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!