When Super Mario Bros. 3 came out, it was apparently known that there were three magic whistles that allowed you to skip to another world before anybody knew where they were. I have to wonder if anybody ever found one on their own. Who would ever think of ducking down for five seconds on a white block to go behind the scenery? Is that something anyone would ever do inadvertently? In the movie The Wizard, the Nintendo savant kid manages to find the one in the fortress on his own, and somehow Jenny Lewis knows it’s a warp flute.
How, I couldn’t say. Also, why does warping give the kid a bunch of extra points? That’s not how the game works! Notes from the Princess in later worlds did give vague, badly translated hints about how to find some of the whistles, but I get the impression a lot of us learned their locations from the Nintendo Power strategy guide. When you blow one, a small tornado appears and whisks you away. If this sounds familiar, it’s basically the same thing that happens with the recorder in the original Legend of Zelda.
In fact, it even uses the same tune. How do Link and Mario know to play this particular series of notes? I’m not sure, but there are apparently dire consequences to getting it wrong.
While the Zelda recorder takes you to the locations of dungeons you’ve already completed, in SMB3 it transports Mario to an island identified as World 9, which has warp pipes to all of the worlds except the first one. Which pipes you can access depends on where you were when you blew the whistle.
Variations on this theme appear in later Zelda games, with the Ocarina of Time being similar but having many more uses. In A Link to the Past, a flute summons a duck that can take you to various parts of the Light World. I have to wonder if there’s any particular myth being referenced with the whistle that provides transportation. Mozart’s Magic Flute comes to mind, and in German the SMB3 warp whistle is actually called a Zauberflöte, but the flute in the opera actually has the power to bring joy. Many musical instruments in myth and legend have the power to affect moods and/or charm people or animals.
Picture by Mudora
The summoned duck in Link to the Past fits into this category, but I’m not sure about the magical tornado.
There’s probably a bit of The Wizard of Oz here, and the book actually does have some magic whistles, although they don’t appear in the movie.