It’s been over three years since its initial announcement, but today’s Nintendo Direct finally revealed the full title for the sequel to Breath of the Wild. The only issue is that we still don’t know exactly what the title is. It’s written as “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom,” but how do you pronounce the word “tear”? There are two main options, so let’s break them down.
At first glance, I thought the word “tear” was pronounced “tier,” like when someone cries. The game seems a lot darker than its predecessor, so it makes a lot of sense tonally, but there aren’t any tears or crying in any of the existing trailers. That’s not to say there won’t ever be tears shed in this game, but there’s currently not a lot of hard evidence to support this pronunciation.
Then, I realized you could pronounce “Tears of the Kingdom” like the word “tare,” meaning to rip apart. This pronunciation immediately makes a lot more sense to me, because we see a lot of imagery of “tearing” in the trailers. Hyrule castle is torn from the ground and floats upwards, Link and Zelda are torn apart when Zelda falls into a dark abyss, and Link has a new, fancy arm, symbolically splitting (or tearing) himself into two conflicting halves.
Now, even though I think “tare” makes more sense based on what we’ve seen so far, I think “tier” is the more likely pronunciation. In the Zelda series as a whole, tears often appear as a symbol for some kind of magical essence. There are spirit tears in Skyward Sword, moon tears in Majora’s Mask, and tears of light in both Twilight Princess and Spirit Tracks. Maybe when Hyrule splits in Tears of the Kingdom, you have to collect seven magical spirit tears to gain the power to defeat whatever evil presence has corrupted the land. Not a guaranteed connection, but there are certainly less believable theories out there.
The other reason I think “tear” is pronounced like “tier” has to do with a potential miscommunication Nintendo wanted to avoid. Out of respect for the queen, Nintendo UK decided not to stream the direct, which seemed like a very odd decision. That is, until we saw this title. If the word “tear” in “Tears if the Kingdom” is pronounced like “tier,” it could be seen as a likely unintentional reference to Queen Elizabeth’s recent death, and Nintendo UK probably didn’t want to get involved in a PR incident. This is all speculation of course, but I put more faith in Nintendo’s desire to shield their reputation than I do in a few of my fan theories.
We probably won’t actually know how “Tears of the Kingdom” is pronounced until someone from Nintendo says it out loud, but I’m pretty confident “tear” sounds like “tier.” In the meantime, we can theorize about other parts of the game. What happened to Link’s arm? Where did Zelda go? Is Link’s cool new hoverboard going to have a racing minigame? We’ll know the answer to all these questions and more when The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom launches May 12, 2023.