Christianity in The Legend of Zelda?
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?
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.
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?
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.