Monday, May 11, 2009

A Timeless Hero: Part 5- The Temples of Hyrule

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 5- The Temples of Hyrule

In all of the Zelda games I've played (I have yet to play them all) Link's primary objective is dependent on him removing the evil infesting the holy places of Hyrule. Hidden inside every temple are holy artifacts that will empower Link on his quest to rid the land of evil. These temples were built Indiana Jones style so you can't just walk in, take the artifact and leave, you have to work your way through a maze of rooms which contain puzzles, traps, and deadly enemies. These Rubik cube temples were meant to keep the unworthy out.

Fortunately our hero always comes prepared. Link is required to reach a certain level of experience, worthiness, before walking into a holy place. His worth is his offering to the gods who do not let just any normal person waltz into the shrine, and those who do would not make it very far. Whether it's obtaining power through a new sacred artifact, led with wisdom by his spirit guides, or summoned by courage to save those in distress, Link is granted access to the holy only after proving his worth. These temples, although challenging in their own right, are but mere trials that will shape Link into the hero that Hyrule needs. In The Wind Waker, the King of Red Lions said it best when he said, "The key to defeating Ganon is locked away in a great power that you can wield only after much toil and hardship." Link embodies the courage needed, but has yet to attain enough wisdom and strength to wield the great power.

These temples are sometimes dedicated to a local deity or spirit that is sometimes tied to an elemental power. The Gerudos, an amazonian tribe of women who bear a single male every 100 years, worship at the Desert Colossus dedicated to the Sand Goddess (Din). It was also the secret base for Gannondorf and his followers before they took over Hyrule in The Ocarina of Time.

Though not all are used as houses of worship, some temples have been converted by the local populace for certain purposes yet are still considered holy. In Twilight Princess, the Gorons, a rock-like mountain dwelling race, have a large mining complex within their holy mountain where they mine out rocks and minerals for trade and food. These mines are still considered off limits to outsiders who must prove their strength in a sumo wrestling match, the Goron tribal pastime, yet these mines also house holy shrines. In Majora's Mask, the Great Bay Temple was converted into a water works factory that controls the temperature of the ocean's water. The temple is a vast labyrinth of gears and cogs which the hero must work his way through to lower the ocean's abnormally high temperature which is quickly poisoning the ocean's inhabitants. This "factory" temple has been integrated with nature as a balancing mechanism to keep the water's temperature at a certain level. Although it does seem like the Zoras, an aquatic fish-like race, are adapting nature for their survival this temple does allow for life to thrive in an otherwise hostile environment, and as the giver of life the temple should be considered sacred.

The Temple of Time is Hyrule's Temple Mount and its inner sanctum, which houses the Master Sword, the Holy of Holies. It is the gateway from this world and into the Sacred Realm, a spiritual plane which mirrors the land of Hyrule, where the Triforce resides. This temple is the nexus where all reality, including time, converges. The attributes of the gods (Strength, Wisdom, and Courage) flow from this temple and blesses the entire world. This place is the final test before entering the Sacred Realm. In the Ocarina of Time the hero collects three spiritual stones held by three races and offers a song worship to the gods. The Door of Time opens granting the hero access to the blade of evil's bane, the Master Sword. Only Hyrule's royal family, as acting high priests, hold these keys and the knowledge to enter the Holy of Holies.

[Zelda in the Temple of Time by deviantdoa. Find more art by deviantdoa here.]

This is where the three Great Goddesses manifests in its greatest glory, righteousness, and splendor. And like the other temples scattered across Hyrule, the Temple of Time was once the training ground in preparing the Hero of Time for his destiny. It is here where the hero himself traveled back and forth through time to complete his quest in defeating Ganon (Ocarina of Time).

The temples in Hyrule are more than just immense labyrinths, they are places of worship, a flowing source of life, and most importantly they shape the hero for his destiny. They stand as monuments to the people that good has prevailed over evil before, and whenever evil arises it will prevail again. They bring hope to every generation born into this world and songs and tales of hope are passed on long after the buildings crumble. The buildings themselves are not important but act as a symbol and a reminder that whatever the future may hold hope should never be lost.

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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