The Legend of Zelda begins with this story...
...but title itself is the first attempt to set the tone. The story is a legend, and because of the nature of video games you are entering that legend, to unveil it with your actions. The intro names the major players and establishes the path forward. You will be playing the role of “Link,” and you be playing out a mythical quest.
As Link, you are free to explore and quest as you see fit. Link may encounter a strange wise man as your journey begins. The man’s words are simple, and cut to the very nature of the narrative: There is danger ahead, and you must face it alone.
He gifts a weapon, and when Link’s vitality is at its maximum a magic projectile will fire from its blade. Similar wise men will reward exploration and conquest of the surrounding areas with even stronger swords.
Link undergoes a repetition of trials, each time gaining a magic item, a portion of the Triforce of Wisdom, and increasing his physical limits. Link finds these trials across the land of Hyrule, defining the character of each area by the scope of his accomplishments within.
Link battles and overcomes horrendous beasts along the way. When Link is weakened from battle he may find rejuvenation from the aid of a fairy, as if natural forces were actively engaged and guiding him against the forces of darkness.
When this simple story is complete, Link faces and defeats “Gannon” using items gained along the quest, and the Triforce of Power and the Triforce of Wisdom are held by Zelda and Link.
But wait, there is a second quest? Are the events just inevitably repeating...
Maybe the events did not actually unfold in the manner that had just played out...
Maybe this second quest is only slightly different, but the main beats are all the same...
Maybe as this legend has been told from one generation to the next, it has become jumbled like a centuries long game of Telephone, and both are equally able to convey the intended message...
What is the story here? What really is the legend of The Legend of Zelda?
Evil holds power without wisdom, which is scattered across the land. Natural forces conspire to concentrate wisdom in a hero, who unites power and wisdom to bring peace.
That is the myth... the legend, and the nature of legends allows it to be retold by future games in the series, connecting their stories despite their non-linearity.
Thanks for reading. You’re the real hero.
This is the 2nd article I’ve written in my The Legend of Zelda series. I will add a links module when I have enough to fill it!
In the future I will write about how some of the sequels use this legend to tell their own stories (probably focusing on Zelda II, A Link to the Past, Wind Waker, and Breath of the Wild.)