—Cogwind“You don't need to wait for winter to come, that's absurd! Time is an infinitely layered reality!”
The term Five Realms of Essential Existence (F.R.E.E.) refers to the five intersecting realities that make up the known Fran Bow universe, along with the Ultrareality. They were created simultaneously with the concept of Time.
The Five RealitiesEdit
Primeve (likely from the English word primeval) is the First Reality, that of light, ruled by its king, The Great Valokas.
The Second Reality is called Ithersta, the reality of life. Here time is especially transient, as the current season is determined by a magical clock which can be easily altered.
Ithersta's mainstay is the island market town at its center, where the ruler Ziar lives in his castle. The island is populated mainly by roots and insects who travel by flying wooden boats. The demonym for citizens of the Second Reality is Itherstanise. This is the realm where Valoka must go when they wake up.
The Third Reality is the human world -- Earth, Mars, and Jupiter -- based on consciousness and willpower.
Not much is known about the Fourth Reality, that of death, Itward was born there which makes sense as he is a skeleton in time
It is also the homeland of many monsters, such as Luciferns.
Light and DarknessEdit
However, the traditional dichotomy of "good and evil" as humans may understand it does not prevail in the four surrounding realities; instead, light and darkness are constantly at battle, with the Third Reality unknowingly experiencing the influence of each. Neither is explicitly cited as good or evil, though light has a closer association with life, happiness, open-mindedness, and generosity, whereas darkness has one with death, guilt, fear, and agony.
The content of a being's soul, as revealed by certain kinds of magic, may be defined as good or impure by the being's virtues, the most important of which in Fran Bow is a propensity to seek out truth (or the meaning of life). Fran, who is generally seen as trustworthy and pure by the beings of the other realities, is extolled for her curiosity, bravery, and passion.
The conception of the F.R.E.E. universe appears to have Buddhist influences, as the highest form of self-actualization, according to León and later Palontras, is a "oneness with everything" and seeing beyond one's own desires. This oneness seems to require first a drive to seek knowledge, or a willingness to, as León Castillo writes, "feel what others avoid."
According to Dr. Palontras, a strong enough will to live at the time one's body is destroyed can result in a transfer of memories to a surrogate body, or "chrysalis." Because of this, when Fran falls from the bridge to what would be her death at the end of Chapter 2, her love for Mr. Midnight and desire to live on caused her to unknowingly inhabit a fallen tree trunk and transfer herself to Ithersta.
Perception and F.R.E.E.Edit
Most creatures can perceive and travel between the different realities, with humans as the notable exception. Because of this it is never certain whether the events of Fran Bow are a representation of the damaged psyche or actually unfolding as the player witnesses them.
Several inpatients of the Oswald Asylum indicate to Fran their ability to see elements of the Fifth Reality. Whether this is because they are given the hallucinogen Duotine, because they were chosen by Dr. Oswald for this ability, or because it is intrinsic to children or the mentally ill is never discussed, the fact could indicate that while the images are a hallucination, they are a collectively shared one that follows a consistent set of rules.
However, despite the implications that Fran, León, and the other children are merely victims of severe mental trauma, The human world and the Ultrareality layered on top of it are able to interact with one another, as seen when Itward opens the vent for Fran towards the end of Chapter 1.
León Castillo, likely the most knowledgeable human on the subject of F.R.E.E. during the events of Fran Bow, signs his name with the epithet "one of the thousand," indicating that only a select number of humans may be able to perceive the other realities. The introduction of his diary emphasizes his interest in talking to "animals, plants, and insects" although they couldn't respond, so perhaps a willingness to engage with the non-human world and "look for answers" as Fran does is precursive.