Flute Boy’s Meadow – Zelda’s Lullaby and Ballad of the Goddess

JordanNovember 19th, 2012 by Jordan

Good afternoon my Zelda friends, and welcome to another Flute Boy’s Meadow!

As I said last week, from now on this music feature is going to be looking at original compositions from Zelda games, breaking them down a bit and basically just looking at them in a way that we usually don’t bother to. Last week I went old-school with the classic Dark World theme from A Link to the Past, so for this week’s feature I thought I’d move forward a bit. I have decided to look at a song that has seen appearances in most Zelda games over the years: Zelda’s Lullaby. This song has had so many renditions in the past, it is staggering and this feature is much longer than usual as a result. If you have the time, jump in to see!

Now, doubtlessly the most famous and well-known rendition of Zelda’s Lullaby is its Ocarina of Time version, but that was not the first appearance of the song. The memorably soft tune first made its debut in A Link to the Past as the theme music for Zelda and the other maidens.

This version begins with a rousing introduction not seen in most of its later editions. This is mostly because the tune was played following Link’s battles with each of Ganon’s most powerful minions; as he retrieves the crystal in which each maiden is sealed, it raises over his head and the first notes of the song are played. It is a few seconds of triumph to applaud your victory, followed by a peaceful tune to assure you that the battle is over for now and another maiden is safe. As you speak with the maidens, you are serenaded by soft string and wind instruments, rising and falling slowly in a soft tune of peace. At this time, the song had not yet been named as a lullaby; it was actually titled “Princess Zelda’s Rescue”. The name “Zelda’s Lullaby” did not become canon or even thought of until Ocarina of Time.

Along with being one of your first Ocarina songs to learn (in fact, for most it is the first), Zelda’s Lullaby also forms the background music for the courtyard scene where you first meet Zelda. Throughout the scene you learn of many things, from Zelda’s fear of Ganondorf’s plans to Link’s mission from then on. Except for a brief cut, most of this scene takes place to the sweet tune of the lullaby. The song is almost identical to its previous incarnation, however the rising intro has been removed and the tune instead begins with nothing but the soft notes of an ocarina and harp together. Another notable difference is that the song is softer now; only one instrument carries the melody now, while the others simply back it up.

With the Nintendo 64’s improved sound capabilities, it becomes much easier to distinguish which instruments are playing. The melody is left solely to the soft notes of a lone flute, likely an Ocarina, while in the background a harp plays a steady tempo. While other instruments join in, most of the song is carried by those two instruments… and man are they nice. The result is a soft and relaxing tune that makes the listener at peace; just what a lullaby should be. It makes it rather difficult to really worry about what is to come; speaking with Zelda about the world’s dire future, you cannot help but feel at peace and trust her in this mission. Her lullaby has that effect.

The song makes an identical appearance in Majora’s Mask, and can also be found in The Wind Waker under the title “Princess Zelda’s Theme.” The former of these is the same song from Ocarina of Time, and the latter still does very little differently from that incarnation of the lullaby. This time, the harp takes the stage before anything else as those few plucks of the strings are all you hear for a moment. Otherwise, it is practically the same as before. The most important note here is how the song actually relies on its past; you are almost expected to know Zelda’s Lullaby when you come in to the scene where this is played.

That scene is, of course, the big reveal when Zelda first makes her true appearance in the game. The song is just as much a part of Zelda now as her looks, so its purpose is pretty much to say “hey, this is Zelda!” Now, there is nothing wrong with that. The Zelda series actually loves using familiar music to enhance scenes; I remember cheering out loud when I first watched Wind Waker‘s opening scene and the main theme began alongside Link’s appearance in the legend. So one could easily say that The Wind Waker sort of solidified the song’s status as being a part of Zelda’s persona, just as the rousing Main Theme is part of the series’ persona.

Now, the next game’s use of Zelda’s Lullaby is easily one of my favorites. In Twilight Princess, the song is not an introductory tune for Zelda. Instead, it is played when Zelda makes a very important and powerful decision. Because of how powerful this scene’s context is in relation to the song, I have posted that scene below. Be warned: there are spoilers in the video and the paragraph following it, so skip them if you have not played Twilight Princess beyond the Lakebed Temple.

Here we see a new purpose for the Lullaby: as a mournful and gorgeous theme for a princess’s decision, and a short but powerful goodbye to her afterward. This is shown in the two variations of the song played here. The first is close to the usual, except the melody is now played on a piano with the harp in its usual position. With the rain in the background, this offers a sad goodbye to Midna in what is thought to be her final moments. Finally, Zelda realizes how Link has changed Midna and she makes an important decision. After a buildup, one last repetition of the Lullaby’s refrain is played as Zelda fades away, this time with a piece of Midna’s Theme added in for a moment. This second piece is very short, but that does not change how emotionally powerful it is.

Now, I would love to continue detailing every game’s version of Zelda’s Lullaby, but that would keep us all day and I would not want to waste anyone’s time too much longer. There is one more game I will get to, but first I want to summarize everything in between:
Four Swords Adventures features what is basically a note-for-note updated version of the song from A Link to the Past. If you liked the way it sounded in 16-bit, you should hear this.
Phantom Hourglass offers… the Ocarina of Time version with Nintendo DS sound quality. Eh.
Spirit Tracks brings something a little different to the table, dropping the key partway through to make the song a bit more mellow. For the most part, a brighter flute makes it one of my favorite versions of the song. Unfortunately, I have yet to play Spirit Tracks myself so I cannot comment on the song’s context in this game.

Here’s the home stretch, guys: finally, the most recent game in the Zelda series, Skyward Sword. The first Zelda game to have just about every single track fully orchestrated.

I… just… Wow. What can I really say here? The most beautiful tune in the Zelda series has been perfected. I do not really think I need to bring in the context of the song in this game; it is just plain gorgeous on its own. Just sit down and let it seep into you a bit.

Right, now that I’m done gushing, I thought I would finish with the “alternate” version of Zelda’s Lullaby from Skyward Sword: Ballad of the Goddess. “Wait, but Jordan, that’s not Zelda’s Lullaby! That’s a louder, rousing theme!” Well, I know there are plenty of you who know this, but for those who don’t: think again. Do you hear it? That’s right; the Ballad of the Goddess is Zelda’s Lullaby backwards… and more or less souped up on coffee.

In a pretty clever move, the newer guys on the Zelda team decided to make the theme song for the Goddess Hylia (who is also SPOILER ALERT the first Zelda) be the reverse of Zelda’s Lullaby. So every Princess Zelda who fell asleep to those notes was hearing a tune that also sings of the Goddess herself. Nifty, huh?

And with that, all the games should be covered. Zelda’s Lullaby has one heck of a legacy, and I have loved every second of it. Easily one of my favorite recurring songs from the series, the lullaby is simply gorgeous and has set the stage for some of the greatest moments in Zelda history.

How about you guys? Do you like Zelda’s Lullaby? Which version is your favorite? Was your mind blown when you realized its connections to the Ballad of the Goddess? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to tell me some other songs from the series you would like to see me pick apart and explore. In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this music feature and I will be looking forward to bringing you another one next week. See you then!

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  • faror

    once again there goes me pressing play on every video at the same time… there is the calming zeldas lullaby the sound of rain and midna then the up beat adventure sound from SS. i like it!

    • Midnafan

      all of those at the same time?! Nice! :P

    • Midnafan

      You know listening to them like that, the most prevalent are ALttP and OoT. Interesting! :P

      • Midnafan

        man, i really wanna replay TP now… :D

  • Super Smash Sis

    I find Spirit Tracks’s version to be the most relaxing. How could you not have played it? (and you missed several in-game variations.)

    • Midnafan

      They also said it would take extremely long to cover them all. They’re also essentially the same from version to version, they just covered the ones with changes that showed progress in the development of the song. :)

      • Super Smash Sis

        Well I’m sorry then.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.dipalma Jordan DiPalma

      I’m making my way there. Recently I’ve been playing every Zelda game, and I’m about halfway through the portables. I’m looking forward to Spirit Tracks and Oracle of Ages since I have yet to play either.
      Also, as Midnafan stated, this post wound up being much longer than I intended and I didn’t want to make it worse by nitpicking over every little version of Zelda’s Lullaby that’s ever appeared. So, I tried my best to cover the ones that were the most significant and the ones that showed greater changes in the song’s purpose and use.

      • Super Smash Sis

        I apologize for pointing it out then.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.dipalma Jordan DiPalma

          No need to apologize, I always welcome comments from readers.

  • Midnafan

    I’ll say you’ve covered this song excellently. :D I love Zelda’s Lullaby. SS probably has to be my favorite, it’s so beautiful, but ALttP impresses me how good it was even in its early stages. I already knew about the Ballad of the Goddess thing, but it did blow my mind when I first found out; a friend of mine was particularly amazed that they did it with a full orchestra, not just computers. :) I think you should take a look at companions’ themes next time and how each theme is connected to the character’s personality and development. :)

    • The Hylian Monolith

      My thoughts as I read your comment: Hm…yes…Oh, I agree! Yeah, that’s insane, isn’t it? No more MiDI!…What the-I-How did you read my mind through a computer?!? Yes, Jordan, please do the companion songs!

  • Divine Demon Ratatosk

    I personally think that the Ballad of the Goddess, while indeed Zelda’s lullaby backward and hyped on caffeine, is at the same time a Zelda song all its own. This is because Zelda’s lullaby is a bit slower and what its name states it is, a lullaby. the Ballad of the Goddess is not only faster and the backwards version of Zelda’s lullaby, has more of a Calming effect that suits my sister.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.dipalma Jordan DiPalma

      The Ballad of the Goddess is certainly its own song; it definitely sets itself apart from Zelda’s Lullaby. I initially intended to write this feature on the Ballad alone but then I felt it wouldn’t be right to leave out Zelda’s Lullaby… and eventually it took center stage.

      • Divine Demon Ratatosk

        My sister, Hylia, would be very happy to hear that, Jordan. She is trying to look over my shoulder right now.

  • The Hylian Monolith

    Funny. As I read teh slightly majestic ending to this post I was listening to the “Ballad of the Goddess”. I must say, there’s no cure to the sleepiness and nostalgia that the SS “Zelda’s Lullaby” brings than that rousing Ballad… :D On another note, I feel that “Princess Zelda’s Rescue” is a bit powerful for such a calm melody, but it was still a work-in-progress by then. Its context in TP almost made me cry when I played it, not to mention OH MY GODDESS Skyward Sword! Between the amazing melody and what was actually happening…but no spoilers.

    Random final comment. To Jordan: GO PLAY ST! I’ll wait here.And(I lied) another: In a game I intend to make, Shadow Plague, it’s also used in distressful moments, namely, when the fake Zelda dies and mixed with Niri’s Regrets(your fairy’s theme) when she’s fighting the Plague after you die and Zelda’s trying to ressurect you. Really, she’s trying to reform your physical self and use the Triforce of Courage that Niri now holds to revitalize your spirit…but in ST, Zelda’s not dead, her spirit’s been separated from her body! Yeah…

    ( http://www.zeldadungeon.net/2012/10/rationalizing-zelda-bosses/#disqus_thread for my huge conversation with Roth about SP, and his games Dark Dimensions and a space thing…)

  • Princess Zelda

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

    • L Lawliet

      Hurry, Link! Grab that “No. 3 Triforce” and wake the broad!

  • baileygirl99

    This lullaby is the most beautiful song I have heard. It’s absoultley…..beaut..iful…zzzzzz

  • Ryan

    OMG!!!! I had no idea Ballad of the Goddess was Zelda’s lullaby in reverse. I tried it out on audacity with the snes track and it played Ballad of the Goddess. Mind Blown

  • ShaynaInu

    Skyward Sword’s Zelda’s Lullaby is my favorite, but Ballad of the Goddess is by far my favorite in the entire series. Everything about the song (tune?) is simply amazing.

    When I first found out Ballad of the Goddess was Zelda’s Lullaby, my eyes got huge and I couldn’t stop comparing it. Seriously, that was genius and I’d LOVE to see more.

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