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Christianity in "The Legend of Zelda"

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Chris is a proud nerd. He loves video games, anime, manga, and programming. He also loves spending all of his money on these things.

Link's original character design may have been inspired by the Crusaders from the Medieval period.

Link's original character design may have been inspired by the Crusaders from the Medieval period.

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

The three sacred goddesses: Farore, Nayru, and Din (left to right).

The three sacred goddesses: Farore, Nayru, and Din (left to right).

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.

Promotional Artwork for "A Link to the Past"

Promotional Artwork for "A Link to the Past"

Promotional Artwork

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.

The Sanctuary from "A Link to the Past" looks very much like a Christian church.

The Sanctuary from "A Link to the Past" looks very much like a Christian church.

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.

Promotional artwork of Link holding the Magic Shield.

Promotional artwork of Link holding the Magic Shield.

Character Design

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?

Comments

tz on February 27, 2018:

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.

Rachael Lefler from Illinois on December 09, 2016:

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.

Mike Dierickx on February 26, 2016:

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.

kian on April 08, 2015:

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)

Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on April 13, 2014:

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 (author) on April 12, 2014:

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.

Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on April 12, 2014:

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.

Joshua Rogers on January 06, 2014:

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

Joseph B. Serrano Matos on August 06, 2013:

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 on April 19, 2012:

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.

Darrin Perez from Puerto Rico on January 11, 2012:

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! :)

Sauleha on January 07, 2012:

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 Haruko Smith from San Francisco on December 28, 2011:

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 from Boston on December 27, 2011:

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

JFord1985 from Las Vegas, NV on December 26, 2011:

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