Zelda Wiki:Numerology in The Legend of Zelda Series
|The following Wiki Exclusive article, published on September 26, 2011, may be an opinionated and/or theoretical piece. It may not be a factual encyclopedic article, and reflects only the opinions of the writer, K2L. It is not to be taken as a view of Zelda Wiki, its staff, editors, or viewers as a whole.|
In the following page, we shall discuss about a relatively little known aspect of The Legend of Zelda franchise. This aspect is the Numerology in The Legend of Zelda Series. Several numbers have subtly played a symbolic role over the course of the series, ranging from a gameplay significance to a storyline-based one. There are various numbers that served this purpose, and each of them will be discussed in this article.
The most notable numbers, as well as their respective roles, are:
- Two - Duality: The contrast and complementarity between opposite elements.
- Three - Trinity: A number that represents completion. Arguably the most well-rounded number.
- Four - Occult: Despair, death; a symbol akin to Eastern culture.
- Seven - Fortune: A coveted number, akin to Western culture.
- Eight - Diversity: Shows a further manifestation of completion than number three, and from a broader perspective.
Two - Duality
Two is a number to which is given several symbolic attributes. All of them, in one or another way, revolve about the same principle: There is one more of something. Depending on the characteristics of each of these two elements, there may be one of multiple types of interaction, either positive or negative. Examples include choice, duality, polarity, joining, coupling (or pairing), contrast, attraction, balance, contradiction, partnership, harmony, and separation. Before these interactions, there are in turn several possible actions that can be made by an individual who is foreign to the two elements. These actions include change, increase, judgment, opportunity, and equalization.
In The Legend of Zelda series, number two has portrayed most of these attributes. Link, the decider between the two elements, is usually given a choice scenario, the most common paths being a Yes or a No. Some of these cases have only served cosmetic purposes, however. When Link chooses a No as an answer, he is simply redirected to the choice. In Ocarina of Time, it doesn't matter whether or not he wants to hear the Deku Tree's long speech, view Ganondorf through the Castle Courtyard's window, tell Princess Ruto that he wants the Spiritual Stone of water, or only hear the most important information from Darunia's son. In the end, he is going to hear that long speech, view Ganondorf through the window, get the Spiritual Stone of Water, and hear both pieces of information from Darunia's son (and first the least important one, no less). In Spirit Tracks, most of the time the two options actually lead to the same effect, they're only worded differently.
However, in several games there are actual choices that can be made, such as choosing an animal buddy in the Oracle games, and choosing a custom equipment in Spirit Tracks. In Majora's Mask, we see the most open-ended array of choice: Link can help one or another character (due mostly to mutual exclusivity), save Termina or let it succumb due to the moon's fall, complete or skip the final dungeon, etc; and this is only possible because the events are resettable, so if a wrong choice is made, the process can be retried without any problem. In general terms, the freedom to choose something, or the lack thereof, depends heavily on the storyline relevance of the subject, as well as the linearity imposed by it.
The most prominent roles of the number are arguably those with negative connotations; namely, contradiction, contrast and separation. This is justified by the franchise's premise: There is a constant fight between good and evil, and therefore there is always a right and a wrong. Below are two major examples of this case.
Light and Dark
From A Link to the Past onwards, a commonplace theme in the series is the conflict between opposites. Since several centuries ago, there has been a dimension parallel to the Light World, known as the Dark World. The least subtle differences between these two worlds are easily noticed: Light, good, justice in one world; darkness, evil, crime in the other world. Whereas Link can be aided most of the time by friendly characters in the Light World, he only finds monsters and fierce enemies in the Dark World; and whereas Hyruleans can assume their true forms in the former, those located in the latter can only show the physical manifestation of their emotions. At first, these seem to be the only and most obvious characteristics, but there is actually more than meets the eye.
Namely, in comparison to the Light World, the Dark one frequently aims at a harder edge. It being a counterpart is actually shown at every instance in the game, it's just not as obvious to notice. For example, in the Light World, the two residing Magic Medallions come from the sky after Link reads an incantation from the Book of Mudora; in the Dark World, the Quake Medallion is found in the grounds, as it's possessed by a character living in the Lake of Ill Omen. Also, several places in one world have counterparts in the other that contrast from an elemental perspective. For example, the barren and isolated Desert of Mystery has the wet and rainy Swamp of Evil as its counterpart; the friendly Kakariko Village has the theft-infested Village of Outcasts as its counterpart, and so on.
Past and Future
The light-and-dark treat is shared by other games in the series, such as Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, the former from a age-based perspective, and the latter in a closer way to that in A Link to the Past. In regards of the 1998 title, a very interesting detail is that, once again, the differences aren't limited to a meta scale. The contrasts, in opposition to popular belief, aren't actually based on light and dark; instead, they're based on what we might call symbolic age. The explanation from this is a bit difficult to provide, but it can be started with a dungeon comparison. There may be a reason why Ocarina of Time, unlike the majority of the other games in the series, seeks to replicate the elemental dungeon types seen in the Child age through the Adult age. Between the eras we witness exactly two Forest Dungeons, two Fire Dungeons and two Water Dungeons. In terms of difficulty, the Adult dungeons are significantly superior to the Child dungeons. Gameplay-wise, this may simply be because of the game gradually increasing the challenge factor, but the symbolic reason is more noteworthy: When Link becomes an adult, he has to face greater dangers than when he was a kid. This is reflected by the difficulty of the aforementioned dungeons, as well as that of the enemies and bosses. This difficulty symbolizes the maturity an adult has to develop so that he or she can overcome the deadliest obstacles. The complexity of the Adult dungeons' structure reflects the complexity of the subjects and events Link has to face in the future, in contrast to the earlier dungeons that required less intellectual and physical skills (and thus fit more for Child Link). Compare the simplistic inside of the Deku Tree to the mind-bending twisted architecture of the Forest Temple, or the simplistic digestive tract of a whale to the controversially complex map of the Water Temple, for example.
The rest of the Adult dungeons of Ocarina of Time, at the same time, follow the archetypes of the other role of number two (light and dark) while keeping the past-and-future (or child-and-adult) dichotomy. The Shadow Temple, by all means, is a Shadow Dungeon filled with numerous traps, deceptions and devilish creatures; on the other end of the spectrum, the Spirit Temple opts for a much lighter and relatively more relaxing atmosphere and feel. Both dungeons, in one or another way, revolve both Child Link and Adult Link, putting into practice the aforementioned "symbolic age". Child Link explores the Bottom of the Well and a portion of the Spirit Temple, while Adult Link explores the Shadow Temple and the rest of the Spirit Temple. Once again, the difficulty of these dungeons accommodates to the skills and maturity of each age of Link, which is even pointed out by the scripts of the Spirit Temple's entrance.
In other The Legend of Zelda games, the concept of duality is present more positively, but also more subtly. It doesn't always come as a conflict between elements, or a distance between them; the elements themselves might actually be separate parts of the same entity. More than one fan of the series might have noticed an interesting case from The Wind Waker. When Link has to look for the Sages who pray for the force of the Master Sword to be held, he has to travel across two temples: The Earth Temple and the Wind Temple. To find each temple, Link has to visit an island suffering from an extreme temperature, infiltrate there to find a treasure, go to the temple's whereabouts to learn a melody that will awaken the descendant of the its former Sage, and bring the new one to the temple to explore it alongside him or her until they reach the hall where they pray takes place. To specify each case:
|Step||First Temple||Second Temple||Notes|
|1||Link goes to Fire Mountain, a fiery volcano he cools with the Ice Arrows so that he can infiltrate through it and find the Power Bracelet in less than five minutes.||Link goes to Ice Ring Isle, an icy formation he warms with the Fire Arrows so that he can infiltrate through it and find the Iron Boots in less than five minutes.||There is an analogy between fire and ice, respectively countered by the opposite element.|
|2||Link goes to Headstone Island, and removes a rocky obstacle with the bracelet. Inside he learns the Earth God's Lyric.||Link goes to Gale Isle, and removes a windy obstacle with the boots and the Skull Hammer. Inside he learns the Wind God's Aria.||There is an analogy between earth and wind, both in the obstacles faced and in the melodies learned (which are also part of the game's intro theme).|
|3||Link teaches the song to Medli, a flying being who practices music high atop a balcony in Dragon Roost Island. They travel from north to south as they head towards the Earth Temple.||Link teaches the song to Makar, an underground being who practices music in a dark cave behind a waterfall in Forest Haven. They travel from south to north as they head towards the Wind Temple.||Further analogy between earth and wind, as well as between the trajectories taken. Notice, however, that there is a mix up between the two elements: A wind-based character is chosen to represent an Earth Dungeon, while an earth-based character is chosen to represent a Wind Dungeon. Their respective destinations are also in completely opposite positions in comparison to their homelands.|
|4||The Earth Temple is a three-floor building that houses enemies and obstacles teemed with the shadows. The miniboss is the earth-dwelling Stalfos, who guards the Mirror Shield.||The Wind Temple is a three-floor building that houses enemies and obstacles teemed with the forests. The miniboss is the floating Wizzrobe, who guards the Hookshot.||The dungeons themselves are thematically dual as well: Earth and shadows, wind and forests (it also helps that these elements are actually related). The minibosses also reflect the element of their residing dungeons.|
|5||The Mirror Shield is used in conjunction with Medli's harp in order to solve otherwise-impossible light-related puzzles.||The Hookshot is used in conjunction with Makar's seeds (which quickly grow to become trees) in order to cross otherwise-impossible gaps and obstacles.||Link must cooperate closely with the Sages in order to conquer the temples, each of which also has three Sage Stones that can only be removed when the couples play the sage melodies.|
|6||The final obstacle before the boss is a very complex mirror system designed to bring light to the two sides of a giant face. The boss is Jalhalla, who splits into multiple small Poes when it's damaged.||The final obstacle before the boss is a huge room of fans whose wind must be faced as several blocks are moved to open a path. The boss is Molgera, who releases multiple small Moldorms when it's damaged.||In the final obstacles Link requires, more so than ever, assistance from the Sages. The bosses are accompanied by several minions.|
Over the course of this part of the game, there is a notorious complement between two branches and themes that evolve in a parallel way. The duality extends to other aspects as well, it's just not as obvious as with the aforementioned temples. Namely, two of the Triforce Charts are found with the help of the Power Bracelet (related to the Earth Temple), while other two are found with the help of the Hookshot (related to the Wind Temple). In Ganon's Tower, the Earth and Wind routes are respectively the longest and the shortest, while both the Fire and Forest one have roughly the same length. There are instances where the analogies don't follow suit, but they hardly seek to break the pattern seen in the majority of the cases.
The Wind Waker is not the only title to show this type of duality, and it's not even the first, but it employs the concept to the furthest extent so far. In Majora's Mask, it's not too difficult to detect patterns between Southern Swamp and Snowhead (the places, their dungeons and their surroundings are played analogously), between Great Bay and Ikana Canyon (their anomalies are never fully reverted. Water is still murky after Gyorg is defeated, undead creatures still wander around after Twinmold is defeated), between Southern Swamp and Great Bay (both are humid and tropical ecosystems, and their anomalies are related to water), between Snowhead and Ikana Canyon (both are cold and temperate ecosystems, and their anomalies are related to atmosphere and ambiance), between Snowhead and Great Bay (in both, Link heals dying characters and takes their form; the areas' respective tribes are also friendly despite the tough conditions they're facing) and between Southern Swamp and Ikana Canyon (the tribes are harsher against foreign people at first). Of course, Majora's Mask is more known for its representation of number four rather than number two, which will be discussed two sections below.
Even in a game as early as The Adventure of Link, analogies and patterns can be appreciated as well. In each of the two main continents portraying Hyrule in this game (West Hyrule and East Hyrule) there are two Heart Containers and two Magic Containers to collect, four towns to visit, four Spells and one sword technique to learn, and four items to collect (of which three are Dungeon Items).
In conclusion, there might be elements that either oppose or complement each other. And bizarrely, both can occur at the same time. A wise man once said that, in nature, some physical phenomena may sport behaviors that contradict each other, as in the case of time versus space, light versus shadow, matter versus vacuum, matter versus energy, and wave versus particle. Both aspects of each phenomenon, regardless, are correct and important for us to subsist. The delicate balance between the two facets of a problem might provide the only possible key to solve the problem itself.
Three - Trinity
Of all numbers significantly represented in the series, number three seems to be the most canonically important. As pointed out by Andrew Harris, three is the first number that represents a geometric body (one is a point, two is a line, numbers from three onwards can be surface, and from four onwards volume). It is, therefore, the first number to not portray an abstract role, and is capable of playing more physical roles.
One of these roles, and arguably the most noteworthy for the series, is balance. As mentioned before, two is a number of opposites, contrasts and complements. Adding a third element is, then, adding a center. If the two poles are power (force) and wisdom (intelligence), then the center is courage. If the two poles are past and future, then the center is present. If the poles are fire and water, then the center is forest. And when we have these three elements together, we are encasing a conjunction, an diverse entity of sorts. In the Zelda series, there is a medium that serves as a separate individual on par with the other two, and thus we have a trinity. In the following sections, we'll see how, when this trinity is mastered, a major goal will be fulfilled.
Third time is the charm
From a religious perspective, the main source of divine power in the World of The Legend of Zelda is the Triforce. According to legend, it is the last legacy from the Golden Goddesses left to the land of mortals. Each fragment of this relic represents a Goddess, who in turn represents one of the major attributes of the living beings. Before going into detail with this, it's worth mentioning that, in a nearly unlimited amount of aspects, these attributes are carried over the entire World of The Legend of Zelda; from elementally basic ecosystems to the unique characteristics of the diverse races inhabiting the world.
More than one fan of the series has notices that, in various The Legend of Zelda games, the Master Sword is gained after collecting first three relics. Said objects are the Pendants of Virtue in A Link to the Past, the Spiritual Stones in Ocarina of Time, the Goddess Pearls in The Wind Waker, the Fused Shadows in Twilight Princess and, in the case of the Phantom Sword in Phantom Hourglass, the Pure Metals. Whereas the most cynical players argue that Nintendo is just recycling ideas across the games, others have gone further to notice the extent of the trinity's influence.
The first and most basic aspect is the chromatic identity of each element: red, green and blue. Players may know this already, but these colors are the primary compounds of the white light; therefore, it's completely logical that these colors were chosen to represent the virtues of the Triforce: It is, after all, the source of divine light. Only a living being with a balance between power, courage and wisdom can obtain the Triforce at once when entering the Sacred Realm. The light of this Triforce will scatter before someone who believes the most in only one of the virtues, his or her heart acts like a prism of sorts.
Red, green and blue
One might ask: Why courage is associated with forests, power is with fire, and wisdom is with water? It's fairly difficult to properly interpret an answer, but it may be because these elements and environments, synesthetically, fit the virtues the best. As an example, the forests are often a big and wild ecosystem; venturing into them requires courage and determination from the common living being, and the fact that Link is in several games raised within one (or a similar ecosystem, such as a grove or a plain), as well as the fact that he's dressed green most of the time, indicates that he's destined to be a courageous hero. Courage is literally his avatar. In regards of other living beings, forests synesthetically symbolize peace, harmony, friendship, innocence and playfulness. The Kokiris and Koroks, the Deku Scrubs, even the monkeys, .... they're living proofs of these attributes. To take this to an even further extent, Forest Dungeons are comparatively easier than most of the other elemental dungeon types; they do not seek to extensively challenge the venturers, but simply to motivate them to develop their physical and intellectual skills so that later hardships can be faced more easily. Forest, as an element, represents courage because it's friendly and inviting to us.
Analogously, we can notice the relationship between fire and power, as well as between water and wisdom. The former, for one, represents the next phase for those who left the friendly forests that saw them grow up. Fire synesthetically represents lust, competitively and brute force. The dangers of fire and playing carelessly with it symbolize the dangers of not being able to have under control our lowest instincts. All of us have a dark side, the key is to control it so that it serves to us, not the other way around. The Gorons are a signature representation of power, and Fire Dungeons seek to test the venturers' strength and endurance.
Water, likewise, symbolizes wisdom in various different ways. Knowledge is vital for survival, just like water is; the fluidity of this basic liquid symbolizes the knowledge being passed down across the generations; much like clean water is able to reflect our faces, knowledge is projected from us to our surroundings. Water and wisdom can both be very difficult to master, which is reflected with the high difficulty of the Water Dungeons. Only those paying attention to their surroundings and examining each situation will be able to conquer the greatest challenges of life. Water also symbolizes love (notice that, in several 3D games, a reasonable amount of Pieces of Heart are found in water areas; Great Bay in Majora's Mask has 10 Pieces, the total between Zora's River, Zora's Domain, Zora's Fountain and Lake Hylia in Ocarina of Time is 11; the number of sunken Pieces in The Wind Waker is 11 as well), royalty, responsibility, diligence, beauty and maturity.
Why, then, three is such an important number for the series? Because it represents a balance between contrasting elements and virtues. The Master Sword can only be earned once the Chosen Hero gains the benefits of the three avatars. Three represents the end of a cycle and the start of another, it represents preparation. With the courage brought from the forests, it is possible to face the horrors, deceptions and calamities of element shadow, which is accompanied by a permanent atmosphere of darkness, loneliness, and death. With the power brought from the fire, it is possible to overcome the harshest conditions of the deserts, where the mainstream companions are dryness, scarcity, and weakness. With the wisdom drunk from the water, it is possible to find and master the light, with which one can finally bring peace to a world invaded by the evil forces.
Four - Occult
The number of death
It's somewhat unclear what the developers try to communicate with this number. It doesn't help that the Western interpretations of it are radically different from the Eastern ones. For what has been seen in the series so far, there seems to be a lean towards the Eastern interpretation.
One of the few games where it gains a clear and meaningful role is Majora's Mask. In this game, Link has three days to stop the Moon from falling upon the land of Termina. To do so, he has to free the Four Giants, each of which is located in one of the game's four main regions (south, north, west and east, in that order; the trajectory of those visits resembles the shape of number four), and can assume up to four alternate forms during his quest to progress further. Last, but not least, the fourth day might turn into a catastrophe if the moon is not stopped in the end.
We can notice a trend here, and admittedly an obvious one: In Chinese culture (as well as in others like Japanese and Korean), four is actually a number that represents bad luck, much like thirteen does in Western cultures. This is because the number is pronounced as "shi", a word that also means death, and as such is rendered as a highly superstitious number. The buildings in these countries do not label this floor, or even the 14th or 24th floors.
Referring to number four this way is, therefore, a subtle way to indicate the dark tone of an already dark storyline like that of Majora's Mask. But that's something fans might have noticed already, especially seeing as the game has been subject to numerous theories since its launch on year 2000. Once again, the role of the number goes even further than meets the eye. As mentioned before, there are four major regions in Termina, but the best part is that the fourth of these regions, east, suffers from the deadliest curse (the undead invading a land of mortals), and is arguably the longest and most difficult in the entire game (this is also true for the Stone Tower Temple, the fourth temple). It was also mentioned that there are four transformation masks, and it also turns out that the fourth of these masks, the Fierce Deity's Mask, is the most lethal and powerful. The game was also released in Japan the fourth month in year 2000 (a year that was said to be apocalyptic) for the Nintendo 64, and re-released in the same region the fourth month in year 2009 for the Wii's Virtual Console; also (most likely a coincidence, however), it requires the Expansion Pack to be played, which is an accessory that adds 4 MB to the console's capacity. Finally, the final dungeon, the Moon, encases four mini-dungeons, the fourth of which is accessible after giving four masks to the Twinmold-masked moon child, and beatable only by donating other four masks. Being the fourth game added to the Collector's Edition compendium, it also suffered from various glitches that didn't appear on the other three games.
Outside of Majora's Mask, number four carries over a similar role, but to a lesser extent. Namely, in several installments (some of them even predating Majora's Mask itself), the fourth dungeon has something to do with the undead, thus being a Shadow Dungeon. For example, in Ocarina of Time, the fourth dungeon Child Link explores is the Bottom of the Well, while the fourth temple Adult Link explores is the Shadow Temple; also in Ocarina of Time, the fourth bottle is obtained after capturing Big Poes, and is also a longer quest than in the case of the other three bottles. In The Wind Waker, the fourth Triforce Chart is inside the Ghost Ship, which is also the fourth dungeon in Phantom Hourglass; also in The Wind Waker the Four-Eye Reef is the closest of the reefs to Forsaken Fortress, where Ganondorf and the forces of evil reside (at first). There are more examples, these only being some of them.
Mix between Eastern and Western roles
Why was it mentioned, then, that the games' developers are inconsistent with their intents with number four? The answer is that, in some games, four has actually a positive role. The Four Sword legend is an example, as it revolves around a weapon that contributes to the justice. Link is split into four forms of himself when he takes the sword, and each of these "Links" use one of the swords that constitute the main blade. It should be noted, however, that whereas three of these replicas of the young hero have recognizable color identities (green, red and blue, see the section above), the fourth Link is purple-colored; this color not only represents (at least frequently) the element shadow (the most basic manifestation of darkness), it's also the color that symbolized Majora's Mask as a whole (the letters of its name are purple-colored, yet another detail that suggests a darker storyline). Because of this, there have been theories suggesting that the long-fabled Tetraforce is somewhat related to this fourth compound, though nothing has been confirmed so far.
Let's remember that number four is portrayed more positively in Western culture. Four is related to the existence of something, as it's the number of elements that compound that existence. Weather, for example, can rotate around spring, summer, autumn and winter (Oracle of Seasons). Space-time revolves around length, width, height and time (the console 3D games, most importantly Majora's Mask); space can more specifically be directed towards north, south, west and east; matter is portrayed as solid, liquid, gas and plasma; and so on. In the case of Spirit Tracks, there are four main segments that constitute New Hyrule, but very little can actually be interpreted in this regard. Indeed, four of the temples seek to hold the power the Tower of Spirits needs to keep Malladus, the Demon King, trapped. However, this detail is somewhat ruined by the fact that there aren't four, but five Realms (therefore five temples) in total, with the fifth one (the Sand Temple) having a purpose that is by all means unrelated to what the other four temples do. A similar thing happens in The Minish Cap, where four dungeons are supposed to be explored, until it's found out that the third of the Elements was moved to a fifth dungeon. It is likely that, in these games, the number is not supposed to retain the meaning it had in the other games.
Seven - Fortune
The lucky number
In contrast with number four, seven actually represents something more positive. The reasons for this vary, but all of them agree on the resulting meaning. These include, but aren't limited to: In freemasonry, seven is a good number because it's the sum between five (the perfect Pythagorean sum) and two (duality); Pythagoreans themselves called it lucky for the sum between the two "perfect figures" (triangle (3) and square (4)); Arabians had seven Holy Temples, seven celestial bodies from our solar system are visible (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn), and so on. This even extends to science, as 7 is the balanced Hydrogen potential between bases and acids, there are seven SI base units, and there are seven basic colors that compose the white light.
In some of the Zelda series' installments, seven serves as the exact quantity of a beneficial quest, thus fitting its own common traits. In A Link to the Past, there are seven Maidens, and the seventh of them is Princess Zelda; this is also true for Four Swords Adventures and Ocarina of Time (the latter regarding Sages rather than maidens). In Twilight Princess, there are seven Hidden Skills to learn, and the seventh of them (the Great Spin), is very powerful and has a wide range. In Majora's Mask, there are seven Zora Eggs, and retrieving them all teaches Link a new song, but this song in particular helps Lulu, the mother of these eggs, to recover her lost voice.
However, the game that probably shows the furthest manifestation of the number to date is The Wind Waker. This is actually unsurprising, since the game seeks to show a more positive atmosphere and feel than Majora's Mask (which instead identified itself with number four). There are, for one, seven mainstream islands (Outset Island, Forsaken Fortress, Windfall Island, Dragon Roost Island, Forest Haven, Greatfish Isle, and the Tower of the Gods), and the seventh of them leads Link to the long-fabled remains of Hyrule. The Great Sea, in addition, is composed of 49 (7 x 7) segments of water, each holding an island. There are seven dungeon in the game, seven lunar phases (and therefore seven islands visited by the Ghost Ship), seven figurine rooms in the Nintendo Gallery, seven Great Fairy Fountains, and the Seven-Star Isles is the only archipelago that's not haunted by the aforementioned Ghost Ship.
These may be simple coincidences, but there's also a more striking presence of the number (and one fans have noticed already): First, it has to be noted that the Tower of the Gods reveals itself after the Goddess Pearls are placed in the three Triangle Islands, and said pearls in turn are originally located within three of the mainstream islands: Dragon Roost Island, Forest Haven and Greatfish Isle. The position of all of these seven islands is such that, seen from top-view perspective, they subtly show the form of the Triforce, and the Tower of the Gods turns to be at the center among the other six islands. Tetra somehow noticed this already, as seen in her room upon viewing a picture showing a large part of the Great Sea.
Once again, the number has less relevance in other installments of the series. In The Adventure of Link, there is a lady in New Kasuto that will help Link after he has "the 7 Magic Containers". However, this is a mistake because Link only collects three Containers, while the first four are default. And the reward for showing these supposed seven Containers is an eighth one, which somewhat misses the point (see, however, the section below). It should be noted, regardless, that there are seven dungeons in this game, and the seventh one holds the long-coveted Triforce of Courage, which houses the only power capable of resurrecting an ancient incarnation of Princess Zelda. This ends up being a case of irony anyway, since Link's adventure in this game is one of the most violent and difficult (and the aforementioned seventh dungeon actually confirms this), and the game itself is one of the most maligned by critics and fans in the series, as it showed various characteristics that weren't seen again in later titles.
Eight - Diversity
The final number to be discussed in this article will be number eight. Unlike the other numbers, eights has served probably the least intentional purpose, and one not as obvious. In fact, one of the number's most used roles in the Zelda games is from Chinese origin (eight is the number of totality in the universe), as well as a supreme mathematical value (laid down, it represents infinity). For example, in the majority of the cases, it's mentioned when Link has to look for certain quest items. In the original The Legend of Zelda, the objective is to find the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom; in Link's Awakening, Link has to find the Eight Instruments of the Sirens; and in the two Oracle Games, he has to find eight Essences (Essences of Time in Ages, Essences of Nature in Seasons).
At first, eight seems to be simply a number of choice for the developers when it comes to the games' storylines. However, in order to find each quest item, Link has to overcome a particular challenge, which often differs from the other seven. As a whole, all the elements present in each game are equitably represented this way. These elements may or may not be environmental, but they do link to the game's motif. This is why eight is a number of diversity: It encases a conjunction, a (partially literal) world of trials that render the young hero fully realized and satiated in force and intelligence when they're beaten. And in most cases, each of the challenges evolve in a similar pattern (ending with the exploration of a dungeon, and then a boss battle). The aforementioned games only show the most obvious facets of this conjunction; in others the role of number eight has a more subtle manifestation. In The Adventure of Link, there are exactly eight towns to visit, eights spells to learn, up to eight Magic Containers and eight Heart Containers Link can support, eight Experience levels for attack, defense and magic, and eight items to find and collect. In both Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, there are eight dungeons to conquer before visiting the last one and, while the quest purpose of the dungeons varies, their elemental themes still reflect a very broad diversity (namely, Twilight Princess implements a Forest Dungeon, a Fire Dungeon, a Water Dungeon, a Desert Dungeon, an Ice Dungeon, a Light Dungeon, a Wind Dungeon, and a Shadow Dungeon). This itself also fits another meaning of number eight: The diversity and manifestations of matter as a whole.
The Zelda series's message
Next is a meta example of the number's symbolic value: Between Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, there is a date difference of eight years. Fittingly enough, the former's year of arrival is 1998, clearly indicating the start of a cycle. Which cycle? After the start of that time frame, and counting Twilight Princess, there has been a total of eight installments launched, the others being Majora's Mask, the two Oracle games, Four Swrods, The Wind Waker, Four Swords Adventures and The Minish Cap. Twilight Princess would then be the final chapter of the eight-year cycle, and it would indeed mirror what was seen in the other seven games. Most players have criticized this game for being too similar to Ocarina of Time (without knowing why it was similar, no less), and relieved when Shigeru Miyamoto said that it would be "the last of its kind". Now we can realize how meaningful those words were, as it turns out that it was exactly the point all along: Twilight Princess not only was the last of its kind, but also the end of a cycle that had until then defined the series after Ocarina of Time (which was, of course, the previous point of inflection for the franchise). As mentioned before, Twilight Princess sought to inherit at least one element from each of the past games in this cycle (the darker tone from Majora's Mask, the scope from The Wind Waker, the animal interaction from the Oracle games, and the concept of a wind civilization from the Four Sword arc). Also fittingly, Twilight Princess was released in two consoles, thus representing a bridge between the old and the new, as well as between the classic and the modern.
There are actually other numbers that play interesting roles in the series (though to lesser extents), and the ones discussed here have roles in games that weren't extensively discussed; that said, the objective of the discussion has been completed already. The franchise has indeed a rich and long-lasting numerological trajectory since its inception in 1986, being invisibly present from the primitive Hyrule Fantasy to the modern titles of these days. Which leaves us with some important questions: What message do the developers want to transmit to their consumers? Why an unsettling symbol of death and despair with number four in Majora's Mask, and why then a more optimistic approach with number seven in The Wind Waker? What number encases the best the World of The Legend of Zelda? Is it number two because of the duality? Is it number three because of its trinity? And most importantly: What surprises are awaiting for us with Skyward Sword? Will there be a new number that portrays with a role to play? Or the known numbers will take new approaches? These questions might lead to philosophical concepts that are yet to be defined and discussed.