On “The Legend of Zelda” and Ganon

On The Legend of Zelda

So, my wife, my amazing wonderful wife got me a new book – the Hyrule Historia. I’ll go ahead and link to the buy page for it at the end of this posting, but, in summary, it’s a history book for “The Legend of Zelda” and contains a lot of the concept art for Skyward Sword as well as story summaries and character notes for the game series as a whole.

It also contains, for the first time, the definitive timeline of the Zelda games and their universe (as seen by Nintendo). For those of you who haven’t had a chance to take a look, it has a rather interesting interpretation of the timeline.

Again, for those of you unfamiliar with it, the Zelda series has some rather significant discrepancies between games. When the games first came out, I doubt this was much of an issue – the games were meant to be episodic and separate. The art for the games was different enough that it would have been difficult to believe that it was the same Link and Zelda in A Link to the Past as in The Adventure of Link or Link’s Awakening.

On about that time, however, people began to wonder how the games were related. The Triforce, introduced in the original Legend of Zelda, was not even a part of the The Adventure of Link or Link’s Awakening in any significant way. Even A Link to the Past removes the element of the Triforce from gameplay but makes it a significant part of the plot. – the original Japanese version might have had more in it, since in Japan it was “The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods” – and now people started to wonder

If there’s only one Triforce, how are these games related. After all, A Link to the Past happened in, well, the past. By the time the original Legend of Zelda came to pass, the Triforce of Wisdom has been shattered and Ganon has the Triforce of Power (again?). Link has to collect the pieces to make everything work properly.

The addition of Ocarina of Time made it so that some sense could be drawn out. After all, when time-travel is involved, things can be more easily understood and explained Ah! Alternate realities caused by changes to the timeline. Now those inconsistencies make sense.

Anyway, to make a long story short, things were confusing and the new timeline, while complicated, does order things for people that are looking for that kind of order.

It also brought something interesting to mind for me, however.

Every game contains the same general cycle – Hyrule is in trouble, Ganon(dorf) arrives with the Triforce of Power, Link rises up to stop him, and Zelda rebuilds Hyrule in a new way.

Hear me out here – I know this is probably not much of a revelation, but I didn’t mess something up up there. A lot of you out there reading that are going to say “You got that out of order – Ganon comes first, then trouble, then Link, then Zelda.”
But I don’t think so. At least not at first. It took re-reading the book a few times and going back through the games for me to check this out entirely – and I still can’t really fit Link’s Awakening into all of this (but it’s kind of weird anyhow) – but it fits.

Let’s start with the Original Legend of Zelda. In the prologue (from the manual) we find out that Ganon’s army has invaded Hyrule and taken it over. Zelda sends Impa to find Hyrule’s savior before being kidnapped. Link rescues Impa and that’s where we come in.
But, consider – look at Hyrule from the outside. There are no signs of cities, no towns. There are occasional merchants hiding in caves. The only signs of civilization are the dungeons which protect the artifacts of the world. Other than that, there is nothing to Hyrule that isn’t a graveyard.

Hyrule was in trouble before Ganon got there. His rise convinces the goddesses to summon Link and Zelda and begin the process. In slaying Ganon (and breaking his link to the Triforce of Power), Zelda and Link are able to work on the rebuilding of the world. By The Adventure of Link, Hyrule has improved a great deal. There are towns, castles, and roads scattered about the lands. It’s not perfect, but it is a significant step up from where things were in the original Legend of Zelda.

Ganon makes things better.

Which is interesting. We know that the Goddesses selected Link and Zelda as part of their avatars. Skyward Sword even confirms that the original Zelda was the Goddess Hylia in mortal form (as well as the mother of the Hylian royal line).She is played up for her wisdom and patience as Hylia and the willingness to wait for results to occur.

Link is similarly selected by the Goddesses as a re-incarnation of courage from generation to generation. He is the response to power and the willpower and determination to make sure that the actions planned out through wisdom are actually carried out. After all, wisdom and hope are wonderful things (Zelda) but don’t do anything without the courage and will to act (Link).

Ganon gets the same treatment – only he is the interpretation of power. Power exists, regardless of what the people believe. And power leads to action and change. Each time that Ganon has come about, things have gotten better for Hyrule – so long as Link succeeds (in one of the timelines he doesn’t and that is where the original Legend of Zelda comes in to play). Ganon is the power behind the actions that lead to the positive changes in Hyrule. The only major difference between Ganon and Link and Zelda is that, according to Hyrule Historia, every single time we meet Ganon/Gannondorf, it’s the same guy whereas each Link and Zelda are a new Link and Zelda.

It’s not a great legacy and his methods are rather…suspect, but he is just as important to Hyrule as Zelda and Link. I’m not saying this makes him a sympathetic villain – in point of fact, I don’t think it changes my interpretation of him the slightest. He is still an incredibly dangerous, evil man out to destroy/conquer Hyrule and he needs to be put down. However, he is also a rather intricate part of the same cycle that Link and Zelda are a part of.

Which makes Ganon just a little more interesting as a villain. He’s not some unwitting pawn – we know that. Each time he appears and is re-incarnated he displays intelligence and cleverness in his work. He knows what is going on and, I suspect, he knows that each time he rises up a Link or a Zelda will come to him as well and give challenge to him.

And I suspect that, somewhere in there, that is what Ganon wants. Power, ultimately, wants to be controlled. Chaos does very little good for power –after all, how much can your power be confirmed if you don’t start to display it and force people to your will/plan?

At the same time, it’s almost impossible to be seen as Powerful when all of your opponents are no match for you. Which is why Ganon inevitably seeks out the current powerful forces. In Twilight Princess, that means Midna and her people. In Ocarina of Time it was the king of Hyrule and the Sages, and so on and so forth. His position as power incarnate is solidified.

And ultimately, controlled. When Courage finally stands up – usually at Wisdom’s prodding – to face off against power, it is ultimately cast under control – which is ultimately what Ganon wants. His desire for the other pieces of the triforce even confirm this at some level – he wants Courage and Wisdom to be with his Power so that he can control everything. That isn’t in the cards for Ganon, but its an understandable desire.

And ultimately, his power is used for good. The destruction that he causes from game to game is used to rebuild Hyrule over again in a new way. The power of his fear becomes a compelling reason to re-examine the role of the Twilight Realm or the Alternate World, or to examine the princilples that are currently ruling the ocean waves. The people of Hyrule seek to better themselves because of Ganon’s actions, making him just as important to the cycle as Link and Zelda.

Just something I thought of while I was reading the book. I’m sure someone else out there has seen something similar or read something similar, but I thought I would share. I’d love to hear your comments however, so please feel free to leave them below.

Link to buying the book:


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