Author and editor Jonny Walls has announced his latest work published by Gray Matter Books entitled The Legend of Zelda and Theology.
Zelda is a series of video games celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, originating in 1986 with The Legend of the Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It revolutionized video games with its adventure elements and exploration. Each new installment of the series has advanced its complexity and story line. The Zelda world maintains its own unique mythology consisting of spiritual elements that don’t match any existing religion. In fact, the story often mentions multiple Gods and Goddesses. The Triforce object in the game was created by divine beings and grants the owner supernatural powers depending on whether they have good or evil in their heart. The pieces of the Triforce symbolize wisdom, courage and power.
The Legend of Zelda and Theology examines elements of Zelda’s mythology from a Christian perspective. Having not read the book yet, I am skeptical as to how it interprets this exotic mythology and back story as a Christian tale.
Christian Post has an article about the book with comments from Jonny Walls. In the end, the hope “is that readers will understand that [Zelda]’s themes all point to one source – God, the Creator.”
The book is a compilation of essays from various theologians and scholars examining the connection between Zelda and Christian theology. One of the contributing authors is Rev. Jeremy Smith of Hacking Christianity. He posted an excerpt of his contributed essay, included below:
As a child, one of my first lessons in ethics came from a chicken in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In the game, there are chickens called cuccos running around and I would laugh at their cries of fear while swatting them with my sword. One day I was showing my brother this hilarity when, unexpectedly, a hundred cuccos stormed on screen pecking mercilessly at me as they flew by. In an unfortunate coincidence, I was down to one or two hearts of life energy at the time and, to my childhood horror, actually died as a result of my cucco torment. It was a harsh lesson: don’t mess with the cucco…or at least don’t mess with them too much.
It’s also a lesson on ethics because the scenario with the cucco is a question of how to use one’s power. The Zelda universe is primarily a story about good v. evil, of course; but more specifically, it is a story about the use of power. One of the iconic artifacts in the Zelda universe is the Triforce: three interlocked triangles who grant the bearer significant power. The protagonist Link thus embarks on the hero’s journey from powerless to merely underpowered compared to the antagonist Ganon.
The ethical considerations of the use of power are a persistent theme in the Zelda series, in general, and Link to the Past, in particular. In engaging this topic, LttP contains numerous references to the Christian journey and the role of power in our everyday lives. Much of Christian theology is about good and evil, certainly, but also the use of power: the power of Christ to break the chains of sin, the power of Christians to overcome injustice and oppression, the restrictions placed on Christians in authority, etc.
Through examining the hero’s journey in this story, the role of power comes to the forefront: what does power do to corrupt or purify one’s desires? We will outline three problems of this particular world that serve as lenses to our own ethical behavior in the analog world.
Interestingly, the theme of power that Jeremy mentions here relates directly to Lord Acton’s famous quote:
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupt absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.
Zelda is a work of fiction. Fiction is self referencing, according to Marilynne Robinson’s article in the New York Times article about what literature owes the Bible:
Every fiction is a leap in the dark, and a failed grasp at seriousness is to be respected for what it attempts. In any case, these references demonstrate that in the culture there is a well of special meaning to be drawn upon that can make an obscure death a martyrdom and a gesture of forgiveness an act of grace. Whatever the state of belief of a writer or reader, such resonances have meaning that is more than ornamental, since they acknowledge complexity of experience of a kind that is the substance of fiction.
I’ll definitely be checking out this book, being an avid Zelda fan and a Christian. As of this writing the book is on Amazon, but it’s not available for order right now. What do you think? Is this book something that can help young people who might not know much about Christianity, or is it too much of a stretch?