The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess Wolf Mechanic

A recent email came through which I think asked a really important question overall.  In fact, it was such a good question, I figured I would share it here with the response I gave back to the individual.


“Hello Dr. Bean! 

I attended the Psychology of the Legend of Zelda panel. First, I wanted to say thank you so much for all of you doing that panel! I had a great time, and it was so interesting. I wanted to hear more! I loved how you were all so well versed in your field and still so engaging with the audience. If I weren’t trying to get a degree in calculus, that panel would have definitely convinced me that psychology would be the way to go.
Second, I would have asked this at the panel or afterward but I had to write it down to make sure I asked it right! Anyway, have you played or have any experience with Twilight Princess? It’s my favorite game of the franchise for many reasons. It’s so DIFFERENT. My question for you is, if you have, what do you think is the psychological significance of the wolf mechanic and the dark versus light aspect? It’s definitely the darkest LoZ game aesthetically, and the wolf mechanic was so interesting. Do you think there was a psychological reasoning behind it? Or if not, what do you think was the effect it had for that game in particular on its audience/player base? It’s not the most favored of the games; maybe that’s the reason why?
If you are able to respond, thank you so much in advance! I really appreciate it :)”
What a great question!  Here is my response!

Thanks for reaching out!
Calculus is definitely a different program than Psychology!  I am glad you are still going to go for it though, we all need good mathematicians in ours lives.
As of now, I have played every LoZ game that has come out in some form or another so Twilight Princess is in my wheelhouse.  You are definitely correct when you say it is different, it is one of the more unique games within the franchise.  LoZ has always had a light and dark component to itself which is one of the franchise’s signature moments within all of the games.  Twilight Princess brings out a different form of the shadow that Link has to get rid of by progressing through the game.  With getting rid of this shadow, he cleanses not just the land, but himself as well – which is needed for the Triforce as well.  The wolf mechanic is a beautiful play on the literalization of the shadow portion found within all of us – it comes out in a nasty and snarling wolf if we don’t keep it in check or become aware of it.  By catching the lights within the darkness Link is able to harness the light in new areas of the game and learn more about himself and the world around him.  Think of it as he is discovering himself more throughout the game which unlocks the different parts along with creating a sense of understanding for himself in which to continue building off of.
When we become transfixed by the darkness in ourselves, we have a difficult time being able to represent it well and sometimes fall upon those primal instincts, in this case the wolf mechanic.  Japanese culture has always been in more touch with these symbolic figures than we have here in the US, that is usually why their games have a much deeper storyline and capture the attention of millions.
Here is a little more about what I mean:
The idea of Yin and Yang, light and dark, and good versus evil is commonly found throughout history and mythology.  In Chinese philosophy, the concept purports that these two portions, light and dark, negative and positive, or even hero and villain, appear to be opposites, yet, complementary and interconnected on a much deeper level.  These archetypes are interdependent upon each other and relate on a deeper and archetypal realm: one cannot live or exist without the other.  There exists a dichotomy within opposites: to know darkness we must know light and realize that darkness comes with the absence of light, thus resulting in the hero and villain dichotomy.  For one to be identified, both must exist.
There will be multiple chapters talking about this a bit more in depth in the book which I would encourage you to take a look as it is really a marvelous work with so many great authors.
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