The Legend of Zelda: Are Zelda and Link Really Brother and Sister?

The Legend of Zelda's strangest fan theory may not be quite as strange as it seems...

Zelda and Link
Photo: Nintendo

In a recent look at the many unsolved mysteries and urban legends of the Legend of Zelda franchise, I briefly mentioned the idea that Zelda and Link are somehow related. At the time, I felt that the idea that those two characters could possibly be related was simply an urban legend. However, it’s since been pointed out that some interpretations of their relationship actually make that idea something closer to an unsolved mystery.

It sounds crazy, but what’s really crazy is that a deeper look into this subject reveals that the nature of Link and Zelda’s relationship throughout the years isn’t nearly as clear as it appears to be at a glance. Actually, if you spend enough time diving into this topic, you’ll not only start to see why people think that Link and Zelda are siblings; you may even start to convince yourself that it’s true. 

Is it true, though? Could two characters most commonly associated with an epic romance that spans hundreds of years of history really be related? Here’s what we know about the long-standing mystery that has sparked a seemingly endless debate. 

Let’s start with one of the weirdest corners of the Zelda universe: the 1989 Legend of Zelda manga written and illustrated by Yuu Mishouzaki. 

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In that manga, Princess Zelda XVI has a forbidden relationship with an elf warrior named Rune. The two have a child (who turns out to be Link), but because the King of Hyrule is apparently prejudiced against elves, they decide to have Impa raise their child in secret. Later, Princess Zelda XVI has another child named (appropriately enough) Zelda XVII. So, in a weird way, there’s one Princess Zelda in that universe who is Link’s mom and another who is Link’s half-sister.

So was any of that information used in the games? Well, those early manga stories were technically based on the original Zelda games, but you have to remember that they were loose adaptations of games that were fairly light on plot. Their writers had to fill in a lot of gaps and were clearly afforded a lot of creative freedom in their attempts to do so. Still, it’s easy to see why these mangas have been dismissed as non-canonical over the years. 

Interestingly, though, there are elements of these stories that did survive in later games. For instance, Zelda disguises herself as kind of a “tomboy” in one of the manga stories, which is an idea that we saw in Ocarina of Time years later. Another manga story suggests that Link is represented by a wolf in the Dark World, which is oddly similar to one of the core story/gameplay concepts of Twilight Princess.

Even if Nintendo has brushed aside those mangas as non-canonical over the years, that doesn’t mean they weren’t potentially inspired by some of their concepts when they were designing some of the future Zelda games. So was the idea that Link and Zelda are brother and sister one of those concepts? Well, that’s where things get even weirder and even more interesting…

I mentioned this in my look at the various Legend of Zelda myths over the years, but it’s fascinating to see how many of the “Zelda and Link are brother and sister” rumors can be traced back to a Link to the Past

To reiterate, there’s a scene at the beginning of the U.S. version of A Link to the Past where we see Link’s uncle say “Zelda is your…” shortly before dying. The dialog of that same scene roughly translates into “Y-you are the princess’…” in the Japanese version of the game. Both of those statements certainly seem to leave the door open for the possibility that Link’s uncle was about to say the words “sister” and “brother.”

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Years later, the Game Boy Advance version of A Link to the Past seemingly clarified this matter somewhat by turning the Uncle’s line into the much more informative “You must rescue Princess Zelda. Our people are fated to.” That new line appeared to make it clear that the original confusion was the result of a questionable translation and old-fashioned speculation.

Still, some fans insist that it’s possible the Link to the Past writers knew exactly what they were doing. While it’s a very, very loose theory, it’s not technically impossible that the writers were inspired by the manga interpretation of these characters and decided to at least leave the door open for the possibility that Link and Zelda are brother and sister. Still, we have no way of knowing if that was actually the case, and most of what happens next makes it seem highly unlikely that Nintendo seriously considered officially making Link and Zelda brother and sister in that, or any other, timeline.

While A Link to the Past is the most commonly cited piece of “evidence” in the Link/Zelda sibling relationship debate, it’s very much worth noting that Ocarina of Time comes the closest to embracing that idea (at least in the minds of many fans).

Simply put, there are several moments during Ocarina of Time’s ambiguous story that at least hint at the possibility that game’s version of Link and Zelda are separated siblings. For instance, we know that Link’s mother delivers him to the Deku tree when he was just a baby in order to save him from the horrors of an ongoing war. She died shortly thereafter. Because we also never see Zelda’s mother in that game (or hear much about her), it’s been suggested that Link’s mother could have been the queen of Hyrule.

Later in the game when Zelda and Link meet, Zelda has a line about how Link seems so familiar to her. On top of that, one of the Composer Brothers mentioned how Link reminds him of Zelda. That last line also touches on the fact that Zelda and Link were clearly designed to look very similar in that installment. Put it all together, and you certainly start to see how fans could jump to the conclusion that the two were separated at (or near) birth.

Those who support the theory that the version of Link and Zelda in Ocarina of Time could be related often clash with those who suggest that Ocarina of Time was the game that actually strongly suggested that the two ended up in a romantic relationship. Those two ideas aren’t necessarily independent of each other (as Game of Thrones proved), but they represent the two most popular interpretations of the characters’ relationships in the revolutionary N64 game. 

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The fact of the matter is that the events of Ocarina of Time are open to a fair amount of speculation. Whether intentional or not, there are a lot of questions that this game doesn’t explicitly answer. You could play this game with the idea in your head that Link and Zelda are separated siblings, and the events of the game alone won’t necessarily shatter your perception of their relationship. 

Having said that, the evolution of the Zelda franchise’s storyline beyond this point strongly suggests that the idea that Zelda and Link are brother and sister in Ocarina of Time wasn’t intended to be as aggressively implied as some believe it was.

I’m willing to bet that the idea of Link and Zelda being related is most often immediately dismissed by those who assume that the two are eternally locked in a romantic relationship. Well, the truth of the matter is that kind of relationship is rarely forced into the Zelda games. Romance is sometimes implied, it’s sometimes denied, and it’s sometimes loosely stated, but few Zelda games are outright love stories. 

Interestingly, one glaring exception to that rule is the first game in the Zelda timeline: Skyward Sword. While it’s not the first game to suggests that Zelda and Link have a romantic relationship, it is the game that tells the clearest love story between the two in the history of the franchise.

With that information available, the question becomes “What does that tell us about Link and Zelda’s relationship in the rest of the series?” Well, considering that the Zelda timeline is one of the most confusing in all of gaming, the fact of the matter is that it’s difficult to say for sure. You also have to remember that the Zelda chronological timeline does not match the release order of the games themselves. That means that there could have been a time when Nintendo was open to the possibility of Link and Zelda being siblings or at least wanted to leave the idea open to interpretation. 

Having said that, the fact the two major Zelda games that precede Ocarina of Time (Skyward Sword and The Minish Cap) are also two of the games that emphasize the Zelda/Link love story the most would seem to imply that Nintendo eventually decided to really drive home the idea that the earliest versions of Link and Zelda were romantically connected on some level. The latter game implied more of a childhood romance but it was a romance nonetheless.

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There are two ways you can interpret the Zelda/Link relationship we see in early games. The first suggests that future versions of Link and Zelda could be directly descended from the Skyward Sword couple. However, that interpretation requires a lot of leaps in logic in regards to what we actually do know about each character’s (largely separate) bloodlines and their roles in the grander lore of that universe. While the various Zeldas over the years are related by blood, only some versions of Link are directly related in such a traditional way.

It’s much more likely that Nintendo eventually decided to formally shut down the brother and sister talk by thematically introducing early examples of the Link and Zelda relationship which don’t necessarily lend themselves to that interpretation. 

Zelda Does Have A Brother, But He’s Rarely Mentioned

Link and Zelda’s families are rarely mentioned in any of the games (which is honestly a big part of the reason the “siblings” speculation exists), but there has been at least one notable reference to Zelda’s brother in the past. 

In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link a passing reference is made to Zelda’s brother: The Prince of Hyrule. It’s suggested in supplementary material that Zelda’s brother was either corrupted or possessed by a magician who eventually puts Zelda in the enchanted sleep we find her in at the start of the game. 

It’s not entirely clear what ultimately happens to the Prince of Hyrule, but that is really the only time that one of Zelda’s siblings is clearly featured (or at least referenced) in one of the Legend of Zelda games. Make of this information what you will, but Adventure of Link is one of the last games in the Zelda timeline. Then again, it may be more important to consider that Adventure of Link was always kind of an odd entry into the series. It influenced future games in the series in some ways, but it’s largely considered to be something of an anomaly across the board.

In the same way that many of Zelda 2’s gameplay ideas were abandoned by later games in the series, it’s entirely possible that Nintendo just never really liked the idea of Zelda having a brother or never felt the need to bring it up in any earlier games in the timeline. Then again, others argue that the implication that Zelda and Link are related in A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time (the next two major Zelda games for Nintendo consoles) suggests that Nintendo was interested in preserving that idea or were at least still playing with it.

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When you’re talking about The Legend of Zelda‘s various timelines, alternate timelines, and mythological mysteries, it’s hard to get a straight answer on anything. That being the case, there’s always at least a small possibility that Zelda and Link are related either directly or distantly in at least some of the games.

Having said that, so much of the evidence that sibling theory relies on is circumstantial and dependant on ideas introduced before Nintendo seemed especially concerned with the grander Zelda mythology. Granted, some would argue that Nintendo has never really cared about Zelda’s mythology and timeline, but it’s been made clear over the years that early Zelda games weren’t exactly designed to serve as the basis of some grand story Nintendo planned out years in advance. 

That being the case, the most likely answer to that question is that if Nintendo ever intended for Zelda and Link to be brother and sister, they probably changed their minds at some point. Another possible explanation suggests that they looked at the interpretations fans developed in response to Ocarina of Time’s ambiguous plot points and decided to more clearly define the Zelda and Link relationships in future games. 

Ultimately, though, Nintendo has never explicitly stated that Zelda and Link are brother and sister and the only instances where that idea has been explicitly stated in Zelda media are considered to be non-canonical.

The more important point to keep in mind is that Zelda and Link are often destined to meet each other in every timeline regardless of the circumstances. The nature of their romantic or blood relationship has always been second to the idea that they’re tied together by destiny and powers that go beyond comparatively traditional relationships. 

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