(Written as of 2016)
In the Legend of Zelda series, the Triforce is an ancient relic comprised of three golden equilateral triangles joined together, with the outline of an inverted triangle in the middle. Three golden goddesses, Din, Nayru and Farore, descended upon a chaotic land and from it, created the realm of Hyrule. The goddesses left behind the Triforce as they completed their labours and departed for the heavens. The relic has the power to grant its finder a single wish. A wish of one with good intentions will lead Hyrule into an age of prosperity, and a wish of one with evil intentions will lead to the destruction of the land. The three individual triangles that comprise the Triforce represent the essence of the three goddesses; the Triforce of Power representing Din, the Triforce of Wisdom representing Nayru and the Triforce of Courage representing Farore respectively. Throughout the Zelda series, the three main characters have all had a part of the Triforce; Ganon has the Triforce of power, Zelda has the Triforce of Wisdom and Link has the Triforce of courage. But only when the Triforce is assembled can it’s sole possessor be granted their wish.
Though the symbol has become synonymous with video gaming and the Legend of Zelda series for over 30 years, it’s true history can actually be traced back over 1000 years ago, and since time has played a major factor in the Zelda series, it was only fitting that Nintendo settled on this ancient symbol. Originally, the series’ creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, wanted this relic to be something very different; computer chips. Since the original game was to be set in both the past and the future, an element, which would be saved for other games in the franchise, he thought the idea of the relics being an element from our own world would be fitting, and that the main character would be the link between both these time periods; hence the name of the main character was chosen as Link. But it was eventually decided that the relic would be in the form of the Triforce.
In the Western world, the symbol of the three triangles itself is fairly obscure outside of gaming, but in Japan, it has been a very different story for centuries. In the 12th century, there existed a family called the Hōjō Clan. The family controlled the title of shikken; a regent of the Kamakura Shogunate, a feudal Japanese military government. Holding power over government, often times dictatorial, they rose to power as a major force in Japanese politics within both the 12th and 13th centuries, subsequently fading out quite quickly. But their legacy lives; mostly thanks to the Japanese energy corporation Mitsuuroko, who use the symbol as their company logo.
The symbol itself represents the three dragon scales synonymous with the legend of the Hōjō Clan passed down over the centuries. The legend claims that Tokimasa Hojo entered a cave on an island south of Tokyo called Enoshima, and prayed for the prosperity of his descendants. The dragon god who dwelt within the cave granted Tokimasa his wish, and left behind three of his scales before departing; which, in a lot of ways, reflects on the fictional legend of how the Triforce came to be, and also explains plot threads asociated with it in various different Zelda games. Examples of which include the three dragons in Skyward Sword, and the rite of passage for the inhabitants of Dragon Roost Island in Wind Waker.
Over the years, Nintendo have included a plethora of references to many different world cultures throughout their games, but the origins of the Triforce is to me, especially fascinating. As The Legend of Zelda is one of my favourite video game series of all time, it’s always interesting to learn about and to understand the inspirations behind it, and how they have managed to inspire a multitude of different franchises to subtly use the same symbol throughout different games, and to be inspired to draw influences from many different cultures and traditions, therefore making the medium of video games as diverse and as fascinating as it can possibly be.