Writing Systems of Hyrule

Posted By at 7:58 PM on Monday January 9, 2012

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As a bit of a language fanatic (could you ever have guessed?) I decided to do a commentary on the alphabets found in various Zelda games. Thanks to Hyrule Historia, we now have keys for all of Hyrule’s tongues, save the fan-translated Hylian of Skyward Sword.

A Link to the Past

Dark Hylian

Common Name: Dark Hylian

Origin: Technically the first appearance of a Hylian writing system within the games. There is no evidence that it equates to anything in any language.

Dark Hylian

Japanese Version

Dark Hylian

Western Version

Notes: Curiously, the alphabet differs between the Japanese and English games. The text is nicely centered in the Japanese version, and contains a hieroglyphic symbol of a bird not found in the western release. The spacing between the words and their varying width also makes the inscription resemble language more than the densely-spaced, left-aligned symbols used in the English game.

The Book of Mudora

In-Game Usage: This Hylian script appears on stone monuments. The Link of A Link to the Past isn’t able to understand the script, as it is an ancient form of Hylian. He uses the Book of Mudora to decipher it. It is briefly mentioned in Hyrule Historia, outlining the information above.

Other Appearances: None.

Download the Font: Not available.

Ocarina of Time

Time Hylian

Common Name: Time Hylian

Origin: The first fully-developed Zelda writing system, it debuted in Ocarina of Time. Deciphered by fans, an official key had never been released by Nintendo until the advent of the Hyrule Historia guidebook, published in December 2011.

Notes: Time Hylian is simply another way of writing the Japanese syllabary, but lacks some linguistic features found in standard Japanese. The first is Dakuten (〝 ), two lines that can be appended to certain syllables to change their pronunciation. This is seen in the transformation of かきくけこ (ka ki ku ke ko) to がぎぐげご (ga gi gu ge go) or たちつてと (ta chi tsu te to) to だぢづでど (da dzi dzu de do). The second is handakuten (゜), a small circle with the same function, transforming はひふへほ (ha hi fu he ho) to ぱぴぷぺぽ (pa pi pu pe po). As a result, while the small sign found at Lon Lon Ranch reads “YATOYA”, it actually translates to “yadoya”, or “inn” in Japanese. Despite its shortcomings, with its simple shapes and straight lines, Time Hylian is easy to remember and easier to write, even for an amateur with a pencil.

Ocarina of Time Sign

In-Game Usage: The Hylian in Ocarina of Time is rather hit or miss when it comes to making sense. Due to the graphics’ relatively low resolution, much of the text is difficult to make out. Some of the textures are flipped or mirrored, with the standard informational signs around Hyrule reading “nintendoodnetnin uıuʇǝupoopuǝʇuıu”. Other text snippets make (almost) perfect sense, such as Kakariko Graveyard’s sign, “UERUKAMU KAKARIKOREIN” , or “Welcome, Kakariko Rain”. (The texture, however, is simply mirrored on the smaller sign below it.) Still others are alphabetical nonsense also seen in later Zelda games, like the Pedestal of Time and the walls of the Royal Family’s Tomb. Translations of textures found around the game can be read here.

Ocarina of Time's Bazaar

Other Appearances: Time Hylian is also used in Majora’s Mask and the Ocarina remake, Ocarina of Time 3D. Unfortunately, the Hylian in Majora’s Mask makes no sense at all, the text found on Termina’s posters and signs nothing but a random mix of syllables. The only textures that retain some meaning are those reused from Ocarina of Time, such as the informational signs. The Ocarina remake, Ocarina of Time 3D, however, adds some new signs and posters written in Time Hylian. Some of these make sense and some don’t, such as the new addition of a menu and poster to the Bazaar, seen above (click to enlarge). The Hylian on the poster, “HAKUTAN”, translates to “bakudan” or “bombs” in English, whereas the text on the menu is meaningless. Further translations of textures found around the game can be read here.

Download the Font: Sarinilli’s DeviantArt Page

Gerudo Alphabet

Common Name: Gerudo

Origin: Another alphabet first seen in Ocarina of Time. Up until the release of Hyrule Historia, Nintendo had never released an official key, and very few fans were aware that the characters found on objects such as the snakes at the entrance to the Spirit Temple were actually a whole other alphabet.

Notes: The Gerudo alphabet is an eclectic mix. It’s a pain to write by hand and almost requires a calligraphy brush to capture the differing thickness of the lines and curves that make up each character. Some symbols, such as the equivalents to R and T, do require a stroke of differing width, achieved with an brush or ink pen, to distinguish them, as simply drawing a straight line with a pencil will result in the two looking identical. For some reason, the deciphering key contains only two numbers, the seemingly randomly-chosen 1 and 5.

Spirit Temple Boss Room

Screenshot courtesy of andlabs of TCRF.

In-Game Usage: So far, I’ve only found one place where Gerudo makes sense. There is a compass rose on the floor of Kotake and Koume’s boss room whose 4 points read N S E W. The text around the compass, sadly, means nothing. It appears to say ELDQF. (On a random note, the compass texture is made up of two halves which are unevenly aligned. While the Gerudo characters on each half match up properly, the sun/star in the middle is off kilter because of it, causing there to be a line through the centre.) Every other texture Zelda Dungeon’s Locke and I found is alphabetical gibberish, including the snake statues at the Spirit Temple’s entrance and the boss room walls.

Other Appearances: Only Ocarina of Time 3D. Some of the Gerudo textures curiously differ between games, with the snake statues having a different inscription in each, both of them nonsensical. Other equally meaningless linguistic adornments have been added, such as this Spirit Temple door, which says ABC down one side and DEF down the other. Exciting stuff!

Download the Font: Sarinilli’s DeviantArt Page

The Wind Waker

Wind Hylian

Common Name: Wind Hylian

Origin: This writing system was first unveiled in the back of the Japanese Wind Waker manual, which provided Japanese gamers with a chart much like this.

Notes: The writing system itself is more advanced than Time Hylian, as it now uses two horizontal lines and a square to distinguish between dakuten and handakuten, discussed in the Time Hylian section above. Wind Hylian also includes numbers and a handful of punctuation marks.

The Wind Waker Sign

In-Game Usage: While some of the textures in The Wind Waker are too blurry to read, the texture designers for this game were very good about ensuring that the Hylian they used on signs and objects made sense. They even included an entire intro! Translations of textures found around the game can be read here.

Other Appearances: Wind Hylian also appears in The Minish Cap, Four Swords +, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks, but I haven’t played any of these games, so I can’t comment on them yet. However, this doesn’t make a lot of sense according to the official Zelda timeline, considering The Minish Cap is a predecessor to Ocarina of Time, yet uses a writing system found in a later game. Four Swords + also reverts to The Wind Waker’s writing system despite being a successor to two later writing systems seen in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess. Interestingly (perhaps mysteriously?), there is one line of Wind Hylian in Twilight Princess, found on a grave in Kakariko Graveyard. It’s actually a portion of text from The Wind Waker’s introduction.

Download the Font: ZeldaLegends.net

Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess Hylian

Common Name: Twilight Hylian

Origin: First seen in Twilight Princess, the key to the alphabet was never officially released by Nintendo until Dec. 2011′s Hyrule Historia guidebook. It was, however, translated by fans back in 2006. I think I may have been the first to decipher it (with the help of Cendamos, who later wrote a program to translated English to TP Hylian and vice versa), but I can no longer find sources to attest to this.

Notes: The alphabet itself corresponds directly to English. However, in comparison to the simple lines of Old & Wind Hylian, its strange shapes, including triangles and circles, make it frustrating and slow to write by hand. Unlike Wind Hylian, it doesn’t include numbers or punctuation.

Kakariko Bomb Shop Sign

In-Game Usage: The texture designers in Twilight Princess were also good about ensuring the Hylian on their textures made sense. Of course, there are exceptions: A few instances of alphabetical gibberish, such as placards on the walls of the Temple of Time, mirrored textures, such as a sign reading “eluryhhyrule” in Hyrule Castle Town, and occasional misspellings, like the sign found on the town’s medical clinic. Translations of various textures found around the game can be read here.

Other Appearances: None that I’m aware of. Four Swords Adventures, the game that canonically follows Twilight Princess in the timeline, reverts to using Wind Hylian. Perhaps it will appear again one day.

Download the Font: ZeldaLegends.net

Skyward Sword

Sky Hylian

Common Name: Sky Hylian

Origin: Its only appearance is in Skyward Sword.

Notes: Despite the Skyward Sword section of Hyrule Historia stating that the language cannot be deciphered due to its old age, Zelda fan Sarinelli discovered a Rosetta Stone that lead her to the discovery that SS Hylian is simply a transliteration of the English alphabet.

Skyward Sword Sign

In-Game Usage: Many of the signs found in Skyloft and Hylia can be read, and the alphabet is even used in a piece of official art. However, other sections of writing, such as those seen on the Gate of Time, are gibberish. Translations of various textures found around the game can be read here.

Other Appearances: None yet!

Download the Font: Sarinilli’s DeviantArt Page

Other

Kotake & Koume

Kotake (コタケ) and Koume (コウメ) of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask have their names written on their headbands in the Japanese writing system of katakana.

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2 Responses

  1. Mr. Deborah says:

    Isn’t there Gerudo writing in a few of the rooms of Arbiter’s Grounds?

  2. Shad the Scholar says:

    Similarly to the above comment, Twilight Hylian is featured in Skyward Sword as well. Plus, since the ToT has Time Hylian inscriptions from before Minish Cap, as well as Twilight Hylian inscriptions seen in TP, this complicates things even further. Additionally, there is the Hylian seen in the title of the art of the Book of Mudora (if considered canon) as well as similar, less calligraphic writing seen in Link’s Awakening. Personally I hope we can add Oocca writing to this list in the future since a mere six soragana isn’t anywhere near enough to decode it.

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