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:
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.