I might be writing a story involving fairies soon, so I was doing some research (i.e. putzing on Wikipedia). Got to thinking about how fairies are portrayed in Legend of Zelda. What is Nintendo doing thinking? They’re not a large part of the mythos, but Nintendo’s letting you do things to them that are… weird.
Let’s take a look.
The Legend of Zelda (the first one)
The game that introduced us to all the base tropes. Fairies appear two ways. They drop from defeated enemies or defeated bushes. If Link touches them, three hearts will be refilled. I don’t think any Zelda game really explains this healing magic, but if it gets rid of that obnoxious beeping, I won’t complain. They move so fast and erratically, catching one is a challenge in itself.
The second way is hovering around pools of water, where a single fairy floats out of reach. Though not named, these look really close to “fairy fountains”, which start in Link to the Past and onward. If you approach the water, she (I’m assuming “she” — they have dresses and long hair), will surround you with a circle of hearts that refills all your hearts. Only two of these areas exist in the game. But at least they never run out.
Fairies are probably the most helpful entity in this game, making them perhaps divine. The sprite looks a little bug-like, but they help the woodland fantasy theming.
The Adventure of Link
Fairies cease to be enemy drops in this game. The way enemies show up is kind of RPG style, where you’re wandering the overworld map, then some dark enemy sprites appear in front if you. If you can’t avoid them, you go into a short side-scrolling level to fight them. But sometimes, instead of dark enemy sprites, it’s white fairies. Then the side-scrolling level provides the floating buggers. There are also “fairy stations” (sans water) in seven places around the world.
But here’s a twist: Link can shapeshift into a fairy by using a magic spell. This doesn’t give him healing powers, but it does let him buzz by enemies and reach high places. Even fly through keyholes. It’s more of a mobility thing than health. Especially since he can’t attack enemies, but they can attack him. To get this spell, Link has to give the “Water of Life” to an old woman (a macguffin for her sick daughter) and the old man in the house teaches him the spell as a reward.
The sprites are almost the same as the first game. Now, instead of antennae, she has a crown, and there’s some kind of white belt or jewel in her middle. This makes her look a little less like a wood nymph. No tiny shoes either.
I think this is the last time fairies aren’t mistreated in some way.
A Link to the Past
After getting the 16-bit upgrade, fairies now have some distinct features. The antennae are back, along with a cute blue dress. You can’t quite see their eyes, but they have a little wand that they can sprinkle fairy dust with.
And you can stuff them in a bottle.
This is the first game that lets you catch fairies (with a bug-catching net) and save them for later. As a result, they’re nearly a “must-have”, since they become a “get out of death free” card. If a bottled fairy is in your inventory when you die, it will come out and sprinkle its dust on you. This restores seven hearts and keeps you out of that Game Over screen. Unless you’re an expert, you’d be stupid not to keep at least one “just in case” fairy with you. Meaning “catch-and-release” is no longer an option.
Although they live in bushes, these fairies are most reliably found in fairy fountains (really puddles). But these fountains come in different flavors now. One is the same as the first game, where a hovering blond fairy encircles you with love.
This game also introduces Great Fairies. But instead of healing, they bless you with upgraded items or capacity. The one in the Dark World is fat and ugly, “cursed” as she calls it. But she’s unavoidable–you have to visit her to get the silver arrows needed to defeat Ganon.
So far, these fairies still act like woodland nymphs and capricious entities, incapable of malice. I’d love to find out who’s idea it was to put fairies in bottles and how he came up with it. Probably from the bug-catcher net. If not for that, what follows might not have happened.
Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask
Fairies play a huge role in these games. Particularly in the beginning, when Navi comes to Link, the only boy in Kokiri Forest without a fairy. In fact, the plot starts when Navi summons him to the Deku tree about it. Gamewise she has two purposes–give the player hints/direction and as a targeting reticule to make combat easier.
Navi is the only named fairy we see, and the only one (besides great fairies) that vocalize (actual English words too — the first presence of voice acting). She’s a little childish but responsible and loyal. Not too different from the typical fairy you think of (which is probably a lot like Tinkerbell).
Besides being the first example of an in-game pop-up ad, her role in the final part is remarkable. When you confront Ganondorf, his magic forces her away, meaning you can’t use her for the tennis battle. But when Ganondorf gets hit, she briefly returns to showcase his vulnerability. And there’s an especially cute moment when the bestial Ganon arrives and she says “There’s no way he’s going to hold me back again! This time, we fight together!” (meaning you get your z-targeting back).
In Majora’s Mask, we’ve got Tatl & Tael — fairy siblings. Tatl seems to be the negative of Tael, but she’s the one that becomes your companion in “Ocarina of Time: Through the Looking Glass”. I like her because she’s sarcastic and bratty (compare Navi: “Watch out for its fiery breath! Use Z Targeting techniques!” to Tatl: “What?! Don’t you know about the Dodongo? It moves slowly, so you can circle around to its backside. Got that?”). And she gets your attention through a ringing bell sound, instead of the notorious “hey! listen!”
In terms of catchables, I don’t think they drop from enemies, but they do hide in bushes and grass. They have the same restorative powers. You can find pools of them in those manholes around the overworld. And they can be caught in bottles.
What’s peculiar is that fairies lost their shapely definition. Due to N64 constraints, they had to be simplified into balls of light with wings. So they become little lights in those glass jars? I wonder what’s Navi’s take on it? There’s got to be a comic somewhere that shows horrified Navi at Link’s “collection”.
But then, in Majora’s Mask, there are Stray Fairies.
This is not a fairy. It’s an abomination.
They don’t heal you and don’t go in a bottle. Storywise, they’re parts of a Great Fairy that were split up by Skull Kid. In gameplay, they’re essentially collectibles for each dungeon. Find all fifteen and you can restore the Great Fairy (who’ll reward you with an upgrade).
What I want to know is what the hell am I looking at? It’s got a huge head like an ice cream scoop and thick lips? They hang like their skull is full of air. And the wings are on the curly cue that is decidedly not their hair. I hate these things. They’re as creepy as Tingle.
The Wind Waker
Great fairies get a strange ghostly kind of look. They look like photo-negatives of sanctum nurses from the middle ages. The Queen of the Fairies especially, like a little girl version of the T-1000. And they blow petals at you.
The ones you catch in bottles get better definition thanks to the system upgrade. They have cute little white dresses and short blond hair in double-buns.
But put one in a jar and holy crap!
Look how sad it is. That’s awful. Makes you wonder how sentient these fairies are. And they disappear after they heal you. Does that mean they… die? Like lightning bugs?
Okay, first thing to note: there’s only one great fairy this time around. And she’s nekkid! Naked, naked, naked. Her gift is a bottle of Great Fairy’s Tears. That is not a promising name. I can’t think of what else they could be but exactly what it says on the tin. They’re a hearty drink though–refilling all hearts and doubling strength, just like Grandma’s Soup. In Japan, they were called “Great Fairy Drops”, which doesn’t make much sense. Is that drops in the sense of rain? Or cough drops? Or eye drops?
The fairies act more bug-like, but at least they’re smarter. If Link is at full health, the fairy won’t be wasted. It’ll ignore him, or rest on his hat or sword. Their appearance has reverted to the N64 style, but higher-res. (As hi-res as a ball of light can get.)
The most unique thing about fairies here is that you can summon them by drawing a Triforce on the wall. So they willingly come to you to get captured. Timeline-wise, this is the first game, so maybe they don’t know how Link treats his winged friends yet. Otherwise, they restore six hearts instead of seven.
Breath of the Wild
No bottles this time, but you can catch them just the same. Got some pretty stained glass dragonfly wings too. Otherwise, it’s much the same ocarina song and dance. Except for one crucial thing…
There’s a cooking mechanic in this game — combine 1-5 ingredients and throw ’em in a cookpot. Well, fairies are an ingredient.
It’s fairies! The dubious food is made out of fairies! You’ve gotta tell them!
Actually, it looks like they liquified the fairy in a blender. For Christ’s sake, even the bottle is fairy shaped. Mm, fried, boiled, or poached, them’s good eating. It’s not spirits, it’s sprites… distilled into a delicious tonic.
This is technically a meal, but you make it like an elixir: combine 1-4 fairies with at least one monster part. The Zeldapedia says that you don’t actually cook the fairy–it flies off, leaving the dust behind. But I’ve never seen it. It just disappears in a poof like the rest of the stuff. Besides, what is that dust? Is it fairy skin flakes? Does that mean you make it from scratch?
Is nothing sacred anymore? What’s going to happen in the next game? Do you shove them up your butt?
P.S. By the way, is anyone going to talk about how the Great Fairies sexually assault you to upgrade your clothes?