The Triforce has been a cornerstone of the series since its inclusion in the original Legend of Zelda series and shows up in most if not all of the main series of games. The Triforce as the name suggests is a three part magical item that exhibits mythical force and grants that power to who ever wields the item whether they be good or evil. The Triforce and its three parts that make it whole don’t recognize good or evil probably because they are two faces of the same coin.
It is made up of three equilateral golden triangles and are oft referred to as “the golden power”. The three parts are of course separable and are the Triforce of Courage, of Power and of Wisdom. There parts or even their morality isn’t important for us now they will be in part 2 though. For this post we are going to talk about the past of the Triforce. The Triforce as a symbol is much older than the first Zelda game (which was released in 1987).
In the Zelda series, the Triforce isn’t just apart of the world creation mythos of Hyrule, an actual object of mystical power but its also is highly used as a symbol to represent the royal family of Hyrule. It can be displayed on armor, arms, cloth banners, clothes themselves, and even used in wax or ink. None of this is surprising or even revelation this kind of use of a symbol has gone on since we first created symbols. In fact the Triforce (three equilateral triangles) as a symbol has been used in multiple cultures in our own world.
Ignoring the most commonly referenced symbol usage in our world were going to talk about three other instances first: the Viking usage of a Triforce symbol to refer to their belief in the nine worlds that exist on Yggdrasil.
The symbol is three intertwined equilateral triangles, with each point of the triangle being one world. Each world is typically inhabited by one group of beings. The only connections outside the three equilateral triangles that this usage and the Zelda universe share maybe the number of worlds, with the number of dungeons in Ocarina of Time (that being nine: three kid dungeons, five adult dungeons, and Ganon’s castle is the last one) and of course both being related to a giant tree of wisdom/knowledge/life/power- magic. These connections are tenuous at best of course.
The second symbol usage is that of the Celtic Triquetra, at least some of it’s variants. Originally this the most basic one was a reference to three Celtic goddesses, though each Triquetra has variance and different meanings. Eventually as the Celtic people were converted to Christianity the symbol would be reused to symbolize the three parts/points of the trinity.
The only connection this has the Zelda universe is with its World creation mythos; the three creators of Hyrule are often if not always attributed as female Goddesses.
The last of the lesser equated symbols would be that of the Sumerian cuneiform symbol for mountain/land, which also symbolizes protection or power depending on the book one may see the symbol in.
The most common usage of the symbol and connection to the series is that of the Japanese family Hojo which was a prominent & powerful family that existed during the heyday of the Sengoku period in Japan. This time period existed between 1467 to 1603 and was a series of time where family clans fought for the political unification of Japan. The period would end with the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
One can consider the Sengoku period to be the Japanese version of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period in China. Both were times of warring states within the countries we now know them as. Though there are two Hojo clans, the former and actual clan existed before the Sengoku period, referred to as the Early Hojo clan, where as the one I know of is the Late Hojo clan which took the name and the Triforce crest.
I first learned about the Hojo clan while playing Shogun Total War, which I really enjoyed playing. The Hojo was a very hard to beat foe in that game and their symbol you guessed it was the Triforce. Their families prestige and power continue on to this day where the Triforce symbol is used in several companies: Fischer Sports, Delta Machinery, and a Japanese energy company; Mitsuuroko.
What is the connection to the Legend of Zelda and the Hojo clan? Well the Triforce symbol is the Hojo crest and that’s where Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka originally got the idea for the symbol.This wraps up part one of this events post, check back tomorrow for the final part!
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