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People often make comments about Zelda being just another damsel in distress and that they are getting tired of always having to save her. She is even referred to as “the usual Maiden-in-distress in all Zelda games” on Zelda Wiki. Reading these frequent opinions got me thinking about Zelda’s role as the main female character in The Legend of Zelda series and I think that there is reason to disagree with these common statements.
Zelda’s a strong and often independent woman with the important role of ruling over her kingdom and protecting its citizens. Throughout the series she has shown not only her abilities of wisdom and healing, but also tremendous bravery, generosity, perseverance and even skill during battle.
In the original Legend of Zelda she courageously separated the Triforce of Wisdom and hid it throughout the realm in an attempt to prevent Ganon from obtaining it. She is captured by Ganon due to this act against him, and so, she finds herself in need of assistance only because she took a stance against evil to protect her kingdom. Similarly, Sleeping Zelda from The Adventure of Link backstory bravely stands her ground when she is demanded to reveal where the rest of the Triforce is and due to this is put into an eternal sleep.
Princess Zelda in Ocarina of Time independently makes decisions for herself, even as a child, and takes actions to do what she believes is correct. Yet it is as an adult that she shows her true strength, disguising herself as Sheik in order to help Link fulfill his destiny and save Hyrule. Doing this places her in many dangerous places and puts her at a great risk of being captured by Ganondorf; however, she is keen to assist in whatever way she can and does not wish to just sit around and wait for Link to save the day. She is also the seventh sage, who is the leader of the sages, and therefore plays a prominent role in the sealing of Ganondorf in the Sacred Realm.
Zelda, known as Tetra, from The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass is very different to any other Zelda we see in the series. She is a tom boy who’s not afraid to take on any challenge and she is also the captain of the pirate ship. Tetra is in charge of the all male crew who respect her greatly. In The Wind Waker she even fights Ganondorf alongside Link using the light arrows, which is not uncommon, as she also assists Link in this way in Twilight Princess and Spirit Tracks. In the Four Swords series Zelda is present in the final battle to provide the light required for Link to effectively use the light arrows.
In Twilight Princess Zelda surrenders to Zant in order to spare her people along with her own life, but this does not mean she is intending to stand by and let evil take over. She is aware of the situation and is keen to play her part in defeating the evil. She willingly gives her powers to save Midna from the brink of death, thus dangerously weakening herself.
Recently we have seen Zelda play a much larger role in Spirit Tracks in which she accompanies Link throughout the game in her spirit form. Her possession of phantoms is crucial to completing the different stages of the Tower of Spirits and getting Link through many dangerous circumstances. She is often frightened but she knows what must be done and is more than willing to push on in order to save herself and her kingdom. She once again plays a part in the final battle by shooting light arrows at the demon king and even helps Link make the final blow to Malladus as he could not do it on his own.
While rescuing Zelda may often form a part of the game it is rarely the prominent part of the story and never the sole purpose of the adventure, with that always being defeating the evil and restoring peace. We also must never forget that for Link to successfully defeat the enemy he almost always requires Zelda’s help, which she is only too glad to supply as she is not the kind of princess that sits around waiting for someone else to take charge and sort everything out. Instead she is actively involved in righting the wrongs being carried out in her Kingdom. Zelda may be a damsel by definition, but I don’t believe we can honestly call her a typical damsel in distress, but more fittingly, an admirable woman who will always do what is required of her for the betterment of her kingdom.