|The Legend of Zelda character|
Zelda, as seen in Twilight Princess
|First game||The Legend of Zelda (1986)|
|Created by||Shigeru Miyamoto|
|Voiced by (English)||
|Voiced by (Japanese)||
Princess Zelda (Japanese: ゼルダ姫 Hepburn: Zeruda-Hime?) is a fictional character in Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda video game series, introduced in its original entry in 1986. The name has applied to many female members of Hyrule's royal family, which includes several distinct characters in Hyrule legend.
Though she is the eponymous character, her story role is often that of donor or damsel in distress. The player instead controls Link, the series' central protagonist, and usually focuses on defeating Ganon (or Ganondorf), the series' main antagonist. Many Zelda games adopt the classic princess-and-dragon premise of chivalric literature: Zelda is usually kidnapped or imprisoned by Ganon, prompting Link to come to her rescue. Some games in the series have emphasized Zelda's magical abilities and importance to the functioning of Hyrule, demonstrating that she is more than capable of taking care of herself. In several games, she is one of the Sages, whose work is essential to defeating Ganon; in others, she adopts alternative personae in order to take a more active role in her kingdom; and in some, she is a self-sacrificing princess regnant. Zelda's alter egos include the ninja Sheik in Ocarina of Time and the pirate Tetra in The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass.
Concept and design
According to Shigeru Miyamoto, co-creator of the The Legend of Zelda series, Princess Zelda's name was inspired by that of Zelda Fitzgerald, an American novelist, dancer, and socialite, as well as the wife of fellow novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. Miyamoto explains, "[Fitzgerald] was a famous and beautiful woman from all accounts, and I liked the sound of her name. So I took the liberty of using her name for the very first Zelda title." Ben Reeves of Game Informer elaborated that the "name Zelda (alternately Selda or Segula) might not be used much anymore, but this old Yiddish name means 'blessed, happy, or lucky.'"
As with Link, there are multiple incarnations of Princess Zelda in the series, who vary in age, appearance, and disposition. Zelda generally has blonde or brown hair and blue-gray eyes; she is often depicted wearing a royal gown and jewelry. She is associated with the goddesses Hylia and Nayru, as well as with the Triforce of Wisdom. Most iterations of Zelda also have psionic powers, such as teleportation (also known as "Farore's Wind" in the Super Smash Bros. series), telepathy, and precognition; for example, she can cast spells and create or undo barriers and seals. Her alter egos also have their own abilities.
During the development of Twilight Princess, illustrator Yusuke Nakano tried to portray Zelda "as if she's wondering about something". He drew illustrations of Zelda with feelings of "hopelessness and anxiousness" and tried to avoid associating her and Link with "gloom and doom".
In Spirit Tracks, Zelda actively adventures alongside Link in spirit form, in sharp contrast to the damsel-in-distress role she fulfills in some earlier installments in the series. Eiji Aonuma, the series' longtime manager and producer, explained that Zelda's stronger character in this game reflected the desires of fans and developers alike: A survey conducted in the United States signified consumers preferred more independent female characters, including Zelda's alter egos Sheik (from Ocarina of Time) and Tetra (from The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass). Daiki Iwamoto, the director of Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, also expressed an interest in making Zelda "a more integral part of the game" when development of the latter title began.
In video games
The Legend of Zelda
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Princess Zelda appears in most of the The Legend of Zelda games, often as a central focus or as a supporting donor of Link's quests. To date[update], she has appeared directly in every game except Link's Awakening (1993), in which a look-alike named Marin appears; Majora's Mask (2000), in which she only appears in a flashback; and Tri Force Heroes (2015), in which a doppelgänger named Styla appears.
In her first appearance in the original The Legend of Zelda (1986), she is kidnapped by Ganon, the series' main antagonist, after she divides the Triforce of Wisdom and hides its pieces across the land (as explained in the game manual). She is eventually rescued by Link, and the two of them reunite their respective pieces of the Triforce.
Another incarnation appears in the sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987). This Zelda has been put into an eternal slumber until Link breaks the curse. According to the in-game legend, the elder Zelda has been under a curse so long that it is in her honour that the Hylian royal family maintains a tradition of naming all its princesses after her. This is the first game showing a relationship between the two, as they can be seen kissing at the end of the game.
Princess Zelda of A Link to the Past (1991) is one of seven maidens descended from the seven sages during the Imprisoning War. She is kidnapped and about to be sent to the Dark World, as the other maidens have been. On the night of her capture, she appears to Link telepathically, imploring him to help her. Though rescued by Link, she is eventually sent to the Dark World. She and the six other maidens, after being rescued, assist Link in breaking the seal on Ganon's tower so that the hero may confront the villain.
In the Ocarina of Time (1998), Zelda first appears as a child. Suspicious of the Gerudo King Ganondorf, she charges Link with the task of collecting the three spiritual stones in order to break the seal on the door to the Sacred Realm, so as to obtain the Master Sword and use it against Ganondorf, as well as to obtain the triforce before he does. Just before Link pulls the Master Sword from its pedestal, Ganondorf reveals his wicked intentions and Zelda must flee Hyrule Castle with her guardian Impa before he can capture either of them. Still in hiding seven years later, she poses as a young Sheikah named Sheik. In this disguise she offers Link advice and assistance throughout the remainder of his quest, until she finally reveals her true identity as Princess Zelda. Thus exposed, she is finally captured by Ganondorf. After Link rescues her Zelda works with him to escape the collapsing Castle, guiding him and using her powers to open sealed gates. When Link defeats the resurrected Ganon, she and the other six sages are able to seal Ganon away in the Sacred Realm. After this she sends Link back to his own time, seven years earlier. After the credits, we see young Link again approaching the princess in the Hyrule Castle courtyard. This child version of this incarnation appears briefly in Majora's Mask, although this is only a cameo appearance in a flashback as Link is remembering an earlier meeting between the two of them.
In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages (2001) the Princess, sensing danger in the lands of Holodrum and Labrynna, sends her handmaiden Impa to protect Din, the Oracle of Seasons, and Nayru, the Oracle of Ages. In the full linked game, Zelda eventually comes to personally encourage the people of Holodrum or Labrynna (depending on what order the games are played) and to help defend against her growing sense of foreboding. She is quickly captured, and Link must rescue her. She thereafter spends time in and around Horon Village (Holodrum) or Lynna City (Labrynna) with Impa, until she is again captured, this time by Twinrova. They take the princess to a hidden realm, and it is revealed that they plan to sacrifice her in order to ignite the Flame of Despair and resurrect Ganon once again. Though they are partially successful, Link interrupts them before they can drain all of Zelda's life force, and so she lives. Link defeats both Twinrova and the incompletely resurrected Ganon, and peace is restored to the land. During the ending credits, Zelda is shown stargazing from a castle balcony, indicating that she returns to Hyrule after the events of the two games.
In Four Swords (2002), Princess Zelda takes Link to the Four Sword Sanctuary, which seals the evil sorcerer Vaati. Sensing that the seal's power is diminishing, she tries to inspect it, but is captured by Vaati himself, who had already escaped and takes her to his Palace of Winds to marry her. She is again rescued by Link with the power of the Four Sword.
The Zelda character in The Wind Waker (2002) is unaware of her royal identity, instead living as the pirate captain named Tetra. She first appears in the clutches of a giant bird called the Helmaroc King, though she struggles and is dropped at the top of Link's home island of Outset. She then agrees to take Link with her crew in order to help him rescue his younger sister Aryll, whom the Helmaroc King has subsequently captured. She later crosses paths with Link again while her crew is stealing bombs from Windfall Island, turning a blind eye to his spying on her and consenting for her crew to spend the night relaxing on Windfall, thus allowing Link to beat them to Jabun's Grotto. She also tries to help Link confront Ganon at the forbidden fortress, but they are unsuccessful. At this point, Ganon discovers Tetra's true identity as the Princess Zelda, but is attacked by the dragon Valoo and two Rito warriors before he is able to capture her. Her true identity disclosed, it is determined safest for Zelda to stay in the ancient Hyrule Castle. She is protected there for a time, but Ganon eventually invades and takes her to his Tower, also in Ancient Hyrule. She then assists Link in his final battle against Ganon, using his bow to fire arrows of light. After Ganon's defeat, Tetra and Link set out with her crew to seek new lands. This incarnation is unique in that she continues to live by and identify with her non-royal persona rather than as Princess Zelda.
In Four Swords Adventures (2004), Zelda is once more kidnapped by Vaati. After Link rescues her, it is revealed that Ganon is behind the capture and breaking Vaati's seal. She and the four Links defeat Ganon and escape from Vaati's tower, and she later reunites the four of them.
In The Minish Cap (2004), Zelda is turned to stone by Vaati until Link reverses the spell.
Twilight Princess (2006) marks the first time the Princess Zelda is depicted as the reigning head of state, though she retains the title of princess. (Previously she had been the apparent daughter or heir to the reigning monarch, or at times her precise relation to the throne was unspecified.) Her throne has been surrendered, however, to the usurper Twilight King Zant at the opening of the game, in order to save her people from war with Zant's superior forces. She is imprisoned in a tower in Hyrule Castle, and is uniquely unaffected by the Twilight Realm's magic. It is here that she meets Link, transformed into a wolf by the Twilight Realm's power, and his companion Midna. She later gives up her power in order to heal the dying legitimate Twilight Princess, temporarily losing her physical form in the process. Towards the end of the game, she is possessed by Ganondorf and in turn purged by Midna. As Ganondorf charges Link and Zelda, the princess summons the Light Spirits of Hyrule, who grant her the Light Arrows to assist Link in part of his final battle, making this her third participation in a final battle.
During the events of Phantom Hourglass (2007), Tetra is turned to stone and kidnapped by a Ghost Ship during their search, and is again restored by Link's efforts.
Another incarnation appears in Spirit Tracks (2009), which is a sequel taking place one hundred years after Phantom Hourglass and thus this Zelda is the granddaughter of Tetra. She decides to accompany Link, a railroad engineer, to investigate the disappearance of the railroad tracks called "Spirit Tracks" that serve as chains locking up an evil force. She is attacked by Chancellor Cole, who hopes to utilize this evil, and her spirit is separated from her body, with Link being the only one who can see her. In her spirit form she is able to possess Phantom Knights in order to help Link restore the Spirit Tracks, though Link must also help clear her path by eliminating mice (which she fears). Not counting the CD-i games, this ability marks the first time in the main The Legend of Zelda series that Zelda can be controlled. In her Spirit Tracks incarnation, she makes a reference to all the times her past incarnations have been a damsel in distress, saying that it was like a family tradition. This game is the second to show any kind of romantic relationship between her and Link, with them holding hands after the defeat of the final boss.
Though not a princess in the game Skyward Sword (2011), the first Zelda is the reincarnation of the goddess Hylia and the direct ancestor of the Hylian Royal Family. Zelda is a close childhood friend to Link who grew up with him in Skyloft, having feelings for him. Spirited away in a tornado conjured by the demon lord Ghirahim, Zelda meets the Sheikah Impa who serves as her protector while having her under the means of purifying herself to achieve her destiny. Revealed to be an incarnation of the deity known as Hylia, she is captured by Ghirahim as her life force can undo the seal on Demise. Luckily, Link saves Zelda's life as Demise is defeated. Soon after returning to Skyloft, Zelda admits to Link that she wishes to live on the surface and Link presumably stays with her.
In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013), Zelda entrusts the Pendant of Courage to Link when the sorcerer Yuga begins capturing descendants of the Seven Sages. After obtaining the remaining two pendants and drawing the Master Sword, Link pursues Yuga but is made to watch when he turns Zelda into a painting and casts her into the dying world of Lorule. Pursuing them to Lorule, Link is nearly destroyed by Yuga when he uses the Sages to revive Ganon and steal his Triforce of Power, but he is saved when Zelda's Lorule counterpart Princess Hilda binds Yuga. On Hilda's suggestion, Link rescues the Sages and is given the Triforce of Courage, then returns to Hilda only to see her taking Zelda's Triforce of Wisdom. She reveals that everything that had happened in Hyrule was intentionally designed to gather the Triforce so that Hilda can steal it and use its magic to restore Lorule (as their own Triforce was shattered long ago by Hilda's ancestors). Hilda orders Yuga to take Link's Triforce of Courage, but Yuga betrays Hilda and turns her into a painting alongside Zelda. After Yuga's death, Zelda and Hilda are returned to normal, but Hilda refuses to accept defeat until Link's own Lorule counterpart Ravio (who had been helping Link through his quest) convinces her that she has no right to rob Hyrule of its Triforce. Taking pity on Hilda, Zelda and Link use their Triforce to restore Lorule's own, allowing Hilda's kingdom to flourish once again.
Zelda is featured in three games made by a third party for the CD-i games based on The Legend of Zelda series. In Link: The Faces of Evil (1993), she is kidnapped by Ganon again and has to be rescued. In Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon (1993) and Zelda's Adventure (1994), Princess Zelda is the protagonist (both games involve Link's kidnapping). Although the games are noteworthy as the first time Zelda has been a playable character, the series is generally immensely criticized by fans and not recognized by Nintendo as canon.
Zelda is a playable character in Hyrule Warriors (2014). Her weapons include a rapier and the light arrows which have appeared in several previous The Legend of Zelda games, as well as the Wind Waker, the titular conductor's baton from the series' entry. The Dominion Rod from Twilight Princess is also available as downloadable content for the WiiU game and in Hyrule Warriors Legends for the Nintendo 3DS.
Super Smash Bros.
The adult form of Zelda from Ocarina of Time also appears as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001). She was first shown in the guise of Sheik, but it was later revealed that Sheik was one of two forms. These forms each have their own unique moves and can switch between them at will, effectively doubling her repertoire. In the game, both Zelda and Sheik are voiced by Jun Mizusawa. Zelda also appears in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008). Like Link, her character design is more subdued than in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and is based on her appearance in Twilight Princess. In an interview, Eiji Aonuma said that character models for Sheik, along with Ganondorf, were submitted for possible use in Brawl and Sheik was confirmed as a returning character in Brawl, again as Zelda's alternate form. An alternate color of Zelda with an appearance similar to that of Super Smash Bros. Melee is also available. Both of these characters have the same Final Smash, which is the light arrow from Twilight Princess, although there are a few differences depending on which character uses it. Zelda's arrow causes the foe to go diagonally up and Sheik's arrow causes the foe to go to the right or left side, depending of the foe's position. The Twilight Princess incarnation of Zelda and Sheik return in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (2014), this time as separate characters with no ability to switch between them in mid-battle.
In other media
A set of The Legend of Zelda cartoons aired on Fridays from 1989 to 1990 as a part of DiC's The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. The series loosely followed the original NES Zelda, mixing settings and characters from that game with original creations. Zelda is depicted as a woman warrior with a fiery temper who wears more comfortable and practical garb than the Zelda from the game. In addition to running the kingdom part-time for her father, King Harkinian, she often accompanies Link on his adventures and is quite skilled with a bow. The series exemplifies a romantic relationship between the two protagonists. Link is always begging Zelda for a kiss; however, even when she agrees to indulge him, it never occurs. They are interrupted by monsters, or Spryte (a fairy princess with a crush on Link), or any number of unfortunate circumstances such as something making Zelda so mad she no longer wants to kiss Link. It is directly revealed by Ganon that Zelda was indeed in love with Link in one episode, and there is no doubt of their romantic relationship in this series. Thirteen of these cartoon episodes were produced before the cancellation of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. Zelda was voiced by Cyndy Preston in the TV series. In the show, she was wearing a purple sweater, a light blue shirt, pink leggings, and brown thigh-length boots.
A slightly altered version of this cartoon Zelda (with messier hair and a slightly more revealing version of the same clothing) appeared in assorted episodes in the second season of Captain N: The Game Master. In this crossover, Zelda and Link befriend Kevin Keene and Princess Lana as they all attempt to restore peace to Hyrule. These appearances function as a follow-up to the original Zelda cartoon, although only containing elements from the second Zelda game, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
Featuring characters and settings from the TV series, this comic by Valiant Comics ran for five issues. Although Zelda's feelings for Link are made quite clear, there is another element at play here: her duty to the Triforce, which must come before her own needs and desires. When Link is corrupted by the Triforce of Power in one story, this Zelda briefly possesses his Triforce of Courage, which will not reside with one who uses Power without Wisdom. This comic reflected characters and elements from both the original The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
Created as a serial comic for Nintendo Power magazine by acclaimed manga author Shotaro Ishinomori, and later collected in graphic novel form, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past tells an alternate version of the events from A Link to the Past. Zelda calls to Link and he must rescue her, first from Agahnim, and then from imprisonment at Turtle Rock in the Dark World. She is also instrumental in storming Ganon's floating castle and destroying him. Link and Zelda definitely develop a strong connection, but the relationship is ultimately portrayed as tragic. At the end of the story, Zelda has become queen, and Link is head of the Royal Guard and the Knights of Hyrule. This success is bittersweet, as their duties keep them apart, even though they were once so close, sharing an adventure and even coming together in dreams.
Stories from several Zelda games have also been converted to manga format in Japan; these publications greatly expand parts of each game's back-story.
In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Zelda disguises herself as a surviving member of the Sheikah clan under the name of Sheik (シーク Shīku?). With voice muffled and face concealed, as well as wearing a form-fitting blue unitard with the red Sheikah eye in the center, Sheik is unrecognizable as Zelda. Sheik plays the lyre and teaches Link new songs to help him on his quest. When Link arrives at the Temple of Time near the end of the game, she uses the Triforce of Wisdom and reverts to Zelda. It is claimed by the character's trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee (its North American translation) that Zelda uses her magical skills to change her skin tone, hair length, eye color, and clothing. In the non-canon licensed manga for Ocarina of Time, Zelda instead requests that Impa seal her consciousness away, so that she may become Sheik. Sheik also returned in Hyrule Warriors, using a harp and shortsword in her attacks.
Sheik appears in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, in which Zelda can change into Sheik as one of her abilities. Sheik's design in Brawl is based on a model created for consideration in Twilight Princess. Sheik returns in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U as a separate character from Zelda. Sheik also appears in Hyrule Warriors as a playable character, and plays an important role in the main story campaign.
Tetra (テトラ Tetora?) is a young female pirate who, in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, causes Link to start his journey. Her mother died when she was young, so she became the leader of the group of pirates. Initially, she does not like Link, unimpressed by his sadness owing to the kidnapping of his sister. Later, however, she comes to respect Link, periodically helping him. Prior to finding out that Tetra's real name is Zelda and that she is the last heiress in the Hylian Royal Family bloodline, Tetra was unaware of her lineage and only knew the stories of the legend of the Hero of Time and the Master Sword. She wore a large piece of the Triforce of Wisdom around her neck as a necklace which when reunited with the piece held by her ancestor, the King of Hyrule, causes her to assume the form of the fair-skinned, blonde Princess Zelda. She eventually helps Link defeat Ganondorf prior to the Triforce's magic returning Tetra to her usual form as she and Link travel to find new land to begin Hyrule anew. However, during their journey, Tetra is taken by the Ghost Ship and turned to stone by Bellum before Link restores her to normal.
As revealed in Spirit Tracks, Tetra founded the land on which Hyrule was established; her descendant, the game's incarnation of Zelda, is the kingdom's ruler a century later. Tetra also appears in "Navi Trackers", a part of the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, and appears as a playable character in Hyrule Warriors Legends, the 3DS port of Hyrule Warriors.
Reception and legacy
The character was very well received by media and gamers alike. In 2009, she was voted the third greatest female character in the games on Nintendo systems by the Official Nintendo Magazine, which appreciated her as "a strong woman who, with her sword and bow and arrow, is capable of holding her own in a fight," and Chip ranked Princess Zelda as the third top "girl of gaming" in general. The relationship between Zelda and Link topped ScrewAttack's 2012 list of top love affairs in gaming. Complex placed Zelda and Sheik at the fourth and third places on their 2012 list of video game characters that deserve a spin-off, and in 2013 ranked her as the fifth greatest heroine in video game history. Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich listed her as one of 15 "kick-ass women" in video games in 2013, praising on how her portrayal developed from the mere princess who "got kidnapped, over and over again" in early games to "a wise-beyond-her-years youth into a major player in the battle for Hyrule" in Ocarina of Time.
GameDaily listed her as one of the 50 "hottest video game women" in 2009, stating that while she did not start out as much, she became beautiful in later games. In 2010, Wesley Yin-Poole of VideoGamer.com included her on his list of top ten "video game crushes", stating: "We love Peach and Kitana, but if we were stranded on a desert island and could only keep one video game princess for company, it would be Princess Zelda from the Legend of Zelda series - we've had the hots for Zelda's pointy ears for years, ever since her 8-bit days, in fact." That same year, GameTrailers included her on their countdown of the top 10 "babes who are out of your league" at number four.
Game Informer listed Sheik second on their 2011 list of the top ten disguises. Complex placed Zelda and Sheik on the fourth and third spot on their 2012 list of video game characters that deserve a spin-off, and ranked Zelda at number five on the 2013 list of "old school" video game characters "who were style icons". In 2014, Julia Cook of Paste ranked Princess Zelda from Four Swords as the third "best dressed lady" in video games. The character is popular in cosplay community and TF1 ranked her as 13th on their 2010 list of the sexiest video game characters to cosplay.
The book Female Action Heroes described Zelda as "perhaps one the most well-known princesses in video game history", though acknowledged that her role in the games was to serve as a "damsel in distress". The book Players Unleashed! also criticized Zelda's role as a character to be constantly rescued, calling her an "iconically passive female trophy" that supported stereotypes of female characters within games. The actor and comedian Robin Williams named his daughter Zelda Williams after Princess Zelda, due to being a fan of the The Legend of Zelda series.
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