talk abotu shadow link?
lav answers four swords - always accepting!
I hope you’re ready for a huge amount of writing, because this took me quite a few days! Now I know how @sophinkle feels XD
I also might be bolding the wrong words…
ft. scans by sophinkle, who helped me put this together somewhat - will add in a reblog because I can’t comfortably fit them on the ask.
And, I know I went off- it took me days - so there will be a TL;DR at the bottom!
Here’s the thing about Shadow Link:
Finally having reread the manga, and after seeing different perspectives on characterizations of the Links and Shadow in the manga, here are my own two cents.
While Ganon was rising in power, he decided to create a reflection of darkness of his nemesis, Link. Thus, Shadow Link was created.
When we first see him, Shadow materializes from the seal Zelda is checking on with the maidens and with Link. Shadow uses his dark powers to capture the maidens and take Princess Zelda to do Ganon’s bidding. It is here that he’s characterized first- as an evil copy, a trickster, bent purely on causing chaos.
While serving underneath Vaati, and as Ganon’s pawn, Shadow Link is given a bit of power - power to use darkness to confuse others, take over armor to attack others, and he is smug about it when he appears for the third time. He mocks the Links, and lies about their father surrendering, all to have power over them. But when Blue calls him weak, or a coward - that’s where he gets really angry. It’s clear that Shadow wants power. He wants to be on top of everyone else; he despises being accused of being weak, and insubstantial. He is very proud, and flaunts what power he has.
Next, he appears to Vio in the Lost Woods. He ‘manipulates’ Vio into joining his side, appealing to his intelligence, and the fact that the other Links will never understand him. What’s the point of telling them anything? They just fight and argue. Eventually you’ll realize that you don’t need them. Only you can see the big picture. The good and the bad. They can’t, and they never will! I want to know what you think. I’ll listen. I want to hear it all - we’re so similar, you and I. Tell me everything.
Why did he even go after Vio? Was he looking for a friend, someone to share his power with? Was it because Ganon and/or Vaati told him to? I think that he thought this idea up on his own - he saw something similar in Vio that he had in himself, and he wanted someone to trust. He was looking for someone who needed him, someone to listen to him, someone he could tell everything. Why?
After that ordeal, he goes to visit Zelda. Once again, he is smug, and crass with Zelda. But she calls him out - Brute! You’re no shadow! More like a faint and twisted echo! Even at his worst Link would never be as crude and rude as you! But then he retaliates - soon you’ll be begging for my attention and my help!
Shadow! wants! attention! he needs attention! and he needs help! Zelda even says - I’m certain you’ll be the one crying for help - and he stomps away because she’s right.
So what did we learn about Shadow from volume 1??
- He’s a copy of Link. A shadow. An evil trickster serving under Vaati, created by Ganon, there to cause chaos.
- He is given power, and uses it. He needs power. And he is very proud. He flaunts it, afraid of being seen as weak - seen as how he reacted when Blue called him so.
- He comes after Vio, seeing how similar they were, and manipulated him, playing on the fact that Vio was more intelligent to the other Links. But I believe he was also sneaking his own reasons in there - Shadow needs someone to know what he thinks. He needs someone to listen. He needs to tell someone everything. He needs people, as proud as he is.
- And he also needs attention, and help, as Zelda points out.
In volume two, Green, Blue, and Red confront Shadow and the ‘evil’ Vio, and Shadow is very clear about who Vio belongs to. Vio just found his true self…he knows who his friends really are!…Think about it. Vio has superior intelligence - praising Vio again - playing nursemaid to you three fools…was never enough for him. Lord Vaati and I have given Vio a chance to reach his full potential. You three were like stones tied around his neck…drowning him in a sea of mediocrity. He shows here that Vio ‘belongs to him; he’s practically clinging to him, and holding that fact over the other Links.
Green challenges Vio to a fight, and while he watches, Shadow is literally rolling on the ground laughing. It is clear to see his sadistic side is showing again - he is a creature of darkness. Vio even mentions this later to Green, when they are all reunited.
When Vio “wins”, Shadow praises him more, and takes him inside the Fire Temple to celebrate. He rejoices in the fact that the heroes are ruined, and that he has a friend he can trust. He brings up power again when talking to Vio - Vio, you’ve got potential. Together we could rule the whole world- not just this small mountain. He’s confident that he can seal Vaati again - he wants that power. (I’m being really repetitive aren’t I)
Vio essentially suggests that they overtake Ganon as well so that they can rule the whole world - and again, Shadow, calls him his friend for it. I’m serious, Vio. For the first time, I feel like I have a real friend. Someone I can trust. Shadow and Vio go on to burn Hyrule, and then Shadow says another very important thing- I’ll show them, everyone who taunted me…who called me “just a shadow”! This “shadow” is about to destroy your entire world!
I believe that when he was alive, in the Dark World and under Vaati, the monsters around him always mocked him. This was going on while the Links were travelling around. I also headcanon that Vaati abused him.
Skip ahead. Shadow finds that Vio betrays him- first, that Green is alive, and then the reflection of Vio trying to break the mirror. You can see his nails scratching at the mirror. Anger prompts him to execute Vio. He realizes that Vio has allowed him to see what he wanted to see - he also says that himself. Vio was someone that Shadow needed, but Vio hurt him.
He will never forgive Vio, he declares. I’ll never forgive you! Don’t think this is over! I’m not done yet! Curses! I’ll kill every last one of you!
We don’t see him again until he appears again before Zelda, and this is also where theories get a little spotty.
In short, Ganon forces him out of the Dark Mirror again against his will, begging for forgiveness from Ganon. He doesn’t want to be out- didn’t he just say he would never forgive the Links, or Vio? He just said he wasn’t done yet - so why is he begging to be left alone? Because he’s so hurt, and betrayed. It’s clear to see his pride once again, and how he hates being looked down upon. Shadow is one whole, insecure being, and at that moment, he is powerless.
Something Zelda says next changes him, redeeming him into a ‘hero’. Do you really think the light will hurt you? Don’t you see? You are a Link too. Deep inside, you’re really a hero. Shadow is shown listening to her words - perhaps he’s realizing what she’s really saying - but as he kneels before her, she is taken from him by the dark cloud. Shadow tries to selfishly keep her - I can’t let you take her out of this room! Those are my orders from Lord Ganon!
He desperately tries to save her, perhaps her words changed him- but he can’t, and he’s left looking distraught.
He decides he doesn’t want to be bound to darkness anymore - he is good now- he disguises himself as Vio to help the Links and destroys the Dark Mirror, also sacrificing himself.
A shadow…usually only ever follows its body. It never gets to lead the way. Today I faced the enemy on my own…it felt pretty good. But that still doesn’t make me…part of the body.
This is an important quote. Shadow Link, in origin, could only follow Link. He was ridiculed, never getting to lead the way. Then Ganon gave him a chance to be alive, and he wreaked havoc on Hyrule. But that part of him that had been ridiculed caused insecurities within himself, even with so much power, and in the end, he finally broke free from the thing that had still held him in his livelihood - darkness. His insecurity, however, told him that he still wasn’t a part of Link - just his shadow, which he admits. But before he dies, Green, and the rest of the Links, accept him as a friend. Which, I think, shows that he really is a part of Link.
Vio says: “Shadow Link was never really evil. He only made trouble so that we’d notice him. He was tired of being ignored. He wanted to be with us…to be with his family.“ But what about all the havoc he wreaked? Even when he was noticed by Vio, and Vio was his ‘friend’, he still burned Hyrule. He still wanted to share that with Vio, he still wanted that destructive power, and if he and Vio had managed to rule the world, or maybe Shadow by himself, I believe he still would’ve turned it into a world of darkness. Morals can’t change so easily, even if he was so insecure. Shadow wanted to be free - at first, from Link’s shadow, and then from the darkness. He needed that acknowledgment.
And, after all that, he fades away into nothing.
So what about his change? At heart, he was a creature of darkness that wanted power, but he was also a part of Link that had been so ridiculed that he was insecure. And in the manga, he had a chance to redeem himself. But would his morals change so easily? What would happen if he met the Links post-manga? What would happen to him, and his relationships with them?
Let’s say that, as most headcanons go, Vio somehow managed to bring Shadow back. A lot of people ship Vidow and believe that everything would be handy-dandy again. Well…
If he did come back, although he may have become good at the last second, and even if he was accepted by the Links, things would still be tense between him and Vio - at least, for a while. It would take Shadow a long time to get used to being friends with them, and it’d definitely still be chaotic. Maybe Vio and Shadow could reconcile, but there’d still be that tension - Vio would feel guilty about what he did, even if it was for an overall good, and Shadow could very well still be angry at him. Even Zelda might have a hard time with how he insulted her and the boy she loved.
And what about the crimes he committed? I’m sure Link would’ve told everyone how his shadow saved Hyrule, but would people believe him after all the chaos and burning Shadow did? Shadow destroyed the castle, 'killed’ people (sending them to the Dark World, so at least taking/destroying their souls), probably actually killed people, and committed arson as well. Despite how good he turned out to be, though Link’s father is probably an understanding man, Shadow at least would have to go through some sort of punishment - community service, castle cleaning?, and at most be imprisoned for a while - maybe not put to death, because of how he saved Hyrule. But that would require a lot of proof, and perhaps trials. But that would be a whole other story. one that i kinda wanna write
Shadow Link was created by Ganon and used for darkness. He is characterized at first as a cruel trickster bent only on causing complete chaos. There is a lot of evidence in the manga that he is a creature of darkness. We can see this in how he carries out Ganon and Vaati’s bidding; how he uses his power to try and destroy the Links, and how he goes to burn towns across Hyrule. He is crude and cruel, and laughs when Vio and Green are fighting. When Vio betrays him, he goes to execute him (but I don’t blame him on that one, to be honest).
However, somewhere in between being created and seeking out Vio, there is evidence that he was mocked by the other dark creatures, causing insecurities in his power and pride. And this is where he is shown to also be a part of Link. If he were really just a monster, he wouldn’t care so much about his status, and he wouldn’t have went out to find someone to share his power with.
He is proud, and flaunts his pride with his power, but he also hates being mocked, and called weak. Again, would a true monster really care, or would they just go on to do their thing? He comes after Vio, seeing how similar they were, and manipulated him, playing on the fact that Vio was more intelligent to the other Links. But I believe he was also sneaking his own reasons in there - Shadow needs someone to know what he thinks. He needs someone to listen. He needs to tell someone everything. He needed someone. And when Zelda slapped him, he got mad when she pointed out that he needed help. He needs attention and validation with his power. That’s not normal for a monster.
When it comes to his redemption, I believe that yes, he chose good at the end - but that post-manga, he would still struggle with darkness, and he might cause more chaos. He might be accepted by the other Links, but he would perhaps still be condemned by Hyrule. And things at the very least would still be tense between him and Vio. He may want to change, but it’s not going to be easy.I guess I just wanted to figure Shadow out, and long story short - he is both bad and good, a paradox, confusion. And he may have chosen good, but it would not be so easy for him to become a hero.
Thanks for asking, reading, and letting me rant! woooh boy (and it was longer too, this is the edited version :P )