Hyrule and Theology

Recently, as part of Jon Acuff’s “30 Days of Hustle”, I finished reading The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy.  The volume is exactly what it sounds like: a book that delves into philosophical ideas present within the gaming mythology of The Legend of Zelda games and/or looks at philosophical ideas through the lens of the The Legend of Zelda franchise. As I read though pages that dealt with logic, time, space, metaphysics, art, and other ideas, one particular essay grabbed my attention more than the others:  “How can there be evil in Hyrule?”

Written by Dwayne Collins, this essay functions as the Star Trek franchise or Battlestar Galactica reboot do.  These science-fiction franchises take the watcher out of their normal context to grapple with questions or issues present in actual existence.  In this case, Collins uses Hyrule – the mythical land wherein the events of The Legend of Zelda occur – as a canvas to deal with the “problem of evil” alongside the Judeo-Christian concept of a all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good deity.

In Hyrule, deity is represented by a trio of goddesses – Din, Nayru, and Farore – whom represent Power, Wisdom, and Courage.  Upon creating Hyrule, its realms, and all life within them, this trinity leaves behind the Triforce, an artifact imbued with the essence of the powers of the goddesses.  If an individual were to possess all three pieces of the Triforce, it would grant their wish and transform the Sacred Realm – in which the Triforce resides – to reflect the heart of the one who possesses the pieces.

As the stories represented in the various games unfold, three characters posses pieces of the Triforce:  Ganon/Ganondorf/The Demon King, the Triforce of Power; Princess Zelda, the Triforce of Courage; and Link, the Triforce of Courage.  Ganon/Ganondorf/The Demon King – the Thanos, Darkseid, and/or Apocalypse of The Legend of Zelda – is always the character that has brought evil to Hyrule.  Princess Zelda, the ruler that Ganondorf seeks to usurp, and Link, the hero who fights to defeat the evil that Ganondorf embodies.

The question presented within the pages of the essay is, essentially, “If God exists, why does evil exist?”  In the Hyrule vernacular, “If the godesses exist, why does Ganondorf exist?”  The underlying assumption is that the deity that exists – being all powerful, all knowing, and all good – wouldn’t allow for evil to exist (something that is contrary to the nature of said deity); this is the logical problem of evil.  In the Hyrule (and real) context, the author settles on a third, hybrid, idea:  an all-good deity would eliminate evil unless there was a superior moral reason not to do so.  This “superior moral reason” that the author cites is one of free will, one of choice.  Essentially, this means that the best of all possible worlds created by God – or Hyrules’ created by the goddesses – includes the existence of human beings – or elvin/goblin creatures – with the free will to choose between good and evil.  Collins then deals with the evidential aspect of the problem of evil by concluding that humanity – or the occupants of Hyrule – would need to be all knowing as God – or the goddesses – is/are in order to conclude that there is no good whatsoever that could come of evil existing within the world/realms of Hyrule (that there may be/is a good that is beyond human grasping).

As a final attempt to deal with the issue of evil, the author concludes that the goddesses determined that the evil that Ganondorf unleashes on Hyrule in his lust for power needs to be halted and turned back, therefore they choose Link to act as the hero who would fight – and defeat Ganondorf and restore Hyrule.  This method is chosen so as to undo the evil but preserve free will (allowing the hero himself the free will to choose to be the one to restore Hyrule).

Nevertheless, these conclusions stop with Hyrule and do not carry over to real life because the author does not believe that such a hero exists – past or present – in our world.  It was at this point in my reading that the highlighting stopped and the pen came out, as I began making making notes in the margins referring to the life of Christ.  To carry these conclusions from the land of Hyrule to Earth is to consider the life of Christ.  To consider that He – whom Himself is God the Son – was the Hero chosen by God the Father to take on human form – become fully man and fully God simultaneously and posses the same free will humanity does –  combat and defeat the demon king usurper Lucifer/Satan at the Place of the Skull.  Christ did this – after expressing the desire to not have to do this – to restore humanity to relationship with God; to proper standing as creature before the creator (Andrew Murray’s book Humility deals heavily, and well, with this).

While many of the Hyrule conclusions make me smile, the inability of the author to take the next step and bring his final conclusions into an earthly realm give me pause.  Nevertheless, the thoughts on the importance of myth espoused by J.R.R. Tolkien live on in Collins’s thoughts on the problem of evil (as seen through the lens of The Legend of Zelda) because the fantastic story/experience Shigeru Miyamoto created has served as myth for a generation of console gamers and it was Tolkien who believed that all myth(s) created by humanity imperfectly reflects and refracts the One True Myth, God’s story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.  Similarly, because of Tolkien, his friend and fellow Inkling, C.S. Lewis, believed that much theology could be presented to an individual if enshrouded in the mythic, epic, and fantastic.  Thankfully, The Legend of Zelda is all of the above and Christ is the link between these worlds of Hyrule and Earth.






Posted on by Aaron in Video Games

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

One Response to Hyrule and Theology

  1. Ian

    Great post but you have a typo. Zelda gets the tri-force of wisdom.

Add a Comment