The Zelda series is loved by many for its adventurousness and compelling storylines. I doubt that anyone would argue with the statement that any one of Link’s numerous journeys can be called a quest. But what few know is that the concept of a quest is so prevalent in stories from all around the world that a set structure has been made which outlines the stages of the quest. The majority of the Zelda games fit perfectly into this pattern, but one of the ones which fits the outline most accurately is Twilight Princess. From the calling of the hero to the journey through the underworld, Twilight Princess is a perfect example of the quest as seen in video games. Hit the jump to find out just how precisely this game portrays the concept of the quest.
Stage One: The Hero is Born
In this stage, the audience is introduced to the protagonist. They learn of his background, his culture, his habits, his personality, and his everyday life. He is often born into poverty or other unfortunate circumstances, although some heroes live in contentment before the adventure begins. At the beginning of Twilight Princess, we are given a glimpse into Link’s life in Ordon Village. We meet his friends, herd goats with him, and even explore his house. His relationship with the children of the village is set up, and so is his friendship with Ilia. I’d say that the beginning of this game is one of the best introductions in the series, in terms of its ability to display the everyday lives of the inhabitants of Link’s home. While it is never actually explained why Link appears to have no family, the game does an excellent job of conveying his general activities and friendships.
Stage Two: The Hero is Called
After the hero’s background is set up, the adventure is initiated by some sort of call. This can be anything from a literal shout or a command to an irresistible feeling born deep within the hero which spurs him into action. In this case, Link is called to his quest when Ilia and Colin are taken prisoner by the Bulblins which invade Ordon Spring. It is also possible that Link is called to his quest by Midna, when she promises to help him in return for his servitude, or by the Light Spirit, Ordona, who tells him how to return to his human form. I believe that the call was the attack, because it is what reveals to Link the danger that envelops Hyrule, and it provides him with the goal to save his friends. In other renditions of the typical structure of the quest, there is an initial refusal of the call. However, Link is never given the chance to refuse his quest, and if he was, I’m sure that his love of his friends would drive all thought of inactivity aside.
Stage Three: A Mentor Arrives
In every quest, the hero receives some sort of help from a mentor: a friend or ally who gives the protagonist advice and support, but rarely does anything consequential to further the quest. The mentor is usually very wise, is often elderly and sometimes supernatural, and normally gives the hero an item to aid him on his journey. It’s tough to name a mentor in Twilight Princess, as Link receives help from many people and beings, such as Rusl and the Light Spirits. But, although she may be an odd choice, I believe that Midna fills the role of the mentor, especially during the first portion of the game. She is not old, and the wisdom that she does possess is certainly not noticeable at first, but she mentors Link all the same. She helps him to get used to his wolf form by telling him about his powers and forcing him to use them, even if she seems like a bit of a jerk while doing so. While she doesn’t directly give him an item, she guides him back to Ordon Village and persuades him to get a sword and shield in order to defend himself. Unlike a mentor, she does help in Link’s quest a fair bit, and she is a bit of a hero in her own way, but when these details become relevant, she has changed roles from being a mentor to simply being Link’s ally. So, while she may be an unconventional choice, Link’s mentor in Twilight Princess is most likely Midna, the sarcastic imp from the Twilight Realm.
Stage Four: A New World
After the protagonist receives the help of a mentor, he is forced to go into an unfamiliar set of surroundings to which he must become accustomed, or at least navigate through. This is where the hero’s first rebirth takes place, and there is usually suffering involved. This new world is the land of Hyrule as it is when covered in Twilight. The rebirth of the character usually refers to spiritual growth, but due to Link’s lack of personality as a result of him being designed to ‘link’ the player to the game, I believe that Link’s rebirth is his transformation into a wolf. This is a perfect example of the concept of rebirth within the hero as he adapts to his new surroundings. Even when Link abolishes the Twilight, the land remains a stranger to him, as he has not previously explored the vast majority of the land.
Stage Five: The Road of Trials
This is the body of the quest, in which the authors are given some freedom. This is where the many quest-like stories differ, but they all include obstacles which the hero must overcome, and he usually grows spiritually as a result. As the hero battles his way through the various trials, he proves that he has been rightfully chosen as the hero. Link’s obstacles consist mainly of dungeons, all of which further his abilities by equipping him with new items. More and more people begin to recognize him as a hero as he saves more areas of the world from Twilight. He does not grow much, as that is the job of the player. But his connections to the nation and its residents deepen and he begins to fully realize the nature of his quest. There is less to say about this stage than about the others, since there are not many rules governing it. But Link certainly has a road of trials, one that is just as intense as that of any character in a novel.
Stage Six: Things Along the Way
This stage is less definitive than the rest, and is more of an addition to the last than a progression of the plot. It covers a few common ideas which appear in most quests. There is no specific order in which these things must enter the story, and there are few rules as to their usage. They may be in the story for only a few scenes, or they might last for the entire duration of the adventure. They often have little to do with the main goal which the hero is trying to accomplish. They can also flesh out the story and introduce new perspectives, enriching the quest.
These can be either romantic or friendly. The hero gets closer to those around him, and is often greatly motivated by his new-found love. Link develops many new relationships as the game progresses, but the most prominent one is his efforts to help Ilia. She is a very important motivating factor in the game, especially since she was the main reason that Link began his quest in the first place. The fact that she loses her memory only adds to the significance placed on her character. In fact, Telma actually has to remind Link to stop worrying about her, and to continue on with his quest. Link’s relationship with Ilia is at least friendly, if not more, and can certainly be considered one of his biggest motivators to save Hyrule from destruction.
Sometimes the hero is influenced by factors other than those governing his adventure. They can make him consider following another path, distract him from his ultimate goal, make him want to quit completely or even commit suicide. I doubt that Link goes so far as to contemplate taking his own life, but he certainly has plenty of things to distract him from his adventure. The most prominent of all of Link’s distractions are the mini-games, but he is also diverted by sidequests, the Cave of Ordeals, and pointless activities such as riding giant warthogs in the Gerudo Desert. Although the player has the option to take a break from the game, Link never has the option to quit his adventure, so he has little in the way of temptation in that sense. Most of his temptations have to do with his being sidetracked from his original goal, something which he can overcome, but is still extremely prominent.
Stage Seven: The Hero Dies for Us
In this stage, the hero must undergo some sort of literal or metaphorical death. It is usually through violent means, and is often self-inflicted. He does this for the greater good, to save many people by sacrificing himself. The implications are that if he fails in his mission, he will never return from the underworld to the normal world again. Link dies quite often along his journey, and only the most experienced player can avoid doing so. However, these deaths are irrelevant to the idea of the quest, as Link simply respawns as if nothing had ever happened. If Link ever died for good, the game would end, since Link is the protagonist. So, his death in Twilight Princess must be metaphorical. I believe that the collection and utilization of the Mirror of Twilight represents Link’s death. He gathered the pieces himself, and willingly entered into the Land of Twilight for the good of all the citizens of Hyrule. It was not a very violent act, but it is still the most probable act of metaphorical self-sacrifice in the game.
Stage Eight: Descent into the Underworld
Once the hero has died, he must fight his way through some sort of underworld in order to achieve a goal or gain knowledge. After Link travels through the Mirror of Twilight, he finds himself in the Twilight Realm, the perfect representation of the underworld in this particular game. Link’s goal while in the underworld is mainly to destroy Zant and save Hyrule in the process, but he also manages to rescue some of the Twili while he is there. Even though his entry to the Twilight Realm and defeat of Zant fit perfectly into stages eight and nine of the quest, I believe that Link doesn’t leave the underworld until he defeats Ganondorf, the actual antagonist of the game. When Link returns to Hyrule after his assault on Zant, he leaves behind the land of shadows and darkness, which could mean that he has left the underworld. But even the sunny realm of Hyrule is tainted by the knowledge of the danger which hangs over the land and its inhabitants. Link doesn’t truly connquer the underworld until he has destroyed its master, Ganondorf, which leads directly into the next stage.
Stages Nine and 10: Death is Defeated and the Hero Returns Home
Eventually, after a long journey and many struggles, the hero vanquishes death and darkness, saving mankind from their inevitable demise. Upon this victory, he returns to his home, having become a symbol of hope and possibility. Sometimes, he is reluctant to leave the new world, having grown fond of it along his journey. In either case, the hero has realized his full potential and has been transformed from a regular civilian into the saviour of the world. In Twilight Princess, Link, after fighting through numerous dungeons, finally achieves his goal and saves Hyrule from the evil powers of Ganondorf. The entirety of Hyrule remains at his disposal, so he does not feel any sorrow in regards to leaving it. He does, however, have to say goodbye to Midna, his mentor, ally, and friend. In a literal sense, Midna represents the Twilight Realm, and in a metaphorical one, Link’s adventure. When the time comes for Midna to go, many players are sad to see her leave. She breaks the mirror behind her, symbolizing the end of the quest. This sadness at Minda’s departure shows the hero’s reluctance to go back to the regular world.
The hero’s return home is not playable in the game. It is depicted in the ending cutscenes, in which everyone and everything is restored to his, her or its rightful place. Link does not receive as much glory as some of the other victorious heroes of the past, but he is well appreciated by those who know him and those whom he has saved. As you can see, Twilight Princess is a perfect example of a quest, as it fits right into the literary structure. But it isn’t the only game that does so. The majority of the other Zelda games, and even games such as Super Mario Galaxy fit into this model. There seems to be something about this layout which is timeless and appeals to everyone. It is so popular that it even found its way into the plots of video games.
What do you think? Do you think that it is just to call Twilight Princess a quest? If you could, would you change anything about the structure of the quest itself? Let us know in the comments what you think!