It's about time somebody wrote about video games on the internet!

Ok, so The Legend of Zelda, right?

We all know the basics: this guy Link wanders around Hyrule collecting various trinkets that aid him in conquering this Ganon dude and acquiring a triangle, and there’s a princess too, I guess. This is all standard video game fare, because video game designers have known for a long time that what kids want to do is collect trinkets and triangles (and princesses, I guess).

Yay! A one-string harp!Wow, a triangle!But I want to talk about

THE ECONOMICS OF HYRULE

(Hyrule being the place where all these particular trinkets, triangles, and princesses are kept).

Alright, so in The Legend of Zelda, Hyrule is set up something like this:

There are 0 towns.

This makes you wonder why there’s a princess at all. What’s the point of a monarchy if there are no subjects to monarch over? Is Zelda really even a princess? Is monarch really a verb? If I wander out into Antarctica and declare myself prince of all the people there, is that any less legitimate than Zelda’s claim to princesshood?

There are a handful of humans (or elves, maybe, I dunno).

All the people in the game fit into 4 categories:
1. Link
2. Old people who give shit to Link (including arcane advice)
3. Scruffy lowlifes who sell shit to Link

4. Old dudes who try to get Link to gamble

And really, all of the old people might just be the same old dude and old lady running around in an elaborate system of secret passages a la Clue.

Go ahead and imagine this is all being explained to you by Tim Curry as a supine butler.

Either way, this is hardly enough people to constitute a kingdom, and they’re all either nomads (Link) or cave dwellers (everybody else). This is not civilization.

It’s also not a viable market. Here’s a little thought experiment: imagine you’re looking to start a business. What does your business model look like? Are you selling arrows, shields, and bombs out of a cave in the middle of nowhere? This sounds like the setup for some kind of Al Qaeda joke, but nope! It’s the retail sector of Hyrule.

What else does Hyrule have to offer? Why, 9 dungeons, of course!

This seems neither cheap nor easy to produce.Who built these dungeons? What are they for? Where did the funding come from? How can you have a kingdom with no towns and only a few geriatric cavemen, and why would such a kingdom need to build 9 fairly complex dungeons?

Perhaps the old dudes built the dungeons. Did they use them to kill everybody else? Or were the dungeons built as elaborate studios for producing torture porn? Is The Legend of Zelda a prequel to Videodrome?Spending that much on dungeons, it's no woner they couldn't get James Woods for the prequel.

What haven’t we considered so far?

Monsters. Lots and lots of monsters. Octoroks, keese, zols, darknuts (really), leevers, and many more. These guys are all over the place. And you know what’s weird? They have all the money.

I haven’t tried it, but I have a strong suspicion that if I were to wander out into the woods and start killing wild animals, fewer than 1% of them would drop money. But in Hyrule, this is a perfectly viable way to make a living, I guess because Hyrulean wildlife feels compelled to collect coins. That could explain why they always wander back and forth around the same area: they are diligently checking the ground for rupees. This implies deficiencies in both short-term memory and eyesight (since rupees are roughly as big as the monsters themselves), but hey, I’m no better.

Paul the OctorokPaul the Octorok: So… hungry… gotta scrape together… 10 rupees to play… Money Making Game.

Gambling: the octorok's vice. Paul the Octorok: Daddy needs 4 new pairs of shoes!

An auspicious day for Paul the Octorok!Paul the Octorok: Oh hells yes! Ol’ Paul gets to live another 3 days!

Looks tasty.Paul the Octorok: Food! Sweet, sweet indiscernable meat!

It’s kind of crazy and depressing that these animals have to go to such extremes to get fed, isn’t it? But that’s the only explanation for their beachcombing behavior.

UNLESS, of course, they’re hoping to buy up all the weapons in the kingdom. But why would they want to do that?Hack at them with this blunt wooden sword. That'll be humane.

Well, let’s review. You’ve got a kingdom with plenty of well-engineered buildings but apparently no citizens to finance them, and all of the currency is in the hands of a bunch of monsters. These monsters are peaceful, except when Link shows up all like “Hey pansies, I can’t help but notice that some parts of my sword aren’t completely stained with blood. Mind if I take some of yours?” Furthermore, the only other humans around hide out in caves and peddle wares to help Link kill everything. No wonder the monsters want to decrease the availability of weapons.

(What are the merchants using their profits for, anyway? Do they live on monster bait? Maybe they live on bombs?)

My friends, perhaps it is time we consider that Link might not be a hero saving the kingdom of Hyrule and its beloved princess Zelda. Maybe the “monsters” in question are the rightful citizens of a very diverse and nature-oriented kingdom who prefer their civic buildings to be subterranean and perilous, and Link is just a genocidal asshole killing off the non-human (or whatever) citizens of Hyrule for the benefit of himself and of a princess of questionable legitimacy. Yes, maybe — just maybe — Link is a soulless mass murderer.

The Link-Jason link?

The economic arrangement looks rather different once we get to Zelda II, but that’s a different article for a different time.

More reviewsHome

^ 12 Comments...

  1. AlbinoNinja

    I always thought of the first Legend of Zelda as set in some sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland where the monsters took over and killed everyone but the people who went into hiding.

  2. isto

    But why the dungeons? Where are the ruins of the villages? AAAAA I’ve got to get to writing up Zelda II; it is the only path to comprehension.

  3. meatballsforeveryone

    I think you had it right with the torture porn- clearly Zelda was a whore. A monster screwing whore. Maybe she even paid the monsters to do it- not the first time a wealthy, “respected” individual has done something like that…

  4. Petecific

    Zelda II: The curse of the almost finish the game but happen to pause it to return becasue it’s not that great of a game only to return later to find that the battery died screwover.

  5. ColdFusion

    If I remember my backstory: the dungeons existed already and Zelda hid the triforce pieces in them, then Ganon was like “thanks” and put monsters and bosses in them.. Zelda basically screwed you, though you wonder why the G-dog didn’t just go pick up the triforce pieces for himself.. but he had one already, so.. Yeah.. were the dungeons just old churches/temples? Hmm.
    I had a theory that rupees are plant seeds, explaining why they pop out of plants you destroy.. then monsters eat the plants (or other monsters) and when you cut open their stomachs, there you go.. and the rocks? … secretly monster poops.
    Then a game came out on the DS that claims there’s tiny tiny little rodent-elves that place the rupees hither and yon, so that explains that..

  6. isto

    meatballs: What else are you going to do when you’re rich? I just hope Deborah Harry plays her in the movie.

    Cold: I like your rupees theory. As for the backstory (which I was waaay too lazy to actually reread for this), I’d still like to know why those dungeons were built in the first place, and, to your point, why the hell didn’t Ganon swipe the other triforce? I’ve seen the cartoon! He totally wanted both!

  7. ButterOnABaldMonkey

    It’s also interesting to note that there are more graves than people. Also that the graveyard lies in the most inhospitable and dangerous (to the elves) corner of Hyrule… I might be beginning to believe this genocidal asshole perspective.

    I’m… I’m finding it difficult to admit videogames steered me wrong. I’ve always believed in you Link…

    I think I need some air-

  8. ButterOnABaldMonkey

    On a related note:

    Web series “The Legend of Neil” is flibben hilarious, and you should all with it at your honest possible convenience. That is, now.

  9. ButterOnABaldMonkey

    *WATCH IT AT YOUR EARLIEST POSSIBLE CONVENIECE*

    stupid autocorrect

  10. isto

    I was going to bring up the graveyard thing in the Zelda II review, but yeah, EVERYONE IS DEAD.

  11. Guaric

    Would it not also be possible that the monsters themselves were, at some point, citizens of Zelda’s kingdom? If you image that the humans/elves/whatever were a ruling minority, much of what goes on in the game starts to make sense. Ganon taking over would provide an opportunity for the monster hordes to throw of the shackles of oppression they had been under for whatever reasons, and chase the humanoid hierarchy into hiding. If the remaining humans are all ex-rulers hiding out, it wouldn’t be strange for them to have stockpiled various weapons. Additionally, if the monsters were once members of some kind of inter-species society, it wouldn’t be strange for them to still walk around carrying money. So where does this leave Link? Trying to restore the old order by massacring the unruly populace and receiving aid from the previous regime from their various hidey-holes.
    Just my thoughts on it.

  12. isto

    Now THAT’S an interesting wrinkle to the story. It makes a lot of sense. I just wonder why the monsters don’t gang up and invade the various hidey-holes of the old regime. You know, wipe them out before their resistance can gain momentum. Of course, seeing how the monsters deal with Link — in numbers, but in SMALL numbers — it seems like maybe they’re just not good at organizing coordinated efforts.

) Your Reply...