The Legend of Zelda’s beloved and iconic protagonist, Hyperlink, is tagged in additional than 17,000 items of fanfiction on Archive of Our Personal. Amongst these tales, greater than 300 are tagged with “Trans Hyperlink,” and practically 2,000 characteristic Hyperlink in a romantic relationship with Prince Sidon (or Ganondorf, for the enemies-to-lovers followers). AO3 is probably not the one metric for what number of Zelda followers interpret Hyperlink as homosexual and/or transgender, however it’s one of many largest. That is no shock, as followers have been speculating on Hyperlink’s gender and sexuality since at the least 2009, although realistically he’s been on the minds of queer gamers since The Legend of Zelda was first launched in Japan in 1986.
In 2023, Polygon is embarking on a Zeldathon. Be part of us on our journey by The Legend of Zelda sequence, from the unique 1986 sport to the discharge of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and past.
Nintendo has denied rumors that Hyperlink is queer. In a 2015 interview with Kotaku, Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma stated Hyperlink is “not homosexual. He’s simply an odd individual.” Nevertheless, although Aonuma shut down hypothesis about Hyperlink’s sexuality throughout the franchise canon, his assertion additionally opened the door for additional fan interpretation. Oddity has lengthy been inextricably linked with queerness, even past the etymological connection. For many years, heteronormativity has pressured queer individuals to exist on the fringes of society.
In artwork, it’s widespread to see queer-coded monsters and particularly queer-coded villains, significantly due to how the Hays Code prohibited depictions of homosexuality on display screen. Queerness has traditionally been labeled a type of depravity, and queer rights proceed to be beneath menace right this moment, as anti-LGBTQ laws skyrocketed in 2022. Given this historical past and political local weather, in addition to the propensity for followers to carry quick to their theories no matter canon, queer Zelda followers haven’t let what Aonuma has to say maintain them again from their very own interpretations of the enduring character. This grew to become particularly obvious through the lead-up to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Previous to the sport’s launch in 2017, there have been rumors that gamers would have the choice to decide on between “woman” or “boy” Hyperlink. In a 2016 interview with Time, Aonuma addressed these rumors after it was confirmed that Breath of the Wild would once more characteristic a masculine Hyperlink. His responses level to seemingly intentional ambiguity round Hyperlink’s id markers.
“Again through the Ocarina of Time days, I wished Hyperlink to be gender impartial. I wished the participant to assume ‘Possibly Hyperlink is a boy or a woman.’ When you noticed Hyperlink as a man, he’d have extra of a female contact. Or vice versa, if you happen to associated to Hyperlink as a woman, it was with extra of a masculine facet,” Aonuma instructed Time. “I actually wished the designer to embody extra of a gender-neutral determine.”
“Throughout the growth of Twilight Princess, I went a distinct route and created a model of Hyperlink that was extra masculine. However after Twilight Princess I went again to the drafting board and determined Hyperlink must be a extra gender-neutral character,” Aonuma continued. “Therefore I created the model of Hyperlink that you just see in Breath of the Wild. So far as gender goes, Hyperlink is unquestionably a male, however I wished to create a personality the place anyone would be capable to relate to the character.”
However Hyperlink’s gender-neutral, or androgynous, design in Breath of the Wild is sophisticated. For instance, there’s a quest through which Hyperlink has to decorate in drag as a way to enter the desert metropolis of Gerudo City. Solely ladies are allowed throughout the city’s partitions, so to talk to its chief and get what Hyperlink must struggle Thunderblight Ganon, Hyperlink has to current as a lady. To get the best garments, Hyperlink has to trace down “a person who snuck into Gerudo City.” The individual he meets is carrying conventional Gerudo costume, however after he confirms her id after which actually squints at her face and physique, the dialogue immediate both permits him to go with her magnificence or declare that she’s really a person. Primarily, the search forces Hyperlink to “clock” a trans lady, which is usually what precedes anti-trans violence.
This quest fails trans Zelda followers in main methods, however very like Aonuma’s denial that Hyperlink is homosexual, it additionally presents gamers with a possibility. They will select to queer the sport after finishing this quest by including extra femme garments to Hyperlink’s wardrobe, which unlock in a number of colours when you enter the city, and donning them as usually as they like. Different costumes are much less deliberately female, however there’s additionally a definite absence of hyper-masculine imagery such as you would possibly see in Pink Useless Redemption and even Metroid, whereby male heroes are both tremendous muscular or tall and wiry, and their costumes emphasize their our bodies.
After all, Hyperlink’s androgyny additionally follows a really particular and restricted interpretation of the time period. Within the vogue world, androgyny is usually used as a label for skinny, white, able-bodied, AFAB individuals who put on masculine clothes. Nevertheless, androgyny is practiced by individuals of each measurement, race, and physique kind. Many individuals who current as androgynous, particularly in the event that they establish as nonbinary or genderqueer, argue for vogue to be ungendered. To that finish, a online game character carrying a bra and trousers with a glittery veil ought to be capable to declare androgyny as simply as a fats mannequin carrying a flannel shirt and short-shorts, however neither presentation must be the one definition of the time period. All through Zelda historical past, Hyperlink is most frequently portrayed in a tunic and tights, which is seemingly how Nintendo defines androgynous vogue. Breath of the Wild affords a extra sturdy however nonetheless nebulously gendered wardrobe.
Hyperlink dressing in drag can be only one instance of queerness in Breath of the Wild. One other is his very flirtatious banter with Prince Sidon, who’s broadly thought-about to be a queer-coded character on his personal. Though Hyperlink has to rescue Sidon’s sister from the Divine Beast Vah Ruta, it’s clear that there’s an emotional connection between these two males as effectively. Sidon calls Hyperlink his greatest pal and repeatedly talks about how a lot he believes in Hyperlink. He even carries Hyperlink to Vah Ruta on his personal again, which makes it really feel as if the characters are dealing with the primary a part of the boss struggle collectively, with mutual belief and bodily intimacy — even when it’s not canonically romantic.
The connection between Sidon and Hyperlink has been explored in every kind of fan works for the reason that sport was launched, together with fanfiction starting from just a few thousand to tons of of hundreds of phrases per story, in addition to mature comics and loads of spicy fan artwork.
For now, the paradox of Hyperlink’s gender and relationships permits gamers to make what they may of his characterization and story. Nintendo’s androgynous designs depart room for gamers to decide on how they establish with Hyperlink — or different doubtlessly queer characters within the franchise, like Sheik from Ocarina of Time — and produce fan content material that aligns with their views. Although Nintendo insists Hyperlink is each straight and cisgender, followers have expanded the Zelda universe with LGBTQIA+ characters and queer readings of Zelda video games.
On Might 12, Nintendo will launch The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which picks up straight after the occasions of Breath of the Wild. Up to now, footage signifies the identical creative fashion and open-world idea, which means the most recent model of Hyperlink will get to proceed his journey… throughout which he’s seemingly changing into much more identifiably queer. His hair is totally different and virtually resembles a mullet, which is a method that has develop into synonymous with queerness.
Even when Hyperlink isn’t canonically recognized as homosexual or trans, fan content material for The Legend of Zelda is all over the place, and queer followers particularly appear to supply content material in droves. From the hundreds of fanfiction tales on AO3 to educational articles exploring queer themes within the franchise to fan artwork depicting Hyperlink and Prince Sidon in each healthful and attractive however decidedly romantic contexts, it’s clear that Nintendo’s opinion on the matter doesn’t a lot matter. For a lot of, Hyperlink is homosexual or trans or each, and that’s a robust factor that may’t be taken away.