Having first played The Wind Waker on release day back in 2003 on the GameCube, I was pleasantly surprised by the controversial graphics at the time, being stubborn and judging the game for what it would be rather than what it wasn’t.
The Celtic and Irish touches intertwined within the game can be subtle but add an incredibly unique atmosphere to the game in terms of the sense of excitement for adventure along with the hints of mythology and the secrets that Hyrule naturally contains. To supplement that, the Zelda series generally has had NPCs provide hints by describing hidden secrets as something of a tale they have heard, encouraging you to explore. It’s the kind of lore and tales you’d hear in Ireland of fairies, leprechauns, luck scenarios, and myths.
Some of the aforementioned touches are likely to have been intentional, while others seem less intentional. But as with all theories, there is an inevitability of some degree of subjectivity, and this is no different.
The Zelda franchise is no stranger when it comes to comparisons to mythology, especially of the Celtic and Irish variety, but, without delving too much into that, there are a few things that are much more at the surface — especially in The Wind Waker.
A lot of the soundtrack in The Wind Waker is inspired by traditional Irish music. Eimear Noone, who has conducted Symphony of the Goddess concerts, worked on the album “A Link to the Celts” back in 2015. You’ll be serenaded when you are welcomed on the title screen, and, when you discover other compositions across the game, it further encapsulates this style of music, fitting the game extraordinarily well.
While you let the title screen play through to take in the timeless visuals accompanied by the beautiful music, the text with “The Wind Waker font” itself is notable for resembling Gaelic script — a font synonymous with Ireland. It’s the same style of text you might see used for some Irish signage, text, or even a Gaelic football. The font style still resonates heavily in the history of Ireland, and it’s remains a current association.
With The Wind Waker having a setting of islands spread across the sea, that in itself has a conscientious feeling of the island of Ireland, being a small island out on its own.
There are distinctive similarities almost right away with Outset Island and the rope bridge. It is a bridge not dissimilar to the rope bridge found linking Carrick-a-Rede to Ireland’s mainland. The iconic bridge, found in County Antrim, will likely be familiar to those who visited the Giant’s Causeway, which is a phenomenon of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns in the shape of hexagons on the northeast coast of the island.
There are multiple versions of mythical stories involving Finn McCool, a giant hunter-warrior who is synonymous with the Giant’s Causeway, which was used as a link between Ireland and Scotland (A Link Between Worlds perhaps?).
Great Fairy island and the backstory of Link destined to a be the hero of Hyrule extracts similarities to the Banshee, a spirit of Irish folklore, known for things like window-knocking and wailing sounds to carry the message of the death of a family member. While not a direct comparison necessarily, there are components of the Banshee which can be derived from the Queen of the Fairies on Mother and Child Isles.
In addition to this, Ireland’s history of fairies, which includes numerous unique ancient structures which are identified as fairy forts, brings some relevance to the role (and perhaps even the design!) of the fairies in The Wind Waker and the wider Zelda franchise. Disturbing the fairy forts can result in bad luck or even death. There are even numerous fairy trails across the country paying homage to the rich history Ireland has with fairies. This includes undergrounds in Louth, the Fairy Bridges and the Wishing Chair in Donegal, and even a Fairy Festival with a Fairy Trail in Offaly.
Leprechauns, like fairies, havee a distinctive affiliation with Ireland. The aforementioned Leprechaun and Fairy Underground in Carlingford, Co. Louth, in particular, has even had a law passed by the European Union, as a means to protect Leprechauns. If the fairies are anything like the Great Fairy from the Zelda series, it can only be presumed that the sheer sight of them before any magic would inevitably happen, would be enough to protect them.
The shades of green of Link’s tunic, even his belt in The Wind Waker, and the constant state of wind are all slight (if a little farfetched) reminders of Ireland. The majestic cliffs in Wind Waker, and especially Breath of the Wild, are reminiscent of majestic cliffs in Ireland, like the Cliffs of Moher in Clare. There are also “Portal Tombs,” which are known as dolmens. Dolmens are stone structures generally over 4000 years old and look like rock tables. While not directly related to Zelda, these neolithic structures would fit perfectly into Breath of the Wild and the portal concept provides reminders of both the warp ability and the Shrine of Resurrection.
Epona didn’t appear in The Wind Waker, but Link’s trusty famous horse has its name derived from Celtic origin. “Epos” means “horse,” and the suffix “-ona” meaning “on,” leading the name Epona to mean “on horse.” So naturally, in Irish lore, Epona was the goddess of horses, dating back as far as the middle ages.
One could go on for many hours analysing the links between The Wind Waker and other Zelda games with Irish touches, but these are just some examples of how Ireland’s rich heritage feed into The Wind Waker in particular and Zelda as a whole.