The Symbolism of the Triforce

In The Legend of Zelda, there is a great power: the Triforce. Far from being a plot device, the Triforce is a symbol that represents a path towards growth and harmony both in the myth and in the real world.

The three triangles of the Triforce represent the virtues of Power, Wisdom, and Courage. These virtues correspond with the Body, the Mind, and the Soul. It is a tri-part philosophy about the composition of all things, and the way towards peace and balance.

Power is the physical virtue, the capacity of the Body. It is the force that makes all things possible. Power overcomes obstacles and changes the world. However, a person that possesses Power alone will become corrupt.

Wisdom is the intellectual virtue, the capacity of the Mind. It dictates the laws of behavior that all things obey. Wisdom cuts through confusion to find truth. However, a person that possesses Wisdom alone is impotent.

Courage is the spiritual virtue, the capacity of the Soul. It is the impetus that drives all living beings. Courage enables us to choose love over fear. A person that possesses Courage may be weak and ignorant, but they stand to gain both Wisdom and Power through their efforts.

Balance is achieved when Wisdom, Power, and Courage exist in equal capacities. This is suggested by the shape of the Triforce itself — three triangles that form a cohesive, larger triangle. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Triforce is a fractal, a holy geometry. The form can be repeated inwardly and outwardly without creating an imbalance. In this way, it represents the infinite expanse of inner and outer space.

This is fully supported by the narrative of the Legend of Zelda. Though the conflict between Dark and Light (a dualistic worldview) is a major theme, the core philosophy of the series is triadic.

Ganon possesses the Triforce of Power, and thus initially has the upper hand. Power untempered by Wisdom or Courage, leads him to seek the domination of Hyrule. Zelda possesses the Triforce of Wisdom; she is the ruler of Hyrule and must understand what it means to rule righteously. However, without Power or Courage she cannot stand directly against Ganon. Link possesses the Triforce of Courage. Though he comes from humble origins, having neither great Power or Wisdom, he chooses to fight. Link gains the Power and Wisdom that allow him to overcome because he possesses Courage.

When Link has balanced himself through his journey, he alone is capable of directing the Triforce and establishing balance in the world. No single virtue was capable of bringing harmony, but together they are all-encompassing.

We even see this three-part pattern in the sheer mechanics of the game. The Legend of Zelda combines combat, puzzles, and storytelling. It isn’t a straight slog through enemies (power), nor an unending puzzle (wisdom), nor merely an epic myth (courage). All three in combination are what makes the series so beloved.

These elements form the basis of a life philosophy. We cannot afford to merely be strong, or clever, or courageous. We must work hard to develop all three capacities in order to achieve harmony, both in ourselves and in the world at large.