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Old 03-18-2012, 03:35 PM
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Lightbulb Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

For my first post, I'd like to write a bit about robots.



To introduce the subject with a brief discussion of its early history, I like to think that the first robot of popular account was the Golem of Prague. Though not mechanical by nature, the Golem was a titan shaped by man and given life by God so that he/it could unconditionally serve the Jewish Czechs by the command of Rabbi Judah Loew. In this sense, the Golem is a true 'robot' considering that the word is derived from a Czech term for 'slave' (the Czech play known as R.U.R. that popularized the term in English is sometimes interpreted as a retelling of Prague's Golem legend).


[click above for Wikipedia article]


Skyward Sword's robots on the other hand are far from titanic humanoids. The concept of the 'super robot' exemplified by the Brobdingnagian (keep this word in mind for later) Golem would become very popular in manga and anime, but not before seeing its share of screentime in the early days of Western animation. In classifying firsts as I do for robots, I like to think of the American animator Max Fleischer as the father of the Golden Age of Animation. Fleischer invented the revolutionary animation technique of rotoscoping for his first short feature and eventually produced two theatrical-length titles as well, while his brainchild Fleischer Studios eventually became famous for Popeye, Betty Boop, and their animated shorts featuring Superman well known for being the era's most seminal big-budget productions of their kind. The second of the seventeen Superman animations is the furthest I can trace back the lineage of animation inspiration that I believe to be behind the ancient robots of Lanayru Desert.


[click above]


Granted, the "Mechanical Monsters" of this short hardly resemble Lanayru's robots, save the unusually retro-futuristic method of flight provided by aircraft-type propellers. This element was most preserved by Hayao Miyazaki, famed Japanese animator, zany aviation enthusiast, and fan of Fleischer Studios, for his final episode of the second series of Lupin III. This finale episode, "Farewell My Beloved Lupin (Aloha Lupin)", is a clear homage to the Superman short down to the details of the robotic jewel theft and resulting police confrontation that the two share.


[click above]


The most significant change from Fleischer's original may be the oddly asymmetrical lenses that seem to comprise the robot's face, the element which seems to be most preserved in the design of the Lanaryubots and is accordingly the basis of the connection I have made. Miyazaki must have remained sufficiently fond of the results as he created a new origin for the robots but recycled their concept and appearance six years later for his film Laputa: The Castle in the Sky, named for the airborne island (something of which the Zelda series has no recent shortage) of the very same book that inspired the first Fleischer full-length feature.* In this 1986 feature-length anime film, the robots take on the role of an ancient civilizaiton's rusted relics that are returned to life by a glowing crystal activated by the protagonist, much like the Lanayru mining drones.



[click above]


On the nature of ancient artifacts, the word of god has confirmed that the robots of Lanayru Desert were influenced by Jomon period pottery and clay figurines. This did not come as a surprise to me having seen a lot of haniwa and dogu come to life to characterize the ancient areas of the Zelda-like game Okami. However, I am not able to draw as many direct design parallels from the robot to the figurines as I can from the robot to the pottery. This image, although tainted by reflection off glass, nicely frames two distinct designs of pot that feature a round bottom and crown-like top, just like the Lanayrubot. Other designs are variably ornate but carry the same general form.

Women's Prehistoric Jomon Pottery (??) : History, Illustrations, Links
A LARGE JOMON VESSEL | MIDDLE JOMON PERIOD (BC 3000-2000) | Christie's

I've yet to find any dogu, haniwa, or any other Jomon figurines that feature faces of deliberate asymmetry, a design which I attribute to Miyazaki's singular vision (one that he may have also applied to the kodama of Princess Mononoke, in turn influencing the Korok of The Wind Waker). This truly connects the Lanayrubot to the roots of robot history; how appropriate it seems that the concept of robot, originating with the golem created from mud or clay in the same manner that Adam - the fabled earliest ancestor of mankind, the golem’s creators - was created from dust or clay, would return to clay status once more as the Lanayrubot.


...Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed...



As for the more unique characteristics of the Lanayrubot attributed by the game, the chubby body and darker face seem reminiscent of Yeta from Twilight Princess while the crown-like headpiece looks something like the Fused Shadow but more colorful. I find these hues of black, bright teal, and deep red filling curved but angular shapes reminiscent of the obsidian or jet, turquoise, and red coral or spiny oyster shell used in the art of the Zuni, a Pueblo people from the American Southwest. This not only matches the Lanayru's desert motif, but also coincides with the previous Old West influences present in and around Twilight Princess’ Kakariko Village. The particular Zuni design known as knife-wing that I would like to compare is not only a perfect example of the shapes and colors to which I refer, but also represents a Zuni bird-man deity that seems to be coincidentally similar to the Garuda of Eastern mythology and the Royal Crest from the Zelda series.







Skyward Sword implies that the bird in the crest is a loftwing which we know to based on the real-life bird known as the shoebill, Balaeniceps rex, but at the same time, they introduce the crest without the talons and call it the Goddess Crest, implying that it is based off the bird-like form of the goddess Hylia. With no beak or talons, She may not have as many avian features as the Garuda, but definitely appears as a human with the wings of a bird. It is also possible that the bright colors of the knife-wing and the Garuda comprise a simple palette that the artists behind Skyward Sword imagined would have been used to paint the Jomon period pottery when it was new. Without timeshift stones, making guesses about original colors can be difficult for palaeontologists and archaeologists alike.





***





The rise in popularity of the word 'robot' as aforementioned is predated by the terms automaton and android, the former of which has a notable presence in the English NA release of Skyward Sword. The "Ancient Automaton Koloktos" has an ornate golden cuirass, six arms like the Hindu deities Shiva, Vishnu, Kali, and Ganesha are sometimes depicted, and a golden faceplate with circular eyes, a small mouth, and a prominent but minimalist curve of a brow much like C3PO's (whose design was inspired by Maria's of Metropolis**).



I was surprised to find that the European Spanish release refers to this boss of the Ancient Cistern***, Skyward Sword's light/water/shadow temple (three rings of heaven/earth/hell), as "Gólem de las Tinieblas, Iruoma" preserving the Japanese boss title (魔蝕神器ダ) with the idea of the "vessel" [filled with dark magic by Ghirahim] through the golem's connotation of an invigorated empty husk as well as the Japanese boss name (イルオーマ) through direct transliteration. The name Koloktos - almost a jumbling of Locutus - seems to only appear in the North American releases (English, French, and Spanish); the European releases largely share the transliteration of the Japanese name. Speculation on the meaning of either of these names would be appreciated until I am able to publish a second entry on character design beyond that of the robots.

*The legacies of Fleischer and Miyazaki would be united once more when Fleischer's cartoons served as primary inspiration for Batman: The Animated Series while anime including Miyazaki's Laputa and Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro served as secondary. When the success of BTAS allowed Warner Brothers to proceed in producing Superman: The Animated Series, the inspiration "came full circle".

**The 1927 science-fiction film Metropolis, which shares its name with Superman's city and whose German Expressionist settings inspired the Gotham City of BTAS in addition to retrofuturist media such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (a 2004 live-action film which also includes sequences inspired by the Mechanical Monsters short), would later be adapted for both feature-length anime and Superman comics.

***The names for this dungeon in other regions' releases seem to reflect the concept of either a cave or a shine, a combination which is common in Shinto, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Our wiki page for the dungeon also a highlights an interesting allusion to a Japanese short story of Buddhist theme. I hope to later expand my writings in this thread to include a discussion of Eastern religious motifs evident in the architecture of the game's dungeons.
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Old 03-18-2012, 04:33 PM
EternaLegend EternaLegend is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

This is an uh... interesting thread. Wow.

I'll move this to the Skyward Sword forum since it seems to base around the robots in SS a lot.
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Old 03-18-2012, 07:16 PM
Jeff Jeff is a male United States Jeff is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

That post had more thought in it than a lot of editorials I've seen on the bigger Zelda websites. Bravo to you, my friend.

Skyward Sword definitely stepped in all directions when using cultural influence on the game's imagery. It was especially nice to see another video game use something other than the same Western Fantasy elements that have come in droves this gen. And what I was most impressed by was that when using Asian influence, Nintendo didn't exclusively use Eastern Asian history and culture; they branched out to Central and Southeastern elements, a few such as the Buddhism and Hindu influences as noted by yourself. Another that I immediately caught was the elephant and baboon imagery apparent in some of the temples.
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Old 03-18-2012, 08:24 PM
Sweet SS Zelda Sweet SS Zelda is a male Canada Sweet SS Zelda is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

I noticed that you used a part of the Ozymandias poem when describing the Lanayrubot.
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Old 03-19-2012, 10:18 AM
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eternal Legend View Post
This is an uh... interesting thread. Wow.

I'll move this to the Skyward Sword forum since it seems to base around the robots in SS a lot.
Thanks for moving this thread to a more appropriate location. I will continue to focus on Skyward Sword most exclusively to maintain its relevance to this subforum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff View Post
That post had more thought in it than a lot of editorials I've seen on the bigger Zelda websites. Bravo to you, my friend.

Skyward Sword definitely stepped in all directions when using cultural influence on the game's imagery. It was especially nice to see another video game use something other than the same Western Fantasy elements that have come in droves this gen. And what I was most impressed by was that when using Asian influence, Nintendo didn't exclusively use Eastern Asian history and culture; they branched out to Central and Southeastern elements, a few such as the Buddhism and Hindu influences as noted by yourself. Another that I immediately caught was the elephant and baboon imagery apparent in some of the temples.
Thank you for the compliment. Are you the Jeff that recently published that article on the front page? I agree that the integration of Central and South Asian influences are as unusual to our games as they are pleasing to our gamers. I quite liked the torch design from the trunk of an elephant with a decorative howdah in the Fire Temple and Earth Sanctuary, but I don’t recall any imagery explicitly tied to baboons (unlike Twilight Princess’ Forest Temple which prominently features Old World Monkeys in presence if not in art). The terminology you use for the allusions is a bit liberal for me as I question categorically relating any broad area in the game with a total real world semblance as you have the architecture of these two temples with Feudal Japan and China. On the contrary, I find that with the addition of all the central Asian material, traditional Japanese art influences are actually in a minority. As as a humble scholar of Edo Period architecture, I would not classify any of the Dungeons in the game as traditionally Japanese in design, but I can verify that Japanese influence exists above any other Asian aesthetic in the case of the three dragons, a matter on which I hope to elaborate later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nen desharu View Post
I noticed that you used a part of the Ozymandias poem when describing the Lanayrubot.
Yes, it very articulately relates memento mori on a societal scale: the rise and fall great civilizations, inevitable as Ragnarok and recurrent as Kalachakra, which allows for a cycle of similar, archetypal heroes resembling both the Legend of Zelda series and Campbellian monomyth (common to Star Wars and other sagas as noted in Jeff's article), not to mention the tendency of humans to imprint their image in forms that can only marginally outlast their own earth to earth, dust to dust form of fate. On more of a face value, it's a ruined monument to a great civilization victim to desertification and with associations of slave labor, something I've tried to capture in my own artwork (especially ironic if you are familiar with the epigraph behind the head).
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Old 03-19-2012, 02:21 PM
kamfira United Kingdom kamfira is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

I'm a bit of a geek about the Classical World, so I make links to that a lot. Twilight Princess was very influenced by the Greeks and Romans...remember the random ampitheatre? One of my favourite geeky finds was Ilia; who was also the mother of Romulus and Remus and is thus connected to wolves. She is also called Rhea Silvia, which also can mean 'lady of the forest/queen of the forest/the seduced lady of the forest'. I'd like to think that it was a purposeful naming on Nintendo's part
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Old 03-19-2012, 08:41 PM
Sweet SS Zelda Sweet SS Zelda is a male Canada Sweet SS Zelda is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Speaking of the rise and fall of civilizations, the defeat screen in Civilization V also reflects the Ozymandias poem.
Spoiler: Civilization V defeat screen  

Now try picturing the statue of Hylia being half buried in Lanayru Desert.
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Old 03-20-2012, 09:52 AM
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Quote:
Originally Posted by kamfira View Post
I'm a bit of a geek about the Classical World, so I make links to that a lot. Twilight Princess was very influenced by the Greeks and Romans...remember the random ampitheatre? One of my favourite geeky finds was Ilia; who was also the mother of Romulus and Remus and is thus connected to wolves. She is also called Rhea Silvia, which also can mean 'lady of the forest/queen of the forest/the seduced lady of the forest'. I'd like to think that it was a purposeful naming on Nintendo's part
Yes, I do remember it; the area seemed to functionally exist only for its owl statue. I would be happy to examine the Roman influences in the architecture of Castle Town and the Arbiter's Grounds as well, but I might need to create a thread in the GameCube & Wii forum for that.
There's also a Slavic name, Илья, which is sometimes Romanticized as 'Ilia'. However, it's pretty masculine having been derived from the name of the prophet Elijah (some languages give it a feminized counterpart but its spelling is significantly different). I wonder whether this Latin name is older than the Slavic Ilia/Ilya and therefore carries a different meaning and origin. Though her alternate name seems obscure, indeed it is possible that Rhea Silvia is the origin of the character's name given the connection to wolves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nen desharu View Post
Speaking of the rise and fall of civilizations, the defeat screen in Civilization V also reflects the Ozymandias poem.
Spoiler: Civilization V defeat screen  

Now try picturing the statue of Hylia being half buried in Lanayru Desert.
Yes, I can see the likeness. I love much of the art and music from that series.
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Old 03-20-2012, 05:15 PM
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Quote:
Originally posted by NCF
Thank you for the compliment. Are you the Jeff that recently published that article on the front page? I agree that the integration of Central and South Asian influences are as unusual to our games as they are pleasing to our gamers. I quite liked the torch design from the trunk of an elephant with a decorative howdah in the Fire Temple and Earth Sanctuary, but I don’t recall any imagery explicitly tied to baboons (unlike Twilight Princess’ Forest Temple which prominently features Old World Monkeys in presence if not in art). The terminology you use for the allusions is a bit liberal for me as I question categorically relating any broad area in the game with a total real world semblance as you have the architecture of these two temples with Feudal Japan and China. On the contrary, I find that with the addition of all the central Asian material, traditional Japanese art influences are actually in a minority. As as a humble scholar of Edo Period architecture, I would not classify any of the Dungeons in the game as traditionally Japanese in design, but I can verify that Japanese influence exists above any other Asian aesthetic in the case of the three dragons, a matter on which I hope to elaborate later.
I am, in fact, the same Jeff who had that article posted on the main site. I honestly encourage you to pursue a full-length piece on your findings, you've made fantastic connections and it would definitely be a great editorial.

I admit that I was making a bit of generalization about the temples bearing feudal China and Japan architecture, and you obviously know more on that subject that I do. I found mainly found the Earth Temple similar because of the stair-like design to the entrance, and that such a tall, vertical structure was arguably unnecessary what is basically just a door leading downwards into the mountain.

The Fire Sanctuary's rooftops often had that central spire closely surrounded by a handful of smaller, but identical spires, all connected by an arcing tile. Many of the rooftops looked just like the architecture of the Osaka and Nagoya castles, or the Toji Temple.

As far as the baboon imagery goes, it's found in the Earth Temple. In the lava-filled room where you first use the boulder, a carving is on the wall above the door that leads further into the dungeon (I believe the hallway with the falling rocks is directly after). Then, the entire chamber where you fight Scaldera has the same carvings on both sides.


Quote:
Originally posted by kamfira
I'm a bit of a geek about the Classical World, so I make links to that a lot. Twilight Princess was very influenced by the Greeks and Romans...remember the random ampitheatre? One of my favourite geeky finds was Ilia; who was also the mother of Romulus and Remus and is thus connected to wolves. She is also called Rhea Silvia, which also can mean 'lady of the forest/queen of the forest/the seduced lady of the forest'. I'd like to think that it was a purposeful naming on Nintendo's part
That is an excellent discovery! I also feel that there's a lot of elements in Twilight Princess taken from Greek tragedies, including the tragic characters of Midna and Zant.
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Old 03-21-2012, 01:16 PM
darkbeastganon darkbeastganon is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Its probably been noted before, but The symbol of the Triforce is like the crest of the Hojo clan of Japan, a family who controlled the hereditary title of shikken (officially just a regent) of the Kamakura Shogunate.


the Mitsu-uroko, or three dragon scales meaning the protection of the Emperor.
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Old 03-22-2012, 12:33 AM
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Yes, the Earth Temple entrance seemed to have a useless pagoda-like facade recessed into the cliff-face like Perta's Al Khazneh or other rock-cut monuments. Other than that, it looked nice but I can't say that it featured any real world styles that I recognized.

You must be referring to the big room with the balancing ball sort of circus act for transportation across the lava. I think that boulder (sphere) that the player rides is actually an eye ejected from one of the very same carvings you reference that is exploded by the player.



I didn't think of the carvings as baboons but rather demons. Particularly I associate them with the large guardian statues of Thai temples influenced by Hindu art and architecture. Here's an image of two from Wat Phra Kaew, the temple within the Grand Palace at Bangkok:



You may also notice some similarities between this architecture and that of the Earth Temple (at least in color if not in exact style). The guardian demons themselves are definitely Hindu in origin, modeled after those of the Ramayana.
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The colors match up very well, as do the bulging eyes and teeth. However, the hands of the Earth Temple counterparts seem to display the arala mudra, which differs from the statue but likewise can support their Hindu design. They also have something of a third eye, a concept on which I intend to focus in my next post.

By the time I reached the door to the succeeding room with the falling/rolling boulder slopes I really took notice of the naga imagery that was most evident by the two arced serpents on the sides of the all doors in the big room (a motif that is repeated and expanded in the Sky Keep) but also more subtly incorporated with snake head ends that cap the ends of the blue paths both at the foot of the falling boulder slope and in the first room of the dungeon.

I don't remember any of the architecture in the Fire Sanctuary to have been Japanese as you describe. I'll have to go back and look one more time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkbeastganon View Post
Its probably been noted before, but The symbol of the Triforce is like the crest of the Hojo clan of Japan, a family who controlled the hereditary title of shikken (officially just a regent) of the Kamakura Shogunate.
Yes, not to mention the influence of kamon on the emblems of the sages and also those of the races, especially the Zora emblem (adapted into Nayru's emblem?) and the original Gerudo emblem (which may be most easily compared to the Islamic star and crescent, but I know I've seen crescent moon kamon). Thanks for bringing up this point!
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Old 03-22-2012, 02:23 AM
darkbeastganon darkbeastganon is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda



Kuri no maru
This Kamon represent a chestnut. In Japan, it is know as the most important food from the primitive age. Considering there were alot of Deku nuts in the Kokiri FOrest, guess this symbol makes sense.



The moon symbol was thought as a god once upon a time and used as kamon symbol. The moon was a goddess and the Gerudo worship a desert goddess. A little loose but whatever.

I couldn't find anything for the Zora and Goron, but like that, right?
More symbols you might recognize on sight
http://goldengears.files.wordpress.c...?w=1024&h=1024

Also, further with the Hojo clan crest and the Triforce. As mentioned before, the crest symbolizes protection of the emperor, who is a descendant of the gods. Furthermore, the legend goes like this. Houjou Tokimasa dreamed of a beautiful lady who was incarnation of a serpent, when he wished for his clan's prosperity. The lady left three scales after she disappeared. The same way how the three goddesses left behind the Triforce, and how the Triforce could bring prosperity.

Here's also another one regarding birds. I can't be sure if this was intentional, and I'm probably overthinking it, but in Korea, especially in ancient times, birds were considered a important animal, to the point kingdoms used birds as national emblems, the three legged crow and the hawk. The mythology was that Koreans were the descendants of heaven, and birds were animals that were closest to it. So in order to connect the Earth and Heaven birds were considered as mediators. Hylians are thought to be a chosen race of the gods and the earlier Hylians living on SKyloft ride on birds....


BTW, Jeff, could you post me that article? I'm interested in reading it.
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Old 03-23-2012, 12:07 AM
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

That chestnut crest's a nice find. Unfortunately its only source appears to be a tattoo website, but the name kuri no maru translates as it should - circle of chestnuts. I've found a kamon known as tsukini hoshi which features both a 'star' and crescent moon in roughly the same orientation, a close likeness to both the star and crescent of Islam and the original Gerudo emblem as well as to the mark of Farore.


Gerudo emblem - state emblem of Pakistan crescent - moon & star kamon


Din - Farore - Nayru

The crest of Yamamoto Tsunetomo featured on editions of his famous text Hagakure is similar to the emblem of the Zora, though it's composed not of crescents but of the the character 大 'large' repeated thrice, resulting in an image coincidentally similar to the modern biohazard symbol. This design is also similar to what seems to be a more modern kamon depicting three anchors in the same arrangement, ikari katabami.

Depiction of the three legged crow seems to extend beyond Korea. Even more universal is the association of birds with power and prestige leading to their use in national emblems. The image of the Garuda I used in my first post is actually Thailand's national emblem, a role that the mythical avian creature serves for the Republic of Indonesia as well.

For this next installment I've been writing, let's pick back up on the lines of my earlier narrative with the Silent Realm Guardians. Are they too robots? Skeletons? Ghosts?



Unlike the Lanayrubots that seem to have two round eyes, a triangular nose, and a round mouth, the Guardians seem to have a triangular mouth and three round eyes that form a triangle of their own. Their three red glowing eyes, each on one corner of a black triangle, is a design shared with Superman’s nemesis Brainiac and related villains such as the gynoid (robot) Brainiac 8:




I will hereafter refer to this design as the ocellar triangle, after the anatomical feature common to several insectile orders, a triad of simple eyes which allows the insect to differentiate degrees of light and dark.



The case of Braniac 8 is a little different than that of the Guardians in that this Titans/Young Justice character, as you can see, sports the triangle in addition to two human eyes. There is another robot in the DC universe however that bears an ocellar triangle without eyes otherwise. Though a very minor character from the DCAU, this cracked A.I. originates from the WB Kids series The Batman, sometimes seen as something of a spiritual successor to the popular Batman series inspired by the Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons (which many fans claim did not live up the legacy, similar to scenario with the spiritual successors of Ocarina of Time). The character’s name is D.A.V.E. and has clear influences from 2001: A Space Odyssey, another big name in the history of robotkind, if not a little one from Laputa by the different size lenses the robot has in its/his immotile computer form at the start of the episode which features it/him.



The three eyes do glow ominously red, but their overall orientation is rotated and the black lines connecting each in the triangle are not present (you may also notice a similarity with a certain loftwing Statue on Skyloft). This orientation is closer to that created with the addition of the mystical third eye of eastern spiritualism (which happened to have received its own treatment in another episode of the same series). Associated with the chakra of the brow, characters from the Zelda series including the fortune teller in Twilight Princess and the younger Impa in Skyward Sword bear the eye of the Shiekah on their foreheads in the form of a third eye. The eye of the Shiekah is, of course, very likely influenced by the eye of Horus judging by its tear drop, which is thought to have been originally inspired by the natural colors of the plumage below the eyes of the falcons worshiped by the Ancient Egyptians.



Other than the eyes there's not a whole lot more that can be said about the guardians beyond meaningless speculation. They dress in robes of white and gold (the colors of the Vatican) with a Celtic or Nordic looking trim and wear two gold triangles as jewelry (earrings for one and bracelets for the other). Overall, they may look a little more like poes than stalfos, but we may never know any more of their true identities than we do know. Perhaps these uncertainties allow us to manifest a xenophobia which may found much of their appeal to our perception of horror, successfully creating a scary enemy.



Seen here in the rotated third eye orientation, the circle-triangle trinity also appears in some kamon.



According to the source of the image, this kamon is known as “Maruni Mitsu Kagami”, which I surmise would be rendered まるに三つ鏡 and translate to ‘round three-mirror’ in reference to the circular bronze age mirrors iconic in Shinto. This in turn leads me to three corollaries.
1) Like the scale of the mitsu uroko of the Hojo clan, the mythical mirror (yata no kagami) is one member of a holy trinity associated with the emperor’s divine lineage.
2) As all fans of Okami should know, this god-gifted triad of holy objects known as the Imperial Regalia of Japan also includes a sacred bead and sword.
3) Incarnations of all three - A) mirror, B) bead, C) sword - have been strongly associated with mystical qualities at multiple points throughout the Zelda series.

A) The Mirror of Twilight is quite blatantly modeled after the type of bronze mirror I mentioned earlier, called Shinjūkyō (神獣鏡) for the designs depicting dragons and other mythical creatures that originally came to Japan by China, as did the mirror design itself. The Mirror of Twilight accordingly features two such beasts on the reverse.



The mirror is most deserving of its place in the holy trinity as the central object of the most seminal Shinto myth, the Kojiki's account of the day that sun goddess Amaterasu sealed herself away in a cave thereafter known as Ama no Iwato.

B) The bead has a smaller role in the myth but, just like the mirror, is associated with a uniquely shaped form of the object from ancient times. This is a screenshot I took from one of Skyward Sword's earliest gameplay trailers last September.



Although they may look like they're taken from the logos of io9, the amber and dusk relics share the distinct shape of ancient Japanese beads known as magatama (勾玉). It's true that not even the foremost scholars of the field know exactly why magatama are shaped like this. When the shape is used in kamon, they're called tomoe (巴), but it's not entirely clear what inspired either of them, including which one may be modeled after the other. Beads of this form are thought to have been unique to Japan until reproduced in Korea as gogok, while the shape has spread across Asia forming round kamon-like compounds from the mitsudomoe of Japan and taeguk of Korea to the taijitu of China and gankyil of Tibet. Another Zelda example, the Spirit Medallion features two conjugate tomoe, a kamon of futatsudomoe (二つ巴).





Jade magatama for comparison:



C) Unlike the bead and mirror for which I have examples from newer games, the sacred sword has had a larger, more consistent, and single role in Zelda for far longer. Yup, it's the Master Sword, for the sacred blade of Shinto myth plays roughly the same monomythic role as Excalibur of Arthurian legend so often compared to the Master Sword. If you're interested in the details, I highly recommend the fantastic article you can download here which I believe was published in 2008 and covers the influence of Shinto in older Zelda lore, especially a few notable similarities between the Imperial Regalia and some of the items and equipment in A Link to the Past.

***


While I was looking into gankyil for writing about tomoe, I came across this image on the wikipedia page:


The wheel of this bhavacakra is held up by a demon apparently based on the Tibetan Buddhist depiction of the Hindu lord of death, Yama. The design is similar to the Earth Temple demon by its third eye and to the face at the top of some arches (like the one in the first room of the Earth Temple that lowers a drawbridge from its nostrils) by the small skulls above the face. Here's the best image I could find for the first, though the actual carving seems to be fallen apart ingame:



And the arala mudra, which apparently denotes violent wind or drinking poison or nectar, for comparison:



And an image of the second which shows the (asymmetrically distributed) skulls pretty clearly:



Yet more colossal carvings in the Earth Temple take the form of dragons, but I'll be saving these mythical reptile statues along with the three province-naming dragons for my next addition.
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Old 03-23-2012, 06:28 PM
darkbeastganon darkbeastganon is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Here's one that's just a joke. Adam and Eve are the first human couple living on Earth. Link and Zelda stay on the land that would later become Hyrule. So.....Link and Zelda are the Adam and Eve of Hyrule....


Wow, James Rolfe predicted right
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Old 03-25-2012, 08:49 PM
Jeff Jeff is a male United States Jeff is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

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Originally posted by darkbeastganon
BTW, Jeff, could you post me that article? I'm interested in reading it.
Sure thing, the link's below. I only spend a paragraph or two talking about cultural influence, though, the majority of it revolves around Skyward Sword in comparison to the current state of modern gaming, and general world-building within the game.

"A Breath of Fresh Air"


Getting back to the demons/monkeys in the Earth Temple, I found that their hand positions were also somewhat like how Hanuman held his right hand in many pieces of Hindu art (which could very well be arala mudra), and Hanuman is widely believed to be an influence behind the monkey king Sun Wukong, whose armor in many renditions is very similar to the design of the carvings in the Earth Temple, especially the crown, which is spot-on.

Meh, who knows? That's the fun of analyzing these games.

But another tidbit I remembered after recently returning to the Fire Sanctuary were the big owl statues at the beginning. Owls do have a connection to Central Asian culture, being the vahana (minion/mount) of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.

Although, owls are also considered a bad omen in many Arab cultures; perhaps they were specifically placed at the very first room of the temple for a reason? They could also be hinting at how owls were used as a representation of Athena in Ancient Greece.
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Old 03-26-2012, 09:54 PM
NCF NCF is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Jeff, could you perhaps supply some images? I can only find Hanuman displaying the anjali - a salutatory symbol - or pataka mudra, adapted by Buddhism as the abhaya mudra, one so popular that it could symbolize any one of many concepts.

So you're visualizing ears in red. I can see how the gold design between includes the shape of the crown made by the two ends of the band curving upwards at the point they meet. However, I know I've seen this fashion elsewhere but I'm having trouble placing it at the moment. I'll return to this subject if I can find any sources to cite later on.

Indeed Athena's relation to the owl is something like a Greek counterpart to the vahana. Ironically, I've associated Grey-Eyed Athene with Princess Zelda ever since learning that the German counterpart Grishilda of the English name Griselda derives from the OHG grisja hilda 'gray battle-maid'. Enforcing this association, Athena and thus the owl (like Kaepora Gaebora) are symbols of wisdom, the same trait whose associated triforce third we know is possessed by the princess in several titles.

I think the owls' ominous associations extend far beyond Arabia, mostly due to their universal status as nocturnal animals. Nighttime is scary by our innate xenophobia, so to see the animals we fear and hardly see during the day is by result uncanny, an indication that something is wrong. There are native peoples on every continent that associate the owl with witchcraft, death, and misfortune.

The symbolism is interesting to think about, but if there's any reason for the owl statues in the Fire Sanctuary, it's probably for a small homage (perhaps that didn't fit anywhere else) to the owl statues that inprevious titles served fundamental plot and gameplay purposes. I can't speak for original authorial intentions, but the introduction of the owl in Link's Awakening seems to conform to a Japanese perception of the owl as a purveyor of fortune as well as to the Hellenistic association of the bird with wisdom.

As for Lakshmi, she too is a goddess of wisdom (just like Pallas). The main image from her Wikipedia article features quite a few lotus blossoms, which I believe serve to represent Lakshmi through her traits of spiritual purity (by the blossoms' pristine beauty) and enlightened detachment (by their tendency to float above the water's murky depths).



I noticed while watching a playthrough of The Wind Waker that the Great Fairies likewise float above the water, hold lotus blossoms, and appear with two pairs of hands each displaying a common mudra.



These divinities appear in special caves (a theme I've cursorily examined with the Ancient Cistern and Ama no Iwato) whose design I find very reminiscent of the 'divine springs' from Okami (maybe the lotus blossoms that blow from the Great Fairy's hands contribute to this feeling). The Ancient Cistern as we know also includes many lotus-like floating flowers and several themes of Hindu and Buddhist spiritual philosophy well summarized by this excellent article.

P.S. - Do we have a name etymology speculation thread in the Zelda theorizing forum or anywhere else on the boards?
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Old 04-14-2012, 03:22 PM
NCF NCF is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Dragons; as promised. I think we all agree that the three dragons of Skyward Sword are East Asian in nature, and I herein intend to substantiate this claim with allusive evidence over illusive intuition.



Let's start with their music.

Zelda: Skyward Sword Music - Three Dragons - YouTube

Perhaps with the strongest Eastern influence of all the music in the game, I hear a folksy flute up until 0:22 after which another instrument begins echo its melody more softly. It sounds reeded to me, but it's tough to tell with its low volume. At 0:30 I hear a sound very much like the sort of distinctive glissando performed on huqin, traditional Chinese spike fiddles. The flute sound predominates once more until 0:39, at which point I hear some vibrato characteristic of huqin strings, and then resumes after 0:40.

Now Skyword Sword is said to have the first fully orchestrated soundtrack in the series. I assume this means this piece was created with actual acoustic instruments, though I can't find any useful fourth wall information about its recording (only the fact that folk instruments are used without indication of which ones) online. The most common variety of huqin used in soundtrack production is the erhu, a two-stringer with a stronger history in Mainland China.




Like most of the musical traditions of Japan however, the Chinese brought the erhu across the East China sea where the spike fiddle was popularized in Japan, leading to the creation of the kokyu. Assuming that the Skyward Sword soundtrack was recorded in Japan, there's a slightly higher probability that the kokyu was used for this piece, but it's still not much given the instrument's overall obscurity.



As for the flute, I have two traditional Japanese woodwind candidates, again one more popular than the other. The shakuhachi has been embraced by many genres for its mellow tones, meaning that it's both widely recorded and that the Three Dragons theme must use its higher notes (though different lengths of shakuhachi may give a range as wide as D5 to C7). Although the apparent use of embouchure shifts to modulate pitch is strongly characteristic of the shakuhachi (for whose playing the technique is known as kari), there isn't a whole lot of it, leaving the tone overall rather stable and perhaps more characteristic of the second flute candidate, the kagurabue. As its name suggests, this slightly smaller, higher pitched flute is used for ritual dance but still maintains deeper and milder tones than most of the other traditional Japanese flutes, or fue.



On to character design, it's clear that the dragons are clad in kimono. What's a little more unusual are the thick ropes tied into a bow at the back of each.



In Shinto, straw ropes known as shimenawa are used as a mark of consecration and as such are often seen hanging by the rooves of shrines and around trees or rocks of sacred areas thought to be inhabited by kami, the many spirits of the Shinto faith.



In sumo wresting however, shimenawa are tied around the waist (like they are worn by the dragons) of the yokozuna, the highest rank of contender, and referred to tsuna, meaning simply rope.



You can also see the water dragon's basin Link fetches for Faron in the Skyward Sword screenshot above. This vessel, like the magatama and kagami above, the dragons' dress, and other smaller members of the wide range of cultural aesthetics in the game, can be more easily related as Japanese above all other influences.



The design is very much like a larger variety of teakettle called chagama which is used in the Japanese tea ceremony. This variety of vessel is also most often depicted in illustrations of Bunbuku Chagama, the transforming teakettle tanuki, a mythical creature who in a sense occupies a hot water basin, sort of like Faron.



To be continued...
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Old 04-26-2012, 06:44 AM
kamfira United Kingdom kamfira is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Quote:
Originally Posted by NCF View Post
Yes, I do remember it; the area seemed to functionally exist only for its owl statue. I would be happy to examine the Roman influences in the architecture of Castle Town and the Arbiter's Grounds as well, but I might need to create a thread in the GameCube & Wii forum for that.
If you do that, I'd be happy to contribute! You could put it into General Zelda as I have lots of ideas!
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:13 PM
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Thank you for your post; I'm delighted by your offer. By now, I've included so much general Zelda material in this thread already that I feel that your contributions would fit fine here. If content relevancy potentially becomes an issue, I trust a member with moderator abilities such as Eternal Legend can return this thread to the General Zelda forum.
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:23 PM
NCF NCF is offline
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Re: Histo-Cultural Influences on The Legend of Zelda

Since it's been a few days, I'll start you out with some basic Greco-Roman architectural influences. In the Hyrule Castle courtyard, we see these peculiar sculpture in a modernist style, but resembling the ancient caduceus, the staff of Mercury/Hermes:



Interestingly, the bottom looks like a lotus pedestal common in Hindu and Buddhist art while the tops looks to have one of the three triforces mounted on a minimalist triskelion. The Arbiter's Grounds has an obvious Roman influence from the Doric order columns to the great colosseum at the summit of the dungeon.





Meanwhile, the interior of the Arbiters Grounds has more Eastern influences:



Although its identity is not referenced in the game, it's likely that this statue is intended to represent the Goddess of the Sand, or rather her graven image as the Desert Colossus in the Ocarina of Time, which I find reminiscent of colossal in situ Buddhas such as those in Bamiyan, Afghanistan and Swat, Pakistan known for their relatively recent destruction as well as those of Bingling temple in Gansu province, China.




Also in Gansu province are the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, an example of a rock-cut pagoda like the Earth Temple entrance which I looked for but failed to find earlier.

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