The Master Sword: a blade, an ally, and a friend
by on August 15, 2018

Throughout the worlds of fiction and fantasy, there exist a near endless trove of unique and magical weapons and items. They give a sense of individuality to the characters wielding them, and, when used effectively, they provide us with a wide variety of dramatic events and special moments. Yet despite the plethora of weapons in existence, time and time again these stories resort to basic variations of a simple tool: the sword. While any weapon can provide the excitement that a story requires, there is something dramatic, powerful, and yet intimate about a warrior wielding nothing but a single blade in the defense of others.

For some reason, that image, played out so many times and in so many ways, never seems to get old. We almost crave those dramatic encounters and love to find significance and meaning to those clashes. It’s given rise to some of the most iconic moments in storytelling, and that passion has yielded some of the most famous blades. Few greater than the one belonging to the land of Hyrule.

Beginnings in the fog

A Link to the Past begins with a dramatic rescue of Princess Zelda from under the nose of the evil wizard Agahnim. After making it to the safety of the sanctuary, the princess lays out your mission: a quest to defeat the wizard by obtaining a sacred sword.

“I sense that a mighty force guides the wizard’s actions and augments his magical power. The only weapon potent enough to defeat the wizard is the legendary master sword.”

Stories from the village elder and his wife reveal the sword’s ancient origins and magical abilities: “a sword forged against those with evil hearts.” It’s fascinating reading and does a lot to expand Hyrule’s lore, but, strangely enough, it’s not very moving. Unlike the golden power of the Triforce, whose importance is shown in a dramatic prologue at the beginning of the game, the Master Sword’s introduction has absolutely zero fanfare. With no cutscenes or even a change in music, it’s up to the player to draw significance from the text, and whatever was gained quickly fades to the background amidst the excitement of gathering the Pendants of Virtue.

But that all changes once you enter the Lost Woods. A mysterious fog covers the forest while an ethereal melody fills the air. Many swords lay ready for a traveling adventurer to obtain, but when the true Sword of Evil’s Bane is found, there is no doubt that you have found a great treasure; this is all the more cemented when you draw forth the legendary blade.

A divine heritage

With the arrival of Ocarina of Time, the Master Sword is given a much more “holy” treatment, enshrined in the Temple of Time and surrounded by somber, choral music. With no mention of the sword before its reveal, the blade’s presence is both a surprise and a reward; a true indication that you have seemingly reached the fulfillment of your quest. Although your hopes of obtaining the Triforce are quickly dashed by Ganondorf’s arrival, the Master Sword stays with you, and your bond with it only grows.

As Rauru explains both the crisis and hand and your destined role in subverting it, he tells you directly that not only does the Master Sword have the divine power to slay evil, but that only a chosen individual can even draw it from its pedestal. The requirements and legacy of the chosen bloodline are clarified in later games, but here, none of those details matter. All that does matter, is that the sword is meant for you, and you alone, as the foretold Hero of Time.

That divine designation makes you more than just a hero, and it makes the Master Sword more than just a blade. Even though your sword has always been your primary weapon, the Master Sword’s lore and abilities elevate it to a whole new level. It’s the sword, not the Ocarina of Time, that allows you to travel through time. And although the Biggoron Sword may have more attack strength, the Blade of Evil’s Bane is in a class all its own, the one that lands the final blow against the demon king Ganon, as it glows with a heavenly light.

By this point, our love of the Master Sword was cemented in our hearts. No matter what the obstacle, we knew we could count on that sword to cut through the darkness. It was the physical link the tied us to Hyrule and gave us both an identity and a purpose there. Nothing, it seemed, could break that bond.

Forging a bond

So, when we took to the high seas in The Wind Waker, the discovery of the sealed Hyrule was both a shock and a great relief. A relief that soon turned to joy as we again reclaimed the sword we knew so well. As we pulled the Master Sword from its pedestal, the returning color to Hyrule seemed a clear indication of both our purpose in restoring the land and the great power contained within the Master Sword. As we annihilated the battalion of enemies housed in Hyrule Castle and made the seemingly impenetrable stronghold of the Forsaken Fortress look like an empty husk, it seemed as if nothing could possibly stand against us.

Which is what makes the hopeless struggle against Ganondorf at the top of the fortress feel like such an utter defeat. Of course, Ganondorf would recognize such a potential threat and work tirelessly to prevent it from foiling his plans, but, up to this point, the Master Sword seemed like the one thing he couldn’t touch. To shatter that illusion was to shatter our unique position in Hyrule and easily break the spirit of any unworthy adventurer.

We, however, would not be counted “unworthy,” and so we set out to restore the Master Sword to its former glory. In fact, instead of breaking our trust in the blade, our efforts across the temples of Earth and Wind only helped to increase our bond with the sword. Although we have great adventures along the way and learn of Medli and Makar’s sacred heritage, all of our efforts are focused on the Master Sword. And with each completed dungeon, we are rewarded with its power and glow restored.

From tool to friend

It’s a common and arguably the most effective method of building relationships: The more time you spend with something, the closer you get to it. The more your efforts are focused on that person or thing, the greater that bond becomes. With our attention set on the Master Sword and bringing it back to prominence, we only magnify our ties to it. Now, it’s not just a legendary sword, but it’s a legendary sword we had a direct hand in keeping alive and vibrant.

The more time that we spend with the master sword, the more important it becomes to us.

As the games moved onto more advanced systems, the hero’s ability to wield the sword grew. Twilight Princess, while not directly emphasizing weapons, holds swordplay in higher esteem than its predecessors. The controls are more technical, and the techniques taught to you by the Hero’s Shade (not to mention the flourishes Link uses nearly every time he sheaths his sword) give you both power and flair heretofore unseen.

Your date with the Master Sword, however, is not due to your skill with a blade, but from your inability to help yourself. Need drives you to the sword, as you look for a way to break Zant’s curse upon you. Once you reach the deepest parts of Faron Woods, it becomes quite apparent what will break the curse. And honestly, it’s no surprise. As dramatic and important as drawing the Master Sword is, the overall feeling you have is one of peace and comfort. Obtaining the Master Sword at this point is not so much obtaining an item as it is reuniting with an old friend. Despite not being in half of the Zelda titles, the Master Sword had become inseparable with our adventures in Hyrule.

Destiny fulfilled

In the latest iteration of The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild brings a new name to the Master Sword: the sword that seals the darkness. It’s a title that gives the sword a slightly new feeling. But it is well deserved, for it is what the sword has done since the very beginning.  While the opinions of both you and Zelda are as diverse as the characters in this story, there is a uniform respect for the sword that you wield. Hyrule is full of weapons that quite literally come and go, but only one remains true, even if its light leaves for a time.

Once again, you are led to the sword in the Lost Woods, and again it feels as if you are reuniting with an old comrade — and this time, you are. A century-long slumber may have erased your memories, but the Sword of Evil’s Bane knows its master and is happy to return to you once again. As an added bonus, you’re able to strengthen your bond and power with your sword as you undertake the Trial of the Sword.

“Legends say that an ancient voice resonates inside it. Can you hear it yet…hero?”

That added strength and bond is vital, for the quest that you have undertaken is no small feat — one that forces you to question your skill, and your destiny. As Link, you have again been chosen to wield the sword and inherit all of the expectations that come with it, a fact that Zelda brings up both as a reflection of her own doubts and a serious question to your own fate. In asking that question, Zelda refers to an ancient voice that is said to resonate inside the sword. Throughout your recovered memories, the blade stays silent. That is until — in the most surprising and unlikely of circumstances — it’s Zelda, not Link, who hears the echoing tones from an age long past.

The spirit of the sword

Millennia ago, on an island floating in the heavens, there lay enshrined a sword that was to be both a weapon and a guide for the one chosen to shine light upon the lands cared for by the Goddess Hylia. The weapon was the sword’s solid craftsmanship and sharp edges. The guide was the sword’s spirit: an entity that possessed a vast, encyclopedic knowledge and innate senses yet knew nothing about the mortal spirit. Commissioned as a tool by the goddess, the sword waited patiently to fulfill its duty.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was designed with swordplay at the forefront. Whatever one may say about the ease of the controls, the Wii Remote’s ability to mimic sword movement allowed for a story that centered on the blade we had come to know and love. From battling every opponent to solving various puzzles and simply finding your way from one point to another, your dependence — and, consequently, your focus — is constantly on the Goddess Sword. And, if you’re needing any additional reminders, the spirit of the sword is always ready to appear and give specific directions, whether you want them or not.

Those repeated interruptions are probably what most annoys people about Fi. The spirit plays her role as guide literally and constantly, providing descriptions, instructions, and even percentages at the smallest hint of an opportunity. From the very beginning, her personality is analytical to the point of being robotic. With almost no emotions to show, it’s no surprise that players have a hard time making any initial connections with Fi. A lack of friendship that descends into irritation the first time she reminds you to change your batteries.

The events of your quest inevitably lead to many interactions between Fi and yourself. But while it may be easy to separate the sword and its spirit, those who pay attention begin to see subtle changes in how Fi interacts with both you and the world around you. Alterations in how Fi describes a character, or even a slight pause after an encounter before resuming her usual role, point to this journey not just changing you, but her as well.

Though hard to see, fi’s personality makes definite shifts over your journey and reflects her growth along with yours.

That process comes to the forefront as your quest shifts from tracking Zelda to enhancing your blade. The time spent finding the sacred flames of the goddesses is time spent focusing specifically on your sword. Just like The Wind Waker, that focus builds your bond with the blade, this time forging a companionship meant to transcend lifetimes. And along the way, Fi is growing with you. Her voice echoes with your harp, her dances flow as gracefully as her blade, and, through it all, she is always there to see you through every trial. With the Master Sword fully formed and Zelda’s blessing upon it, it’s almost like the culmination of the friendship we had been building with this sword since the day we first saw it sleeping in the fog-filled forest so many years ago.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that, at the end of it all, when Fi, as the sword itself, wishes you a heartfelt farewell, it touches you as much as it does. After all, it’s the final time that your sword, your comrade, your… friend… will speak to you in words you can understand. And her final message to you is the same thing countless people before have said. And yet this time, it may mean more than all the previous iterations combined: “Thank you, Master Link. May we meet again in another life…”

So we did, and so we will again. For across the farthest reaches of time, the soul of the hero shall ever be intertwined with the spirit of the blade as the two form friendship destined to fight against the darkness and ultimately seal it away. While we may love the endless array of tools and weapons we’ve used over the years, we will always return to that singular sword that is both our greatest tool, and our dearest friend, that weapon against all foes and a master of divine light: the Master Sword.

Connor Schultz
Adventurer, Trainer, and lifelong resident of Hyrule. Taking a closer look at how the Legend of Zelda became what it is. You can check out the video adventures here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFtQU0c_o1xjGr4KfmZhARg