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Let's talk Symbolism!


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#61 avroillusion

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 01:07 PM

I forgot this topic existed. Personally, I think the eye is a symbol of perception and the ability to gather hidden knowledge, particularly magic. The open eye has been used for centuries as a symbol of awakening to higher knowledge or inner vision. It's use on items such as the Lens of Truth invoke this symbolism, while for mage enemies it may just symbolize their propensity for the magic arts.


Three things:

1) The only two items in the entire Zelda series that can be argued to invoke the eye as a symbol for perception are the Lens of Truth and the Mask of Truth. But note that both items were created by the Sheikah and both items actually feature the Sheikah symbol (the handle of the Lens of Truth is shaped to form the tear), not the general eye symbol. In addition to this, it is said that the Lens/Mask of Truth were actually designed to expose the illusions created by Darkness, and so their actual symbolic nature is tied much more strongly to the Sheikah's "fighting evil" dogma than to a general "perception" symbol.

2) The appearance of the eye in correspondence to "mage enemies" is, as far as I'm aware, limited just to Agahnim. And even if it does appear with general mage enemies, it should be noted that the eye never appears in correspondence with benevolent magic, just evil magic.

3) I would also like to, once again, highlight that the most common object to be struck in order to defeat evil is the eye. Regardless of whether they are switches or enemy weakpoints, the eye is symbollically an obstacle in the path of justice.

While I don't doubt what you say about the symbolism of the eye in real-world culture, I don't think the Zelda mythology shares that same symbolism. All evidence leads us to deduce the eye is a symbol for evil.


It should, though. Relatable imagery and symbolism from a fictional work to real life can serve to make a fictional work more satisfying. I find the symbol of the eye to be a very old one and pops up in other cultures with similar implications, so I don't see why the eye shouldn't have similar connotations in a different but still somewhat similar culture as the culture of Hyrule.

In the Sheikah item's case, it can serve as a symbol for several ideas. The original Sheikah eye was a symbol for the misery that the Shiekah have faced and how they will always watch over the Royal Family. Also, the Sheikah also seem to have knowledge of some secret arts (used in the creation of magical items or maybe even fighting. I don't believe any other race has knowledge of these skills), so the eye is a viable symbol to embody these aspects of their race. The exposure of illusions is an aspect of increased perception as symbolized by an open eye. The Shiekah seem to be the lone example of the eye as a benevolent symbol of perception and knowledge of the hidden, however. Twili items also feature the eye, which fits due to the tribe's adept magic skills. The fused shadows hold malevolent power, but imp Midna's accessories also feature the eye and she is not wholly malevolent.

You also forgot Vaati, he has an eye motif going on. (-3-) Seems to be designed around it, even. Having a single eye as as weak point is also a common trope in videogames. Mythological creatures such as the Cyclops also had one eye. It can be used to make a creature seem more strange and alien while still providing a viable weakpoint rather than a symbol of their innate "evilness".

#62 Raien

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 01:43 PM

It should, though. Relatable imagery and symbolism from a fictional work to real life can serve to make a fictional work more satisfying. I find the symbol of the eye to be a very old one and pops up in other cultures with similar implications, so I don't see why the eye shouldn't have similar connotations in a different but still somewhat similar culture as the culture of Hyrule.


Because every single use of the Eye corresponds with the presence of evil, except for the Sheikah symbol, which demonstrates that the Sheikah fight against evil. Seriously, if you could find a consistent connection between the eye and benevolent magic, or higher perception, I might agree with you. But every example you've provided, including the following, are both stretching and highly debatable.

And to be fair, the "Evil Eye" is a notable occult symbol. It's not something that Nintendo just made up.

The original Sheikah eye was a symbol for the misery that the Shiekah have faced and how they will always watch over the Royal Family.


This "misery of the Sheikah" does not exist in the canon. It was created/popularised in a non-canon manga.

The Shiekah seem to be the lone example of the eye as a benevolent symbol of perception and knowledge of the hidden, however.


The Sheikah symbol features an eye with a tear, which best describes their dogma as a tribe that fights evil. It's perhaps most similar to a Skull & Crossbones.

Twili items also feature the eye, which fits due to the tribe's adept magic skills.


What Twili items, other than the Fused Shadows?

The fused shadows hold malevolent power, but imp Midna's accessories also feature the eye and she is not wholly malevolent.


How does Midna's character have any relationship with an object of evil magical power? Midna's helmet is a piece of the Fused Shadows, evil dark magic, and thus it possesses an image of the Eye.

You also forgot Vaati, he has an eye motif going on. (-3-) Seems to be designed around it, even. Having a single eye as as weak point is also a common trope in videogames. Mythological creatures such as the Cyclops also had one eye. It can be used to make a creature seem more strange and alien while still providing a viable weakpoint rather than a symbol of their innate "evilness".


While this is true, the Zelda series have used the eye more consistently than any other video game series, and incorporated the eye into switches that must be struck. It's still good evidence of what the eye symbolises in Zelda.

#63 avroillusion

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 03:56 PM

I am aware of the eye being a symbol of evil. I am only stating that not all eye symbols can be interpreted that way and that there may be multiple interpretations. I hope you aren't insinuating that symbols should have only one canon meaning when there is a possibility for more than one. The Shiekah symbol appears on items that are associated with knowledge and truth, (Lens of Truth, Gossip Stones) so the mark serves as both a sign of their origin (punishers of evil if you choose to put it that way) and a clue to their function.

In the manga's universe, the eye is a legitimate symbol of the grief the Shiekah felt, if only for a manga only event. Since this is a discussion on symbolism and Zelda, I don't see anything wrong with bringing it up.

About the Twili, Midna's ponytail ring features the eye. The Twili throne does as well. I guess you can say it's a testament to their dark heritage, but I think it can also stand for their advanced magical knowledge.

Since you only mentioned Agahnim, I thought you forgot Vaati as well. Veran also wears an eye symbol, so it looks like I forgot her, too. Fanadi (the fortune teller in TP) also wears the eye symbol on her forehead, possibly as a clue to her lineage (the Sheikah?) and an allusion to her profession.(having a third eye)

The Megaman series have also featured a number of one eyed enemies, most famously the many types of Joes and it really doesn't stand for anything other than showing that that kind of weak point can be a pain in the butt. XD The eye is a sensitive organ and is easily recognized, so incorporating something like that into switches or enemy design indicates something to be struck.




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