The Legend of Zelda's plot relies heavily on back story given in the short (in-game) prologue and the instruction booklet. Hyrule was engulfed in chaos after an army led by Ganon, the Prince of Darkness, invaded the kingdom and secured the Triforce of Power, a magical artifact bestowing great strength. Hyrule's Princess Zelda split the artifact's counterpart, the Triforce of Wisdom, into eight fragments, hiding them in secret dungeons throughout the land to prevent them from falling into Ganon's hands. She commanded her most trustworthy nursemaid, Impa, to escape and find a man courageous enough to destroy Ganon. Upon hearing this, Ganon grew angry, imprisoned the princess, and sent a party in search of Impa.
According to the manual, Impa fled for her life, but was overtaken by her pursuers. As Ganon's henchmen surrounded her, a youth drove the monsters off. The boy's name was Link, and Impa told him of Hyrule's plight. Link resolved to save Zelda, but to fight Ganon he had to find and reassemble the scattered fragments of the Triforce. Undeterred, Link set off for Hyrule in an epic adventure.
During the course of the game, Link locates the eight underground labyrinths (or dungeons) and retrieves the Triforce fragments from the clutches of powerful guardian monsters. Along the way, he picks up a variety of useful items and upgrades to aid him in his quest. With the Triforce of Wisdom, Link is able to infiltrate Ganon's fortress high upon Death Mountain. He confronts the Prince of Darkness, destroying him with a Silver Arrow discovered deep within Ganon's dungeons. Link picks up the Triforce of Power from Ganon's ashes and returns both Triforces to Princess Zelda, whom he releases from her nearby cell. According to Zelda's words, peace would then return to Hyrule.
A "symbol of courage, strength and wisdom", Link was designed by Miyamoto as a coming-of-age motif for players to identify with: the silent protagonist begins the game an ordinary boy but grows in strength and fortitude to triumph over the ultimate evil.
The name of the princess was inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald: "Zelda was the name of the wife of the famous novelist Francis Scott Fitzgerald. She was a famous and beautiful woman from all accounts, and I liked the sound of her name. So I took the liberty of using her name for the very first Zelda title," Miyamoto explained.