Warning: The following contains heavy spoilers for Spiritfarer
For someone as important as the sole individual responsible for ferrying spirits of the departed into the afterlife, Spiritfarer doesn’t offer much information about our main protagonist Stella. You will get a few tidbits here and there about Stella’s past when conversing with other characters throughout the game. For instance, Gwen will often talk about how she and Stella were friends since childhood and share many memories growing up. Summer will mention how she was Stella’s mentor of sorts in the past. Through these moments in dialogue, we get a peek into what her backstory is like. However, the information provided doesn’t give players enough to answer pressing questions such as: “Who was Stella in her past life?” “How is she related to the other spirits?” “Why are all the other passengers in creature form, but Stella remains human?”
A developer of Spiritfarer even publicly stated in a Reddit post that Thunder Lotus Games “wanted the game to stay vague and let the player interpret it as they wanted.” For a title that has you literally journeying across the ocean solely to complete a favor for a spirit friend, the lack of explanation about why Stella is the spiritfarer would have been more than appreciated. Luckily, Thunder Lotus released a DLC for Spiritfarer in the form of a digital artbook. This book reveals many of the obscure details about Stella’s past. With supplementary information gleaned from the wiki and Reddit discussions, here’s a complete backstory explanation of Stella, Spiritfarer‘s ferrymaster of the afterlife.
Our tale begins with young Stella and her family immigrating to Alsace, France. Here she shares many enjoyable memories with her best friend, Gwen. The scenery of her old homestead strongly resembles the islands in the Hummingberg Region. While still living in Europe, her uncle Atul suddenly disappeared without a trace after a dinner party. Plagued by the sadness that this shocking event caused, Stella decided to move to North America with her mother and younger sister. In her young adult years, Stella moved by herself to the big city of Oxbury.
Here she meets the sweet elderly couple, Astrid and Giovanni. Having never met her own grandparents, she quickly became close with the pair who informally adopted her as their granddaughter. Stella also had an aunt who lived nearby named Rose. Rose’s partner, Summer, was the woman who became Stella’s spiritual mentor, teaching her to embrace what she called “universal love.” Sadly, Summer passed away due to cancer, which the game symbolizes by the “dragon.” This second soul-crushing loss inspired Stella to become a hospice nurse, tending to those patients who have little time left in life. These patients include some of the passengers you meet on your voyages, like Alice or the two brothers, Bruce and Mickey.
The career of an end-of-life nurse isn’t an easy one. Stella often contemplated her mournful experiences with all the patients she’s lost over the years. It wasn’t long, however, before she too tragically succumbs to her own terminal illness. Her final moments are spent with her sister and mother by her side. We now know precisely who Stella is, how her backstory panned out, and how the passengers in-game relate to her. But perhaps the questions still pose within your mind: “Why is only Stella in human form?” “Why was she chosen to be the spiritfarer?” “Why don’t other NPCs ride on Stella’s boat as well?”
The existence of the Spiritfarer world is up for discussion, but according to the DLC lore, a spiritfarer is just someone on their deathbed. The artbook quotes, “The world shapes itself for each person going through the spiritfarer trip.” This explains why only Stella is in human form, and the other characters are not. Her spirit friends appear how she personally perceives them in this purgatorial environment. In reality, the spirit whose business you actually are finishing is Stella’s. After each visit to the Everdoor, Hades will mention to Stella that this journey is Stella’s way of battling with death. All of the unique passengers in the game are her “unfinished business.”
The character quests tell the story of Stella trying to help those she loved and cared for one final time, which explains why she’ll often go out of her way to complete a favor for them she couldn’t do for them in life. However, for each passenger, Stella must eventually realize that she can’t change the past. For instance, Alice will forget who Stella is no matter what, and Atul still disappears after a final dinner with him. Stella did her best in life to make everyone happy, and now the time must come to let them go. Once enough characters pass through the Everdoor, Stella finally accepts that she did the best she could in her life and that there is no sense anymore in trying to beat death. Thus, in conclusion, the whole game takes place within Stella’s mind in her final moments.
Thanks to the community and the artbook DLC theories, the many mysteries of Stella’s past have been unveiled. Curious players who’ve been confused all this time can now rest easy. In the same Reddit post mentioned above, the developer noted that the Thunder Lotus Team “had a backstory in mind.” Instead of making it explicit in the game, they decided to create a “lore artbook.” This decision to include all these definitive story pieces in something vanilla players may never see is quite curious. Nevertheless, we can conclude that Spiritfarer tells Stella’s tale in an incredible manner, giving the phrase of “one’s life flashing before their eyes” a whole new meaning.