Ganon Hates The N
As we’ve already seen, the final enemy in the first Zelda game is called “Gannon” by the in-game story, but in the instructions and everything else he’s called “Ganon”. This “Gannon” spelling was changed in later English-language ports too. So this is a very early case of an in-game name being handled improperly, only to be quietly fixed years later.
This sort of thing would become more common as game scripts grew larger and more complicated, the most famous case probably being the change from “Aeris” to “Aerith” in Final Fantasy VII. So I guess in a weird sense, Nintendo was a pioneer of this sort of thing 😛
These weird bulldog-like foes with spears are commonly known as “Moblins” by Zelda fans, but it turns out they were actually called “Molblins” in the first two games, according to their manuals. The Japanese spelling does indicate there should be an “r” or an “l” there, so “Molblins” is actually correct.
The name “Molblin” appeared in in some Zelda-related materials too, such as this kid’s book:
That said, the term “Moblin” was used quite a lot in other materials, including the popular Legend of Zelda cartoon:
Somehow, this corrupted name “Moblin” became the official name. I think everyone I knew at the time called them “Moblins”, so the super-official names just didn’t stick.
Incidentally, the Japanese name would be pronounced and transcribed as “Moriburin”. This makes it likely that the name is a combination of “mori” (forest) and the word “goblin”. The fact that its description mentions forests seems to back that up too.
These evil wizards are my least favorite enemy in the game. In both versions of this game they’re called “Wizzrobes”:
…but at some point in the series the English localizations started calling them “Wizrobes” instead:
For some reason I’ve only ever known them as “Wizrobes”, so seeing this “Wizzrobe” spelling is actually kind of new to me. Maybe I just forgot after all these years.
The enemies we all know as Zoras are technically called “Zolas”, according to both instruction manuals.
This is another one of those infamous L and R mixups that happens in translation because there’s no difference between them in Japanese. I guess at some point someone decided “Zora” sounded better than “Zola” after all. It wasn’t until the third Zelda game that they officially got the new “Zora” name in the English localizations.
The really tough knight enemies found in some of the dungeons are called “Darknuts” in the NES localization.
In the original Japanese version though, they’re called “Tartnucs”.
I’m not sure why the name was changed, but I do like the NES version better. It makes them sound more menacing.
The weird boss thing in Level 3 (and a mini boss elsewhere) is called a “Testitart” in the Japanese version of Zelda. They sure did like to have “tart” in the enemy names.
Anyway, in the NES localization, this name was changed to “Manhandla”.
I’m assuming that the “testi” part of the Japanese name sounded a little too iffy, like maybe it was something players might giggle at and make fun of, so they changed the name to something completely different. I’m also guessing that “Manhandla” comes from the English word “manhandler”.
If that’s the case though, it’s funny that they took out the “testi-” thing with this name but added a “nut” reference for the Darknuts 😛
The Zelda Legends of Localization book also includes:
- A quick look at other game localizations that had retroactive name changes years later
- A page dedicated to the different spellings of “Moblin” in books, comics, manuals, a board game, and more
- The spelling of “Wizzrobe” in other Zelda games and materials
- A more in-depth look at Like-Likes and an explanation of the Japanese proverb + pun that inspired their name
- The history of the “Zora” name, including many examples of the alternate “Zola” spelling
- More on Darknuts, the possible reason for their name change, and the name’s spelling in later Zelda games
- A little more about the Manhandla enemy