For modern writers, the ability to use a search engine to research subjects is an incredible skill that would make researchers of old insanely jealous. Libraries are important, of course, but in a pinch you can use Google or YouTube to learn something your characters would already know. Unless you aren’t careful and accidentally put monster guts from a video game into your very serious book about dressmaking.
Over the weekend, writer Dana Schwartz noticed a thread on Reddit from user u/nonono_ohhoho about a novel by Irish author John Boyne called A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom. The thread included a photo of a passage about dressmaking, specifically dying material for it that included some very interesting items.
OKAY. This is a thread, but it’s worth it I promise.
On Reddit today, user u/NoNoNo_OhOhOh posted a page from acclaimed Irish novelist John Boyne’s latest book, ‘The Traveller At the Gates of Wisdom.
Note the ingredients. pic.twitter.com/4RTgZxtUT7
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) August 3, 2020
If you’ve hearing the unmistakable noises of cooking utensils clashing together here, it’s because that recipe is absolutely in Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch. One easy way to tell is the inclusion of things that only exist in that universe, like ‘Hylian shrooms’ and an ‘Oktorok eyeball,’ which is something that drops when you kill the monster in the game. Anyone who has played Breath of the Wild would immediately think item drops and cooking food and elixirs, which is why it’s jarring to see it in what’s a very serious book.
And it’s not some sort of viral marketing for the much-hyped but secretive sequel. As it turns out, it was a complete accident. Schwartz’s thread about the passage gained attention and she speculated that Boyne simply googled how to dye something and found instructions from Zelda. And Boyne, who is also on Twitter, confirmed that was likely the case.
LOL that is actually kinda hilarious. I’m totally willing to own it. 😂🤣Something tells me I’ll be telling this anecdote on stage for many years to come… 😂
— John Boyne 📚 (@john_boyne) August 3, 2020
As it turns out, the multitude of Polygon guides to doing things in Zelda: Breath of the Wild got incorporated into Google’s search results to the point that when you search for dying recipes on the search engine, you get things from Zelda. And if you’re not careful, well, you might think that’s really the way to make dyes in the real world.
Boyne later tweeted that he would keep it in the book, and he genuinely seems amused that he was duped by some strong SEO. It’s a good lesson for all of us to check their sources, and maybe Boyne will give Zelda a shot for himself. It’s quite a story in its own right.