From the first article of this series, Legend of Zelda: The Growth of a Star, passing all the way through Legend of Zelda: The “Link” Character, until the penultimate article, Legend of Zelda: The Female Guide, I have had a recurrent topic I have talked about. Unconsciously or not, this topic has appeared through the analysis of those games, and it has been a key element for the proper development of the games and the franchise through time. I am talking about its never-ending story.
Recurrent characters, immovable personas, repetitive paths… The Legend of Zelda is composed by these elements title after title. As I stated on the first article of this series, the games has always used the same premise, and they have grown (with us, the players), until the point they are today. Even with that growth in mind, they have remained the same in terms of basis: as I said before, the characters, how they act and how the story develops are always the same. As I explained in that article, we see the reality of that situation through the companion it has created for us, but the meaning is a lot deeper than that. If the games are always repeating the same basis, why does it happen like so?
In the world of videogames, we have some titles that also contain this specific and special treat. I am going to focus on two of them, which are both made by the same studio (FromSoftware) and by the same creator/director (Hidetaka Miyazaki): the Dark Souls saga and Bloodborne. The two series/titles have very different stories, in very different worlds, with a very similar aftertaste. The Dark Souls games are based on a fantastic-medieval world where you are supposed to play as a knight (or some sort of battling person), in order to roam the world of the Souls, improving your fighting skills and defeating the bosses, who are supposed to be evil to that world. The player, at the end of these games, has a sense of accomplishment through the different quests and knowledge of the world he/she is overcoming. Bloodborne, on the other hand, is about a Hunt, where you are a hunter who should “hunt” the beasts that populate that world. But, there is a more intrincante story behind both games, all related to gods, divine figures and higher powers (something similar to what happens on the Zelda games, but with a more dark and dismal mood). In any case, the player ends with that aftertaste of knowing his/her actions have been useful and influential on those worlds; but… they are also going to be useless. The stories are going to be repeated over and over again, mainly because of the implication of those gods.
Of course, this repetition is not going to be found solely on videogames, but also on books, movies, and even anime. Here we have Evangelion, a cult series created by Hideaki Anno. This series has the particularity of having different re-editions, most of them in anime version, but also in movie version. These movies have very special names:
- Death & Rebirth
- 6.3.2 The End of Evangelion
- 6.3.3 Revival of Evangelion
- 6.3.4 Rebuild of Evangelion
Those names are pretty significatives, since the theory around Evangelion says that this series has no ending, but a never-ending “ending”. Any time you watch the series, accordingly with the theory, the world restarts, suffers a “Death & Rebirth” and starts all over again. The movies are supposed to show minimal, subtle changes that the restartings suffer every time the world is born again, but the basis of the story, as it happens with the Zelda universe, are always the same.
In the realm of movies, we have, for example, Snowpierce. This movie was a shock for me when I first watched it. It is very “on the line of” V for Vendetta, 1984, Brave New World, and any other “rebellious” stories, similar to those ones. Snowpierce is raw and rough, the story does expose every annoying topic that could exist in it, so you have to think in order to understand its deepest meaning. But, at the end, you understand that, even with the horrible situation the characters, and mainly the protagonist, have overcome and suffered… nothing is going to change. There is a reason for that (and you have to watch the movie to know it!), but the underlying truth is that everything is going to continue the same. The story is going to get repeated, in the same way the movie we are watching is just another repetition, another of the hundreds, thousands of them they have already occured.
Even we have some religions that deeply believe on the restarting of things, of elements, of lives. Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism are some of those religions that believe in life after death, contrary to, for example, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which believe in a Heaven or Hell after death. Depending on each religion, the terms for the next reincarnation are different, but the bottom line idea is that of starting a new life, in a new body, after dying in our current one. So, in a way, life is going to repeat itself, unless we realise our own mistakes and amend them. This is one mechanism religions use, along with the Heaven-Hell theory, for us to live with a lesser fear of death. In Ancient Greece and Rome, people believed life is just a cycle, since we have day and night, the seasons, the crops that grow on the fields… Even the growth of a person, both intimately and socially, the learning process of something new, wars… Everything has an beginning and an end, and everything is going to be repeated sooner or later.
If we think about it, The Hero of a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, which talks about the usual path any hero from any religion or culture is going to follow, is also a cycle. The heroes always starts at a very specific point in their lives and follow some also specific steps in order to improve themselfes and be considered, in fact, heroes.
So, we have videogames, anime, movies, religions, mythology, societies in general… All of them holding onto de premise of “interminable cycles”. But, why?
Because they are safe.
Routines, as well as tedious, are a safe support for us, humans, in our finite lives. Routines give us the sense of everything being fine. Why? Because we know what to expect and nothing has changed, and humans, by Nature, hate changes. I am not saying that you, individual, hate changes when you like them; I am saying that our biological Nature has programmed us to avoid changes because they mean “adaptation”, “new predators” and “possible death”, which must be avoided at any cost for us to survive.
Routines bring to our lives the sense of continuity.
And so these stories do.
Life continues; whatever is going to happen tomorrow, life is going to continue. These stories shows us that they are going to be there, for us, forever. It doesn’t matter if you learn about them for the first time, or it is the 50th time you play/read/watch them. Every single time, they are going to remain the same, for you. Even if horrible things happen on those stories, they are going to end and start all over again, on the same great situation. You can always go back, to those “lives” you left behind, like if you were the protagonist of any Assassin’s Creed title.
Or, like if you were Bastian, sat down on that roof, reading The Neverending Story, living, literally, what is happening inside that book, re-reading everything again if he wanted to live it again, because
A story can be new and yet tell about olden times. The past comes into existence with the story.
– Michael Ende, The Neverending Story.
Every real story is a never ending story.– Michael Ende, The Neverending Story.