Here's lookin' at you, kid.

I’m sure many of you remember the trite and clichéd threats from your parents about what would happen if you kept on misbehaving.  “Your face is going to freeze like that,” I remember hearing.  “Don’t sit that close to the television; you’ll go blind!”  And then, perhaps one of the most famous ones that my mother used to tell me was, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you right back out!”  (I mean, your mom threatening to kill you?  Someone call Child Protective Serves there!)  But in all seriousness, if I were a guy living in Hyrule, and I had a son that was causing all sorts of trouble, I think I’d have my own personal flavor of threat to tell him to whip him back in line:

“You keep that up and I’m going to change your name to Link.  You remember all those terrible tales of what happened to him, right?”

I was reminded of Grimm’s Fairy Tales the other day as I was reading some of the summary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Brown v. EMA.  (This is the case about California attempting to prohibit children under 17 from buying M-rated games; the Supreme Court ruled this law unconstitutional earlier this week.)  Justice Scalia actually mentioned these in his opinion.  I was actually taken aback as I read the descriptions of some of the tales again because, as with many of the stories from Grimm, they’ve been whitewashed and Disneyfied in recent years, the more horrific parts of them glossed over so that we’re not kept awake at night fearing the bogeyman.  In his opinion, Scalia reminds us that, “As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers ‘till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy.’  Cinderella’s evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves.  And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven.”  And here California was trying to say that videogames were violent!  (But here I am, digressing.)

Or perhaps closer to the point I’m really driving at here is a series of novels that I started reading in college called the Sword of Truth series, by Terry Goodkind.  It starts with an 890-some page book called Wizard’s First Rule, starring a duo of characters Richard and Kahlan who get wrapped up in an adventure that seems quite too big for two people to tackle.  Darken Rahl makes a play to conquer the land, and precious few can possibly stand up to him.  (Sound familiar to anyone?)  Not to delve too much into the story, they end up defeating and killing the bad guy, sending him into the world of the dead or something (from which he can still mess with their minds in subsequent books; again, familiar?).  Subsequent books have additional baddies who are also vying for world domination, and all of them feel that they have to mess with Richard and Kahlan in order to go about those ends.

Now this series is eleven books long with a twelfth on its way.  I raved about the first book, but I found myself emotionally incapable of picking up the fifth book after finishing Temple of the Winds.  The reason why, well, was the general plot summary of each book went something like this:  Things start out bad; then they get worse; then they get worse; then you think things are going to get better, but then they get worse; and then they get really worse; then they get worse some more; and then something REALLY bad happens to the main character; finally, at the end, things get just a tiny bit better.  There, I’ve saved you the emotional horror of reading what can only be classified as horror/fantasy.  All I could think of at the end of the fourth book was, “Gee whiz, can’t you just leave Richard and Kahlan alone!?”

And so it is with Link and Zelda.

Even if you’re not one of those guys that delve into every last detail of the timeline, there are at least a few very clear indicators of the overall story arc of Hyrule as a land and a people.  In one timeline from Ocarina of Time, you’ve got Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks.  In the other, you’ve got Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess, Minish Cap, and a host of other Zelda titles that have somewhat vague interconnections with the rest of them.  And for what it’s worth, Hyrule is Hyrule (despite the fact that it keeps getting a face lift every game), and if you’re going to buy that premise, well, they all take place in the same universe.  With Skyward Sword set to become the 16th game in the franchise, you’ve got roughly eight different incarnations of Link and Zelda—with the Zeldas almost all certainly related to one another by blood and time while the Links being a bit less clear on that point—who all have to go through some pretty harsh circumstances.

Oh, did I mention that Link needed to eat Miracle-Gro for a few days?  Worst diet ever.One Link gets thrown into the world at the tender age of 10 with precious little:  a sword, a shield, and a mission to save Hyrule from an evil much older and more experienced than him.  Yet after following his accomplice’s instructions, he finds himself grimly losing seven years of his life (and puberty) to become an adolescent who must defeat a dark wizard and his various minions, all of whom have kidnapped someone important to the protection of Hyrule and—even worse—undoubtedly dear to Link’s heart.  After he manages to face down the evil, his friend Zelda pushes him away and sends him back in order to “fix his lost time,” meaning that he is banished to a world where none of that ever happened, where virtually no one would ever believe he lived through several weeks’ worth of Hyrule’s darkest days, only to then watch his fairy friend Navi depart without so much as a goodbye.  And as he goes searching for her in the Lost Woods, he gets thrown into an alternate world that’s doomed to destruction by a gigantic moon, and after being accosted by a man with masks, he must relive the same three days of his life over and over until he can manage to right all the ills of the world just so that he might be sent home in order to continue the quest to find his friend.

And his Zelda?  She doesn’t have it much easier.  First she had to watch her father, who didn’t place any trust whatsoever in her prophetic visions, get murdered in front of her, only to make a fatal mistake during her daring escape.  That mistake would cause Hyrule to fall into ruin by the man she was trying to thwart and consequentially kill several tens or hundreds of people in Castle Town and elsewhere.  For seven long years, she’s forced to remain in hiding, posing as a Sheikah boy, evading Ganondorf’s patrols and monsters at every turn as she’s utterly powerless to stop them, waiting… waiting and hoping that the boy she barely knew might one day return to the land to help her restore it, never knowing if that day was ever coming.  And then in the end, she herself gets taken prisoner, forced to endure Ganondorf’s company as his prized possession.  Ultimately, she ends up incapable of killing him, and instead she is forced to merely seal him away in a lost dimension, dooming some other world, knowing that future generation would have to deal with the same woes.  All of this shatters her pride as she does her best to salvage at least Link’s future as she commits herself to endure the suffering and bloodshed caused by her actions in that ravaged world.

And the coup de grâce is that history is going to repeat itself at some point for another Link and another Zelda.

Even Tetra, the proverbial antithesis to Zelda, cannot escape this sinister karmic loop.  She flat out denies (and is truthful in such, at least to the best of her knowledge) that she has nothing to do with Ganondorf or his Triforce, only to be proven tragically wrong moments later when Daphnes, with all of the compassion of a blood-sucking Keese, proclaims to her (paraphrased, of course), “NO YOU ARE ZELDA; GET IN YOUR DRESS!”  She is transformed instantly, is left behind for “safety’s sake,” and is kidnapped seconds later; the rest is history.

This is totally canon.

And yet the legend of Link and Zelda’s deeds somehow live on throughout time.  In this perspective, I have to feel just a little bad for Wind Waker’s Link when his grandmother forces him into the hero’s clothes.  Given that he has the marked name of the hero of yore, on the exact day of the historical Link’s journey beginning, Link has got to be thinking, “Oh goddesses, please don’t make me wear that.  Please don’t let anything happen to me.  Please don’t make me go fight anything.  I’m too young to die!”

And yet Aonuma, Miyamoto, and the rest of the creative team at Nintendo seem to be unable to resist the urge, when announcing a new Zelda game, to proudly proclaim, “Oh yeah, and The Legend of Zelda: The Boomerang of Midnight takes place 300 years after the end of The Emerald Seer.”  In essence, Link (and Zelda, should Nintendo actually deign to include her in her own series) get sucker punched in the stomach right from the get go as, yet again, the helpless damsel in distress falls victim to yet another attempt to conquer and pillage Hyrule.  Such an attempt is always successful (at least for a few days or years), sending Hyrule into a world of conflict and war.  And such an attempt always means that Link will have to go through agony and torment to save the girl and free the land.

This isn’t really the Hyrule that I fantasized about back during the SNES and N64 days, back in the days when it was just a handful of unrelated stories, when the future of Hyrule seemed so bright, when Ganondorf, Vaati, Zant, and Malladus weren’t trying to ruin Hyrule’s shining city on the hill every other week, not to mention every fourth Thursday after tea.

Miyamoto, can’t you just leave Link and Zelda alone?

But could the “Zelda series” (or whatever we’d have to name the series as a result) even survive not having Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, Hyrule, and the Triforce?  Would it be the same game without ye olde familiare setting, characters, and MacGuffins?  Could Zelda possibly be rebooted from the ground up without any of the familiar devices and hooks we’ve come to know and relate to?

Or have Link and Zelda so entrenched themselves in the series that they have no choice but to keep recurring in game after game, year after year, century after century, doomed to once again see the near-destruction and collapse of Hyrule, fated forever to struggle against powers of evil beyond which we could hope to imagine, and destined to experience some cruel 300-year-long Groundhog’s Day until the end of time?

  • DekuSprout

    They're roped in for good(; There'll be plenty more Zelda games to come!

  • poemaster

    The "Sword of Truth" became a show called "Legend of the Seeker", way too coincidental…. It sucks that they cancelled it.

    • mikeypizzalover

      Well, Richard is the seeker of truth, and it is the legend of him, Kahlan, Zedd, Cara, and several others trying to defet (Lord) Darken Rahl, and then find the stone of tears with many side quests………….It does suck the cancelled it…

  • Poe Princess Mara

    Great article! The LoZ series IS a lot darker than it might seem on the surface. And people always seem to forget that Zelda suffered just as much as Link in OoT.

    • themisssinglink

      The Legend of Zelda has some pretty strong ties to the literary genre of fairy tales too, which gives it that element deep down (using royalty to symbolize goodness and ugliness as a form of evil). But Nintendo's story construction in Zelda games never quite reaches out beyond the more simplistic elements to really start having Link react to the events around him. Wind Waker and Twilight Princess have done this to some degree by giving Link facial expressions, but so long as they cast Link has someone who rises to every challenge with unfailing courage, it's hard to really leave an impact as to the true suffering and darkness within; players sort of feed onto that confidence and overlook the rest.

  • Empty bottle

    I never looked at it that way, but I does seem to be right. I'm afraid they are indeed, trapped in a cyclus of ruined lives. I mean, what the Legend of Zelda be without Zelda herslef, not to speak of Link…

  • delpheas

    Alright. I have to say as soon as you mentioned Sword of Truth, I got really excited. I LOVE those books. and then when you mentioned that you haven't read past book 4, I got really sad. Book 5 is lame but is major setup for perhaps the BEST one in the series. Faith of the Fallen. You must read that one.

    Also as to your question about whether or not it could be a Zelda game with out Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, or the Triforce.

    Links's Awakening, Majora's Mask, and Phantom Hourglass all lack Zelda, the Triforce and Ganon(dorf).

    Spirit Tracks, Minish Cap, Four Swords Adventures, and Ancient Stone Tablets are all missing the Triforce, and two of the titles are missing Ganon(albeit ST has a Ganon clone.)

    I'd wager Nintendo could make a Zelda game that FELT like a Zelda game, that didn't have any of the main story elements or characters other than Hyrule.

    • themisssinglink

      Wow… I've totally brought the Sword of Truth people out of the woodwork for this! I knew it was going to be popular, but I hadn't expected the overlap between the two series to be this strong! Maybe i'll have to go through them at some point; sadly, the stack of unread books I own is pretty tall right now. I don't know when I'll be able to get there. 🙂

      It's true that Nintendo has stripped out some of the elements — Zelda, Ganondorf, and the Triforce — here and there across the series (even if one or more of them make cameo appearances in several of the games you mentioned). However, out of the traditional heavy-hitters of the series — LoZ, LttP, OoT, MM, WW, TP — only Majora's Mask has shied away from all those elements; the rest of them have all of the elements built in at some level or another.

      Now it could just be because we're looking at the mainstay console titles and that it's the portable Zeldas that are allowed a stronger sense of artistic license and creative freedom to take risks. And that's probably true. But nonetheless, a more interesting question would be what happened if we had a Zelda game without Link. Would it be popular? Even if it had Zelda, the Triforce, and so on, is it Zelda without Link? Can it be fun without Link?

      • delpheas

        It'd certainly be interesting without Link.

    • Vatoloco91

      WARBLGARBL
      i love that book.
      how i started off hating Nicci, but then…
      same with Denna in the first one

      • delpheas

        I don't know anyone who didn't start off hating Nicci.
        Now I'm at the point where I really hope she gets a better ending that being in love with a man who doesn't love her.

  • Ashmic

    ganondorf is so hot

    • Ashmic

      wow guy's seriously, seriously?

      • Casual Vader

        "guy's"? Um, what?

        • Ashmic

          i don't mean "guys" as in men, im a chick, and who cares is it was guy oriented

          • Nichyevo

            Maybe Casual Vader was confused because you used the word "guy" possessively, as in "that guy's horse," rather than, "wow guys, seriously?" Otherwise, being female too, I also use "guys" similarly.

            Yeah, I don't know why you got thumbs down either. I love my villains too.

          • Disciple of Midna

            My guess is that 12 people were too lazy to say "I disagree." ^^;

          • Mr.Linkypoo

            13 people

          • Ashmic

            lol ppl are stupid

  • Soeroah

    I love Sword of Truth (I know not everyone does, so let's not get into a debate), but I think you should finish the series, if you haven't read it. Apart from a couple of books it's quite good…And the 7th book kinda throws a spanner in your analogy :p

    I suppose the eternal trio are just destined to dance their merry, world changing dance for all time. At least they are generally different individuals with no memory of what happened in the past, and I suppose the Triforce gives them the courage/wisdom to fight for peace.

  • Abcedarian

    Finish. That. Series. The Sword of Truth series is awesome. Give it at least two more books: The Faith of the Fallen is pretty awesome.

    • Vatoloco91

      DO WHAT THIS MAN SAYS.
      you shall not regret 😛

  • robotortoise

    Luigi's Mansion was awesome! What are you talking about?

    Besides, Mario WAS in it. Trapped in a painting, remember?

    • Hero_of_Hyrule

      Yeah, but he wasn't the main character. I guess what I meant is that if Link wasn't the main character, and say Colin from Twilight Princess was, and it was an RPG where you level up, it would be different.

      And Luigi's Mansion was a good game, just not my favorite.

      • robotortoise

        Yeah. It was more like a spin-off title. I loved it too, it just wasn't the same kind of game. Frankly, I'd love it if they made spin-off games alongside the main series. We need more Zelda. I don't care if it's a Zelda FPS (Link's Crossbow Training), an absurd RPG that never made it into the US, unfortunately (Tingle's Rosie Rupeeland) or a Zelda racing title (that would be AWESOME). Zelda wins no matter which kind of game it is. Unless Phillips makes the games… X(

        • Hero_of_Hyrule

          Agreed. Either Capcom or Grezzo should make the spin-offs, and for the racing game, I don't think that there would be cars. Maybe different types of horses, or boats, or trains, or something. Birds for Skyward Sword. And I DO think that Nintendo should reuse some of Zelda II's ideas. Maybe not the sidescrolling part, but the Level-up system would be interesting, especially in a 3D title (3D like Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess).

          • robotortoise

            Yeah. A Zelda horse-racing game would rock. 😉

  • Doomjaw

    it seems like speedrunners are the nicest to them, they rush to get them back to their regular lives.

    • Casual Vader

      I really don't know why people thumbed this down.

      • GorCoronSumo

        And I torture them…
        (although on second though, I do a lot of random stuff, not monster fighting and things)

  • arn

    consider the success of final fantasy, which endures despite the absence of returning characters. the kotor star wars games also revolved around plots occurring thousands of years before palpatine's empire, and they were very well-received. is it not possible that the universes of these games are so magical, so entrenched in the fans' blood that the mere presence of the familiar worlds (familiar enemies, items and landmarks) are enough?

    it's not as if the triforce trio is the sole draw to each subsequent zelda game. the secondary characters are imperative in defining the culture, the plot and the tone of the games.

    who's to say there is only one legend in the expansive land of hyrule?

    • Casual Vader

      Well, about looking at Final Fantasy… Those games never had the same story and main characters. Zelda has almost always involved Link, Zelda and Ganondorf. We've gotten used to the story and characters being different in Final Fantasy and used to Link and Zelda always showing up in LoZ.

  • They should make a game with Zelda as the actual main character, like a playable one. Maybe sh has to save Hyrule when there is no reincarnation of Link around or something

    • robotortoise

      I was thinking more like in Paper Mario, where there were certian times in the main game where you could play as Peach, and it told the story of when she was captive that eventually tied into the main story. I think that style would be PERFECT for a Zelda title.

    • Soulless Creature

      Zelda… as the main character…why didn't Nintendo think of this it's brilliant.

      • GorCoronSumo

        Or a Zelda game a LOT like paper Mario, with Zelda, Link, and Ganon all as playable characters.

  • Lucas

    Zelda and Link have such strong souls and hearts that they can endure such pain, and in the end their are happy endings still at the end of OoT Link goes and sees young Zelda, and TP he goes to LLia and WW Link stays with Tetra.

  • LINK

    LINK HERRE

    • Vatoloco91

      i think you mean
      "…"

  • LINK

    i dont like zelda when i looked at the twilight princess it was love at first site

  • Twilight Prinsess

    awwwww thanx

  • Zelda

    OK BE LIKE THAT!

  • LINK

    awwww babie lets have a threesome

  • Zelda

    SICK

  • Soulless Creature

    Time is repeating its self, just like Top gear on dave ahhhhhhhh!

  • Nikachu

    Except you do know they created OoT off of what they could do with the gameplay. The story just fell into place after that.

  • Nikachu

    Oh, and the creators would love to say that it's a different Link and Zelda everytime. That each game takes place in a parralel universe or something. However, the fans seem to enjoy it more as it being the same world so that's why they keep on saying it's related somehow.

  • darkie's doom

    gimme a thumbs down, cuz i didn't like this. pointing out something like this seems wrong outside of fanfiction. let link himself tell us how he feels! let zelda herself tell us how she feels! well, of course they can't. why do we have to worry about these people? they are fictional characters created only for our enjoyment! just play the games and have fun. no need to be too serious about a game series. but i still have one question. what is 'i am error'?

    • GorCoronSumo

      The "I AM ERROR" guy is a character from Zelda 2 I think.

  • Nelo

    Corporations have images.
    The image of a corporation, the idea that serves as the theoretical basis for everything they do, is also present in any kind of graphic support – say, Nintendo has a very particular notion of gaming and presents such notion in their games and their own image (the Nintendo friendly logo is VERY different from the "tech" and clean logo of Sonny) .
    All their products don't have to BE the same, or taste the same or even look alike, they just have to FEEL the same – like cherries. You know there are many kinds and they taste different but you know that it's a cherry just by the taste, because it tastes like cherry.

    The same is true when applied to a brand (The Legend of Zelda is a brand) . They CAN make the game with different characters and different items and different villains, etc – just maybe not everything at the same time because it still has to feel like LoZ.
    And of course, there are the fans to worry about.

    All in all, I think it IS quite possible to make a Zelda game that would feel like a LoZ game, without both Link and Zelda. It would need extreme care and very strong ties to the other games, but it is possible and would be enjoyable if made.

    • Disciple of Midna

      "And of course, there are the fans to worry about."

      Due to that factor, the devsters would have to use much caution…

      • Nelo

        Exactly my point.
        You see, at a certain stage the involvement of the target audience, which is no longer JUST the target audience but fans, becomes part of the thing that makes Legend of Zelda, well, Legend of Zelda. Without the rumors and whatnot that the community comes up with to feed it's own interest in the game, the game experience IS different – at least for those involved enough, which are the fanatics.
        All that becomes part of the "feel" of the game and because such people are usually adverse to drastic change, there must be used much caution – just like you said.

  • Vatoloco91

    OMFG dude, I LOVED temple of the winds!
    try and finish the books man. you havent read faith of the fallen. and that might be my favorite. They're good man, just give it a go… whats a good story without troubles?
    they're a giant arc with individual plots in each book. you don't expect the entire series problems to go away in the middle of the series do you?

  • Kelz

    The Sword of truth series isn't getting a new book in the series, at least in my opinion. Confessor was the last book, the next one is just a Richard and Kahlan novel. By the way, you should really pick up and start reading the series, Temple of the Winds was fairly lackluster to me as well, but it just gets too good after that.

  • the_voice

    "But could the “Zelda series” (or whatever we’d have to name the series as a result) even survive not having Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, Hyrule, and the Triforce?"

    **COUGH**LINK'S AWAKENING**COUGH**

  • Dark Wolf

    okay, the best part about all of the LoZ games is that they can make a good story while bringing back characters and stuff. LoZ just wouldn't be the same without Link, Ganondorf, and Zelda. Plus it's not just the cahracters that they recycle, i mean how many different versions of hyrule are their? i'm not saying that Nintendo shouldn't add anything new to the series. I mean in TP Midna was a nice breath of fresh air from the infinite versions of Navi that exist. Also the majority of the series that excluded Ganondorf or Zelda were the off console ones. Just to me one of the best parts of LoZ is the climactic final battle with Ganondorf in every game. I mean i guess it is possible for an non Triforce/Link/Zelda/Ganondorf game but it just wouldn't be the same. for example in MM I had a great time getting all the masks and doing all of the stuff but to me it just had that spark missing that other LoZ games have captured. Also i think that Nintendo has lost the chance to get rid of Link. If they would have made only maybe three games with the recurring characters they could have switched, but now with the 16th coming out they are doomed to re-write Link's story over and over again till they are totally out of ideas. I mean you can't really end a sixteen run series with one climactic game, it would never meet up to expectations and even if it did fans would want another game made that way.

    And Also people stop posting things about Sword of Truth, this is a discussion about whether or not LoZ games should kepp old characters, not a discussion on how book eight was better than eleven or something. If you want to say something about sword of truth give your opinion on the article, then tell people they should read it.

    I will agree with you on one thing though, i think that LoZ does need some sort of renovation, i;m not saying change the characters or the setting but there needs to be something new besides new items. I mean TP was a really good game but i felt after beating it that there was something missing, that something that made OoT so good. I mean how many times can you reflect Ganondorf's energy balls with your sword. Something needs to change, something needs to push forward. The way that OoT pushed forward from the 2-D games and made something completely new. Something that completely changes the way that people play LoZ.

  • Dark Wolf

    Oh, and by the way i totally agree with you on tetra, she totally got forced in being Zelda, very against her will.

  • #1 Zelda Game Lover

    Everyone!
    There are bad people in the world.
    Even in Hyrule and is it is Link's job and his descendants jobs to save Hyrule. It is in their blood. Just blame Ganondorf he is the one that makes all of this happen.

  • David

    They could have it like three thousand years after the last game on the child timeline where Hyrule isn't Hyrule and nor is it governed by Zelda's family… it's a completely new world where their are some odd myths floating around referencing the past but thats it.

  • Hime

    Nice article. Its easy to see you thought about this a lot when writing and I agree with you but…

    "But could the “Zelda series” (or whatever we’d have to name the series as a result) even survive not having Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, Hyrule, and the Triforce?"

    To this, I have just one word.

    Okami.

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  • Andrzejewski

    Ganondorf suffered a lot more. He had to watch his people get rejected and be given the worst section of the country, he got locked away for a few thousand year, and had to see his home destroyed because of seven years he could never take back.

  • Dokta Troll

    Ilia, not Llia.