(This editorial is part of Classics month at ZI. We are revisiting some of our best work of the past five years, revamping it where we can for a new age and a new audience. We hope you enjoy this truly thought provoking piece!)
We’ve all experienced moments when nothing at all seems to be going right. When nothing goes according to plan. It’s a part of life. Whether it’s to do with relationships, your career, or your goals for the future, there will be times when it unavoidably all goes wrong. We know the feeling here at Zelda Informer, where as we were pushing the site forward to new heights and achieving our goals we got set back over a week by server malfunctions. As with so many other aspects that make up life, we can find this notion of failure all throughout The Legend of Zelda series. There are so many times when it all goes wrong for The Hero of Time and The Hero of Winds, but they persevere, and because of that it is only their successes that are remembered, not their failures.
“I’ve been thinking this ever since I joined you… You never want to give up. You always want to try. I admire you!” - Tatl
These words are those of Tatl to the Hero of Time once he has made the decision to pursue Majora’s Mask into the moon. It is towards the end of both of his quests, the first being through time and the later being through Termina. In both situations Link triumphs over the trials before him and defeats evil, but along the way there were numerous times when he was knocked down. Numerous times when hope had faded and he could have given up.
As the Hero of Time beings his adventure, him and Zelda formulate a plan to obtain the Triforce before Ganondorf does. However this plan backfires when Link is sealed away, allowing Ganondorf to take the Triforce uncontested. All that Link had worked for was in vain. He had failed what he and Zelda had planned, yet there was hope. With the guidance of the sages he set out to make up for his wrongs, to overthrow Ganondorf and restore peace. He didn’t know how, but he trusted the sages and then, it all went wrong again. Link had thought that Zelda was safe from Ganondorf, but he ultimately led Ganondorf straight to her. Link could never have felt more used then when Ganondorf said “I knew you would appear if I let this kid wander around” to Zelda. In both cases Link led Ganondorf directly to what he was trying to protect.
The Hero of Time gets knocked down on numerous other occasions. When he first encounters Ganondorf face to face outside of Hyrule Castle, he draws his sword and shows his courage, but it is not enough. He stands his ground, but is effortlessly knocked down by Ganondorf. He is no match for the King of Evil that he needs to stop. Link felt useless, weak and hopeless. He felt like there was no chance that he could win, no chance that he could prevail. It is similar to the start of Link’s journey in Termina where he is reduced to the hopeless state of a Deku Scrub by the power of Majora’s Mask. No doubt he would feel useless and unable to recover his Ocarina, let alone Majora’s Mask as well. All throughout both of his journeys The Hero of Time gets knocked down physically and mentally, but that’s not what we remember him for.
The Hero of Wind has a tale that is all too similar. It is journey of constant failure. Once Aryll is kidnapped Link runs right off a cliff, and it is only thanks to Tetra that he doesn’t fall. Then once at Forsaken Fortress Link is captured and thrown into jail, just like the Hero of Time was at the Gerudo Fortress. Then later, once he finally manages to find his sister, he is thrown far from the Fortress by the Helmaroc King and into the ocean, only to be saved by The King of Red Lions. Eventually Link revisits the Fortress, saves his sister and overcomes the Helmaroc King, but then there is another obstacle. The Master Sword is powerless and Link is no match for Ganon. He doesn’t stand a chance. This time he owes his rescue to Prince Komali and the Great Valoo. Again he feels hopeless and like his goal is unattainable. The sword that he had hoped would solve his problems had made them worse by breaking the seal on Ganon.
Both heroes have a journey where at times, everything just goes wrong. Their plans fail and there doesn’t seem to be hope for the future. They worked so hard to achieve their goals, but it all came crashing down. It is a feeling that we all can relate to. What truly defines The Hero of Time and The Hero of Winds is not their failings, but their successes. The fact that they kept trying despite the circumstances. They work towards their goals no matter what. The goals and the plans change just as often as the circumstances change, but they keep on pushing forward without losing their greater vision.
When The Hero of Time is knocked down by Ganondorf he gets back up again. When he leads Ganondorf to the Triforce and to Zelda he doesn’t just say ‘well, I tried, but it’s over’. He keeps trying, he keeps fighting for what he believes in and eventually he triumphs over Ganondorf. When reduced to being a Deku Scrub he doesn’t wallow in self-pity, instead he works to restore himself, to get his horse back, and to overcome what wronged him and the land of Termina.
The Hero of Time kept on pushing forward, as did The Hero of Wind. When in imprisonment, they both sought their freedom until it was obtained. Once defeated by the Helmaroc King and Ganondorf, The Hero of Wind retreats and reevaluates his plan. He regroups and uses reason. He doesn’t complain that the Master Sword is faulty, but works to identify and correct its problem. He tackles problems front on. He began his journey hastily rushing off a cliff, but learns patience and temperance. He knows that achieving goals takes work. It takes a plan of attack, a plan that adapts and changes depending on circumstances. Trial and error.
I get knocked down. But I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down.
When The Hero of Wind confronts Ganon atop his tower, the King of Evil mutters “Yes, surely you are the Hero of Time, reborn.” We know that there is no direct connection between the two heroes, as the King of Red Lions says, but there is a connection. This connection is what defines them as heroes. It is what Ganon senses inside of him. It is the desire to keep on trying no matter how bleak the outlook may be. It is that spirit that brought The Hero of Winds to face Ganon, and the same spirit that allowed The Hero of Time to make up for his mistakes.
While so alike, the two heroes also represent two different aspects of determination. The Hero of Wind always has others there to support him, whether it was the Rito, The King of Red Lions or the Pirates. They were there to help. The Hero of Time on the other hand feels like he is alone. That when he falls it is his own job to get back up. He forgets those supporting him because they are not so directly involved like in The Wind Waker. There is Sheik and the sages, even Navi and Saria are there - Link just overlooks Saria’s song and tends to ignore Navi. He needed to realize that he isn’t alone. Even when Navi left, Zelda was there for him. Likewise, we need to realize then when we fall, getting back up is not dependent upon or own strength alone, because there are always supporting hands around us to help us get back on track.
The old lady in Ocarina of Time’s potion shop says that “there is no medicine that can cure a fool”, which holds true on many levels. The truly foolish people are those who don’t help themselves, who stay down when things go wrong. In Majora’s Mask, if it wasn’t for Link, Koume wouldn’t have gotten up, but she sought help and overcame her fall. The fool is the person that gives up when they fail. If you push forward and keep going, then there is help, then there is medicine. If you stay down you are out of the reach of help. All you have to do is extend your arm up to those around you and keep persevering.
What defines these two heroes is courage. Not merely their possession of the Triforce of Courage, but the determination it takes to keep trying failure after failure, until success comes. It is by no means easy to stand up and fight when all seems hopeless. When plans fail in life it takes courage to keep on trying, but it also takes wisdom to approach it reasonably, and it takes power to execute those plans. It is a cliché, but one of the few that hold true. Nobody except yourself keeps a count of how many times you fail. People look at your successes, but if you give up, then your failings are all that you have to show. Persevering after failure is a type of success in itself.
Sometimes Link has support, sometimes he doesn’t, but always he keeps on going, just as we must if we are to live up to our destinies. Although a fear of failure drives us to succeed, you need to be able to deal with failure to truly succeed. Real success doesn’t come without failure. It takes time, it takes work. It takes determination, persistence and perseverance - some of the greatest qualities there are. Failure either consumes or ends us like it always does for Ganondorf, or it makes us stronger people. Better people.
Sometimes it feels like all that we can do is fail. Giving up seems like a viable option, but you can’t succeed without trying. Staying down leaves you with no more chances, but pushing onwards creates more opportunities. Link always succeeds in the end, which reminds us that we can too. We can’t let current circumstances hinder us or make us loose our sight. Don’t become trapped in your circumstances. As the famous line of Batman Begins goes, “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” It doesn’t matter who you are, or who you have been in the past. It is what you do that defines you - either giving up or pushing on past your failures. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
Triumph comes to those who persevere.