The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Themes, Motifs, and Symbols
Skyward Sword does not push any single theme heavily, but one concept that sees repetition throughout the narrative is the concept of embracing destiny. From the beginning of the game, when Link first dreams of Fi, destiny calls out to him, and that same destiny comes for Zelda as well. By embracing their destinies, both Link and Zelda can overcome hardships and grow as people. Conversely, it is Groose, antagonist-turned-ally, who rejects his destiny and suffers for it. It is only when he accepts his destiny that he finds true happiness. This reinforces the idea that those who accept destiny will be rewarded for it, and those who reject destiny will be doomed to suffer.
Destiny makes its presence known from the beginning of the game, when Fi calls out to Link in his dreams. As he sleeps, she says: “You are fated to have a hand in a great destiny, and it will soon find you…” She reiterates this claim when Link meets her inside the Goddess Statue, saying: “The one chosen by my creator. I have been waiting for you. You will play a role in a great destiny.” Link is willing to follow the path fate lays out for him to save Zelda, but her father’s encouragement helps. “Just think,” he says, “if what this Fi says is true, Zelda is alive!” Just as accepting destiny is Link’s only hope for saving Zelda, accepting destiny is her father’s only hope as well. Together, they embrace the legends they’ve been told, and in the end, they’re rewarded by Zelda’s safe return.
Zelda faces her own complex destiny, and she also grows by embracing it. In the opening sequence, Zelda muses about the voice she sometimes hears calling to her, but she dismisses it when Link doesn’t hear it with her. It’s only when a tornado pulls her to the surface that she begins to learn the truth of who she is, and she’s only able to get the full story by turning Link away and seeking her destiny herself. As it turns out, she was the very person who engineered her own destiny, as she is the mortal reincarnation of the Goddess Hylia. Had she not accepted her destiny, she would have never regained her memories, and an entire past life would have remained inaccessible to her. Instead, she embraces fate and her past and is rewarded with the life on the surface she always wanted.
Groose acts as the lone hold-out against destiny when he insists that he will be the one to save Zelda. He goes so far as to mock the very concept when Impa tells him his fate, saying: “What a joke! Look, all I’ve heard so far is a bunch of babbling about destiny, but that’s a load of garbage.” He quickly changes his tune when the Imprisoned returns, as he realizes there’s nothing he can do in his present condition to help. It’s only when Impa insists that fate has a plan for him to play as well that he begins to consider other roles he could play, and he ends up building a powerful weapon that’s instrumental in slowing the Imprisoned’s return. By the time Link and Zelda have embraced their true roles as hero and goddess, Groose is willing to embrace his own destiny, saying:
“Someone’s gotta watch that big, ugly monster, and someone’s gotta make sure Grannie’s doing all right. It ain’t as action-packed as what you’re doing, but maybe this is my destiny. Know what I mean?”
He’s still uncertain, but he’s come a long way from calling destiny garbage. In the end, he too is rewarded for embracing his destiny, as he grows as a person and finds a renewed sense of purpose he would have never found in the world above.
In the end, Skyward Sword’s entire cast is bound by destiny. Those who accept it find happiness, while those who reject it are doomed to despair. As a result, it is the heroes who embrace their destinies who triumph, and the villains who fight against that destiny who fail.
Skyward Sword’s main motif is the connection between the sky and the surface. This motif is primarily shown through Link’s powerful sword-fighting technique, the Skyward Strike, which involves raising the blade to the sky and drawing down powerful light from the heavens. This motif is present in other places as well, however, such as the colorful beams that pierce the clouds to provide safe passage from Skyloft to the surface below. The fall of the Goddess Statue drives this connection home, as it literally takes a part of the sky city with it to the ground.
The connection between sky and earth is also reinforced in symbolic ways. As the story progresses, more humans take the plunge from Skyloft to the surface. In the beginning, Zelda is the only one to fall, but she’s joined by Link, Groose, her father, and their academy classmates by the end. Although not all of them choose to stay, the connection remains open, allowing them the freedom of movement that they previously lacked.
A side effect of this motif’s prominence is in the diminishment of the role of the Loftwings. When the game begins, the separation between sky and surface forces humanity to rely on the Loftwings, and the opening scenes are geared around their importance. Unfortunately, the growing connections between the sky and the land limit the importance of the Loftwings, which relegates them to the status of glorified sky-taxis. The open connection between the sky and the land means that the humans will still need the Loftwings to return to the sky, but the increasing surface population at the game’s end foreshadows a world where Loftwings are no longer needed.
Skyward Sword features the same common symbols as the other Legend of Zelda titles, mainly the Master Sword and the Triforce. Both play more prominent roles than they have in past titles, as they have both narrative and mechanical value.
The Master Sword, Blade of Evil’s Bane, is given its origin story in Skyward Sword. After the Goddess Hylia first sealed Demise beneath the ground, she created a weapon for her chosen hero and instilled it with her divine power. She also gave the sword the capacity to guide the hero using the persona of Fi. This characterization adds a new layer of depth to the Master Sword, strengthening the idea that the sword ‘chooses’ its wielder. When Link withdraws the sword from its pedestal, it represents not only Link’s growth as a hero, but Fi’s acceptance of his power.
The Triforce plays an important role in Skyward Sword’s narrative, as well. To use its power, the Goddess Hylia must give up her divine form and become a mortal. This sacrifice demonstrates her willingness to embrace her own destiny while emphasizing the connection between mortals and the divine. The Triforce ties into the sky-ground connection motif, as well, as Link uses its power to bring a chunk of Skyloft crashing down to the ground.
* Reference Run: ZorZelda. Zelda Skyward Sword HD 100% Walkthrough (1080p 60 fps) (No Commentary). YouTube, 2020.
** Reference Script: VisionofChaos. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – Game Script. GameFAQs, Gamespot, 2015.