he following article is a Bombers guest article, written by James Hurvid. Please remember that this article reflects the personal opinions and beliefs of the author, which are not necessarily representative of ZeldaInformer as a whole. With that said, enjoy the read.

As a fantasy series, The Legend of Zelda is quick to borrow the

conventions of myths and legends to build its universe. But a lot of

players can’t distinguish the mythology from the real world, and so

they discuss a lot of ideas that really don’t apply to the Zelda universe, such as genetics and tectonic plates. What separates mythology from science is symbolism, a concept the Zelda universe is grounded upon.

Elemental Sanctuary The Minish CapFirst

of all, there must be an explanation what symbolism is. Symbolism is

the process of explaining the world through meaning and purpose, as

opposed to physical causality. For example, water has always been

recognized for its apparent purpose to nourish life, but not the actual

process of nourishment. This is because we can only symbolize what we

can physically and emotionally sense. The feeling of thirst, and the

emotional satisfaction of drinking water when thirsty, defines the

symbolism of water having purpose for nourishment. But we cannot see or

feel the intake of water into the cells of our body; that is something

we know exists only through scientific analysis, and so that aspect of

nourishment holds no symbolic meaning to us. The Zelda universe

functions on this basis, with the creation of the elements of earth,

air, fire and water, and the Triforce possessing the human traits of

power, wisdom and courage. Genetics and tectonic plates do not exist in

a symbolic universe.

One argument to support the application of modern science into the Zelda

mythology is that the authors are contemporary, and thus contemporary

scientific knowledge is expected to be carried across in their writing.

However, contemporary writers are aware that symbolism is more

emotionally powerful to audiences than science is, and symbolism is

actually responsible for why we enjoy these stories so much. The

writers for Disney’s The Lion King make that case in the

commentaries, establishing the film’s success as an emotional response

to the symbolism present in the story. In particular, the scene in

which Simba discovered the spiritual connection with his father was

cited as the most emotional part of the film. And so if symbolism is

important to the audience, then it is not surprising that the Zelda

series has built such an emotional reaction from the general public.

It’s not a large step to take from “natural king of the Pridelands” to

“natural hero of Hyrule”, after all. It would be truer to the writers

if we start looking at the symbolism inherent in the Zelda mythology, as opposed to discussing the inclusion of scientific facts.


with the example of water, look at the symbols present within the

elements of nature. Like water, the elements of earth, fire and wind

are all connected to the preservation of life. Earth makes the plants

grow (and thus, plants are symbolically related to the earth element),

fire provides warmth, and wind allows seeds to scatter and birds to

fly. And with the understanding that all the elements work for the

common cause of life preservation, we have an explanation for why we

never see signs of conflict between the elements (as depicted by the

elemental deities). All the elemental deities are generally benevolent

because of their symbolic purpose to preserve life, which puts them at

odds with the forces of Darkness who want to destroy life.


and Darkness are connected through different symbolism to the elements

of nature because the two forces are in direct conflict with each

other; existing as exact opposites. Light is the representation of

benevolence, likely due to the symbolic relationship between light and

existence; the ability to see something is the most immediate sense to

tell us that it exists. This leads to a symbolic relationship between

the sky and heaven; if heaven is up above, then the sun shines from a

benevolent source. Darkness is the representation of evil, likely due

to the symbolic relationship between darkness and oblivion. If the

destruction of all things leads to oblivion, then the reasons for

destruction are observed as “dark” and thus evil.

Ocarina of Time StalchidIn Twilight Princess,

Princess Zelda referred to Light and Darkness as in a state of balance,

but funnily enough, a fan translation revealed that to be an invention

by the Nintendo of America translators. It suggests that Darkness has a

divine purpose alongside Light, and is a necessity to maintaining order

in the world. But while we have seen evidence of Light coming from a

divine source (the Light Spirits and the Master Sword being the

strongest examples), Darkness has always set itself against the divine,

just as Ganondorf did in The Wind Waker. Apart from coinciding

with the idea that evil is a product of free will (in the Zelda

mythology, human greed), this causes doubt about whether the forces of

Light and Darkness really are equal in the Zelda universe. It would

certainly explain why Hyrule spends most of its time at peace if Light

was the dominant force in Hyrule, with the skeletons sometimes emerging

at night in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.

Another piece of symbolism that would be worth looking at is the manipulation of magic. The Zelda

mythology conforms perfectly to the symbolism of magic in general

mythology; namely control over the things which are outside our control

in real-life. The wind cannot be controlled in real-life, so

controlling the wind thus becomes an act of magic. When the King of Red

Lions gave Link the Wind Waker, he said that Link could “borrow the power of the gods”.

This language relates to the symbolic perception that the elements are

powers that only the gods (and the divine deities) are allowed to

control, and the Wind Waker is an item that the goddesses blessed with

their power to allow humans this ability as well. According to

Christianity, it is believed that the manipulation of nature is sacred

to God alone, and thus its movement by humans is perceived to be black

magic or witchcraft. But in other mythologies, if communication with

the gods (or deities who are designed to wield the elements) can be

established by a human (like a priest or witch doctor), then that

person could be allowed that sacred power to wield. Sometimes the

elements themselves are suggested to be alive and obey the sorcerer, as

if the magic creates a pact between them. Anyway, the Wind Waker was

said to be possessed by the King of Hyrule, so it perhaps signifies

that the king had some form of magical communication with the gods (as

the leader of the Hylians, the chosen people of the gods).


we come to the nature of the goddesses; Din, Nayru and Farore. Given

that they are responsible for a peaceful state of order for the world,

as well as consistently associated with the power of Light throughout

the series, it’s quite clear that they are benevolent deities. Even

when the goddesses were presumed to have given Ganondorf the power to

conquer Hyrule, Zelda believed that some good had come from the

following events. We just have to accept that, for the purposes of the

story, the goddesses allow suffering to send a moral message.


the Triforce is made from the essences of the three goddesses, the

Triforce is a symbolic reflection of the goddesses. Each of the three

Triforce pieces represents a goddess, and they work in unison to

maintain the natural state of order in Hyrule, just as the three

goddesses are also unified in their endeavors. Just as the power of the

gods created the world, that same power maintains the world. The

Triforce also symbolizes government. A Link to the Past’s

original manual established that the Triforce governs the world from

the Sacred Realm, and whoever possesses it shall themselves govern the

world according to their own desires. For the wielder, this has been

phrased as both the granting of a wish and a reflection of the heart.

The Sacred Realm is a visual reflection of the Triforce’s power and

thus it transformed into the Dark World in accordance with Ganondorf’s

evil heart. The Triforce also represents Order, in that it keeps the

nature of the world constant. It is up to people to create a new state

of Order, and the Triforce is said to hold a particular character type

as “worthy” of governing with its power. This character must have a

heart free of evil, a resolute character and a mastery of the three

virtues of Power, Wisdom and Courage. Essentially, it must represent

the hearts of the people and keep them in peace.

Golden Goddesses Statue Twilight PrincessOcarina of Time

introduced a new mechanic; the Triforce would split at the touch of a

heart that does not balance the virtues of Power, Wisdom and Courage.

This has raised questions about the nature of a balanced heart, and in

order to understand it, we need to understand why people believe that

power, wisdom and courage are important in life.

Looking at

Power we see that a powerful character commands both fear and respect

from weaker characters, and can protect the weak. So a character can

believe in power to be used for benevolent purposes. However, power is

said to be a corruptive force in the Zelda series. With power

comes the ability to force others against their will, and thus the

tendency to do evil outweighs the tendency to do good. A man corrupted,

like Ganondorf, would believe in power solely to have his own selfish

desires made real.

Examining Wisdom shows us that understanding

how the world works gives a character the ability to solve the problems

that they encounter and improve upon existing magic and technology.

Understanding how people work can allow a character to bring people

together and end feuds. So the belief in wisdom is essentially about

bettering one’s position in the world and, as an extension of that, the

positions of those around them. However, since wisdom is a means to

attain power, wise men can also be corrupted, thus using their

knowledge to better their own positions at the expense of others.


the belief in Courage means it is important to fight for one’s ideals.

In Eastern philosophy, courage is defined by one character recognizing

the authority of the wider world and contesting it. In Western

philosophy, courage is more simply defined as facing one’s fears.

Ganondorf was not a courageous character because he did not recognize

and fear the authority of others as a counter to his own ideals for

world domination. Heroism, on the other hand, derives from Courage

because a character must be able to recognize threats from the wider

world in order to protect others.

In light of all

this, it is clear that the Zelda universe relies heavily on the concept

of symbolism. While the land of Hyrule has characteristics similar to

the events of our world, the symbolic will always trump the scientific

and the physical. The nature of the elements, the clash between light

and dark, or existence and oblivion, the manipulation of magic as “the

power of the gods”, and even the balance of the characteristics of the

Triforce are all prime examples of symbolism in the Zelda universe.1


1- This concluding paragraph was edited into the article by the Bombers and was not part of the original article.

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