Zelda is a powerful princess from the Legend of Zelda, a predominantly videogame series from Nintendo. She is not your average video game princess in distress, but an integral part of the main protagonist, link’s, journey. She is the owner of the triforce portion of wisdom and in one title she is even the reincarnation of a goddess. If that doesn’t convince you that Zelda is a powerful character, than I don’t know what will. While she isn’t who the player controls in the games, she takes many forms that aid Link during his journey and she goes through many transformations as a character.
A Legend of Zelda game that I’m focusing on is The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker, where zelda spends most of the game as Tetra.
Tetra presents herself as a fearless and cunning pirate that is captain of a crew. In the beginning of the game the developers tease the player into thinking she is simply a damsel in distress, but this idea is diminished very early on. The player sees her fall from the sky and must defeat a series of enemies to keep her safe. Very soon after, you understand that she is in no need of saving and can handle difficult situations on her own. Early on she comes off as very harsh but the player will later learn that she has a very soft heart and has incredible kindness. So where does Zelda come into this? SPOILER ALERT, the player and Tetra learns, later in the game, that she is Princess Zelda, a descendant of the Royal Hyrule family. She is without a doubt an awesome character, but how does she fit in classic theoretical frameworks?
Feminist Criticism and posthumanism are two very interesting frameworks that I think Zelda fits in greatly. A feminist critique has the viewer understand a character through a lense which includes how feminism has evolved. In this context I will be looking at Tetra/Zelda while considering how “femininity” is typically seen in media. As for posthumanism, Zelda will be put in the spotlight to understand how her character expresses what it means to be human. Although she isn’t technically from the real world, she still radiates with human values we see throughout today.
One of the first scenes of the game expresses a key element of feminist criticism. This scene not only introduces Zelda to the player, but reveals much of her characteristics that are typically seen as masculine. Part of modern day feminist criticism, empowering women, aims to motivate girls to stand up to the idea that they can’t do everything that men can do. It is evident in Zelda’s introduction she proves that she can handle herself without the need of a male counterpart.
In this scene Zelda is dropped, by a huge bird, from a astonishing height and lands in a forest. After the player saves her from a band of enemies she wakes up from being knocked out from the fall. Through the dialogue between her and the player she explains how she has been through much worse and doesn’t need help.
This flips the typical associations connected to women on its head. This proves to be supported throughout the game as the player witnesses Zelda do very heroic things.
The topic of posthumanism can be difficult with characters from fantasy games because most of the time they aren’t human. Although, the great thing about characters is that they’re created by humans so human values enter the character regardless. Zelda has great power in her land because she is part of the royal family of Hyrule. In most of the games, she is the one at the top facilitating the land. To most, this power could be utilized for personal gain but for Zelda it is keeping the people’s best interests intact.
Late in The Wind Waker story, Zelda is revealed as the princess of Hyrule and this is a surprise to all of the characters. This is a call to adventure for Zelda to take her rightful place in the palace and she must make a choice of how she will use her power. Zelda, be very reluctant to take on this position, wants to use her power to help Link. She proves that her beliefs motivate her to do good by the power that she is given.
This is a quality that humans value greatly and it’s something that could be argued to be fundamental to being human. In parallel to analyzing humans from a biological level is understanding them in a philosophical way. Viewing Zelda in this way offer the player a way to connect to her at a human level.
So what does this say about Zelda? She is an incredible and deep character that is, without a doubt, a great heroine. She exhibits a number of heroic characters and by putting her in a couple theoretical frameworks show that she is a deep character. In the Legend of Zelda specifically, Zelda is more than capable to take care of herself as well as command an entire pirate crew. Zelda is always evolving in each new game iteration and she always proves to be an essential heroine to the story.