(I mean no disrespect to any religion or religious person by writing this article. This is all in fun and good interest for our beloved gaming series.)
I can’t say for sure if Nintendo devoted a great deal of time to developing the Zelda universe specifically, or that the amazing amount of culture and information in that world is the result of them simply putting a lot into the gameplay, storyline, and environment. It’s really caught my interest in the last few months of playing the series, and I’ve come to find yet another piece of Zelda that looks so very simple at first, but when delved into, is very deep.
That would be the religion, something you probably wouldn’t think twice about when you see the tiny of hints of it in the games. But in fact, the religion in Hyrule is evident all around, and it’s actually quite similar to many major religions practiced today. When you really sit down, do some research, and just plain look at the evidence, it’s very clear that an interesting religion was created over the twenty years in which the Zelda series has been produced. Moreover, it’s somewhat obvious that the details of it are inspired by the major religions of today. Let me start off with something simple:
The Symbol. Every religion has one (or even several) major symbol/s. Christianity in all of its branches has the Cross or Crucifix, Judaism has the Star of David, Islam has the Star and Crescent, Taoism has the Yin and Yang etc. What does Hyrule’s religion have? I think any Zelda fan should know; the Triforce. Now what’s interesting about it is that it’s not exactly a ‘symbol’, so to say.
You’re probably thinking I just shot myself in the foot, but in all actuality, the Triforce isn’t just a metaphorical image or anything, it’s a real object (or at one time, was real), similar to the Crucifix with Jesus. Although, in several games we don’t get to see it, the Triforce at one time was a physical, concrete thing. And in whatever titles we don’t see the full thing, in some way or form; whether on the hand of our green-clad hero or in the Sacred Realm, it’s there.
Next in line would be the idea of the gods, and for Hyrule, I think we all know that there was Din, Farore and Nayru. Now, I don’t know of any major religion in our world today that believed in only three gods exactly, but I do feel that the trio of goddesses is similar to Christian belief of the Holy Trinity; God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Now, as many may know, Christians believe that there is only one God, just that the Trinity is like the ‘faces’ of God. So this is a difference between the Trinity and the three goddesses, but when it all comes down to it, did the goddesses not combine their power into one ultimate source? (i.e. Triforce) I don’t know about you, but I see a heavy similarity there.
Then of course, Hyrule gave us a few deities, which for the most part were huge beasts seen as holy titans. The first one we ever really see in the series is the Wind Fish in Link’s Awakening. This wouldn’t be the end to whale-like monsters, of course, as Jabu-Jabu came in Ocarina of Time, and later as Jabun as the Wind Waker. I personally feel a connection to Jabu-Jabu especially to Leviathan from the Old Testament; both were creatures under the righteous god/s, both are whale-like beasts (the most common image of the Leviathan), and at least in Ocarina of Time’s case, both swallowed a hero, I refer to the story with Jonah in the case of the Leviathan, if you don’t know.
In Ocarina of Time was the introduction to another deity, the wise Deku Tree, who would return again in the Wind Waker. But that game would bring a new deity to series; Gohdan. Good old Gohdan, serving the goddesses after all those years and being there when they needed him to test Link’s strength and courage. Going further, we got to see Zephos and Cyclos, who I can’t describe much better as ‘frog’-like spirits that controls the winds of the oceans, also aiding Link in his quest.
Another new edition to the group that the Wind Waker brought would be Valoo, the first ‘good’ dragon in the series. I was happy to see that, but also surprised at it as well. I suppose that’s how many people feel when they learn of the various religions in China and Japan, in that most of their dragon gods are righteous, instead of the evil dragons like seen in Christianity and other European religions. The Japanese dragon gods, such as Ryujin and Tenryu, are highly admired by the Japanese people, and then there’s a multitude of other different holy dragons.
When we head down the line of important religious figures, we’ll find that that Hyrule has an array of mortal beings that possess very holy powers. I’m talking about the Sages. We first started with the seven (Saria, Darunia, Ruto, Impa, Nabooru, Rauru and Zelda) from Ocarina of Time, and then in the Wind Waker we were able to see Medli, Makar, Laruto and Fado, and if you go outside of Hyrule, Labrynna and Holodrum had the oracles; Din, Nayru and Farore.
I like to see the Sages as the “Saints” or “Judges” of Hyrule’s religion; they started their lives as normal beings, but in truth they all had a very strong holiness in them. The description fits even better with the Seven Sages from Ocarina of Time, because like the Saints of Christianity (or any holy human beings for any religion), they became extremely famous in the world of Hyrule.
Not only did they have beautiful stain-glass windows created to remember them inside the Master Sword’s Hall in Hyrule Castle (for the Wind Waker), but hundreds of years after their death, in the era which Zelda fans know of the game called “The Adventure of Link” there are towns named after them, all except Zelda and Impa. I find that to be an amazing show of respect to the Sages, especially over such a long period of time.
Now then, what does this all come to? Well, I think I’ve proven something after all that; Hyrule’s religion is a very deep subject of the Zelda series. But, not as much as how upheld it is in the Zelda world.
What I mean by that is how important the religion appears to be in the games. I’ll come back to the Triforce again, which as I’ve said is the most revered image in the Hyrulian religion. That specific object is everywhere, I mean; you can’t go to one inch of Hyrule without finding it carved, painted, tattooed or drawn somewhere. In Ocarina of Time’s World Atlas it’s on there, it’s on the actual Ocarina of Time, the Master Sword, and the Hylian Shield, heck, shields throughout the Zelda series would continue to bear the Triforce. Then, even in the Wind Waker, with the original Hyrule miles beneath the ocean waves, we see the Triforce in select places, such as on the door inside Link’s house. Really, over time, it seemed as if the Triforce became the official symbol for the Hyrulian culture, rather than purely a religious object.
That’s just the beginning of it. In the Wind Waker, the religion is still being followed, even after the tragic flood, where practically the entire world was lost. The Koroks are keeping Farore’s Pearl safe and sound, and the Ritos are keeping Din’s Pearl safe and sound as well, or at least, Komali and his grand-mother were. Also on Dragon Roost we saw the Wind Shrine, where Zephos hangs out, and where Cyclos used to hang out.
It seems though that the entire reason why the religion stayed around during that time was because of the deities; the Deku Tree, Valoo, and Jabun, and maybe Zephos and Cyclos. Those five watched over their ‘worshippers’, and protected them, while Jabun even took it upon himself to secure Nayru’s Pearl. That quintet really seemed to be the heroes for the religion during that era. And hey, we can’t forget about Gohdan now can we, he still remained loyal to the goddesses as an honorable servant.
The examples go on and on. As I’ve already mentioned there’s the fact that the Seven Sages from Ocarina of Time become so respected over time, with stain-glass windows in Wind Waker’s Hyrule Castle, and towns named after them in the Adventure of Link. The Book of Mudora is written by the people, first seen in A Link to the Past (though believed to be created much earlier), which becomes Hyrule’s equivalent to the Bible or Qur’an. We can even mention the peoples’ labors to build sacred temples like the Temple of Time, the Crystal House in the Minish Cap and the Church in A Link to the Past.
I’m going to echo two things that I said at the closing of my last article. One is that what I’ve said in this writing is only a portion of what could be completely documented, which makes this topic even more interesting, because there’s still a plethora of information on Hyrule’s religion waiting to be discovered by us fans. The second thing is that I can assure everyone that we’ll see more of the religion in the Twilight Princess, and maybe get some answers to the mysterious elements of the faith. It could even fill some of those gaps and completely tie it all together, who knows. I’ll keep looking into it, and I hope that by writing this, I can get more of you can jump in and take a gander.
After all, there’s always something new to be discovered in the Zelda universe.