“Zelda’s Lullaby” has always been my favorite Zelda song. Not only is its melody sweet and memorable, but it connects each game in a unique way. From A Link to the Past onwards, the theme for Princess Zelda has evolved along with each incarnation of the character, reflecting the game it portrays and the individual it represents. This song has made its mark on The Legend of Zelda franchise, and I certainly think its history is worth some exploration.

Princess Zelda’s Study is a series where we examine the history of The Legend of Zelda to bring you some fascinating (or just plain weird) trivia. In our studies, we’ll explore each game’s development, curiosities within the rich lore of the franchise, and the impact it has had on our culture. From time to time, we’ll also look at Nintendo’s past to unearth some facts about our favorite company.

There are some spoilers ahead for many Zelda titles.

“Zelda’s Lullaby”, composed by Koji Kondo, made its debut in A Link to the Past in 1991. Players were introduced to this now-iconic tune both when Princess Zelda is introduced and once she is rescued near the end. Performed with synthesizers, this 8-bit melody included a small introduction as the princess enters each scenario. At this point in time, it was simply referred to as “Zelda’s Theme” or “Zelda’s Rescue”, and would not be known as “Zelda’s Lullaby” until its next release in Ocarina of Time. 

Ocarina of Time officially gave this piece a title as it was one of the many tunes Link had to learn on the title instrument. As well as a name, it is also given a story as to why the musical piece is so important. Impa, Zelda’s caretaker, states that it is a sacred song that has been passed down through the royal family for generations as well as serving as the princess’s lullaby (hence, “Zelda’s Lullaby”). As well as giving Link a connection to the royalty of Hyrule, the song also holds mysterious powers as it proves itself useful in various dungeons and areas. There are two official renditions of this song during the course of this game; the first being when Link first meets Zelda and the next being when the two are reunited seven years later.

The first version, referred to on the soundtrack as “Enter Zelda”, can also be heard in Majora’s Mask when Link has memories of the princess. Just like in the previous title, it can be played on the ocarina in certain areas to obtain smaller treasures, such as rupees.

The song returns again in The Wind Waker when Tetra is revealed to be Princess Zelda, so it’s only natural that her theme would play. During the reveal, the theme to A Link to the Past is also included in the song’s introduction. If you listen closely to the staff credits, “Zelda’s Lullaby” can be heard in the midst of the medley.

Four Swords Adventure and The Minish Cap both feature the melody when the princess is on screen, though slightly more in the latter game. The version played in the Minish Cap is reminiscent of how it is played in the end credits of Ocarina of Time. However, it wouldn’t be as prominent until the next game in the series.

When Twilight Princess was released, we once again were able to use this mysterious song to unlock new areas within the Sacred Grove, though this time with wolf howls. There are also more encounters with Zelda in this game than the previous titles, and with it more variations of “Zelda’s Lullaby”. When we are first introduced to the princess, a sad, minor rendition is played in the background lacking its melody for most of the song. When Link returns a second time with a weakened Midna, the song plays in full on the harp.

During the final battles with Ganondorf, the song comes back three different times! It plays in the background when Zelda awakens from her comatose state as well as when she asks Link for his courage in battle, and I believe these instances have the most beautiful renditions of this song. But I said three, didn’t I? Well, one actually comes before these cutscenes. In the heat of the battle with Puppet Zelda, if you’re able to listen in carefully, hints of a deranged “Zelda’s Lullaby” plays while the battle rages on.

Wind Waker’s sequel, Phantom Hourglass, also retains this melody, though Tetra does not transform during this title. However, when Tetra is taken by the Ghost Ship, an eerie rendition of the princess’s theme plays. It is also played once she returned to her normal state after being turned to stone, just as it would in the past games once Zelda is safe. 

Being as Zelda herself is your companion in Spirit Tracks, it only makes sense for this song to be heard at multiple points during the game. Starting off, the game has its own take on the melody, but once she is turned into a spirit, the song becomes more non-traditional. Using strings, bells, and synths, the song takes some unusual turns at this dark point in Zelda’s life.

The next reoccurrence comes in a very important game, though it only technically appears once throughout the title. Though we actually meet Zelda very early on and see her on multiple occasions during Skyward Sword, the piece finally plays when it is revealed that Zelda is a reincarnation of the goddess Hylia. Although with a little secret (that I’m sure we all know by now), we should have seen this coming. When played in reverse, the “Ballad of the Goddess” is actually a slightly altered version of “Zelda’s Lullaby”.

In A Link Between Worlds, “Zelda’s Lullaby” is played in its usual spot in the story, just as the princess appears, but it is also merged in with many of the score pieces when Zelda is involved with the story, such as when she is being turned into a painting by Yuga. If, however, that is not enough of “Zelda’s Lullaby” for you, it is one of the songs you can request at the Milk Bar in Kakariko Village.

While it doesn’t have a full, looping track in either Tri Force Heroes or Breath of the Wild, it still can be heard in both games. While waiting for your friends in the lobby of Tri Force Heroes, one of the songs on the bouncing ball is, of course, “Zelda’s Lullaby”. Then, in Breath of the Wild, while the song here is also featured in many of the cutscenes featuring Princess Zelda, when horseback riding during the day, you may be treated with a verse of our favorite lullaby — so long as there are no monsters in sight, of course.

Even though we’ve reached the end of the list of Zelda games to date, that doesn’t mean that this iconic tune has not made its way into other series as well! Starting from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, “Zelda’s Lullaby” has made its way into not one, but two different Zelda medleys featured in the Smash series. It has also made its way into the spinoff game, Hyrule Warriors, where it is included in many of the game’s medleys as well as the battle results screen.

It’s fascinating how one song has made it into almost as many games as the overworld theme itself! This melody has tied itself to the character and it would almost be a sin not to include it whenever she makes an appearance. Even when Zelda herself isn’t there, it has still snuck its way into games, yearning to be discovered by players who search for secrets. While we wait for news of the next Zelda game, I will eagerly be awaiting the next incarnation of this classic Zelda tune.