Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Neo-Platonism and The Legend of Zelda: Platypus Nostalgia

I mentioned reading a passage from J.R.R. Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle" several days ago and immediately thinking of "The Legend of Zelda."  Now "Leaf by Niggle" is heavily platonic in its conception of the afterlife; advancing toward the divine through an ever more real series of images.  We see this also in C.S. Lewis' Narnia where at the end of the ages the cast are invited "further up and further in."  Now there's something in this idea of advancing through stages or levels towards a fulfillment or consummation that put me in mind of video games.  The player works his way through a series of worlds, or as Miyamoto calls them "gardens," toward some desired object, the goal of the quest and the end of the game.  In the Legend of Zelda series, this goal is often the mystic Triforce, a tripartite object representing the balance between wisdom, courage, and power.  To master this object, the one who seeks to win it must bring all three forces into balance within himself.  If you know your Zelda mythology, the events of the Zelda series are set in motion by Ganondorf's attempt to posses the Triforce when his own soul is disordered.  The mystic object responds by shattering and leaving the thief with the third that represents power: Ganondorf's mastering passion.  In effect, Ganondorf cannot achieve the blessedness the Triforce offers because he is Plato's tyrannical man, mastered by his passions.  To win the Triforce requires a platonic equilibrium within the tripartite soul bringing wisdom (rational), courage (emotional), and power (appetative) together.  Thus, Link's quest is really the platonic ascent of the ordered soul allegorized into a quest and commodified as a video game.    

4 comments:

Historyscientist said...

Nice to come across a blog by such an articulate monotreme.

Interesting point about Leaf by Niggle. Plato never seems far from Tolkien to my mind.

Gabe said...

Link's quest is really the platonic ascent of the ordered soul allegorized into a quest and commodified as a video game.

Jim, this is why I like your blog so much!!!

James said...

Historyscientist: glad you like the post. I'm curious as to why much of the scholarship on Tolkien that I've come across ignores his Platonism. Lewis, Williams, and Tolkien are all pretty heavily influenced by Plato and Plato-influenced forms of Christianity. Maybe Tolkien's Catholicism puts people more in mind of St. Thomas, and his job as a philologist causes them to focus on the linguistic and literary, rather than the philosophical, roots of his books. What seems to get glossed over is that Tolkien carved out his own linguistic path. The original expectation was that he would become a Classicist and therefore he was officially learning Greek language and literature until Sophomore year of college; all that Gothic and Anglo-Saxon stuff was done in his free time until he made the formal switch.

James said...

Hey Gabe! Glad you liked it. As Hans Gruber observes in Die Hard: "benefits of a classical education."