ZeldaBlog

Twilight Princess: The End

January 12th, 2007 at 6:15 pm by lord-of-shadow

I’ve begun writing a series of articles on the subject of Twilight Princess. This is the first, which I wrote about a month ago when I finished the game. It deals with my thoughts on the ending of the game, and the ending of the series in general.

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It is a bittersweet joy, to finish a Zelda game. A sense of victory, a sense of accomplishment and pride, but tempered by sadness at knowing that it is now over. It has always been so. How many of us are able to just jump straight back to normality after watching those last names go by, hear the final note of the amazing soundtrack, and watch as “The End” shows up on our screen and the music stops? Not I. The end of such an experience deserves more. It deserves a few minutes of reflection. It deserves time to seep into your mind, marking it indelibly with all that is Zelda.

I admit it. As I played through Twilight Princess, I worried. I loved every minute of the game, reveled in its beauty and magic and, of course, cut the grass and liked it too. But despite all that, it did not feel as strongly of Zelda as I thought it should, not even when I first turned on the game and got see this new Hyrule. Am I too old, too lost to such youthful wonder, to immerse myself in Zelda? Had I grown to the point where even a new Zelda game fails to touch me like they once did? And so on.

I just finished the game about ten minutes ago. When the credits finally stopped rolling, leaving me in a powerful silence with the echoes of that final note ringing through my mind and the words “The End,” I sat there and looked at the screen for a good five minutes. Drinking it in, reassembling my scattered thoughts and wishing that the game were not over. And I had my answer, resounding loud and clear from the quiet of those two words: Twilight Princess is still Zelda, possessing all of the magic and artistry that the series has always had. It still has the power to touch and inspire me. Experiences like this are why I play video games. They are why I love the Zelda series in particular. I go out and run fansites so that I can relive this, and share it with my readers. It is moments like these that have shaped my life and made me into who I am today. My ultimate goal, my dream, is to be able to someday help create games that can inspire this in others.

Yes, I definitely just finished a Zelda game. And if you have not yet done the same, do not read on.

But, as I said, it is a bittersweet thing. Throughout history, all of the greatest victories are accompanied by sadness, that lingering sense of sacrifice that makes you treasure the victory even more. Would the ending of Link’s Awakening have been so powerful and moving if Koholint had not disappeared, taking all of its denizens and the world you just grew to love with it? Would Ocarina of Time have had such a lasting impact on us all if the celebration at the end had been everything, without the sadness of seeing the Sages stand apart and alone from the world they just saved, without the clear grief in Zelda as she sent Link back in time? Majora’s Mask ended happily for almost everyone – but what about the Deku Butler, who we last see grieving over the petrified body of his son, all or the sadness and heartbreak we watched Termina go through? The Wind Waker is perhaps the biggest culprit – we defeated Ganondorf, but at what a cost! We watched as Hyrule, both land and King, were buried beneath the sea to the accompaniment of those stark piano notes. The world of Hyrule bleeds and sacrifices so that we may emerge triumphant, and it is these things that temper our victories into something more, something to cherish and remember. Something to stick with us, leaving us with emotions that can be very difficult to name, let alone share with those who don’t understand. I’ve been told that I’m too obsessed, that I take the Zelda series too seriously. I shrug it off; if these people want to dismiss the power of such an experience, then that is their choice.

Twilight Princess certainly carries on the tradition. I think it is safe to say that this is one that will stick with me, carrying it into the ranks of the true Zelda games. What an ending it was! So many sacrifices, these characters giving their all and more. Seeing Midna’s involvement and passion during those final scenes was a powerful thing; when Zelda awakens and Midna’s face is quivering, on the verge of tears, I know that I felt a distinct sympathy for her. And I’m not someone who cries easily.

Things ended pretty well for Hyrule, in the end. The world is saved and healed, everyone is rescued, and even the moblin lord continues to harass Hyrule field in peace. But… the goodbye between Link, Zelda, and Midna fulfilled the Zelda series’ need for bittersweet endings. I never like goodbyes; the emotions involved are too charged, even in a video game.

And… why Midna, why? I am still struggling to understand why she decided to cut off the worlds of light and shadow forever. It fit the game, it was powerful, but the part of me that sympathizes with the characters and the game is still crying out. That’s skilled game development there, to get such a response.

The music during the final parts of this game was amazing. Throughout the Zelda series, it is always the music that takes all the elements of these amazing endings, the sadness and triumph, and cements them into place as the amazing moments in gaming that they are. Think back to the Ocarina of Time ending. Remember the final scene, when Link walks into the castle garden, and Zelda turns around? Link and Zelda stand there, looking at each other, worlds of meaning storming through the screen. Everything goes still, the screen turns golden, and “The End” comes up. And the music takes all this, and turns that scene into one of the most lasting and powerful endings in gaming. Twilight Princess’ ending works the same way.

There is one aspect of these bittersweet endings that I am happy to see was not continued. In every other Zelda game, Link stands apart from the world he saves. After doing all this, after saving the world and reaching such heroic heights, how can he return to normal life? I always get a sense of sadness about Link’s situation. In Link’s Awakening, everyone and everything you knew from the game disappears before your very eyes. In Ocarina of Time… Link has nowhere to go. He could never fit in among the Kokiri, or any place else. Majora’s Mask… he leaves the world of Termina behind him. Even the Wind Waker ends with Link sailing away from his home. But our final view of Link and many of the other characters in Twilight Princess is of them returning home, to a village that is welcoming them back. Finally, a Zelda game that ends with Link being accepted into Hyrule as a person, and not raised on some untouchable, lonely pedestal. A small touch, but one that was very important.

In the end, I loved Twilight Princess and its ending. I am proud to name it one of the series’ greats.

Addendum: It has been a few weeks since I published this article, and I have received several emails pointing out a mistake I made int he last paragraph: Link is riding away from Ordon at the end, not towards it.

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38 Messages from the Gossip Stones about “Twilight Princess: The End”

    Comments

    the entire game reminded me of Fable. I liked the game, and the ending, but I am now, and always will be, a Shadow Shipper.

    Agreed. Link/Midna FOR THE WIN!

    I completely agree with the bittersweet ending. “Happily Ever After” will always ring hokey, and hokey is one thing that I hope Zelda will never be. I’m fine with the hero being alone at the end, but that could just be because I was raised on Lord of the Rings. To me, Link settling down to yell at goats for the rest of his life would reek of the aforementioned hokey-ness…but I can’t see him desperately seeking a way into twilight forever either. Ramblings aside, I agree that the bittersweet ending is the best, but perhaps as important is the mysterious ending. TML was right…questions are better than answers in the end.

    I’ve been told that I’m too obsessed, that I take the Zelda series too seriously.

    I’d say that everyone has something that they take too seriously, too obsessively. As for me, I’d rather it be something imaginative and creative than letting the drudgery of work be something that glooms over me forever!

    And… why Midna, why?

    I’d love for you to read my scene analysis fanfic of that, LoS. You may not agree with me on it (I’ve found one dissenter on it already), but I think that it sort of revamps the scene to explain just why it might have been. I linked it in one of my earlier articles, but I’m too lazy to look it up. Harass me over AIM, and I’ll point you to it. (No self-promotion in the comments section for me, no sirree!)

    Addendum: It has been a few weeks since I published this article, and I have received several emails pointing out a mistake I made int he last paragraph: Link is riding away from Ordon at the end, not towards it.

    See, I actually believe that you could make a case either way. One could easily argue (and it’s rather true) that there are no good camera angles in that section of the forest that point towards Ordon. It could very well have been the case that Nintendo merely scripted the scene with a north-facing camera, thinking that we players would overanalyse (ha!) the scene and read our own thoughts into it. Everything boils down to perspective, and if you want Link to be heading home, then more power to you. I’m a strong proponent of letting people put their own thoughts into their characters, Link especially.

    And that is the power of Zelda, its not the feeling of excitement you feel from the battles or the rush of exploring a new Dungeon, its those little emotions that gradually build up that you cant quite put into words. You feel it, the power of it deep inside, I think that the Legend of Zelda speaks to that something we all have inside of ourselves, each of us has the potential if given the right situation to stand up and fight for what we each believe in, it happens almost every day you only have to look at the news at stories of normal every day people risking their lives to save others and that is why Zelda works, it taps into that hidden hero that everyone has inside of themselves.

    why mida?!?!?

    (i’m sorry,robert, but your post was just plain corny. :p no hard feelings!)

    I have no problem with being corny, I believe what I believe and thats all that matters, it dosent matter if im right or wrong all that matters is that I believe.

    Link x Midna x Ilia x Zelda x Hena ftw. I’m kidding of course. =D

    Yeah, I like to think Link was riding home. Makes it seem a bit less lonely for our hero, but at the end I swore if I didn’t see Ilia and Link reunited from those final cutscenes, I’d shake my fist angrily. And shake it I did!

    I have the Gamecube version, and at the end, it is plain as day that he is riding away from Ordon. You know how the Wii version is flipped? Were the cutscenes flipped to? Not the way the characters were doing the actions, but the way the camera was angled? Because if it is, that would explain why so many people think Link is riding to Ordon. The way he’t traveling is away from Ordon, but you can’t tell because of the way the camera is pointing. But, nonetheless, in the Gamecube version it is plain as day he’s riding away from it, and that’s the way it was originally meant to be.

    Why, why, why does everyone always put Link with Midna? The way I see it, they were just close friends by the end of the game. Two reasons why I don’t think Link loves Midna, and why I don’t think it is posible: 1. Midna leaves at the end of the game and there is no posible way to get back into the Twilight Realm. The mirror is shattered, and Link will never see her again.
    2. This is just perspective, but I can’t see Link loving her. Well, I no I said two reasons, but I’m going to add a third…
    3. I think of them as just being close friends at the end of the game. Maybe Midna loved Link, but, in my perspective, Link thought of himself as being just a close friend to Midna. Notice how Link looks a little sad at the end of the game? Wouldn’t anyone be at least a little sad if someone they were close to left and you were going to never see them again? If Link did love Midna, he would’ve been a lot more sad then that.

    And I agree, I like the bittersweet endings. Everytime I beat a Zelda game, and see the bittersweet ending, I feel a mix of accomplishment and sadness of knowing that it’s over combined into one.

    mindas the only one,in any zelda game that link ever looked interested in, but nintendos so unoriginal that they can never let link be with anyone because some of the fans might not like it

    Master Link said:

    I have the Gamecube version, and at the end, it is plain as day that he is riding away from Ordon. You know how the Wii version is flipped? Were the cutscenes flipped to? Not the way the characters were doing the actions, but the way the camera was angled? Because if it is, that would explain why so many people think Link is riding to Ordon.

    Actually, that’s not true. I am not sure if the cutscenes are flipped or not (TML would wager his set of Deku golf clubs that they are!), but regardless of whether it’s flipped or not, you’re seeing the same thing as what we’re seeing. The reason is because of the method in which the game is flipped.

    The camera has the Y-axis (or to be safe, the horizontal axis) flipped such that left is right and right is left. However, there are two things that are easily not flipped:

    • The camera position - The camera in the Wii version is in the same place as it is in the GCN version, and
    • The point the camera is looking at - The camera will be looking at the exact same spot in both versions of the game.

    The only difference between the Wii and GCN versions is which side represents left and right. All this means is that, if the camera is looking away from Ordon in one, you’ll be seeing the exact same scene in the other.

    And since we cannot flip the way Link is traveling through the scene (since he’s moving from “into the camera” back into the scene (”out of the camera”)), Link’s traveling the same way in both.

    The only thing that remains to be determined is why… if Nintendo did this on purpose or whether this is purely accidental because it looked better that way.

    Why, why, why does everyone always put Link with Midna?

    Everything boils down to perspective, Master Link. Just because someone has a different opinion than you doesn’t make them wrong because the game doesn’t reveal its answers about that. In fact, I encourage you to read my scene study [GORON-SIZED SPOILERS] about it because it reveals why I think the scene took place the way it did. You’re not obligated to agree, but it allowed me to figure out why Midna’s and Zelda’s words and actions came out the way they did.

    (LoS, that link is for you, too.)

    Kurama Uchiha said:

    mindas the only one,in any zelda game that link ever looked interested in, but nintendos so unoriginal that they can never let link be with anyone because some of the fans might not like it

    I don’t think it’s necessarily because Nintendo is unoriginal. I think it’s more because Nintendo wants to let the players decide their own ending. You have to remember that fanfiction gets dumped out in loads when a truly great Zelda game comes out (look at Ocarina of Time), and that fans will argue over endings forever. The fanfiction isn’t the answer to this, but it is a direct result from the sheer creativity and imagination players get when watching a good game. As such, they don’t want to stifle that imagination and tie down what everyone believes. Granted, the Harry Potter universe doesn’t care about canon nine times out of ten, but I can at least sympathise with Nintendo in their difficult balancing act that they need to walk.

    You have a point about the bittersweet endings. I would have liked a happy ending where everything is sunshiny and bright, but the truth is that such endings are weak and forgettable.

    At the same time, I have to commend Nintendo for not resorting to the opposite extreme by creating a melodramatic conclusion. One of the things that I love about Zelda is the subtle method of storytelling that is used throughout each game. Events are happy and/or sad without emotional overloads. Characters don’t have to scream and cry buckets of tears to get you to feel for them, as in the case of Midna. It’s amazing and unique, and I don’t know how Nintendo does it, but they do.

    The Missing Link said:
    but I can at least sympathise with Nintendo in their difficult balancing act that they need to walk.

    it would be cool if the players could chose part of the ending, like in fire emblem. there could be a bunch of different paths to determine different things but not to the point were it would affect the whole ending or answer all the questions ^_^

    The horizontal axis is the x axis. Y is the one that goes up and down, TML. Also, what you said about the imagination and creativity stuff linked with zerlda. I agree. One giant point against people who say video games rot your brain and dull your imagination. If anything, increase the latter.

    Darth Citrus said:

    Agreed. Link/Midna FOR THE WIN!

    Ditto. The only thing is that they’re sealed of from each other.

    And what I really want to know is, how does Zelda disappear when healing midna, and then somehow still get held hostage by gannondorf.

    • 15. TSA says:

    Eh, I’m sorry TML, Link is riding away from Ordon Village. I can provide a very thorough screenshot analysis from screens ripped from the ending scene there and in-game shots of South Faron Woods. When Bill Trinen is in chat next time at Nsider, I’ll ask him just so we can get an Nintendo person on the record about it.

    Shinigami Ninja said:
    And what I really want to know is, how does Zelda disappear when healing midna, and then somehow still get held hostage by gannondorf.

    I dont know, i never thought of that before :?

    bittersweet endings,in my opinion,are much better than an ordinary ending.it helps you to understand the game more so than you would have had everything miraculously turned out perfect.I think some of the reasons for sealing midna away at the ending are 1)it obviously made the ending alot more emotional than it would have been *sniff*,2)it showed that midna was the true ruler of twilght (here I thought it was going to be ganondorf :p ) and 3)well…nintendo freaked out! they made link show too much emotion towards midna and had to think of a way to seperate them.well im sure it didnt go just like that,they probably wanted link to show emotion,and midna in turn,but needed a way to seperate them so it wasnt to clear (but come on,had they not seperated them we could have had a good idea were dark link comes from :P ).all in all I liked the ending,but like all bittersweet endings,you kinda cant help but wish it turned out different :D .

    Shinigami Ninja said:And what I really want to know is, how does Zelda disappear when healing midna, and then somehow still get held hostage by gannondorf.

    maybe he used his triforce to fix her?

    Shinigami Ninja said:

    The horizontal axis is the x axis. Y is the one that goes up and down, TML.

    Actually, that depends upon your frame of reference. ;) In computer science, you are correct. The X-axis runs along the length of the screen, the Y-axis runs along the height of the screen, and the Z-axis points out of your TV set. However, in mathematics, the axes tend to be in a different order: X points out, Y points right, and Z points up. (At work, we use still yet another axis labeling for our world geometry. In short, there’s no one simple labeling system across the board.) I tend to think in mathematics axes since I started with them, so that’s where the hang-up is. (It was a pain going through the interview process at my company because they flipped Y and Z from the way I tend to think.) The labels are there just as a convenience factor, and since other people use different labels, I clarified myself (with horizontal axis) just for safety’s sake.

    TSA said:

    Eh, I’m sorry TML, Link is riding away from Ordon Village.

    As I said over AIM to you, I’m infinitely aware of that. I merely said that the camera in both the Wii and GCN versions point the same way (they point north, away from Ordon), and that Nintendo might have done so solely because it’s the best camera angle to shoot from (look at the game—there are very few, if any, good south-facing or Ordon-facing camera angles through there). Nintendo might have intended upon showing Link returning home… however, since there’s no good south-facing camera position, they used a north-facing one… hoping that we’d never catch on… hoping that we wouldn’t be debating it obsessively as we are now. ;)

    ggrrrrr…i hate this link/midna thing….

    i mean,when is link ever going to see her again? how the *NAVI* will he get back into the twilight realm??

    I still like the link/zelda thing….i’m so corny,rofl

    I think i have to agree with the people who say you’re obsessed with zelda, although your words are very good and are true and clear to zelda fans, nice article, chap!

    I never really thought about how bittersweet the moments were in the games. Must be the way I think Link is like. I’m not into a Link/Midna relationship, but it would be an interesting thing to read from fan-fictions, especially if Midna never used her Tear of Agony to sever the link between light and shadow. *looks like something inside just clicked* Not the right topic, but I got a theory. Any ways, I think this is what makes Zelda a good game. If only it can break the monotony, like new bad guys with different purposes, and no more girls getting kidnapped, maybe the games will be better, but it is classical to Zelda standards.

    • 22. TSA says:

    You guys should read the latest EGM. Bill Trinen said fans need to fill in the holes themselves, and that just because something doesn’t happen on screen doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen ever.

    TSA said:

    You guys should read the latest EGM. Bill Trinen said fans need to fill in the holes themselves, and that just because something doesn’t happen on screen doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen ever.

    and that is how fan-fictions are born :P .I cant help but see that as a bit of a cop out though :? .

    master of windwaker said:

    ggrrrrr…i hate this link/midna thing….

    i mean,when is link ever going to see her again? how the *NAVI* will he get back into the twilight realm??

    I still like the link/zelda thing….i’m so corny,rofl

    For TP I’m going Link/Midna or (unfortunately) Link/Illia. for a general over-all thing, I’m going Link/Maku Tree. Joking. Of course. Link/Zelda for the mst part.

    Shinigami Ninja said:
    Link/Zelda for the mst part.

    he could only get her in one game… :/

    which one was that? aol? yeah, that was it. and i think we agree that had to be the worst one in the series… big bummer >:[

    Kurama Uchiha said:

    mindas the only one,in any zelda game that link ever looked interested in, but nintendos so unoriginal that they can never let link be with anyone because some of the fans might not like it

    Nah. I thought that cutscene with the tons of Ilias that left Link all kinda dementedly-dazed looking made it pretty apparent that Link had the hots for Ilia.

    I also just assumed upon witnessing Midna destroy the mirror, that she was taking necessary steps to protect her people from any more evils such as Ganondorf. It was, after all, so kind of the Sages to screw up and chuck him into the Twilight as a last resort.

    As for Zelda’s disappearing act - I believe she had granted Midna her own ability to exist in the light. That she reappears again under Ganon’s control shows that she is no longer capable of resisting, and sacrificed that ability in turn to save Midna.

    Jack the Ripper said:
    As for Zelda’s disappearing act - I believe she had granted Midna her own ability to exist in the light. That she reappears again under Ganon’s control shows that she is no longer capable of resisting, and sacrificed that ability in turn to save Midna.

    That makes some good sense.

    Jack the Ripper said:Nah. I thought that cutscene with the tons of Ilias that left Link all kinda dementedly-dazed looking made it pretty apparent that Link had the hots for Ilia.

    hmmmm,well thats one reason for him being dazed…or it could be that he saw himself kill someone,turn evil,and get killed :P !

    uberzeldamaster said:

    which one was that? aol? yeah, that was it. and i think we agree that had to be the worst one in the series… big bummer >:[

    i wasnt refering to any game in general… let me try to explain it… the way i look at the zelda series is like.. link I, link II ect. Link II would be Link Is son and if he marries zelda all the future zeldas and links would be cousins/siblings. then instead of rescuing the princess you’d be… rescuing your cousin.. just doesnt sound as interesting as a princess…

    Jack the Ripper said:

    Nah. I thought that cutscene with the tons of Ilias that left Link all kinda dementedly-dazed looking made it pretty apparent that Link had the hots for Ilia.*

    I also just assumed upon witnessing Midna destroy the mirror, that she was taking necessary steps to protect her people from any more evils such as Ganondorf. It was, after all, so kind of the Sages to screw up and chuck him into the Twilight as a last resort.**

    As for Zelda’s disappearing act - I believe she had granted Midna her own ability to exist in the light. That she reappears again under Ganon’s control shows that she is no longer capable of resisting, and sacrificed that ability in turn to save Midna.***

    Those are very well thought-out theories. The stars I added so I can comment on each one.
    *: LoL That’s the shipping I have in TP (it’s boring having a Link/Zelda in every game, you know?)
    **: TML said something else. He might correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember him saying that she did that because she thought Link wasn’t interested in her, and she severed the link to keep from seeing him again.
    ***: I never thought that. Since I’m going over the game, I saw that today, and I was thinking she gave Midna her own soul, but that could be a good theory.

    I think the main reason they made midna destroy the mirror was to show she was the true ruler of twilight.plus thers always the threat of humans (hylians/gorons/tinglezoras) coming in there world and messing it up.plus…well,those sages were very “kind” .*sniff* now that I think about it,breaking the mirror was the best idea.I did find it funny (in a very sad way :( ) that they made her use her tear to destroy it though.

    btw,how come everybodys against linkxmidna :P ? at first I was thinking its going to be another linkxfarmer game,but once Ilia (how do you say that :? ?) loses her memory,they just seem like close friends.plus I dont know if im the only one who noticed,but when midna was about to break the mirror link looked like he was going to try to stop her (much unlike the part were midna begged him to stop zelda ;) ).bad link! links never show emotion,no matter what the situation is :) .

    also,I thought zelda gave midna the triforce :p ! but it makes more sence what Jack the Ripper said.that or she did a hude curing spell on her (curaza,rivaled only by curaja :D ! ).

    Oh man this ending was so sad. I almost cried when I beat the game and saw that last final cutscene happen. It was just so sad. Although I beat it three days after I got it and even almost a week or two after it came out for gamecube, it still touched me in ways I can’t believe. It was just so sad!

    Everyone’s got a good theory, but here’s mine. Midna and Link grew feelings toward eachother with each passing dungeon that Link defeats, and then the other thing is that Link and Zelda are just friends. And anyone against LinkxMidna are crazy fools.

    Hanyou said:
    And anyone against LinkxMidna are crazy fools.

    I agree :P ! just kidding around ofcoarse.

    Uhhg, wow. Just finished the game earlier today and I’ve been going around with an uneasy feeling in me pits. I knew that somewhere out there were saps just like I :P .

    My feelings throughout the game were the same as yours. And it’s interesting; you really get a sense for how great and epic the game really is at the end and by that time it’s too late. The story has been told.

    I didn’t think this game would rise among the best but after witnessing the powerful ending, I definitely do think differently.

    Zelda and Link have always seemed to have a sibling like relationship in all the games to me, and Zelda the older one at that, she’s always helping him out and letting him known what to do next. Midna is the classic good friend companion, just like navi or tatl only exponentially cooler, although I didn’t mind tatl. Plus both Zelda and Midna have established roles in the game, c’mon link was eying Ilias since the begining, she seems like the pretty obvious love choice. They always throw a lot of options in there like the farm girl, the zora girl, deku girl, etc. in multiple zelda games, it keeps things interesting seeing as link is always the loner hero who doesn’t get attached.

    First of all, I should probably mention that this is my first blog posting in about five years, so if I breach netiquette somehow just let me know and I’ll try to avoid repeating the mistake.

    I enjoyed this article and I definitely agree that bittersweet endings tend to stick in the mind longer. I must point out, though, that almost every rule has an exception. There are a few completely happy endings I have come across over the years that I found as or more satisfying than the bittersweet ones. Every kind of ending worthy of that name can be satisfying if done right and used at the right point — just as every kind of ending can be a let-down if done incorrectly or tacked onto the end of the wrong story. Fortunately, Twilight Princess’s finale was the former, not the latter.

    In response to Jack the Ripper: you said ‘As for Zelda’s disappearing act - I believe she had granted Midna her own ability to exist in the light.’

    That’s an interesting idea, but it doesn’t make sense to me.

    Consider: we are told by Midna that the Twili had changed in the Twilight Realm to such a point that they were no longer able to exist in the light world except as shadows. So existing as a shadow is not optional for a Twili caught in the light world without some kind of fairly powerful magic at your disposal — we know that Zant could be physically present in the light world, for example. Now, if Zelda had transferred her ability to exist in the light over to Midna then what would have happened to Zelda? It seems reasonable to assume that she would fade away, becoming a shadow. Fade away she certainly does, but we never see her shadow anywhere. Note that when you run around as a wolf in the light world you can distinctly see Midna’s shadow. Look at your own shadow on the ground and you’ll see that Midna is there as well, riding on your shadow just as she rides on your back in twilight-shrouded Hyrule. Yet when Zelda vanishes there’s no shadow. Nothing left at all.

    So what did Zelda give Midna? It allowed Midna to exist in the light world and Zelda vanished without it. I’ve heard some people suggest that it was Zelda’s soul, but this seems illogical. Midna said: ‘But at least I still have the magic of my ancestors. With it, I can return the cherished power Zelda bestowed upon me.’ I suppose you could argue that having a soul is a kind of power … to me, though, that phrase and the way Midna caresses her hand while saying it shouts “TRIFORCE OF WISDOM”. Furthermore, giving up one’s soul wouldn’t necessarily cause one to vanish into thin air — Jovani sold his soul and he was still there. Even if Jovani was a fluke or had some circumstance we don’t know about affecting him (turning into a gold statue is probably an exception, not a rule), losing your soul shouldn’t cause you to discorporate. It should just make you go limp and comatose. Admittedly, that unconscious state is what Zelda appears to be in at the end of the game until Ganon possesses her body. The largest evidence for it being the Triforce of Wisdom that Zelda passed to Midna, though, is that it makes tactical sense. The Zeldas, this one in particular, seem to be wise and cunning in many ways. They do make mistakes, but they are excellent generals most of the time. It would be tactically stupid for Zelda to give her soul to Midna unless she gave the Triforce of Wisdom as well. If Zelda had simply given Midna her soul then (assuming she didn’t discorporate for some unstated reason) that would have left the Triforce of Wisdom lying around right where Ganon is likely to find it. Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. In Ocarina of Time, Ganon said: ‘But, with the Triforce of Wisdom that Zelda has… When I obtain these two Triforces… Then, I will become the true ruler of the world!!’ Clearly, Ganon can gain some sort of advantage from possessing these two Triforce pieces, even if the advantage is not as great as if he gained all three. So removing the Triforce of Wisdom from Ganon’s grasp is a good idea.

    This leaves two questions: why would Zelda vanish after healing Midna? Why is she comatose until the “cherished power” is returned? This is where I get speculative. There is a lot of in-game evidence that Zelda gave Midna the Triforce of Wisdom. What follows from here on out is my own musings. Note that it isn’t necessarily a theory I believe, just one that explains things. Just because this possibility has occurred to me doesn’t mean I’ve accepted it. Which is part of why I bring it up here: to get feedback.

    Power dependency. This is an idea that has been bouncing around in my head for some time. When an energized atom loses the extra energy it has contained, it degenerates. Once a civilization or group of civilizations have developed an advanced system of trade, if that system of trade collapses each civilization sinks to an economic level BELOW where they were before the trade system was developed. A world without computers could care less about EMP shock-waves and solar fluctuations, a blind man isn’t hurt by a strong light in the eyes. A common theme throughout the fantasy genre is “lashback”, the idea that when a spell fails or a magical item collapses, those intimately linked to that spell or item experience negative feedback. There are countless examples, fictional and real, that I could give. Suffice it to say that those who fall after having climbed often fall past the point where they began climbing in the first place. Power dependency is an iteration of this concept. This idea is not unique to me. A perfect example is “The Orphan”, a Final Fantasy VIII fan-fiction story written by Kate Lorraine. One of the obstacles in this story is that a main character, having become a sorceress in FF8’s unusual usage of the word, cannot become “normal” again. Her body, having adapted to storing tremendous magical force, can no longer survive without that power. It is clearly shown at Ganondorf’s Trial/Execution in Twilight Princess that he survives because of the near-immortality granted him by the Triforce of Power. We also see throughout the games that while the Triforce pieces may embed themselves in a promising individual, they also guide that individual’s development. The various Links are brave from the get-go, which is presumably why they receive the Triforce of Courage (it is possible that this assumption, that the Triforce pieces align themselves with those who embody the virtue they represent, is erroneous — I do not have a canonical quote to support this assertion. Please inform me if I am in error or provide a supporting reference if you have it), and the Triforce of Courage, in turn, seems to magnify that. Similarly, the various possessors of the Triforce of Wisdom all seem to be preternaturally wise, having insights, prescience, and perception on a truly magnificent level. So what would happen were the Triforce pieces to depart? Wisdom and Courage cannot be taken back once they have been bestowed. But most of the supernatural abilities that all three (Zelda, Link, and Ganon) possess would probably vanish — to name a few examples, Zelda’s more magical capabilities, Ganon’s almost god-like powers (he cursed the whole Great Sea to be continually dark until Nayru’s pearl dispelled his magic, remember?), and Link’s near invulnerability (he can take a direct hit from dragon-fire without being slowed). From Wind Waker: ‘When the Hero of Time was called to embark on another journey and left the land of Hyrule, he was separated from the elements that made him a hero. It is said that at that time, the Triforce of Courage was split into eight shards and hidden throughout the land.’ We could argue about what exactly constitutes a true hero, but in this case the King of Red Lions is clearly talking about the Triforce of Courage and associated artifacts. Recall the scene atop Ganon’s Tower at the end of Wind Waker. Obviously, the lashback of being separated from a Triforce piece isn’t lethal. But it probably requires some recovery time. (In the scene atop the Tower, Link and Zelda lie unconscious after the Triforce is reassembled. This might just be because Ganon smacked them each really hard on the head, but remember that even before tWW’s Link gets the Triforce of Courage he has a really fast recovery time when it comes to unconsciousness. Also note that after the Triforce separates the individual pieces can be seen glowing on each person’s hand once again, and Zelda and Link are suddenly completely alert.)

    Giving Midna the Triforce does not appear to have been plan “A”. When the grievously wounded Midna is talking to Zelda, the Princess seems to simply be comforting a dying person until Midna mentions the Mirror of Twilight. It is in the wake of Zelda’s apparent realization that Midna is a Twili that Zelda gives Midna her Triforce piece. A change of plans. This sudden withdrawal from a power source Zelda’s body had become dependant on would explain her comatose state.

    Alternately, Ganon could have simply cursed her into unconsciousness as he seems to have done to Tetra in tWW, which is simpler and makes fewer assumptions — and so is more likely to be the right answer.

    Why does she disappear? Presumably Ganon (who seems a little more competent than in OoT, although not as experienced as in tWW — he is still far too over-confident) has been keeping tabs on Zelda, and a major power transfer like that would alert him that something was up. Therefore, he grabbed her as fast as he could with his magic to see what she was up to. This also explains the barrier around Hyrule Castle — once he found that she no longer had the Triforce of Wisdom he would presumably have sealed the area to prevent whoever had it from getting away. Unfortunately for Ganon, Midna has teleportation skills that got Link out of the Castle faster then he could have managed on his own. Also, it might just be the light filtering through the colored barrier, but it looks as though the twilight shroud is restored inside. This would could support this theory in a number of ways — perhaps Ganon wanted to eliminate any accomplices the one with the Triforce fragment might have by reducing them to spirits. Perhaps he assumed that Zelda had simply found someone to carry it away from him, not someone capable of wielding it, and he wanted to incapacitate them. Perhaps the Triforce of Wisdom can only partially protect the one bearing it from the twilight shroud and they still suffer negative effects (the Triforce of Courage, after all, couldn’t stop Link from being forced into beast-shape by the shroud.) Or maybe Ganon just likes orange light — I seem to recall an abundance of it in the top room of Ganon’s Tower in OoT when Link first arrives. The point of this tangent being that Zelda’s gift to Midna probably wasn’t her soul, her ability to exist in the light, or something similar. It was probably the Triforce of Wisdom.

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