Frog #17: The Heart of a Thief

Listen:

There is more to thieving than stealing.

A thief thieves for thousands of reasons. A thief steals for notoriety among other thieves. A thief steals something so that another thief cannot steal it. A thief steals something from another thief, and returns it to its rightful owner. A thief steals something from another thief, and one of the thieves kills the other over the transgression.

Thieves can be killers, and thieves can be outlaws.

Sometimes, thieves are called burglars. There was once a famous burglar named Bilbo Baggins, who truly was not an excellent thief until he obtained a ring of power in the Misty Mountains. Like many thieves, Bilbo loved riddles.

Here is a riddle for you: what do you call someone who steals from the rich and gives to the poor?

Thieves sometimes see things they aren’t supposed to see, or hear things they aren’t supposed to hear. This is because sometimes thieves are also spies. When a thief is a spy, they choose a dangerous life. Sometimes, when a thief is a spy, their world of thieving and world of spying begin to converge, which is never good for a thief who is also a spy. This is why some thieves are also liars, while others know only how to be honest.

Many thieves will fess up when they have stolen something. Some thieves steal for pride, to show that it can be done. Other thieves steal for spectacle, and like to target high profile auctions, or banks. Robin Hood is a famous thief, and so is Jessie James. Like I said, thieves can be outlaws.

Thieves, depending on the familial circumstances, can be in-laws, too.

What kind of thief is Duster?

I can’t imagine many people steal from one another in Tazmily. I’m sure the villagers, no matter how idyllic they think they are, at least experience some forms of jealousy. It’s only natural, right? I mean, are you telling me Thomas has never looked at someone else’s loaf of nut bread, and wished his own tasted a little better, looked a little better, or had more raisins sprinkled on top? But maybe thieves don’t always steal because of jealousy.

Or maybe Tazmilians really are that innocent. Maybe Duster and Wess are a family of thieves not because they need to take things, but because they need to protect things that other people might want to take. Wess did say that the reason for Duster’s mission is that The Enemy may also be trying to find whatever the thing is. So, we need to steal it away from them before they steal it away from us. That’s the thing about having an Enemy, remember: anything labeled as an Enemy is also, now, a thief. How better to set something, or someone, up as an enemy than to say, “Look, they have taken something from you. And if they haven’t yet, they probably will.”

So maybe that’s a Tazmily thief. Someone who steals for the right reason before a bad person steals for the wrong reason. And I guess that works. It’s Tazmily. Why not?

But maybe Tazmily has a family of thieves because someone somewhere along the line knew that everyone is a thief. People take things from each other. Some thieves, I have heard, become thieves because the world has taken everything from them already. Some people have never had a friend, or anyone to rely on. And while they have nothing to give, the world picks their thread bare pockets. But does it really take all that? Because I have also heard that some thieves steal just to do it, in the same way some people kill just to do it.

All I’m saying is, it’s not that the people of Tazmily don’t want to steal. It’s that, because there is a family of thieves, it isn’t a part of their public consciousness yet. They just don’t know how to steal. They don’t know that they can steal. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn.

Oh, well. I guess this is a weird, floaty post, isn’t it? There’s only so much I can write about. Today, I walked from Duster’s room at the Yado Inn, to Lucas’s house, where I saved my game. I played for maybe three minutes. And this was all perfectly fine. I admit, the gameplay was so brief that I almost decided to combine Frogs #17 and #18, but then I thought: why? The point is to examine each frog as its own little journey, no matter how long or short. If I’m going to stick it out during long frogs, like Frog #8 or Frog #11, then it’s only right to explore the short frogs properly as well.

It’s also just a huge bummer to see another Sad Lucas sprite. Speaking of people who have had everything taken from them, put Lucas at the front of the line. His mother and his brother are gone, within 24 hours of each other. Lucas probably feels guilty for not speaking up about Claus’s trip to the mountains sooner. Lucas probably feels like he’s done nothing wrong, but some thief has taken pieces of his life away. How is a youngster like Lucas, a Tazmilian youngster at that, supposed to process everything that has happened to him?

See, to me, running across Lucas in the middle of the night is why it’s so cool that “Mind of a Thief” is a remix of “Sorrowful Family.” It really does feel like Duster is sharing in the burden, and that he really wants to help; what happened to Lucas’s family is something that could happen to anyone in Tazmily. The thematic link between these two songs, and these two chapters, is really cool to me for that reason. Duster going to Osohe Castle may not seem directly related to Flint and Lucas, and it may not seem like he’s supporting them at all, but Duster is in the process of becoming a hero, and by the end of Mother 3, he’ll stand just as tall as any other character in the game, leg handicap and all.

Little do these three know, one day they’ll travel the world together.

It’s fun writing about thieves and thievery, but really, I think Itoi made Duster a thief just because it was fun. It’s cool to introduce a character as a “thief,” especially in a town with no currency, with no greed. It’s also fun that “Thief” is a recurring class in RPGs, which usually means a character that can steal items and attack quickly, among other tropes and abilities. In Mother 3’s case, yes, the character is considered and called a Thief, but really he’s just Duster, a guy with bad breath and nifty weapons.

It’s the same reason that Flint is a cowboy, or Thomas is a firefighter; Tazmily’s hodgepodge of styles and characters is eclectic in more ways than one. Why not have a family of thieves?

I actually once met a thief who only stole ice sculptures. The thief, whose name I won’t reveal here (because she is still a thief, and possesses the mind and the heart of a thief), told me the best thing about stealing ice sculptures was that everybody wins. Think of it this way: an artist knows their art is valuable when someone decides to put it in a museum. But, when a work of art is stolen from a museum, it become valuable and notorious: something so shiny, it must be had.

The thief I knew, who will still not be named, told me that by stealing an ice sculpture, she made, firstly, the artist’s work more valuable. Every ice sculpture is destined to melt, just as every cowboy is destined to sing a sad, sad song. So, if the ice sculpture, as a work of art, is dying from the moment it starts living, stealing it propels it into the stardom of ice sculptures everywhere: until that ice sculpture reverts to being a post-artistic puddle, it is one of the most notorious ice sculptures in the world.

The other win in the win-win-win scenario is the artist themselves. I bet ice sculptors have seen their crystalline swans bite it by the hundreds. Some artists wonder if their work will be recognized or remembered long after they are gone, but an ice sculptor knows the truth: there is only the here and now. When that ice sculpture is stolen, the sculptor knows, for however much time the swan has left, that it has become art.

Listen:

The heart of a thief says, “Forget the past and the future; there is only the here and the now.”

The final win, of course, was the thief herself. She really liked ice sculptures, so she stole them when she could. It is common for thieves to steal because they like something a lot. Sometimes someone wants something so bad, or loves something so much, that they decide they simply must steal it.

One time, over garden salads, the ice sculpture thief, who will not be named, told me that we shouldn’t think of ourselves as so different from ice sculptures, or of stealing them as anything unforgivable. We begin melting as soon as we’re born, after all, and everyone just wants to feel wanted, worthy of being sought after or unraveled. How would we ever know what’s valuable and what isn’t it if there wasn’t a thief to steal it? Who first decided that X was more valuable than Y? Well, probably the first person who had X stolen from them, while Y sat safely on the night stand.

Well, there sure are a lot of ways to think about the mind of a thief. There are even more ways to think about the mind of grief. To be honest, I don’t know what else to say for poor Lucas. I’m also sorry to see Boney looking so sad in his little doghouse–he has also lost Hinawa and Claus. I can only imagine how many hours of play Boney and Claus have put it in together. Don’t forget that, in EarthBound 64 at least, Claus gave Boney his name.

I think that’s what makes Hinawa’s and Claus’s deaths feel like thievery, like they were taken away. A brother has lost a brother. A dog has lost his boy. Lucas doesn’t have much to say, other than that he can’t get to sleep, but I like to imagine that Lucas found some comfort in not being the only Tazmilian awake tonight. That’s another thing thieves are great for, by the way. If you ever can’t get to sleep, and you’re feeling lonely or afraid, just remember that you’re not the only person awake, and you’re not totally alone. Thieves, outlaws, and burglars love to stay up late.

Actually, we should get Nana over here to cheer up Lucas. She might tell him something creepy about a haunted island, but I bet it would keep his mind off things. And anyway, I decided to leave Lucas and Boney alone for a while. Tazmily may be in shock, but these two are truly mourning.

And with that, we have found our next frog. It’s another frog we’ve met before, back at the very beginning of our journey. To this frog, it was only yesterday that Flint and Thomas passed by on their way to the Sunshine Forest. To me, I haven’t seen this little frog in months. It always feels nice to run into an old friend. It’s nice to see where you’ve been before and think back to what was different. Last time I saw this frog, this blog was only one week old.

If Frog by Frog were an ice sculpture, it would have only just started sweating.

What kind of a thief is Duster? I suppose that will be left for us to find out. When I look at his track record so far, I think he’s guy who wants to help people. I think he’s a Thief, with a capital T. Sure, maybe he sleeps a lot and smells weird, but he’ll go from napping one second, to Wall Stapling a cliffside the next second. He may have a leg handicap, but he keeps on kickin’. He may be on a mission to steal something shiny, but I think he’ll end up stealing all of our hearts!

The heart of a thief is twisted. Not from a wickedness, but from a growing–a nimble branch that has curved and struggled, that has continued to reach even when knotted, that still may angle toward the light with patient persistence, in ways we least expect.

3 thoughts on “Frog #17: The Heart of a Thief

  1. Hmm…

    This bit got me thinking:

    “One time, over garden salads, the ice sculpture thief, who will not be named, told me that we shouldn’t think of ourselves as so different from ice sculptures, or of stealing them as anything unforgivable. We begin melting as soon as we’re born, after all, and everyone just wants to feel wanted, worthy of being sought after or unraveled. How would we ever know what’s valuable and what isn’t it if there wasn’t a thief to steal it? Who first decided that X was more valuable than Y? Well, probably the first person who had X stolen from them, while Y sat safely on the night stand.”

    I suppose I would rebut the ice sculpture thief by saying this:

    The immediate reason we see people differently from ice sculptures is that, well people do more than just melt. We talk, smile, think, advance and create ice sculptures. When a person is stolen, often their future and impact is stolen too. A life is too precious to steal.

    Of course, I suppose we steal ourselves, in a sense. We steal ourselves away from our parents. Away from workplaces. Away from oppressors. By this definition, to steal is merely to change ownership. To change who manipulates our lives.

    To answer “how would we ever know what’s valuable,” allow me to posit this. Maybe value isn’t assigned when a thief steals the item, but rather, when the item steals time away from its observers…

    BTW, though I’d address the reply to my comment on Frog #16:

    – First of all, allow me to wish the best of health and fortune to you and your family

    – Oh yeah, Courage was such a cool, creepy and funny show…

    – Hmm…if they do a Mother Trilogy remake, I’d love it to be in a claymation style (in reference to the official clay models they used in manuals and advertising).

    – Yup, never played Mother 3 before just recently. I only ever experienced the story through the Beard Bros. Currently at the point where the village is searching for Hinawa.

    Here’s something interesting – if you don’t pick up Boney immediately (refusing him causes him to say something along the lines of “but I’m part of the family too…” 😦 ), you’re still free to go into the forest and fight enemies, up until a point (I think the snapped tree?) where Bronson is surprised Flint didn’t bring Boney and says that having him around will be useful. You don’t even need to go back all the way to the house, because Matt actually brings Boney to you around the forest’s entrance!

    It’s such a small thing. That they let you refuse Boney and go alone. Silent protagonists are really interesting to me, because they can fall on a spectrum from blank slate to clearly defined personality. Flint has some character traits pre-established. A loving husband and father, tough as nails, gets the job done without a fuss, knows he’s handsome, etc. But something you as a player get to decide, at least in that moment, is how he reacts under pressure.

    This is a man from a peaceful village who just experienced a forest fire that nearly killed people he’s known all his life. Now his Hinawa, Lucas and Claus are missing. Wouldn’t surprise me if he ditches the dog because he doesn’t want to risk Boney’s life. Or maybe he feels it’s his responsibility as the strong, macho man. Maybe, he’s so stressed it slipped his mind. Or, alternatively, there’s no way he’s not bringing Boney along. Boney’s family. Or, Boney’s the best chance he has of finding his wife and kids.

    The point is, you decide and interpret this aspect of Flint’s character, which remains grounded, no matter what you choose, in the context of his pre-established traits and the story so far.

    Progress on Mother 3 will be slow for some time, since school’s going to start again on Monday for me.

    As always, looking forward to the next frog!

    Best regards,

    Alexander

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    1. Dude, I LOVE your interpretation of Flint deciding to leave Boney behind. Personally, I’ve never had the heart to do it, even though I know Boney eventually comes later on, but it’s just so hard for me! I love that dog too much! That said, I’ve never thought of it this way–Flint deciding to leave Boney behind to keep him safe, so that the boys and Hinawa still have a puppy pal to come home to.

      It’s beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing that. I love, too, what you said about the player deciding how Flint acts under pressure. I truly, truly wish we got to control him more as a character. But points like yours are exactly what I’m trying to express when I say that the level of role-playing you get to do is Mother 3 is subtle, but still effective. Yes, we don’t decide what Flint’s stats are going to be, or fully deck him out in certain clothes, but I think Itoi really wants players to insert themselves in to the game. Yes and No decisions might be small and inconsequential, but it’s Yes and No decisions that make up our lives!

      Anyway, I hope school goes well for you! Even if your time playing Mother 3 slows down, you can always play Frog by Frog! 😛 Don’t forget that the game was designed with that exact purpose in mind! Even if it’s only a couple minutes a day 🙂

      And lastly, thank you so much for your kind words. Grief is a strange emotion, and a strange thing to process, but I can also say that games like Mother 3 help to feel a little less lost and alone. When you’re never far from a weird enemy, or a kooky line of dialogue, you remember that life goes on, and things are okay.

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