In the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Hyrule is an orderly kingdom. We never see the King, but his subjects seem to be content and law-abiding, and crime is mostly limited to getting mauled by a weird monster. It’s similar to how I imagine Australia is run. There are a few areas, however, where the law seems strange.

A first legal quandary shows up in Kakariko village. One of the houses is super scary or at least it was when I last played Ocarina of Time. It is filled with a family of Skulltulas. Now from the way they talk it seems that they bought it when they were people, but they have since been cursed and are now Skulltula. How do they still own the house? My first guess is that they are still paying the bank for the house because of how rich the family is and they are just hiding the fact that they are Skulltula. Maybe they pay their mortgage by mail and the bank ignores that the letters smell kind of spider-y. Another option is that the bank has foreclosed on the house, but they are just as scared of the family as I was, and don’t want to go near there.

The Skulltula father making you a special offer

There is a third option which is the idea of an honorary trust set up for a pet. It is possible for you to leave a certain amount of money in a trust for your pet when you die and the trust will terminate when the animal dies. Now it could be that the person that owned this house was a member of the Skulltula family that was still human and when they died they bequeathed the house to the patriarch of the Skulltula family. Since the Skulltula family is obviously sentient and cogent, it could be that the father of the Skulltula family is also in charge of the trust, unlike pets that need a human to be in charge of the money in the trust. If this is the case it is pretty weird that Hyrule allows entire buildings to be given to animals. Courts in America have sometimes held that the amount of money left for a pet in a trust was excessive, but apparently in this situation in Hyrule, leaving an entire house to some spiders is not excessive.

Gambling laws in Hyrule seem pretty lax as well. In Ingo Ranch (née Lon Lon Ranch) you are allowed to race to win a horse. The Shooting Gallery challenges you to shoot stuff and if you do you win the capacity to shoot more stuff. The Bombchu Bowling Alley gives you prizes after you skillfully throw bombs around indoors. I would say that maybe these are operating covertly but the majority are within Hyrule Castle Town itself, and that last one involves bombs constantly blowing up indoors. This strikes me as somewhat flagrant. You’re also allowed to gamble even if you are a child. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which it is easier to gamble. One of the games just involves opening treasure chests and then you get money.

Many states in America make it illegal to play games of chance or mixed games of skill and chance. Games that are solely games of skill are usually allowed. It definitely seems that the horse race, shooting challenge, and bombchu bowling are games of skill, which would be legal in many states in America. The treasure chest game does seem like a game of chance though. In 1843 the Supreme Court of Iowa stated in Harless v. United States that “blind uncertainty is a chief element of chance,” and that is definitely what is going on in the treasure chest challenge. They also stated that “[h]orse-racing is not a game of chance.” The Supreme Court of North Carolina in State v. Abbott has stated that archery is a game of skill and thus lawful in the state. And many courts have found that bowling is a game of skill. I don’t believe the high court of Hyrule (?) would be able to define the treasure chest game as anything other than a game of chance, as such, it is reasonable to assume that Hyrule does not have any statutes making games of chance illegal.

A third irregularity is that early in the game, you are blocked by a huge gate and forbidden by a guard from entering Death Mountain. Property owners have a right to exclude people from their property. This right isn’t absolute. Since this guard is a Hyrulean soldier it must be the government itself, or possibly the Hyrulean Royal Family that owns this trail up Death Mountain. The latter makes more sense to me because the guard lets you past once you have the letter from Zelda. He says “Wah ha ha ha hah! What kind of funny game has our Princess come up with now?!” and then he just opens the gate for everyone, which is a weird way to treat the trail, and a weird way to laugh. This could very well be similar to how the royal family in the United Kingdom is allowed to own private property.

mt doom gate
The perfect example of the royal army

It’s pretty interesting to think about how the Crown came to own the trail. My favorite part of property law is the act of adverse possession. When one person owns property, but another entity takes exclusive, open and notorious, continuous, adverse, physical possession of the property for the statutorily prescribed amount of time the property belongs to that new owner (the factors actually change from state to state). It could be that one day the King just sent some soldiers to the trail and stopped people from going up and down the mountain. Then after a few years of this, depending on the laws in Hyrule, the path just became his property.

Then there is the much simpler theory of eminent domain where the government just takes private land for public use. There is also the possibility that the Hyruleans just treat the Goron people like Native Americans were treated. In 1823 the Supreme Court said that the government had the right to discover land occupied by Native Americans and then appropriate it how they wanted to. See Johnson v. M’Intosh 21 U.S. 543. It could be that Hyrule follows the discovery doctrine and they just took control of any land they found even if there were indigenous people living there.

Well, that’s all for today folks. And remember: all of this is correct and irrefutable because video games are real life.


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