Tag Archives: Applied Theory Post

Mara Mahan’s Psychoanalytic Analysis of The Legend of Zelda

There’s no denying that F. Scott Fitzgerald made a lasting impact on the world with his writing–especially The Great Gatsby–but fewer people are aware of his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald, as anything more than a possible inspiration for the character of Daisy Buchanon.

However, it turns out that Zelda Fitzgerald was an inspiring woman, and her impact is arguably even more prevalent in modern popular culture–she gave her name to the iconic Legend of Zelda video game franchise.

Now that we’ve gotten that nice little segue out of the way, let’s dive into our psychoanalytic reading of the 1998 classic, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Ocarina of Time, the fifth game in the Zelda franchise, is widely counted among the best video games of all time, and as of 2010, Guinness World Records recognized it as “the highest rating video game ever reviewed.”

The plot follows the structure of the monomyth as laid out by Joseph Campbell,

(for those of you who aren’t familiar with the monomyth/archetypal Hero’s Journey, this video is pretty great)[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZxs_jGN7Pg[/youtube]

and depicts the adventure of Link, the player-controlled protagonist, in his efforts to save the world and rescue Princess Zelda from the evil Ganondorf. These three characters are respectively associated with the ideals of courage, wisdom, and power.


As Ganondorf (power) is grasping and immoral, he can be equated to the Freudian concept of the id, while Princess Zelda (wisdom) becomes symbolically representative of government and orderly society, therefore representing the superego. Meanwhile, Link (courage) is left to navigate the distance between the two, overcoming the id in pursuit of the superego.

Moreover, Link is a “silent protagonist”–he has no lines throughout the whole of the Zelda franchise. This allows the player to project his or her own self onto the character. As Link is the character’s means of interacting with the world of the game, he represents the player’s conscious will–the ego, caught between the superego and the id.

Furthermore, not only do the events of the game follow the structure of the archetypal Hero’s Journey, but the story illustrates a metaphorical representation of the transition into adulthood.

The first major event in the plot is the death of Link’s father figure and Link’s subsequent call to adventure. Link leaves behind the fairyland populated by ageless children and enters the open world, leading him to transition into what Freud would consider the Oedipal stage as he attempts to take on the responsibilities of an adult.

He meets and befriends Princess Zelda, but she is eventually kidnapped and Link takes up a legendary blade known as the Master Sword from in order to rescue her. Not only does the kidnapping represent a loss of the feminine influence to a stronger masculine presence, but the sword itself is a symbol for manhood and maturity. The game shows this by having the sword literally send Link through time and into his own grown-up future.

As an adult, Link must confront and overcome the darkness lurking in his own subconscious in order to gain the power to rescue Zelda. This confrontation takes the form of a fight against “Shadow Link”–a literal representation of Link’s subconscious desires and anxieties.

The game ends with Ganondorf’s eventual defeat, and Zelda, upon being rescued, sends Link back in time to live out the childhood he lost through the events of the plot.

As Link has fought and won the battle against his base nature, he is rewarded with a return to a more simplistic time, keeping his strength and knowledge so that the battle may be won before it is begun. He relinquishes the Master Sword and walks away from power and the fulfillment of the id, illustrating a maturity tempered by the wisdom of the superego. Through his journey, Link has reached a spiritual adulthood.

Brianna’s Psychoanalytic Analysis of “Warrior” and “For The Love Of a Daughter”

I chose to analyze two different songs because there are a variety of terms and ideas within psychoanalytic criticism that all contribute individually to bring the criticism together as a whole.  “Warrior” and “For The Love Of a Daughter” seemed appropriate to analyze from a psychoanalytic stand point because there are multiple hidden messages within the lyrics used by Demi Lovato.

According to Lois Tyson, “the unconscious is the storehouse of those painful experiences and emotions, those wounds, fears, guilty desires, and unresolved conflict we do not want to know because we feel like we will be overwhelmed by them” (Tyson 12). These songs represent Demi’s unconscious. They bring to life her greatest fears, her most painful experiences and the wounds she carries, whether they be visible or not. Instead of repressing her thoughts and expunge them from her mind, she brings them out through her music. The painful experiences do not appear to be able to be pushed aside, so instead they act as “designers” of her current life. The lyrics in these two songs give listeners a feeling of pain and hurt when listening to the tone of the music, though is one listens closely enough, the word usage does too.

Lois Tyson pointed out the example that if someone didn’t receive the love from a alcoholic father, they are likely to seek love in someone who is an alcoholic..seeking the love they were to never receive from their father, not realizing how self destructive that action was. That example alone led me to choosing the first song, “For The Love Of a Daughter” as a result of these lyrics:

“Please, father/
Put the bottle down
For the love of a daughter/
It’s been five years
Since we’ve spoken last/
And you can’t take back
What we never had”

Demi is crying out for her father to stop his ways being an alcoholic. The words “and you can’t take back what we never had..” foreshadow the lack of love and affection between her and her father. The lyrics also represent the lack of relationship between the two, due to his self-destructive ways. Demi captivates two important concepts in psychoanalytic criticism: abandonment and family. Thanks to her fathers selfish actions, she will forever face abandonment issues and as a consequence will settle on relationships with men to fill the void her father left inside her.

“Oh, I can be manipulated
Only so many times/
Before even “I love you”
Starts to sound like a lie”

There are multiple different types of defenses that contribute to this criticism’s overall theme. The purpose of defenses are to keep the unconscious thoughts where they belong, out of sight and out of mind. One of the defenses is a fear of intimacy. Otherwise known as “the fear of emotional involvement with another human” (Tyson 15). In “For The Love Of a Daughter” the lines even “I love you start to sound like a lie” represent Demi’s fear of love and intimacy. With all of the hurt and pain her father has caused her, she has formed emotional distance and is not allowing herself to get close to him by believing even ‘I love you’ is now a lie.

“There’s a part of me I can’t get back/
A little girl grew up too fast/
All it took was once, I’ll never be the same”

As explained by Lois Tyson, core issues aren’t just a “‘bad hair day,’ they stay with us throughout life and determine our behavior” (Tyson 17). A considerable amount of Demi’s core issues can be found in the lyrics “a little girl grew up too fast.” The pain and struggles she faced in her life will be held close to her heart forever, whether she acknowledges the presence of them or not. The struggles made her grow up too fast, shaping her actions during childhood and teenage years around the issues she previously experienced.

“I’ve got shame, I’ve got scars
That I will never show”

The lyrics “that I will never show” represent a sort of attempt at repressing her past experiences. By not showing her scars Demi is attempting to expunge these issues from her conscious mind, with the idea of “out of sight, out of mind.” Psychoanalytic criticism is all about unresolved emotions and fears, directly found in both pieces of music by Demi.

Lovato, Demi. For The Love Of a Daughter. Demi Lovato. Toby Gad, 2009. MP3.

Lovato, Demi. Warrior. Demi Lovato. Emanuel Kiriakou, 2013. MP3.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide. New York: Garland Pub., 1999. Print.