Gate to the Desert

The world of Hyrule is, all and all, an amazing place.  Over the various games, I’ve fallen in love with so many characters, places, and legends.  It was the stuff that much of my adolescent and young adult dreams were made of.  Hyrule, to me, wasn’t one of those things that I was content to play and then, afterward, simply leave on its own.  It was something that I wanted to explore utterly and fully.  I craved all the details, and when details were missing—and there are many details still missing—I wanted to find my own answers.

One of the biggest mysteries that has yet to be told, however, is the Gerudo.  Long ago, back when LiveJournal was a thing, I joined a group that was dedicated to trying to find elegant solutions to the strange quirks and situations involving the Gerudo.  Outside of the timeline, wanting to know the story of the desert people was one of the ones I desired to know most, because the desert people seemed to be yearning to tell a story that was otherwise unspoken and unmentioned.

And so this is the first article in a series called The Mysteries of Hyrule, where I endeavor to dig deep into the possible answers to some of the more vexingly vague stories that the Legend of Zelda has told.  Today, we look into the Gerudo.

The Gerudo are one of the more mysterious races of the series and especially within Ocarina of Time.  Outside of the Sheikah, perhaps the least is known about them as most of the other races either seem fairly straightforward, get significant expository, or appear a multitude of games to flesh out their society.  Discounting Ganondorf for the moment, the Gerudo only appear in three different games:  Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Four Swords Adventures, and whether or not you truly count Majora’s Mask in the equation is arguable (despite them still retaining the Gerudo moniker).  Even if you add Ganondorf to the equation, he only additionally appears in Gerudo form in Wind Waker, though he is also mentioned in passing as such in A Link to the Past.

And yes, before someone dares to remind me, Koume and Kotake show up in the Oracle games as well.  The Gerudo really aren’t mentioned there though, so I don’t see a point in really dwelling on them.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start with the Gerudo’s first chronological and most prominent appearance:  Ocarina of Time.

A Gang of Thieves?

For many players of Ocarina, Ganondorf is one’s first impression on exactly what it is the Gerudo embody.  Before we even get to the adult portion of the game, Ganondorf is certainly busy pursuing many a sinister thing in order to pursue his goals.  He curses the Deku Tree unto death, he blocks Dodongo’s Cavern from the Gorons, he somehow upsets Lord Jabu-Jabu and makes him swallow Princess Ruto (perhaps less sinister and more funny), and he kills one of the Royal Family’s composer brothers.  It’s obvious that he’s clearly seeking to steal the Triforce out from under the nose of the Hylian people.  If the Gerudo are anything like him, we get the idea that they’re a sinister bunch.

And Kaepora Gaebora’s warning of the Gerudo seems to confirm this fact as well.  He refers to them as “a gang of thieves” and refers to their fortress as “a hideout,” both of which fairly negative terms, making them seem like they’re outlaws from the Wild West.  And for quite some time, I drank those words and didn’t really question them.

Saving the Carpenters

Yet upon reflection, the Gerudo never act out really what they’re claimed to be.  Outside of Ganondorf himself, you never see any of the Gerudo outside the confines of the desert, nor do you see them wantonly stealing anything from anyone else.  In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary as to their character.

After Ganondorf’s attack on the castle, one man seems rather surprised by Ganondorf’s path of destruction.  “We don’t see a lot of Gerudos in these parts,” he says.  “Something fishy is going on!”  Even Sharp the composer seems to have precious little knowledge about the Gerudo:  “You’re not one of Ganondorf’s men, are you?”  Notice the use of the masculine word men here; considering that Ganondorf is the only male Gerudo that exists (and indeed possibly the only one to have existed during Sharp’s lifetime), it’s curious he doesn’t use women or some other gender-neutral word instead.  And if you pair that up against the Gossip Stones’ clue that “Gerudos sometimes come to Hyrule Castle Town to look for boyfriends,” one might wonder if that might be somehow common knowledge.

At the very least, it would appear at first blush that the Gerudo have a generally peaceful relationship with the Hylians… or at least some form of symbiosis.  Whether or not it’s truly peaceful remains to be seen (again, not counting Ganondorf).

However, we have to reconcile these statements with what we see seven years later.  The third-in-command Gerudo, Ocarina’s analog to Majora’s Aveil, calls their leader “the great Ganondorf, King of the Gerudo Thieves.”  She also repeatedly calls the second-in-command Nabooru as “exalted” despite the fact that, according to the carpenters once they’re rescued, “Nabooru’s gang of thieves stands for cruelty and brutality.  She claims to be a chivalrous robber, but… no way!”

Ganondorf’s Aspiration to Politics

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know what is transpiring within the Gerudo culture because there is a crucial piece of evidence missing.  That critical clue is our inability to march into the Gerudo Fortress as a child and ask the Gerudo what’s what.  All we do know of the Gerudo when Link is 10 is that Gerudos don’t often come to Hyrule Castle Town, Nabooru is a lone wolf thief, and she neither supports Ganondorf nor “[steals] from the weak” according to the carpenters.  However, seven years later we see practically the whole of the Gerudo country in full support of their fearless leader.

What’s going on?

Koume and KotakeKoume and Kotake papercraft by Ninjatoes

We are told by the carpenters after rescuing them that Nabooru “is experimenting with brainwashing many people at the ruins in the desert,” which is precisely what happened to Nabooru during her seven-year stay with the witches Koume and Kotake.  However, this little fact had to be something of a secret, something that the carpenters didn’t discover until after they had been captured.  Otherwise, why would they initially be so eager to join the Gerudo?

I’m Ichiro the carpenter.  We were really interested in joining their all-female group, but they locked us up like this just because we’re men!  We don’t care about the Gerudo anymore!  They’re so rude!

I’m Jiro, the carpenter.  These women are so scary!  I’d rather work as a carpenter than join them!  I can’t wait to say good-bye to this place!

What we see here is an extremely strange set of circumstances, all things considered, so let’s review what we know:

  • Nabooru at one point used to be a lone wolf; she was respected and didn’t attack the weak.
  • Apparently, general consensus is that, while the Gerudo are thieves, they’re not entirely bad.
  • This is despite the fact that Ganondorf attacked Hyrule Castle Town and later completely ransacked the place.
  • Some amount of brainwashing transpired over the course of those seven years, in part led by Nabooru, who herself was brainwashed.

I hate to invoke Godwin’s Law on this one, but to me it sounds like Ganondorf, in many ways, is something of an Adolf Hitler figure.  Bear with me; the comparison might be more uncanny than you might think.  If you look at Germany during the 1920s and ‘30s, they had fallen on very difficult times due to the Treaty of Versailles that was primarily forced upon them by the Franch.  The sharp inflation of the German currency essentially crippled their economy and caused severe hardship across the country, priming the country for a revolution.  And that’s when Hitler enters the scene and promises a wholesale reversal for the country, which would include openly defying some of the nastier provisions of the treaty.  And what happened after that, well, history speaks for itself.

So picture this:  The Gerudo live out in the desert, mostly minding their business and occasionally thieving from someone worth stealing from, a.k.a. the rich and haughty.  At least, that’s the way it is until Ganondorf’s rise to power.  As Gerudo’s automatic leader, he looks at Hyrule’s beautiful greenery and political prominence and hates bending the knee to their king.  So he starts making rowdy, vitriolic beer hall speeches about how they shouldn’t be forced to settle for subsistence living but instead deserve a much grander prize, all of Hyrule!

This very idea is of course divisive, and we can see Nabooru start her own opposition movement against Ganondorf.  However, Ganondorf’s steamroller is already on the move, and he manages to establish a nice re-education encampment off in the all-but-uncrossable desert where his political enemies rot until the day he gains sufficient power to have his war with the other races of Hyrule.  All the while, the Hylians have no clue what is going on behind enemy lines, presumably just chalking it up to one rotten Gerudo apple in the orchard.

But that just begs another question:

Why promise Hyrule?

Ganon goes emo

It’s a pretty valid question, really?  Sure, there’s an obvious answer.  The Gerudo are a lowly band of thieves living in terrain with rather harsh climate adjacent to a land of plenty full with power and promise.  There was much to gain by Ganondorf offering the Gerudo a better life away from the harsh sands of the desert.  Gold, money, riches, power, and influence could be theirs if only they would reach out their hand and grasp it.  In The Wind Waker, Ganondorf seems to suggest that this is the very thing that he offered… or was at least the thing he personally desired.

My country lay within a vast desert.  When the sun rose into the sky, a burning wind punished my lands, searing the world.  And when the moon climbed into the dark of night, a frigid gale pierced our homes.  No matter when it came, the wind carried the same thing… Death.  But the winds that blue across the green fields of Hyrule brought something other than suffering and ruin.  I coveted that wind, I suppose.

It’s a logical premise, and perhaps the best possible one that we can directly infer from the game.

However, even if that’s the case, there are still a few snippets of dialog here and there among other realizations that cast a dubious light onto this possibility.  And all of them center on the strong connection the Gerudo have to the desert.  In Ocarina of Time itself, there’s the relief of the Goddess of the Sand on the front of the large rock containing the Spirit Temple.  The Player’s Guide to Ocarina of Time mentions that “[t]he Spirit Temple was built by the ancient ancestors of the Gerudo people” (97).  That the Gerudo have any sort of belief bordering on religious association to a desert goddess signifies a special connection to their place of origin.

desert_templeThis sentiment is actually reinforced later in Four Swords Adventures as Link approaches the Desert of Doubt chapters.  The Red Maiden tells Link that “[t]he Gerudo honor the desert.”  The Gerudo themselves elaborate exactly why.  “The pyramid [built by the Zuna] is sacred to our people,” one Gerudo mentions.  In fact, the pyramid deep within the desert is so important that “[t]he Desert Temple was built to keep people away from the pyramid.”  Given that the Gerudo are unaware of the Zuna and the actual origins of the pyramid, we can presume that it was the Gerudo that were the ones to build the temple at the chokepoint before the pyramid itself.

Of course, all of this is really theoretical and academic, nothing really solid in the way of evidence.  Thankfully, we do have one more interesting fact to consider.  The carpenters in Ocarina of Time tell us that it was the Gerudo who broke the bridge that led out of the desert to the rest of Hyrule.  If they were eager to conquer Hyrule, why remove their only way (besides dropping down into the ravine) there?  All in all, it seems that the Gerudo are in the desert because that is their home of choice and not because it is a home by force.

There is another possibility for why the Gerudo might be tempted to support war against Hyrule:  revenge.  It is mentioned both by the Deku Sprout in Ocarina of Time and in Hyrule Historia that a civil war broke out in Hyrule around the time of Link’s birth and was the cause of Link’s mother’s death once she had reached the relative safety of the Kokiri Forest.

“The war in Hyrule raged unabated for countless eras.
…………………………………………………………………………………….
The fighting was eventually quelled by the king of Hyrule, and the entire land was unified under his kingdom.
The scars of war faded from Hyrule, and it seemed that, at last, the world was at peace.
Ganondorf, leader of the Gerudo, the people of the desert, once again swore fealty to the king of Hyrule.  However, Ganondorf’s true aim was the Triforce, said to lie somewhere within the kingdom.  Seeking the three Spiritual Stones necessary to open the gateway to the Sacred Realm, he carried out his plots in secret, in every corner of the land.”  (Hyrule Historia, 84)

So even if the Gerudo really just wanted to hold onto their desert territory, they could have been supporting Ganondorf’s revolution in order to strike back at Hyrule for their previous loss in the war.

But what did the Gerudo stand to gain?

Yet this theory itself brings about two significant problems.  The first of these is fairly minor and easy to work around, but I think it’s nonetheless significant that Hyrule Historia doesn’t mention who partook in Hyrule’s civil war or why it even took place.  Go and read the quote again; the primary point of mentioning the civil war in both Ocarina and Historia is to set up the story to explain why Link grew up with the Kokiri when he himself wasn’t, not to establish the Gerudo as some evil boogeyman out in the desert.

Honestly, I think the account was purposefully written this way so that Nintendo has the chance to flesh it out in a future game.  As the timeline has become more and more clear with time, Nintendo has been sparser and sparser with extravagant details so as to preserve our imagination and their creative liberty later.

But when it comes to the account of Ganondorf kneeling before the King of Hyrule, there’s also a lack of clarity here as well, though this is on account of an unclear choice of grammar.  The grammar of the phrase “once again swore fealty [emphasis mine]” could signify that the Gerudo had once been allies with Hyrule, rebelled, and now Ganondorf was vowing allegiance again, but it could simply mean that Ganondorf had already been to Hyrule Castle once already to pledge fealty and that this was him reaffirming that fealty, perhaps as an excuse to gain access to something inside the castle.  Princess Zelda gives us no help either, as she simply says, “Though he [Ganondorf] swears allegiance to my father, I am sure he is not sincere.”

However, as mentioned, this is perhaps the weaker of the two problems, and it’s not outlandish to assume the former possibility.

So with that, let’s look at the second problem.  If you assume that the Gerudo took part in the uprising against Hyrule, then one has to question why they did so that time.  Assuming they were part of the civil war means that one has to answer the same question as to why the Gerudo would support Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time if they hadn’t done so.  The question essentially boils down to, during the civil war, what did the Gerudo stand to gain from Hyrule by rebelling against them?  It could simply be because the Gerudo by tradition automatically and fully follow the commands of their mythical male heir born once a century, but that seems a little bit cheap and too convenient.

And if you look at Gerudo society during the adult portion of Ocarina of Time, well, there really isn’t an obvious benefit that having Hyrule under Gerudo control would net them.  Considering that the Gerudo themselves broke the only bridge connecting them to Hyrule, the desert tribe seems quite happy living off by themselves in the desert as per tradition.  You don’t see them living the high life in Hyrule Castle Town now that the smug Hylians have been kicked out.  You don’t see their hideout littered with gold, jewels, and riches from the towns they looted.  As far as we know, they’re living practically the same life they lived seven years ago before Ganondorf had conquered the realm.

Link becomes an honorary GerudoOn top of that, if the Gerudo were so eager to support Ganondorf’s cause, why would they ever befriend Link?  Link by this point would be Public Enemy Number Two right behind the princess.  Sure, they might respect Ganondorf or even deify him in many ways, but one would think that, if their faith in their leader were so devout, that they might do worse things to Link than just jail him up until he showed sufficient strength to impress a few of their skilled swordswomen.

What’s more, the reactions of the Gerudo to young Link don’t add up either.  We know that Nabooru is completely shocked by Ganondorf’s methodology.  “Though we’re both thieves,” she says, “I’m completely different from Ganondorf.  With his followers, he stole from women and children, and even killed people!”  Yet the rest of the Gerudo generally seem almost impassive to Ganondorf’s doctrine when it comes to young Link.  Whoever those followers of Ganondorf might be, they certainly aren’t the guards just outside the valley.  “The Gerudo’s Fortress is located beyond the gate.  A kid like you has no business there.”  Here they have the best opportunity to mug Link and take his lunch money, and they just let him go and otherwise ignore him.

The only logical conclusion is that the Gerudo have more interest in and support for Ganondorf than so his ideals.

Male:Female Ratios and Genetics

Ocarina of Time

But if we can find one more potential cause for the Gerudos’ support of Ganondorf, it would have to be found within the strange male-to-female ratio amongst them.  This, I would allege, is perhaps the single biggest mystery behind the Gerudo people:  the fact that only one male child is born to them every century.

If I can digress for just a moment, I have to admit that I was ardently hoping that Skyward Sword somehow was going to provide some sort of explanation to this mystery… only to discover that the only “origin” to the Gerudo namesake that was to be had was the brief mention of the Gerudo Dragonfly amongst the collectible bugs.  I figured that, of all the races to deserve a proper origin story, this race had to be it.  Alas, one wasn’t to be had.

I will admit that I actually do have a good friend who does know the dark secrets contained in Nintendo’s famed “timeline document.”  (Or at the very least, my friend knows a few more things from internal Nintendo Emails that we commoners would.)  At any rate, I was mentioning my disappointment about this, and all of a sudden, a sudden smirk came unbidden to my friend’s lips.  It was in that moment I knew something was up; I knew that, perhaps internally, Nintendo did have an answer that would explain this crazy story behind the Gerudo… but they were waiting in secret to find precisely the right opportunity, the right game, to actually throw it into a story.  Or maybe that’s my imagination.  At any rate, I received no secret details about this from my friend, alas.

However, the biggest problem I have with the whole one-child-every-100-years shtick is that it flies right in the face of everything we know and take for granted in basic human genetics.  While not every species on planet Earth uses the XX-/XY-sex chromosomes that we use, and while scientists don’t actually understand how some species’ sex determination works, practically every sex determination system that we do understand nets you an unbiased sex determination, that is, 50% male and 50% female.  So just off of that alone, the Gerudo having this practically-all-female thing going on is somewhat odd.

But I decided to run with the possibility and figure out what the odds would have been, say, if the Gerudo didn’t have a simple 50/50 split between males and females.  What if, much like a good number of Pokémon species, the odds of getting a female child were drastically greater than a male?

To do this, I needed some mathematics and a few necessary assumptions:

  1. I assumed that the Gerudo population would, more or less, remain constant over time.  That is, the birth rate for Gerudo children would exactly equal the death rate of Gerudo elders.
  2. I assumed that the child of a Gerudo with any race—whether Gerudo, Hylian, or (God forbid) a Zora—would result in a Gerudo child.  This isn’t necessarily a given, but I’d hate to see how things would be for Gerudo women were it otherwise.  The Gerudo women would have to be nonstop birthing facilities until they finally were able to pop out a single Gerudo child just to replace their dying… and then what would happen to the other children given that the Gerudo are so isolated?  No, I don’t want to go there.
  3. I needed to assume how many Gerudo children would be born in a century’s time.  This is the most unscientific part here as it requires some wild guesses.  But in short, I needed to estimate their total population and the average life expectancy of a Gerudo, the two variables in the equation.  (As it turns out, the numbers don’t matter that significantly, but to do the actual probability analysis, it had to be done.)
  4. Total Gerudo population in Ocarina of Time:  maybe 30.
  5. Average life expectancy of a Gerudo:  60 years.
  6. Thus, the total number of Gerudos who will die per century:  30 * 100 / 60 = 50.
  7. Thus, the total number of Gerudos that need to be born per century:  50.
  8. Thus, the average (mean) birth rate of a Gerudo male:  1 / 50 = 2%.

"Birth of a Gerudo King" by DeviantArt user kichisu“Birth of a Gerudo King” by DeviantArt user kichisu

Now, if genetics in Hyrule have any similarity to real genetics on Earth, we can assume that every birth has an independently equal chance of producing a male child.  That is, the next child to be born after Ganondorf still has a 2% chance of producing another male heir.  Never mind that that’s against the rules, but so goes the laws of Earthly genetics.

As a result, we can model this system with a binomial probability distribution with µ = 0.02.  Presuming that the average probability of getting a male child is 2%, over a series of 50 births, we find out something rather alarming.  The odds of getting exactly one male child over a century  is only 37.2%.  (The odds of getting none is 36.4%, and the odds of getting more than one is 26.4%.)  In other words, though over the long haul of time there will be an average of one male child per century, it is actually unlikely for there to be exactly one male child each century.

Making the Impossible Probable

And that’s actually giving the system the best benefit of the doubt!  This doesn’t even model correctly the necessity that the only male children born are at exactly each 100-year mark.  The above numbers allow for the last child of one century and the next child of the next century to both be male.  If we were to calculate the odds for the first 49 children after a given occurrence of a male child to be female followed by a single male child, that would actually be wholly improbable, a scant 0.7%.  And so, we have to assume that something else is at play, and I’ve come up with three possible solutions:

First, the Gerudo might participate in infanticide.  In short, maybe they actually do conceive more male children than simply once every 100 years, but in order to perpetuate the myth of the centennial boy, they kill or abort any male children that get conceived over the remainder of the century.  I… really hate this idea for a multitude of reasons, and I heavily believe that Nintendo wouldn’t dare dream to use this as the official explanation.  They like to keep their family-friendly reputation, so with that, I’m just going to sweep this under the rug.

Second, Hyrulean genetics are just plain strange.  This is a wholly possible idea; this bends towards the possibility that some of the sex determination techniques in some mammals are sufficiently complicated (like platypuses) or are completely deterministic (like alligators, which can actually choose the sex of their children to hatch by regulating the temperature of the eggs).  While there’s promise in the theory, I prefer not to use this as my explanation because I find the third choice much more compelling; it has a lot of potential to really be the basis for a game later on.

And that third idea is this:  Something happened to the Gerudo tribe to cause this to happen, something like a magical curse.

"Gerudo Sorceress" by DeviantArt user mattleese87“Gerudo Sorceress” by DeviantArt user mattleese87

I have to admit that this wasn’t originally my theory, but, ever since I heard it, I have wanted it to be canon.  I would like to believe that, way back before the days of Ocarina of Time, the Gerudo and the Hylians (or perhaps another race altogether, but why not the Hylians?) got into a tiff that led to some gigantic war between them.  Perhaps it was some sort of treachery, espionage, or subterfuge, or maybe it was just religious in nature.  Regardless, the Gerudo possibly were after the Triforce (why not?) in order to one-up the arrogant Hylians.  And ultimately, the Hylians won, and in order to show the Gerudo who wore the pants in the kingdom, they cursed their race so that they would never have many men in their population with which to stir up war against them ever again.  This would in turn lead to the women having to become stronger and respect strength within their society, becoming essentially the Gerudo we see today.

It’s all a theory, I know, but it’s one that has some interesting teeth to it.

Conclusion

The Gerudo are an interesting people for certain.  They cry out to have a proper origin story that explains precisely why their people are the way they are.  The Goddess of the Sand begs to be discussed more than just being a large carving on a mountain.  And I can’t help but want to know the story of why they became thieves—or even honorable thieves; I yearn to know what the catalyst was.  But more importantly, I love the race a lot, and I really would love to see them get some more screen time in a future title.

After all, the Gerudo Desert is one of the most amazing soundtracks in all of Ocarina, getting its own movement in the Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony.  It’d be worth it if only to hear that melody in game again.

  • DarkHyrule

    A lot of words are here O.o

  • DarkHyrule

    a lot of words are here

  • SabooruCarpenter

    I have a couple things to add that might help you.

    1 and the most important: The difference between Hyrule and Earth.
    On Earth we have no evidence of spirituality and 'magic' being real.
    In Hyrule magic and spirituality are a fact. Spirituality from the Goddesses and magic from the fairies. You cannot decode the spirituality in Hyrule with science because it is written in typing to be magic.
    As that is the 'easy answer' that atheists hate its hard to accept it sometimes but when deciphering the pieces of Hyrule you can't negate the magic as an argument. Its just a fact.
    I'm not saying that this should negate anything you have said but that you should include it in your writing. You've incorporated scientific examination but you must examine spiritual intervention as a massive persuasion in the outcome of both genetics and history.

    2 and of little to no importance but you might want to include this objectively.
    The bridge could have been destroyed during the civil war as a defensive strategy, and never rebuilt because of some other method of the Gerudo for invading.
    Also is it a possibility the Gerudo fortress is ONLY a fortress and that they have a homeland elsewhere. A forwardbase of sorts. I haven't read all the dialogue but it just occurred to me that it could be simply a defensive barricade set up during the civil war to warn the city if an invasion was coming.

    Also another couple of my own thoughts
    Ganondorf acts as a lone guerilla in his attempts to bring down Hyrule castle, attacking Death Mountain, the Deku Tree, and the Zora solo. He even strikes out trying to catch Zelda alone when he could easily have set up an ambush with his 'thieves'.
    Is Ganondorf acting without the knowledge of his people? Why wouldn't he include them?
    Is it to do with some political outcome that could affect him badly amongst his own tribe if things were to go wrong?

    Bunch of mind-vomit. Hope some of it sparks something for you to investigate. : )
    Thanks for the good article

    • Craig

      Why would Atheists hate the idea that there is a factual religion in the game? Atheists just don't believe in any Gods in the real world, it doesn't mean we don't wish their was a real God though.

    • If you look at the bridge destruction as being a defensive strategy, there are a few things elsewise that seem strange about the whole thing:

      1. It’s not conclusive that the Gerudo ever attacked anyone. Ganondorf’s bread-and-butter soldiers are all monsters and phantoms from what we’ve seen. While the Gerudo may have been left as a “defensive force,” their eventual relationship with Link makes you wonder if they participated at all. And when you consider that most people (see the carpenters) didn’t really believe that the Gerudo were terrible before trying to join them, it paints a picture that reinforces the point.

      Thus breaking the bridge seems more like a “we’ll leave you alone so leave us alone” sort of maneuver.

    • Banooru

      Civil war happened before Link was born, bridge not broken when Link is a child, is destroyed when Link is an adult.

    • Yeah, Banooru is correct. Link was born after/towards the end of the civil war, and the bridge is intact when Link is a child, so its not at all possible. The Gerudo don't destroy the bridge until sometime after Ganondorf gets the Triforce of Power.

  • Anon

    What if "Ganon" means Demise in the Gerudo language

  • KokiriGirl

    Great read, very interesting!

  • Topaz Mutiny

    This was a nice read. I too yearn to know more about the Gerudo, and have come to a few conclusions myself. Like you, I feel that, while they don't necessarily follow Ganondorf's creed, they do nonetheless support him because he's their King and Only Son, and, aside from Nabooru trying to stir up dissent, this is really important to them.

    I've also come to the conclusion that the reason the Gerudo only have one male every 100 years is due to something spiritual or magical in nature, but I disagree on the source. I feel like such a drastic nature would have been caused by a deity, rather than the Hylians as they appear simply too weak magically. No, I think this has something to do with the Gerudo's patron deity – The Goddess of the Sands. I think this is a Goddess that actually exists (based on her lovely statue in the Spirit Temple), and is responsible for the Gerudo's current state of affairs (but I doubt it was malicious – why worship the jerk who cursed you?). It explains why all the Gerudo have very similar traits amongst each other, why they only have one male child a century, why their genetics could somehow overwrite the diversity seen in Hylians and other races, and possibly why the desert is so important to them.

    • Topaz Mutiny

      I forgot to add, you're friend (and Nintendo) is a jerk. 🙁 But hopefully (HOPEFULLY) this means Nintendo will some day reveal the Gerudo's secrets. Until that day, I will continue to shake my fist at them.

    • Pretty much that re: the Goddess. The magical curse I suggest is but one of a thousand ways some magical thing would control the birth effects of their race, and so some “benevolent” sort of thing (making the Gerudo strong, a la Middle-Eastern Amazonians) would clearly fall under that umbrella.

      The root cause is what drives me though… and so I personally adopted a theory that causes lots of drama between a lot of people rather than just the word of a goddess. To me at least, it’s all the more compelling of an idea. 🙂

  • 1bgood97

    Why is there a Gerudo male born once every hundred years?

    Uh…. MAGIC!

  • DoomYoshi

    Biological knowledge sucks. I can think if a half dozen explanations for the skewed biology off the top of my head.
    XY females, XX males. The Y chromosome has a specific antigen. Every egg that doesnt have this antibody is destroyed. Occasionally (like all biological processes) one male egg actually makes it through.

    Epigenetic effect: the genes for "maleness" are usually silenced, except every hundred years or so, a mutant can't silence the genes properly.

    Other than that, good article.

    • themisssinglink

      XY females and XX males is actually the XX/XZ system! (Totally found this during my research for the articles.)

  • rriillyy

    Pretty good theory, and you pretty much said what I've been thinking for a long time.

    I'm pretty sure that Groose is the ancestors of the Gerudo. He's got red hair, gold eyes…. big and brutish. Etc, Plus I mean, I can see him going out into the desert and pissing some fairy/spirit off and getting his entire bloodline cursed. Not to mention, that the name Gerudo probably started as a misinterpretation of Groose's name. Probably just like how legends change over time, and names and places get mixed up, I'm sure that's what happened here as well.

    • Ziggy

      ^^^WOW, that's amazing!

    • Benson

      If that's the case, then why are there the 'Gerudo Dragonflys' during gameplay of Skyward Sword? The name Gerudo is already there during that time period. That's a good idea, but not true.

    • pandamonium

      I really like that theory. It makes since and follows the timelines.

  • Soap

    I have a another theory related to infanticide. They *can* give birth to males, but they're not Gerudo, they're whatever race the father is, most likely Hylian, whereas their daughters are always Gerudo. Whenever they have a Hylian son, they abandon the infant somewhere where Hylians can find the child and raise it. If it's female, they keep the child. Every once in a while they have a child that is both male and Gerudo and they deify the child as some sort of miracle.

    • Ayla37

      Not a bad theory!

    • the timn8r

      If that's true, Link's mother could be Gerudo. It would make sense because if the civil war was between Hylians and Gerudo, and Link's parentage was Hylian and Gerudo, then it would give them motive to give their child up as well as a good reason both of them were killed in the war. Link could have been entrusted to the Kokiri to protect him from his divisive parentage.

      • I love the idea that Link is a Gerudo. I really hope that Nintendo loves the idea, too, ha.

  • Shane

    This was a great article. Very interesting to read. i appreciate your effort to put time into thinking of these possibilities I look forward to reading whatever you write on the next ethnicity of Hyrule.

  • TheGrave

    “Even if you add Ganondorf to the equation, he only additionally appears in Gerudo form in Wind Waker”

    …and Twilight Princess.

    • themisssinglink

      I had that in my mental notes at one point. It would be that I forgot one. Ah well.

  • zombiefragger

    I wonder if there might be a Gerudo and Twili connection. As the light spirits said there was a group of interlopers that tried to grain control of the sacred realm, and Midna recounts how her people where chased across Hyrule untill they were banished to the twilight realm. What I’m getting at is what if interlopers are the ancestors of not just the Twili but ancestors of the Gerudo as well. Say the soldiers and leaders of the interlopers were the ones banished to the Twilight realm to become Twili and the civilians who did not fight but supported their leaders were allowed to remain to become the Gerudo, but to ensure that they would not be a threat again to the sacred realm they where cursed to one male every 100 years. But this is just guessing because there is no evidence to support this.

  • Speculator

    What if links mom was Gerudo making link the 2nd male born Gerudo and a threat to Ganon and that's why she was injured in the war O.o

    • Anonymous

      I'm sorry, that just sounds too much like the backstory of a Mary-Sue in a bad fanfiction.

  • Zeldafan99

    Truly an interesting read, thank you!
    😀

  • gravyfan

    That was smashing!

  • Teacat

    The way I understood it, Gerudo can breed with any humanoid race, but their children are always female Gerudo children. However we've seen quite a few female characters who are speculated to have Gerudo ancestry, but have both Hylian and Gerudo features such as tanned skin, red hair and pointed ears and a lack of golden eyes (Jolene, Joanne and Astrid from PH, Din from Oracle of Seasons and Telma from TP.) I guess every so often you get a hybrid between the two species, rather then a pureblooded Gerudo? There is a theory that Malon's mother was a Gerudo (she has vivid red hair, Talon's interesting reactions to the Gerudo mask, and Malon's mother was said to love horses and to sing to them, and we know that Gerudo culture prizes horses places great importance on horseback archery and breeding.) It could be that Malon inherited only one Gerudo characteristic from her mother, and has mostly Hylian genes.

  • lulles

    This took me three days to read (I'm really busy so I could only read at night), but it was really worth it! The Gerudo is my favorite race so it was nice reading some insight on them.

  • Ayla37

    The fact that Gerudo Dragonflies are already present in skyward sword suggests that the Gerudo race are even older than the Shiekah race!! A race of people, presumably that lived in the desert, even before Hylia ever lifted the humans to the heavens. And yet, if no people supposedly survived but those in the sky, then how to Gerudos exist in future games? And that could imply they're the race that mined the timeshift stones and used robotic technology and left the ruins in the deserts of skyward sword……… now that just messes with my head.

    • Sciver

      As next to nothing is known of the Shiekah, it could be that the Shiekah are in fact the forebears of the Gerudo. Impa is dark skinned in Skyward sword, and though her hair is platinum blonde, her other features are not directly contradictory of being Gerudo.
      If you consider that Gerudo have a seemingly rich history of fighting technique and worship, as explained in this article, it could be surmised that they are the last remaining trace of the original people who were the Shiekah, while some of the Shiekah knowledge was passed on to the hylians. Just a possibility.

  • 2Chay

    I listened to Gerudo Valley as I was reading this lol

  • The genetics thing is all wrong. In the 1950`s, a species of birds were being affected by chemicals in pesticides, and two things happened; one, their eggs became thinner and two, the gender ratio was offset, and babies were way more likely to be females. The species was almost wiped out though, because they could not reproduce often enough. But that makes Gerudo genetics even MORE mysterious…

  • DrDekunuts

    Very interesting article indeed! I always thought the infanticide theory was the most likely explanation to this mystery, which in my opinion would give The Legend of Zelda's mythology more character. However, I do believe that Nintendo will probably not be very happy selling that story to eight-year-olds… I bet all my rupees they'll go for divine intervention.

    Having said that, my theory is that, whether it be due to magic or to gene-specificity, female Gerudo can only have male Gerudo offspring with a male Gerudo partner. If that were the case, there'd probably be traditions and certain customs that would enable this phenomenon to continue for ages. Or Hylian laws, written to keep the Gerudo's numbers to a bare minimum and so hoping to prevent another rebellion.

  • Dave

    What about the possibility of parthenogenesis – the mechanism whereby females can produce female offspring without the need of a male present. There are a number of species that do this (although aphids are the only one that comes to mind at present). Perhaps Gerudo women reproduce asexually in this manner most of the time (thus maintaining their population), but one is chosen every 100 years to mate with an outsider in order to introduce the posibility of a male offspring who is then regarded as their destined ruler (it'd still be the usual 50/50 chance, so it might take a few tries). Thus the "every-100-years" thing would be determined by tradition, rather than biology. This would still have problems with loss of genetic variation and mutational loading (basic genetic deterioration over successive generations within a small population), but it would explain the way that Gerudo women look so similar, and without the need for culturally instituted infanticide.

  • Sciver

    You haven't accounted the possibility that Gerudo genes are naturally submissive, providing a reasonable excuse for normal X/Y determinism. Or to put it another way, Gerudo can have male children, but those children are simply not Gerudo by the qualities they look at. (I'll assume Gerudo requires skin to be dark, hair to be red, and so on…) There are traits in human genetics that are more commonly expressed through one sex than another. We know too that orphans can exist in this universe, and that for the most part very few children are ever seen, thus there could be orphanages full of Gerudo-born Hylians/Hyrulians, that were simply abandoned. It doesn't account for why, but one might assume that Humans and Hylians are simply -not suited- to living in the desert, and thus might be considered weak. This is in fitting with initial impressions of Link. However, I like to imagine that, as Koume an Kotake are both multi-centenarians (having lived more than 200 years) they could in fact be the cause for only one male per century… Choosing that child to be the avatar through which they rule. This ties in well with the curse theory, which I considered on my own before reading the full article, and before coming up with my genetics idea. In fairness, I think the curse theory is the most reasonably likely for the setting and target audience, but I thought the genetics aspect needed more light. Just a bit.

  • I happen to think its a curse, but it may very well affect their genetics in such a way that most male children are stillborn, and one simply slips through every hundred years.

  • BonJiro

    Just as a few counterpoints for my experience with the OoT and the Gerudo, I felt like you didn't really go anywhere when you touched on the brainwashing there.

    Typically, I always held to the idea that, like Nabooru held the respect of many Gerudo, Ganondorf would've had die hard loyalists as well with the main populace of the Gerudo being neutral between their two leaders. When you see Link interacting with many of the Gerudo in game, it was my impression that they were primarily made up of the common rabble, with an exception being the 'third in command'.

    The analog of Aveil didn't recognise Link as any specific threat at all, aside from being another stranger in their territory, much like the carpenters, and that always truck me as the majority of the Gerudo being more or less unaware of their King's business. As has been mentioned a few times, Ganondorf did pursue the spiritual stones alone. However, when people reference his 'followers', I take it as a small band of Gerudo who were loyalists to their King, and it is them I think of when I go back to the Castle Siege. Generally I consider monster soldiers to be available to him after obtaining his Triforce piece, as well, or at the very least limited to him at the time through sorcerous means.

    Kotake and Koume give a good precedence to loyalist Gerudo followers of Ganon for me, and with them backing him I don't doubt it would pull an elitist crowd to serve their King, adding to the notion of Godlike worship given by the gossip stone. Even then, this piece of information is present before the brainwashing really begins, which to me always seemed to suggest that the Gerudo as a whole were either in support of 'the Great Ganondorf' specifically, or content to be subject to his rule anyway.

    The only true dissenters I knew of would've been Nabooru and a few early followers of her, which given the harsh temper of their king and the punishment of treason, probably wasn't that many. Nabooru being the main voice against corrupt authority was silence, and then Nabooru herself was put to work to likewise silence any of her few comrades until doubt was eradicated. Any Gerudo subject to brainwashing–as evidence by Nabooru in game–can be assumed to be programmed with hostility and recognition toward Link or Zelda, and given the third in command does not show either, I assume the majority of the Gerudo were neutral in between two loyal factions that deferred to one of the leaders.

    The neutrality could, again, be reasoned as an average attitude for a mixture of tradition, religious belief and more than likely, fear of punishment for treason, but in any case, that was how I took it. I also believe they were left in the dark, mostly, about how exactly their King went about his rise in Hyrule, because a King isn't likely to explain those things to his subject over simply 'deciding and doing them without question'.

    On a sidenote, I don't put much stock into tictac sized comments like 'Ganondorf's men', as seen of the composer bros, because on the creed that 'Gerudo women are just as able as men' and that non-Gerudo men are 'worthless', it may be a popular cultural colloquialism of sorts. I just took it as an abbreviation of 'henchmen' myself.

    I also agree on the curse a per Gerudo male children, too.

    As for the Bridge, did nobody think that its being cut had nothing to do with the Gerudo themselves, per se, but rather preventing Link from accessing the Spirit temple? The Gerudo have fine horses, and just like Epona, I'm sure a race of horseback archers could find the equestrian skill enough to jump the gap. Its implied Epona is an exceptional specimen, so I always thought it was safe to say nobody expected an inexperienced rider like Link to clear that canyon like he did, even Ganondorf. Without his faithful mare, I think Link would've struggled to get past that obstacle (discounting literal in game ways around it; I'm speaking from a narrative point of view).

    There's no way to know that the bridge was not perfectly in tact and Gerudo coming and going from Hyrule field before Link awoke in the Temple of Time. Just like Sheik knew the instant it happened, so did Ganondorf who could easily have sent orders out to his girls to cut the bridge defensively and be on guard for intruders to their lands. That'd also fit with the Carpenters' apparent misconceptions of the Gerudo's hospitality, seeing as Link was given a membership card in keeping with the Carpenters' prior whim to 'join them' being possible, it almost suggests sudden or uncommon amounts of hostility to outsiders.

  • Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real work to produce a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means glimpse for getting anything done.

  • Awesome article. And putting everything together we have a pretty good theory.

    1 – The most logical explanation is that Gerudo women can give birth to male babies: but, as it has beem pointed out here, they normally are the father's race, due to a curse.

    2 – Which course? At some point in the past, when Gerudo's male and female existed in proportion, one Gerudo man did something really stupid and released Demise's power once again. Things didn't go well, may lives were lost. Their Goddess did punish the Gerudos by this man's mistake by limiting them to having only a male birth each 100 years, since it was a man, not a woman, who betrayed their Goddess.

    3 – Why would the Gerudos still worship such Goddess? Well, history has shown us that religion IS BASED on fear AND respect. The Gerudo people still look for forgiveness and, while the Goddess sentenced them to giving birth to only one male each 100 years, they're still thankful since the Goddess was kind enough not to wipe the entire race off Hyrule.

  • Moon Tree

    But Ganondorf didn't let Link walk freely in the Hylian Land because he was pursuing Zelda?

  • pandamonium

    Good article. Perhaps Gerudo DNA is similar to that of amphibians or clownfish and can change from female to male. My biggest question is, even in Ganon IS the only Gerudo male, wouldn't that make for a whole lot of incest? If not, and the Gerudo can mate with Hylians, Kokiri, etc., simple genetics would suggest there is no way their offspring would all come out looking like Gerudo.

  • Adryan

    This reminded me of the whole one male being born every 100 years mystery!
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=633643303

    It could be something like that, who knows! 😛

  • Cybertoxia

    I love this idea! It would bring so many questions together….make for a good story line too!