This Zelda collab is based on Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild, Creating a Champion’s two crucial pages
Hello there, Commonwealth Realm here with Zeltik! And this Zelda collab is based on Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild, Creating a Champion’s two crucial pages, the four trailers of Tears of the Kingdom, along with Greek Ancient Searcher’s tweets in January.
Since what is the inspiration of the Zonai and does it tie to other forms of media or Japanese anime and the real world? The answer is yes, and throughout Zeltik´s video and this video, we detail why.
So be sure to leave a like, subscribe and press that notification bell and let’s head up to the sky.
Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi made the Zonai cryptic on purpose, but a lot can be found on them by diving into elements of the earliest Studio Ghibli movie, and the most mysterious parts of human history.
Breath of the Wild was heavily inspired by Princess Mononoke and the conflict of nature and industrial humanity.
Now, the Zelda team takes it a step up with the first Ghibli masterpiece – ‘’Castle in the Sky’’ from 1986 – the same year as the first Zelda in Japan.
Zeltik: As covered in my video, Laputa – Castle in the Sky – is all a lost, technologically-advanced kingdom in the sky suspended with the use of Etherium.
This was a powerful energy source mined deep underground – not so different from the Zonai and their mines full of luminous stones said to hold the spirit energy of the dead.
This is also very similar to Final Fantasy VII´s Mako fuel which refined from the spiritual lifestream of the dead.
All of these environmental sources seem to have the same inspiration.
Ether – the fifth element, and power associated with the heavens and spirits ever since Plato wrote it down over 2,500 years ago.
The other classical elements elements are Fire, Water, Wind and Earth – which, in Zelda, are represented by the Gorons, Zora, Rito, and Gerudo respectively.
So it could be the case that the fifth element, Ether, spiritual power, will be represented by the Zonai.
Reserved originally for DLC and now adapted into a full sequel with Tears of the Kingdom.
Breath of the Wild saw five Champions fighting against Calamity Ganon: Daruk, Mipha, Revali, Urbosa, and of course, Link.
But only 4 elements are used to represent them.
Now, the 5th and final element, Ether, seems to be the foundation of Tears of the Kingdom.
Hence, the vehicle parts and adhesive that have fallen down to the surface and trials in the sky, including puzzles using the hand and battles against Automatons.
In Castle in the Sky, we find the Ancient Robots or Golems, built by the Laputians to protect them.
Carrying the Laputian Crest, they are able to fly and use laser beams as weapons.
When the princess speaks a spell, her pendant glows green and the golem awakens from slumber, rushing to save her.
In Tears of the Kingdom, robots or automatons powered by Green spiritual, luminous, or ether energy inhabit the levitated islands.
As of the writing of this script, we don’t know if Link will be able to control some of them or if he will just battle them.
But there is more to the sky.
Like trees on levitating lands, both the movie and this game feature the amazing existence of trees on the levitated grounds.
In the September 2022 trailer, Link is shown to climb a levitated island and beside him, we can see huge tree roots.
Trees symbolize both Life and Soul in various civilizations.
And primarily in this case, the Japanese Jomon Soul Tree.
That covers the Ghibli thread from Zeltik´s video and the Ether thread here along with potential inspiration from Final Fantasy VII.
So let´s transition to the non-fictional.
As the leading tribes of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom are based on these.
The Hylians with their Greco-Roman Ancient inspiration aka King Rhoam, the ancient ruins and now, the sky tunic.
The Ancient Sheikah with their Japanese Jomon and Shinobi roots as seen with the Ancient, Kakariko, and Yiga Sheikah.
Even so, these threads from Europe and Asia represent the old world.
While in Tears of the Kingdom, the Zelda Team is expanding it to the new world.
The sky which has dual inspiration.
The first is of the old world of spiritual Japan as seen in some of its architecture.
Shinto Torii gates separating the realm of divinity or the Kami gods from the mortal realm of humans along with Buddhist pagodas.
Both are synonymous with the home city of Nintendo and the Zelda Team, Kyoto.
Zeltik: This is only the case for certain sections, however.
This golden divine order is juxtaposed with the Stone Based-Zonai, referred to as savage war-like barbarians by Breath of the Wild.
Which seem to take inspiration from ancient civilizations from the new world.
The empires and cultures mostly destroyed by the Spanish around 500 years ago.
The first inspiration for the Zonai seem to be the native highlanders of the Andes and surrounding jungle pointed out by Greek Ancient Searcher in a Twitter thread back in January.
This region is best known for one of the world’s most famous ancient empires – the Incas – who had a royal emblem made up of two serpents.
Often called the Rome of America, it held all past Andean civilizations within its realm.
The Chimor, the Moche, and the famous Nazca.
The main connection is seen in Tears of the Kingdom´s strange new giant glyphs.
One seems to show the figure of the woman seen in the 2022 trailer, and another, here, is much harder to decipher, even when upscaled.
But what is clear is that these glyphs take direct inspiration from the giant Nazca Lines which date back to 2,000 years ago.
Huge men-made etchings on the earth in the shape of various animals and symbols.
These lines include depictions of the so-called astronaut, spirals, a monkey which was famously missing in Breath of the Wild, a tree, but also the national bird of Peru – a condor, and even a whale.
The whale of interest as it resembles the unused whale model of the theorized fifth divine beast found in the Sheikah Lab in Hateno Village.
While Hyrule´s equivalent of the Nazca Lines are clearly serving a key purpose – either for shrines or this game´s version of Dungeons as they, much like the new stone spirals, showed up at the same time as the geoglyphs in September.
Both are tied to the stone civilization of the three layers.
Underground, Surface, and the Sky.
In Andean culture, we find a similar division.
As the Moche culture established the belief that humans occupied a position between the nature powers of three animal lords: a Bird for the Sky, a Feline Predator for the Surface/ Mountains, and a Serpent for the Underground.
They believed that from a cave inside a mountain, the souls of their ancestors and the Water Serpent moved between the realms through a vertical north-south axis that united the Sky, Surface, and Underground, much like the 3 areas we now see in Tears of the Kingdom and the patents that point to that we can move vertically across them.
The later Chimor or great coastal culture of Peru was famous for its long walls and labyrinth-like structures.
The best preserved Chan Chan could have served as the inspiration for the Lomei Labyrinths in Breath of the Wild and now, in the sky of Tears of the Kingdom.
The conquerors of this culture, the Inca, also built gigantic rock structures, containing concentric circles, the main symbol beside the dragons of Tears of the Kingdom.
This shape also resembles the area of the Sealed Grounds in Skyward Sword where Demise was sealed.
Zeltik: The Incas used circles to cultivate mountains for farming, along with collecting and transporting water to their towns.
The same is true for the Nazca Lines which are theorized to also have a strong connection with water – used to indicate its flow or mark irrigation lines, and designed in the shape of organic forms like trees, animals and humans but also things like tools or stars in the sky.
Well that, and of course, spiral symbols which are all too familiar to us Zelda geeks.
It’s all tied to the importance of water and life, similar to how liquid seems to play a role in Link’s new jumping ability.
We see a water ripple and a droplet in reverse followed by Link jumping and appearing to swim through solid stone.
So where does all of this lead to? The Inca capital and the connection of power, wisdom and, courage.
To the Incas, the Condor was sacred – a bird that had the courage to fly higher than any other was worshipped as a messenger to the Sun God, Inti.
It represented a connection between earth and heaven, and carried the spirits of the dead to the afterlife on its wings.
In Tears of the Kingdom, this connection to the skies above is obvious.
The sacred Condor represented in the courage of Link – the hero who climbs into the heavens.
While the Condor was the symbol of the skies and courage, the Puma was the symbol of the ground and power for obvious reasons.
Cuzco, called the Navel of the world, was designed after the Puma.
Zelda’s new ancient culture, the Zonai, seem to have that own beast representing the ground and power – the Boar, seen in statues in the Faron region.
Interestingly, in Tears of the Kingdom, Ganondorf presumably rises to the surface with Hyrule Castle after sending Princess Zelda where? To the final layer – deep underground, which, in Andean tradition, was represented by a Snake or Serpent – the symbol of wisdom and knowledge.
Unlike their Spanish Christian conquerors, the Incas didn´t see the underworld as hell, but rather as the beginning of a new life, which might hint to Zelda role in this game… The rearranged order of Courage, Power, and Wisdom from Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom.
Exactly where we are as we begin our quest after losing Zelda to the depths.
Now, before we leave the darkness, let’s return to the moon.
Sacsayhuaman, representing the head of the Puma of Power, had a concentric circle-shaped temple dedicated to Mama Quilla – the Goddess of the moon who cried tears of silver.
The Moon has always played an important role in 3D Zelda games, from the original Gerudo and also Ganondorf Crescent Moon Crest in Ocarina of Time, through Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, all the way to Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom´s Blood moon.
Recently, Lorulean historian on Twitter pointed out the identical form of Hyrule´s blood moon to our own, which, we also on rare occasions, see as a blood moon.
A complete lunar eclipse when the sun fully illuminates the moon during a full moon.
One that Ganondorf uses to reach peak strength of his malice to summon and later on revive his minions.
Now, after casting his seal and rising up to Hyrule Castle, well, his own Sacsayhuaman, the head of the Center of the Earth makes the blood moon even stronger as seen in February.
Zeltik: The final connection is much darker.
The Incas, much like the Ancient Egyptians and certain Japanese monks, were known for practicing mummification.
In particular, mummification of members of their royal families.
But unlike the Egyptians who famously laid their royal bed to rest in pyramids and the Japanese whose monks were buried in temples, Incan mummies were interned in caves – the realm of the water serpent of wisdom and of new life.
These mummies were fully dressed in exotic feathers, fine clothes and gold ornaments, just like Ganondorf’s body – the source of malice in a mummified state, adorned with gold and fine robes worn with age.
Perhaps the most famous relic of Incan Empire is Machu Picchu – a royal mountain estate abandoned one hundred years after its construction.
The Zelda Team could have taken inspiration from this famous landmark like its stone architecture, cascading stone terraces used for farming, but most of all, its location.
Machu Picchu sits on a mountain ridge – a manmade place that truly feels like it sits up in heaven with the clouds and Condors – almost like it’s a floating city like the sky islands seen across Hyrule.
That covers the south and the Andes.
So now, let’s end with Meso or middle America – the final inspiration for the design of the Zonai.
Here, we find the Maya of the Yucatan – the neighboring Olmec, and also powerful Aztecs of Central Mexico.
The Mayans are just as ancient as the civilizations of the Andes and its coast, and also a strong candidate for the foundation of the Zonai and their stone architecture.
This is mainly due to the symbol of the Feathered Serpent – often depicted on their stonework and pyramids.
Kukulcan for the Yucatec Maya, also seen in early Olmec art and as Quetzalcóatl in Nahuatl languages where we find the Aztecs.
Originating in the Mayan civilization of Yucatan, the feathered serpent or the equivalent to a dragon deity, still stands proud in stone in MesoAmerica – mainly in its pyramid-shaped temples.
The Yucatec Maya of northern Yucatan in particular fit the description of the Faron Zonai – a people of the coast and jungle, etching their history in stone, including their famous calendar and temples with figurines of the feathered serpent.
Found in pyramids of the well-preserved centers of Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Mayapan, and often compared to the dragons of Asia and Europe or the old world.
Within this branch of the Maya, but also the Aztec Empire, we see similarities to the Zonai, as they, much like the Zonai, or Inca for that matter, were seen as Pagan barbarians by the arriving conquistadors from the old world, mainly due to sacrifices.
But what about the Technology of the Zonai since these civilizations until the arrival of the Spaniards lacked the crucial wheel and firearms, and in the case of the Inca, even a writing system? A clever solution and combination from the Zelda team.
Aether, powering an ensemble of our own history of weapons such as the earliest form of flamethrowers, so Greek fire, along with Chinese and later, European medieval hand cannons.
Zeltik: Or rather, it seems like a combination of long-dead civilizations with the origins of modern weaponry and vehicles – spurred on by the Industrial Eevolution which fits with Tears of the Kingdom´s logo and themes of past and present brought together.
Like the Ouroboros symbol suggests, a combination of the End and the Beginning, the Beginning the end, much like modern-day Japan.
But it isn’t just real-world cultures that inspired Tears of the Kingdom.
It seems that the Zelda team looked to Studio Ghibli´s early films.
For a closer look at how Ghibli might have inspired Tears of the Kingdom, and what we can learn about the game’s story from these films, head on over to my channel for the counterpart video.
So leave a like, subscribe and press that notification bell and share your thoughts on Zonai, and then head over to Zeltik´s channel and video on the Studio Ghibli inspiration!