I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. – CS Lewis
CS Lewis was ahead of his time in many ways. When he said that Christianity is the light in which he sees everything in the world, he revealed a perspective that Christians should adapt to their own lives: we need to see the world through the lens of our faith, finding God’s fingerprints in all creative works. In modern times however, this perspective can often be met with cynicism, and in gaming culture Christian fans are largely scrutinized among their peers. Even so, as Christians it is imperative that we use our ability to to see God in everything, even our games, movies, and books. For example, I have found video games as an evangelistic tool that reaches people that I otherwise would have nothing else in common. Through discernment, we can find a mutual ground with our fellow geeks and break down an icy wall while establishing a connection for introducing new perspectives to something as simple as a video game. Even if they initially reject our message—God’s message—the game itself will echo in their brains and hopefully their hearts.
Zelda fans in particular have always impressed me.
We can come up with theories based on a single line of dialogue or a tiny detail in a scene of a game that are more detailed than whole novels. We debate timelines, character relations, and the unspoken history of Hyrule with a passion and formality that puts our Supreme Court to shame. Nintendo has taken notice and has frequently applauded fans for their attention to detail. The Legend of Zelda:Hyrule Historia put a lot of debates to rest, but started nearly a hundred more. One thing that the games hold true through every release is their quiet but powerful nods to Christianity. Intentional or not, they’re difficult to miss in the mind of a believer.
Before continuing , I do have to post a spoiler alert for nearly every Zelda game as I will be discussing the outcomes of a variety of games and plot-significant aspects.
Direct References to Christianity in The Legend of Zelda
The original Legend of Zelda made it clear that the religion of the game was intended to be Christianity. This likely changed later for political reasons and the element of golden goddesses was added to the LoZ lore. Now with the availability of to the world wide web, translations and snippets of art and lore lost in translation from Japanese to English are now accessible, and we can get a more clear picture of the original intention for the games.
Official art from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Back in the day, instruction manuals not only included the controls and a small introduction to the characters, but they also included a bit of backstory for those of us who wanted a little more dimension. Old games traditionally focused on gameplay rather than story, lacking in-depth NPC’s and detailed cutscenes that dove further into the lore of the story they were trying to tell. In the original Zelda games, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the booklets included an image of Link taking a knee before a crucifix in prayer. This could largely be due to the fact that the dominant religion of the Middle Ages was Christianity, and The Legend of Zelda‘s setting is inspired by the Medieval time period.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the symbolism, it is established in Zelda canon that Link in the original games is a Christian. The church is empty and dark, so he is not acting as a figurehead or an icon of heroics. He’s humbling himself in the privacy at the foot of Christ. While the art is obviously dated, it’s a powerful image regardless.
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. – Ephesians 6:16 (KJV)
Link, the main character of the LoZ series, was originally depicted with a shield bearing the cross, tying into the games’ Medieval inspiration. Link’s shield is likely a reflection of the shields borne into battle by the Knight’s Templar. There’s a lot of controversy and confusion around the Templar, but generally they were men who took an oath to serve in God’s name to the best of their abilities, swearing to resist evil in all its forms. While many will still see a Christian warrior as something of a contradiction, God often uses warriors to perform his greatest works. Among the highest praises found in the Bible was from Jesus to a roman soldier (Matthew 8:5-17). Link is a warrior with a just cause and a pure heart, armed with a sword and a shield against a world plagued by evil. Link as a character reflects the original sentiments of the Knight’s Templar profoundly. While the design of the early LoZs were perhaps simply a nod to the Medieval Period, their historical references make a very strong case for Christian influence as well.
A new knighthood has appeared in the land of the Incarnation, a knighthood that fights a double battle against adversaries of flesh and blood and also against the spirit of evil. This new knighthood is worthy of all the praise given to men of God. The knight who protects his soul with the armor of faith, as he covers his body with a coat of mail, is truly without fear and above reproach. Doubly armed he fears neither men nor demons.
– Bernard of Clairvaux
The shields of Medieval times held deep personal meaning to the men behind them. The coat of arms that decorated the shield was more than a fanciful design—it spoke of the house that it represented. Likewise, the design of Link’s original shield actually holds a deeper meaning than the classic design that nods back to the Medieval past. The golden cross is set on a golden field in his official art.A golden field on a coat of arms represented understanding, respect, virtue, and generosity.
The cross is the only symbol on Link’s original shield. It’s simplistic, especially when compared to the more modern LoZ designs, but in the early days of the franchise, little else needed to be said of Link’s character. A cross on a shield represents faith and protection. While Link has remained a silent protagonist even to this day, his original shield speaks volumes of his intended character. Understanding, respect, virtue, generosity, faith, and perseverance are all values that were frequently spoken of by Jesus himself. Link’s shield is a powerful metaphor for the Shield of Faith in the Armor of God.
The official art for the Bible.
Direct Christian symbols are not limited to Link’s appearance and primary arms, but are also integrated into many in-game items. The first and most poignant is the appearance of the Bible in the early games. This was sadly translated to “The Book of Magic” by Nintendo of America, but even the North American releases included the cross on the cover of the book. The Bible in LoZ really does not show any spiritual connections as it simply changes the nature of the magical spells that Link uses.
The second item is the cross. Unlike the Bible (or “The Book of Magic”), the cross does have a tangible spiritual connection to its in-game function.
“With its secret power, you’ll be able to see enemies which you normally can’t see.“
There is more to the world than what we can see in the physical. We don’t struggle against the flesh exclusively, but we also struggle against things unseen. All around us, forces unseen are waging a spiritual war with our very souls as the battlefield. For the unbeliever, the line between good and evil can seem blurry or non-existent. Reality itself becomes two-dimensional in a sense. Through the cross, or rather what was done for us upon the cross, we were gifted with the Holy Spirit which allows us to sense and perceive the things that are unseen around us. Right and wrong is written on our hearts, and the work of the enemy is as easily distinguished from the work of the Lord as night is from day. The cross in Zelda II: The Adventures of Link gives Link the ability to see the unseen—specifically his enemies.
“The Sanctuary” – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
There are two locations in the original LoZ games that are worth special mention. The first is the Sanctuary from A Link to the Past. The Sanctuary was designed to resemble an old European cathedral complete with stained glass windows on both sides of the church, several rows of pews facing the altar, and organ music playing in the background. The Sanctuary is maintained and protected by an elderly sage who has sworn himself to the service of the royal family. In the Japanese translation, the sage is actually a priest. Again, this was changed due to restrictions on religious material in games in North America. Historically, sanctuaries served a variety of purposes; those with altars were places of worship as much as they were places for any to find protection as it was believed that the holy spirit resided within the building, protecting those within. Humanity was to recognize this sacred place and stay their hand from whomever hid within the church so long as they remained on church grounds and confessed their sins.
The Sanctuary from A Link to the Past was not the first or only representation of a Christian house of worship either. In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, there is a church in one of the towns, clearly marked as such by the large cross atop the structure. This building, however, has very little plot significance yet it is worth mentioning, especially as The Adventure of Link follows A Link to the Past in the official Zelda timeline.
The second location is significant because of how Link must gain access to it: the Desert Palace is only accessible via a prayer. Link prays and then draws a cross across his chest as the song from the Sanctuary plays. Following this gesture, the Desert Palace opens up, allowing Link inside to face the darkness within. As Christianity was the intended religion of the Zelda universe at the time of Link to the Past’s release, it’s clear that prayer was not directed towards any random god such as Hylia, Din, or any of the other entities later introduced to the series, but to God the almighty.
The dominating symbol of The Legend of Zelda is the Triforce. Originally, this symbol belonged to a clan in ancient Japanese history (in this context it was known as “the dragon’s scale”). The Triforce also bears a striking resemblance to the Trinity Knot of the Celts. The Trinity Knot was adapted by early Christians as a symbol representing the holy trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Triforce itself can easily be viewed as a similar representation, especially given that the three triangles represent power, wisdom, and courage. God the Father is all-powerful, the Son (Jesus Christ) grants us courage through our faith in him, and the Holy Ghost grants us wisdom through its very presence. The three aspects of the Triforce are also the three most commonly granted fruits of the spirit by God himself to prominent figures in the Bible.
Power, in the physical sense, was given to Samson from the Old Testament. Several times through the account of Samson, the Bible makes clear that it is the spirit of the lord that allows him to accomplish feats such as tearing a lion in half using his bare hands (Judges 14:6) or defeating thirty men single-handedly (Judges 14:19). Power was also given to figures in the Bible such as King Saul, in the form of authority to rule. However, power is easily the most corruptible and tempting of the spiritual gifts. Samson lost his power when he turned away from God. When he did regain his power, it was only through repentance and the final feat of his physical strength ultimately led to his own demise.
On the other hand, Saul grew corrupt in his power. While he started as an anointed ruler over God’s chosen nation, he became a bloodthirsty tyrant. Similarly, Ganondorf (and Ganon in the later games) is the bearer of the Triforce of Power. He comes into a position of influence and authority already with dark intentions and thus uses his power for evil purposes. Time and again his power allows him to wreak havoc on the land but time and again his power is ultimately the source of his downfall.
Wisdom is a gift that God has granted to many, and of the virtues, the request for God’s wisdom was highly praised by the almighty himself. Solomon is a legendary historical figure regarded as an icon of wisdom and intellect. God himself spoke to Solomon, asking what it was he desired more than anything else. After some thought, Solomon asked that he be given wisdom.
God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”
2 Chronicles 1:11-12
Joseph was given the wisdom and insight to interpret dreams, and as a result, he found favor with the nobility of Egypt. The magi were blessed with the wisdom to read the heavens and recognize the signs. Their insight eventually led them to meeting the king of kings himself. Those gifted with wisdom are directly tasked with guidance. (Genesis 41)
Wisdom is the Triforce that is passed down the line of Hyrule’s princesses, the descendants of Hylia herself. Zelda’s role is half wisdom and half faith in the majority of the games in which she plays a larger part. For example, in Ocarina of Time, Zelda, like Joseph, is given a prophetic dream. She is able to interpret it correctly as both an omen of darkness and an omen of hope. She has the wisdom to foresee the hardships that the kingdom will soon face and is forced to entrust her kingdom’s fate to the young man from her dreams. She knows, however, that Link will need a guiding hand to assist him and direct him in his quest. She takes the form of Sheik and works subtly beside Link to guide him towards his ultimate goal. Zelda is aware that Link will have need of her insight and guidance, especially given the fact that he is essentially a 7-year old child thrust into the body of a grown adult. However, Zelda is equally aware of the danger to her person and of the world itself if she is discovered and captured by Ganon. To ensure that Link has access to her knowledge and instruction, she disguises herself and takes great pains to remain in the shadows until Link has need of her. The fact that Zelda, even as a child, was aware of the gravity of the events around her shows that she was mature even from a young age and blessed with wisdom beyond her years.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
~ 1 Corinthians 16:13
Courage in the Bible is a gift given to those who were the most unlikely to accomplish anything great for themselves. Moses was a terrible coward, especially when it came to speaking. He fled from Egypt when he was found guilty of murder and pleaded with God to choose someone else to confront Pharaoh. However, Moses found the courage through his faith to return to his homeland and face his past. Likewise, David was just a child. He was never lacking in courage or skill, but few had any belief in the boy’s abilities to so much as join an army. Moses was used to liberate an entire nation and David stood alone against a giant. Their feats not only took great courage, but it inspired it as well.
In most Legend of Zelda games, Link is something of an underdog. He’s the boy without a fairy, the lazy trainee, or an orphan living at home with his grandmother and sister. No one expects much out of him, and more often than not, Link is subject to ridicule and bullying. There’s nothing special about him in particular. The best he has accomplished in his pre-hero lifetimes was that he was a fairly successful goat herder.
In every Legend of Zelda game, Link has to discover courage for himself before he is found worthy of bearing the Triforce of Courage. In every game, Link is forced to act on the behalf of another in order to find his hidden potential. He’s not the sort that would go out of his way to seek out danger or even a thrill, but when a loved one is put in danger, he does not hesitate to take action. He shows, very clearly, that he’s hardly fearless. He simply thinks more of the safety of those around him than his own, putting their lives ahead of his. Courage is at its root completely selfless.
Indirect References to Christianity in The Legend of Zelda
The biggest surprise to fans who read the Hyrule Historia was not the fact that the timeline split, but that it split three ways. In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, three futures are produced. The first two are created when Link succeeds in slaying Ganon and Zelda sends Link back to his childhood, leaving the future without a Hero of Time. One spit is thus is known as “The Child Timeline,” and the other is known as “The Adult Timeline.” The final split, known as “The Fallen Hero Timeline,” occurs if Link is killed during the final showdown with Ganondorf. For the remainder of this article, I will be focusing on the mainline games leading up to and through the Fallen Hero Timeline.
According to the Hyrule Historia, the very first event in Hyrulian history is the creation of heaven and earth. Right off the bat, the beginning of Hyrule’s history is a direct reflection of the creation story of Genesis. The first game in the timeline, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, opens with a legend in which the earth was filled with corruption and violence:
“This is a tale that you humans have passed down through generations… It tells of a war of unmatched scale and ferocity, the likes of which would never be seen again. One dark, fateful day, the earth cracked wide and malevolent forces rushed forth from the fissure. They mounted a brutal assault upon the surface people, driving the land into deep despair… They burnt forests to ash, choked the land’s sweet springs, and murdered without hesitation. They did all this in their lust to take the ultimate power protected by Her Grace, the goddess. The power she guarded was without equal. Handed down by the gods of old, this power gave its holder the means to make any desire a reality. Such was the might of the ultimate power that the old ones placed it in the care of the goddess.”
– Opening Scene from Skyward Sword
The first thing to take note of here is that this tale takes place generations after the creation of the world. In this span of time, the Hylians have come to worship several gods. This comes into direct conflict with the religion of a later game, The Ocarina of Time, in which three goddesses, rather than gods, are assumed to have created the world, the Sacred Realm, and the Triforce itself. Though a minor detail, through the games there is always a distinction made between gods and goddesses. It is entirely possible that, like our own history, as the world became populated, many cultures turned to their own interpretation of the world and created gods and goddesses to explain creation. In the context of The Legend of Zelda, there seems to be a common trait shared by the gods and goddesses within each of the games: they are far from divine. The gods and goddesses in nearly every Zelda game in which they appear are shown to be vulnerable, fallible, and even capable of being killed. The deities of Hyrule are more a reflection of pagan gods from our own cultures than of the almighty.
In Skyward Sword, the ancient gods of the time are thought to have been given a great power to a goddess known as Hylia to protect. Hylia sends the great power, along with the remaining humans, into the sky to save them from the swelling forces of evil sweeping over the face of the planet. With humanity safe, Hylia was able to face the forces of darkness and seal them away. While Hylia is, again, a far cry from a reflection of the almighty, she takes on characteristics that reflect the story of Christ. She brings herself into the world inside of a mortal body, removing her divinity and living among us. Of course, her purpose was not the spiritual salvation of mankind but rather the physical salvation. Additionally, the founding legend of Skyloft, the civilization in the sky, shares a remarkable similarity to the account of the biblical flood. The flood itself is actually reflected twice in the lore of Hyrule: first in the story of Skyward Sword and secondly in the story of The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker. In the case of the former, humanity was placed on a vessel in the form of a giant floating chunk of earth due to the the planet being filled with corruption, and there it remained above ground for a very long time until all evil was purged. By the time the population returns to the surface, the globe had been changed greatly. The people from the sky, now identifying themselves as Hylians to honor their patron goddess, begin to repopulate the surface.
Hylia’s role within the game is a whispered parallel of Christ’s story as well. The goddess willingly surrenders her divinity to take the form of a mortal. Hylia, however, was in need of saving rather than doing the work of salvation herself through her actions. The conclusion of Skyward Sword, which sets the tone for all LoZ games to follow in the timeline, also echoes back to the conclusion of the Garden of Eden story. When Link is successful in his defeat of the villain, Demise, the dark entity swears that he will forever be a bane on the hero and the goddess.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:15
Following the events in Skyward Sword, the Sacred Realm is sealed away. This mirrors the exile from the Garden of Eden in that when Adam and Eve were sent away, they were sent into an unfamiliar, untamed world. The official timeline states that following the sealing of the Sacred Realm, there was a short era of peace followed immediately by an era of chaos.
In the majority of the games to follow Skyward Sword, the dark spirit of Demise surfaces time and again, mostly in the form of Ganon or Ganondorf. Ganon, for one reason or another, becomes a threat to the princess Zelda, the incarnation of Hylia, and with every incarnation of Demise, the incarnation of the hero is brought forth in the form of Link. The cycle is the foundation for nearly every game within The Legend of Zelda lore.
By the arrival of the epoch of the Hero of Time, the Hylian people have adapted a belief in the three golden goddesses: Din, Farore, and Nayru. It’s quite possible that the three goddesses were actually inspired by the three elemental dragons from Skyward Sword who share similar names. Over the ages, especially following the age of decline, it would be reasonable to think that the dragons, their names, and their images would have been translated and retranslated. For example, Faron in Skyward Sword is a female dragon who holds dominion over the water. Her fountain is hidden deep within the Faron Woods and provides life-giving sustenance to the surrounding land. Her goddess counterpart, Farore, represents the virtue of wisdom and is said to have created the sky. She eventually becomes the patron goddess of the Zora, who also come to worship minor gods such as Jabu-Jabu. The Zora are not aggressive people by nature; they value wisdom above anything else, so it’s very likely that the Zora imposed their favored virtue into their deity of choice. It’s not uncommon for such things to happen over time, especially when traditions are passed orally and histories are lost as they might have been during the era of chaos.
The Fallen Hero Timeline is created when Link, the chosen hero of the goddesses, is defeated during his final confrontation with Ganon. The chosen one of the gods was killed leaving Hyrule without a hero, and evil is allowed to thrive. Mind, Ganon makes a return in other timelines as well, so even when the chosen hero of the goddesses is successful, the gods are ultimately powerless to contain the evil. In all three timelines, there is a quiet falling away from the religion of the three goddesses, but within the Fallen Hero timeline, a new religion seems to be surfacing.
When Hyrule is left to Ganon, the Imprisoning War breaks out. During this war, the people of Hyrule are consumed with greed and lust over the Triforce. They wage war upon one another and many races are assumed to have perished during this conflict, including the Gerudo.. The king of Hyrule orders the Sacred Realm sealed. Seven sages, likely descendants of the seven sages from Ocarina of Time, manages to close the Sacred Realm, sealing Ganon and his evil away for a short time. The events of A Link to the Past then unfold.
Within A Link to the Past, mention of goddesses is minimal. The old gods of Hyrule have faded into ancient legend and instead new religious buildings and writings are making an appearance. It would seem that after the failure of the gods in the past, the people turned away from them and began seeking a new source of hope. It’s within A Link to the Past that the priest, Sanctuary, and the Bible make their first historical appearances. Link interacts with these aspects of Christianity, but he doesn’t seem personally affected by them through his quest. He does, however, encounter occultist rituals and practitioners. Several maidens, descendants of the sages who successfully sealed Ganon away, are kidnapped in order to be sacrificed so Ganon can make his return. Link manages to confront Ganon, and this time he emerges successful.
Link encounters Nayru.
It isn’t long until Link is drawn into another realm where he is confronted, once more, with the threat of Ganon’s resurrection. In the Oracle games—which chronologically occur simultaneously—Link encounters the goddesses of the old religion, Din and Nayru. Both goddesses are endangered and it’s up to Link to rescue them. During this encounter with very mortal, very vulnerable so-called goddesses, Link discovers that the gods of his culture’s religion not only led to an era of chaos, but they are unable to defend themselves against forces that were defeated by his own mortal hands.
Following the Oracle games is Link’s Awakening. The opening scene shows Link sailing on a ship during a great storm. He’s shipwrecked and is resuscitated on a small island. In this game, Link draws a very powerful parallel to Jonah. God revealed himself to Jonah and asked him to go witness to a very hostile nation absolutely absorbed in pagan religions. Jonah instead attempted to sail away. God intervened by sending a great storm after Jonah, during which Jonah cast himself overboard to save the crew and was promptly swallowed by a great fish. Jonah was forced to admit his mistake and agree to return to his homeland as God wished to spread the word of God. (Jonah 1-2)
It could very well be that Link, now with a personal experience with the vulnerable so-called gods of his people’s faith, was trying to avoid returning to Hyrule. He would have been returning to a culture that still likely had a good population of believers in the old religion and that was a conflict Link simply did not want. A storm destroyed his ship and left him stranded on an island ruled over by none other than a great fish.
Link’s entire time spent shipwrecked revolves solely on attempting to awaken the Wind Fish, a giant whale-like creature that rests in an egg atop the island’s highest peak. When Link successfully awakens the creature, he himself awakens floating on a bit of driftwood and watches as the island vanishes. The entire game is nothing more than a dream. The end screen of the game shows Link on a ship, presumably sailing back to his homeland. The visions Link saw within this dream reflect strongly on the stories of Joseph and his own prophetic dreams (Genesis 37:1-10). In Link’s time in the dream of the Windfish, he saw visions of characters that had some connection to his lineage. It could be that the character models from A Link to the Past were simply recycled, but in the context of the game it could be that Link’s experience on the island were reflecting a deeper part of himself. The final boss that Link faces in his time within the whale’s dream is the shadow of Ganon—a foe he is destined to face so long as his lineage continues.
The Link from the original Legend of Zelda is said to have been a descendant of the Link from the Era of Light and Dark (Link to the Past, the Oracle games, and Link’s Awakening). Little is known about his background save for the fact that he was a traveler.
“A young traveler. He encounters Impa while visiting Hyrule. It is thought that he may be the decendent of the Link who defeated Ganon and departed on a journey to continue his training during the Era of Light and Dark.”
– Hyrule Historia, pg.106
It’s in these games that Link wields the shield bearing the cross. It’s clear by this point that Link has found his faith. Between the original Legend of Zelda and the direct predecessor, The Adventure of Link, it’s made subtly clear that Link has become a follower of Christ. It’s very possible that Christianity took root during the time of this new Link’s ancestor and the faith has been passed down through the hero’s family. The final Link in this timeline is seen bearing the crusader’s shield, fighting back the darkness, and finally putting an end to Ganon. This era, according to the Hyrule Historia, is known as the Era of Decline. It could very well be that the old faith, not the kingdom itself, is what has found itself into decline.
According to the Hyrule Historia, in the Fallen Hero timeline during the close of the Era of Light and Dark, Link uses the Triforce to restore the land of Hyrule and usher in peace in what is referred to as “The Golden Era”. Given Link’s influence following these events, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to assume that the new successor to Link’s legacy, the Link of the Era of Decline took up where his predecessor left off and revealed to the people of Hyrule the truth of their old faith.
There are piles of more implications, messages, and symbols within The Legend of Zelda that reflect Biblical figures, stories, and symbology. Strange as it is, these concepts can help us reach out to others who may never have engaged in a discussion about the Lord, but will open their minds to a debate about The Legend of Zelda. From the Tower of Babel to the Stone Tower of Termina, to the biblical flood of Noah to the flood that buried the kingdom of Hyrule, The Legend of Zelda is a wealth of Biblical messages.
I would like to give a special thank you to the artist of our featured image, mandarinswift from Devianart for allowing us to use her fantastic work in this article! Please give her gallery a visit, she’s a sister in Christ and a fantastic digital artist.
I was born and raised in a traditional Christian household, educated privately, and brought up with a passion for Christ. The works of CS Lewis and Tolkien were my greatest influences. I aspire to become a published fictional author, hopefully illustrating my own work as well. Christ is the center of my universe and my faith is the lens in which I look through in regards to everything. As far as games go I am swayed best towards fantasy/action/rpg's.
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