Bomber’s Notebook #026 – Hyrule: Bizarre Monarchy

Majora's CatOctober 30th, 2012 by Majora's Cat

The kingdom of Hyrule itself and its real world correspondents haven’t been a subject of exploration in the past few years. That’s why I’d like to delve deeper into this bizarre world and explore its economy, real life counterparts and the inner mechanisms of its government. Its appearance, structure and culture have evolved since each Zelda game that used Hyrule as its backdrop essentially reinvented the region. At the core of every version is Hyrule is a shared structure that contain attributes including centralization, class division and forms of government that they all share. Make the jump to read more!

Let’s go over what has been established. Hyrule is ruled by a single sovereign king, making it a monarchy. However, this king appears to be something of a figurehead that doesn’t exercise much authority over the people. That leads me to believe that the real power lies in the hands of a preliminary Parliament or council that the player is unaware of. Ganondorf served as one of the king’s trusted advisers in Ocarina of Time, which may suggest the existence of a cabinet. Now of course the king may be the one making important decisions, but that idea has never been expressed in a Zelda game. Such is the case with quite a few supreme rulers in history – they never did take much control of their respective countries. Their advisers and councilmen close to the king worked behind closed doors pulling the strings. It could really be either one, since identity of the figure or figures of authority is open to interpretation.

Hyrule has shown signs of being a semi-advanced civilization. There is free trade, people perform specialized jobs to make the kingdom a cohesive unit, there are class divisions to some extent, worship in deities, a centralized government, educational buildings, believe in the occult and a type of currency. It is a fairly peaceful kingdom that is often divided into sub-cultures. The Zora, Gorons, Kokiri, the Gerudo, Ritos, Koroks, Hylians, Lokomo and and Minish have their own distinct cultures. Their architecture, forms of transportation and even their beliefs differ to some extent.

It is also endorses the idea of capitalism and free market. People are not burdened with taxes and make full use of the freedom of enterprise. Denizens of Hyrule sell use weaponry, gadgets, foods, potions and more. World hubs will often house the most shops, serving as trade centers. However, there isn’t really an established system of trade. It’s disorganized, loose and lacks enough evidence to accurately discern how exactly trading works. On the other hand, the Hylian language is straightforward and universal. Communication is already remarkably advanced, as postmen will walk (or fly) to mailboxes across the land or deliver them by hand to the recipients.

A parallel could be drawn from Hyrule to the holy city of Jerusalem. While the kingdom of Hyrule is a vast expanse divided into incredibly diverse regions, the city of Jerusalem is separated into the Christian Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Temple Mount, Jewish Quarter and Armenian Quarter where people of different religious dedication reside. Ocarina of Time‘s interpretation of Hyrule featured Hyrule Field and Hyrule Castle where the Hylians are located, Zora’s Domain, Death Mountain for the Gorons, the Kokiri Forest, Lake Hylia and Gerudo Valley are the major regions of Hyrule. While they may not necessarily be disassociated by religion, they lead vastly incomparable lifestyles.

The map of Hyrule from Ocarina of Time

In a way, Hyrule resembles the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Ancient city-states were governed by their own leaders, who were likely subordinates of the principal leader of the civilization. There could be many central powers and vital commercial centers. The concept is equally applicable to Hyrule. This is evident in Ocarina of Time, but also rears its face in Twilight Princess, The Wind Waker and The Minish Cap. Death Mountain is a patriarchy, meaning all authority is directed towards men. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever of Goron women. The Patriarch assumes the leadership role naturally with the Goron Elders serving as an advising council of sorts. The Zora were lead by the late Queen Rutela, but after her passing the position was shifted to her son.

The Rito of The Wind Waker are similarly under the supervision of the Rito Chieftain, a nod to the indigenous Native American culture. Gorons become traveling merchants or drifters with no leader. They don’t band together like nomads and simply float around trying to trade their goods. The Koroks are united by the Great Deku Tree, who serves as a father figure, a leader and a deity at the same time. In The Minish Cap, the Minish Elder fits into a role similar to that of the Patriarch of the Goron tribe of Twilight Princess. Even the Minish are divided into sub-groups, forming the Forest Minish, Town Minish and Mountain Minish each with their own Minish Elders.

Unfortunately, Nintendo skimped on any specifics that indicate the finer points of a modern civilization being present in Hyrule. What can be deduced from the reigns of Chancellor Cole (Spirit Tracks), the King of Hyrule (Ocarina of Time) and King Daltus (The Minish Cap) reveal that most of their actions in office have to do with commanding Soldiers or Guards. In A Link to the Past and Four Swords Adventures, said Soldiers become enemies to Link because they are being possessed by the magic of Ganon and Vaati.

The kings of Hyrule are often described to be kind-hearted, fair rulers that are beloved by the people. It seems that the king’s rule does not imply anything other than controlling the Soldiers and acting as a figurehead. Hyrule yields no traces of a law system, a lack of a constitution, few trading hubs, etc. The standardization of currency is fantastic, as Rupees are widespread and used by all races of Hyrule.

Now of course Nintendo didn’t feel the need to elaborate much on Hyrule’s government, but if one pieces together all the facts that can be insinuated, we are left with an unclear image of Hyrule. In theory it is still an antediluvian, primitive monarchy with a somewhat useless ruler. So what are your thoughts on this editorial? What kind of government do you think Hyrule has? Are there any countries or cities in real life that you would like to compare it to? Feel free to leave a comment using the Disqus system!

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  • MWAHAHAH

    First. I totally agree.

    • crb

      first to down you. and this is a pretty interesting artical

      • The Hylian Monolith

        I rated him up, actually. At least he(she?)said something about the article. I liked the article, it’s always fun to see people piece the puzzle together and see it they come up with a clear shape. I also like the idea discussed. The Bomber’s Notebooks are my favorite articles on ZeldaDungeon, don’t stop now!

      • soulofstorms

        article*

  • Zelda4Life

    I’ve always enjoyed the design of Hyrule. It’s always so unique. Just another reason why the Legend of Zelda is AWESOME!

    • Rob

      Hyrule field is on Epona is amazing in TP!

      • Zelda4Life

        Agreed :)

    • Ninty

      I dunno about always. It’s a little different in each game, but nothing really unique overall in terms of geography and architecture IMO based on the games I’ve played (OoT, ALttP, DS games, SS, TP). Most of the places just seem like formations of real world geography, which they often are (canyons, deserts, forests, lakes, waterfalls, etc.) with real world architecture a lot of the time. The only thing I feel is really unique for the landscape itself is the art style that varies in each game. The dungeons are pretty various in style, too.

  • blueocarina

    Great article!

    Hyrule’s monarchy always confused me since several regions have their own leaders who rule over the area without much intervention from the Hyrulian king. So I guess the kingdom is more of a federation? And where does Ordona from TP fit in all this?

    • soulofstorms

      Ordana is just like any other region, except it’s smaller. A LOT smaller. Of course it’s leaded by mayor bo, who has some sort of connections with kakariko in the Eldin provence. I think Ordana is just a small, simple part of the whole land. And, of course, it provides dairy and fresh produce.

      • http://www.facebook.com/carson.harris.77 Carson Harris

        I agree. I feel like Ordona was like an expanded version of Lon Lon Ranch. It was still under Hyrule government’s jurisdiction, but was separated by a lot of space and had a mayor to run domestic affairs. But the region had close ties with Castle Town and provided produce and such

        • You-Know-Who

          I think Ordona was part of an outside kingdom that was conquered and later taken in by Hyrule. Ordona seems to exist outside Hyrule’s original boundaries: the desert, mountain, river source, lake, and forest were all part of Hyrule’s boundaries in earlier games. Plus you can’t see much of Hyrule from Ordon, if anything you can see mountains and valleys from the outside region instead. If you see most, if not all, the residents in Ordon (excluding Link), no one has pointed ears, meaning that they are not pure Hylians. Link is an obvious exception, probably moved or raised there by his Hylian parents before they “disappeared”. Other non-pointed-eared humans live elsewhere in Hyrule, maybe travelers who settled in.

          • Demise

            Maybe some humans who played TP and got trapped in the game then formed their own village.

          • You-Know-Who

            O.O could it be……?

          • Philip Kunhardt

            Gerudo and Peak Provinces are also “outside” of Hyrule proper, and yet, parts of Ordona are in Faron Woods, parts of Gerudo are in Lanayru Desert, and presumably parts of Snowpeak are in Eldin Volcano, the three provinces of Skyward Sword. The boundaries seem to shift. Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule is contained mostly within Faron and Eldin Provinces, with a bit of Gerudo Province that seems to stick in south of Lanayru Province (if we understand Castle Town to be located in the Sacred Grove in Twilight Princess). The Minish Cap’s Hyrule also seems to have this southeastern Hyrule corner approach.

        • icarus203

          I doubt it’s Lon Lon Ranch. In Japan, Ordon Village is called “Toaru Mura” which is a pun on the words by the same spelling meaning “A certain village,” i.e. implying it’s Kokiri Forest.

      • sm1130

        not leaded, led

    • Blackbaldrik

      The Ordona Province may or may not actually be part of Hyrule.
      It’s never made completely clear, but some of the characters in TP consider Ordona separate from Hyrule.

  • You-Know-Who

    Reminds me of the Persians, who conquered different societies, but let them keep their religion, government, and laws plus provided protection as long as they helped the Persians in any needs. I do hope Nintendo releases a game with a more defined government so we can have a clear idea of what happens behind the scenes.

  • piplink

    I think the Sages have to come into account somewhere here. They seem to hold a higher power than the King of Hyrule or any other leader in Hyrule for that matter. They were the ones responsible for imprisoning Gannondorf into the Twilight realm of TP, which was obviously a form of punishment laid down by the highest power…Then there was also the Goddess Hylia who imprisoned Demise…So maybe its a theocracy? With the king being the head of the stae, the Sages the supreme leaders and the Goddess Hylia/3 golden Goddesses the Ultimate enforcers of power???

    • Blackbaldrik

      The Sages are defenders, they don’t hold any actual leadership in the kingdom. They might be part of the King’s council though.
      It’s also possible that they are the ones charged with carrying out death sentences. (Trapping Ganondorf in the Twilight Realm wasn’t originally part of his punishment.)

      During the time of Hylia the Kingdom of Hyrule didn’t even exist, so whatever she did during her rule doesn’t have anything to do with Hyrule’s current system of government.

      Also, the Goddesses don’t really hold any position, other than being Goddesses. They are only interested in protecting the world from destruction, not the well being of a specific nation. Evident by the fact that they flooded the world in order to save it.

  • http://twitter.com/Driorianos Kirsten

    Ganondorf served as one of the king’s trusted advisers in Ocarina of Time, Wait, what? I never saw ‘trusted adviser’ through that small glimpse we saw through the window. I pretty much always assumed that he was there representing Gerudo, perhaps to address tithe or to gain assistance from Hyrule, while the Gerudo would interact more. That he came as an equal who is not too proud to go to his knees, even if he had a hidden agenda.

    People are not burdened with taxes and make full use of the freedom of enterprise. This is my honest confusion, what makes you think there is no tax, and in which way do you use the word? At first, I assumed you spoke of sales tax, but the use of the word ‘broad’ makes me wonder whether you mean tax on the people. Ignoring the second for a moment, I think we should look at the prices of items throughout the world. In most areas, they are the same, while in others they aren’t – but those are more akin to ‘homebrews’ like the Deku scrubs or (in Majora, I know) the Witches. If it’s that the people don’t get taxed, well, you might’ve noticed my mind immediately jumped to the tithe and Gerudo, which my mind started inputting for the other races before I even played Twilight Princess, where it’s more obvious – the Ordon craft a sword for the Hyrulian Royal Family. So I thought, the Hylian’s have land/trade agreements, definitely. Gorons are known for rocks and their bombs. Zora their fish (again, specifically mentioned in Majora, but parallels). And, in Lon Lon, there’s the milk to the castle.

    most of their actions in office have to do with commanding Soldiers or Guards. Twilight Princess is an anomaly then, a sign of the advancement through the length of time Hyrule has existed in that game? Because I would definitely put Zelda in a position of power, as she is the one who dropped the sword in surrender, which affected all of Hyrule, not just guards and such.

    Overall, I think you have a good break down for the government, but I do think that it’s stronger than you think. While it’s true that there seems to be held loose, I don’t think that’s very indicative of mere figurehead and poor governing. I think that there is a Representative system in place, which probably was typically held by Sages: after all, in the Child Timeline, they were present to banish Ganondorf to the Twili realm. It would actually make a lot of sense for them to be Sages, now that I think about it, because they would be able to bring connection to the people and yadda yadda.

    But there’s evidence against just figurehead, because of just how much things fall apart while Ganondorf is in power. Sure everything is dark, but it doesn’t seem like a bustling economy at all. Some of it is the freedom to act, because Ganondorf no doubt held a tight fist, but it is a good contrast to how it was thriving under laws in place before Ganondorf’s rise to power.

    Anyway, it’s a good idea, but I think that you’re not extrapolating enough, from the limited information, and so you went straight to a negative conclusion. I think the other problem is that you’re trying to pinpoint a typecast that fits every Zelda game. Some of the games have a more advanced civilization, this is true. Perhaps instead, you should try and figure out each game, based on the timeline and how it effects it? What stayed what didn’t, because this is really broad.

    • Demise

      IMO, when Ganondorf is in power, things aren’t as bad as you say. Sure, there are more monster, and the Market Town is deserted, but that is because of Ganondorf’s influence, not his rule. When you clear all the temples, most areas return to normal, however you can’t say that they start to have laws and all. All shops are still there and thrive. As for market town, the reason is obvious – the proximity to Ganondorf’s own castle. And, all the buisness has simpy moved to Kakariko village, and isn’t even affected by monsters.

  • BlackRaven6695

    Where would Hyrule be without their hard working postman? The various societies would have probably devolved to rival tribes and would be fighting for supremacy. Well done, Mr. Postman, you have brought peace to Hyrule.

  • Gaseous Snake

    I don’t think that Nintendo needs to go more in depth on this, but it gives us all a little “ah-ha” moment when we connect these ideas.

  • faror

    i wonder if rupees are like magical or rare jewls that hylians mined from the mountans but can no longer be found. well i guess you can find them if you cut grass.

  • Roderic_the_Breton

    There’s no evidence that the guards in ALttP are controlled by magic. Remember, Link is wanted for “kidnapping” Princess Zelda.

  • Zachary Morris

    I’ve always thought it would be interesting to see a game that goes more in depth with Hyrule’s monarchy.

  • Neutopia

    I never really put too much thought into it at all, but it appears to me that it always worked out great, the people in the game always seems relatively happy, which is all that matters right? :P

  • Kravik

    A true leader leads by example.. Not by dictating it…

    I think you missed this fact, in your article..