LoZ Japanese/English Translation Comparison

The goal of this feature is to compare the text of "The Legend of Zelda" with that of its original Japanese version, "The Hyrule Fantasy: Zelda no Densetsu." I plan to do this by aligning the text of the story and enemy descriptions in tables. People who know Japanese better than I do then translate the original Japanese quote by quote, allowing a comparison to be made with the "official" English translation given in the American manual.

This has been made possible thanks to Johan and Zethar II. Johan has studied Japanese for two years and currently lives in Japan. Zethar II grew up in Japan for ten years, and currently lives in Hawaii. So far, the story and enemy descriptions from the manual have been compared. The complete tables, and the most interesting findings, are given below.

Manual Story

» Download LoZ Manual Story Translation Comparison Table
Created by Johan, Zethar II, and David Butler
Last Modified: 4/11/2003

The stories given in the two manuals are pretty much the same. Below are listed interesting things that fall out of the Japanese version. The complete table can be downloaded above.

  • The Japanese manual calls Hyrule a "chihou," which is an area or region. This makes it more clear that the "land of Hyrule" in this game is a large area of land, in which a small kingdom is located.
  • Concerning how Ganon got the Triforce of Power prior to LoZ. The Japanese version implies that Ganon led a small force of his army (a corps, a smaller subdivision of an army set aside for special purposes), invaded the small kingdom in Hyrule, and snatched the Triforce of Power with his own hands. The U.S. version is less clear, saying only that an evil army stole the Triforce of Power, and that Ganon was the leader of this army.
  • In the Japanese version, Ganon's title, "dai maou," is the same title he is given in OoT. Literally, "dai mou" can be translated as "great demon king." In OoT, this is translated to "Evil King." The LoZ manual offers "Prince of Darkness" as a translation. This deviates from the original meaning, since nothing in "dai mou" necessarily involves being a prince. In any case, Ganon's title perhaps doesn't vary as much as we might think it does from game to game.
  • Impa is Zelda's "uba," which means wet-nurse or nursing mother. This implies that Impa was very much involved in raising Zelda, perhaps even breastfeeding her when she was a baby. Compare this to the U.S. version's "nursemaid," which implies that she is only a kind of nanny who looks after Zelda.
  • The Japanese version says that Link drove off Ganon's underlings by "skillfully confusing" them. This seems to imply that he used a clever trick to confuse/scare/divert them, rather than openly fighting them. The U.S. version, however, just says that he "skillfully drove off Ganon's henchmen." This could be taken to mean that he jumped out in the open and fought the underlings, driving them away. Kind of difficult to imagine when you consider that Link has no weapons at the beginning of the game. Did he fight them with his bare hands?
  • The word used to describe the fragments of the TOW, "shouhen," means a speck or bit. So the fragments are little things, despite the fact that the in-game graphics show rather large ToW fragments (almost as big as Link himself). The game couldn't possibly show the fragments to scale.
  • The last line in the U.S. manual ("Good luck. Use the Triforce wisely.") is not in the Japanese manual.

Enemy Descriptions

» Download LoZ Enemies Translation Comparison Table
This file was a joint creation of Johan and David Butler
Last Modified: 3/19/2003

The two manuals are fairly consistent, but there are differences. Below are listed some of the more important and/or interesting findings of the enemy description translation comparison. Download the above file to view the complete translation table.

  • In the American version, Peahats are called the ghosts of flowers. In the Japanese, however, they are called "incarnations" of flowers. This seems to be incarnaton in the Buddhist sense - the spirit enters another body after death, in a cycle of death and rebirth.
  • In the American version, the Lynel is a guardian. In the Japanese, however, he is a guardian deity.
  • The Japanese version says that Zoras are half-fish, half-human. It doesn't mention them being half-woman, like the American version.
  • The Darknut has a different name in the Japanese version: "Tartnuc." This name's ending - NAKKU - is the same as the Ironknuckle in AoL (AIANNAKKU), which may indicate some connection. I have no idea what the "tart" in "Tartknuckle" would be, though...
  • In the American version, the Gibdo has "strange powers." But in the Japanese version, he has "superhuman strength."
  • In the Japanese version, the Manhandla is called "Testitart."
  • The Bubble has an interesting description in the Japanese version. The American version tells us the Bubble is the spirit of the dead. According to Johan's translation, the Bubble is "a disembodied soul (supernatural fiery ball). Touch it and you will be possessed and cannot draw your sword for a while." The American version doesn't mention that you are possessed by it.
  • The American manual says that the traps and stone statues were placed in the labyrinths long ago. The Japanese manual mentions this, but doesn't say it took place long ago.