So, we’re going to talk some minor Breath of the Wild spoilers today, turn back if you want to stay entirely away from any character details from the game.
It’s no secret Link doesn’t talk in the Zelda games. At first it was a bit of gag, he shouted “HYAH” when wielding his sword, but was a largely silent participant in conversations. This made the transition to Breath of the Wild being voice acted a little awkward. Link not talking in any of the cutscenes he is present in became somewhat of an elephant in the room, something I as a player was aware of and had to try not to think too hard about.
That was until I stormed Hyrule Castle, the domain of Ganon for over 100 years, found Princess Zelda’s bedroom and read her diary.
There’s now a canonical reason Link doesn’t talk much, if at all.
Link sometimes becomes non-verbal due to the pressure placed upon him. He’s afraid of showing weakness, so he shuts down and doesn’t say anything.
“When I finally got around to asking him why he’s so quiet all the time, I could tell it was difficult for him to say. But he did… With so much at stake, and so many eyes on him, he feels it necessary to stay strong and to silently bear any burden… A feeling I know all too well… It has caused him to stop outwardly expressing his thoughts and feelings”.
From this diary entry, we learn a few things about Link’s level of verbalism that I find really interesting. Link isn’t entirely mute, and can certainly talk when he has to. This much is evidenced by numerous games in the series having Link tell people his name, explain why he’s there, or answer simple multiple choice questions. Link canonically can talk, but a lot of the time he makes the choice not to. He doesn’t speak when it’s not necessary, he prefers not having to vocalise how he feels.
As someone who has been a huge fan of the Zelda series since childhood, Link has been something of an aspirational idea to me for much of my life. A blank canvas to project upon, he was capable of successfully doing anything, and overcoming any obstacle in front of him, even if he often did so quietly and by himself. This spoke to me a lot as a child who grew up with Asperger’s.
I obviously can speak, I do an awful lot of talking on podcasts as a pretty integral part of my job. Still, I spend a surprisingly high amount of my personal life quiet and nonverbal. I’ve always found discussing emotions or feelings out loud with words difficult, and often opt in my personal life to talk about those subjects through nonverbal means.
When I came out to my mother as trans, I did so over email. When I last dealt with suicidal feelings, I discussed them with someone over instant messenger text chat. I asked out my ex over text. I confronted my biological father about aspects of our lives over Facebook messenger.
I can talk out loud, but it’s hard, particularly when it’s about topics that place a heavy emotional burden on me. Opening up verbally is hard. Explaining my feelings without shutting down or opening up too much verbally is hard. I find it easier when my emotions spike to be nonverbal.
As someone who struggles with verbalism at the best of times, often feels the need to present themselves as more put together and emotionally strong than they are, and who pushes themselves to do a lot without help and support, I finally feel like I have a hero to aspire to who also sometimes struggles to be verbal, and who managed to do amazing things for the people around them anyway.
I have a hero in media who made friends, helped support people, fixed problems, even if they didn’t always feel up to using their voice or words to do it.