By Steven T. Smith
January 9, 2019

 

The Heroes Meet

“A sword wields no strength unless the hand that holds it has courage.”
Hero’s Shade, Twilight Princess

Think back, it’s 2006. LoZ Twilight Princess has just released, and you’ve made your way through the introduction and are about to tackle the first dungeon. You see him before he strikes; a golden wolf with a single red eye. You tense up; what is this? A new enemy? You prepare yourself and approach. It growls, and leaps with a blinding flash of light.

You found yourself in a spiritual realm, confronted by a Stalfos adorned in ancient armor. He has a single, glowing red eye; the other missing as though he had lost it in battle. He raises his sword and shield, prepared for combat. His stance is familiar, active and energetic, and he wields his weapon in his left hand. You strike, and are swiftly thrown to the ground. Who is this enigmatic warrior, and what is it that he wants?

The Past Which Haunts

“Although I accepted life as the hero, I could not convey the lessons of that life to those who came after.”
Hero’s Shade, Twilight Princess

The Hero’s Shade, the spirit of the long dead Hero of Time; reduced to a pale shadow of his former self. His armor worn and crumbling, his weapons chipped and cracked. Much like many spirits before him, the Hero’s Shade remains in this world because of regret. Regret, in the Zelda universe, is akin to that of a curse. Those who regret linger on as spirits, unable to pass on into what lies beyond life in the Zelda universe. In the past, the Hero of Time helped spirits such as these, easing their woes and guiding them to pass on, through the use of the Song of Healing. What could the Hero of Time possibly bewail? Surely a man of his prestige would have lived a fulfilling life after being sent back to his childhood?

Well, everything it would seem. He lost his innocence and his entire life was turned upside down the day that the Great Deku tree summoned him. Risking life and limb in his quest to prevent Ganondorf from claiming the Triforce, he instead (unintentionally) facilitated Ganondorf’s acquisition of the Triforce of Power. His efforts to prevent this event when returned to his childhood would result in failure as well, for before his capture, Ganondorf would somehow acquire his piece of the Triforce.

“By some divine prank, he, too, had been blessed with the chosen power of the gods.”
Sage, Twilight Princess

After the Hero of Time warned the kingdom of Ganondorf’s treachery, he would set off in search of a dear friend. This journey, too, would result in turmoil. The Hero would meet people like him. Lost and distraught, and unsure of what to do. Here, he would learn the Song of Healing and use it to heal the ailing spirits of those who, like him, have put their lives on the line for their ideals, and for those they wish to protect. The Hero of Time likely never found his dear friend, but in this journey, he made a new one in the Skull Kid.

There isn’t any information on what became of the Hero after the events that transpired in Termina, but given his armored appearance, it can be surmised that he became a knight of Hyrule. A warrior’s spirit cannot be suppressed, and so it is only natural that he would pursue the life of valor. How he fell in battle is unknown, but the state of his appearance leads one to assume it was not a pleasant end for the hero.

The kingdom as the Hero of Twilight knows it makes no mention of a Hero of Time, but there is an ominous grave within the Castle Graveyard. Upon it is an inscription stating that a “cursed swordsman” rests under a “sacred tree,” perhaps hinting that the Hero of Time may rest here, remembered not as a hero, but as a wayward warrior of considerable skill. One who was unable to pass down his legacy, for reasons unclear.

What ultimate fate awaits this fragment of a man?

A Somber Fate

“This is a melody that heals evil magic and troubled spirits… I am sure it will be of assistance to you in the future.”
The Happy Mask Salesman, Majora’s Mask

Perhaps there is no truly happy ending for the Hero of Time. A bittersweet end to a tragic tale, of a child robbed of his innocence; a man forlorn in his purpose; a warrior deprived of his legacy.

Perhaps his fate is to be forgotten.

Upon meeting the Hero’s Shade the second time, the Heroes howl a morose duet of the Song of Healing, and Link’s training begins in earnest, as the forsaken Hero is given his chance to finally pass on his legacy to a new mantle. The Hero of Time has begun to heal, and he is given a new purpose.

Reliving the ghosts of his past, he guides the Hero of Twilight through his life with song. The turbulence of traveling back and forth through time with the Requiem of Spirit; the start of something greater with the Prelude of Light; the longing for the warmth of a paternal figure with the Goron’s Lullaby; the sense of duty and loyalty with Zelda’s Lullaby; the liberation and control of oneself with the Ballad of Gales; a crescendo of honor and fulfillment with a wistful rendition of the main theme of Twilight Princess.

Through this discourse, he accepts that he will not be remembered as a hero, and so allows his regret to drive his new purpose in teaching the new hero the skills he will need to succeed in saving Hyrule from the Twilight, and from Ganondorf. Through this new blood, the Shade’s legacy will be granted new purpose, and carry on without him.

Hyrule will not remember the Hero of Time, but it will remember the Hero of Twilight, and the legacy he will carry into the future.

“At last, I have eased those regrets.”
Hero’s Shade, Twilight Princess

In conclusion, the Hero of Time has one of the most tragic tales in the entire Zelda mythos. In all three timelines, the hero befalls some tragedy: either slain, disappearing when he was needed most, or not remembered at all. The Hero’s Shade saw an opportunity in the Hero of Twilight to finally fulfill his legacy, and a chance to ease his sorrow by guiding the Hero to the Song of Healing. While the song may have lost some of its power over time, as it failed to induce the same effect over the Shade as it had those he had consoled with its somber melody, it nonetheless allowed him to come to peace with the reality that he would not be remembered for the sacrifices he made to prevent Ganondorf from conquering Hyrule. While he failed to stop the demon thief from acquiring the Triforce of Power, the Shade knew that the Hero of Twilight would be more than a match for the Gerudo king.