The most common criticism Zelda receives is that she’s not enough of a heroine and is usually thought of as reliant, inept, incompetent, and overall unimportant in a series that ironically includes her name in the title. Whether or not this is true, Zelda plays a surprisingly pivotal role in Twilight Princess — where all she had to her name was law and her Triforce of Wisdom in a declining civilization with no heirs to the throne.
The irony also lies in the fact that, in Twilight Princess, Zelda knew she was useless in her current situation. She watched her kingdom fall into a “world of shadows, ruled by creatures who shun the light,” as her Triforce of Wisdom kept her from turning into a spirit with the rest of Hyrule. Although she managed to keep her form, her Triforce piece could not reverse the effects of the Twilight, and so she stayed in that tower because she felt responsible and felt that she failed her people who now live in “fear of a nameless evil.”
When Midna lies before Zelda, Zelda understands who and what she is, how she acts in their stead despite mortal injuries, and how she had reaped the penalty from these dark times. Zelda, stuck in a land devoured by Twilight and fear, gave the greatest gift she could give. She gave Midna her piece of the Triforce — the Triforce of Wisdom.
Zelda knew the risks. She knew what was best for Hyrule and she knew she couldn’t help in any other way, so she gave the best gift imaginable to them knowing she would lose her physical form and be banished to the Twilight, powerless and exposed. Midna admits she’d taken all that Zelda had to give.
But Zelda took a greater risk than we could have imagined, because Midna could not return the cherished power of the Triforce of Wisdom back to Zelda until she had the power of the Fused Shadows. Zelda knew the risks involved and knew it was preferred over the death of the Twilight Princess and the end of two realms. In fact, the consequence of her actions was painfully clear as she became Ganon’s puppet — powerless, exposed, and defenseless to the power of the Triforce because she traded all she had for the sake of her kingdom, her people, and ultimately the world as they knew it.
Once Midna was able to return Zelda’s piece of the Triforce, Zelda, with her renewed vigor and power, called upon the Light Spirits in the fight against Ganondorf. She wielded a bow and these light arrows as Link positioned himself behind Ganondorf on horseback, allowing her to take aim and to banish this evil that had taken everything they had known and loved.
Without Zelda, the Princess of the Twilight Realm would be dead, and Ganondorf and Zant would have blotted out the light forever. Zelda wasn’t useless in this installment because a piece of her resided in Midna throughout the game and was the reason Link and Midna could continue onward to save Hyrule. Given the further decline of an already failing civilization, her sacrifice was more than anyone could ask for.