The Zelda timeline is a difficult beast to get your head around. There are various different threads with Link at a different stage in his heroism, things that are canon and non-canon and always the promise that the next game could come along and shift everything about (we’re looking at you, Tears of the Kingdom).
For the most part, the timeline excludes most of the Zelda spin-off sources (TV shows, manga, graphic novels and the like), though this isn’t to say that there are no interesting facts to be gained from these formats. Take the following images from ‘The Perfect Zelda Fan Book’, a Japanese guide for A Link to the Past which also contains a short manga for the first three games in the series.
The guide was recently scanned by Melora for the Zelda fan site History of Hyrule. This is the first time that the pages have been made available online in high quality and the manga that is found within gives us a peek at Link and a very human-looking fairy companion, long before Ocarina of Time’s Navi came along. Check out the third picture in the following tweet for a closer look.
This fairy companion (potentially Emheralda from the other LTTP graphic novels) can be seen in two of the three mangas found at the back of the guide, which you can check out for free on the Internet Archive. Neither Zelda II: The Adventure of Link nor Link to the Past see the titular hero teaming up with a fairy sidekick (this was to be saved until OOT), but these short stories show that such an idea was definitely flying about at the time — even if it was in an unofficial capacity.
We also recommend checking out the full fan book itself over on the archive. If you have a longing for the return of informative game manuals then nothing will make you quite so nostalgic (and after playing Tunic last year, the comparisons are even clearer)!