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Fairy Tale Influence in Zelda

Sarianae

Infinite Dreamer
Joined
Nov 21, 2010
Location
Storybrooke, Maine
This may seem an odd topic at first, but with some examination, it will not appear as peculiar as you may be inclined to think. Interestingly, there have been certain entries in the franchise that have incorporated some of Grimm's fairytales. In fact, what brought this subject to mind was after having read some of them, and noticing one in particular that appeared in Majora's Mask.

The name of this tale is The Bremen Town Musicians, starring a donkey, a dog, a hare, and a rooster. I think that anyone familiar with Majora's Mask would pick up its relation to The Bremen Mask, and Guru-Guru's tale of how he obtained it:


Guru Guru said:
Dear guest...Long ago, I was in an
animal troupe, with dogs and
donkeys and such.

Why could a...? Why could a...?
Why could a man join?!?

That's 'cause a man is an animal,
too, my boy!

They were all great. But there
was one thing I didn't like
about it...

Why was the...? Why was the...?
Why was the dog the leader?!?
Was it 'cause something was
wrong with me, sir???

Oh, that dog was an amazing
leader! He always had a
stellar troupe no matter what
animals he had to work with....

That's why I...that's why I...
That's why I stole it....
The dog's mask.
I stole it.

I wanted it because it was the
leader's mask...

The leader was a good instructor.
His members matured quickly and
they became adults in an instant.



If you've read the original story by Grimm, you'll notice that they didn't include it exactly as it was, but rather tweaked what was a tale about a band of animals that ran away from their owners and managed to trick a band of thieves out of their home in the woods, while on the way to Bremen where they had planned to become town musicians, but instead decided to remain living at the thieves' home in the end; they added the traveling musician Guru-Guru and made quite a deal about the dog being the leader, despite that in the actual story it was really the donkey that started the troupe. The mask was of course added as well.

Now, this may be a little off kilter, but I have also read another story by Grimm entitled The Strange Musician. This is more guesswork than the previous one mentioned is, but seeing as how the story is about a strange traveling musician that tricked animals he came across drawn to him by his music, there seemed to be some worthwhile similarities. Perhaps they did something of a merge between the two stories, plus their own twist, and gave us what we see in Majora's Mask today.

Yet Majora's Mask isn't the only game that seems to have included mention of these kinds of fairy tales, because The Minish Cap clearly illustrates one as well; one most commonly known as The Elves and the Shoemaker. It tells the story of tiny elves--The Minish Cap's Picori--who would finish making a shoemaker's shoes while he slept during the night. The story is brought in more directly than was the case in Majora's Mask, but it was still touched upon just briefly enough so as not to approach dominating the main story.



I am not certain if they were just particularly interested in making some literary references in The Minish Cap, since they also referenced Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with their NPCs Romio and Julietta who lived next door to each other but could not be together on account of their pets not getting along. Whatever the reasons though, I find myself pleased with these inclusions.

Generally speaking, I am someone who is fascinated by old Fairy Tales and folklore, and I find it rather intriguing as well as a little unexpected to see Nintendo having spun a few into Zelda. You may think that perhaps they do not mesh, the Zelda Universe being very particularly it's own, with very definitive details and inhabitants whose individuality they would not want to compromise with old known stories. I think this to some extent as well, but personally am quite pleased at the way Nintendo did weave some in. It may partially have to do with the ones they chose, less well-known than others so easily recognizable as Little Red Riding Hood or even Hansel and Grethel, skirting around the ease of recognition associated with ones such as those, and better allowing them to integrate the ones they choose with a certain amount of subtlety. It may also have to do with their contained inclusion as minor side stories so as not to steal any primary focus from the game's main story, maintaining them as simple but fun easter eggs to encounter on the side.

However, contrary to my initial thoughts on this subject, I feel that the peculiarities of the universe of Zelda in fact seem to align themselves in a way that actually compliments the peculiarities of old Fairy Tales, and the universe actually does seem to provide an ideal setting for them to mix, granted that they remain on an unobtrusive enough of a level. For the most part, I feel that so long as they choose less well-known fairy tales and weave them inconspicuously following the way they have so far, I think they would fit quite snugly in among side stories in Zelda, and I in fact would be pleased to see more.

Now then, here are my questions for you: What do you think of the inclusions of these Fairy Tales in Zelda? Do you think they were incorporated well, or do you find them unnecessary? Have you caught any others? Would you be interested in seeing more intertwined? Please feel free to post any thoughts you may have below.
 

unknown

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Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
Sacred Grove
I would say that they were incorporated well because they weren't obviously not original to zelda (at least the MM one). I think that they are something cool that can stay in, but I don't have a preference whether they stay or go. Nintendo doesn't need to go out of their way to include more of them.
 
Joined
Feb 23, 2011
This is incredibly interesting. I had no idea that the Zelda series incorporated so many Western fairy tale elements in its various plots, Majora's Mask in particular. Perhaps this is because of how well-incorporated they were into the games. Neither of the fairy tales that you mentioned have ever crossed my mind, as they were hardly even noticeable [to me]. Going even further, I've always thought Japanese fairy tales were the primary inspiration surrounding the various aspects of Zelda lore, due mostly to the obscurity of its various themes. For instance, the inspiration behind the Ancient Cistern in Skyward Sword is believed to have been drawn from the Eastern folkloric tale The Spider's Thread. In fact, SS seems to have been heavily Eastern based in its themes in general - a departure from past titles in the series, it seems. It seems this entire time that I've been focusing on finding Eastern folkloric influences in the series, when should have been looking for Western influences as well. lol
 

All Might

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Joined
Feb 8, 2011
Location
The Circle of Life
"The Bremen Town Musicians" and the Bremen's Mask... There's no doubt they are connected. These are very interesting connections, and given that the game (Majora's Mask) this certain story was added into, I'm all the way surprised that Nintendo sought out a story to match Guru-Guru's character. MM was a hurried development after all, being completed in about a year's time.

I've recognized many cultures within respective Zelda games, mostly Eastern influences, but hardly any fairytales. There is much folklore hidden behind the ordinary facets of them, though. The one that dominates my attention, though, comes from the Legend of King Arthur, when he pulls Excalibur from the stone, just as Link obtains the Master Sword by freeing it from a pedestal. Such imagery reflects how Zelda relies on the fantastical elements that drive it toward the genre that it's become. Even Lord of the Rings comes into play, and is probably the biggest impetus to the series because of its action/adventure elements.
 

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