Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Timeless Hero: Part 4- He Who Split Time

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.

[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 4-He Who Split Time

For those of you unfamiliar with the Legend of Zelda series, this post might be a bit confusing. For those who are absolute fans I hope you'll get something out of this, but let me start with a brief outline over the issue of time. The chronology of the games is a hotly debated issue among the hardcore fans and there are dozens of time lines and theories that you can get lost in them for hours. So you don't get confused just remember that these are just theories and that the games themselves have the final authority.

Most people agree that Ocarina of Time is the first game in the chronology. In Ocarina of Time, Link attempts to keep the evil thief Gannondorf from accessing the Sacred Realm. Link pulls the Master Sword from the pedestal of time which opens the Door of Time to the Sacred Realm. Unfortunately his very actions cause him to be sealed in the Temple of Time for 7 years while Gannondorf enters the Sacred Realm unabated. Link is kept there until he matures into an adult where he is awakened by Rauru, the sage of Light who informs Link that to stop Gannondorf he must awaken five other Sages. Throughout Ocarina of Time, Link travels back and forth through time to complete certain tasks. The Master Sword is described as "a ship with which you can sail upstream and downstream through time's river...The port for that ship is in the Temple of Time..." Once he defeats Gannon, the sages seal him up in the Sacred Realm and Zelda sends Link back to his own time.

give the Ocarina to me...
As a Sage, I can return you
to your original time with it.

When peace returns to Hyrule...
It will be time for us to say

Now, go home, Link.
Regain your lost time!
where you are supposed to be...
the way you are supposed to be...
Zelda sends him back before Link originally opened the Door of Time. Now here comes the hassle with time travel. Anything related to time travel gives me a royal headache, but this is where the Split Timeline Theory comes into play. The Split Timeline Theory suggests that when Zelda sent Link back to his own time she created a parallel time stream. In the Adult Timeline Gannon is sealed in the Sacred Realm and sometime later, due to the absence of the Hero of Time, breaks out and the gods flood Hyrule to contain Gannon (The Wind Waker). In the Child Timeline, Link is returned to his childhood and warns the princess about Gannondorf's intentions and he is banished to the Twilight Realm (The Twilight Princess).

Ocarina of Time (Adult Timeline) --> The Wind Waker --> Phantom Hourglass

Ocarina of Time (Child Timeline) --> Majora's Mask --> Twilight Princess

Anyone lost yet? This is just dealing with 5 different games I won't even touch rest. My point being is that this one moment to reclaim Link's lost childhood has not only created a parallel time stream but now has created four different possibilities for the protection and salvation of Hyrule. Link's timeless spirit that arises when called can either fail or save Hyrule in both timelines. Without asking why the gods allowed this split in the first place, what makes Link so special to place the fate of Hyrule (even in parallel timelines) in his hands? What is it about Link that binds him to the land?

From controlling time, the weather, even summoning creatures Link is tied to the fate of Hyrule. He is a part of the land, and the land is a part of him. Whenever evil takes over the land his spirit senses this presence and rises to defend her. Link, the courageous orphan left to live among the forest children, sprouts and blooms whenever innocent blood is shed. It may even be that Link's eternal spirit is divine in origin, left behind like the Triforce, as the eternal guardian of the land. Every incarnation of Link's Spirit is the physical manifestation of courage rising up to challenge and to defeat evil. Maybe his spirit became eternally tied to the fate of Hyrule because of the time split, destined to repeatedly save Hyrule from evil until he fixes the split. (It would be fascinating to see a Zelda game where Link traverses throughout the different time periods to finally completely defeat Gannon once and for all) Even though Zelda was gracious enough to return Link to his own time maybe he wasn't meant to enjoy his childhood. Maybe he was meant to sacrifice his childhood so that he may save the world. Every hero must sacrifice something for the greater good. Link had several chances to settle down and raise a family, but he knew that if he did not answer the hero's call no one would have a future.

This ultimate sacrifice to give up ones life is found worldwide in traditions, myths, and religions throughout history. The most well known is that of Jesus, who also sacrificed his life to save the world. Right before his death he was insulted and dared him to step off the cross (Mark 15:25-32). This is beautifully illustrated in The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis where the Devil shows Jesus his life as it would be if he did step down from the cross. Near the end of his alternate life, Jesus realizes that he must die to save mankind and accepted his fate. Both Link and Jesus, raised in humble origins, chose to sacrifice their own lives to save the world and became heroes who split 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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