Why Does Link Have to be Hylian?

Link truly is an enigma. He hardly speaks, he has only recently begun to show emotion, and little is really known about him. Often defined as an empty shell that the players themselves must fill, there’s not much to the Zelda series’ protagonist. He’s just a human male boy, or teenager, that starts small and ends up on a quest to save the world. One of the few things that defines him is his humanoid, or predominantly Hylian, background.

Granted, there have been times when he is actually Ordonian or Outsetian, but they are people of Hylian descent. Skyloftian could be what the upcoming Link considers himself, but all signs so far point towards a Hylian appearance. Always, Link is a human, but considering all of the great races that Zelda is known for, are there missed opportunities? Consider the potential.

It is interesting to consider why Link is always Hylian. Is it because they are the race closest to the gods? Is it because of their pointy ears that make them able to listen to the gods? As the hero, perhaps Link needs to be close to the gods. Interesting thoughts, but ultimately irrelevant when we get into the storyline and gameplay of Zelda. A game would work just as well with Link as a Zora, or a Deku, or a Goron. Majora’s Mask showed that each race brings it own unique experience to the gameplay, but only really touched upon the concept. Ideas could be fleshed out much better if a game was dedicated to, say, Link as a Zora.

Why not spruce up Link? Link is no doubt the most important element of Zelda, being the icon of the series, and the only core element to have appeared in every game. But what defines Link? Does he have to be a human to be Link? If not, then why not try him as a Goron? If Link has to be human, that’s fine, but why Hylian? Maybe try the more human races like the Sheikah or the Anouki. Why not go Gerudo?

Simple answer to that is “Link isn’t a female”. Correction, Link has never been a female in the past, but does Link have to be a male? Is that certain? It is part of the fairytale clichĂ© for Link to be male, but he doesn’t have to be. Nintendo defied conventions with Samus, so why not again? There are a range of places to go with a Link that is a Gerudo. Besides the story of how it all fits together, there are new gameplay options as Link could be trained in Gerudo magic and duel swordfighting. The game could be about how the hero has to somewhat rebel against his own people. Abundant potential no doubt. Oh, and if you don’t want Link as a female, then he can be the one Gerudo male born every hundred years. It adds even more suspense to the story when it’s the King of the Gerudo who ends up being the hero.

For those familiar with it, all of this makes me think of Avatar: The Last Airbender (also known as Avatar: The Legend of Aang). Link always being Hylian is a little like the Avatar always being from the Air nomads. Link is a lot like the Avatar. They are both heroes who are divinely responsible with protecting the world. There are several Links across the timeline which cannot be logically connected. Some have said that it may be a cycle of reincarnation, similar to that of the Avatar, that connects the Links. Once an Avatar dies he or she is reborn into another race: air, water, earth or fire. Fire is considered the ‘evil’ of the four, but the hero is born amongst them a fourth of the time nonetheless, so don’t say a Gerudo Link wouldn’t work. Link may have always been Hylian in the past, but maybe it is time that he wasn’t.

Besides Hylian, we’ve established that there are completely separate races like the Zoras, then there are human races like the Sheikah, but there are also other forms that the hero could adopt. How many fans out there would love to have a game based around a Fierce-Deity-like Link. Could we have a stalfos-like hero? Of course we could? It’s more a matter of whether Nintendo should.

It’s unlikely that Nintendo would do such a thing to their beloved Link. He’s the only thing that has been in every Zelda game to date. The little human boy in his green tunic. Not a Gerudo, or a Zora, wearing something else. I like to consider it an option that Link could be something other than Hylian one day, to open a whole new range of possibilities, but Link isn’t going to be messed with. It’s a nice idea, but will remain a fantasy I fear.

As Shakespeare would say, a Link from any other race would be just as sweet. It would be a great breath of fresh air for the series, but in many regards, it wouldn’t seem quite right. I know – if Link has to be a human in his trademark tunic, then maybe the hero could be from that race everyone loves – The Tingles. Damn, I had quite a good argument going until I brought Tingle into this didn’t I? Thankfully Link being a Tingle is just as unlikely as a Zora, or a Gerudo, or anything that’s not Hylian. Given all of the Majora’s Mask love there is, this idea could very well be viable. At the same time, given all of the Majora’s Mask hate there is around, this idea could be atrocious. We’ll never know though, because Nintendo is unlikely to try it and find out.

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