When it comes to damselling, Princess Zelda tries to take it all in stride.
“Well, you sort of expect it to happen eventually. I mean, it’s a hazard of the job, isn’t it? Look at poor Princess Peach – can’t so much as get a cup of coffee without being kidnapped and dragged off by some disgruntled fungi as bait. Puts a bit of strain on relationships. Plus you never want to make plans too far ahead – I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to put off a trip to the country because I’ve been pulled into another dimension. Still, we all have our parts to play.”
She shrugs and her long blond hair sparkles in the sunlight. We sit beneath an apple tree in the secret inner garden at Hyrule Castle, where Zelda likes to gather her thoughts when she’s not running for her life or channeling mystic forces. Behind The Rupees has been afforded a rare opportunity to speak with the famed princess about her life, loves and misadventures before the next chapter of her legend is unleashed on the world.
On the subject of legend, Princess Zelda is entirely diplomatic. “It’s flattering to have it known as ‘the Legend of Zelda’ of course, but I think that’s a bit of a misnomer. If it weren’t for Link – or Ganondorf, for that matter – the ‘Legend’ of Zelda would mostly consist of fighting crop failure and taxes, and embarking on ambassadorial missions to festival openings. Not very epic.” She laughs; it is a sparkling, carefree laugh that begs listeners to join in. With a smile that could start wars or end them, Zelda explains to BtR the evolution of her role from captive to participant.
Princess Zelda started of in the Peach mold of kidnapped princesses waiting for a hero. “It got very tedious,” she admits. “Waiting around to be saved, and here I am with this unequalled mystical power at my disposal. Seemed a little silly. Of course, I can’t be blamed for inaction during enchanted sleeps or when I’ve been turned to stone. There’s not much a girl can do in those situations but enjoy the rest and hope for the best.”
She believes the turning point came for her in the legend we know as Ocarina of Time. “Here I am, awake and mobile for once, and my Kingdom’s been bent to the dark will of your standard megalomaniac pig-faced madman. The Hero of Time is nowhere to be found. Impa never taught me cowardice – she taught me how to kick ass, if you’ll pardon my Gerudo, and so Sheik was born.” Zelda remains fond of her high-kicking alter ego, although in the end she was obliged to swap the pants for a skirt and once more take a backseat to final showdown.
“It comes down to your standard battle between the hero and the villain,” she explains. “I can’t overstep the bounds of narrative convention. It’s not a gender thing. It is the obligation of Wisdom to sit back and let Courage face Power – it’s the whole point, when you get right down to it. Power corrupts; Courage heals. Wisdom balances the two. Without the guidance of Wisdom, Courage would fail. Without the contempt of Wisdom, Power would succeed. Think about it – if Ganondorf ever got around to bumping me off, he’d be one step closer to victory. But he never does. He doesn’t see Wisdom as threat worthy of decisive action – probably because he possesses so little of it himself. Time and again he will use me as bait for the bearer of Courage without realizing I am the scale on which these two forces find equilibrium.” She shrugs. “It’s a living, anyway. Several, in fact.”
When asked about the exact nature of her relationship to Link, the normally stoic Zelda demurs. “He’s Courage; I’m Wisdom. There’s bound to be a certain… closeness.” She maintains that constant reincarnation makes having a romantic life difficult. “We’ve had our share of fun, of course, but when you’re flitting around timelines, when you wake up one day and find out that no one else has memories of the past six years and your are, in fact, a child again… it’s not normal. It’s not like he can give my father a few hearty cows in exchange for my hand and we’ll have a country wedding and I’ll push out dozens of fat babies. We’re players on a bigger stage. We can’t have… whatever it is we might want, so that everyone else in the world can.” And this subject, she says in a voice of regal assuredness, is closed. One cannot help but notice a certain wistful glint in her eyes as she stares at the butterflies flirting with each other over the pond.
In the legend of The Wind Waker, Zelda spends most of her time oblivious to her true nature, sailing as a carefree criminal on the lawless Great Sea. “I liked being a pirate. I was surprisingly good at it.” Though in the end Ganondorf is once again thwarted and she and Link set off to build a new world for themselves, Zelda remains cryptic on the position of her newest adventure. “You never know where you’re going to end up – it’s an eternal struggle, and the three of us are bound to meet again until the end of Time itself. It doesn’t really matter, to be quite honest, when or where we turn up. What matters is that our passion play continues to keep balance in the universe. Just as Ganondorf is destined to be defeated, he is also destined to come close to success and instill fear, loathing and despair in all the people of Hyrule. Link and I restore hope. Between us we keep the rhythm of existence going. Everything is cycles, you know. That’s the whole point of legends.”
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