Stories often share common elements. This is fine, more or less, since there are only so many truly distinct stories that can be told. But sometimes things go a little further, and the resulting parallels are hard to miss. One example of this is the uncanny similarities and connections found between Nintendo’s Ocarina of Time and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
Though there is no confirmation, Tolkien’s works may have been a source of inspiration for some parts of Ocarina of Time. It would make sense if true, considering Tolkien’s status in the fantasy genre.
Whether deliberate or not, there is an unmistakable commonality between the plot, themes, characters, and locations found in both of these fantasy worlds. The connections are fascinating, so let’s take some time to explore them all.
History repeats itself
The plots of both stories focus on the idea of a necessary journey that takes a character or characters from their comfort zones and out into the unfamiliar and seemingly wild world to fulfill a greater purpose. Link shares this with multiple characters in The Lord of the Rings.
Link is a lonely child with no understanding of the world past the confines of the Kokiri Forest. He is forced to abandon the safety of his home and travel to far ends of Hyrule to save the kingdom from an invading threat. Frodo (and even Bilbo earlier on in The Hobbit) are caught in the middle of quests that leave them with no option but to leave the comfort of the Shire and attempt to destroy an ancient evil. There is a level of uncertainty in all of these characters, but they move forward and the discover a new level of courage and strength they never realized was in them.
This uncertainty is followed quickly by something integral to every story: the need for a hero. There are many characters found in both stories, but there has to be only one who can serve as the ultimate champion of good and take the lead during the threat. Link is this person in Ocarina of Time, and Aragorn is the one in The Lord of the Rings. Both are even the rightful wielders of powerful swords: Link wields his Master Sword and Aragorn wields Andúril. Granted, the Master Sword is a direct source of magical power and Andúril is more of a mark of Aragorn’s right to rule by lineage, but they are both important symbols of their respective owner’s status as champion.
These heroes are swept up in their roles and, throughout the stories, learn their places in history. Link is the Chosen Hero, destined to aid Princess Zelda and the sages in sealing Ganon. Aragorn is the last heir to Isildur and must take his rightful place on the throne of Gondor and lead the free men of Middle-earth.
The protagonists need their antagonists. They are the reason the heroes must step forward, and the villains of both of these tales certainly see eye-to-eye when it comes to ambitions. Ganondorf and Sauron want complete control of their worlds and will do anything to make that goal a reality. They are manipulative, as seen by Ganondorf’s false loyalty for the king of Hyrule and Sauron’s ruse to use the Rings of Power to control the leaders of the other races. The complete and utter foolishness in how they regard the protagonists, especially in how they underestimate them at almost every turn, is a common trait as well. This fault is so prevalent in both that it ultimately leads to each villain’s downfall.
Ganondorf and Sauron share so much in common, but their single most important common trait is their absolute obsession and fixation on power. To gain it and to use it, they desire true power above all else. Each has a source of power they want, and their plans for domination depend upon their ability to acquire them.
Ganondorf seeks the Triforce, and Sauron seeks the One Ring. Ganondorf is even the destined wielder of one of the pieces of the Triforce, the Triforce of Power. These two even match in terms of aesthetics and presentation. Both dark lords enjoy the color black, command all manner of horrible monsters, distort the natural world, and take up residence in large, ominous towers.
Evil must be countered by good, and a hero must arise in order for that to happen. This is the core of each story’s narrative.
The ties that bind
Next, let’s look at the themes weaved throughout each story. This one’s pretty straightforward. Both Ocarina of Time and The Lord of the Rings focus on the age-old battle of good versus evil, and the outcome of each narrative is affected by the ambitions, convictions, and relationships their characters have.
First is the catalyst for each story. Peace and safety are ruined by the villains while in the pursuit of their desires. They destroy lives, ruin homes, and tear apart families and communities all in the name of completing their main goal: satisfying their lust for power.
The pursuit of power is more than the plot point I mentioned earlier. It is a constant and underlying element, and it doesn’t only affect Ganondorf and Sauron. From Link’s adventures in the Bottom of the Well and the Shadow Temple, we know of Hyrule’s secret dark past, a past when the Royal Family apparently did horrible things in the pursuit of control. It’s one of the paintings within that very temple that tells us, “Here [in the Shadow Temple] is gathered Hyrule’s bloody history of greed and hatred.” Something horrible happened before events of Ocarina of Time, and thanks to the efforts of the those in power, no one will ever know exactly what that was.
Power’s corruption seen even more vividly in The Lord of the Rings. Everyone who comes in contact with the One Ring falls victim to its influence. They succumb to their own subconscious desire for power. It drives many people mad, even leading some to their deaths. It’s a dark time in the history of Middle-earth and is very reminiscent of the dark history alluded to in Ocarina of Time.
The damage done by the evildoer’s search for power gives birth to the next theme. The encroaching darkness cannot be countered except by the unwavering courage of a few people. In both stories, this courage comes in surprising quantities from unexpected sources.
Link once again is the prime example of this. He is the Hero of Time, after all. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s the chosen wielder of the Triforce of Courage. Still, this lonely child with few friends and no forest fairy surprises everyone by his ability to answer the Great Deku Tree’s call and face the world and its challenges with undaunted resolve. Fighting fierce monsters, exploring dangerous dungeons, and braving hazardous terrains are just some of the deeds that make Link a paragon of courage.
Courage is more spread out in The Lord of the Rings, but it and Ocarina of Time still share the same idea of courage coming from more modest people. Frodo’s accepting the responsibility as the Ringbearer, Aragorn’s fulfilling his destiny to become king, and Samwise Gamgee’s loyalty are all examples of courage coming from people who are “counted out” by many, just like Link was.
Lastly, connected to these central themes are the relationships between people and groups of people. The heroes of each story, despite all their valiant deeds, cannot prevail on their own.
In Ocarina of Time, Link is very much so out of his element once he sets foot in Hyrule Field. He doesn’t know anything about the world, but he knows he must do what he can to save it. This leads him to interact with many different people, and learn a lot about the kingdom of Hyrule.
Link learns about the great war took concluded around the time of his birth, a war that in the end united the races of Hyrule together. The Gorons, Zora, Gerudo and to an extent the Kokiri pledge their loyalty to the King of Hyrule, and together they make the kingdom prosper. And when Ganondorf begins his assault on Hyrule, individuals from all races, especially the Six Sages, do everything in their power to help Link defeat him.
This same unison of different groups of people is seen throughout The Lord of the Rings. It is repeatedly shown that the differences between men, elves, and dwarves create a lot of conflict among them.
The quarreling during the Council of Elrond, where the groups came together to decide the fate of the One Ring, is a perfect example. None of the groups wanted to fully trust anyone else. But when faced with a common and powerful threat, they put their differences aside to aid Frodo in his burden to destroy the ring.
The last parallels I want to discuss are also the most interesting to me. They are the visual and trivial similarities that cannot be ignored. These are actually what I noticed first in regards to the connections between Ocarina of time and The Lord of the Rings, and are what helped me realize how many more there are.
To start, the environments share a lot in common. Both stories are in a medieval setting, have a mysterious, mystical forest, an imposing, volcanic mountain, a mighty river that flows through a sacred place, a barren wasteland, sprawling fields, and a highly defended capital city. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine Mount Doom and Death Mountain as being interchangeable first draft names for both locations.
Even the placement of some of these geographical areas is similar. Gerudo Desert is on the outskirts of the region, much like Mordor. They are both kept secluded and hard to access thanks to dangerous terrain and are the homes of the main antagonists. The main cities, Hyrule Castle Town and Gondor, are relatively central locations that actually help connect all other regions.
The next similarity (and the one most obvious to me personally) is how the races resemble each other. The Kokiri are the small beings who live in peaceful seclusion, much like the Hobbits. The Gorons live in the mountains and spend most of their time digging in the Dodongo Caverns. They are also an abrasive, yet kind race. The Dwarves are the same way. The Zoras are elegant, sophisticated, and mystical, with the Middle-earth’s Elves match them in each regard. Finally, the Gerudo are abrasive, greedy, and — while under the command of Ganondorf — dangerous. They are frequently at odds with everyone. The orcs, trolls, and Easterlings play the same role, albeit in a more intense and violent way.
Finally, while the creatures and monsters of Ocarina of Time and The Lord of the Rings do not all entirely match each other, but there are still some things to find in common. Gohma and Shelob are two giant spiders that spread death and suffering wherever they are. The Gorons’ struggles with the Dodongos and the Goron-eating Volvagia resemble the Dwarves’ suffering at the claws of Smaug. Morpha’s use of tentacles and the element of surprise bears a strong resemblance to how the Watcher in the Water outside of Moria behaved. Many of these monsters could have been the result of stories’ creators drawing from similar inspirations (After all, a lot of people seem to love vilifying spiders), but it is still worth mentioning how well they line up with each other.
A tale retold
I’m sure more connections could be found between these legendary tales, given how much is already apparent. That’s the thing about good stories and good messages. They get retold again and again. They are reborn in the imaginations of many people over the course of many years, and that is how it should be. It gives new life to the things people love.