A Legend of Zelda Theory May Reveal Dark Link as a Powerful Villain

The chronology of The Legend of Zelda franchise is infamously complex, largely because Nintendo retconned it after years of releasing games with fairly tenuous connections. As of the 2011 release Hyrule Historia, the official word is that the universe consists of three timelines branching out from the events of Ocarina of Time. Games from across the franchise's history, which dates back to 1986, were rearranged and slotted into different spots along this continuity to make it all fit. Considering this complicated, malleable mythology, it's no wonder that Zelda fans love diving deep into theories and entertaining even the wildest interpretations of the lore.

There's one particular fan theory that ties Zelda's hero and villain together in an intriguing way. Some have floated the idea that the characters of Dark Link and Demise may be one and the same. This theory holds that Dark Link was created in Ocarina of Time when Child Link first touched the Master Sword, and the negative parts of his psyche were expelled and melded with what was left of Demise. It's an intriguing proposition, and there is some degree of support for it in canon.

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This popular strain of theories plays with the idea that Link may in some way actually be the series' true villain, or at least more closely tied to the dark side than he might seem. Den of Geek discusses one such theory, which posits that Link may be the cause of Hyrule's troubles in a roundabout way. It's true that the only timeline in which Hyrule enjoys a Golden Era of peace is the one in which Link was defeated and other Hylians had to rise up and take care of the problem. As Den of Geek points out, there's a chicken-and-egg aspect to this line of thinking that threatens to undermine the whole point of the series.

Dark Link is a well-known staple of the franchise, having appeared in six Zelda games. He's an evil doppelganger of Link who uses the hero's own strength and skills against him. The character is shrouded in mystery; in all of his appearances, Dark Link never speaks a single word of dialogue, and series creators have never explicitly confirmed anything about his origins. As for Demise, Ganon himself is said to be a partial reincarnation of Demise the Demon King in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Demise is an ultra-powerful being of evil who "has conquered time itself." In Zelda, they're the source of all evil and the ancient enemy of the goddesses who founded and watched over Hyrule. The repeating cycle of battle that defines Hylian history centers on the struggle between these two cosmic forces.

So how can these two characters be connected? The crux of the theory is that Demise is sealed away within the Master Sword -- the iconic blade that is synonymous with Link's identity throughout the series -- when Link defeats him at the end of Skyward Sword. Zelda lore across multiple franchise installments emphasizes the bond between Link's soul and the sword. Thus, by extension, one could certainly argue that a lasting connection between Link and Demise goes deeper than them just being destined enemies.

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The strong resemblance between the two antagonists also lends some credence to this theory. Demise has glowing red eyes and is clad in black, much like Dark Link. Demise's sword, which is embodied by the spirit Ghirahim, is a twisted mirror image of the Master Sword, embodied by Fi. His sword's hilt looks similar to the Master Sword but with a dark aesthetic and an upside-down Triforce. Similarly, Dark Link and his weapon are distorted reflections of Link and his weapon. Finally, there's a strong likeness between the battle stages where Link encounters these two adversaries in Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time. Both are formless, misty rooms with floors covered in water. These dreamlike spaces evoke similar feelings of a battle within the psyche.

Canonically, Demise has shown an ability to create incarnations of parts of himself that are whole beings. Ganon is the primary example. Demise states at the end of Skyward Sword that "an incarnation of his hatred," confirmed by the creators to be Ganon, will follow the Hero of Time and the goddess Hylia for the rest of eternity, creating the endless cycle that is the backbone of the series' mythology. It's not necessarily a stretch, then, to imagine that Demise's decaying essence combined with some dark element from Link's soul could give birth to an entity like Dark Link.

That being said, there still isn't too much concrete canon evidence for this idea, though it's certainly thought-provoking. It's more probable that Dark Link is simply another weapon Ganon is using against Link to demoralize the hero, most likely by magically animating his literal shadow. This is supported by the fact that Ocarina of Time clearly shows in a pre-battle cutscene that Link's shadow disappears right before the fight with Dark Link begins. However, Dark Link will always be a character that attracts intense interest from the fanbase. Until the creators confirm more solid information about him, this theory holds as much water as anything else.

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Jessica Fong (43 Articles Published)

Jessica is a Features writer at CBR. Her many interests include geeking out over sci-fi and fantasy as well as anything even remotely related to musical theater, and she has Zelda memes on the brain pretty much at all times. She can be found screaming about magical girls on twitter at @puellamagica1.

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