Friday, January 30, 2009

A Timeless Hero: Part 3- The Warrior-Prophet

The Legend of Zelda first debuted in Japan on February 21, 1986 and after 22 years and over a dozen games later the franchise is still alive and well along with our timeless (and time traveling) hero, Link. The Legend of Zelda has captured the imagination of generations of gamers with its captivating storyline, mind twisting dungeons, and hours of battling the forces of evil as Link transforms from a humble boy into a timeless hero chosen by the gods. But why did they choose Link? What does the future hold for this warrior-prophet? And what does Link represent not only to the people of Hyrule but to us? In this series I will analyze the religious and spiritual elements of The Legend of Zelda.

[Link and enemy from Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess by StarShock12, 2006. More incredible fanart by StarShock12 can be found here and here.]

[Note: I am not a professional religious scholar but these are just my views on some of the symbolism I've noticed in the game series. I've focused on the plots in A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess. I apologize if I've left anything out. Enjoy!]

Part 3- The Warrior-Prophet

There have been several incarnations of our hero, Link, throughout the series and with each story one constant theme always remains; whenever darkness creeps into the land a hero is summoned. In each time period a new incarnation of Link's spirit arises to defeat the evil of his era. He is depicted as a Hylian boy with an age varying from pre-teen to late teens. The gods blessed the Hylians with magic-infused blood that endows them with physic powers, skills in wizardry, and it is also said that their long pointed ears allows them to hear messages from the gods. Thus Hylians, as protectors of Hyrule and messengers of the gods, are the acting priesthood for all the Hyrulians. Other races worship and at times receive messages from the gods, but only through the Hylian bloodline do warrior-prophets arise to challenge evil. These warrior-prophets have specific characteristics and missions they are sent to accomplish including:
  • receiving visions and communicating with the spirit realm
  • spirit guides accompanying the hero on his journey
  • cleansing the holy temples of evil
  • receiving ancient relics that will aid the hero in his quest
  • sometimes being mentioned in prophecy
  • having humble traits and origins usually raised in a small village
  • completing their quest alone aided only by the grace of the gods
As I've mentioned in the previous posts whenever evil enters into the land of Hyrule a hero arises to combat it. Only once has a hero failed to appear which caused the gods to intervene and contain the evil until one did appear years later (back story to The Wind Waker). Evil creeps over the land releasing demonic, feral creatures while overtaking holy temples and turning them into dark and twisted dungeons. Through most of the series Link is destined to not only save Princess Zelda but the land of Hyrule. Dungeon after dungeon, monster after monster, trial after trial Link grows stronger, wiser, and more courageous over time. His trials prepare him for his battle with his main antagonist, Ganon, who is looking to conquer all of Hyrule with the help of the Triforce of Power.

Although Link must accomplish his quest alone he is helped by the Divine through spirit guides, revelations, and visions that guide and direct him. They communicate their will directly to him, at times telepathically, as his body and spirit rejuvenates at their holy fountains. In some games he is accompanied by a spirit guide. In The Ocarina of Time Navi, a blue fairy, is instructed by the Great Deku Tree to assist Link in his quest to stop Ganondorf. Tatl, a yellow fairy, keeps him company in a sequel after the time stream split, Majora's Mask. The King of Red Lions, a talking red sailboat with the head of a lion, guides Link and provides transportation across the Great Sea in the Windwaker. Another important character is Link's horse, Epona, who is named after a Celtic goddess of horses and is his mode of transportation in several games. An interesting note is that the Celtic goddess, Epona, and her horses may have acted as guides and escorts of the soul to the afterlife. All of these spirits may help Link in his quest but in the end it is Link that must strike the final blow.

During his quest the gods ask Link to acquire certain ancient and spiritual relics that will empower him with divine-like powers in exchange for restoring their holy temples. In each temple Link visits an evil presence resides inside which Link must remove and defeat to cleanse the temple. One could draw similarity to the synoptic gospel accounts of Jesus and the money changers where Jesus drives out the men extorting profit from worshipers while quoting Isaiah and Jeremiah,
My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.—Isaiah 56:7

But you have made it a den of thieves—Jeremiah 7:11
Likewise, Link also drives out evil that has invaded a house of prayer and have stolen goodness, justice, and peace by poisoning the holiest sites of Hyrule.

The most important thing about our hero is his humble, yet courageous, character. It is because of the hero's character that they are chosen not because of their physical strength or sword skills. In fact our hero has very little or no combat training at all. His origins also echo his humble nature. Link, who appears to be an orphan, is shown being raised in small quaint villages. The villages are isolated from the rest of the world untouched by any sort of worldly corruption and temptation. It is here in his village where the hero is born, called, and begins his journey.

Link, our eternal hero, returns time and time again to defeat and cleanse the land of evil, returning peace and order to Hyrule. As long as evil exists Link's heroic spirit will never rest. Even as he delivers Hyrule from evil one sword swing at a time he is also cleansing the hearts and souls of Hyrule as a symbol of Courage, Strength, and Wisdom. Legends will be passed on generation after generation about the courageous actions displayed by the warrior-prophets sent by the gods. He is a reminder to the people that the gods still watch and care for them even through the darkest times. One day when all of Hyrule instill the hero's attributes into their hearts then maybe the gods won't need to send any more heroes to a land that doesn't need rescue.

How did evil first enter Hyrule? Why is the first Link called the Hero of Time? What role does his legendary weapon, the Master Sword, play in the overall series and what relation does Link have with this ancient relic? In the next part of my series on the religious and spiritual elements of The Legend of Zelda I will be focusing on the first Link, the Master Sword, and his role as the legendary Hero of Time.

Part 1-The Golden Goddesses
Part 2-The Triforce
Part 3-The Warrior Prophet
Part 4-He Who Split Time
Part 5-The Temples of Hyrule
Part 6-A Link to the Future

Or Click here to read them all back to back

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