Princess Zelda is the eponymous character of the Zelda series, but as we all should know, not the main, playable character. The stereotypical idea of Princess Zelda from the community outside Zelda fandom, and unfortunately, often within the Zelda fandom as well, is that she gets captured and Link has to go and save her. This usually isn’t correct though, particularly in the case of the Princess Zelda of Ocarina of Time. She escapes capture and remains hidden for seven long years, while she awaits Link’s return to save Hyrule. But why? Is she better off waiting for seven years? Is there anything she could have done in Link’s absence? If so, why didn’t she do it? These questions and more shall be answered as we delve deeper into the mechanics of Princess Zelda’s mentality in Ocarina of Time.
After Link breaks the curse on the Great Deku Tree that ultimately brings about his fate, the Great Deku Tree instructs Link to go and find the Princess of Destiny. This Princess of Destiny is obviously the young Princess Zelda. When we first meet her, she is peering through a window suspiciously at the Gerudo man, Ganondorf, who has sworn allegiance to her father, the King of Hyrule. But Zelda has another idea. Not only due to his evil aura, she has received prophetic dreams in which Ganondorf has led armies in obtaining the Triforce and establishing his own destructive rule over Hyrule.
In her talk to Link (you can’t really call it a conversation, as that would require vocal input by both participants), we discover that she had tried warning her father many-a time, but to no avail. She then asks Link to recover the remaining Spiritual Stones that would open the Door of Time, to prevent Ganondorf from opening it and finding the path to the Sacred Realm, from which he would obtain the Triforce. She undoubtedly does this because she is in no position to go on an adventure and find them by herself; not only would her father not allow her to go, but she lacks Link’s courage, and has no skills in the way of fighting off enemies at this point. In all fairness, Link’s only past experience in this area is breaking the curse on the Great Deku Tree, but Zelda has foreseen that it must be Link who completes this task and the others that await him, and upon getting this opportunity, she doesn’t miss it.
Link then sets out to get the other two Spiritual Stones, during which time, Zelda can do nothing but wait, unsure of whether or not her dreams will become reality, hoping that Link will return in time. Unfortunately, he doesn’t. Ganondorf suddenly attacks the castle, most likely killing the king and going on to pursue Zelda. Knowing that she, too, mostly likely faces death if she were to be captured, she flees. With her nursemaid, Impa, by her side for further protection, Zelda goes into hiding for seven years, as she awaits Link’s return.
In that time, Zelda disguises herself so that Ganondorf may never find her should Link not return. Now, before I start an all-out war in the comments, keep an open mind as you read on, and let me approach the character of Sheik… with caution…
First of all, I personally feel that Sheik is female. Since I was first introduced to the character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and while I know that it is not canon, in that game, Sheik has a feminine figure, long, tied-back hair, in her description she is described as female, her alter ego is Zelda, and her design was based off a design for Sheik in the development of Twilight Princess. Now, in the original Ocarina of Time, the only thing that would suggest that Sheik being female is the fact that her alter ego is Zelda. This is conflicted with by Ruto referring to Sheik as a man (though, whilst playing the game, I felt that she was simply mistaken in believing Sheik to be a man), other sources also claim that Sheik is male, and Sheik’s official art has a very masculine build. However, in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Sheik retains her masculine build, but is still referred to as female. And then in Ocarina of Time 3D, Sheik’s figure has been redone to look more feminine than masculine.
I can also see reason to believe that Sheik is male, in that, due to Ganondorf’s powers (thanks to the Triforce of Power), he would be able to sense her if she simply hid, cut her hair, and changed her eye color. Using magic to rewrite her biology to be a Sheikah would hide her from these powers, and going even further to transform into a Sheikah male, she would be completely unsuspected.
What this all boils down to is that I’m open to the idea of Sheik being male, but I prefer to think that she is female, and I will be referring to her as such.
Under the disguise of Sheik, she is trained by Impa should she ever need to defend herself. From there, she simply waits for Link to return. But in seven years, couldn’t she have done something to aid in Link’s quest to save Hyrule? She knows that it must be him that ultimately saves the day, but that doesn’t mean she can’t help. She could plant seeds, ideas of rebellion within the people, seek out those amidst his ranks who would turn on him, like Nabooru, and watch the idea bloom into a fully thought-out plan to take back Castle Town, and allow Link easier access to Ganondorf.
But no. She does nothing. Freeing Ruto from the ice in Zora’s Domain can’t count unless it took her seven years to slowly dig into the ice until Ruto was completely free. So why does she do nothing? Does she feel that saving Hyrule is entirely up to Link? That he only needs guidance throughout the rest of his journey?
I don’t see any other possible explanation. But anyway, seven long years later, Link reappears, and Sheik, as if being alerted by Rauru, is automatically there upon his arrival within the Temple of Time. She catches Link up on all the hot gossip about what’s been goin’ down lately; Sages need awakening, their locations, Ganondorf rules Hyrule, stuff like that. I guess Rauru didn’t alert her to the fact that he’d already done most of that.
Every time Link reaches a new location, Sheik mysteriously appears and teaches him a new song so that he is able to return to those locations whenever he desires, and gives him any extra info that he may need in going ahead. This is when I believe that Sheik frees Ruto; while Link is going through whichever Temple he is going through before the Water Temple, which is usually the Fire Temple, but it’s up to the player to decide in which order they complete the dungeons in, and in the event that the Water Temple is attempted first, Sheik frees Ruto and then meets Link in the Temple of Time.
When Link has freed all the Sages, he returns to the Temple of Time, where Sheik transforms back into Zelda. This sudden revelation of her true identity alerts Ganondorf, who quickly steals her away, and Link, now aware of her location and predicament goes after her.
I often wonder why Zelda suddenly let Link know who she was. She knew that Ganondorf’s sealing was close at hand, but she couldn’t wait about half an hour for him to be gone and for her to safely reveal herself. What was she planning to do, just go strolling up to Ganon’s Castle in a pink dress and high-heels in the hope that she would be able to fight alongside Link in this attire as he shatters the barriers to the central tower and in the final fight against Ganondorf (and then Ganon)?
But anyways, she gets captured and can only watch as Link and Ganondorf engage in their magic tennis match, reciting the score in her head: 15-Love to Ganondorf, 15-15, 15-30, 15-40, Game to Link.
Then Ganondorf brings the castle down, either knowingly or unknowingly freeing Zelda from her solid-light prison, but Zelda and Link escape the collapsing tower. They could’ve used either Zelda’s magic or Navi’s powers to teleport to the bottom, or the Ocarina of Time to teleport back to the Temple of Time. But instead, they decide to jog, not run, down the spiralling staircase which connects all the floors of the tower until they reach the bottom.
During their escape, Link faces some Stalfos and a Redead, but again, Zelda doesn’t help. She just stands there and gasps whenever Link gets help. She is aware that she has magic, as she uses it to open every grate that blocks their way, but she doesn’t use it to help Link in any way, except for producing hearts after his encounters with these foes. Anyways, they escape the castle and watch as it crumbles. They think it is over, but then Ganondorf soars from the ruins of the structure, and using the Triforce of Power, he transforms into Ganon. And this time, Zelda does help… a little.
At the beginning of the encounter, Link and Ganon are sealed in a ring of fire together, and Ganon knocks the Master Sword from Link’s hand, and it stabs into the ground just behind Zelda. But does she throw it back to him? No. Why not? I asked myself this question several times when playing the game. Does she think the wall of flames is going to stop the Master Sword from getting back to Link? Does she not want to touch a potentially harmful object? Or did she try to get the Master Sword out of the ground, but after losing all of her Sheik-muscles, she was again weak, and it took her a little while to free it?
Ganon then recomposes himself and attacks Link again, reigniting the wall of fire. Link then weakens Ganon again this time using the Master Sword, and Zelda sees it fit to use her power to hold Ganon in place while Link deals the final blows: slashing his face just for fun before driving the Master Sword through his head, but he survives (most likely due to still possessing the Triforce of Power).
But why does Zelda help now? Ganon is weak enough for Link to mortally wound him anyways, she doesn’t need to hold him still, but she does, most likely just to feel like she did play a role in the final battle after all. At the end of it all, the Sages seal Ganon in the Evil Realm, and Zelda apologizes for stealing Link’s childhood, taking the Ocarina of Time from him and returning him to his childhood… not by playing the Song of Time, but by playing Zelda’s Lullaby. This is the first and only instance in the entire game, and series, when Zelda’s Lullaby is shown to have time-traversing capabilities.
Back in his childhood, Link decides to prevent the events concerning Ganondorf from ever happening, and goes to find the young Princess Zelda. When he finds her, she turns around, and they have a moment of silent acknowledgement.
I don’t exactly know how this is possible, as the adult Zelda has clearly returned Link to a time before Zelda fled the castle, and either before or after Link first visited her with the Kokiri’s Emerald. But I’m not here to discuss the implications of that moment, I’m here to fully flesh-out Zelda’s actions in Ocarina of Time, ponder on why she did these things, and offer a further insight to her character. And that’s what I’ve done. Please let me know what you think in the comments.