This article is dedicated to explaining the facts behind one of adventure gaming's most storied enigmas: the Secret of Monkey Island.
Put simply: the Secret can be found by reading two particular literary texts in tandem.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
-- John Donne, Meditation XVII
‘Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!’
A cold voice answered: ‘Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.’
A sword rang as it was drawn. ‘Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.’
‘Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!’
Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. ‘But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.’
-- JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 6, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields"
Or to put the resulting conclusion in a few words: Guybrush Threepwood is a woman.
The idea is that she dressed up in men's clothing in order to become a pirate, and adopted the not-terribly-inventive pseudonym "Guybrush" (analogous with airbrush)... not anticipating that the world of Monkey Island is one in which a woman could be Governor of a Caribbean island. (In other words, much the same sort of mistake that led Ford Prefect to name himself after a car in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.)
Which means that, incidentally, Monkey Island is a lesbian love story.
As Ron Gilbert put it, "Elaine would never, never, never marry Guybrush"... because Monkey Island is set in the past, and that sort of thing was illegal in certain US states until 2015.
In fact, this is no more than a borrowing from tales of real-life 18th-century Caribbean pirates. Mary Read went to sea dressed as a boy, and her sex remained undiscovered until her ship was captured by pirates, led by the notorious Anne Bonny. Even then, Anne didn't find out Mary was female until she tried to seduce the attractive "Mr. Read."
But I digress.
A wide variety of clues to the Secret were hidden in Nineties adventure games.... not all of them from LucasArts.
Fair warning -- some of the images below are definitely Not Safe For Work.
Let's take a look:
Mutiny on Monkey Island (early designs for The Secret of Monkey Island)
The idea of the game protagonist being a woman in disguise predates Monkey Island as we know it.
As Aric Wilmunder's cache of game design documents reveals, Ron Gilbert's initial design proposal was for an adventure/RPG hybrid called Mutiny on Monkey Island. The protagonist was a young pirate wannabe with the unlikely name of "Smear West".
"Smear" is probably short for "Esmeralda", a first name taken from the heroine of Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. "Smear West" also sounds amusingly like "Mae West", the star of surprisingly racy comedies in 1930s Hollywood. (It's Mae West who is often credited with having said "Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?")
Victor Hugo took the name "Esmeralda" from the Spanish for emerald. The use of it here suggests that Smear West was of Black Irish ancestry, as that ethnic group is often reputed to have originated in Spain. The historical Anne Bonny was from Ireland, and likewise, the hero of Rafael Sabatini's archetypal pirate novel, Captain Blood (adapted into a 1935 film starring Errol Flynn), is a black-haired Irishman.
So Smear West, then, probably had black hair and green eyes; and the name "Smear" hints at femininity that isn't immediately obvious.
In other words, Smear West is the prototype of Morgan LeFlay from Telltale's Tales of Monkey Island... even including the gender confusion, expressed by Guybrush in Launch of the Screaming Narwhal).
The Secret of Monkey Island
References to Guybrush's gender are less frequent than they would become in the sequel. Still, there are a few hints to the Secret to be found.
The very first and biggest clue to the Secret in MI1 is on the game box itself.
Unlike every other adventure game it released, before and after, with MI1 LucasArts went to the highly unusual step of falsifying the interface shown on the game box. The original, undoctored screenshots can be found on the British White Label MI1/MI2 double-pack:
The reason for this uncharacteristic deception? The game's verb interface, as the productive part of the user's interactions with the world, is essentially equivalent to the genital region of the human body - a connection reinforced by the verbs' position at the bottom of the screen. (Lucasfilm wasn't the only adventure game maker to draw this connection: Interplay also had it in mind while designing Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, resulting in a proto-Verb Coin interface whose placement on screen mirrors a theoretical Starfleet emblem on the player's chest.)
In other words, the falsification of the interface on the MI1 box alludes to the deliberate obfuscation of Guybrush's gender within the game itself.
Not only that: the use of Spiffy the Dog's closeup on the box, though deleted from the actual game, is another allusion to the Secret by way of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. As Saruman himself describes Eowyn's family in The Two Towers, "What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor with the dogs?"
Even the text of the box points to this conclusion. MI1 inaugurated the Monkey Island tradition of featuring an excerpt from Guybrush's memoirs on the back cover. This choice of writing style is actually for pragmatic reasons: it lets the box avoid referring to Guybrush with the pronoun "he".
Unlike the luxuriant beard of Mancomb Seepgood, Cob from Loom has to resort to using a patently fake tie-on beard. This foreshadows the explanation behind Guybrush's unimpressive beard in MI2: it's a fake as well.
Guybrush's inability as a woman to grow facial hair is also hinted at during the first visit to the Voodoo Lady:
The Voodoo Lady, searching the mists of time to learn Guybrush's name, confuses the surname "Threepwood" with "Nosehair" - a potential pirate nickname for Guybrush, after the fashion of "Blackbeard." Of course, since Guybrush as a woman can't grow a beard, nose hair would be the closest possible thing in terms of fearsome piratey facial hair.
Guybrush's famous ability to hold
his her breath for 10 minutes is amazingly silly... and also impressive. Especially considering what it'd be like if this ability were applied to oral sex. Which is probably part of why the developers at LEC thought it up in the first place.
Another clue, oblique as it is, can be found in the famous stopped clock on Melee's High Street, which always reads ten o'clock, no matter the actual time.
This is an allusion to a famous passage from William Shakespeare's As You Like It:
A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms and yet a motley fool.
'Good morrow, fool,' quoth I. 'No, sir,' quoth he,
'Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune:'
And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely, 'It is ten o'clock:
Thus we may see,' quoth he, 'how the world wags:
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.'
-- Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7, lines 12-28
In fact, this particular monologue is notable because the rest of the play emphasizes the timelessness of pastoral life: seasons come and go, people live and die, but the trees and the hills and the animals remain. As one character puts it (Act III, Scene 2), "there's no clock in the forest." Thus the Forest of Arden in its Arcadian languor is not that different from Melee Island, where it's always ten o'clock.
But As You Like It is also famous for having as a main character one of Shakespeare's finest female roles: Rosalind, the strong-willed daughter of an exiled French duke.
In order to visit her father in exile in the Forest of Arden, Rosalind disguises herself in men's clothing. She poses as a page named Ganymede -- a name that suggests homosexuality, since in Greek mythology Ganymede was a mortal boy whom Zeus loved and carried off to Mount Olympus. Indeed, not only does Rosalind woo her future husband Orlando while disguised as "Ganymede," her male persona also attracts the romantic attention of the shepherdess Phoebe.
Incidentally, lines 26-28 in the speech quoted above are an infamous double-entendre: in Shakespeare's day they would have been pronounced "And so from whore to whore we rape and rape, and then from whore to whore we rut and rut, and thereby hangs a tail" (ie, a penis).
Bill Tiller was probably aware of this connection when he claimed in 2009 (immediately after the announcement of Telltale Games' Tales of Monkey Island) that he had proposed his own MI sequel to follow Curse back in 1998 -- this one to be titled Tails of Monkey Island, and featuring Elaine pregnant with Guybrush's child.
However, whether this game proposal, first mentioned eleven years after the fact, was anything more than a spur-of-the-moment joke inspired by Telltale's 2009 game is an open question -- especially since Tiller is on record alluding to the Secret in 1997 (see below).
Another person likely aware of this extremely literate in-joke? Brian Moriarty -- whose Loom, also released in 1990, features a pastoral Guild of Shepherds, Hetchel's failed transfiguration into an "ill-roasted egg" (an insult Shakespeare uses in Act III, Scene 2), and a scene where Bishop Mandible and the Glassmaker Crucible haggle over the number of... hours the Bishop wants to buy.
When Guybrush breaks up LeChuck and
a couple of monkeys Elaine's wedding, two of the dialog choices have Guybrush object to the ceremony on that LeChuck is neither a gentleman nor a human. However, there's no choice available here to say that "The groom isn't a man" -- because that would be equally true in Guybrush's case.
At the end of the game, Guybrush cites the poetic doggerel "It's not the size of the ship, it's the motion of the ocean." This ditty has long been a comfort to men with small penises, since it implies that the length of one's member is much less important than how one uses it.
Of course, this advice would go doubly well for someone with no penis at all... like Guybrush.
In fact, it seems several allusions to Guybrush's gender were actually deleted from MI1 before release. I guess the idea was that it made the joke too obvious. (Given that in the event it took 26 years for someone to figure it out, that was probably a mistaken assumption.)
One such bit of dialogue was found when Stan told Guybrush the story of the Sea Monkey and its crew of chimps. As discovered by the programmers of the 2009 Special Edition, Stan's description of Herman Toothrot's voyage to Monkey Island originally had a rather different emphasis:
“You see, the previous owners of this ship were two adventurous pirates. They set off, like many before, to find the legendary Secret of Monkey Island™. And, like many before, they disappeared forever. Their fate –- a mystery. Almost as mysterious as how this ship returned to Mêlée Island™ without a single human aboard on its own... ...or should I say, not MANNED."
The idea was evidently to reinforce in the player's mind the difference between a crew of humans and a crew of men... a way of obliquely referencing the Tolkien allusion that lies at the heart of the Secret of Monkey Island.
Another deleted allusion to Guybrush being female occurred during Guybrush's attempt to recruit Meathook as a crewmember:
"Look, I’m sure you have good intentions... ...but it takes more than that to captain a ship. Do you really think you’re man enough?”
“Yes I do, but I must say that I found that last remark to be very sexist.”
“Boy do you sound like a sissy.”
A much more dramatic version of the same sentiment was expressed by Elizabeth I of England when facing the Spanish Armada: "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king."
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge
Unlike the first game, here the clues to the Secret come thick and fast, and often take the form of juvenile toilet humor rather than Shakespearean allusions. This may have something to do with the fact that Dave Grossman, the most self-consciously intellectual of Monkey Island's three creators, spent much of the development of MI2 working on The Dig instead.
What is Guybrush's reaction when looking at Wally's tiny bed? First, to recall a dollhouse from her childhood... and then to hastily reassign that dollhouse to an invented sister.
When Largo LaGrande says the Voodoo Lady claims that she, not Guybrush, killed LeChuck, Guybrush proves him wrong by whipping out LeChuck's severed beard. (And then Largo promptly steals it, in an interesting echo of Bishop Mandible snatching Bobbin's
phallic object distaff during a cutscene in Loom.)
Left unanswered is the question of exactly why Guybrush feels the need to carry around a detached beard at all. Besides its obvious nature as a visible symbol of masculinity, that is.
In the conversation with the guard at Governor Marley's Booty Island mansion, Guybrush learns that Elaine too is stealing the credit for killing LeChuck. When the gatekeeper asks "Why would Governor Marley lie?" Guybrush has several responses.
However, in the rolling demo, the dialog lines Fame and fortune? and For attention? were not present. Instead Guybrush could ask whether it was due to a case of "penis envy". In Freudian terms, this particular line seems to be a case of Guybrush projecting her own motives onto Elaine.
The deletion of this line from the finished build of MI2 was probably a perverse way of rewarding devoted players who also played the demo, by giving them an additional clue to the Secret of Monkey Island.
When Guybrush hides in the crate going to LeChuck's Fortress in Part 3, the narration tells us that the journey in a cramped box (about the size of a small closet) takes five days and nights.
This is the exact amount of time during which Eowyn kept up her disguise as a male soldier during the ride to Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings:
Forth rode Théoden. Five nights and days
east and onward rode the Eorlingas
through Folde and Fenmarch and the Firienwood,
six thousand spears to Sunlending,
Mundburg the mighty under Mindolluin,
Sea-kings’ city in the South-kingdom
-- JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 3, "Muster of Rohan"
And of course "hiding in the closet" is a common metaphor in English for disguising one's sexuality.
In Lite Mode, Wally can get Guybrush out of the trap in LeChuck's torture chamber, but he insists that Guybrush "close your eyes" first. It's implied that Wally pees on the candle that's burning through the rope to activate the deathtrap. ("Can I go to the bathroom?" "Ha ha ha! This will be even more torturous than I had hoped!")
But in Regular Mode, despite Guybrush having access to a crazy straw and a glass full of alcohol, the same option isn't available, and instead the player has to find a means of putting out the candle using a loogie of spit.
It seems that whatever their outward similarities, Guybrush and Wally don't share the same... equipment.
Guybrush asks several people in MI2 the rather juvenile question "Where do babies come from?" If nothing else, we know the developers at LEC wanted players to be thinking about sexual anatomy while playing MI2.
An aside: the Hint Line joke in MI2 revealed that Guybrush really wants to play Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. The idea of Guybrush as an airplane enthusiast will recur in Monkey Island references later on.
Perhaps most damning: Guybrush changes underwear between these two scenes on Scabb and Booty Islands. And while one scene shows our hero in boxers, the other has Guybrush wearing briefs.
At the risk of explaining a joke, the boxers vs. briefs question is one on which most men do not not have a preference. So much so that being uninterested in the issue -- as Guybrush evidently is -- suggests that something physical is definitely missing in the trousers department.
The Curse of Monkey Island
Although the casting of Dominic Armato might indicate that the Curse of Monkey Island team didn't know about Guybrush's gender, the strategy guide gives evidence to the contrary.
Here Bill Tiller talks about how the CMI writers considered having Guybrush's crew remark "He swims like a girl!" The idea was that it would be funny because Guybrush is a girl. However, the joke was rejected from the game itself -- perhaps for making the Secret a bit too obvious.
(Also, contrast Tiller's knowing wink at the Secret here with his professed ignorance of Guybrush's gender in 2009, mentioned above.)
Continuing the running MI motif of false facial hair, Wally's beard is as fake as Cob's in MI1... and Guybrush's in the previous game.
This also explains where Guybrush's beard went between games: it disappeared along with the blue coat and other items of clothing from MI2.
Likewise, during conversation with the Voodoo Lady, Guybrush asks about "safe hair replacement systems," all but admitting that the beard in MI2 was a fake.
And in the initial CMI design document, Guybrush had to make a fake blond beard to impress other pirates during the ship combat section, being unable to grow one naturally.
However, Guybrush does shave, as we learn from examining the bottle of shaving soap found on Blood Island. Though apparently only once a week -- a length of time that corresponds better to a woman shaving her legs than a man shaving his face.
After presenting a membership card to the Brimstone Beach Club cabana boy, Guybrush can threaten to sunbathe nude -- a prospect that's so alarming to the cabana boy that he immediately suggests Guybrush get as far away as possible.
This joke is even funnier if you recall that in 1997, while LEC was making Curse, Sierra had just released Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love For Sail (about which more below).
When King André tries to interest her in buying a peg leg, Guybrush says that "that depends on what you do with it". The implication being that a peg leg would best serve as a dildo (which would be useful for Guybrush, being a crossdressed lesbian).
Escape from Monkey Island (LucasArts, 2000)
When Guybrush washes up on Monkey Island in Act III, the impressive pirate boots from her outfit disappear, leaving her to wander barefoot around this tropical island with its rivers of molten lava.
This is the sort of fanservice more normally displayed by the heroines in the climaxes of action movies: think of Marion Ravenwood losing her high heels in the Well of Souls in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Jamie Lee Curtis' character running around barefoot in the villains' secret island base in James Cameron's True Lies.
Not only that: walking 13 times into the changing tent at the Jambalaya Island diving competition will result in Guybrush finding Murray inside, forcing her to emerge half-dressed from the tent to shoo him away.
The result? The viewer gets to see Guybrush without a shirt on -- the sort of Easter egg that would normally be more at home in games like Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry series.
Of course, to the uneducated eye, Guybrush has no breasts and thus appears to be male. Except, remember the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi: "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them."
(The above two pictures were taken from Mixnmojo's old Definitive Monkey Island Website... which was actually run under a pseudonym by a then-employee of LucasArts who shall remain nameless.)
Castle of Dr. Brain (Sierra, 1991)
As will be seen, the knowledge of the Secret was not confined to LucasArts: the developers at Sierra On-Line, for one, were also in the know, and put allusions to it into their own games.
Here, for instance, is an extended in-joke from Castle of Dr. Brain, designed by Lori and Corey Cole, the creators of Quest for Glory.
On the second floor of Dr. Brain's castle, one door is guarded by a series of joke questions and answers that have to be matched up. Just in case you didn't guess the inspiration for this puzzle, one of the jokes makes a clear reference to the famous MI1 swordfighting insult "You fight like a dairy farmer."
But in the trash can right in front of that door, there are some sharp spears and a deadly-looking mace. These are meant to allude to the weapons used in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and in particular the mace used by the Witch-King of Angmar:
A crown of steel he bore, but between rim and robe naught was there to see, save only a deadly gleam of eyes: the Lord of the Nazgûl. To the air he had returned, summoning his steed ere the darkness failed, and now he was come again, bringing ruin, turning hope to despair, and victory to death. A great black mace he wielded.
But Théoden was not utterly forsaken. The knights of his house lay slain about him, or else mastered by the madness of their steeds were borne far away. Yet one stood there still: Dernhelm the young, faithful beyond fear; and he wept, for he had loved his lord as a father.
-- JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 6, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields"
Incidentally, why do most of the clues to the Secret involve specific allusions to The Lord of the Rings? For the same reason as Sherlock Holmes uses to solve a book cipher in The Valley of Fear: the point of reference would have to be something every geek would be sure to have in their library.
And once the player gets through the door, there's a three-headed robot which has to be programmed to retrieve objects from a maze. One of those objects is a book titled Solomon's Key... or is that Solo Monkey? :D
Pepper's Adventures in Time (Sierra, 1993)
When twentieth-century red-headed adolescent Pepper Pumpernickel is transported back to colonial America by a time machine built by her evil Uncle Fred, she disguises herself as a boy in order to walk around freely.
(And check out Uncle Fred's laboratory -- complete with a can of red paint! He's nothing less than an unauthorized cameo by Dr. Fred Edison from Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle.)
Before acquiring her 18th century disguise, Pepper frees a malefactor known as "Poor Richard" from the town stocks. When they meet again later on, Poor Richard asks the disguised Pepper if she has a sister -- a gag that recalls the dollhouse joke in MI2.
But as Pepper discovers, "Poor Richard" is actually another woman in disguise! (This gets more like the story of Anne Bonny and Mary Read every minute.)
Outside of her disguise, "Poor Richard" is Deborah Franklin (née Read), wife of the famous Benjamin Franklin. And she's blonde, like Guybrush Threepwood. Or maybe Guybrush's mom.
Seriously, the character designs for Ben and Deborah Read look an awful lot like Guybrush's parents as seen during the Bone Song in MI2.
The game ends on a cliffhanger, as
Dr. Uncle Fred uses his time machine to send Pepper into a different era -- leading into a sequel that was never released.
And speaking of unreleased games, Fred's words here allude to two different LucasArts games by Brian Moriarty, neither of which was published: Young Indiana Jones at the World's Fair, and the second version of The Dig, which was set in 1998.
That's one hell of a coincidence.
Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail (Sierra, 1996)
Al Lowe's documented interest in Monkey Island goes back a long way. For the 1991 VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry 1, for instance, he replaced the trenchcoat-wearing flasher outside the wedding chapel with two dwarfs of the same height, probably as a tip of the hat to the wedding scene in MI1.
So it's only natural that Leisure Suit Larry 7, with its nautical setting, should have several more references to Monkey Island, and in particular to Guybrush's secret.
Most of these center around the character of Drew Baringmore... who is essentially Guybrush Threepwood undressed.
A beautiful blonde nudist, Drew also happens to be a serious academic, whose specialty is German airplanes from World War II.
This is Al Lowe taking the joke "When is SWOTL going to ship?" from MI2 and running with it past the thousand-yard line.
But it's not easy for players to see Drew Baringmore naked for themselves. Normally, Drew will catch Larry staring at her breasts and order him to stop.
In order to get around this, the player has to visit the ship's lounge (which is, naturally, designed to resemble a pirate ship) and use the text parser to feel under the sound board at one side of the stage. Doing so will reveal a pair of cotton earplugs -- an homage to the Q-tip used as the Monkey Head key in MI1.
Wearing the earplugs, Larry can go back to Drew and, after pushing aside the pesky branch of a tropical fern, safely ogle her... huge tracts of land.
Not only that; when Larry gets Drew back to his cabin, she starts taking a long, hot shower. Larry gets her to stop by flusing the toilet and turning the shower water cold. Unfortunately for him, Drew decides to leave before things go further.
In fact, this is a reference to the Japanese anime and manga Ranma 1/2, whose protagonist is a teenage boy whose life is complicated by an ancient Chinese curse. Ranma Saotome turns into a girl every time he is splashed with cold water... and it takes hot water to bring back his natural form.
Why Al Lowe should bother alluding to Ranma 1/2 and Guybrush Threepwood at the same time should be obvious by now. But in case you didn't get it, the LSL7 demo contains an alternate version of a background seen in Dewmi Moore's cabin:
The statue of a merman in the finalized background was actually a mermaid in the initial drawing. This was probably left in the demo resource files as a deliberate clue for any dedicated fans taking a peek.
A few other references to Monkey Island and Guybrush's Secret in LSL7 are centered around the ship's red-haired, purple-clad librarian, Victorian Principles. Who, naturally, is an ersatz version of Elaine Marley (see below).
This job occupation was probably suggested by Elaine's bookshelf in the mansion in MI1 (which includes the Manual of Style).
Naturally, Larry corrupts Vicki by giving her a good book to read... in this case, The Erotic Adventures of Hercules (a blatant Simpsons reference).
Clues to Elaine, er, Vicki's identity abound in the paraphernalia scattered around her redecorated office. She has an inflatable rubber glove from MI2, a rubber chicken (with a pulley in the middle?), and Indiana Jones' whip from the Booty Island antique shop.
And the icing on the cake of this extended allusion? Vicki keeps a copy of Drew Baringmore's Fokker: More Than Just an Airplane in her library. Possibly because a framed photo would make their relationship too obvious.
Of course, Larry's initial misapprehension of Drew's gender provides the rationale behind her name: "Drew" comes from the masculine name "Andrew," which derives from Greek andros, "man." A fitting name for a thinly disguised extended cameo from Guybrush Threepwood.
Gabriel Knight III: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned (Sierra, 1999)
Continuing the theme of cameos by Guybrush and Elaine in Sierra games, Jane Jensen put two suspiciously familiar-looking English lesbians into Gabriel Knight 3.
Estelle Stiles (the tall blonde) and Lady Lily Howard (the green-eyed redhead with the bandana around her neck) are both on the treasure-hunting tour in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Chateau. The game's dialogue tells us that Estelle is Lily Howard's "companion," which is aristocratic code for a lesbian relationship.
While the redhead, Lady Lily, is of noble birth, fair-haired Estelle is apparently of commoner stock. Sound familiar? (I don't know about Guybrush's ancestors, but Elaine's grandfather at least was somebody important...)
Not only that: while Lily is of average height, Estelle is extremely tall and thin, matching the lanky proportions of Guybrush in 1997's The Curse of Monkey Island.
Also, they're both English rather than American. As most native English speakers in the 17th century Caribbean would've been.
Early in the game, Estelle and Lily Howard swap hotel rooms with Emilio Baza - because Emilio had a room with a large single bed, while the two ladies were initially given a room with separate beds.
The game's resource files show that, when Gabriel entered Emilio's room later on, he originally could find a sari among the clothes there. Saris are Indian women's clothing. Emilio may or may not be a cross-dresser... but since his room originally belongd to our two piratey lookalikes, it's definitely another clue to the Secret of Monkey Island.
As the plot unfolds, Gabe and Grace learn that Lily Howard wants to find the treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau to buy back her ancestral stately home, which was sold years ago to pay off the family's debts. This is a wholesale reference to Hergé's Tintin albums The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure, in which Tintin's friend Captain Haddock finds a hidden cache of treasure and uses it to buy the Chateau de Moulinsart, his family's ancestral residence.
The kicker? The treasure found by Haddock is also a family heirloom - a fabulous hoard taken from the pirate Red Rackham by Haddock's lookalike Louis XIV-era ancestor, the French sea captain Francois de Hadoque. So, Lily Howard too could buy back her family mansion... at least if she had an ancestor who was a 17th-century sea captain.
Freddi Fish and the Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds (Humongous, 1994)
Perhaps the most obvious clue of all to the Secret of Monkey Island lies in a series of children's games Ron Gilbert made for Humongous Entertainment after leaving LucasArts: Freddi Fish.
And here's the clue: despite a very masculine-sounding name, the protagonist Freddi Fish is a girl.
Do the math.
Of course, the world of Monkey Island is such that there are a lot of unexplained anachronisms scattered about. You might have been expecting the Secret of Monkey Island to explain this somehow. But actually, The answer to that conundrum lies in the Secret of Dinky Island -- the treasure of Big Whoop.
The gaping hole beneath Dinky Island is a dimensional rift that allows travel through space, time, and parallel universes. For example, it lets Guybrush hop between the fully-fledged, outlandish Caribbean of the legendary Golden Age of Piracy -- a world where Guybrush is a woman in male disguise and LeChuck is an undead pirate -- and a mundane amusement park in the modern era, in a reality where Guybrush is a little boy and LeChuck is his brother.
A similar sort of portal is what allows Larry Laffer and Passionate Patti in Leisure Suit Larry III to teleport from Nontoonyt Island (and a reality where Roger Wilco doesn't know who the Two Guys from Andromeda are) to the offices of Sierra On-Line, where King's Quest IV is being made as an FMV game a decade early. (Larry goes on to write adventure games about his previous exploits, with key names and details altered -- which we know as the orthodox versions of Leisure Suit Larry I and II.)
Of course, another LucasArts game also features a portal like that found beneath Dinky Island, giving access to places, times, and alternate realities beyond measure. I'm talking about The Dig... and the device known as The Eye, the Cocytan gateway into the dimension known as Spacetime Six.
Naturally, the developers at LucasArts wanted to get in on the heady parallel-universe storytelling that features in the Leisure Suit Larry series. In fact, it went further in some respects than Sierra did -- namely by creating entire alternate versions of its adventure games, advertising them in print, and then deliberately not releasing them.
But that's another story.
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