Posted on February 06 2012 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Major credit for this article must be given to ryttu3k, for her vast knowledge on the topic, her extensive research, and her assistance and feedback on everything from the first plans through to the final release. Without her collaboration this article would have fallen far short of the standard here presented.
Back at the outset of the Romantic Spark series, Part I stated that we’d solely “focus on Link’s relationships with females”, and indeed the first eight parts did exactly that. However it was also noted that “we can’t rule out the possibilities of Link being homosexual, bisexual, asexual or even a mixture” given that “there’s so many of him”.
With Link’s potential heterosexual relationships for all 16 Zelda titles covered, we now move on and go beyond just heterosexual pairings. What if Link was asexual or bisexual? What if Link was homosexual – are there potential male partners out there for him? The answer is ‘many potential partners’, so let the shipping wars rage on into Part IX.
Fans have often proposed that as the ‘hero’, Link is not a sexual being (asexual). As the chosen one of the Goddesses to bear the Spirit of the Hero, they say that Link’s duty is to his people and to the land. In other words, to complete the task at hand, Link cannot be distracted.
Indeed, the very notion that ‘Link is you’ allows for players to take an entirely asexual approach to the game. If players are disinterested in pursuing romantic pairings, then so is Link. Romance in Zelda isn’t prominent so that if players are interested in it, then there is plenty to go by. If not, then no worries.
Along with asexual there are, of course, the possibilities of heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual relationships for Link. If we are to believe that Link is bisexual, then all of the straight relationships covered in the series to date are applicable. At the same time, so are all of the homosexual pairings, which we now come to at last.
If our favorite protagonist is indeed gay, the immense range of male characters throughout The Legend of Zelda series provide plenty of possibilities. Fans enjoy entertaining some out-there, even disturbing possibilities when it comes to age, such as the Old Man, the Happy Mask Salesman or even Darunia. Others even entertain the idea of the ‘historical master and apprentice’ style relationship between Link and Lenzo.
For the sake of keeping this article somewhat concise and yet complete, we’ll be covering those homosexual pairings for Link that are most popular with fans and/or have significant evidence to support them – although not as recognized as the hetero possibilities. Also note that The Legend of Zelda manga will at times be referred to as a sort of supplementary-canon, which is in the spirit of Aonuma’s statement that “the manga makes up for the game[s] by filling the gaps”. Let’s get into it!
Whenever we join Link before one of his adventures, he tends to be settled into a fairly peaceful little village where he was raised. As such, Link regularly has close friends who he spent a lot of time with growing up. In some cases these friendships can become more as the characters mature together, and the following candidates all reflect that possibility.
Fado, Link’s employer in Twilight Princess, is Link’s only similarly aged male companion in all of Ordon. Fado relies upon Link to complete the goat-herding that he himself cannot, and gives the impression of a laid-back, trusting person – at least towards Link.
Most notably of all, Link has a photo of Fado in his house, which really is where the notion for this pairing arises. Of course it could be, by all means, indicative of nothing more than a very close friendship, however fans often like to extrapolate otherwise.
Pipit is Link’s upperclassman in Skyward Sword’s Knight Academy, who keeps a concerned and watchful eye upon Link. As potentially Link’s best male friend at the Academy, fans like to explore the potential relationship here.
Link is no stranger to Pipit’s family and their financial issues. He both keeps it a secret and helps out by cleaning their home when he can, even though Pipit isn’t altogether accepting of Link’s aid. Pipit has a habit of invading Link’s personal space whenever he’s conversing with him, which can be taken as a representation of a desire for closeness.
There’s also some fun to be had in this relationship by taking a quote from Pipit out of context, as fans do: “Oh, and about that thing the other night… We agreed to keep that secret, right?” Never ask what college boys do together in their dorms. Nevertheless, with the game’s implications of Pipit and Karane, not to mention Link and Zelda, Pipit and Link isn’t a strong possibility.
Fledge is another of Link’s childhood friends in Skyward Sword, who can be described as Link’s biggest fan. Fledge believes that Link can do anything and wants to be exactly like him. It may be a one-sided relationship, but Fledge gives Link several gifts, including a piece of heart. Remembering Yeta and Yeto from Twilight Princess, or the Heart Piece in Zelda’s closet at the Academy, the giving of a heart piece bears some significance.
At night Fledge can be found “working out so that someday [he] might be strong like [Link].” He goes on to say to Link that “it’s not as easy as you make it look. You really are amazing!” Fledge’s infatuation with Link is undeniable, as is his desire to appear strong for Link. He admits that Link seeing him training would be embarrassing, and prefers Link to see him less vulnerable, or even better, strong when throwing pumpkins.
To be of use to Link and help the hero in his training makes Fledge somewhat content, and although Link doesn’t appear to return the sentiment, Fledge sure does love his idol. Fledge serves as the most recent character in a stream of like-minded admirers of Link to be found throughout the series.
Admiration comes in several varying degrees, all which have the potential to spark romantic feelings, but are generally very one-sided. There are those who respect Link, those who look up to him, those who want to be him, and those who are just plain obsessed. Tingle fits into the obsessed category, as a 35 years old man who wants to be a fairy. Not only that, but believing Link to be a fairy, Tingle wants to be Link.
In The Wind Waker, once Link releases Tingle from his cell, Link receives the Tingle Tuner, which is ultimately an item to stay close with Tingle. Or, ‘tune in to Tingle’ if you will. The bizarre little man also helps Link out with maps for ridiculous, and yet specially discounted prices. The sheer age difference here is a need for concern, but the suspicious favoring of Link from Tingle raises some questions.
Komali, the young Rito, is more rational in his admiration. Komali’s affection is largely directed at Medli, but as the game progresses his feeling for Link deepen. Initially these are feelings of hostility for Link’s intrusion in Rito matters, but once Link rescues Valoo, these emotions turn to reverence and respect.
The young Rito Prince wishes that he were like Link, so that he could impress Medli – who sees Komali as a son, not a romantic interest. Komali can’t hide his growing feelings towards Link, giving him what he value’s most – Din’s Pearl – to get the courage he needs “to stand up to bad things”. Link is Komali’s role model at the least, and perhaps even more. Medli does at one stage inform Link that “every conversation” with Komali “still ends up centered on you”.
The paring of Linebeck with Link, although age-inappropriate, is rather popular in the fandom. For the most part, Linebeck hides his feelings inside, but as they mature over the course of the game, he expresses his gratitude to Link in a letter: “Oh! So I’m writing because, well, I’m grateful, all right? Happy now?! Thanks, OK? There, I’ve said it…”
While Linebeck is often physical with Link, he hates to think that he may have hurt Link while possessed by Bellum: “Oh, kid, I mean… Link! I’m sorry! I know I was possessed by that monster… But to think that I…” Another development revealed in this particular quote is Linebeck’s respect to start using Link’s name, and not calling him ‘kid’ – although some fans believe ‘kid’ to be a term of endearment, and not of disrespect.
At the game’s conclusion, Linebeck’s fate doesn’t escape Link’s mind, as he runs to see Linebeck sailing off in his restored steamship. Link smiles, showing at the very least a close friendship of mutual respect. Whether there is more to be made of this is up to the fans.
Our final and biggest admirer is Shad, from Twilight Princess, who is often paired with Link due to their similarity in age. Throughout the course of the game Link is the facilitator of Shad’s dream to learn more of the City in the Sky. He regularly thanks Link and hopes to “repay this debt”, which instantly takes fans back to Nabooru’s ambiguous remark (See Part II). Shad does later aid Link in his fight at Hyrule Castle along with the rest of The Group however.
As a historian, Shad warms to Link as the modern incarnation of the legendary hero, at one stage commenting on his clothes and how he’d “love to wear something like that!” Together with Link, Shad views them as an impressive duo. Shad is “formidable at book reading” but lacks the “physical skills” where Link excels.
Shad is attracted to the idea of himself and the hero as a team, and his willingness to “disappear at times” shows both his trust in Link and his desire not to hinder him. Twilight Princess leaves an open ending, with such possibilities as this and Fado reliant upon whether fans believe Link settles back into Ordon or becomes more of an adventurer.
Just like in Pokémon, rivals – such as Gary – are those characters who are always competing with the protagonist, while ultimately being on the same side as them. Like Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, bullying is often the result. Psychologically speaking, people often bully as a way of masking or overcoming their confusing or conflicting emotions about the other person.
This is especially true in young homosexual males, and is an idea often explored by the popular television series Glee between the characters Dave Karofsky and Kurt Hummel. As for The Legend of Zelda, Link has a number of rivals who some interpret to be acting out of unexplainable feelings towards Link.
Mido from Ocarina of Time is established as Link’s rival, and somewhat of a bully, due to his jealousy of Link – an outsider’s – favor with Saria and the Great Deku Tree. Some fans like to explore a hidden affection towards Link in Mido, but there is little insight into the Mido’s deepest feelings. Our next two characters, however, are more open.
From Oracle of Ages, Nayru’s guardian Ralph is alike to Komali in ways. An initial apparent dislike and outward show of bullying gradually turns to admiration. As Nayru’s protector, Ralph is set on rescuing the Oracle before Link does. That initial resentment, however, came to reveal that the two should be working together. In a different take on the game, courtesy of the manga, Ralph even becomes Link’s companion on the quest.
In the end of the game, Link also shows his feelings towards Ralph by saving him and not letting him become a sacrifice or consequence of defeating Veran. As a quick recap, Veran possesses Queen Ambi – Ralph’s ancestor – in the past. Defeating Veran would mean killing the Queen, making Ralph non-existent. Link strives against this outcome, and is able to destroy Veran while saving both Queen Ambi and Ralph.
Ralph’s feelings, or at least his outward showing of them, moves from rivalry to informing Link that his “respect for [him] has grown”, before the end where he simply says “You’re amazing.” In the ending sequence Link becomes somewhat of a mentor or teacher to Ralph, assisting him in his training to protect Nayru.
Groose from Skyward Sword is the ultimate example of the rival character and their potentially masked true feelings. He resents Link at first due to jealousy of Link’s relationship with Zelda. Akin to Ralph, he grows to respect Link as the hero, and seems to altogether give up on or accept that he won’t be with Zelda.
That leaves room for more development of his feelings towards Link, whom he progresses from apparently hating to wanting to be like. In the Sealed Grounds Groose strives to make himself useful like Link, and later fights side-by-side with Link in a fight against The Imprisoned.
In the early stages of the game Groose has no issue in putting Link down and being altogether nasty. But later he has a hard time verbalizing his appreciation for the young hero. It is the classic example of where its easier to lash out than it is to say how one really feels. This really is where the potential for Groose to have more feelings than he lets on comes from.
In the end Groose outwardly shows some forms of appreciation, and while Groose is a popular pairing for Link, the chances of it are again unlikely in the face of Groose’s departure and the obvious pairing of Link and Zelda in Skyward Sword. Nevertheless, there is a fairly strong case for all of Link’s rivals having more affection than they let show.
Strictly speaking, the likelihood of a villain being genuinely involved with Link romantically is on par with zero. Nonetheless, the fandom is known to enjoy exploring the possibilities, along with the skewed balance of power and conflicting interests that such relationships can bring.
As one would expect, Ganondorf falls into this category, albeit with very little to be made for his case. From both an in-game perspective, and even looking at the manga, pairing Link and Ganondorf seems entirely absurd – yet some fans enjoy entertaining the notion.
Ganondorf may somewhat like Link’s attitude, as he expresses in Ocarina of Time, although Link becomes more of an annoyance to him by The Wind Waker where Ganondorf expects the “one” to come. As a man, Ganondorf is too focused on his goals to be loving his chief obstacle. As the corrupted Ganon, I doubt love is an option. Alike to many other pairings in the Legend of Zelda, this remains one of fan-fiction.
Slightly more can be said about Vaati, although his inferred romance with Link is, likewise to Ganondorf, largely in the realm of fan-fiction. In game Vaati is a Picori who wishes to kill Link. Indeed, his only hint at romance is his desire to make Zelda his bride in Four Swords.
If it is founded in anything, the argument for Vaati comes from a vague hint in The Minish Cap manga, where – once defeated – Vaati apologizes for his actions and somewhat bonds with the Links. Perhaps fans just like thinking about some disturbing fantasies where Vaati has a fetish to do more than just kill Link. To be fair though, such fetishes are more fitting of our next candidate.
Ghirahim is without a doubt the only male villain with an undeniable attraction to Link. There seems little need to remind players of his flirtatious antics or his tendency of “teasing and toying” with Link just to get a reaction. He takes a very strange sort of arousal from getting up close and personal with Link – using his tongue – and from watching his anguish.
Interestingly, Ghirahim’s tendency to touch Link isn’t reflected with anyone else. Besides when carrying Zelda’s unconscious body, Ghirahim notably won’t touch anyone – even Zelda. All of that is what we already know. What you may not be familiar with is the East Asian traditional belief: the red string of fate (also known as the thread of fate).
According to this belief, a deity spiritually ties a red string around the ankles or little fingers of two who are destined to be soulmates, and specifically lovers. As a Japanese-made game, the behavior of Ghirahim and the significance of the symbolism seems too much to be ignored.
On numerous occasions a ‘thread of fate’ is referred to by Ghirahim: “We’re bound by that thread of fate … and the thread of fate which binds us will be soaked crimson with your blood!”
Whether or not Ghirahim is vanquished at Skyward Sword’s conclusion is a matter of personal interpretation, but either way, a lasting romance seems unlikely. As a further point of interest, some believe that Vaati is actually Ghirahim, regardless of the genuine unlikelihood of it. This idea comes from his mannerisms and appearance and, if true, can be seen as a continuation of the red string of fate keeping Ghirahim and the Spirit of the Hero together over time.
Link with Link
Link is one handsome guy, or at least Miyamoto insists that he is. So then, what better couple than Link and Link? Who better to sympathize and understand what Link has gone through than another Link? This is a popular shipping among the fanbase, sparking the creation of many fan-fiction pieces on how the various Links travel through time to meet one another. While occurrences of that nature are purely fan-fiction, there is potential for more canon-based shippings of Link and Link.
Ever since Ocarina of Time, Dark Link (also called Shadow Link) has been a popular partner for Link, despite the complete lack of evidence. In fact, all that really ever happens between the two within the games is Link defeating Dark Link. Once more, it is chiefly from the Four Swords manga where this shipping arises.
In this volume of the manga, Shadow Link reaches out to Violet Link (Vio), as he believes they both see the “hidden truth of things”. It is later revealed that Vio was just leading Shadow on for information, leading to a whole chapter titled “Sad Shadow Link”. Shadow Link clearly had feelings for Vio, later saying his actions were “even worse than just normal evil.”
Once Dark Link is defeated for the first time, Vio reminisces of their time together, and feels bad about using him. After later being revived, Shadow Link pretends to be Vio and tells Green Link how to defeat Vaati, helping their cause, and once again turns to Vio before dying a second time.
Given that the four colored Links represent different sides of the complete Link’s personality, it can ultimately be said that the darker side of Link’s personality – Vio – is attracted to Shadow Link. This fits with the series’ established basis of purple representing shadow.
Another popular pairing given merit within the Four Swords manga is Red and Blue Link. With Green being somewhat focused as the ‘leader’ and Vio distracted by Shadow Link, Red and Blue somewhat have eyes for each other. The two are always together, and aiding each other in battle. There is one moment where Blue catches Red in his arms, causing Red to blush.
In this instance Blue shuns him saying, “get off me you creep”, which may imply this was a bit one-sided. In the end, Red is reluctant to reunite with the other Links because it means they won’t be together. However, Blue assures him that this way they can be together forever. Ultimately, relationships between the four Links can be seen as different aspects of Link’s personality warming to and clashing with other parts of it.
Nintendo 64 Era
Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are without question two of the most popular and content-filled Zelda titles when it comes to the shipping wars. As covered in Part II, there were an abundance of heterosexual possibilities, but there’s also a decent showing for homosexual possibilities.
One such classic moment comes from a single line from the Poe Collector, who compliments Link: “If I looked as good as you, I could run a different kind of business… heh he heh…” Well, it seems like a compliment, but is also somewhat concerning for Link – a sheltered child in an adults’ body – who likely has no idea what the Poe Collector is really saying.
Yet, we are Link, and we still have no idea what he’s on about. Thinking that another man is handsome and taking an interest in their appearance doesn’t necessarily mean an attraction, but it could. Another such moment of ambiguous activity comes from the ancient sage.
Rauru is less of a legitimate possibility and more of a bit of a suspect character. Just like fans wonder what Nabooru’s promise truly was, fans wonder – and often think too much into – who changed Link’s clothes in the Chamber of Sages, because clothes don’t grow over time. The clothes-changer is obviously Rauru, so fans couple that with Rauru’s “I will continue to watch you” motto as Kaepora Gaebora to get one suspiciously interested man.
A more legitimate candidate, to be found in Majora’s Mask, is Kafei. He is often paired with Link due to their common ground of being adults in children’s bodies. Kafei was cursed to be a child by Majora, and Link sent back through time, keeping his adult mindframe – although not as matured as Kafei’s.
Kafei trusts Link, but that is in turn only due to his trust of his fiancée Anju, who believes in Link. In reality, Kafei’s interest only lies with Anju whom he later marries. So having addressed the more minor possibilities of the 64 era, we come now to our final pairing. It is both the most popular, the most debated, and the most supported homosexual relationship for Link in the entire series. Of course, we’re referring to Sheik.
Regardless of being Zelda in disguise, Sheik is undoubtedly male. Whatever your personal beliefs may be on the nature of Zelda’s disguise, the entity ‘Sheik’ is, as Ruto puts it, “a young man”. Remembering Aonuma’s statement that, where not contradictory, the manga acts by “filling the gaps” is critical in this instance.
Within the manga, Zelda says, “I’ll become a boy”, with Impa later confirming this: “Princess Zelda’s consciousness shall sleep – to awaken as a young Sheikah boy!” It is important to stress that Sheik is a separate male entity for this theory, and not just Zelda. As Link says in the manga: “at the time” it “was Sheik to me.” He always viewed his relationship with Sheik as separate to his with Zelda, and rightfully so.
Just like majority of players established a separate relationship with Sheik, so did Link. Understanding this now allows us to analyze the developing relationship between Link and Sheik entirely separately of Link and Zelda.
Sheik refers to developing love so often that it seems to become somewhat of a personal theme that can be taken as an expression of his feelings towards Link. Such quotes as “young love will become deep affection” or the “feeling in the heart that becomes stronger over time” certainly give that impression.
While Sheik seems to be blatantly expressing developing feelings, Link reciprocates in this relationship, where he displays an intrigue in Sheik. Several times he makes an advance towards the enigma, before Sheik vanishes. Fans, many of which were disappointed when Sheik was revealed as Zelda’s disguise, genuinely shared this feeling of encapsulation. Link no doubt felt for Sheik.
In the scene after the Water Temple is conquered and water returns to Lake Hylia, Sheik makes an unnecessary appearance. He was already showing signs of being torn between staying and vanishing in earlier encounters with Link, but in this instance he really only comes to see Link. He waits to meet him, and after an intimate stare vanishes once more – to be then seen watching Link from the treetop.
Soon afterwards, in the burning Kakariko Village, there’s little talk of business. Here we simply see two people concerned for each other’s safety and desiring to protect the other. Together each of them stands fearless in the face of Bongo Bongo, tending to each other’s injuries.
A number of scenes in the Ocarina of Time manga further the relationship between Link and Sheik. After a moment where Sheik turns on Link and hits him – to make the Gerudo believe he’s on their’s and Ganondorf’s side – Sheik later apologizes. Link’s response is “You hurt my feelings more than my body” showing his temporary feelings of intimate betrayal.
In another moment Link is sitting with Sheik’s head on his lap, one hand resting on Sheik’s cowl, looking thoughtful and pensive. He then jumps up blushing and says “I-I’d better get some water. Why am I so flustered?”
Both the game and the manga develop a dependency and bond between the two. It’s impossible to know Sheik’s fate once Zelda’s disguise is revealed, but with Link returning to the child timeline there is no chance of anything more becoming of this, sadly.
For hopefully obvious reasons (ensuing controversy) Nintendo avoids presenting any blatant homosexual relationships within The Legend of Zelda series. Although that sadly reflects general society’s homophobia, no one is to blame. Fans have been able to come up with homosexual pairings of their own, ranging from completely fictional to others with some merit and grounding in the series.
Which pairings come to fruition is – as I’ve always said – up to the individual player. With the developers insisting that Link is an empty shell for players to project themselves onto, the choice of whether Link is straight, gay, bi or asexual is all in your hands.
While it is obvious to a degree that some popular pairings (homosexual and heterosexual alike) are “clutching at straws”, that is the kind of openness that the Legend of Zelda encourages. From the provided open-ended elements of Zelda games it is up to fans to piece together everything, including Link’s love life, or his complete lack of one. Relationships in Zelda shine as the prime example of how gaming is interactive entertainment in more ways than just the obvious one.
Although there is plenty more to discuss on Romance in Zelda – pairings without Link, the morals of the matter, the influence of the official timeline, Zelda-themed romances in the real world and the many characters this series has left out – this will be the final part to That Romantic Spark. I hope you’ve enjoyed the articles, and thanks for reading.
- That Romantic Spark Part I – The Classics – LOZ, AOL, ALTTP & LA
- That Romantic Spark Part II – The Nintendo 64 Titles – OoT & MM
- That Romantic Spark Part III – The Oracle Duo and Four Swords Trilogy – OoA, OoS, TMC, FS & FSA
- That Romantic Spark Part IV – Twilight Princess – TP
- That Romantic Spark Part V – The Wind Waker and DS Duo – TWW, PH & ST
- That Romantic Spark Part VI – Developer’s Intent – Miyamoto and Aonuma Quotes
- That Romantic Spark Part VII – Chronological Perspective – Influences on the timeline
- That Romantic Spark Part VIII – Skyward Sword – SS
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