbolizes the idea of the nephilim as humongous beings, and the wings possibly linking themselves to the theory of angelic origin.

Dame Of Thrones
El Shaddoll Shekhinaga is a fascinating Shaddoll monster which thoroughly represents the idea of ‘shekinah.' Derived from shakhan, ‘shekinah' means ‘to dwell.' While it can be considered as another word meaning “God,” it's theorized that shekinah could in fact be a separate entity with which humanity can interact with, separate from God entirely. Shekinah demonstrates God's presence and fondness to humanity, but at the same time there's a breadth between them, a sort-of god's dwelling in the created world; literally a throne where the divine presence rests and resides. It's said that shekinah lives to the west and casts rays of the divine presence like a setting sun.

All of that is richly expressed in the card art for El Shaddoll Shekhinaga, as El Shaddoll Construct (the breast or power of God) takes its seat within Apoqliphort Towers. The setting sun is plainly visible in this card's artwork, along with the symbolic color of black which only colors half of the character's body. This setting sun motif offsets the idea of Apoqliphort Towers' daytime background.

 El Shaddoll Construct
El Shaddoll Construct92378
Set Duelist Alliance
Number DUEA-EN049
Level 8
Type Fusion/Effect Monster
Monster Fairy
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 2800 / 2500
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

1 "Shaddoll" monster + 1 LIGHT monster Must first be Fusion Summoned. If this card is Special Summoned: You can send 1 "Shaddoll" card from your Deck to the Graveyard. At the start of the Damage Step, if this card battles a Special Summoned monster: Destroy that monster. If this card is sent to the Graveyard: You can target 1 "Shaddoll" Spell/Trap Card in your Graveyard; add it to your hand.

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Shekinah can also be interpreted as the feminine aspect of God, which brings us back to the idea of this card and El Shaddoll Construct representing the feminine. Shekinah's portrayed as a bride or princess, the color of white, but is also associated with the color of black. El Shaddoll Shekhinaga is half black and half white whilst perched on her throne, no longer the indigo color it once was. Shekinah also symbolizes redemption, like the moon, as the moon renews itself each month through the phases. It's often associated the dryness of the earth, and interestingly enough, El Shaddoll Shekhinaga is an Earth-Attribute monster. You can also see that its body is bound by Constellar Rasalhague's ‘living serpent staff,' keeping its legs firmly strapped to the throne in Apoqliphort Towers.

The Cord In The Stone
Take a look at the artwork for Shaddoll Fusion: you can see that fiends have replaced the knights in the card art from the original Gem-Knight Fusion. The fiend on the left has red eyes, from the red armor worn by the leftmost knight on Gem-Knight Fusion, and the fiend on the right has yellow eyes, from the yellow gemstones found in the knight on the right. The fiends even feature a set gemstone in the center of their chest similar to where the strings attach on the other Shaddoll monsters.

Gem-Knight Fusion features a ton of vibrantly colored gemstones in its artwork whilst Shaddoll Fusion shows us only black variations. The background of Shaddoll Fusion and Gem-Knight Fusion both share the same pattern, albeit the colors are inverted on Shaddoll Fusion. Most notable are the black pearls, black opals and shards. In the background of Gem-Knight Fusion you can see a bright light with numerous gems entering into it, however, in Shaddoll Fusion there's a black crystal core with what appear to be the faces of ghosts (although that could just be a case of pareidolia).

I touched briefly on Shaddoll Core in the Cairngorgon, Antiluminescent Knight article (if you haven't read it click here). Essentially, Cairngorgon truly lives up to its ‘gorgon' name with the plume of its helmet transforming into actual, horrifying snakes! Interestingly, Shaddoll Core has the ability to substitute itself for any material needed for the Summon of an El Shaddoll Fusion Monster. Why is that important? Well, the monster to whom the plume was once attached to, Gem-Knight Crystal, had the ability to combine with the other Gem-Knights to become a new form, and from that it gained the ability to fuse into any Gem-Knight Fusion at will. It rock crystal or quartz ‘core' in the center of its chest permitted those transformations, containing the essence needed for each fusion. It's a short leap to suggest that the Core within Gem-Knight Crystal has now become a weapon used by the Shaddolls. The same power source that once imbued Crystal with its ability to become any Gem-Knight Fusion is now used as a generic Material for any El Shaddoll Fusion.

I hope you all enjoyed today's Shaddoll article! This theme is not only fun to play with, but it's also fascinating how much effort went into the art and design of these cards. I'm sure we'll continue to see more Shaddoll monsters in the future but who will take up the mantle? In the comments section below, tell me which monster you'd like to see become a new Shaddoll.

-Franco Ferrara

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