Let us consider the atrocious adventure of The Hero of Time.
Little is known about The Hero of Time. For one thing, presumably thanks to his lofty title, his true name has been lost to history. The hypothesis supported by many historians is that his name was “Link”, because that name saw a sudden uptick in usage in the Northern Goron tribes shortly after the fall of Ganondorf. But aside from this atom of information, there is basically nothing confirming the identity of The Hero of Time, as he had no family, and, evidently, no friends. That said, we will use the “Link” name for this article, as The Hero of Time title serves only to glorify what we have learned to be a very scared child.
As previously mentioned, Link had no family, and was abandoned to the Great Deku Tree and the Kokiri Forest as a baby. At the time, the Great Deku Tree was a wise, old tree who may have served the only parental role Link ever had in his life. More’s the pity if that is the case, though, as Link was forced to bear witness to the death of this potential parent, and, while he did everything he could to save the tree, was later blamed for that same tragedy.
Speaking of pity, Link’s childhood was, by all accounts, horrible. Link was raised among Kokiri, but was not a Kokiri, so he possessed no faerie unlike the true members of this child race. Children can be cruel, and the Kokiri were no exception, constantly taunting and chastising the “other” in their midst, Link. We still know little of Kokiri physiology, but many assume Kokiri are born children, so the mere fact that Link was capable of aging was likely offensive in their eyes. Link’s only friend was Saria, a well-liked and respected Kokiri girl who may be the only reason our hero didn’t wind up becoming yet another skull child stalking the Lost Woods. We owe additional thanks to the woman we now call Sage Saria, as it was apparently her love of music that was imparted to Link, and if the Hero of Time had no training on the ocarina, we’d all be speaking Gerudo right now (which would be difficult, as it is a language composed by a people with very nimble tongues).
Link eventually gained a new friend in the form of Navi, a fairy that followed Link for precisely the length of his adventure. Navi is a peculiar creature, capricious as fairies always are, but seemingly wholly focused on the mission assigned to her by the Deku Tree. Navi’s motivations are unclear throughout Link’s adventure: her dedication to him is unwavering while Ganondorf is afoot, but the moment that the danger is passed, she abandons Link with nary an explanation. Navi could likely provide the most insight into our hero’s state of mind and intentions, but, like the hero himself, her eventual fate is unknown. Given the near-mythical lifespans of fairies, it’s possible Navi is reading this even now, and, Navi, if you are, please find someone to tell your story. We’ll listen.
After leaving his home of Kokiri Forest (practically under the terms of banishment), Link ventured to the four corners of our kingdom. Despite having always been ostracized by the Kokiri, Link was “othered” as a mere Kokiri boy by the rest of the Hyrule population. A red-headed milk maid from Lon Lon Ranch was often heard calling “The Hero of Time” by the title “fairy boy”, which must have stung the poor youngster who spent almost the whole of his life being shunned for his lack of fairy. Through Kakariko Village and Hyrule Castle Town, Link met many acquaintances, but everyone only seemed to desire something from him (whether it be dog retrieval or father-hunting), but no one ever gave the boy who would one day save all of their lives kindness beyond general gratitude. An empty bottle may be a useful tool, but it is still empty. A quarter of a heart will never fill the whole.
Considering adults were likely as alien to young Link as titanic flying pineapples, it’s no surprise that Link gravitated toward Princess Zelda. Princess Zelda, wise beyond her years but still a child all the same, set Link further on the quest already assigned by the Deku Tree. While legends have been told of the relationships between many heroes and Princess Zeldas, it would seem all but impossible for those legends to start here, as Zelda simply used Link as a proxy errand boy on her own quest to defend her kingdom. Perhaps, in another more peaceful time, these two children may have been friends or grown to be lovers, but here Link seems to have been chosen as randomly as any other person, and likely only earned his position by being in close proximity to the princess in a single moment. One would suppose that Princess Zelda, pampered royalty from birth, would know no other route to peace than to command her subjects, but it would be Link who had to suffer the bite of the keese, or the heat of a fireball. Note also that the Spiritual Stones that Zelda commanded Link to collect were in the possession of two other prominent tribes. If these tribes truly believed in Zelda’s ideals and wished to stop Ganondorf, they needed only to pool their resources in a traditional, democratic manor. Instead, Zelda, ever the monarch, sent a lone agent to obtain these items by any means necessary.
Link continued his quest through to Death Mountain, where he encountered Darunia. An optimist might see this as a great moment in Link’s life, as he made an exuberant friend willing to call Link “brother”. On the other hand, Darunia was only cooperative after sending Link into an active volcano to commit genocide on behalf of the Goron race, so this is yet another “bought” friendship that exclusively benefits one party. Yes, Link received a priceless jewel for his troubles, but the only reason he was collecting such treasures was to appease his princess and save the whole of Hyrule, so Darunia’s choice benefitted himself and his tribe again, just in a less direct way.
At Zora’s Falls, Link encountered Princess Ruto of the Zora people. Ruto possessed an instant attraction to Link, which is odd, as, to date, Zora/Hylian relationships have only ever ended with one or both parties in a state that can best be described as “extra crispy”. Whatever the reason, Ruto’s attraction to Link was overt and clearly stated, which cannot have been easy for Link, a child raised in a society that did not even have the equipment (emotional or physical) to pursue romantic love. Coupled with a Zora’s unique physiology, Ruto’s continual advances were as threatening to Link as any given stalfos. In the end, Ruto presented Zora’s Sapphire as sign of engagement, which would be much more significant if Link could even understand a loving relationship.
When Link returned to Hyrule Castle bearing the Spiritual Stones, he found Zelda being spirited away to avoid Ganondorf. Link, now bereft of his mentor (rotting to nothing in the forest) and monarch (who would not be seen again for years) decided (in what was likely the first real choice he ever made in his life) to continue the mission, and retrieve the Master Sword. Link likely regretted this decision instantly.
Link slept through Ganondorf’s rise, and the rest of Hyrule suffered for it. I don’t need to elaborate on this bloody period in Hyrule’s history, when Ganondorf seized power and battled against the already ravaged Hyrulian Army (the civil war that had occurred a short decade before had either eliminated our bravest warriors, or encouraged the survivors to hastily retire). Hyrule Castle, and everyone inside it, was destroyed, and Hyrule Castle Town… well… no one would be delivering milk there for some time. When Ganondorf commanded the dead to walk the streets in a shambling mockery of the formerly peaceful city, it appeared all was lost, and, truly, it was. Ganondorf’s maliciousness touched all of Hyrule, even if his rule over places like Death Mountain or Zora’s Falls was less overt, and Kakariko Village became the last bastion of peace in a battered kingdom.
It was into this damaged world that Link reawoke, now with a more mature body, but not a brain to match. Perhaps it was a blessing that the boy-teen had not been forced to watch the repercussions of his actions play out through their gory conclusion, or maybe being forced to enter a world so foreign from his own was punishment for the sins committed by Link and Zelda. Link had collected the Spiritual Stones and claimed the Master Sword, but this action precluded any more qualified soldiers from performing the same ritual, and, when Hyrule needed a hero most, Link and, indeed, all hope was sealed away, perfectly safe while the world at large very much was not.
For his part, he may have been late, but Link did rise to the occasion. Link saved the Goron and Zora tribes and rescued the sages of each area. The sages coincidentally (or perhaps not) were Darunia and Ruto, whom Link had met as a child, and each was elevated to a position of power thanks to the accident of their respective births. To the sages, years of turmoil had passed, but to Link, it had been a handful of days since they last encountered each other. Link was, once again, left with losing people he’d just begun to know.
At least he was remembered by the Zora and Goron, the Kokiri didn’t even recognize Link when he returned to rescue his home from the blight that had been spread after the Deku Tree’s demise. It is understandable that these eternal children wouldn’t have the capacity to understand Link’s aging, but that knowledge could not have been easy on the teen with the mind of a child. And that childish mind was now forced to consider: is it better to be reviled or completely ignored? Whatever the case, Link wasted no time in rescuing his (former) people, and was even reunited, for a scant few moments, with his childhood friend, Saria, who then, like everyone in his life, left him to his solitary quest.
In time, Link explored the murky depths of Hyrule, fought through the stronghold of the Gerudo, and assembled all of the sages for his final assault on Ganondorf. While Hyrule was ultimately saved, it came at a heavy price: Ganondorf’s Tower, the last vestige of the former Hyrule Castle, has crushed in the onslaught. The sages themselves, now in possession of more power than any mortal should possess, never returned to civilized society, so those that had the greatest link to Link were permanently removed from the world. Princess Zelda, returning to the kingdom just as Ganondorf fell, seemed to be the only person directly involved in the conflict to emerge unscathed. Royalty is as untouchable as crystal.
The question on everyone’s mind, even today, is what happened to The Hero of Time? The most obvious and mundane answer is that, after a short and brutish life of hardship, Link perished during the final battle, or immediately thereafter. Others claim he left this land for other locales, perhaps to be a great hero elsewhere, but no such heroes exist in the histories of neighboring countries. Furthering the enigma, Princess Zelda would offer no clues whenever asked about the boy; she would simply smile and make some cryptic remark emphasizing the hero’s title. It was only on Queen Zelda’s deathbed that she offered a single, quixotic clue, “he went back to be a child again.” Historians have debated the meaning of this phrase for generations, many believing that it was the musing of an aging, regretful ruler, while still others claim it was a reference to Link’s sorry “childhood” spent rescuing an ungrateful people, something that must have been acutely obvious to a woman that was so long-lived.
Whatever the case, it seems unlikely that we will gain any new insight into the hero’s ultimate fate at this point. Where ever Link went, whether it be the grave or another land, it is my hope that he found friends and people to support him, and that, while there, The Hero of Time had all the time in world.
FGC #74 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- System: N64 initially… and then basically every Nintendo system after that. Gamecube, Wii, WiiU, and a much easier to play 3DS game.
- Number of Players: One lonely Link
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Full disclosure? I didn’t like OoT the first time I played it, and I kinda still don’t. At the time, I just wanted Link to the Past/Link’s Awakening back, and now my issue with the game is more that it’s the least of all the 3-D Zeldas. That said, the “least” Zelda is still better than 99% of the games out there, and I tore through OoT 3D and its Master Quest in a series of days. Streamlining many of the game’s rougher edges makes all the difference.
- Port-o-call: I played the N64 version for this article, and I can safely say I might never go back to that version again. I… would not be averse to buying this game yet again as a full screen, console version of the game with 3DS’s control advantages.
- Secret Shame: I didn’t like Ocarina of Time so much at launch that I didn’t play Majora’s Mask for years. I only picked up Twilight Princess at the Wii’s launch because the Metal Slug Collection wasn’t available.
- Favorite Dungeon: Jabu Jabu’s Belly is one of my favorite dungeons in the franchise for its expert use of making a character an item. Princess Ruto would not make any sense being tossed around as a human (zora) weight unless she was so perfectly characterized as a princess so haughty she refuses to move under her own power. It just didn’t seem the same in Wind Waker when you acquired partners that actually helped.
- Favorite Hyrulian: Malon 4 Smash.
- Did you know? Okay, I know Hyrule Warriors is of dubious canonicity, but here’s a weird one: Zelda disguises herself as Sheik in that game, and everyone is fooled into thinking Zelda isn’t around… and then they all travel back in time to the era of Ocarina of Time, and everyone seems completely familiar with the time period from legend. So… was Zelda-Sheik just left out of the history books? I mean, Sheik had to do more than bounce around and play a harp at Link, right? And someone had to ask who that crazy ninja was, and why doesn’t she come around anymore? And “future” Zelda chooses to disguise herself as Sheik, so there has to be some precedent in the royal family to do this exact thing. Ugh, Hyrule Warriors is so dumb.
- Would I play again: Inevitable, but it’ll be the 3DS version. All I’ve ever wanted from life is tappable tunics.
What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… to channel his inner-wookie and institute Star Wars week in honor of a certain movie being released soon. So coming up on Monday, it’s Super Star Wars. Let’s all take a look at what that Luke kid has been up to. Please look forward to it!