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Fun fact: The Legend of Zelda’s main character is Link, not Zelda. You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you aren’t a gamer. But while most players remember the series for its boy-saves-girl plot, one Japanese magazine from the 1980s didn’t get the message.
Last week, a Japanese ’80s aesthetic blogger named KAZY shared a series of illustrations for a female Link from a 1986 magazine called Shonen Captain. It’s unclear why the publication depicted Link as a woman. Some chalked it up to a faulty interpretation of Link’s sprite in the original 1986 NES version of The Legend of Zelda, while others wondered if the magazine was purposefully throwing a female character into Link cosplay.
Either way, the artwork fascinated gamers as a relic from another time. KAZY’s post blew up, gaining over 4,700 retweets and 10,000 likes within a week.
After gaming website GoNintendo ran a story on KAZY’s post, Shonen Captain’s Link reached the English-speaking gaming community and went viral. By Wednesday morning, GoNintendo scored over 2,600 retweets and 11,000 likes from their news story’s tweet.
Twitter quickly fell in love.
It my red haired goddess, the female MC of The Legend of Zelda; Zelda! https://t.co/ECMPU0Ou84— Megalomaniac64 (@L_Vermi) April 3, 2019
*slams fists on table* GIVE ME A GAME WITH 1986 ACCIDENTAL WOMAN LINK https://t.co/IgFVaJQ13O— John @ Impatiently Waiting For Green Day (@OneEyedStray) April 3, 2019
It's her, Zelda— Minus (@MinusIvanL) April 2, 2019
I... am not opposed to this timeline.— *Pseudonym* (@NoMoreSpearows) April 2, 2019
diggin that 'accidental' girl link from lrt, so i wanted to do a quick take on it! pic.twitter.com/RuGP83TbBJ— sai ✈️ kawaiikon (@radiostarkiller) April 3, 2019
Thanks to female Link’s genderswap, trans Twitter began claiming her as their own.
In this house we respect Link for who she is https://t.co/zwPrt3iAex— Jennifer Unkle (@jbu3) April 3, 2019
“Mistakenly.” Link is trans and you can’t take that back now https://t.co/SPshQTQbHg— Louisa 🌈👭 (@LouisatheLast) April 3, 2019
lrt: "mistakenly" as if link isnt an obviously gender fluid character, okay— ashu ✨ (@mintbearjr) April 3, 2019
a true trans icon— Aki Blitz (@chargertier) April 2, 2019
Some even called for the ’86 Link to become the new Bowsette.
Bowsette 2.0 is coming https://t.co/zcTybYzYxg— João Paulo (@thejoaum) April 2, 2019
Twitter’s obsession with female Link may seem peculiar. But it’s not surprising. Genderbending, or changing a character’s canon gender in fanwork, has long been popular in geekdom. Queer fans in particular love playing around with gender to create a sense of representation and visibility. Many classic gaming stories are highly gendered, reinforcing heteronormative damsel-in-distress stories about men rescuing women: Mario saves a princess in Super Mario Bros., Ghosts ‘n Goblins features a knight in shining armor, even Sonic CD features Sonic the Hedgehog saving Amy Rose. So when fannish work turns the damel-in-distress trope into a girl-saves-girl story, genderswaps become sapphic. That’s pretty hot if you’re a queer girl that’s horny on main for that kind of thing.
Then there’s the humor in it all. Only a gaming magazine from the pre-internet, 8-bit era could take one look at Link’s NES sprite, decide the main character is actually a woman, and draft up a ton of art of her as such. It doesn’t hurt either that Shonen Captain’s Link is adorable. Just look at her big eyes, her gorgeous red hair, and how she wears her adventuring outfit. How can you get enough of her? I definitely can’t. I just changed my Slack profile to her because I love her aesthetic.
Sure, Nintendo may be hesitant to make a female Link for a main Legend of Zelda installment. But fans can dream about what she would look like as a cute trans lesbian adventurer, regardless of what canon has to say. So bring on femme Link. The world could use more of her.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.