Wisdom is The Legend of Zelda’s True Strength
Power seeks Wisdom. Wisdom leads Courage. Courage fights Power. Courage perseveres through Wisdom’s leadership. Power seeks out more power and needs Wisdom to extend itself. Wisdom could go along with Power, but instead chooses to stop it with the help of Courage.
It’s not Courage that stops Power, it’s Wisdom. Wisdom has a choice in the matter, it can side with either Power and Courage, while Courage and Power are eternally conflicted because it takes Courage to stand up to Power. Power ultimately brings corruption. Wisdom chooses to side with Courage to bring down Power, because that is the wisest thing to do.
And despite that, Wisdom is said to be victimized. Just because it doesn’t follow the masculine styles of dominating Power or fiery Courage. Just because it follows the serene path of Wisdom and wears a dress, Wisdom is all the weaker for it.
This is the problem with the argument Anita Sarkeesian, as well as other ill-informed, bandwagoning feminists, put in the minds of women unaware of how tropes are used in video games. Just because a female character doesn’t act dominant or is in a role of masculine power doesn’t make her weaker for it.
Link might have one year where he shines in every incarnation, and Ganon might have a few years or so to dominate before ultimately being brought down, but Zelda rules Hyrule and brings peace to it in ways neither of these two would be able to accomplish for the duration of her entire life outside of these two scenarios.
What’s really sad about this is that the argument against Zelda’s role in the series wouldn’t exist if she was male. If she was male, she’d be recognized as a dominant force, even without any change to her character or role in the series. She could still be taken away at the end of Ocarina of Time, or hide in Wind Waker, but then feminists who barely played the games would actually recognize the Seven Years of fighting against tyranny Zelda performed as Sheik, or the lifetime of piracy as a captain of her own ship.
This is why I dislike the idea of placing Zelda into Link’s role. Not because Zelda shouldn’t be able to take the lead, but because of people are unwilling to accept that she’s been doing that already. People are getting caught up so much into arguing about gender roles that they fail to see someone could be a hero without fullfilling male power fantasy standards. There are better ways for Zelda to fight back than to put her in Link’s outfit and have her do his work for him. Failing to recognize that cheapens your own reflection of what a female character can and cannot do, and honestly, that is a lot more sexist than any role that Zelda has ever played in her own franchise.
All three of the main characters represent an aspect of the Triforce. There is no weakness amongst the three of them. Yes, Zelda often gets taken down by Ganon. But guess who still reigns supreme at the end because her plan succeeded? Link doesn’t have a plan, he’s just a pretty face with a sword with enough courage to trust in the judgment of another. Zelda is an intelligent woman who rules a kingdom, not some ditzy prize for the hero to bed at the end of the adventure.
With Zelda being the ruling force before and after the adventure, it is safe to say that the element of Wisdom is one of stability. Things tend to go well in Hyrule whenever Ganon isn’t around to disrupt things. Ganon represents not only Power, but disruption. He brings chaos to the realm, until Link, the stabilizer, comes in to put an end to Ganon’s reign of chaos. Wisdom represents the Status Quo, something which Power seeks to disrupt. Courage, bringing an end to chaos is easier to celebrate because his moment to shine is the contrast between what Zelda and Ganon represent.
Feminism seeks to disrupt the status quo because, in their eyes, the status quo doesn’t work. So a character that represents something that, in our world, is faulty, is unappealing. Unwilling to face the actual reason they dislike what Zelda represents, they instead discredit her efforts in every cause she represents to focus on the one main weak point in her character: her lack of physical strength.
So why doesn’t Zelda fight physically? Why don’t they ever teach Zelda to hold her own? Actually, they do. Look at her in the role of Sheik or Tetra. Both could hold their own against normal opponents easily enough. However, Ganon’s not a normal person. He is the physical representation of Power. He gained near-invincibility through reaching the Triforce. No normal person can stand against him, besides the manifestation of Courage, the hero chosen to be reborn by the three gods himself. Link is not a normal person, he was literally born to face Ganon, and even then, he can’t do it alone.
Link’s journey to defeating Ganon serves its own purpose. It’s just a bunch of important artifacts with magical powers being stowed away somewhere that he has to seek out. Each dungeon he conquers gives him more experience and further builds his confidence. Ganon was a man who took a short-cut to all consuming Power. Instead, Link has to walk a long road to face Ganon so that by the time he gets there, he’s ready. A path that Zelda sets him on almost every game.
There was one instance where Zelda did allow Link to take the shortest and most rash course of action, and that was Ocarina of Time. It brought Link to the Master Sword years before he was ready to wield it, and gave Ganon access to the Sacred Realm, leading to the near destruction of Hyrule. In the seven years Ganon ruled Hyrule, Zelda planned Link’s course, while holding off Ganon from complete victory by herself.
Even in that case, Zelda was the first to identify Ganondorf as a threat and came with a plan to stop him. Failing that and realizing Ganondorf had grown too powerful after capturing the Triforce, she sought a plan to seal him away. It’s only in the last few minutes that Zelda is captured by Ganondorf, and even then, her plan succeeded as she needed Ganon, Link, and herself together in one spot for it to work. Ganondorf, rash and sure of his power, played right into her trap.
But despite that, people claim that this moment brings down her value as a character in that game. Those last 15 minutes or so of the game, right before she seizes victory, make her a weak character.
In fact, a lot of people say that the only good Zelda titles are Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask because of the lack of involvement from Princess Zelda. Which is absolutely ridiculous. How does a complete lack of prominent female characters make for a more feministically acceptable experience than one with a female character that realizes her weaknesses and finds ways to overcome them? Not to mention that the main female character in Link’s Awakening’s only role is to sing a song for a bunch of forest animals and get kidnapped. But so long as it’s not Zelda, I guess it’s completely okay.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t write this to bash feminism. I don’t disagree with feminism. In fact, if it wasn’t for Anita Sarkeesian and the other aggressive media-bashing feminists I met on Twitter, I’d have never even thought about Zelda’s role in the Legend of Zelda as much as I have now. Without them, I never would’ve have gotten such a deep appreciation of her role within the series.
I’ve realized that there is a good reason it’s called The Legend of Zelda. When Link’s adventure is over and Ganon is vanquished, only one person stays behind to rule the realm. That person will be remembered for a long time, and her name will be easy to remember because it is a common name for female royalty. Years go by, and people will forget the name of the green-garbed youth who saved the kingdom and the corrupted soul who brought destruction. But they’ll never forget Zelda, who saw the dangers, put the plan into action, and succesfully ruled for years after. Much like we tend forget the names of individual soldiers in a war, but never forget who commanded them.