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The Legend Of Zelda: Tingle's Origin Explained

"The Legend of Zelda" is home to countless iconic characters who've entered and left the series over its nearly four-decade lifespan, but not every "Zelda" character is a captivating villain or a cute talking leaf — some of the franchise's most well-known characters are really, really out there. Likewise, the depiction of fairies in the "Zelda" games is fairly standard, but one so-called fairy stands as one of the strangest characters Nintendo has ever created, let alone one of the most bizarre characters in the series.

The perpetually red-nosed Tingle dons himself in a green onesie with red underwear on the outside, a pointed hat, a soul patch, and a clock necklace — not unlike the one Flava Flav famously wore. His catchphrase "Tingle, Tingle, kooloh, limpah!" is arguably one of the least ridiculous parts of his character, especially considering his wacky spin-off games. He's sometimes a cartographer but forever an enigma, and despite being one of the series' most famous characters, hardly any know his true origin.

The portly fairy has appeared in dozens of "Zelda" games, but where exactly the series' strangest character came from remains mostly a mystery. In fact, depending on how one looks at it, there are three possible "origins" for Tingle: his first appearance chronologically, the side games' origin stories, and the once-hinted-at possibility of an origin that goes beyond — or, rather, before — anything depicted in a "Zelda" game.

First appearing in Majora's Mask, but The Minish Cap was his first chronological appearance

Tingle has been in the "Zelda" series for a long time, but he wasn't actually added until "Majora's Mask." The sequel to "Ocarina of Time" was a lot creepier and darker in tone, and "Majora's Mask" features some of the most off-putting characters in the series. It's fitting, then, that Tingle is met for the first time outside of Clocktown. Here, he tells Link that he "feels" like he is a Forest Fairy, and throughout the game, players can shoot him down from balloons to buy maps. 

He's a strange little man who makes a lot of strange noises, but this doesn't explain Tingle's origin. According to the Hyrule Historia's depiction of the "Legend of Zelda" chronology, despite releasing later, "The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap" takes place well before "Majora's Mask," and players can meet Tingle in his apparent human form. In "The Minish Cap," players help Tingle collect Kinstones with his suspiciously similar-looking siblings so that he can become a fairy once they are fused together. 

According to the official timeline, Tingle started out as a non-fairy and was turned into one, but fans still don't know where he came from. "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" offers a vague answer to that question that suggests Tingle is much, much older than he seems.

A Tingle plush in Skyward Sword offer implications about Tingle's age

The Hyrule Historia is a massive, official lore book with tons of information and behind-the-scenes looks at "The Legend of Zelda." Notably, it contains a timeline that connects all of the games (published up to that point) in chronological order. The main path leads to three branches that alter history depending on the ending to "Ocarina of Time," and at the beginning of it all lies "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword." Though it's one of the most recent entries in the series, there are two eras between it and the next game in the timeline, "The Minish Cap."

In Princess Zelda's room in "Skyward Sword," keen-eyed players can see a doll that looks a lot like Tingle. The doll doesn't have Tingle's clock necklace; otherwise, it's spot on. The existence of a Tingle doll, owned by Zelda, no less, implies that the character could be much older than fans know, perhaps even predating the foundational, cosmic events of the first game. That said, not all fans put belief in the theory that Tingle is an ageless being that predates all other characters, instead chalking up his appearance in "Skyward Sword" as an Easter egg.

But there might be an explanation for how Tingle has lived so long, and it may be in one of the character's spin-off games. It implies that Tingle isn't just one person — Tingle is a cursed state.

Tingle's spinoff games offer a uniquely terrifying, non-canon origin

While mainline "Zelda" games portray Tingle as a single, specific person with an identity and history, the spin-offs show a wildly different take on the character. It's worth noting that these games weren't released in North America (only in Japan and Europe), and they are so bizarre that they aren't considered official "Zelda" canon by most (per Screen Rant). Still, they give their own explanations for his origin.

According to "Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland," Tingle isn't a name as much as a curse. In this bizarre "Zelda" spin-off, the player character is told by Uncle Rupee that they can get into a wondrous place called Rupeeland if they collect loads of rupees and offer them to him. The player character is cursed to become a Tingle, and by the end of the game, players realize that Uncle Rupee's real goal is to empower himself and turn everyone into Tingles. While it sounds bonkers, it's not the only alternative Tingle origin the side games have offered.

In "Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love," players are shown as an average person at the beginning. It's only after the character reads a book said to make women more attracted to him that he turns into Tingle and becomes trapped in the book. Then, in a story inspired by "The Wizard of Oz," players must figure out how to escape the strange storybook world.

Tingle's true origin remains a mystery to this day

Tingle has been something of an icon within the "Zelda" community since he was first introduced, and was even referenced as recently as "Breath of the Wild" with a unique costume. Despite the players who consider him one of the most obnoxious characters in gaming and the fact that Nintendo has shied away from recent full-on inclusions, Tingle is one of the most recognizable and iconic characters of the "Zelda" franchise. Whether fans love the green fairy or hate him, he's here to stay. 

There are a lot of mysteries in the "Zelda" universe that have not been resolved, leaving fans to come up with their own interpretations. The secret of where Tingle came from may never be answered officially, but perhaps it's better to leave it unanswered and let fans enjoy the allure of the mystery. If Nintendo were to give Tingle an official timeline and backstory, it might make him seem more serious or less absurd, which are among his defining characteristics.