ZeldaBlog

Eternally a Princess

January 9th, 2007 at 2:59 am by The Missing Link

[WARNING: This post has very vague allusions to things that happen in Twilight Princess. However, it doesn’t overtly reveal anything. As such, this topic is NOT marked Spoiler. Please post accordingly.]

“Ah! the stories of yore! How fabled they are!” the minsterel said in the town square. “How enchanting are the tales that I’ve to tell this day! Gather ye round and hear of ages past, of legends and heroes, and of magic! I wish to tell you of a legend that happened long ago in this very castle town. I tell you a legend of a great evil which plagued our fair land long ago, of a hero so legendary that his feats you would dare not believe it true, …and of a fair maiden who fought at his side, a maiden who was our leader, our monarch, our very princess…”

Can you not imagine those words being said? (Oh, but if only we had our own convention—I propose the name HyruleCon—with which to congregate and share in our Zelda pride!) Can you not hear those words being said in the town square years upon years after one of the legendary battles of Link versus Ganondorf? I know I can. Such a place and time I can only dream of… yet at the same time, were I but a much younger lad, not even ten, standing before the minstrel hearing my favourite tale about Link and Zelda, I know for certain that I would’ve been tugging upon my mother’s simple dress, looking up wide-eyed at her face, and asking, “But Mum, if Zelda had no papa, wherefore is she not a queen but rather a princess?”

With the release of the 13th Zelda title for a Nintendo console, the basic structure of Hyrule is definitively locked within our minds. Link is a nobody-turned-hero. Ganondorf is this evil man bent upon conquering Hyrule. And Zelda is a princess—eternally a princess—in our minds.

It doesn’t matter what the political structure of the country is like in the game. It doesn’t matter what sort of backstory the game has or if they even mention the fact that Zelda has a father or not. It doesn’t matter if it appears that Zelda is actually the one and only monarch sitting upon the throne. She’s always a princess. It’s become a proverbial rule that she must be such. The Zelda structure is crystalised in time, locked in place for eternity, and that’s the end of the story. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, definition of “princess”—inaccurate as it may be—be darned.

Yet a quick look at the Zelda titles will reveal just what a misnomer “Princess Zelda” is. Legend of Zelda has no king… at least no king that’s alive during the game. The adult portion of Ocarina of Time certainly doesn’t seem to have a king; I reckon he died in Ganondorf’s invasion. Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures certainly don’t mention any such king that’s above Zelda. And Twilight Princess… well, I’m certain that those of you who’ve played it by now know precisely what I mean, wink, wink. Even beyond that, however, even in the games where a king (Zelda’s father, or so we hope! Don’t need any of that royal drama getting in the tabloids!) is in place above her (thus circumventing Zelda’s automatic ascension to the title of queen), with the exception of Wind Waker (with the real King of Red Lions) and in Minish Cap, the king is, at best, a character sprite found only in the ending credits roll or, at worst, never ever rendered upon the screen, merely an invisible hand that governs over Hyrule without ever being seen by our plucky hero. Practically, the king would be integral to the workings of a kingdom and a castle town; that’s the way the structure worked back then. However, to the stories presented in The Legend of Zelda series, well, not so much an important part of the story.

All of this drives home the point that the story really is about some random Joe Schmoe (Link) kicking some mega-evil bad dude (Ganondorf and/or Vaati, usually) in order to save yon fair princess (Zelda). Gee… this isn’t a cliché… I wonder if we’ve heard this story before…

Pretty much what you’re looking at here is the very core of a typical fairy tale. I mean, honestly, think about it. You’re Link; who’s he? Not anyone that would go down in the history books if he weren’t the Chosen Hero each darn generation. (Talk about a bummer of a birthmark, Hal.) And all of a sudden, before you know it, our everyday Joe is hobnobbing with the very daughter of the most powerful man for several leagues in any direction. I know the analogy is really bad here, but imagine this as if you suddenly were asked out by Brad Pitt, Anna Kournikova, or whomever you have dreams about at night. That’s quite a life change, if you ask me! And as we all (regretfully) know, such things don’t happen, you know, every day. The chances that destiny will lead me to a tea and crumpets party with the Queen of England is, well, significantly worse than me winning the lottery.

And oh, let’s not forget the pure evil bad guy that’s standing in our way. We’ve got the King of Evil or the Prince of Quasi-evil standing between us and the girl we are to chivalrously save. Now you might think that Ganondorf is a little too dark for a fairy tale, that since he’s not spouting butterfly wings off of his back that Zelda isn’t a fairy tale. Think again. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves involves apples with so much poison that they’ll knock you out for a thousand years. Beauty and the Beast involves angry mobs wanting to come in and burn the Beast’s house down. Cinderella’s evil stepmother and evil stepsisters would, in this day and age, be jailed for cruelty to children and physical abuse. Alice in Wonderland has a lovely queen who is overly excited with decapitation. Hansel and Gretel had a witch that wanted to eat children! The list goes on. No matter how dark Zelda is, it holds very true to its fairy tale roots.

For that matter, since we’re making comparisons, all of the modern Zelda games involve someone standing, flying, or watching over you the entire time. Yes, Navi is very much like your fairy godmother. (Sure, she’s got the fairy part right, but she isn’t exactly godmotherly…) But enough of beating a dead Epona over and over again. Why princess? Why is Zelda always a princess? If you don’t look at The Legend of Zelda in terms of a fairy tale, your guesses would be as good as mine; however, looking through the light of literature, the reason why Zelda is a princess (and indeed why The Legend of Zelda is set up in the way is set up!) becomes quite clear.

First, you have to consider who the audience for these fairy tales were. Remember the first paragraph of the article when I played the Hyrulean minstrel for you? I didn’t just add that in for no reason whatsoever! Fairy tales back in the days of yore were told to the common folk. It would pass from minstrel to minstrel, bard to villager, mother to child. And many of the stories, especially those that set themselves in much more medieval times, became stories of hope, the stuff of dreams. How many Disney fairy-tales-turned-cartoons from the ’80s and early ’90s can you name where a young woman falls in love with a Prince Charming or a young man marries a princess in the end? I bet we could all name five or six off the top of our heads without even having to resort to IMDB. But here’s the kicker: How did you feel after you came out of those movies? Elated? High-spirited? Most likely. You see, nearly all of us in some way see ourselves reflected in Cinderella, in Aladdin, in the Beast, in Mulan… you name it. We see ourselves in the underdog. And then we get to see the one we relate to, the one that represents us, achieve such a dreamy position—hobnobbing with royalty, promises of marriage, a hero to come after us, whatever that may be. These weren’t your rich people stories; after all, they were already living the fantasy life everyone dreamed about. The stories were told to entertain and to make the common folk have hope.

And this is partially why Link, our hero, never starts out as a lofty knight at the game’s beginning. In fact, none of the Zelda titles to date actually puts Link in the position where, from the game’s beginning, everyone know precisely who Link is and revere him as an ultra-cool man. (Adventure of Link could have been the only exception to this, but since text was expensive back then, and they were already doing such things as “I am error,” well… you know.) The best Link ever gets to be at the game’s beginning is the princess’ childhood friend. (I’m sure many of us are within two or three degrees of someone that we’re proud to be within three degrees of!) As such, thus already we have a common bond with Link. He’s a nobody, just like us, and we get to take him through a journey that we wouldn’t dare do if it were for real, yet a journey we get to ride because Link, and therefore us, will reach lofty heights by the game’s end!

Inevitably, in most Zelda titles, that becomes a journey that will take us to the princess. And now we get to the title topic of the whole article. Why princess? Well, tell me, honestly. Imagine yourself Link, a 17-year-old common boy. Which sounds more appealing to you… which sounds more attractive: Princess Zelda… or Queen Zelda? I’ll bet that at least 90 percent of you would choose the former. And it makes sense, too. The connotation of princess in our minds is this young, beautiful, unmarried and eligible maiden to whom we might serenade in hope of winning her heart the ability to court her. The connotation of queen is an older woman, usually married, has kids already, much less fair than a princess would be, and so forth. Queen doesn’t sound appealing in comparison despite the fact that it’s a much more important role in the everyday life of a kingdom. And so what better reward for Link than to be able to hobnob with a princess at the end of the day (or even possibly during the last fight)?

(Ironically enough, this is the precise argument that sageshippers—my old forum’s name for Link/Zelda shippers—used to show that a Link/Zelda OTP would just be heavenly, that it’s the perfect fairy tale ending. Oddly enough, they’ve never really dug deep and truly realised how close they were to the mark, that their fairy tale ending is indeed possible because… Zelda is indeed a fairy tale. But shhh, like Linkville, it’s a secret to everybody!)

Almost sadly, the fairy tale structure doesn’t work any other way. Fairy tales rarely, if ever, have protagonists that are already nobles; it doesn’t jive with the audience, and the genre inevitably becomes something else entirely, usually an epic novel… so goodbye Prince Linky-bear. You could turn it around and play from Zelda’s point of view, a common Jane. But the fairy tale universe is a very patriarchal society. The women are the ones who are saved; the males are the ones who do the saving. Granted, this hasn’t stopped Nintendo from mixing it up a little bit (and Disney too, look at Mulan); Nintendo’s put Zelda in the limelight of Wind Waker… and there are two games that we will not name that have her as the sole heroine of Hyrule… but Link going to save Zelda is virtually tradition. It’s hard to give up our favourite left-handed Hyrulean in the whole world.

So I know that in some ways I’m mixed about the subject. On one hand, I’d love to see things mixed up a little bit, almost let an alternate universe type of story get embedded into a Zelda game rather than our classical Hyrulean fairy tale… but at the same time, doing so would completely eradicate the very foundations of Zelda, foundations by which I am so enraptured that… well… I live and breathe this world every day of life. Of course, Nintendo does have a tendency to give the second Zelda game for any given console a little twist of experimentation; maybe once—just once—we could see them give a little power to the princess instead of letting Link have all the fun.

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31 Messages from the Gossip Stones about “Eternally a Princess”

    Comments

    ……………………………… why not? its true, princess zelda is more appealing than queen zelda, it just… *shivers violenty and moans a little* besides, havent we always considered link and zelda together (except maybe in tp, that was a bit diffrent). ill have to think on this during school.

    Linkville can hold the first annual Hyrule-Con.

    Actually, if you want to make the point that Zelda games fit in with normal fairy tales as both are dark, you should look at the ORIGINAL fairy tales, not the glim glam stories that they have become.

    For example, in the original Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the evil witch’s feet are placed in red hot iron shoes for her crimes, and she dances from foot to foot until dying from exhaustion. Or take Cinderella, her stepsisters actually cut off their toes or bent them back completely to make their feet fit into the glass slipper (and the slipper filled up with blood). Heck, in the original version of The Little Mermaid, the mermaid spends most of the story in agony as walking on land feels like someone is stabbing knives into her feet, and in the end she doesn’t marry the prince.

    So compared to the originals, Zelda is rather light.

    When I think of fairy-tales I prefer to think of Lord of the Rings “And if any of you say its a book ill release Tingle rideing a Chicken on you… yes Chicken, not a Cuccoo” which has a similar story to Zelda, a nobody Link/Frodo is summoned by a divine creature-

    Zelda-

    1.Great Deku Tree
    2.Zelda… believe me shes pretty divine, lol.
    3….Talking Boat, *cough*.

    Lord of the Rings-

    Gandalf the Wizard, a Maya spirit in human form from the Grey Havens.

    Both Link and Frodo set out on a perilous journey to save the world and defeat an evil and omnipotent nemesis, Ganondorf and Vaati or Saruman and Sauron. While the Lord of the Rings has a Magic Ring the Legend of Zelda has the Triforce, while so far the Triforce hasnt revealed any obsessive compulsive character traits in Link as the ring did with Frodo such as “My Preciousssss” it still sounds like a pretty familliar story.

    BTW my Grandmother has had tea and crumpets with the Queen, she met her two years ago as her duties during WW2 were to send signals to Naval Ships which were heading out to engage the Germans. Also strangely she had other duties she had during WW2 which she wont tell me about, she claimes that they are “TOP SECRET”… saying something like that to a guy like me just makes me want to know what they were even more.

    Robert-UK said:

    When I think of fairy-tales I prefer to think of Lord of the Rings “And if any of you say its a book ill release Tingle rideing a Chicken on you… yes Chicken, not a Cuccoo”…

    From a literature standpoint, Lord of the Rings is so not a fairy tale. X)

    The Missing Link said:

    Robert-UK said:

    When I think of fairy-tales I prefer to think of Lord of the Rings “And if any of you say its a book ill release Tingle rideing a Chicken on you… yes Chicken, not a Cuccoo”…

    From a literature standpoint, Lord of the Rings is so not a fairy tale. X)

    I agree. It’s really more of a twist on a compilation of norse and celtic mythology. I mean middle earth come on. I’m sure the norse had that for at least 1500 years before Tolkien’s parents were even born. Oh they also came up with elves. they lived in Alfheim, or Elfheim, depending on translation.

    Damn those Alves.

    i dont like those fairytales so much, there too unrealistic for me. and queen zelda just sounds gross :P .

    Halan said:

    Or take Cinderella, her stepsisters actually cut off their toes or bent them back completely to make their feet fit into the glass slipper (and the slipper filled up with blood).

    they..cut off there toes..? *faints*

    wow,are these the same fairy tales they used to tell kids to get them to sleep :P ?comical,but sort of strange.

    anyways,back to subject:I think they just call her princess zelda cause,like you said,when you hear queen this wrinkly old hag comes to mind :? .maybe if you spend alot of time with zelda in a game it would be ok if they call her queen at the end (since you would know well enough not to picture said hag).

    Shadow Ninja Kakashi said:

    wow,are these the same fairy tales they used to tell kids to get them to sleep :P ?comical,but sort of strange.

    anyways,back to subject:I think they just call her princess zelda cause,like you said,when you hear queen this wrinkly old hag comes to mind :? .maybe if you spend alot of time with zelda in a game it would be ok if they call her queen at the end (since you would know well enough not to picture said hag).

    No, not to put them to sleep. These were like T.V. of the Middle Ages. And i think your right about Zelda. But the problem is, how would you do it? Have her be like Navi or Midna? That would be difficult.

    Shinigami Ninja said:But the problem is, how would you do it? Have her be like Navi or Midna? That would be difficult.

    she would just have to have a huge roll in the game plot-wise.

    No, you’re wrong. She’s just really moany, no man would marry her. Don’t you wonder why Link never ends up with her? =D

    Majorasblaze said:

    No, you’re wrong. She’s just really moany, no man would marry her. Don’t you wonder why Link never ends up with her? =D

    Where did that come from? What are you talking about?

    [TML: Let’s not talk about Twilight Princess here. Remember, this is a non-spoiler topic.]

    oh, jeez, that was a tiny spoiler, wasnt it? im a bad person XP

    Not being sarcastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Who’s to say he didn’t marry Zelda? Who’s to say he didn’t go on to be an eternal bachelor?

    Whoop’s wrong button. I forgot to add this. I think Illia’s really ugly anyway.

    [TML: UZM, you’ve had four of the last five comments. Stop.]

    Shinigami Ninja said:

    I forgot to add this. I think Illia’s really ugly anyway.

    me too

    I think Link was drinking way too much Lon Lon milk one day, got lost in the Lost woods, got hit on the head and knocked unconcious by a Deku Nut, and imagined all of Zelda, Ganondorf, the Triforce up.

    I could be wrong, but its a very least likely possobility. ^_^

    Zen Blade said:

    I think Link was drinking way too much Lon Lon milk one day, got lost in the Lost woods, got hit on the head and knocked unconcious by a Deku Nut, and imagined all of Zelda, Ganondorf, the Triforce up.

    I could be wrong, but its a very least likely possobility. ^_^

    No. Not at all. When your KO, you don’t dream.Trust me I know.

    Shinigami Ninja said:

    Whoop’s wrong button. I forgot to add this. I think Illia’s really ugly anyway.

    as do I.personally,I think nintendo was half asleep when they made her :P .

    Well TML, maybe she is a princess because in Hyrule to get the title, queen, you must get married, kinda like becoming a Mrs. she has the same power but a different title.

    TML said: (sorry, not sure how to do this properly)

    So I know that in some ways I’m mixed about the subject. On one hand, I’d love to see things mixed up a little bit, almost let an alternate universe type of story get embedded into a Zelda game rather than our classical Hyrulean fairy tale…

    Forgetting something?

    Majora’s Mask (which I absolutley loved) completley broke the traditional storyline of Zelda, and even brought in an entirely new world which was richly detailed and intruiging (Ilkana Valley was sooo much fun to explore… and it seems you had fun writing about it too), a new villan (which, if I remember correctly, you wrote an entire article about how you would like to see a villan other than Ganondorf threaten the Zelda world), and… gasp!… no princess to be saved!!!

    Link’s Awakening also broke the traditional pattern of zelda… and mind you, both of these games are probably the ones I love the most out of the series… yes, even more than TP and Ocarina of Time. Yet both of them are scorned and are even critisised for breaking the normal pattern of the Zelda games.

    And if you really think about it, Nintendo has been trying to come up with new innovative ways to bring forth Zelda… its just everytime they do breakaway from the traditional mould, they get a group of upset fans complaining about it. That, in my opinion, is why Twilight Princess was created… to answer the pleas of the fans that were beging Nintendo to bring back the classic Zelda Style.

    Maybe what your looking for, TML, has already been created… maybe you just haven’t had the time to appreciate them (shame on you for competing to finish Majora’s mask… tsk tsk :P )

    Whats really annoying me recently is that I know I have seen creatures like the Minish before or at least read about them in an old European fairy-tale. I remember an old story about a group of tiny people helping an old Cobler who lived in a quaint little olde european village to make his shoes, these little people would get to work every time he fell asleep and he would wake up hours later and discover to his amazement all of his work completed. I just wish I could remember where I heard that story, can anyone help?

    Robert, I’ve heard that story, too. I think it’s just another story, though.

    As far as fairy tales go, the originals were DEFINITELY not kids’ stories. They didn’t become kids’ stories until after the Grimm Brothers collected and published them, and for some reason the adults started letting their kids hear them. After that, the Grimm Brothers’ next editions had the stories edited to be more appropriate for children. And when Disney came along, well, the destruction of the fairy tale was complete.

    On another note, one thought I had for why Zelda is always a princess goes back to the Middle Ages. The prince of a country wasn’t the king’s son and heir, but the king himself. The prince was whoever ruled the country. For instance, Queen Isabela of Spain — the same one who financed Columbus — was Spain’s prince. Why? Because she was the ruler. That’s why Machiavelli’s famous work on how to be a good ruler isn’t called The King, but The Prince. Therefore, Zelda could be referred to as a princess simply to show that she is Hyrule’s prince in this sense, but that most of us wouldn’t get it if they used the title “prince”, so they just feminize it, so that people aren’t wondering if she is really a he. That’s my take on it.

    Mirelena said:
    On another note, one thought I had for why Zelda is always a princess goes back to the Middle Ages. The prince of a country wasn’t the king’s son and heir, but the king himself. The prince was whoever ruled the country. For instance, Queen Isabela of Spain — the same one who financed Columbus — was Spain’s prince. Why? Because she was the ruler. That’s why Machiavelli’s famous work on how to be a good ruler isn’t called The King, but The Prince. Therefore, Zelda could be referred to as a princess simply to show that she is Hyrule’s prince in this sense, but that most of us wouldn’t get it if they used the title “prince”, so they just feminize it, so that people aren’t wondering if she is really a he. That’s my take on it.

    Yeah, there were already enough problems with the whole Sheik/Zelda thing. It’s gotta be hard to rule a country amid allegations of cross-dressing.

    Robert-UK said:

    Whats really annoying me recently is that I know I have seen creatures like the Minish before or at least read about them in an old European fairy-tale. I remember an old story about a group of tiny people helping an old Cobler who lived in a quaint little olde european village to make his shoes, these little people would get to work every time he fell asleep and he would wake up hours later and discover to his amazement all of his work completed. I just wish I could remember where I heard that story, can anyone help?

    sorry,but I only remember it from an old cartoon :P .atleast I know what your talking about though,right ^_^ ?

    Darth Taya said:

    TML said: (sorry, not sure how to do this properly)

    Forgetting something?

    No, indeed, I’m not forgetting anything at all. ;)

    Of course there are exceptions to the rule. Not every Zelda story is identical, Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask being two. However, notice our ratio: two out of thirteen. You’ve got 11 games which use this same story time and time again. Now while these are valid counterexamples, I will admit, this doesn’t immediately put Nintendo off the hook just because they’ve done something different and then returned to the tried and true. What I’m driving for is to take what is one of the driving forces of Zelda—that is, the ability to always add something new—and apply it to the very story. Let’s have a queen. Let’s have a princess who doesn’t get captured or have bad things happen to them. Let’s have a strong princess, one who can fight for herself. Right now, we either alternate between no princess or princess who gets captured. And that’s what I’m trying to fight here. ;)

    Mirelena said:

    The prince of a country wasn’t the king’s son and heir, but the king himself. The prince was whoever ruled the country. For instance, Queen Isabela of Spain — the same one who financed Columbus — was Spain’s prince. Why? Because she was the ruler. That’s why Machiavelli’s famous work on how to be a good ruler isn’t called The King, but The Prince.

    Now I could be wrong (even TML’s are not perfect), but I think you’re misapplying the term. While “prince” can be applied as a general term for persons of rank, Queen Isabella of Castile never held the rank of “prince” (príncipe in Spanish). Her title was “Queen regent of Castile and Leon.” And you will rarely see Isabella called “prince.” Furthermore, even child-kings as existed in France during the late years of the French Empire–King Louis XIV, the Sun King who became king at the age of five—were called king, not prince. Rather, Machiavelli’s work is called such because all nobility—not just kings and queens—held control over land, just as states exist beneath countries, and the rules in The Prince that apply to a king of a country apply the same to the dukes, princes, and any land-owning gentry.

    Therefore, Zelda could be referred to as a princess simply to show that she is Hyrule’s prince in this sense, but that most of us wouldn’t get it if they used the title “prince”, so they just feminize it, so that people aren’t wondering if she is really a he. That’s my take on it.

    While always a possibility, I really don’t think that’s the case with Zelda. In the first several games which involve Zelda as princess (Legend of Zelda excluded), kings are frequently mentioned either in the game manual or presented in game. They’re not called “princes.” As such, I honestly believe that Nintendo is using the term “princess” not to signify this idea of a prince-ruler but rather because we as players have become familiar with the character “Princess Zelda.”

    What the “Navi” is wrong with Queen Zelda?
    I don’t see whats wrong with it, staying a princess for long makes you immature. When your a queen your powerful, you have a self-esteme that seems unstoppable. And, people like Ganondorf wont be able to kidnap you so dang easily!
    Think about Zelda going on her own journey, a proud queen fighting for herself and Hyrule. Maybe even saving Links butt at the final hour…. (-:

    Princess Ashley said:

    What the “Navi” is wrong with Queen Zelda?

    shes old :P ?

    Princess Ashley said:Think about Zelda going on her own journey, a proud queen fighting for herself and Hyrule. Maybe even saving Links butt at the final hour…. (-:

    now see! as I read that part I could picture this wrinkly old lady slowly walking somewhere! it just dosnt work :D .

    I think zeldas title makes as much sence as the games title,or rather I think it has alot to do with it.they probably only planned “the legend of zelda” to be the name of a game…not a title.basing the name off of someone from the back story is fine but like I said,they hadnt planned on making as many games as they did.after time people probably just stopped thinking about what the title ment,it was just the legend of zelda,even if shes not in the game :) !

    but dont worry,its very possible that theres a queen zelda sitting inside the castle in the games.after all,every princess was to be named zelda after AOL,im sure one of hem became a queen…just not in the games.its possible that hyrules queens are like the real world (and modern) kings.

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