Rite of Passage or Symbol of Servitude?


by Shane Kelley


Photo Source: Hyrule Historia

We all know the traditional attire that Link usually sports (a green tunic and hat, boots, sword and shield, and sometimes stockings), but there are a few different Links that also don something a little more subtle, a little fashion accent known as jewelry--more specifically, earrings. These little accessories raise a few questions--mainly why does Link have them, and what can we assume about their origin?


The first appearance of Link’s earrings shows up in his adult form within Ocarina of Time. They have only since appeared in Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild. We do know that each Link who wears earrings is age 16 and up, with only Breath of the Wild undetermined (though if Link was in a state of rest for over 100 years, he is well beyond that, and assuming he was above 16 even before going into the deep sleep, we can make an educated guess, which places him roughly in that age group).


Photo Source: Japanese Translation Blue – Bing.com

In Japanese culture, blue represents coolness, purity, and intelligence, which already puts emphasis on Link, giving him a certain hero vibe. In medieval times, hoop earrings represented a person who was a servant or slave, which could point to Link as being a hero to all, battling evil over and over in a continuous loop. Neither, of course, may have anything to do with the decision to include earrings; it could just be a mere artistic approach by the creator. Based on this direct quote from Koizumi, it seems it would lean more towards style than story-line: “And I pierced his ears, making him sort of cool. But it wouldn't suit Nintendo if he were too cool, so he wears that long underwear.” However, we will still discuss the possibilities beyond this statement.


Another element to look at is the timeline in which these games fall. Skyward Sword, as we know, starts the series off, then as we trickle down towards Ocarina of Time, where the timeline splits, we see Twilight Princess falls under the Hero is Triumphant Child Era. This, of course, places Breath of the Wild somewhere at the end of these timelines; we may then be able to conclude where this last installment could be placed in the timeline. Nintendo did say that it took place at the end of this timeline, but is it all the timelines converging? A single timeline? Two out of three? We don’t quite know, but Link does wear earrings in this adventure. We can assume that these traditions from the middle timeline are present in this game, but with so many other things pointing to other timeline branches, it’s hard to make a solid conclusion.


Photo Source: The Legend of Zelda: Encyclopedia

In Skyward Sword, after completing the Silent Realm near Eldin Volcano, you receive the Fireshield Earrings, which is the third gift that remains from the Goddess Hylia. These earrings replace Link’s traditional blue ones and protect him from continuous fire damage and heat. What I find interesting about this is that the Goddess left this gift for a hero who would take on evil; she would have expected or known that this individual must have pierced ears. Does this indicate that the Goddess herself knew that a young Hylian male who is or has come of age would have pierced ears? Whether it be a part of his culture or maybe just to be “cool,” would he essentially be ready to wear this gift and go on to defeat the current era’s evil? Again, this is speculation, but knowing that the Goddess left a gift of earrings to Link, could we then assume stories were passed down from generation to generation telling this tale, which then kept the tradition of Hylian males’ having a rite of passage by piercing their ears in hopes to always be prepared if they ever were to receive gifts from the Goddess?


In Ocarina of Time, where we first see Link’s earrings as an adult, we still speculate on how, where, and why they appear. When Link pulls the Master Sword from the pedestal in the Temple of Time, we suddenly see him with earrings in his adult form. How did he get them? Could the goddesses, Hylia, or Rauru have given them to him in the time jump? Where did they come from? Were they pulled from some sacred realm as he traveled seven years into the future? Why were they created? Could they have been forged by Hylia or the goddesses to represent the leap that Link has made from child to adult, taking what he knows from his past and combining it with his now stronger adult body to defeat Ganondorf? How did this all come to pass? I’m not entirely sure what I’m inclined to believe in this theory, but my best guess is that Link didn’t just jump seven years ahead and become prepared to take on evil instantly. I believe he was training and lived those years in a realm that prepared him, and once he was ready, he received the piercings and earrings as a sign that his body and his mind were ready. Ultimately, he was building up his courage and strength for the day he would take on Ganondorf.


In Twilight Princess, we see that Link already has earrings at the beginning of the game. When Link is transformed into a wolf, everything that Link is wearing dissipates, and the only things that remain are the Triforce on his paw and his blue earrings. Again, the question arises: is this an aesthetic reason, or do these earrings pose more importance than what we are led to believe? It is also a bit interesting that Link becomes a servant to Midna for the most part, linking this connection to the spiraled or looped earrings and what history symbolizes them to be.


In Breath of the Wild, you can equip a few different kinds of earrings, such as the amber earrings to increase your defense or the topaz earrings to give you some lightning resistance. The use of earrings in this game seems to be more practical than traditional, which fits well in this style of game. I’m not sure when or why Link pierced his ears, but again I’m speculating that he had them pierced, as is tradition, in hopes of being prepared if Hylia ever called upon him to take on the evils of the world.


Though not canon, we can see in Hyrule Warriors that Link only wears earrings when wearing hero’s clothing, which either was meant to be a style choice or a link to the cycle Link is forever connected to. Furthermore, in the manga series, we see that Impa pierces Link’s ears as he comes of age. We have not seen a male from the Sheikah tribe to compare their traditions, so we cannot be certain if this is considered a mainstay or a one-off event.


What are your theories as to why Link has these earrings? Who pierced his ears in each title? These lingering questions are great for us fans who love to speculate and leave a bit of mystery that we all enjoy in a great game.


As always, thanks for reading, and please follow me on Twitter @Stillsaneshane.

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