If you’re a fan of Nintendo games, then the name “Lost Woods” probably has some meaning for you. It’s a somewhat unique name for a forest where important things tend to happen in the Zelda games, and it’s often where the legendary Master Sword sleeps until the next hero needs it.
In contrast, the Lost Woods are known as the 迷いの森 (mayoi no mori) in Japanese, which isn’t nearly as unique in Japanese entertainment. There’s a mayoi no mori in the Super Mario series, for example, and there’s one in the Final Fantasy series.
|These places all share the same name in Japanese|
The mayoi no mori name pops up a lot in Japanese games, but it usually gets translated a different way in each different game. This is because mayoi has several different (and sometimes overlapping) meanings:
- Getting lost
- Mental confusion
- Spiritual confusion
- Indecision / hesitation
Even I’ve had to handle this phrase on occasion during my career, and it’s been strangely fun seeing how other translators handle it too. So I thought I’d compile a mayoi no mori gallery below to share the foresty fun.
Before I began studying Japanese, I had no idea that Super Mario World had its own “Lost Woods”, or that the spooky Phantom Forest was Final Fantasy VI‘s “Lost Woods”. If I’d known about these connections as a kid, I probably would’ve daydreamed about how they might all connect to each other. Getting so lost in one forest that you wind up in another game’s forest would’ve had such cool crossover potential!
Anyway, besides showing how translation isn’t a straightforward process, these mayoi no mori examples also show how a single term can be written in very different ways using Japan’s three writing systems. In this case, we’ve seen マヨイノモリ, まよいのもり, まよいの森, and 迷いの森. Yet, despite looking different, they’re all the same word with the same pronunciation. It’s surprising how looking at a simple video game name can be so educational!