Philosophy and the Legend of Zelda

Perhaps some of you might be acquainted with the “Philosophy and Pop-Culture” series that exploded onto the literary scene a few years ago. As a semi-professional philosopher, I was at first greatly intrigued by this seeming renaissance of philosophic interest. Having actually read a few of these titles, however, I must appraise their content as somewhat lacking.

Be that as it may, I think the theory is brilliant: saying that philosophy and pop-culture fails because the series was subpar is like saying Jiu-Jtsu doesn’t work because Royce Gracie lost a fight or two. Let me take you, then, on a strange and thought-provoking journey to the land of Hyrule.

Most nineties gamesters are familiar with the Hylian mythos and the three mystic artifacts, the Triforces, whose power sits at the crux of the Zelda series’ plotlines. As you might have deduced, there are three of these: the Triforce of Power, stolen by the malicious sorcerer Ganondorf, the Triforce of Wisdom, belonging to the Princess Zelda, and the Triforce of Courage, wielded by the Hero of Time (known colloquially as “Link.”) When the Triforces combine, they yield a power so mighty that it’s invoker might rule all over all the land. Such a power, of course, could only be Nietzsche’s “Ubermensch.”

Translated as the “over-man” or “super-man,” the Ubermensch is what Nietzsche advises humanity to become. It is the task of the Ubermensch to create new values, and to embrace the Nietzschean “Will to Power.” While historians and philosophers alike are in some disagreement as to just what “Ubermensch” and “Will to Power” might entail, I firmly hold that the mythos of Hyrule will help elucidate the situation.

For long ages, sagacious and philosophic types have used mythic stories to explain confounding existential dilemmas, and our story begins with the Princess Zelda. The next generation and future of the Hylian royal family, Zelda is granted dreams and visions of things to come. In some games, she wields the mighty Arrow of Light against the forces of oppression in the final battle with Ganondorf.

Possessing the Triforce of Wisdom, it makes sense that Zelda would deduce the failures of the old values Nietzsche’s Ubermensch would seek to depose. It is the wielder of the Arrow of Light, the illuminating weapon of truth which alone may penetrate these values, who by shattering them with refutation demonstrates the falsity of all value and the truth of nihilism. When war is declared on the values of the past, the stage is set for the rise of a hero.

Link, with his Triforce of Courage, enters the scene in dark times, often having been informed by Zelda of the coming menace. This is analogous to our Nietzschean hero’s discovery of the failure of objective value, or the idea that any value can be embraced because it is “true.” In what darker time might we find ourselves! With the collapse of the old systems, the lands are cloaked in shadow: up is down, right is wrong, and Clear Channel is musical aptitude. With the palaces forsaken and the citizens zombified, it falls only to the most courageous Hylian to combat the growing darkness; as only the stout of heart may attack the truth of nihilism and survive unscathed (should they survive at all.) The situation is so perilous that many philosophers speak of “suicidal nihilism,” a force so soul-rendingly terrible that it compels us to condemn the world and all its seeming failure; to the destruction of our very will to life.

Nietzsche thinks that we, by our enmity, pay homage to our adversaries. As an example, I might happily disagree with someone in a polite discussion of politics, only to turn on them in rabid hatred if they were elected president. This change in attitude would reflect nothing in my view of this new enemy as a person, but instead would spring from the tremendous change in their level of power to assert a previously harmless value schema on my homeland.

It is Link’s task to wrest from Ganondorf’s fell clutches the final Triforce, the Triforce of Power. Hmm…”Triforce of Power,” “Will to Power” – it does not take an Aristotle to figure this one out. Will to Power, hastily explained, involves the seeking of obstacles against which one’s one will to life may triumph and grow stronger. In epic battle, Link and Ganondorf pit their respective mettle to the test, clashing violently as each opposes the other’s will. I don’t want to drag this bit out, because an explanation will be both long-winded and controversial, but it is clear that he who holds the Will to Power will determine the course of history in the coming era.

2012, it is said, will mark the end of the world. More realistically, it will mark the coming of a new election year; and in ways, the coming of our own new era . Whether or not Obama will withstand the test of time is yet unclear; but the Triforce of Wisdom prophesies that many young heroes are rising against the dark power that is Ganondorf’s Judeo-Christian value schema (this term does not mean exactly what you might think – please don’t be offended without first reading “Beyond Good &Evil.”) So “let me be clear” – in the trying times ahead, it will fall to the courageous to vanquish our land from shadow, and to stand against the forces of power to chart a more heroic course for a race of beings who find ourselves, at present, all too human…

Red Pill Neo is a contributing writer and editor of projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Philosophy and the Legend of Zelda

  1. hellolion

    I’m confused, does this mean that in 2012 Link is going to battle Nietzsche to save the world so Obama can have another term as Ubermensch? Maybe I should get a full night’s sleep before reading this

  2. It means I need to start writing about other philosophers – I fear I’ve become a broken record. Does Zelda’s prophecy foresee…Heidegger?

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