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.
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.
The マヨイノモリ (mayoi no mori) name appears in the original Zelda game
It was translated into English as "Forest of Maze" in the game's text
And the name is translated as "Lost Woods" in the map that comes with the game
The third Zelda game also has a まよいの森 (mayoi no mori)
It's now called "Lost Woods" in the game text
Super Mario World has a まよいのもり (mayoi no mori) of its own
In the English version, it's called the "Forest of Illusion"
There's another まよいの森 (mayoi no mori) in the Japanese version of Paper Mario
The forest is called the "Forever Forest" in the English localization
Final Fantasy VI has a maze-like 迷いの森 (mayoi no mori) that eventually leads to a spooky ghost train
In the Super NES translation, it's renamed the "Phantom Forest"
There's a large 迷いの森 (mayoi no mori) in Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete
And it's called the "Forest of Illusion" in English
There's a まよいのもり (mayoi no mori) in the Pokémon series - this one is from Pocket Monsters Black
The game's localizers called it the "Lostlorn Forest" in the English version
Dragon Quest V has a 迷いの森 (mayoi no mori)
And it was localized as the "Neverglade" in the English release
I remember there was discussion about this term when I worked on the One Piece anime. It looks like the subtitle translations go with "Illusion Forest" for mayoi no mori
The dub goes with "Lost Forest" for mayoi no mori, though. It's been so long that I don't remember the details about how this split happened, but anime subs & dubs were sometimes handled completely separately back in the day
Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment has a really huge mayoi no mori area
There's a mayoi no mori in Octopath Traveler
And it was translated as "Lost Woods" in the English version. I wonder what it's called in other languages too
Here we have a reverse example! In Pac-Man World 2, which was developed in English first, there's a stage called "Treewood Forest"
And the stage name was localized into mayoi no mori for the Japanese release
There's a mayoi no mori in the Japanese version of 3D Dot Game Heroes
This was localized as "Forest of No Return" in the English release
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!
I’m sure there are many more mayoi no mori translations out there, so let me know if you can think of any others. I’ll add new examples to this article from time to time, so check back once in a while.
If you liked this look at how a single word can be translated a bunch of different ways, you'll love my articles about Demon Kings and the Four Heavenly Kings!