Christianity in The Legend of Zelda?

Updated on December 24, 2011
The three sacred goddesses, Farore, Nayru, and Din (left to right.)
The three sacred goddesses, Farore, Nayru, and Din (left to right.) | Source

The three sacred goddesses

"Before time began, before spirits and life existed... Three golden goddesses descended upon the chaos that was Hyrule... Din, the goddess of power... Nayru, the goddess of wisdom... Farore, the goddess of courage... Din... With her strong flaming arms, she cultivated the land and created the red earth. Nayru... Poured her wisdom onto the earth and gave the spirit of law to the world. Farore... With her rich soul, produced all life forms who would uphold the law. The three great goddesses, their labors completed, departed for the heavens. And golden sacred triangles remained at the point where the goddesses left the world. Since then, the sacred triangles have become the basis for our world's providence. And, the resting place of the triangles has become the Sacred Realm."

Any self-respecting Zelda fan will recognize the above passage. It was spoken by The Great Deku Tree after Link defeats Queen Gohma at the beginning of Ocarina of Time. This story, told by The Great Deku Tree, gave birth to the mythos behind The Legend of Zelda games. It was the very first bit of information that we were dripfed with regards to Hyrule's origin. Since then, the mythology has been revisted and compounded upon by successive games. Most recently, Skyward Sword delved deeply into the story of the goddesses. Now this is all fine and good, except it leaves us with a question.

Hey, Nintendo? What's this about?

Promotional artwork for A Link to the Past
Promotional artwork for A Link to the Past | Source

Now if you were to ask me, I'd have to say that the man on the cross that Link is kneeling in front of is Jesus Christ. And I'd also venture to say that the place Link is in, appears to be a Christian church. I'd then have to make the educated guess that the female holding a baby to the left of the crucifix is the Virgin Mary. The meaning of these religious symbols: the cross, the Virgin Mary, the church, Jesus... The meaning is apparent. The problem here is that I'm pretty sure Jesus was left entirely out of the Great Deku Tree's story.

Promotional artwork of Link holding the Magic Shield.
Promotional artwork of Link holding the Magic Shield. | Source
Sanctuary from A Link to the Past looks very much like a Christian church.
Sanctuary from A Link to the Past looks very much like a Christian church. | Source

So what's going on?

Well, up until the release of A Link to the Past, Christianity was a recurring theme in The Legend of Zelda franchise. In fact, it was originally meant as the prominent religion of Hyrule's people, with the implication that it was also a true religion. Remember, the lore of the three goddesses, and the origin of the Triforce was not conceived until the release of Ocarina of Time in 1998. However, the Christian influence on the games goes beyond a few aesthetic influences.

I think most of us who are veterans to the series have recognized that the original Magic Shield had a cross on it, and that the Book of Spells did as well. And even those of us who might have missed it were probably unable to overlook the inclusion of sanctuary in Link to the Past. Is more evidence desired? How about the fact that when Link uses the Book of Mudora in front of a sacred slab, he clasps his hand together, he looks up at the sky, and he prays. One more? How about the fact that in the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda, the Book of Magic is actually called "The Bible." (Source: Zeldapedia)

Yep, it's legit. At one point in time, Nintendo intended for Link to be a crusader of sorts. But knowing this raises another question: How does it fit into the series as it exists today? Perhaps at some point in the series' timeline, there was a religious war and one religion overtook the other in prominence? Perhaps over an extended period of time, names were changed, and ideas were transformed, and Christianity and the goddess origin myth are at their core the same religions?

Well, actually...

The recently-published official Zelda timeline shows a split having occurred due to the time travel shenanigans of Ocarina of Time. One resulting split after this game leads to Link to the Past, The Legend of Zelda, and The Adventure of Link happening. The games containing Christianity are all held within one portion of the timeline, so it is theoretically possible to interpret Christianity as having developed and taken hold at one point after or during the sealing war -- though it seems highly improbable.

What we're actually getting is retroactive continuity at work. Yup, good old retcon! Nintendo has decided to take a step back and sever all ties with real-world religions. This is supported by the fact that when Nintendo released Ocarina of Time on the Gamecube with Master Quest, all of the crescent moon motifs (found on the mirror shield, and on various objects in dungeons) were removed due to bearing a resemblance to an Islamic symbol.

So I'd say the split-religion theory is unlikely. Still, this aspect of Zelda's history is interesting to know.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        tz 

        4 months ago

        The irony is they only substituted one real spiritual system with another since goddess worship and divination are real. You see paganism everywhere. I think it would have made the series unique if they stuck to the original vision. What would a fantasy world powered by the biblical God look like? There is already lots of light vs darkness, demons, angelic creatures, holy swords and light arrows, sacred sanctuaries and dungeons of captivity. Teleportation and time travel (which are actually in the Bible ie Acts and Revelation). It has a LOT to offer.

      • RachaelLefler profile image

        Rachael Lefler 

        19 months ago from Illinois

        They look that way because the games are based on the early middle ages in European history, which were a Christian time period but also a time with some lingering paganism. That's why you have decidedly pagan elements like trees you go to for wisdom in Ages and Seasons, and goddess worship, alongside Christianity. It represents a time when European culture was transitioning to Christianity, but retained some pagan traditions and influence, especially in remote, rural areas. The magical items that Link finds might also be a reference to the fact that this period also saw the rise of the cult of the relics. Power glove = gauntlet of a saint? Master sword = sword of St. Michael the archangel? Who knows, maybe.

      • profile image

        Mike Dierickx 

        2 years ago

        Great article. As a lapsed Catholic, I would add that when Link prays with the book at the desert temple in LttP, he also very clearly crosses himself like a Catholic. I was shocked to see this when I was ten.

      • profile image

        kian 

        3 years ago

        This on god could be hilaya as skyward sword shows her bowing in respect and her stance is cross shaped(the tribes only worship hilaya)

      • no body profile image

        Robert E Smith 

        4 years ago from Rochester, New York

        I understand Chris. And it's okay. I wasn't expecting Christianity in any form in this entertainment, especially not Jesus. I watch fantasy all the time and it always is a pleasant thing to see some little tribute to Christ, but I am not expecting it. That is why I was pleased to read that it used to be that way. I may even try Zelda someday (any Zelda). As long as I don't get my doctrine from entertainment, I can get much satisfaction from the entertainment value. Did I say that clearly? I think you know what I mean. I think I overstated my disappointment in the Nintendo newer versions. I am happy with the knowledge that someone included it before and that I may have a different "frontier" to explore should I ever take the time to stop working for a minute on other stuff.

      • Chris Qu profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Qu 

        4 years ago

        The goddess mythos is one of the greatest things about The Legend of Zelda franchise. It's the glue that holds the series together -- the core of the legend is intrinsically intertwined with the royal family's own lineage. To ignore that mythos, is to downplay the overarching story of the series as a whole. I can't support that view.

        To be direct: if you're looking for Christianity in the Legend of Zelda these days, you're looking in the wrong place. When A Link to the Past was released, the Zelda series was still very amorphous; but that is no longer the case. There exists, now, a defined canon -- and Jesus is not a part of it. He hasn't been in over 20 years.

      • no body profile image

        Robert E Smith 

        4 years ago from Rochester, New York

        Okay, how do I say this? Um... In my current circle of friends with which I speak are Christians, Bible tolerant folks, Gamers, and Ocarina players that are no strangers to gaming. The thing is that I know nothing of the link to Christianity. It is a thing that will make conversations with friends much easier. I usually avoid all goddess talk but I can deal with links and such. I have been avoiding this so long that it feels like a cool gust of wind on a very hot and tired man. I have been doing my best to tolerate gamer talk and Zelda speak for so long now and I see a way to look at it that will make things so much easier. Of course, the Nintendo backing away thing disturbs me a tad, but all in all I am very impressed that they included it in the first place. I have a new respect for the history and a new perspective on the fans enthusiasm.

      • profile image

        Joshua Rogers 

        4 years ago

        I wonder if Ganon being a pig has something to do with demons being cast into pigs in the Bible.

      • profile image

        Joseph B. Serrano Matos 

        4 years ago

        Yes. I knew about all signs of the 4 most widely professed religions within Zelda. At first, Nintendo wanted to attract as many westerners as it could. At the same time, they wanted to include Buddhism, Islam, and aspects of older religions, like Shintoism. As time went on, they found a way to please most of the fans by synthesizing the common beliefs between 7 religions or so. The result: The Triforce and the Golden Goddesses. You can't get more general than that without ruining core beliefs of most of the players. This is the reason Ocarina of Time is so important to the franchise: it established the building blocks of gameplay for future generations.

      • RetroQuest profile image

        RetroQuest 

        6 years ago

        When I was a child, my first (Store new) NES game that my parents bought me was The Legend of Zelda. I went nuts with this game loved it; my cousing (who was older) would go to my house every day to play it. Once I had a horrible nightmare about the game. I was in a dungeon and my parents where trapped by the blue skulls that eat your shield. I remember that my parents where asking me to pray to help them, so I did (this is me 4-5 yrs old) I remember Link coming to help me. I guess I woke up so scared that me telling my dream to my father traumatized him. He gathered hate towards Zelda and video games, He would call them "Demonic". He prohibit me to play video games until I was about 16 years old. All this time My parent thought Zelda and video games were Taboo, I knew that Zelda had something to do with Good. I remember that on the NES Zelda you would collect the triangles and it reminded me of the holy trinity! ocarina of time came along and the triforce confirmed that these game was loosely based on the bible, and it had some kind of good moral lesson. I am a great fan of Zelda, All those years it remained a taboo in my house, I managed to watch/play this game on my cousin's or friend's houses.

        Good hub! I like when people see the good in things.

      • Winterfate profile image

        Darrin Perez 

        6 years ago from Puerto Rico

        For shame, I've been a Zelda fan since the age of 5 and I never caught on to this!

        Incredibly interesting read Chris Qu! :)

      • profile image

        Sauleha 

        6 years ago

        Woah. That's a perspective I never saw. Of course I recognized the crosses on all the items mentione but it still never occurred to me.... Good job :)

      • Simone Smith profile image

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        6 years ago from San Francisco

        Just when I think a game can't be any more interesting, I come across interesting discussions like this. Great Hub!! Also, welcome to HubPages, Chris! I'm so stoked you've joined. Can't wait to see what you publish next!

      • Benoitsmidget profile image

        Benoitsmidget 

        6 years ago from Boston

        Good job. I actually found this quite interesting. Leave it to you to notice this.

      • profile image

        JFord1985 

        6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

        In all of the years that I've played Zelda, I never caught onto this, that's a good and interesting find!

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