Everyone who has ever played a Legend of Zelda game (at least before Breath of the Wild) knows about the Triforce. The Triforce, which consists of three golden triangles arranged in a way to form a larger triangle, is a staple of the legendary series. The Triforce even serves as the Royal Family of Hyrule’s official crest, and every now and then, a Zelda game lets players actually collect the Triforce (or at least one of its three parts)
Who actually created the legendary item, though? Well, as it turns out, the royal family didn’t appropriate the Triforce to fake some form of divine providence. Actually, the origins of the Triforce can be traced back to the origins of Hyrule itself.
The Legend of Zelda: Who Created the Original Triforce?
Most Legend of Zelda aficionados will tell you that the Triforce is a crucial part of the in-game creation myth, but that wasn’t always the case.
Before Nintendo fleshed out the Legend of Zelda‘s lore with the Triforce’s origin, the relic was little more than a magical MacGuffin. Before video games became robust enough to tell stories on their own, their instruction manuals (remember when games came with those?) did all the storytelling heavy lifting. The Legend of Zelda’s manual includes a small blurb about the land of Hyrule and why players should care about saving it. That section mentions the Triforce, but the manual doesn’t mention the relic’s origins. It just describes the Triforce’s ability to grant mortals limitless power.
In fact, in that game, the Triforce isn’t an object but a series of relics (specifically the Triforce of Power and the Triforce of Wisdom). The third piece that Link wields in subsequent entries, the Triforce of Courage, wasn’t even introduced until the second Zelda game, The Adventure of Link. However, the actual origins of the Triforce weren’t revealed until The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Even though A Link to the Past provides more story exposition than the previous two Legend of Zelda entries combined, its manual is still an essential part of the title’s lore. Unlike the first two Legend of Zelda games, though, that manual offers far more information about the Triforce itself.
According to the Link to the Past manual, Hyrule was created by three Golden Goddesses: Din, Nayru, and Farore. Din, Goddess of Power, crafted the material plane; Nayru, Goddess of Wisdom, created science, magic, and order; and Farore, Goddess of Courage, formed all living beings. Granted, that information raises the question of who created the goddesses, but that isn’t important for now. What is important is what happened after their labors.
After they were finished crafting existence, the Goddesses created the Triforce itself. It was seemingly intended to be a kind of remnant of their efforts as well as a reminder that the gods were with the people of Hyrule. More than just a symbol, though, the Goddesses imbued the Triforce with a small portion of their powers. That’s how the object acquired the ability to grant anyone who touched it their heart’s desire. The area where the Triforce was created eventually became known as the Sacred Realm.
Interestingly, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past isn’t the only entry to tell that story. During his last moments in Ocarina of Time, the Great Deku Tree shares that tale with Link before sending him on a journey to save Hyrule. Subsequent Zelda games would also expand on that story. For instance, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword introduced the Goddess Hylia as not only the Triforce’s protector but also the founder of the Royal Family of Hyrule and the forger of the Master Sword’s precursor, the Goddess Sword. Even when Nintendo delivered an origin story for the franchise’s most iconic weapon, though, it still wasn’t done adding to the Triforce’s lore.
The Legend of Zelda: What Is the Origin Of Lorule’s Triforce?
While most Zelda games take place in Hyrule, some games have offered a glimpse at the world beyond that land. Zelda players have visited countries such as Labrynna, Termina, and Holodrum, but unlike Hyrule, few of those worlds have their own creation myth, let alone a Triforce. Lorule is the only exception.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a spiritual sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The story follows the same structure as its spiritual predecessor and tasks players with venturing between two different worlds. While A Link to the Past takes place in Hyrule (the Light World) and a corrupted version of the Sacred Realm (Dark World), A Link Between Worlds swaps out the Dark World for a new kingdom called Lorule. Like the Dark World, Lorule is a twisted mirror image of Hyrule. Unlike the Dark Would, Lorule is a rather unique place built upon some surprisingly deep lore.
After players retrieve the Triforce of Courage, Lorule’s mirror version of Princess Zelda (Princess Hilda: a seemingly strange reference to Sabrina The Teenage Witch) explains that Lorule once had its own Triforce. Like Hyrule’s Triforce, this relic made the land of Lorule prosperous, granted wishes, and was the center of many wars. And the cherry on top is that Lorule’s Triforce also embodied the virtues of power, wisdom, and courage (and even had its own Sacred Realm). Given these similarities, it stands to reason that Lorule’s Triforce was also crafted by a trio of goddesses who also likely created Lorule itself. Whether they were the same goddesses or divine doppelgangers remains up in the air, though.
Of course, given that Hyrule is a prosperous kingdom and Lorule…isn’t, something must have happened to the latter’s Triforce. Hilda explains that her ancestors destroyed their divine relic to end the wars, which is why Lorule is in such disarray and why Princess Hilda wants to steal Hyrule’s Triforce. Without the Triforce, Lorule crumbled. At the end of A Link Between Worlds, Princess Zelda takes pity on Lorule and wishes on her Triforce to recreate Lorule’s Triforce. It’s a touching moment with shades of “I used the stones to destroy the stones,” albeit in reverse.
The Legend of Zelda: What Are the Real-World Origins of the Triforce?
While the above information explains how the Triforce was created within The Legend of Zelda canon, it doesn’t explain how developers came up with the concept. After all, The Legend of Zelda is a work of fiction, so someone had to invent the Triforce before it was implemented into the game. So far as the Triforce’s “real-world” origins go, there are several possibilities.
When mathematicians see the Triforce, odds are they recognize it as a Sierpinski Triangle: a fractal that starts as a solid triangle and is eventually hollowed out by cutting inverse triangles into it. Each cut forms three smaller triangles, and an even smaller triangle can be scooped out of each one to create three more triangles indefinitely. The Triforce resembles the second step in a Sierpinski Triangle after the first is made.
Another source of possible inspiration can be found in the history of Christianity, which is oddly fitting since the Triforce is itself a religious object in Legend of Zelda canon. The Triforce is one relic made up of three smaller shards representing power, wisdom, and courage. This sounds awfully similar to the Christian concept of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) being unified into one Godhead. Each entity is powerful on its own, but ultimately all three parts are needed to make the whole and draw out its full potential, just like the Triforce. Given that the original Zelda game once included an even more overt reference to Christianity, that comparison could very well be more than a coincidence.
However, the most likely source of inspiration comes from Nintendo’s country of origin, Japan. Long ago, Japan was ruled by numerous military dictators (what you and I know as “shoguns”) who answered to the emperor. Each shogun was the head of their own clan/family, one of which was the Hōjō Clan/Family. The clan was a powerful force in its time and even led the charge in routing Mongol invaders (see the plot of Ghost of Tsushima). However, even if you’ve never heard of the Hōjō Clan or its deeds’ you are most likely familiar with its crest because it’s the same Sierpinski Triangle used for the Triforce. Granted, this symbol is also used by the Japanese energy corporation Mitsuuroko since the company was named after the crest’s name: mitsuuroko (literally “three scales”). Of course, only Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma know the full story of the Triforce’s real origins.