Great societies throughout history have told legends and myths about deities and other divine characters almost as long as humanity has existed. Over time these stories evolve into set religious beliefs shared by people who already share a culture. Sometimes these beliefs develop pantheons of gods with multiple tiers and intricate workings. The people of Hyrule are no different, and the release of Skyward Sword gives us just the information we need in order to understand what their pantheon was like.
The first thing we talked about was properties of Greek and Norse mythology, terminology, as well as traditional archetypes. We discussed the Wind Waker as a traditional flood myth, as well as the Hyrulian creation myth and origin of death myth. We talked about Nayru as the archetypal Sky God and Farore as the archetypal Earth Mother.
We have talked about how Hyrulians think about their world and its physical layout. Their world runs sideways rather than up and down, and only a few of its levels move up or down physically. We determined that their world looks like this:
We then went on to talk about the major gods of the Hyrulian Pantheon, or should I say major goddesses. We talked about Din, the goddess of Power, Fire, and Government. Nayru, we established as the sky goddess of Wisdom, Water, and Law. Lastly, we established Farore as the earth goddess of Courage, Nature, and Fertility (life).
The minor gods of the Hyrulian Pantheon were a little more difficult to place. We discussed Fierce Deity, God of the Moon and Battle, as well as the hero-god of Hyrulian mythology. Majora was the goddess of the Sun and the trickster figure of Hyrulian mythology. We also discussed Majora’s Mask as a traditional hidden sun myth explaining the celestial phenomena of solar eclipses. Other deities we discussed include the goddess of sand, the goddess of time, and the goddess of spirits, the goddess of fortune, the goddess of wind, and the mountain god.
Under Demi-Gods we had the Great Fairy Queen, the Wind Fish/SunFish/Levias, Cyclos and Zephos, Golden Chief Cylos, and the Spirits of Good from Spirit Tracks.
Then came the area where the Hyrulian Pantheon really shines: guardians. We talked about the Deku Tree and his many forms, Jabu Jabu/Jabun, Kaepora Gaebora, and Valoo. We talked about the four light spirits, Ordona, Eldin, Faron, and Lanaryu, as well as the three dragons by the same name. Of course we couldn’t leave out Termina’s Four Giants and Giant Turtle, nor the Sheikah and the nameless guardians of the Silent Realm. The Lokomo and the Great Faries also were discussed here.
The lowest tier of the Hyrulian Pantheon is the simple spirits of the land. We talked about the Kokiri and their various forms, normal fairies and red fairies, as well as a few specific fairies. The three fairy spirits, Celia, Leaf, and Neri from Phantom Hourglass were discussed as well as the four season spirits from Oracle of Seasons. We then talked about Skull Kids, Stalfos and Stalchildren, as well as Poes.
After going through the five tiers of Hyrulian Mythology, we looked at the evil gods and where they would fit in those tiers. Ganondorf, also called Ganon, we placed as a Minor God and the God of Greed. Malladus we placed as a Demi-God, and Bellum as the Demi-God of Gluttony, Destruction, and Strife. We then touched on some semi-canonical Gods. These were Baron, the God of War, from Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosey Rupeeland and The Baga Tree from the Ocarina of Time mangas.
The discussion on Demise at the end of that chapter was very revealing. We discovered that he is a major god, but less powerful than the golden goddesses. He is the God of Hate, and the source of all evil in Hyrule. We talked about his motivation, and his end goals, then tackled his role in starting the Cycle.
The last goddess we discussed was Hylia herself, and we tackled the inconsistencies that the myths about her present. We discussed the creation of the master sword, whether or not the Triforce was a purposeful creation or an accident, Hylia’s divinity and relationship to the three goddess, as well as her powers. She is a major goddess, above Demise but below the three goddesses. We determined that she is the real Goddess of Time and her actions partly caused the Cycle.
Throughout this series we have referred to the Cycle but have not directly discussed what it is. To close, I want to present the last important myth of Hyrulian Mythology: the Cycle of the Hero, the Goddess, and the Demon King.
In all cultural mythologies there are those characters who are of the human race, purely human, but seem to be superhuman. The Norse had Beowulf, the man who went up against the monster Grendle only to discover that Grendle was the child of a much greater evil.
The Greeks had Achilles of The Iliad and Odysseus, the commander during the Iliad who thought up the Trojan Horse and then was lost at sea on his way home, a story told in The Odyssey. Their stories are intricate and great, and if you have any interest in classical mythological heroes I would suggest reading theirs.
All of these heroes had divine help and favor, but at the end of the day they were human, like everyone else. These were the champions the people cheered at the end of the day. These were the stories they told around campfires, and the examples they wanted their children to follow. Hyrulians also have a great myth full of divinely favored characters. They call it the Legend of Zelda, and Skyward Sword revealed to us the basic shape of this legend.
At the beginning of time there was hate which manifested itself in the form of Demise. Demise the Demon King and God of Hate ravaged the land in search of the Triforce, the holy relic left by the golden goddesses when they left the world. In order to protect the world and the Triforce, the goddess Hylia crafted the Goddess Sword for her chosen hero and gave up her divine form, manifesting herself in the body of a mortal girl named Zelda. The chosen hero, a normal Hylian boy named Link, goes through many trials to temper himself and his sword to be worthy enough to obtain the Triforce, defeat Demise, and rescue Zelda.
Link does exactly this, but in the process Demise casts a curse: an incarnation of his hate will always follow those who share the blood of the goddess and the spirit of the hero. In this way the Cycle began, and every story is about the eternal struggle of the woman with the blood of the goddess, which is passed down through the Hyrulian royal family, and the spirit of the hero, who is always a common man like everyone else, of no important bloodline or stature. The goddess and the hero are always fighting against some incarnation of Demise’s hate, and, with the help of the three golden goddesses’ favor, they always win.
A legend like this in Hyrule would be very useful. For one, it gives the royal family divine right. Everyone who rules can claim that they have the blood of the goddess, and therefore are fit to rule the country. As time goes on and the bloodline gets spread out and diluted, others who claim to be connected to the royal bloodline through their uncle’s second-cousin’s mother can ascend to the throne and keep the line fresh, as long as the blood of the goddess is present within them.
Such antics were commonplace in medieval European nations, where rulers claimed to be appointed to their throne by divine right, claiming that God made them king. There were many, many disputes over bloodline over the years as everyone tried to claim that they were next in line for the throne through bloodlines. Look at the arguments that put Queen Elizabeth I on the throne, and what she had to do to keep that throne.
The figure of the hero is a perfect everyman hero. Parents can tell their children and grandchildren stories of the hero to teach them courage and duty, and to show them that no matter their station or circumstances, they can do great things. Cultural heroes like this are some of the greatest figures in literature.
Lastly, the figures of Demise and his many various incarnations are a perfect way of teaching kids what behaviors are not valued in their culture. Hyrulians do not value greed and self-advancement to the detriment of others. The Greeks kind of did. Hyrulians do not believe that power is the key to life, whereas the Norse kind of did. What the Cycle teaches Hyrulians to value are courage, wisdom, and balance. To believe that the goddesses are watching over them and have a plan for the world, but that they can forge their own destiny through their choices.
This lesson is good for everyone to hear. It reminds us to stay in school and become wise, to never give up or get discouraged as we chase our destiny and face trials, and to always care for others more than ourselves. We may not believe in the goddesses, or in any of this theoretical stuff, but at least we can believe in the message of the Legend of Zelda as we look forward to more stories about Link, Zelda, Demise, and the cycle that binds them together.