Something I don’t believe I have mentioned in this space previously is that I have finally fallen in with the Tumblr crowd. I don’t do any serious blogging there, but over recent months, I have found several which carry a number of cool and fascinating pictures that I decided I would like to share.

That’s why I started my own to do just that, often offering my own thoughts or additional trivia on pieces as they come through. You can find PoisonMushroom.Org on Tumblr by clicking here.

And as you might have guessed, it is through Tumblr that I found the piece of The Legend of Zelda art I wish to share today. The post is here, but you can also find it with my analysis below.

There she is. I didn’t know what it was from at first, but some research revealed that this is the art which adorned a school folder. Asking around also revealed that this piece might have graced a trading card of some kind, but that remains unconfirmed.

It only has the faintest hint of familiarity when I think about it; knowing me, I probably saw it and passed it over for something one with Mario (or even the one of Link and Mario, but that’s for another time).

Nonetheless; to me, this represents Zelda at its finest, during its earliest years. In my opinion, the games can be rather hit or miss, but back then– when there were only two– each stood as a classic, practically legends in their own right (people may deny it now, but Zelda II was a big freaking deal back then, with parents driving out of state and further to acquire a copy. Same for Super Mario Bros. 2, so forget the haters).

Examining the piece more closely, it hews heavily towards the original game– right down to the logo– though if I’m not mistaken, the Magical Sword Link is wielding comes from The Adventure of Link, as does his attire (the leggings, specifically). It was definitely featured on the box, and he would wield it in some promotional material as well. Plus some merchandise like this, apparently. He also carried a simplified version in the DiC animated series, as well as Captain N: The Game Master.

Frankly, I’ve always enjoyed that sword’s design, and kind of miss it now that the Master Sword has become the go-to iconic sword of the series.

Speaking of the animated series, Princess Zelda is featured rather prominently here, hurling what seems to be some sort of spell (or an unseen magic boomerang) at Gleeok. What makes it more interesting is that with Link being younger here than in the cartoon, so too is Zelda, and her attire seems altered to reflect that. Her vest hangs lower on her body, and she has an interesting bit of headgear that I don’t believe is seen anywhere else.

Nonetheless, the attire is unmistakeable, leading one to wonder: Was this art based on the cartoon? Was the cartoon based on the art? Or might there have been some sort of third source– a licensee’s bible, perhaps– both drew from? Sadly, we may never know.

Moving on, Link is engaged in perilous combat against a Stalfos guarding a treasure chest. There are no bells or whistles to this enemy, though; it’s nothing more than a skeleton wielding a pair of swords, and yet it is exactly that which gives away that it is from the first game. As early as Zelda II, Stalfos would wield only one sword, usually coupled with a shield, or go on to wield nothing more than bones from their own body.

Unless I’m mistaken (and I’m checking Zeldapedia to be sure), it would not be until the recent release of Skyward Sword before one would dual-wield swords again. And even then, it isn’t otherwise a plain skeleton; there, they wear pieces of armor and tattered clothing.

Finally, we have Gleeok. There were a few names in the original game which would strike fear into the hearts of gamers: Darknuts, Like Likes, Wallmasters, Lynels, and Gleeok.

While most of those have stayed with the series in some form or another, Gleeok has only had two other appearances: One in the Game Boy Color title The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, and the other in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS.

Gleeoks are dragons with multiple heads, something not uncommon in itself throughout the series. But these came in three varieties: Two-headed, three-headed, and four-headed. And each time you’d cut off a head, it would fly around the chamber invincibly while shooting more fireballs at you. As one might expect, defeating a four-headed Gleeok is where the true challenge lay, especially as the layout of the chamber could make maneuvering difficult.

It’s strange, then, to see the beast portrayed in such a comical fashion here. The design is accurate (though he should have more green and yellow, in addition to the blue), but the wincing and dazed expressions on its faces seems to diminish its threatening posture.

Even so, it is not without precedent. Again, looking at the animated series, one of his two appearances was played for laughs, as the heads would talk with each other as they attempted to play along with an act to lead Link into a trap. The two outer-heads of this three-headed version would also wind up blasting the center head with flame in an effort to get Link; this was followed by the creature getting heartburn from a grapefruit, running around after Link grabbed its tail, and ultimately find itself felled by a banana peel.

Then again, Ganon was occasionally played for laughs, too; such was (and occasionally, still is) the nature of cartoon shows. To Gleeok’s credit, though, he was the beast Ganon would call upon to keep Link from ruining his marriage to Zelda, and the dragon proved far more menacing there.

To wrap this up: I love this. It’s amazing, in a way, to find so much distinct early history from the 25-year running franchise in one simple piece of art. I would love to get my hands on one of these folders, or to have the art in some other way– a poster would be terrific. Unfortunately, my early efforts to find one have been for naught, but I hope fate will smile upon me in this endeavor eventually.

On a related note, I recently reviewed the original The Legend of Zelda over on Mario’s Hat. Certainly an interesting coincidence, if not an amazing one. In any case, check it out to get an idea of why I still rank it highly among the games in the series to this day, as well as to see more great art!

Animated Princess Zelda image from Nintendo Power magazine; all others (except the folder art) courtesy of Zelda Wiki.

Update: Apparently, it was indeed featured on a trading card, and it gives a better look at the overall scene:

You can see the set it came from, along with an interesting Super Mario Bros. piece, here.

Thanks, Glass Knuckle!

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  • http://www.pressthebuttons.com MattG

    Awesome stuff. I love looking back at old artwork like this. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

  • garsh

    Me too! This is one of my favorite pieces of old Zelda art. The board game box is really cool too.

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