The characters of The Wind Waker are brimming with personality. Perhaps the most vibrant character in the game is Zelda herself. After all, in what other game did she give Link so many winks, or boss him around and even fight alongside him, for that matter? Indeed, we have a much better idea of her personality because we see her so much more. Since Zelda and Link interact so often, there is ample opportunity for Nintendo to hint at some kind of childhood romance . . .
The Clue of the Fairy Queen
Like no Zelda game before it, The Wind Waker emphasizes again and again that Link is but a child. The young Hero of Time was silent with a steely resolve, propelled by the desire for justice. Just about everything about the Hero of Winds, on the other hand, is childlike. We wouldn’t expect him to have a crush on Zelda, since most boys don’t think in such terms at that age. But a certain cinematic in the game with Zelda’s only potential “competitor” demonstrates that things are different for the Hero of Winds.
That “competitor” is the Queen of the Fairies. Some have joked that the scary Great Fairies of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask had a thing for Link, but now in The Wind Waker, the Queen of the Fairies actually takes a liking to Link. After the Fairy tells Link that he’s just her type, Link’s reaction conveys exactly what he thinks of the idea. He certainly likes it! Of course, the King immediately gives him a look as if to say, “In your dreams. Get a hold of yourself.” Clearly then, the “competitor” is not a plausible potential love interest, due to her extremely different nature. But the scene is nevertheless very important, because it reveals something about the personality of the Hero of Winds. For unlike the Hero of Time, who was rather clueless about such things, the Hero of Winds is quite aware of romance, and is actually keen on the idea.
The Little Hints
Unfortunately, most of the evidence specific to Zelda is ambiguous. It is true that when Tetra and Link go down under the sea, Link looks rather concerned for Tetra, but this could just as easily be a reflection of Link’s general concern for others. This could be said of most of his later animations in reaction to Zelda. Does he not act in essentially the same way towards his sister? On the other hand, at the very end, he is rather “buddy-buddy” with her, and it is possible to interpret that as something more than friendship, even if not explicitly. But keep in mind that nothing can be concluded from the scene at the end of the credits, in which an image of Link’s face is placed next to an image of Tetra winking.
One of the animations, however, may be clearer. After Tetra is revealed as Zelda and she apologizes, Link motions as if to say, “No biggie.” The nature of his facial animation, his laugh, and his ensuing brisk departure could be interpreted as giving a hint of the fact that he likes her. Yet even this is hardly a sure thing.
There are two main pieces of text that may help us. In the Bomb Shop, Tetra doesn’t seem to want her underlings to know that she’s concerned about Outset Island for reasons other than acquiring the treasure. It seems as if she doesn’t want them to know that she has a soft spot for Link, which she didn’t have at the beginning of the adventure, in keeping with her tough, sassy personality. This may imply some kind of love for Link.
After Tetra sells the bombs to Beedle, the shopkeeper teases Link, saying that he can see Link blushing at the mention of the pirate girl. Beedle seems to be a bit of a nut-case, so we ought to take what he says with a bit of a grain of salt, but the most likely explanation is that this is the game’s way of hinting at a bit of love between Link and Zelda, because it shows that it was on the minds of the designers.
Did Nintendo intend for the Hero of Winds to fall in love with Zelda? The evidence is certainly no where near as clear as the evidence for the connection between the Hero of Time and Malon, but there do seem to be some subtle hints in The Wind Waker that point to such a relationship between the hero and the princess. Some of what might otherwise be evidence is too difficult to interpret, but it is possible to make a decent case for a love connection based on some of the hints. At the very least, the episode with the Queen of the Fairies tells us that just because Link is a young boy doesn’t mean that he thinks Zelda has cooties. Rather, he seems to like the idea of love, making the other little hints all the more real. As Link and Zelda sail off into the horizon to find a new future and a new Hyrule, it isn’t a big stretch to say that they just might well have a future together. We can only await the release of the game that we temporarily know as Wind Waker II.