The Legend of Zelda: Who Forged the Master Sword?

The Master Sword is The Legend of Zelda’s most iconic weapon, but the franchise's confusing timeline means that the sword's true origins are shrouded in mystery

The Legend of Zelda: The Master Sword
Photo: Nintendo

Almost every long-running video game franchise has a signature weapon that shows up in almost every entry. For God of War, that weapon is the Blades of Chaos. For Half-Life, it’s the crowbar. For The Legend of Zelda, it is most certainly the Master Sword.

Also known as the Blade of Evil’s Bane, the Master Sword is one of the most frequent recurring faces of the franchise. Even though most Zelda games star different characters, all of whom are named Link, the Master Sword is the same weapon throughout. This has, unfortunately, resulted in some retcons and contradictory origins since the Master Sword has technically existed longer than the Legend of Zelda timeline. Whenever one entry provides an origin story for the weapon, a sequel eventually comes along and delivers a different tale.

So what is the true origin of the Master Sword? Who forged the only weapon that can harm Link’s immortal archnemesis, Ganon? Here’s the full story (at least until another Zelda game updates the weapon’s lore yet again).

The Master Sword’s Misleading Early Mythology

Even though the Master Sword is synonymous with The Legend of Zelda franchise, the weapon didn’t debut until The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, where it waited in a stone pedestal. While this sword in the stone imagery has stuck with the Zelda series ever since, the Master Sword’s initial form did not. In A Link to the Past, the Master Sword features a red grip and guard; the blue hilt we know today was introduced in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Since the Master Sword first appeared in A Link to the Past, that game also provided an origin for the weapon, but like the design, that story’s canonicity was just as fleeting.

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Back in the old days, video games came with instruction manuals. Those tiny booklets drilled players on game controls and occasionally provided bits of backstory. In A Link to the Past’s game manual, players can find an entire section devoted to the origins of Ganon and the Master Sword. According to that section, the citizens of Hyrule forged the Master Sword after Ganon acquired the Triforce. Instead of sealing away evil beings, the sword was designed to cut through magic, specifically magics granted by the Triforce. However, that’s just the English version of the manual. The original Japanese version tells a similar story but with one crucial difference: the gods told Hylians to forge the Master Sword just in case someone like Ganon got their hands on the Triforce. The weapon wasn’t created out of desperation but as a preemptive measure.

Subsequent Legend of Zelda games retconned the Master Sword’s genesis. In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, before Princess Zelda helps players find the Master Sword, she waxes poetic about its history and power. And according to her, the sword was crafted by ancient sages, not the citizens of Hyrule. Admittedly, these sages were crucial to the sword’s history in A Link to the Past since they tried finding someone worthy to wield the blade. However, according to that game’s booklet, they played no part in the actual forging of the Master Sword. 

Technically, Twilight Princess wasn’t the first Zelda property to associate sages with the Master Sword’s origin. Actually in the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past manga, the sages crafted the Master Sword. However, that retelling is of questionable canonicity, and not just because Link talks in it.

The Current Cannon Corrects the Master Sword’s Origins

Not every mainline Legend of Zelda game acts as a sequel to previous entries; many are actually prequels. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, for instance, is a prequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords is likewise a prequel to Ocarina of Time. Currently, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the first chronological entry in the series, and, as such, it gives players a front row seat to the Master Sword’s creation.

Early in Skyward Sword, Link acquires the Goddess Sword, as well as the most talkative (and annoying) sidekick since Navi: Fi. Fi is an artificially created spirit who resides in the Goddess Sword and acts as its medieval onboard computer. She helps Link find elemental flames associated with different goddesses (the gods from A Link to the Past were later retconned into goddesses), which turn the Goddess Sword into the Master Sword. So in a sense, Link forged the Master Sword by going on an adventure with Fi acting as his guide. But that raises another question: If Link turned the Goddess Sword into the Master Sword, who created the Goddess Sword in the first place?

According to Skyward Sword’s backstory, the Goddess Hylia forged the Goddess Sword and used it to fight and seal away the demon Demise. This origin sounds awfully familiar to the story associated with the Master Sword in earlier Zelda titles; just replace “Goddess Sword” with “Master Sword” and “Demise” with “Ganon.” This is by design, as Skyward Sword not only explains how the Master Sword came to be but also the origin of Ganon and his Gerudo alter ego, Ganondorf. Sort of. At the end of Skyward Sword, Demise curses the descendents of Link and Zelda to forever have “an incarnation of [his] hate” follow them. That “incarnation” is implied to be Ganondorf/Ganon, so it sort of makes sense that the successor of the weapon used to defeat Demise would likewise be used to defeat Demise’s successor.

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Who Really Forged the Master Sword?

Continuity has a love-hate relationship with the Legend of Zelda franchise. Almost every entry features landmarks such as Hyrule Castle and Death Mountain, but topography varies wildly between entries for no discernible reason. While one could argue that the whatever rationale is behind these changes also explains why the Master Sword’s origin occasionally changes, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword potentially provides a superior in-game explanation that doesn’t retcon the previous stories.

When players acquire the Goddess Sword in Skyward Sword, they learn that Link’s teacher (and Zelda’s father) Gaepora guarded the chamber and kept it secret. Gaepora also recites a bit of the legend that was passed down to him. Fi remarks that oral tradition is “one of the least reliable methods of information retention and transmission” since apparently crucial portions of the story had been lost over time. Not only does Fi use this as an opportunity to correct Gaepora, but it also explains why the Master Sword origin stories differ from game to game.

While players got to witness the weapon’s creation in Skyward Sword, characters in other games did not. Tales were passed down from generation to generation, which is why in-game legends of the Master Sword exist in the first place. But as time went on, certain details were accidentally changed or omitted. That’s probably why the sages were apocryphally associated with the Master Sword’s creation in earlier entries; in Ocarina of Time, they were crucial in sealing away Ganondorf. Stories of the Goddess Sword and Demise probably disappeared, but tales of the Master Sword and Ganondorf did not. Therefore over time, Hylians likely assumed the Master Sword was created in response to Ganondorf and thus misassociated the sages with the weapon’s origins.

It only took 100 years to make The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild characters like Yolero think the Master Sword is actually a torch. Imagine how much damage potentially thousands of years of compounding errors could do to stories surrounding the weapon’s beginnings.