Canon Questions: Is Link a True Silent Protagonist?

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You don’t have to know all that much about the Zelda franchise to know that Link is a silent protagonist. I know what you might be thinking though: sure, he’s quiet in game, but surely he does talk, or how else would people know what thoughts he was trying to convey? I’ll definitely grant you that: Link does seem to talk “off-camera” in order to explain things (like when his head bobs and his hands are moving, followed by the NPC saying something like, “Oh? You mean that temple on the mountain?”). So, this article will examine whether he’s as silent as we really think.

If you were pressed to name a game where Link actually speaks, you’d likely come up with mostly misses. Yeah, sure, he does yell and make other audible sounds in his 3D outings, but you really don’t hear him say all that much of any substance. The player is also given options for Link in certain dialogues in various games, and if we wanted to stretch it a bit, we could claim that what we select is what Link himself actually says (like in A Link to the Past).

When it comes to spoken dialogue that we can directly attribute to Link, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a game that has a few examples. In the town of Saria, Link must locate a missing mirror in order to learn the Life spell, and when he finds it, a dialogue box pops up on screen that says, “I found a mirror under the table.” Obviously, this must be Link talking or thinking aloud, because there’s just no way to attribute this one to a narrator.

Later, in Darunia, Link makes the observation, “Looks like I can get in the fireplace” when trying to figure out how to get into one of the homes.

Other things that might be attributable to Link in Zelda II include:

“Kasuto. Strange…It is deserted.”

“There is someone behind the door!”

“The door will not open. It’s very quiet.”

These last three things could be attributed to a narrator, though are a bit odd, to say the least.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker has a couple instances of spoken dialogue. One of them is rather underwhelming and simply occurs in the auction house scene, since when you place a bid, an in-game dialogue box will pop up that will say, for example, “Link: 140 rupees.” But, there’s actually a spoken instance in which he clearly yells “Come on!”

Obviously, if we look at some of the non-game media licensed officially by Nintendo, Link does have a spoken role and is an otherwise normal person. This includes the cartoons, the Nintendo Adventure Books, the various comics and manga, etc.

Then there are the games put out for the Philips CD-i that are notorious in many ways. These games seemed to largely draw on the atmosphere of the cartoons (at least for Link: Faces of Evil and Zelda: Wand of Gamelon), so Link seems rather rude and headstrong, while the King is a rather funny and less-than-smart sort of guy. The cutscenes in these games have garnered a lot of negative attention over the years, so I won’t get into them here. Still, they are licensed products, but I won’t count the spoken dialogue for this article simply because for the purposes of this article, I’m talking about stuff put out directly by Nintendo.

On a recent livestream, this topic came up, and it was decided via a user in the chat room that even the most silent of protagonists slips up now and then. Plus, Zelda II‘s many examples occurred in the second game, which shows that they were still figuring out where they were going with the series. Wind Waker is an obvious game that we can point to and say that Link does speak, and there are other games where there are dialogue choices the player makes where it’s heavily implied that you are picking Link’s words for him.

Anyway, this was an interesting topic to me because I’ve never thought about this before until recently. I hope you all enjoyed reading about it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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2 thoughts on “Canon Questions: Is Link a True Silent Protagonist?

  1. Interesting! I always assumed that he was a straight up silent protagonist and that Navi (or any of her other incarnations) did the speaking for him, like Okami and Issun in Okami.

    • Well, in external media (like the comics, books, cartoon, and manga) he does talk like a normal person, but yeah, very seldom in any of the games. I did assume though that he does speak, he just talks “off camera” since other people seem aware of what he says, but we seldom, if ever, see any dialogue 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the article!

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