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Overview

The Legend of Zelda and Theology

Who remembers The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy, a book that was released back in 2008? It was a compilation of essays by different authors who examined philosophy and the way that it related to the Legend of Zelda series. Another book has recently come along in a similar vein. Unrelated to the philosophy book, The Legend of Zelda and Theology examines the connections between Zelda and Christian theology. Similarly to The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy, this book also contains a series of papers by various theologians and scholars which look at these different connections.

Editor Jonny Walls discovered Zelda in 1998 after playing Ocarina of Time. Like many fans, he was quickly captivated by the world of Hyrule. “I wasn’t just playing a game – I was living out an ancient mythology … discovering lost lands, solving riddles, avoiding traps and wiping out evil. I had no idea a game was capable of such potency,” he said. “I want to dispel misconceptions about Christianity. The idea is about coming about something like Zelda, which is very popular, and having it lead into Christianity. Those who don’t know can get a genuine, unskewed, accurate representation of the faith in open dialogue. Everything isn’t as scary or oppressive as it sometimes seems. I hope that some people read this and become interested in playing Zelda.”

Many Zelda fans enjoy theorizing about various aspects of the series, with plenty appointing themselves as Zelda theorists. Here at Zelda Universe we even have an entire discussion board devoted to theorizing because that’s how popular it is. If you’re interested in theology, the Zelda mythos or in-depth Zelda theorizing, then this book might be a very interesting read for you. Walls says that his book is aimed at people who are “into video games, good storytelling or Zelda in general, and interested or curious about theology.”

Read on for a preview of one of the chapters from the book.

One chapter of the book is titled, “Portals, Prophecy and Cuccos: Considerations of Power in ‘A Link to the Past’”. Author Rev. Jeremy Smith talks about the lessons he learned after bothering cuccos one-too-many times.

As a child, one of my first lessons in ethics came from a chicken in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In the game, there are chickens called cuccos running around and I would laugh at their cries of fear while swatting them with my sword. One day I was showing my brother this hilarity when, unexpectedly, a hundred cuccos stormed on screen pecking mercilessly at me as they flew by. In an unfortunate coincidence, I was down to one or two hearts of life energy at the time and, to my childhood horror, actually died as a result of my cucco torment. It was a harsh lesson: don’t mess with the cucco…or at least don’t mess with them too much.

It’s also a lesson on ethics because the scenario with the cucco is a question of how to use one’s power. The Zelda universe is primarily a story about good v. evil, of course; but more specifically, it is a story about the use of power. One of the iconic artifacts in the Zelda universe is the Triforce: three interlocked triangles who grant the bearer significant power. The protagonist Link thus embarks on the hero’s journey from powerless to merely underpowered compared to the antagonist Ganon.

The ethical considerations of the use of power are a persistent theme in the Zelda series, in general, and Link to the Past, in particular. In engaging this topic, LttP contains numerous references to the Christian journey and the role of power in our everyday lives. Much of Christian theology is about good and evil, certainly, but also the use of power: the power of Christ to break the chains of sin, the power of Christians to overcome injustice and oppression, the restrictions placed on Christians in authority, etc.

Through examining the hero’s journey in this story, the role of power comes to the forefront: what does power do to corrupt or purify one’s desires? We will outline three problems of this particular world that serve as lenses to our own ethical behavior in the analog world.

The Legend of Zelda and Theology is available through Amazon.

When I first saw the title of this book, I actually wondered if it would be an examination of the various belief systems found in the Zelda series, such as the three goddesses Din, Nayru and Farore. That said, I’m not surprised to see that someone has found enough material in the Zelda games relating to Christianity to write an entire book on it. It’s no secret that Christianity has influenced the Zelda series and plenty of fans have drawn their own religious parallels over the years.

The early games in particular had a number of Christian references. The Link in The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link carried a shield with a cross on it. There’s even a cross that is an item Link uses in The Adventure of Link which allows him to see invisible enemies. The magic book, an item in The Legend of Zelda, also has a cross on the cover and was actually called the Bible in the Japanese release of the game. (It was changed to magic book for the English-language releases due to Nintendo of America’s policy at the time about religious content in games.) There’s also a two-part Japanese guidebook for A Link to the Past © Shogakukan which depicts Link praying before a crucifix in part two, as seen below:

Link Praying

Fan-drawn references to Christianity include things such as the Triforce representing the Trinity, the flooding of Hyrule which occurred before The Wind Waker being similar to the flooding of the world found in the Old Testament story of Noah’s Ark, and Link being swallowed by Jabu-Jabu in Ocarina of Time is like Jonah being swallowed by the whale, a story also found in the Old Testament.

Then again, I’ve noticed influences from other religions and gods in the Zelda games too. Link’s trusty horse, Epona, shares her name with the Celtic goddess of horses and fertility. Ocarina of Time caused controversy in Islamic communities due to the background chanting in the Fire Temple, which sounded very similar to Islamic chanting. This was removed from later versions of the game.

Do you think that The Legend of Zelda and Theology sounds like an interesting read? Have you ever drawn any parallels with Christianity, or any other religion, from things you’ve seen in Zelda games? Discuss them in the comments below.

Source: Christian Post and Acton Institute Powerblog via Destructoid
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  • joshthelegodude

    This is amazing. I think I want that book

  • Simmy

    *facepalm*

  • http://www.youtube.com/thenintendofool BigKeyChest

    …..Why?
    this is just…. dumb

  • Artey

    Interesting read? Well maybe to laugh at…

    • GuildedBlood

      Some of the best books in history were initially laughed at our scoffed by society, however, they turned out to be great books. I'm not saying this guy this the next Plato, or Shakespeare, but you should give this guy a chance. I don't normally read video game related literature, but I would definitely give this book a chance.

      I hate to sound cliche, but don't judge a book by its cover. (Which is actually pretty cool)

      • http://www.youtube.com/thenintendofool BigKeyChest

        My issue with this is that people try to link (no pun intended) things that don't need to be to Christianity. I mean really Narnia? How is that at all christian. JK.
        but seriously. I am a christian and I think that people should not believe that everything is based on christianity

      • Darkstar

        I am too but It's hard to miss some of the Christain undertones throughout the series. In SS, Link himself is represented (in a way) as St. Michael the Ark Angel Chosen by God (Godess in the game) To defeat Satan (Demise). there are many other subtle and somewhat blatant signs and symbolism throughout the games. It's really quite interesting how they use this and some other religions as metaphors.

      • aeolus

        There are thousands of stories from around the world about heros chosen by gods to defeat evil, it isn't specific to Christianity at all. In fact, ALL of these "parallels" can be found in older myths/religions that predate Christianity by hundreds to thousands of years. Its cool that people can relate stories to their own faith, I did it when I was Christian, but to say it is BASED on it is a little ridiculous.

        This reminds me of all the people saying Lord of the Rings is a Christian allegory when Tolkien (the author) specifically said it is not.

      • Hero of Light

        C.S. Lewis said that Narnia was Christian Allegory.

      • Debora

        Yay, it's nice Lewis said that himself.
        I'm curious what Miyamoto has to say about this…

      • GuildedBlood

        You are right, people shouldn't look to christianity to compare everything in the world to it. However, when a video game is loosely based off of it then its okay to compare in my opinion. Actually, you can compare everything to the Bible as it was the "original story".

        But, you don't have to all the time, which is fine.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Thareous Thareous

    I have found the comparison between the Triforce and Trinity before, but anyone familiar with the backstory to the Triforce's history in real life knows that the two don't bear the same meaning. I still like seeing so many inferences of cultures and even religions being brought into the series, namely Christian ones early on.

    • http://artist-critique.blogspot.com Sam

      I never saw a strong relation between the Triforce and Trinity myself. The Trinity, I think, matches much better with the Goddesses themselves (probably should note that I believe the Trinity to be completely separate beings with a single purpose, like the Goddesses).
      The only history with the Triforce I know is that it's an old family symbol. I figured, being a popular image in Japan, Big N took it, and build up a mystical behind it. What more can you tell me 'bout the Triforce symbol?

  • Eximius

    Remember what I said on a previous post!! This can prove the Christ time line. The third one when link dies.

    • cloverplayer

      ?

    • http://artist-critique.blogspot.com Sam

      One should not write, when One is tired.

    • Noob

      Christ timeline? What?

  • Jen

    Without ever knowing such a book existed, or even some of the things you mentioned above, I had also thought that there were some references to Christianity, maybe not too overt. As pointed out, though, there are references to other religions as well, and it doesn't surprise me. Often artists (and by using that term, I'm referring to anyone that creates things, whether they write, create music, paint, or make video games) draw from outside influences to create their work. It could be an interesting read, though, to see what parallels someone else drew. I had never seen that picture from the Japanese guidebook for A Link To The Past. It doesn't get more obvious than that.

  • EmperorDM

    This is great! :D

  • Vio

    Cool. :P

  • http://everythingzelda.wordpress.com sikora360

    [QUOTE]Who remembers The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy, a book that was released back in 2008?[QUOTE/]

    I remember!

  • Ashmic

    no offense
    "The idea is about coming about something like Zelda, which is very popular, and having it lead into Christianity."

    is the guy high?

  • TwiliKitty

    I've often hoped that a book like this would come along! I've often thought of the parallels between Zelda and Christianity, and can't wait to get my hands on this book! :D

  • LivinTheHylife

    I was just thinking about the Christian overtones in Skyward Sword. I mean, a goddess who is incarnated as a human to save the entire human race from an evil "demise?" An evil being who hates the gods and wishes to destroy humanity out of spite? It's dripping with similarity, not to mention the Triforce and other images harkened by others. I just hope the book wasn't finished too soon to incorporate elements from Skyward Sword in it.

  • Banooru

    Most of you guys have probably already read this, but here is an article by Hylian Dan that includes some discussion of religious elements in MM.
    http://www.zeldauniverse.net/articles/the-message

  • http://artist-critique.blogspot.com Sam

    I found the LoZ series to be pro-religion , so a book in this subject doesn't entirely surprise me.
    Actually one time my grade for a theology class was runnin' short, and had to write a essay to bring it up. For a while I had this cheeky idea of writing how Link comes off as an Messianic-type character.

  • Gerudude

    …useless…

  • Raxaex

    oooo seriously i knew something i did know that zelda's gods were similar to God Jesus and The Holy Spirit and i made a theory that the three gods formed in one god like a Jesus and the others to become just one please if i made a mistake post a comment ZELDA RULES!!!!

  • Awakening

    This author does realize how non-christian japan is right?

    As in, Miyamoto probably thought christianity was a funny little myth he could put in the game to riff on all of the mediavel crusades type stuff. At least, thats the sense I got from the early cross references. It's just inspiration, not christian propoganda.

    In no way is Zelda a religious allegory. If it was, I would not be playing it, because Christianity is perverse.

    • Raxaex

      go to hell (literally if you dont change)

      • Metropolis99

        Sorry, but he's right. In Japan, Christian stories are like King Arthur stories in the West. In manga and other Japanese stories, nuns are treated like Shinto mikos who can use magic, and a cross is an easy bit of go-to symbolism that everyone recognizes, like the Grim Reaper for us. That's not opinion, that's a fact of the culture there. It's not good and it's not bad, it's a trend of storytelling.

    • Trev7086

      Since when is a religion that gives people hope perverse? Most of what you know about Christianity probably comes from stereotypes and rumors.

  • http://twitter.com/StevieGreek @StevieGreek

    Zelda games feature strong archetypes that are shared globally by most of Earth's civilizations.
    While the early games of the series clearly had to do with christiniaty,and when I played The Legend of Zelda I though Link was some kind of Crusader with this shield,later games have more general references.
    One could link various events and things from the games not just to christianity,but almost everything.
    I could link Gerudos with Gypsies,perhaps someone could say that Hylians who are mostly blue eyed-blond people reperesent Russians,that Zoras are linked to Greeks because they live in sea and Greece is 70% sea,perhaps that the symbols that are painted in decal fashion in clock town are parts of mysticism….
    My point is that most Zelda games feature symbolic/archetypical events/persons/lore but are never explained in-depth in the games,and thus everyone interprets them his own way.
    I'm curious to see how this person links Zelda with Christianity,but I'm neither "with him" or "against him" as most people seem to be.

  • Topaz Mutiny

    The Good: It's called Zelda & Theology; discusses similarities between some aspects of Zelda and real religion.

    The Bad: The quote sounds a bit pretentious, but that's just one guy out several in the book.

    The Ugly: They only discuss similarities between Zelda and ONE religion, and there is a possibility that it only represents one form of that religion while there are many many many.

    The WTF: I'm sorry, but relating things to Christianity is overrated.

  • Bongzilla

    If I'm going to be honest, Christocentrism annoys the life out of me sometimes. I can see the connections, yes. But I can also see connections with the Tales of King Arthur and countless other stories.

    I was really hoping that this would be a book exploring the religion and legends of Hyrule and comparing it to certain aspects of life, not ANOTHER book relating an unrelated thing to Christianity.

    • http://artist-critique.blogspot.com Sam

      Don't forget Norse mythology and Taoism. I find those in LoZ, too.

  • Matt

    This book really does interest me. I have noticed a bit of religious inspiration in the Zelda series and it would be cool to see what this author has to say about it. I need to read the Zelda Philosophy book, too, I almost forgot about that one!

  • Religioninanutshell

    > Makes a comment about Christianity and how it should NEVER be tied to >insert_medium_here<.

    > Gets tons of thumbs down.

    > Predictable.

  • BeardedBanjo

    this is awesome!

  • Rocksor

    *golf clap*

  • ZeldaGurl_

    I've been able to see the connections between both Christianity and the Zelda games for some time. Yes, it can relate to other things int he world as well, but, had you actually READ the Bible, the correlations would be clear as day.

    I'm glad that a book such as this has come out. If you don't like it, well then hate quietly to yourself. Bottom line, it's the truth, and it's because of it that I like the series even more so. Just as the Chronicles of Narnia, it has many hidden messages that I believe to lead to these very sources, and it's quite a masterpiece when you think about it.

    It's not a joke, and it's not something to take lightly. We'll be discovering things in the world in coming times, from minor things such as video games, to major events in the world. You can either be narrow-minded and stay stubborn with scales over your eyes, or you can be a student and learn from discoveries. But in all seriousness, quit hating. It's not cool.

  • Valerie

    Seeing how LOZ borrows from history and cultures from all around our world, it is really centrist to draw a parallel ONLY to Christianity. I see more nods to Hinduism, Greek Mythology, and all kinds of anglo paganism. If anything, playing OoT as a preteen lead me to stray from church, and got me interested in world mythology. These games are polytheistic and have several GODESSES. The bible states very clearly how Christians are supposed to feel about an empowered woman…

    Cool idea, narrow perspective. This author will get an earfull from the same silly Christians who think Harry Potter will make their children worship Satan.

  • Mr.W

    I want you all to look at your arguments.
    This is literally the most annoying set of “ideas” behind why this book was written.
    Maybe the man was a Christian believer, he can put as many theistic ideas in his story as he wishes. Maybe he wants to bring more people to his belief system.
    He can be a follower of the chicken god for all I care. If you notice, cuccos are in nearly every game.
    The fact of the matter is he will never tell you and his game is based off of morality. The game is designed to show kids the difference between good and evil, to further develop the right and wrong functions of their minds.
    So if one of you have written any of the Legend of Zelda series and know whether he is Christian, agnostic, atheistic, Muslim, or cuccoistic I feel like your opinions are void due to your own bias in your religious views.

    Thank you,
    An annoyed reader

  • http://ukrolexwatches.wordpress.com/ Replica Rolex

    Miyamoto mentioned that the length of the crane on the King of Red Lions is shorter, thus decreasing the time spent searching for undersea treasure chests.