Princess Zelda

Character Types – Princess Zelda

Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda series is an incredibly popular fantasy adventure franchise. The series follows a young man, Link, and his quests to rescue Zelda, the princess of Hyrule, from the wicked warlord, Ganon. To defeat evil and bring peace to the kingdom, players have to collect weapons and magical relics, usually pieces of the sacred Triforce, which will increase their power and abilities.

In terms of gameplay, Link has to journey across deserts, through forests and into volcanoes in search of the items needed to destroy Ganon. Characters also hack and slash their way through enemies, solve puzzles, compete in a ridiculous amount of races, and get lost in wonderful side quests.

Although Vladimir Propp was analysing the fantastical narratives of Russian folklore, his conclusions can easily be applied to modern texts, including computer games.


Analyse the following game cover in terms of Propp’s character types and spheres of action.

"Breath of the Wild" Box Art
“Breath of the Wild” Box Art

Points to Consider

Propp identified seven different character types by their sphere of action, or their functions in the progression of the narrative. The two dominant signifiers here are the hero and the princess.

In any story, the hero is dispatched in search of an object or person which will help end the malevolent influence their lives or world. How is this sense of quest is suggested by the landscape in the background? Using your knowledge of non-verbal codes, how does the body language of the character, who seems to be moving forward purposefully, also connote adventure?

The hero is also expected to complete tasks to gain the equipment or skills they need on their quest. In fantasy computer games, the donors are often monsters, or bosses, who must be beaten. In this cover art, Link is ready to swing his sword at his adversary so there will definitely be plenty of action. Comment on this important signifier.

Finally, the hero recuses the princess from danger. Is that plot point suggested by the inclusion of Zelda in the image?

In Propp’s theory, the princess is a “sought-for person”. Zelda seems to be praying for help, which suggests she is a damsel in distress. Note the birds in the background. They often signify freedom because of their ability to soar above the confines of the ground.

However, Zelda’s pose could also position her as a helper who is providing Link with a magical spell to aid him on his quest. In the original Legend of Zelda, she only appeared at the end of narrative when Ganon was defeated. In fact, in the sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, she is asleep for the entire game. With the release of each new title, Zelda has become a more active and empowered character. In Ocarina of Time, her sphere of action included the donor and helper functions.

It might also be worth considering how the representation of the two characters fits in with Propp’s narrative functions.

Is Princess Zelda a princess?

Further Analysis

Other narrative theories could be used to support your interpretation. For example, is there any evidence to suggest the characters will have to save Hyrule and create a new equilibrium? Would that make the story typical of a genre of order narrative? You might also want to consider how the combination of signs suggests the genre of the game.

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!