Protecting the mortal incarnation of the Goddess Hylia is a pretty big job, but one handled with the utmost grace in the capable hands of the very first Sheikah warrior– Impa, from Skyward Sword
. Though she initially had a stern exterior and was very critical of Link, Impa turned out to be an extremely loyal and trusting individual with a heart of gold. It’s no secret that Impa is a flawed character, if she was perfect she wouldn’t be interesting, but the beauty of her appearance in Skyward Sword
is that the players get to see her character develop over thousands
of years. A selfless servant of the Goddess, Impa will do anything to make sure that Zelda stays safe and Demise stays sealed away. After the jump, get a glimpse at the motivations and carefully calculated actions that lead Impa to become the legendary Sheikah icon she is!
One of the most striking things about Impa is her dedication, her loyalty to Hylia. It’s likely she fought by her side with the rest of the Sheikah’s during the “Ancient Battle” on the Surface that resulted in Demise’s being sealed. Her part in the Ancient Battle alone proves Impa’s strength and skill as a warrior, and her later protection of Zelda against Ghirahim proves it further. For Impa to be the one agent assigned to the task of awakening the Goddess’ incarnation in the far future (and then returning to watch over the Gate of Time), she must’ve been one hell of a fighter and likely the Goddess’ right hand. There was also never a time when Impa strayed from her objective; she intercepted Ghirahim when he pulled Zelda to the surface in that cyclone, laid out Zelda’s fate and the history of the Surface, immediately set out to purify her body and regain the Goddess’ memories by praying at the Goddess Statues, destroyed the Gate of Time to protect her, and stayed behind in the Sealed Temple without hesitation when it came time to. Impa didn’t miss a beat, so when Link was late coming in on his part she found that impropriety unacceptable.
So let’s get into that, why Impa was so stern about keeping Zelda and Link apart early in the game. Obviously the Link and Impa got off on the wrong foot– the first time they met, Impa tore into him. Not only does she prevent Link and Zelda from reuniting at that point, but she doubts Link’s ability to be of any help to Zelda to such an extent that she questions the Goddess’ choice of hero! But she reacts this way because she is such an efficient agent of the Goddess, a part of her is offended that Link would’ve let harm come to Zelda due to his being late, and because she thinks that Zelda deserves a better and stronger hero who is prepared to protect her. The important thing to note is that Impa knows Link is destined to be the hero, she just can’t accept him in his current state. In their first conversation, Impa says to him, “Listen well, chosen hero. If you wish to be of help to Her Grace, you must summon a shred of courage and face the trials laid out before you. Only when you’ve conquered the trials will you be of use to Zelda. No sooner. Understood?” Impa isn’t one to sugar coat, and she slams Link immediately to put him in the proper mindset for the arduous journey ahead of him. She believes in him, she just has a funny way of showing it.
Impa’s relationship with Zelda is interesting also, because although Impa was just carrying out a mission, she and Zelda grew close during their time together. Zelda relied on Impa so heavily at the start of her time on the Surface, as she was her only source of information on the past and her role as the incarnation of the Goddess. But theirs isn’t just a marriage of convenience, the two truly did love one another. Impa for Zelda partially because she cared so much for the Goddess before, and partially because she empathized with Zelda’s situation– having to drop everything in her own life and commit to this undertaking. Impa isn’t entirely stony, she was honest with Zelda about her predicament from the beginning and did what she could to make her most comfortable in this new state, while still firmly guiding her. In the end, Impa gave Zelda her bracelet to remember her by and that was a very intimate gesture that I feel encompassed all of her endearment toward both Zelda and Hylia.
I mentioned earlier that Impa was flawed, and her initially calculating attitude contributes to her little list of flaws. At the beginning of the game we do see her act as though fulfilling her orders is all she needs to think about (granted, not succeeding would mean the end of the world as she knew it), but gradually her attitude shifts and we see her soften with a better understanding of the players involved and all they are sacrificing to make her mission a success. I believe the largest of these shifts occurs on the bridge in Lanayru Desert, when she is bested by Ghirahim and saved by Link. Her defeat was humbling enough, but to see the hero come to her aid just in the knick of time must’ve restored her faith in the Goddess and her whole agenda. In that moment she immediately trusted in Link, which was a turning point in their relationship, but it also gave her room to breathe because she knew this hero would be able to defeat Demise when the time came. A great thing about Impa is that she can admit when she is wrong and give credit where it’s due, and she does this with Link. Destroying the Gate of Time at Lanayru sealed the deal in terms of her believing in him, trusting him to finish what needed to be done in the “present.” From that point onward, Impa lets her guard down so to speak thus resigning to her place as overseer of the Sealed Temple where she relaxes into the very zen and assured old woman who dwells in the present.
Women of Legend is back from its hiatus with a two part special! Part two will be out next Saturday, and it will delve into the intricacies of old Impa– the effect of her new personality on her actions, her role in the development of other characters, and her legacy throughout the series.