Christianity in "The Legend of Zelda"
The Three Goddesses
Any self-respecting Zelda fan will recognize the passage below. It was spoken by The Great Deku Tree after Link defeats Queen Gohma at the beginning of Ocarina of Time. This story gave birth to the mythos behind The Legend of Zelda games. It was the very first bit of information that we were drip-fed in regards to Hyrule's origin. Since then, the mythology has been revisited and changed in successive games. Most recently, Skyward Sword delved deeper into the story of the goddesses.
Hyrule's Origin Story
"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."
– The Great Deku Tree
Christian Influence in The Legend of Zelda
The lore of the three goddesses and the origin of the Triforce were not conceived until the release of Ocarina of Time in 1998. Before this title, Christianity was a recurring theme in The Legend of Zelda franchise; in fact, it was meant to be the prominent religion of Hyrule. Christian influence in the series went beyond implication and leaked into other facets such as:
- Promotional Artwork
- Symbols and Motifs
- Character Design
How did Christianity fit in the fantasy world of Hyrule, and how was it phased out once the new origin story was written? By looking at the evidence and reviewing the lore, we'll come one step closer to understanding this ever-changing series.
The photo above is a promotional piece for A Link to the Past. Now, if you ask me, I'd have to say that the man on the cross that Link is kneeling in front of is Jesus Christ. I'd also venture to say that Link appears to be in a Christian church, which leads me to make an educated guess that the female holding a baby to the left of the crucifix is the Virgin Mary.
The meaning of these religious symbols is pretty apparent. In the actual game, when Link uses the Book of Mudora in front of a sacred slab, he clasps his hands together, looks up at the sky, and prays.
Symbols and Motifs
I think most of us who are veterans of the series have recognized that the original Magic Shield and the Book of Magic were adorned with crosses. Also, in the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda, the Book of Magic is actually called "The Bible." Even those who missed it were probably unable to overlook the inclusion of the Sanctuary in A Link to the Past, which is a church-like structure where Zelda takes refuge after being rescued.
Using his garb and connection to the church as evidence, it seems that Nintendo intended for Link to be a crusader of sorts. But knowing this raises another question: How does this 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. Perhaps Christianity and Hyrule's goddesses are, at their core, the same religion.
Timelines and Split-Religion Theory
The official Zelda timeline shows a split due to the time-travel shenanigans of Ocarina of Time. One thread following this game leads to A Link to the Past, The Legend of Zelda, and The Adventure of Link. All of the games containing Christianity are held within one portion of the timeline, so it is theoretically possible that Christianity developed and took hold at one point during or after the Seal War—though it seems highly improbable.
"Good Old Retcon"
With the introduction of multiple timelines, we are starting to see retroactive continuity. Yup, good old retcon! Nintendo had 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 its resemblance to an Islamic symbol.
The Legend of Zelda Is Always Evolving
Still, it is interesting to see how The Legend of Zelda series has evolved over time to eradicate any Christian themes and replace them with an entirely new religion of sorts. The existence of three major timelines allows for this kind of experimentation to ultimately be "canon." With such freedom, who knows where Nintendo will bring Link next?