Can you pull the Master Sword with 12 hearts?

The Master Sword is one of the most iconic weapons in the Legend of Zelda series. In many of the games, Link must collect a certain number of heart containers before he has the power to wield the legendary blade. This has led to much debate among fans regarding the exact number of hearts required. In Ocarina of Time, the first 3D Zelda game, Link must collect at least 12 heart containers before he can pull the Master Sword from its pedestal in the Temple of Time. But is 12 hearts the definitive threshold, or does it vary between games?

The Origin of the Heart Container Requirement

In the original Legend of Zelda game for NES, Link did not need to collect any specific number of heart containers to wield the Master Sword. He just had to find it hidden away in the Lost Woods. The requirement of collecting heart containers was introduced in 1991’s A Link to the Past for the SNES. Here, Link had to collect a total of 10 heart containers before the path to the Master Sword was opened to him.

The next game in the timeline, Ocarina of Time, upped the requirement to 12 heart containers. As this was the first 3D Zelda and made such a strong impression on fans, many took this to be the canonical number of hearts needed. Later games even used it as a reference point, such as Wind Waker’s figurine description for the Hero of Time Link which specifies he wielded the Master Sword after collecting 12 heart containers.

Exceptions to the 12 Heart Rule

However, Ocarina of Time’s 12 heart requirement was not set in stone, as later games went on to demonstrate. In The Wind Waker, for example, Link must collect only 3 heart containers before he can pull the Master Sword from its pedestal beneath the waves.

Likewise, in Twilight Princess, Link is able to wield the Master Sword after collecting just 5 heart containers. This makes sense considering Link starts his adventure as a humble rancher, not yet recognized as the legendary hero. It is only after drawing the Master Sword that his true heroic nature is awakened.

There are even some Zelda games where Link can pull the Master Sword with no heart containers at all. In Breath of the Wild, the Master Sword can be drawn as soon as Link finds it, without needing to complete any dungeons or collect any heart containers.

Similarly, in A Link Between Worlds, a sequel to A Link to the Past, Link can obtain the Master Sword from the Lost Woods early in the game with no heart container requirement. The sword’s legendary power is reduced, however, until Link collects more heart containers.

The Power to Repel Evil

So while Ocarina of Time may have popularized the idea of a 12 heart requirement, the reality is it can vary substantially across the Zelda series. So why is there this inconsistency regarding heart containers needed to wield the Master Sword?

The key seems to lie with the Master Sword’s power to repel evil. In games where Ganon or other malevolent forces have already established a strong presence in Hyrule, Link needs to collect more heart containers to fully awaken the Master Sword’s power. But in periods of relative peace, the Master Sword can be drawn with fewer or even no heart containers.

For example, in Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf has already begun spreading his evil influence across Hyrule by the time Link draws the Master Sword. To repel a powerful evil, Link needs to sufficiently awaken the Master Sword by collecting 12 heart containers. In Breath of the Wild, however, Calamity Ganon has been contained for 100 years when Link draws the sword. The Master Sword’s power is already awakened, allowing Link to wield it immediately.

Heart Containers Reflect Link’s Power, Not Just the Sword’s

Another way to think about the heart container requirement is that it reflects not just the Master Sword’s power, but also Link’s own power and spirit. To wield such an important legendary weapon requires not only an awakened blade, but also a hero who possesses the power, wisdom and courage to use it responsibly.

The heart containers Link collects on his quest represent his own vitality and life force. With greater energy comes the ability to overcome greater threats. So the more heart containers Link collects, the more worthy and capable he becomes to wield the Master Sword and face the evil that threatens Hyrule.

That is why in The Wind Waker, Link must journey across the Great Sea and prove his heroic merit through deeds great and small before being deemed worthy to draw the Master Sword and slay evil with its mighty blade. The hearts represent his growth into the role of hero.

The Master Sword Chooses Its Wielder

There is one final perspective to consider when examining the inconsistent heart container requirements – that of the Master Sword itself. The Master Sword is not just an inanimate object, but possesses a spirit all of its own. It was originally crafted by the goddess Hylia and later blessed by Zelda to have the power to repel evil.

As an entity with some level of consciousness, the Master Sword may actively choose when a hero has proven himself worthy of wielding its sacred blade. The number of heart containers needed may thus depend not on some fixed rule, but on the Master Sword’s own judgment of the hero’s courage and righteousness at any given moment.

From this perspective, the heart containers indicate when the Master Sword deems the hero, whether Link or another worthy soul, ready to take up the sword in the fight against evil. This helps explain why the requirement varies so much across the Zelda series and timeline.


In the end, while Ocarina of Time may have popularized the idea that collecting 12 heart containers allows Link to wield the Master Sword, the actual requirement is much more fluid across the Zelda series. The number of hearts needed depends on factors like how strongly evil has taken hold in Hyrule, the hero’s own power and worthiness, and the Master Sword’s judgment of when the time is right.

So while 12 hearts may allow Link to wield the sacred blade in some games, it is not an absolute rule. Link’s courage and the Master Sword’s own spirit ultimately determine when the hero can draw the legendary sword, not any specific number of hearts.

Key Points

  • Ocarina of Time established that Link needed 12 heart containers to wield the Master Sword, but this is not a fixed requirement.
  • The number of hearts required can vary between games based on factors like Ganon’s influence and Link’s own power.
  • More heart containers may indicate Link or another hero becoming strong enough to properly wield the Master Sword.
  • The sacred blade ultimately chooses when a hero is worthy to draw it in battle against evil.

So in summary, while 12 hearts allows Link to wield the Master Sword in some Zelda games, it is not a definitive threshold. The sacred blade’s power and judgment determine when the hero is ready to draw it and fight evil with its righteous power.

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