Our favorite girl is back, and with a bobcut, no less! Princess Zelda in Tears of the Kingdom.

Want To Know More About Zelda and Link? Here’s Our ‘The Legend of Zelda’ Character Guide

A live-action The Legend of Zelda movie is officially in the works. This means that—for everyone who isn’t obsessed enough to do maniacal things like pour over the beautiful mess of the official Zelda timeline like it was a religious tome—it’s time to set the record straight.

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Like, which one is Zelda? Zelda is the boy, right? That’s why Nintendo named the game after him.

Actually, no. Zelda is the girl. Link is the beautiful androgynous boy/genderqueer icon and the character you play as in all the games. The fact that the series is called The Legend of Zelda does indeed commonly inspire this flip-flop of identity, though. Apparently, it’s not called “The Legend of Link” because the creator of the series liked the name “Zelda” that much.

But who are Link and Zelda to each other? And what other characters should you know about as part of Zelda 101? I’ve got you covered.

Zelda 101: Who are Link and Zelda, exactly? And what’s a Hyrule?

With a tiny handful of exceptions, the Legend of Zelda games take place in a fantasy kingdom called Hyrule, named after the goddess Hylia. The most important bullet point you should know there is that, thanks to Hylia, Hyrule safeguards an incredibly powerful three-part artifact known as the Triforce. The struggle to get the Triforce before the baddies is a central plot point in many Zelda games.

Hyrule is home to a few different species, but the exact inhabitants vary depending on the game. There are almost always elf-vibed Hylians, desert warriors called the Gerudo, the mysterious and wise Sheikah, and the rocky Gorons. Depending on the timeline in question (I’ll spare you the details), other series mainstays include the bird-like Rito, the aquatic Zora, and delightful forest spirits called Koroks.

Zelda and Link are both Hylian. In fact, Zelda is the princess of Hyrule, and Link (your player character) is her knight. Zelda is often imperiled because of those who would do Hyrule harm, so Link has to save the day. A classic tale. It’s that simple, folks!

However, though most versions of this classic tale end in a romance between the princess and her knight, that’s never strictly canonical in most Zelda games. Some games, like Tears of the Kingdom, heavily imply that Link and Zelda are in love. (Oh, come on, the girl kept his freaking hairband in a treasure chest right next to her desk, and why else would he give her his house.) He gets a kiss at the end of two games, but for the most part, the relationship is friendly but professional.

Is it all the same Link and Zelda in every game?

Another common point of confusion for Legend of Zelda newcomers is whether every game features the same Link and Zelda. But the truth of the matter is that the series has very few direct sequels, with Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom being the most recent and most obvious exceptions to the rule. They’re also by far the most “sequel-y” sequels. (Although the settings and the other cast are different, the Link from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask is the same.)

The Legend of Zelda‘s timeline spans tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years. Meaning that the different Links and Zeldas exist countless generations apart from each other—sometimes long enough for climate change to have transformed the landscape. Except for the rare sequels, each Zelda game’s Zelda and Link are completely different people than those from the other games.

Why do they have the same name, then? Well, all princesses born into the Hylian royal family are named Zelda. And Link is simply a common name—after all, the first Link was a famous hero! Don’t think about it too hard.

Zelda 102: The Villain

Ganondorf's key art from The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
(Nintendo)

Unless the upcoming live-action film adapts Skyward Sword, whose story marks the very beginning of the Legend of Zelda timeline and Hyrule itself, it’s almost certain that we’ll see Ganondorf. Ganondorf is the most famous antagonist of the Zelda series—he’s the Bowser equivalent. He’s the king of the Gerudo, and he wants the Triforce so he can use its godly power to take over the kingdom. Again, classic.

You may have also heard about someone named “Ganon” and might be wondering what the relationship between Ganon and Ganondorf is. I’ve written an entire article to explain the difference, but the Cliffs Notes version is that Ganondorf is a cunning, power-hungry man, and Ganon is the giant, powerful, instinct-driven beast he transforms into by absorbing the Triforce of Power. Ganondorf, man. Ganon, beast. Same guy, but in different forms, and the transformation severely affects his intellect.

Ganondorf and/or Ganon are not in every Zelda game. Hell, there’s one Zelda game where the villain is essentially the moon. But Ganondorf/Ganon is by far the most iconic. (Though you should never discount that moon.) Unlike Link and Zelda, and barring the branching of the timeline (don’t worry about it), every Ganon/Ganondorf in the series is the same guy. Depending on the situation, either the way Ganondorf was “sealed away” by the good guys and/or the corrupt way he’s used his slice of the Triforce has essentially made him immortal.

Zelda 103: Secondary Heroes

There are a handful of secondary characters you tend to often see in Zelda games. Behind Link, Zelda, and Ganon(dorf), the character most likely to pop up in a Zelda game is Impa. Like Link and Zelda, Impa is a different person every game. But exactly who she is and what she does can change. In some games, she’s a cool young ninja lady. In other games, she’s a wise old chief. But she’s always a close confidant of Zelda’s—an attendant, a bodyguard, a nursemaid, etc.

Then we get a bundle of characters who have appeared in a hefty handful of games but not as consistently as the characters mentioned above. There’s Epona, Link’s beloved horse. Epona debuted in Ocarina of Time and has only been in a handful of the mainline games after that, but the people love Epona. There’s also Beedle, the excited merchant who loves … well, beetles.

And then, of course, there’s Tingle. A weird little green man. I will riot if the live-action Zelda is Tingle-less.

(featured image: Nintendo)


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Image of Kirsten Carey
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.