There is something to be said about a man who takes up arms against evil, whatever that evil may be. Said person is often characterized as brave, and rightly so. This not a choice that is taken gladly, but rather out of duty and a sense of moral obligation to doing what’s right. All people will respond differently when faced with a challenge. Some cower, some do as little as possible, but some go the distance. Those people have a heroic spirit.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time posit two different types of heroes: one that chooses to be a hero and one that has the hero role chosen for him. Each appear just as heroic as the other. However, we see one leading a more fulfilling life while one leads to regret.

The Wind Waker

In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the game opens up to a peaceful island. This iteration of Link that the gamer plays as is nothing more than a typical resident of the island. There is nothing inherently special about him. He does not share a bloodline with the legendary hero. Instead, he is a simple boy that lives with his grandmother and his sister.As soon as the game starts, however, things begin to take a turn for the worse. Events lead up to Link’s sister being kidnapped, thus launching him on this epic quest. Let’s examine this quest and what makes the Link’s character make-up so interesting as the burden of the hero falls onto him.

It seems that whenever evil arises in the land of Hyrule, good does as well. It would be fair to attribute that to the goddesses of the land. However, not all of the events in the game could or should be attributed to them. As Aryll, Link’s sister, is kidnapped, he heroically, and somewhat foolishly, rushes after her, going so far as to jump off a cliff in pursuit. This instance functions as more of a fight-or-flight situation. Link is not so much concerned about his safety as his is about rescuing his sister. Filled with adrenaline, he rushes after her and her feathery captor. This event happens solely in a cutscene out of the player’s hands. Afterwards, Link decides to take it upon himself to find his sister. This begins a harrowing adventure that drags him into a centuries-old conflict.

I find it very interesting that this version of Link is just a regular boy. He is not doing this because he has to, but because he wants to. Link is not having the burden placed upon him. Instead, he is taking it upon himself to be the hero. This is different than the Link of the previous games that has, in some way, been related to the heroes of old. He takes up a sword and shield and goes on this adventure with nary a thought to his own safety. He was made a hero instead of born one, but that did not stop him.

As the game progresses, Link finds himself entangled in a legendary battle of good and evil. After rescuing his sister, it would have been quite simple to just leave and head back to the island. He had what he came for. A regular man would have probably called it quits. As a bonus, he even freed several other kidnapped girls. Why, then, would Link go back out onto the ocean and finish this fight?

It’s not out of a sense of revenge; the character and moral qualities of Link that have been painted throughout the game are much purer and much more virtuous than seeking revenge. Would it have been justified? More than likely. That is not the Link that we are given, though. Link’s reasons are much more pure and much more admirable. After his initial quest is over, he sees the evil that threatens his loved ones and even the world. While it would have been perfectly okay for him to walk away, that just was not in his character.

The burden that he placed upon himself was one of duty and obligation to see himself through the journey that he had out himself on. It would be fair to assume that he had already come so far, so he figured that he should finish what he had started. However, it is much more than that. Just as Ganon inherently possesses the Spirit of Demise, somewhere along his journey, this Link has come to be endowed with the Spirit of the Hero.

In fact, it would make sense that this occurred at the Tower of the Gods, where he was recognized as a the hero. Not only did this give Link great courage, but it also game him more of a purpose. As the goddesses recognize Link as the hero that he is, he is finally given the Triforce of Courage, signifying their recognition of him. This sets him in place as one of the great heroes of legend. This was not because of his bloodline, but because of one simple choice he made to be the hero.

Furthermore, Link continues his heroics in Phantom Hourglass by choice. At the conclusion of The Wind Waker, and leading into Phantom Hourglass, Link decides to continue his adventures with Tetra and her crew. His journey of the hero does not end there in the previous game, but he chooses to follow his chosen destiny into the great unknown. Eventually, it is told in Spirit Tracks that Link and Tetra help found a new land. Through all of this, there is no mention of regret. Rather, we get the sense that this iteration of Link felt accomplished and content with his choices.

Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask

Link’s backstory in Ocarina of Time is considerably sadder. His mother brought him to the Great Deku Tree to be protected and raised during the Hyrulean Civil War. From the here on, he seemed to be destined for greater things. After several years of living among the Kokiri, he begins to have nightmares about Ganondorf. These set off a chain reaction, drawing him into the conflict. Spurred on by the Deku Tree and his fairy companion, Navi, Link sets off on his adventure.

Whereas TWW Link chose his path, it seems that OoT Link was destined from the very beginning to enter into this journey. The Great Deku tree sends him out on this journey, not because of Link’s own will, but because of his destiny as the future Hero of Time. Link’s adventure was not out of choice here, but he still accepts the burden of a hero throughout his journey. There is not much to be said in terms of Link’s burden, as it is more or less thrust upon from birth. He has a lack of choice in this instance and it seems that he is always destined to fall into this archetype of hero.

Majora’s Mask finds Link after the conclusion of his journey in Ocarina of Time, searching for Navi. Here, though, he is yet again thrust into the fray as the Hero of Time. For the most part, his journey through Termina seems to be one of necessity. It seems that he is destined to live his life in the guise of a hero. Although, he is mostly unrecognized as the hero in both Termina and Hyrule. His life was full of battle and struggle that ultimately led him to be nothing more than a tool for the goddesses, leaving him empty.

The last time we see this version of Link is in Twilight Princess. His regrets left him unsettled in the afterlife, thus becoming the Hero’s Shade. His life of heroics had ultimately led him down a path of emptiness and regret. His life was predestined to end up in this way, since he was not given much choice in his life. Every action was either pushed by the gods, or foretold, thus removing any semblance of a normal childhood from him. He was robbed of this, and, therefore, had no other purpose but to continue his life as the goddesses’ chosen warrior.

Could this be why his afterlife was full of such regret? His lack of choice certainly did not help. While they both continued to fight against evil, WW Link’s life ended much better than OoT Link’s. It almost seems unfair that OoT Link’s life was not as rewarding as the Link from WW, considering that OoT Link was never given the chance to make a choice. While the burden of the hero was great for each of them, only one had the option to say no.

Does that make WW Link a greater hero? Or are they both just as heroic? Talk about your opinions in the comments below!

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