Five crazy Legend of Zelda facts you likely didn’t know
Nintendo’s newest Legend of Zelda series entry, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, helped to usher the franchise into a new age of gaming while also proving that there’s still a lot of narrative and gameplay potential within the ongoing saga. Shortly before Breath of the Wild’s launch, Nintendo also released a massive compendium called The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, and being a longtime fan of the series myself, I decided to pick it up on a whim.
It was fun taking a deep dive into the history and myth that surrounds the Zelda series, and it was also surprisingly enlightening. Below are five very interesting tidbits about the entire Legend of Zelda saga which hardcore fans might already know but which will certainly lead more casual players to appreciate the franchise in new and unexpected ways.
A Legendary Beginning
Hyrule Historia begins with an opening letter from famed Nintendo personality Shigeru Miyamoto, the company’s senior executive director and the man who initially came up with the concept of the Legend of Zelda franchise. Within the letter, Miyamoto revealed that, way back when he and his team were brainstorming ideas for what the name of their then new fantasy series would be, he knew he wanted to call it “The Legend of….” but he couldn’t decide on what the final word would be.
A PR planner who was part of the brainstorming team mentioned that famed American author F. Scott Fitzgerald was married to a woman named Zelda and suggested that name for the princess character in the series. Miyamoto admitted he wasn’t too thrilled with directly lifting the name of an American author’s wife, but he did really like the name Zelda and the rest, as you know, is history. So, if you’ve ever wondered how The Legend of Zelda title was first conceived, you have the author of The Great Gatsby to thank.
All In A Name
Miyamoto also had some interesting tales to tell in regards to how he and the Legend of Zelda development team came up with the name for the series’ main protagonist, Link. Turns out, they took a rather literal approach since Link serves as both the heroic protagonist of each game and as a sort of linking force who connects the various people, places, and ideals of each game’s different time period and setting. Also, Zelda’s guardian Impa comes from the word “impart” since her role is often that of imparting wisdom and insight onto Link, Zelda, and other characters.
An Ambidextrous Hero
Canonically, Link is depicted as being primarily left-handed, and there’s a good reason for that. Originally, Nintendo was going to make him right-handed (and very early concept art pieces of Link actually show him as such), but when it came time to configure the pixel-based art and in-game screens for early Legend of Zelda titles, Nintendo’s programmers found it easier to make him left-handed and so it became the established norm to portray him as such.
Of course, when Nintendo decided to incorporate the motion controls for consoles like the Wii and Switch into newer Zelda games, Link was once again portrayed as a mainly right-handed fighter since most people in real life are right-handed. Therefore, Link winds up being right-handed in games like Skyward Sword and the Wii version of Twilight Princess (he’s left-handed in the GameCube version of Twilight Princess since that version didn’t include motion controls).
The Ties That Bind
Chief characters like Link, Zelda, and the villainous Ganondorf (or Ganon as he’s also known) have been part of the Legend of Zelda series since the very first game in the series, but it wasn’t until 1998’s breakout Nintendo 64 hit The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that Nintendo established a story in which the three main characters were directly connected through a powerful relic called the Triforce.
While the Triforce had been featured in previous Zelda games, Ocarina of Time marked the point where the relic’s three defining attributes, power, wisdom, and courage, were directly tied to the three leading characters, cementing a legacy which would affect Zelda games both past and present.
A Journey Through Time
Here’s something that will likely blow your mind: virtually every core Legend of Zelda game is part of the same historic chronology, and said chronology even splits off into multiple separate timelines at one key point. Oh, and that key point just so happens to be The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Technically, the earliest game in the historic chronology is 2011’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and from there the timeline moves on to the rise and fall of the evil figure Vaati which was covered in the handheld games The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords. After that, the timeline reaches the era covered by Ocarina of Time, and that’s where things get really interesting.
It turns out the events in Ocarina of Time spawned not one but *three* branching timelines due to the game’s emphasis on time travel. The “default” timeline, i.e. the one in which the player successfully defeats Ganon, then splits into two separate timelines, one in which Link returns to his child form and informs child Zelda about what Ganondorf is planning (using the knowledge he gained as an adult) and the original timeline from back before Link first entered the Temple of Time and wielded the Master Sword (if your head is already spinning that’s ok, mine was too).
The “what if” timeline where Link fails to best Ganon in Ocarina of Time leads to the original SNES and Gameboy-era games such as A Link to the Past, the Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons series, Link’s Awakening, and the very first Legend of Zelda and The Adventures of Link titles.
Meanwhile, the timeline where child Link informs Child Zelda leads to the Nintendo 64 sequel game The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and from there it progresses into the era covered by The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. Finally, the third timeline, the one that was sort of “leftover” from the events in Ocarina of Time, lead into the era covered by The Wind Waker, The Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks.
Sadly the Hyrule History doesn’t specific which timeline Breath of the Wild belongs to, but my best guess would be it’s the same “default” timeline which includes games like Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess, though I could be totally off-base in that regard.