A reader by the name of theredpikmin sent in a question about the Like Like description in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Like Likes are the shield-eating enemies that have been in the Zelda series since the very first Zelda game.
Anyway, the question is:
I was toying around in Smash Bros Melee and noticed that the “Like-Like” trophy (enemy from the Legend of Zelda series) has a bit of interesting information. In the description, it states that:
Supposedly, their name comes from an old, almost indecipherable Hyrulian proverb: Shield-eaters and world leaders have many likes alike.・
Hmm..I dont recall any Zelda game that Ive played ever stating this. Also, the Zelda Wiki states that this information is non-canon. (link here)
This makes me question if this proverb was in the original Japanese description, or if it was added during translation. Maybe it was a phrased used in the Japanese versions of Zelda games, which was lost in translation somewhere down the line? No clue.
theredpikmin also kindly provided screenshots from the English and Japanese versions of the game:
|Dairanto Smash Brothers DX
|Super Smash Bros. Melee
So the question is, was this a proverb/saying in the original Japanese text too? Let’s take a look at the text side-by-side:
|Japanese Version (basic translation)
|A slow-moving monster in “Legend of Zelda” that barely has any attack power. However, if it catches Link, it’ll eat his precious shield while it’s munching away.
|In The Legend of Zelda, these slow-footed monsters inhaled Link and ate his shield, just beating out Wallmasters for the coveted title of “Most Aggravating Enemies Ever.”
|Not having a shield is a recipe for disaster, and buying another one costs a lot, so this enemy leaves a very unpleasant impression.
|Its name comes from the proverb, “Even bugs that eat water pepper have their personal like-likes.”
|Supposedly, their name comes from an old, almost indecipherable Hyrulian proverb: “Shield-eaters and world leaders have many likes alike.”
Wow, there’s a lot of cool stuff here. First, the simple things:
- In Japanese, they’re called “Like Like” too, just as it’s pronounced in English. For extra clarification (you can never be too sure!) the “like” is pronounced like the “like” in “I like you.”
- The English version of the text in this game isn’t always a straight translation of the original text. I used to play this game so much, I can’t believe I forgot that!
In the Japanese text, the proverb mentioned is a genuine, real-life Japanese proverb: 蓼食う虫も好き好き (tade kū mushi mo sukizuki).
In basic terms, this is saying that bugs that eat “tade” have their own “like-likes” or personal preferences. A “tade” is an extremely bitter plant known as a “water pepper” in English. So, basically, the proverb is saying that different people can have wildly different preferences.
How does this fit in with Zelda, though? It’s just some simple word-play; the word “tade” was replaced with “tate”, which means shield, so now you got things that “like-like” to eat shields! True to Nintendo’s old roots, its early games had lots of references to traditional Japanese stories and phrases – Lakitu/Jugem in Super Mario Bros. and the Tanooki suit are some really quick examples. So this Like Like thing in Zelda is probably another instance of that.
Since this proverb isn’t known outside of Japan and since it doesn’t work well in English, the localizers’ solution was to change the proverb’s content and say that it’s actually an old Hyrulian saying. It’s a pretty cool localization choice – the easy/lazy way out would’ve been to just omit the proverb and the origin of the name altogether, especially since the localizers had already changed other parts of the description. But they didn’t, which probably delighted lots of English-speaking Zelda fans!
theredpikmin’s next, unstated question is: is this English proverb thing canon?
Canon, localizations, and fandoms are a recipe for craziness so I won’t even try to tackle this issue, but I’d like to hear what you think. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
If you like this sort of analysis of Japanese Zelda stuff, check out my book about the localization differences between the Japanese and English versions of Zelda 1. It even looks at all the little translation changes Nintendo made over time!