Posted on August 13 2022 by Chakell Herbert
Power, Wisdom, Courage — these three virtues of the Triforce establish what it means to be a true hero in the land of Hyrule. But to become worthy of them, specifically the Triforce of Courage, Link often has to bravely face many hardships and trials to prove himself.
This particular side of the Sacred Triangles has always been my favorite of the three pieces, ever since I was little. I used to think I liked it so much because it’s often correlated with the goddess Farore (my favorite goddess), or because it’s the piece that dwells within Link in multiple games. That could definitely be the case. But as I’ve gotten older and played through my favorite series multiple times, I think my ultimate reason for loving this part of the Triforce is that it encapsulates my love of the overarching theme of every story in Hyrule: courage.
As I look back on moments of courage throughout the Zelda series, I realize just how inspired and deeply touched I am by the beautiful adventures that showcase lovable characters mustering courage in the face of despair, uncertainty, and pure darkness in the world.
Here are some lessons on courage that I learned from The Legend of Zelda.
Ocarina of Time: Challenges Create Courage
When I was little, Ocarina of Time was the first big video game I ever played and my first ever Zelda. I was transfixed by the world of Hyrule, the threat of Ganondorf, and the overall storytelling. I loved every second even though I would often wander aimlessly, trying to figure out what to do next. But what I remember the most is watching Link’s courage develop as he traversed threatening temples, faced terrifying bosses, and one particular stand-out moment when he bravely leaped across the broken bridge to Gerudo desert on Epona.
Though, what made those moments really memorable is that they tested and grew my courage as well. I remember diving into the Bottom of the Well for the first time and being absolutely paralyzed by the ominous music, the shadows of Wallmasters, the shrieks of ReDeads, and the labyrinth-like hallways. There were even moments I had to turn the sound down on my television just so I could muster enough bravery to open another door. I even took breaks when I felt too scared to continue (granted I was only 8). Ultimately, I felt as helpless and vulnerable as Child Link probably did as I attempted to topple the Well.
But when I finally was able to conquer Dead Hand, I felt like the Boss! I was so proud of myself for being brave.
For so long, I believed that courage is something that you’re born with — that comes naturally. But this game taught me that courage actually can’t manifest unless you are, in fact, afraid and facing a challenge, which made Link’s ability to hold the Triforce of Courage so much more significant to me.
In the Hero of Time’s case, being thrown ahead seven years in time into an absolute bleak future, being forced to grow up with hardly any guidance, and realizing the land and friends he knew as a child are unrecognizable, I have always been inspired by how his courage grows over time, and how the choices he makes allow it to develop, despite facing so many unknowns.
When comparing the threats of Link’s childhood (starting out absolutely terrified by a man who haunts his nightmares) to his trials in adulthood (when he has to make the choice to face and defeat the same dangerous man), it’s safe to say that both the player’s and Link’s capacity for courage have grown significantly throughout this journey through time. Just like real life. The more time goes on, the bigger the threats, and the more opportunities you have to keep surprising yourself with your bravery.
The Wind Waker: It Takes Courage to Do the Right Thing
I have always admired Link in The Wind Waker. He has no connection to the previous heroes of Hyrule, hardly even knows any stories of the ancient kingdom, and just wants to spend his days in peace. But everything changes when his sister is snatched. His desire to protect Aryll is fueled by boundless courage, and that courage even grabs the attention of the King of Hyrule.
But his defining moment of courage in this game truly hits me when, after rescuing his sister and fulfilling what he originally set out to do, he willingly takes on a different journey he never asked to be a part of: being the hero the world needs, not just the one his sister needs.
He is not simply given the Triforce of Courage or handed a full-fledged Master Sword; instead, he has to track down and rebuild the triangle and restore the power of the legendary sword. Yet the moment he presents the piece of the Triforce to the Tower of the Gods, the triangle dwells inside him, proving to all that, although he has no connection to the previous Spirit of the Hero, his choices and bravery have enabled him to fill the shoes of the Hero of Time.
Truly my favorite thing about this game is that Link isn’t the chosen one. He doesn’t have to be brave. In fact, he could totally just sail home to Outset Island after rescuing Aryll, living out the rest of his days in the peace that’s so familiar to him. Instead, he chooses the harder path, because he knows it’s the right thing to do, even though it’s going to take every ounce of courage he has.
Link’s character arc really shows me how I can make brave choices every day, even when I don’t have to. Integrity and decency is becoming so much more difficult to find these days; in fact, sometimes it takes more courage than it should to do the right thing when so many others are not. I face this crossroad a lot, like when someone is unkind to me and I am so tempted to retaliate in anger, but I take a deep breath and choose to be patient and kind instead. Or moments when I decided to talk to and smile at a stranger in an elevator with me instead of finding comfort and safety in scrolling my phone to avoid small talk. Or when I chose to go to therapy to find healing because I knew it would better my relationships and myself, even though I knew it would be hard.
Or, in moments when I’ve had to muster all of my courage to stand up for what I believe in, especially when I’ve stood alone.
Sometimes it’s the everyday acts of courage to make the more inconvenient yet more fulfilling choices to do the right thing that really make the world go ’round.
Skyward Sword: We are Braver Than We Think We Are
Skyward Sword is one of my top video games ever. There is one particular scene that warms my heart in this game, and it’s when Link finally catches up with Zelda after searching for her for so long. As she explains her own circumstances, she talks about the journey Link has faced so far. “You learned wisdom from solving devious puzzles and traps. You gained power by honing and tempering both yourself and your sword. And by overcoming the trials set before you by the goddess, you’ve found true courage,” she tells him.
This Link may be one of the only Link’s who wields not just the Triforce of Courage, but is worthy enough to be able to claim the entirety of the triangle’s essence in the end. Though that privilege did not come easy to him. In this story, Link is notable for his laziness and carefree nature, so becoming the hero he is meant to be is definitely not an easy task for him. In fact, compared to Groose, he seems like the least likely person to be able to strike down the embodiment of evil in the world. He even hesitates out of wariness in the beginning.
Still, he moves forward.
Every time I play through this game, I am always struck by this Link’s character development, particularly, of course, his courage. He seems to be an incarnation of the hero whom does not channel instant bravery like some others do. This trait is especially apparent every time he comes face to face with a dungeon entrance. Before he enters, the looming dungeon seems to emanate the saying, “Enter… If you dare.” By the look on Link’s face, he’s wary of the ominous challenge ahead, and the monsters lurking in the shadows. Yet despite his fear, and probably much to his surprise, he takes a deep breath and braces himself and steps forward anyway, ready to face the dungeon and whatever waits inside, head on. And eventually the most evil entity in the world.
He’s a lot braver than he initially thought he was.
And isn’t that what we realize when we face the challenges of reality as well?
As much as I would love to say that my biggest trials I face in life are treasure-hunting, monster-slaying, and dungeon-crawling, they aren’t (my child self would be so disappointed!). Instead, my “monsters” and “puzzles” have come in the form of challenges like difficult health problems, experiencing anxiety and depression, navigating life transitions, managing relationships, dealing with grief, and healing from past hardships.
I’m not the only one who has faced challenges like these either. Many of us have been through the wringer when it comes to trials in life. But because of the foes we face and have conquered (or even the ones we are still facing and puzzles we are still solving), we have most definitely showcased a heck of a lot of courage. We are all more capable and more courageous than we give ourselves credit for.
The World Needs Courage
My favorite thing about Zelda is that for Link to grow and become a worthy hero, I have to grow too. I still feel that sense of satisfaction when I tackle a scary area or solve a challenging puzzle or take on a terrifying enemy.
There are likewise so many examples of courage in the series that don’t involve Link. Like when Princess Zelda in Breath of the Wild bravely chooses to face Calamity Ganon alone when nothing has gone according to plan and everyone else who was supposed to fight against him has perished. When Midna shatters the Mirror of Twilight because it’s the right thing to do even though she knows she’ll never see Link again. When Ravio unmasks his hood and stands up to oppose Princess Hilda — the person he likely trusts and loves most in the world. When Groose humbly sets aside his pride to help Link become the hero. And let’s not forget the waterworks when Anju and Kafei know they will be killed by the falling moon in Termina, yet still choose to meet the morning together.
These moments remind me how significant and inspiring our acts of bravery can be for ourselves, our loved ones, and even for the entire world. Courage seems to inspire courage. Nobody forgets the significant moments of bravery we witness every day. As Princess Zelda once beautifully said, “Courage need not be remembered, for it is never forgotten.”
Words I live by.
I’m not perfect when it comes to being brave. I’m scared every day of the big threats and uncertainty in the world, to the smaller fearful situations like having to stand up for myself or to share something vulnerable with someone I love. But just like this wonderful series has taught me, I can be brave despite the fear. I can choose to do the right thing even if no one else is. I am much stronger than I think I am.
How has The Legend of Zelda strengthened your courage? Let me know in the comments!