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This is a "Wild Mass Guess" entry, where we pull out all the sanity stops on theorizing. The regular entry on this topic is elsewhere. Please see this programme note.
Braid
The game isn't a metaphor - it's a story.

In this guess, Tim is a person who has an overbearing personality and lack of empathy that eventually turns stalker-ish, and chases away the woman he loves (the Princess). He fumes, and, in his dolor, develops the ability to reverse time. He attempts to utilize this to resolve being on the outs with the Princess, along the way almost but never quite living a life (he finds another woman, but makes it clear he's after the Princess, and eventually leaves her with nothing but a memory), but determines that the way to resolve the situation is to go backwards and catch the Princess and explain himself. However, he can't do that going forwards in time - the chase occurs on two levels, and there's no way for him to reach her. He has to be moving backwards in time to reach her to ride up the chandelier, and this induces a time paradox and blows the crap out of continuity. "Now we're all sons of bitches" indeed.

Braid is a metaphor for science.

I'm basically going to copy this verbatim from a recent blog post I read, because it's the best theory of the meaning I've seen:

Anyway — for me, the game most prominent theme in the game is the pursuit of truth. It comes up in just about every aspect of the game: the written vignettes, the "ending", the epilogue, and the puzzles themselves. This explains why the puzzles need to be so challenging in the first place.

The vignettes do not tell the story just of one person, but many (or maybe the same person at different ages). They describe at least 3 different stories where the protagonist fails to understand "the truth" in a certain situation: the boy unintentionally hurting the girl when trying to protect her, the scientist trying to understand nature's mystery, and the child being held back at the candy store.

The ending itself is yet another situation where the player fundamentally misinterprets what is happening. The truth is revealed only afterwards, which results in the special "aha!"-effect everybody refers to when reviewing Braid.

The epilogue ties the vignettes together, but the last screen also ties the vignettes to the actual game. We are presented with a castle made of the icons that represent the puzzles of the game. The books on that screen read:

He cannot say he has understood all of this. Possibly he's more confused now than ever. But all these moments he's contemplated — something has occurred. The moments feel substantial in his mind, like stones. Kneeling, reaching down toward the closest one, running his hand across it, he finds it smooth, and slightly cold. He tests the stone's weight; he finds he can lift it, and the others too. He can fit them together to create a foundation, an embankment, a castle. To build a castle of appropriate size, he will need a great many stones. But what he's got now, feels like an acceptable start..."

Basically, The Princess is a metaphor for the Absolute Truth, and thus unattainable, but something to strive for nonetheless.
  • That may be the reason why Tim always drinks on paintings (In vino veritas) and Princess is never presented fully.
Tim is...
Does it need saying?
  • Alternatively...
  • He... is an enchanter. There are some who call him... Tim?
  • Which means the Killer Rabbits are...
  • A time lord.
  • A Scientist a Father a Man a Romantic a Madman a Doctor a Knight a Villain a Protagonist Insane in a Padded Room no he is Just Dreaming Having a Nightmare Trapped in a Strange World a- a- a- a- a-
  • He doesn't know. So neither will we. He's not sure what happened to the world — all he knows is he is Tim, and he is searching for the Princess. He thinks.
    • Oh, and he can turn back time. But sadly, after all of his hard work, he has been left as confused as he was when he started, and honestly much sadder. He was so sure he was the hero — and now he often wonders if that was ever true.
      • Is it too late to start now?
    • Or maybe that much time travel would make anyone's memory a bit screwy and overly metaphorical.
  • The Knight in level 1-1. You aren't actually playing Tim, just some unnamed hero/villain (depending on your interpretation).
  • Or, both are Tim, except that they're from different time periods. Take the beard away from the Knight, or add one to Tim, and they don't look too different.

Tim is a descendant of Henry DeTamble.
As you'll recall, Henry had no control over his Involuntary Time Travel. However, his daughter appeared to be able to exert some will over it. It's possible that Tim is a future DeTamble who is fully able to manipulate time. And the thing is (this is what got me thinking along these lines in the first place), even when he can control the time-shifting, it still f*cks up his life beyond all reason.

Tim is in Purgatory.
...what? It fits. Reliving every. Single. Last. Mistake. In his stalking of the princess. I have just one question for him... Do you regret?

Braid and Eversion exist in the same continuity, and the Princess is Nehema in both games.
And the ending of Braid is Tim unlocking Sealed Evil in a Can and releasing Nehema upon the world.

The Princess is....
  • Tim's Girlfriend/Wife (ex?) It's all actually a little straightforward. He had a girl, he loved his girl, girl decided he was a bit smothering and left. Possibly getting a new boyfriend. He went a titch coo-coo banana crackers, no matter how you look at it.
  • Tim's Daughter — possibly estranged, and if so not much different then the above. Or possibly even dead, possibly in a manner Tim feels responsible for. Consider the cloud motif — perhaps she fell? Or the car you can spot in the last level — a road accident. Maybe she just grew up and went away and got married, and Tim is just nostalgic.
  • An allegorical representation of The Bomb. Tim searched for it for so long, only for him to wish more than anything to go back after the fact.
  • An allegorical Representation of Science. See above on page
  • ALL OF THE ABOVE. Tim wanted to find the bomb, and neglected his wife — who left him, and took his daughter with her. He never got over it, and the day his daughter grew up hardly even having ever known him broke his heart. Still, perhaps it would all pay off the day his life's work was achieved... right? Wrong. In one staggering moment, he discovered the 'princess' he had left everything — everything — behind for was no more then a horror unleashed upon the world.
In one fell swoop, it was all gone. And he could never get it back. Or could he? Couldn't he? There must be some way to undo it all — no, even better, to undo it all, and make sure he never made those mistakes again. He just needed the time...
  • The ideal woman. Tim goes off searching for her, neglecting the people who care about him in the process. Problem is, real people aren't perfect, and he's basically searching for something that doesn't exist.
  • Once complete, the constellation gives some ideas of the princess. She has chains on her arms, one of them broken. She looks surprised about the broken chain. Maybe she was a captive and somehow broke free. Maybe Tim did?
  • His mother.

The reversed version of the ending is the real one, but Tim is still the good guy.
  • Tim made some mistake with the Princess leading up to Level 1-1, and Tim is going to the Princess's house to ask forgiveness (re: the books in Time and Forgiveness). However, she just runs off and sets traps for him, etc... The rest of the game is Tim seeking out the Princess so he can apologize. World 6, then, is the ending, and a Downer Ending at that, since Tim has made no progress in attaining forgiveness or even finding the Princess.

Just putting this out there...
  • Anyone care to explain how the talking dinosaur factors into all of this?
    • Maybe he's a representation of the real world / the people around Tim? At first, apologetic, but seemingly kind. Then less concerned about his efforts, then impatient (World 5), then... Totally clueless (World 6). They stopped caring about his quest to find her, and wonder why he even bothers to keep looking. (Are you sure she exists?)
      • Perhaps; even so, that does not explain why the real world would take the form of a talking dinosaur.
      • That... Is a very good point. Maybe it's how he views the real world? Some childish, out-dated and boring viewpoint that doesn't understand him and his princess?
    • It's Yoshi! But seriously, it looks like the Princess has a dinosaur doll in her room.
      • Maybe Tim has seen the Princess confide in the doll like a little girl might and now sees it as an obstacle since he wants her for himself. That's why the cute little dino is always a punctuation point to every level where he doesn't find his princess in the castle. Just another obstacle to surmount or ignore.

The game is actually Tim remembering his quest
  • Each level is actually Tim going into his room, triggering memories. The time travel is Tim trying to put the strings together, messing with his sanity. When he actually goes to see level 1, he is just remembering a perspective that made him look like a hero. Then he shuffles back to what actually happened. This doesn't means that he is a villain, depending on the back story.
  • Tim doesn't have any actual TIME-based powers; since everything takes place in his memories, the time-based abilities actually represent him deluding himself as to what actually happened.
  • From the troper that put the inital "remembering" guessing. Both endings in level 1 are correct. At first, Tim was the princess' Knight In Shining Armour. Then he became a Stalker with a Crush.

The "Villain" and the "Hero" are the same person.
You start the game as the Knight In Shining Armor, saving the Princess from a creepy little Stalker. However, as you change time more and more, you gradually go insane, and rewind back to that Princess-rescuing moment, but the roles are reversed. You realize that you were the creepy Stalker, but from the Future!

The game is simply a story of obsession
Tim has always been quite determined to get what he wants; the story from his childhood is just a memory of the first time he didn't get it. Eventually, he became very controlling too, and obsessed with having control over his fate, which is why he starts to experiment with time, much unlike what his girlfriend (the princess) wanted. Of course, these aforementioned characteristics became have also made him a pretty bad boyfriend; eventually, the princess wanted to escape him, leading to the events of world 1.

The other worlds are simply the story as he tells us. He also knows how to twist the story to make the actual hero sound like a monster (hence the boss we fought with the chandeliers who bears a resemblance to the person we saw saving her). The stars, however, are symbolic of his obsession; some of the stars require extreme patience to get (symbolic of Tim's persistence), and the last one in particular requires you to capture the princess beforehand.

After you collected all the stars, you can go and see the constallation of the captured princess in the sky and see the story from her point of view. This is because, once Tim got all the stars and went through all the worlds, he found a time mechanic that allowed him to go back in time and finally recapture the princess. Nice job breaking it player!

Tim doesn't exist
The Princess was responsible for everything, so she made up Tim, who represents her guilty conscience and now is running away from her past deed.

Jonathan Blow has been listening to Cher
If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I'd take back all the words that have hurt you
And you'd stay
I'd give them all to you
And you'd love me, love me, like you used to do

Tim experiences the relationship backwards
  • When the princess first meets him, he seems like a creepy stalker because he already knows everything about her, because he's been with her for years. When she sees him walk out the door the last time, he claims he's looking for the princess because that's what he came to her house for, and he's only just met her.

When you unlock the alternate ending, you break the story.
That is to say, Tim's fantasy of himself "saving the Princess", when neither the quest nor the "Princess" existed in the first place. Tim's whole mission revolved around finding this imaginary "Princess": it may be his picture of the ideal woman, the memory of some past relationship before it went horribly wrong, maybe both. Whatever it is, in reality, it doesn't exist now or never has existed, and Tim for all the world refuses to let go of it.

Now consider World 1-1. Throughout the whole stage, notice that Tim and the princess always stay on opposite sides of the stage; they're never together. What happens if you get seven stars, get the ability to race ahead of her by way of time-proof switches, and take the chandelier up to her side? Well, she explodes out of existence. Why? Because Tim's fantasy and reality could never be reconciled, and once Reality Ensues, the fantasy could only be thoroughly exploded.

Also consider that, as mentioned before, those stars are symbolic of Tim's obsession. By the time he's finished those horribly difficult puzzles to get seven of them, he's at the height of this obsession. The final star is in the Princess's empty room; maybe it's become clear that this Princess had become nothing but pure obsession?

  • On a similar note, Tim may actually be BOTH the Knight in Shining Armor and himself. The princess escaped Tim only to be rescued by Tim. The two went out as a couple, until Tim became obsessed with knowing the Monster the princess escaped, so he went and somehow obtained the power of Time Travel at the expense of his relationship with the princess, who left him. At the beginning of the game, Tim is still a beginner in the Time Travel powers and tries to master it, while at the same time, he searches for the princess, but to no avail. On level 3, Tim learns that time reversal is not enough, so he needs to stay still on time, while the rest reverses. He gets desperate and ultimately tries to use the power. However, he is unable to control it and the timeline gets fucked up on level 4, which is why the level itself goes forwards and backwards in time, depending on Tim's moves. This is proved by the backgrounds in the levels: level 2 is Spring and it was a blue sky with a green meadow and white fluffy clouds, level 3 is Summer and has bits of rain and sun everywhere, but instead of going to Autumn, the next level (level 4) takes place on winter. Tim learned his lesson and took out alternate learning processes, like creating dopplegangers on level 5 (which is Fall) and slowing down time with his ring on level 6. Having finally mastered the powers of time, he searches for the evil monster. However, that came with a price: his sanity. Becoming obsessed with time travel and reversing time, staying still while time is revesing, creating dopplegangers and slowing down time is an indication that just reversing time is not enough, more has to be done in order to fix things. He asks about the princess in the final castle, but she has already gone far away from him and the monster he's become. He sounds so unreal that even the castle gatekeeper (the dinosaur) asks if he's sure the princess is real. Finally, on level 1, Tim uses the time reversal at its full potential, which is why the level itself goes backwards and Tim goes forwards. Tim is using his powers at an incredible level, as if the player is pressing "X" all the time. Finally, he catches up with the princess. Notice how both of them are on opposing sections of the screen. The wall of fire is the future acting on the past. Touching it will leave Tim on the void of what hasn't happened yet. When Tim finally catches up to the princess, she sees him and she escapes, ultimately having Tim create a paradox in which he rescued the princess from a monster, to find out about that monster and ultimately be himself (like when a man travels in time to see what created a fire in his building, only to be HE who creates the fire that will inspire him to go back in time). The princess climbs on a net and makes a chandelier fall. When Tim hops onto that chandelier, the princess explodes, meaning that the princess may not be the atom bomb (don't get this troper wrong, she is) exploding, but the Space-Time Continuum breaking down and changing history. In the end, Tim learns from his experiences and builds a castle out of the other castles from the other levels for himself, meaning he has learned from past experiences. This may lead up to the beginning of the game (World 2), where a text says that "Tim made a mistake", possibly referencing both mistakes: the one that caused the princess to leave him, and the one that created the paradox (peeking on the princess's balcony). This does not invalidate other theories. This troper actually thinks that his theory is the not ultimate right interpretation, but that all of the proposed interpretations are actually right.

The entire thing is actually about communication failure and how a lack of understanding of other people can cause a lot of unnecessary suffering for both parties.

Okay, bear with me on this one. Tim and the Princess may or may not have been in an actual relationship before the event's of World 1 took place — to make it a little easier on ourselves (and to make the theory fit the pre-level texts a little better), let's say that they have been. But the problem is, they don't understand one another at all, and their lack of understanding leads to them interpreting events quite differently. Their fights get worse; he thinks she's unreasonable and shrewish, she thinks he's thoughtless and insensitive.

The entire thing gets even worse when Tim discovers/develops his time-altering powers — or alternately, he becomes increasingly delusional and thinks he's developing time-altering powers, but the result is the same: the relationship goes completely to hell, and Tim blames the "villain," i.e. the knight (who in reality is a genuinely nice guy concerned for the Princess). It all leads up to the big "fight," where he thinks he's rescuing her from the big, bad knight... but she only sees that he's gone mad and, scared out of her wits, rushes to seek the knight's protection, all the while lashing out at him, trying to slow him down (which he, from his point of view, interprets as her trying to help him because she wants him to rescue her).

When the dust settles, Tim isn't sure what happened back there, but he knows this much: His girl is gone, and he's made some huge mistake in order to drive her away. Problem is, he has no idea what this mistake is — he's behaved in a perfectly reasonable way all this time, hasn't he? Damn it, he even lurked outside her window to watch her sleep, just like that sparkling vampire in that book, you know, the one that all the girls thought was so romantic. If only he knew what his mistake was, he could go back and fix it...

And so, the surreal landscape he goes through gathering clues isn't his mindscape, it's hers — or at least a representation of it. He's simultaneously digging through the past and through her mindscape, looking for answers, trying to find out just where she's coming from and why she hates him all of a sudden. At first, this mindscape doesn't make much sense to him, populated as it is by weird hedgehogs and killer rabbits that meow like cats... but he sees there is some kind of logic there, and through solving the various puzzles in front of him, he begins to learn the workings of her mind and gain some insight in how she perceives the world (and him).

But the Princess is, on some level, aware of his sudden intrusion in her innermost thoughts... and she doesn't like it. She feels he's violating her privacy, she wants him gone, and so various parts of her mindscape turn hostile, just wanting to be rid of him — the bosses (who take on the appearance of the knight, the guy who saved her) are the strongest representations of her anger and panic... unfortunately, he misunderstands it and sees them as representations of the guy who kidnapped her, the monster who must be defeated at all costs.

Only the dinosaurs at the end of the levels (based on the stuffed dinosaur toy he saw in her bedroom while playing Edward Cullen) try to reason with him, because they represent the tiny part of her mind that hopes he can be made to understand. The flags, all nautical flags symbolizing, in different ways, "No," "turn back", "stop doing what you're doing," are parts of her attempts to tell him she doesn't want him there, and the dinosaurs all try to tell him that this entire thing won't bring him closer to what he wants ("The Princess is in another castle"). But they're all speaking her language, not his... so what she thinks are clear messages to him, he either completely misses or misunderstands.

So he perseveres, completely unaware how much he's hurting her in the process, and finally, he thinks he's gathered enough insight that he's able to re-visit the events of that fateful last fight... and in a way, he has gained a greater understanding, because now he realizes to his horror just how she experienced that entire event and what a monster he appeared as in her eyes.

But he refuses to give up. He doesn't know how he can explain himself to her so that she'll understand him, but he has to try finding a way to make her see his point of view, show her that he's not the bad guy she thinks he is. So he returns to her mindscape, searching for an even deeper understanding, and this is where the stars come in. The stars are hard to find and to collect, and successfully doing it demands either a very deep understanding of the workings of the game (i.e. the Princess's point of view) or that you cheat and look up a walkthrough/ask someone else how to do it — the stars in this case represent the levels of understanding.

However, you can't get the eighth and final star before confronting the Princess again, so when Tim returns to the Princess again in the second confrontation, his understanding of her is still flawed — but he doesn't realize this. He still has no idea of the damage he's caused her with his invasion of her privacy, but thinks he's got her all worked out. And since the collecting of the stars have subtly altered circumstances, he is able to use his new knowledge to get up close to her this time around...

And then she does something he hadn't expected at all: she explodes in his face. Whether she dies in the process or not is a little unclear, but in either case, she does it because it's her final level of defense, and now she's desperate, more convinced than ever that he's a complete monster who only wants to do bad things to her. For all his intentions of making up for past mistakes, rewinding time so that he can avoid making the same mistakes, he's just made things worse.

Finally, he gets the last star, which means he finally understands something he didn't before: Just what all this probing around in her mindscape actually did to her and how he, in his search for understanding, completely destroyed any chance he might have had of working things out. He's only tried to understand her on his own terms, not on hers, which meant he missed the signals — because she made a similar mistake; she gave him signals and messages that made sense to her and thought he would understand them.

The final clue lies in the books with the random texts about a man/boy that may or may not have been Tim — whether it is or not is actually irrelevant; the important part is that they're all written from a male perspective with a male protagonist. This is what's obvious to Tim, it's the story he understands and identifies with, which is why this is the obvious text. However, if he hides, making himself completely invisible (i.e. for the first time viewing the princess on her terms and not trying to interpret him through his own), the text changes to a female perspective, with a female protagonist, and this is all underlined by the female voice that's singing whenever these texts are visible.

And now we see just how differently the women of the stories experienced the same situations, and it's shocking how differently they saw it — because both parties are ultimately convinced they are the ones in the right. The man leading his girl through the crowded city views himself as taking charge and giving her directions; she views it as him dragging her in a direction she doesn't want to go, hurting her in the process. The boy wanting candy at the candy store thinks the woman is mean for not letting him have any; she's merely keeping him away for his own good.

But what's revealing here is that in neither story does anyone see the other's point of view. The men tend to ignore the possibility that the women even have a point of view; the women do realize that the men see things differently but find their reasoning to be inferior and don't think it's necessary to lower themselves to that level. And so, they talk past each other, not to each other. All the stories reflect the problems in Tim's and the Princess's relationship.

Tim finally truly sees that the reason he hasn't understood the Princess before is that he hasn't really been trying to. Now that he does, he realizes that time-powers or no, there are mistakes you just can't undo. Looking up at the constellation he's created through his misguided quest for understanding, he for the first time sees the Princess as she truly is — not a prize to be won, not a burden on him, not some damsel in distress who needs him to rescue/protect her and otherwise is just there as a convenient way for him to confirm his heterosexuality, but a person. A person with her own hopes and dreams, fears and insecurities, who makes mistakes and misunderstands things, just as he does. In short — a person he's completely blown all his chances with, largely because of a critical failure to communicate.

...

So, did anyone actually read all this nonsense, or did I completely fail to communicate here? ^_^

  • That's... brilliant. I applaud you.

  • Your interpretation absolutely floors me. It delves so deeply into human psychology, addressing things like gender-roles, stereotypes, point of view, Double Standards, and just all around the concept of Poor Communication Kills. Your interpretation is now my fanon. Thanks so much for clearing up such a Mind Screw of a game.

  • This is the most plausible explanation, I think. It accounts for every element of the game, and the epilogue texts finally make sense. My sincere applause, sir. This needs to be on the main page somehow.

The Princess is an Atomic Bomb.

Tim spends all the game looking for her, chasing her, for the Atomic Bomb. The Princess runs from him, because the world is not supposed to be destroyed by humanity, and tries to stop him on purpose. (See the 1-1 world). See what happens when you reach the princess with the stars? She explodes, dammit.

In one of the books, it says something like this:

''Someone near him said: “It worked.”

Someone else said: “Now we are all sons of bitches.”''

The famous words of Kenneth Tompkins Bainbridge, uttered directly after the successful detonation of the first nuclear bomb, the “Trinity Test.”

The Princess is the bomb, and we are being told the story of a man so focused on the development and harnessing of an immensely destructive power that it inevitably falls out of his hands, and into the wider world.

The flags at the end of the levels are all nautical flags.

''World 2: N World 3: U World 4: L World 5: X World 6: K

N: No U: You are (standing into/approaching) danger L: Stop instantly X: Stop carrying out your intentions K: You should stop, I have something important to communicate''

The warnings directed towards a man intent on bringing an indescribable power into being. Think about the ending. A purging wall of flame chases Tim and the princess, all the way up to the point where Tim is found lurking outside a bedroom window. At this point, everything reverses; Tim is now chasing her, not following. She is now trying to trap and block Tim from ever reaching her, not aid his progression. Instead of trying to escape the hands of an aggressive knight, he is now the one figure that takes her away from Tim’s ‘ridiculous need’, his obsession with control.

To remind you of this. After you touch the princess, if you manage, she explodes. LIKE A BOMB.

The Game is a Metaphor for Obsession
Plain and simple, everything about the game is about obsession. Not a simple story of obsession, but a metaphor for any obsession. Tim symbolizes any obsessed individual, the princess represents the object of the obsession, which is why none of the texts seem to follow the same story.

The time-rewind ability only feeds into the deception because it provides the player with the tools to undo mistakes and never die. The theme is the same in all the texts — it's about an obsession with something or someone. From finding the princess, to protecting the girl, to science, the desire for candy to the atomic bomb — all about trying to achieve an obsession. In each case, the person with the obsession is blind to the truth. The princess is purely abstract and represents the object of the obsession (which is why saying Braid is a metaphor for the atomic bomb is not correct but not entirely wrong; the bomb is an example of obsession, but not the only one).

And the segregation between gameplay and story disappears when you realize that the game is entirely about obsession — collecting all the puzzle pieces is very difficult, but collecting all the stars is insane. It's the very reason why there's a cloud that takes almost two hours just to move to a position you need, it's the reason why the third world's star can be lost forever, it's the reason why star collection is insanely difficult.

In the final challenge, the game rewinds to show how one may be blind to the actual situation due to obsession by altering the normal point of view. Break this demonstration by collecting all the stars, and the game again defies you from reaching the princess by having her burst in a flash of light should you ever touch her, and placing her in the sky so she's forever out of your reach.

Only the most obsessed gamers will ever see the alternative ending, and their ultimate reward is nothing.

Tim creates the atom bomb, causing the Princess to leave him

Tim is a scientist working on the atom bomb for an unexplained reason (probably a separate cold war or World War taking place in the universe). The Princess leaves Tim after she figures out what he has done. Tim then goes throughout his adventure trying to stop the atom bomb from being detonated, but by the time he reaches his destination, it is too late.

Tim is insane AND has time warping powers.

Tim is a mentally ill man with the psychic ability to manipulate time, but at first, he has a very poor control of those powers due to his insanity and lack of experience, to the point that on occasions he lives "in reverse" for hours without really realizing it; he simply thinks "sure people are acting crazy today". One of those times, he sees what from his point of view seems to be a beautiful woman escaping from a kidnapper. He runs to protect her and she appears to be aiding him in his efforts to reach her, removing obstacles from his way. In his deranged mind, he develops an obsession with her, believing she loves him (why else could she be aiding him?), considering her "his princess" that he has to protect from the evil man. When he finally catches up with her outside her room, his unstable powers make time begin to flow for him again in the right direction. He approaches "his princess", reassuring her that she is safe now with him and they never are going to be apart from this moment on.

From the point of view of the woman, some creepy guy just appeared outside her window acting crazy, so she runs from him, putting every obstacle she can in his way in an attempt to lose him. Finally, she reaches a man (probably her husband or boyfriend) that takes her away from the mysterious lunatic. Tim is totally baffled by what just happened. Why his beloved princess has just run away from him? He obsesses with finding her again, believing he made some mistake that made her run and he has to correct, and begins to search for her everywhere. In the process, he learns to control his powers better and better, having to use diverse temporal tricks to overcome the obstacles he finds in his quest.

Finally Tim is able to use his powers to return to the moment he met her to try to undo his mistake (without being really sure what it was). But the timeline is stubborn and everything happens again like the first time. Now he is even more obsesed with learning to use his powers to cheat time (the stars represent his growing knowledge), and at last, he is able to beat history and reach the object of his obsession before she enters her room. He embraces her, but this action violates causality and causes a time paradox that rips a hole in space-time. The young woman is retconned away from existence and Tim learns his final lesson about time travel, having achieved now a total control over his powers, but having lost his love forever.

I know my interpretation ignores a lot of the heavy symbolism, but I think a more straightforward interpretation also merits a place between the theories about this wonderful game.

There are no heroes in this game.
Tim is a scientist trying to make the atomic bomb and the Princess is the atomic bomb like the above WMG's. Tim is, however, an American scientist. The "Knight in Shining Armor" trying to "save" the Princess from Tim is actually a Nazi scientist trying to get the atomic bomb first. There is historical evidence that the Nazis were trying to make a bomb as well. Therefore, the real allegory is not simply "the making of the atomic bomb," it is "the race to make the atomic bomb". The real ending is an allegory for the historical end of that race. - Thecommander236

World 1 is a more literal than usual Minus World.
Tim literally experiences time backwards compared to the world around him. Time is flowing at negative (aka minus) one from his perspective.

The Princess was the one that was insane.
Just think about it. The woman has an unGodly amount of traps in her bottom floor. There isn't even a door on the bottom floor. It's just death traps. She's just paranoid because a man came to confess his love to her in a corny way and she took it the wrong way. Confused and perhaps feeling that prison awaited him even the girl went to the police to report the "crime", he ran to stop her, but just for a talk. The knight was the guard she hired or just some guy who come by and believed her story because he looks like a sweet, innocent girl while Tim looks like a haggard, world weary man. However, Tim is just a hard worker and the Princess is paranoid to the point of insanity.
  • Alternatively, the Princess is a femme fatale and Tim is the police. His mistake was letting her get away by tricking the knight into helping her (the knight was a good guy as indicated by the green lettering). The reverse version is the woman running from the knight with the police helping her escape. The real version is the police chasing the woman with the woman tricking a man to help her. Who else but an insane/paranoid person or a villain has death traps throughout their house? Either way, when the police investigate the house, Tim is deemed in the right and the Princess is searched out for attempt to murder. - Thecommander236

The Other Woman
At one point, a book mentions Tim leaves another woman and it says that she loved him despite that and "Princess be damned." If we assume that the Princess is the split atom, that the mention of Manhattan is ours or that universes city where the Trinity test takes place, and that there was a war going on like WW2 or was WW2 that Tim had to help finish with a nuclear bomb, then we can make an assumption. Tim didn't leave her for a woman, but to save their country because the testing site where their Manhattan Project was not where they lived, so he had to move and someone had to watch the house for (a) month(s)/year{s}. That's why she still loved him, because he was doing what they thought was right and not because she was ultra forgiving for him leaving her for another (which we established is a misnomer.)
  • Furthermore, it is possible that she never saw him again because the city she was in was nuked (thus the title screen) and it is also possible that she's the woman who expressed her disappointment in humanity AND that the child that complains about not getting candy is TIM'S CHILD WHO WAS ALSO KILLED. Perhaps THAT was his mistake that he was trying to fix, because the Princess was captured by a horrible monster that used the bomb to nuke the city his family was in, i.e. Manhattan. The fact that the ending didn't change if you got the nuke first could be because the destruction of his city and death of his family happened any ways despite everything he did to stop it. That or the burning city represents the city HIS country nuked or that humanity has doomed itself.
    • How's that sound? I'm not sure if I believe my three theories, but I think they make sense.- The Commander 236
      • PS: I love whoever wrote the "The entire thing is actually about communication failure and how a lack of understanding of other people can cause a lot of unnecessary suffering for both parties," theory.

Bomb metaphor expansion
The city background isn't just stylized at the start of the game. Everything is on fire. Everything's burning. Braid is set in a post-apocalyptic world. The actual game is Tim, someone involved with the creation of the bomb, trying to come to terms with his guilt while simultaneously remembering a less destroyed world. 1-1 without the stars is actually what he wished had happened: that some nameless force had prevented him from bringing about the end of the world. Collecting the stars, a supreme effort of time and will, shows him finally coming to terms with what's been done. The text is a combination of him comparing the situation to other less deadly things and a fractured psyche, and the general weirdness is a result of mental strain.

Tim is the Princess
The Princess is a regular girl, being raised in a conservative, but loving household. Then one day she makes up an imaginary friend named Tim. Tim is her best friend and playmate. But while the Princess likes girly toys like dolls and castles, Tim prefers video games. So the Princess starts playing Super Mario Bros. with her friend. Soon Tim starts getting more and more aggressive, becoming an alternate personality.

As the Princess grows up, Tim starts to take control of her life. At first, she's glad for the help. Tim's her closest friend. He's assertive, clever, and daring. He helps her, but there's always a nagging feeling that he's dangerous. With Tim's encouragement, the Princess cuts her hair short, starts dressing like a man, and comes out as gay. Her parents don't approve at all, kicking her out of the house. She blames Tim for her problems and tries to kill him, or lock him away. But Tim's still a part of her. He represents her true nature that's being repressed.

Soon the Princess gets married to some guy, mainly in an attempt to get rid of Tim. Tim sees this as a betrayal, and becomes more determined to rescue the Princess from this monster for her own good. He's still floating around in her subconscious, playing Super Mario Bros. and trying to reach the castle. Once he finds the Princess, he'll take over completely. The Princess is able to keep him away with psychological help, using puppets to communicate with her other half. Every time Tim thinks he's getting close to his goal, a puppet appears to tell him to go away.

Tim's still able to influence the Princess. He can change her thoughts the moment they're formed, rewinding and rewriting her actions before the Princess can realize what's going on. And while Tim begins to view the Princess's husband with some degree of fondness, he knows it won't last. With his help, the Princess leaves him, but keeps her wedding ring as a keepsake.

Tim's ultimate goal is to make the Princess realize they're one and the same. But when he thinks he's helping her, she thinks he's being too forceful and dangerous. Every time he emerges in sight of the Princess, she finds some way to hide and run away again. So Tim bides his time. He explores the entirety of the subconscious world he lives in. He masters his environment and collects all the stars - and this is reflected in the real world. The Princess goes back to school and studies science. She's good at it, and soon becomes on the verge of an important discovery. She's so close, but she'll never make it. Tim knows she can't do it on her own. So he breaks free to grab that final star. He escapes from the prison she built and completely takes over her personality. The research is complete, the metaphorical bomb is built and deployed.

But what do the stars mean? All that Tim's accomplished is to destroy the Princess that he tried to help. She's the one imprisoned now. She's gone, tied up in the sky and only Tim remains.


A Boy and His BlobWMG/Video GamesBrave Frontier

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