And they got married and lived happily ever after.” Romantic love is important to people not only in real life, but in stories and myths. The Zelda games, however, seem to lack any kind of fully developed romance. But the fan fiction, art, and discussions the games have spawned are full of references to romance (yet ironically, you would be hard pressed to find references to dungeon puzzles). Even if the main topic of the fan fiction or fan art has nothing to do with romance, people slip in hints as to who they think Link should hook up with. Most people ask the question, “Who should Link hook up with?” But I like to ask the question a bit differently.
Asking the question, “Who would I rather see Link fall in love with?” brings in too much subjectivity and bias into the picture for my tastes. A question I prefer to ask is, “Did the game designers point towards a relationship between Link and one of the ladies?” Periodically I will write articles looking at the games with that question in mind, by looking at each “potential love interest” in turn. First up is, of course, Zelda.
A bit of groundwork
Before we see if the game designers actually intended for Link and Zelda to have a thing for each other, let’s make a few things clear. For one thing, the timeline theories are critically important to any discussion of this topic. When writing about romance, most of the Zelda fan sites seem to perfectly ignore the fact that there is more than one Link and more than one Zelda, even though those sites tend to hold very strongly to that idea in other parts of their pages. Now, an important part of the Zelda timeline is that each Link and Zelda is descended from a previous Link and Zelda. This means two things. First, Link and Zelda do both marry someone and have children. Second, each generation of Link and Zelda can’t marry each other, because that would end up being, well, rather sick.
To designate which Link and which Zelda I’m talking about, I’m going to add numbers to the end of their names as is the custom in writing about historical figures. But as games are released, those numbers can change. Keeping in mind that it doesn’t include The Wind Waker yet, I’m going to use the suffixes used by the ZU timeline, just to keep things clear.
Love in the 2-D Era
Nearly everyone, when dealing with the romance, focuses on Link I-in other words, the Link that appears in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. This is probably mostly an effect of the transition to 3-D, along the lines of what I talked about in one of my previous articles, “Link gets a personality.” But if we want to know what the designers intended, we must look at the 2-D games too.
Adventure of Link is the last game in the series chronologically. The game features Link III and Zelda IV. In it, Zelda IV is asleep for the whole game. But at the very end of the game, when she is awoken, she gives Link III a kiss as the curtain descends in front of them. It’s very much a cliché, and Zelda IV and Link III didn’t exactly interact beforehand, but it is fairy tale romance all the same. Of all the games before the 3-D era, Adventure of Link is the only one with even a real hint at romance between Link and Zelda. But the ending to that game is a kind of fitting finale for the Legend as a whole.
A Different Question
We now turn to Link I and Zelda I. This is, of course, the potential Link-and-Zelda couple that gets the most attention. The term “shipper” is usually applied to someone who thinks that Link I and Zelda I should fall in love. But again, they are asking the question, “Who would I rather see get together?” It’s a fine question, but it’s almost entirely subjective, so a more important one is, “Did Nintendo intend to hint that Link I would fall in love with Zelda I?” Since the shippers are asking a different question, most of their arguments turn out to be quite, well, lame for our purposes. Need an example? “Zelda gave Link the light arrows and the Ocarina of Time, which is more useful than anything any other girl gave him-therefore he likes her!”
To be blunt, that sort of logic doesn’t even deserve to be taken seriously. Or about how about the argument that “Link took risks to help her and to save her; therefore he’s in love with her.” No, Link is like that because he’s a good guy, helps everyone out, and is in fact chosen by the Triforce for his courage (even if “love” is part of the equation, let’s not forget that love is not restricted to romantic definitions-in fact, the ancient Greeks had four words for different kinds of love). Likewise, the idea that Zelda was used as “bait” for Link because Ganon “knew that they were in love” is similarly flawed. In addition, it ignores the fact that Ganon wanted the whole Triforce, and Zelda had part of it. “Who would I rather see get together?” is a decent question, but it doesn’t get us as far as “What did Nintendo hint at?”
That Scene in the Sky
There is practically only one scene that could possibly be hinting towards a connection between the two of them. And that is the scene that takes place immediately after the defeat of Ganon. Link I and Zelda I are standing in the middle of the sky, and Zelda tells him that they must return to their own time. Link must hand back the ocarina. He does so, but he lets go of it only reluctantly. That is the moment that some have interpreted to mean that Link and Zelda are “holding hands,” that they do not take their hands away because they are enjoying the moment in which their hands touch. This is a possible interpretation, but I find it quite unlikely based on at least two things you can find in the context.
First, the battle with Ganon. Link has just had a harrowing battle with the holder of the Triforce of Power, not to mention what came before that. Now imagine Link’s emotions. You, the courageous warrior, have just gone through terror upon terror and have finally slain the horrible beast that brought curses and monsters onto Hyrule. Now it’s all over, and you’re standing in the sky, weirdly enough. Yes, your quest is complete. Yes, you’re ready to head home. But what you went through was an incredibly powerful experience, to say the least. You saw things you never imagined when you lived as a Kokiri. And now you are now surprised that you now have to give back your ocarina, a precious instrument that has taken you through many troubles. You know what you must do, but you don’t want to do it. You have a hard time letting go of the ocarina (for a semi-parallel example, think of how, in Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo had such a hard time giving up the Ring). So, you hold on partially because you don’t entirely want to give it up the ocarina, and partially because you’re still in shock and wonder at the moment. You certainly aren’t thinking about romance-you’re thinking about what has gone on before, what has changed, and what will become of you (and the ocarina). You’re not going to break the dramatic pacing and just chuck the ocarina into Zelda’s hands and say, “OK! Enough of that! I’m headed home! Let’s seal off the way to the future for good! All of the stuff I just went through wasn’t a big deal, so I won’t pause to reflect!” Likewise, Zelda wouldn’t just rip the ocarina out of Link’s hand upon contact. “Hey! That’s MINE!”
Second, the theme of the game as a whole. (This ties in very much with the previous point.) Time was obviously Link the First’s major theme. The idea of the passage of time was stressed constantly throughout Ocarina of Time. The theme wasn’t just about the passage of time per se, but the consequences of the passage of time, mostly those consequences that have to do with friendship. In fact, friendship too is a big theme for both Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. There is a kind of sadness at loosing the friends and innocent wonder of childhood. Of course, how these themes are developed is a topic for another article on another day, but I might point out that the words of Zelda (disguised as Sheik) were often used to convey these themes. It would be far more in keeping with these themes to interpret the “scene in the sky” in a non-romantic way. This is a big moment-the story isn’t going to take a diversion and hint at romance, but instead is going to conclude the theme begun from the time Link was said to be “the boy without a fairy.” Link must pause now, as he returns to the old days, and gives up entirely this new life which he has been leading. And he must give up adulthood, and the fast road to it.
Link III and Zelda IV, the final characters in the Legend, did fall in love. That much is clear. But what about Link I and Zelda I, which people seem to care about more? There is only one scene that could plausibly be interpreted as hinting to a romance, and even that interpretation is unlikely because of the context. Those who actively want to see romance between Link I and Zelda I will interpret the scene as such, but that is the result of asking the wrong question. In the end, it is even more unlikely that Nintendo was hinting towards a Link I and Zelda I relationship, given what we know about Link’s other possible love interests. Of course, that lies beyond the scope of this particular article. When I take a look at those characters, I think it will become even more clear that Zelda I is not “the one” for Link I, at least not in the eyes of the game designers.
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