The fantastical world of Hyrule is diverse in its population; many different species reside within its confines as well as within the vast areas of other Zelda worlds. Yet one race stands out with its known numbers in few: the Demons. Certainly there are characters in the series who can best be described as “demonic”: Majora, Bellum, and Dark Link to name a few. However, a limited number of individuals actually possess the title of “Demon” and those that do only exist in the most recent releases. Even the word “demon” has sparsely been used, with its earliest in-game appearance in 2000 in Majora’s Mask. Perhaps this lack of usage came about because the word itself boasts a strong religious connotation, therefore causing it to be reworded in localization in the same manner as “sage” was in the SNES version of A Link to the Past.
A changing society and a more fleshed out story line allowed for less censorship, so the inclusion of the word “demon” became acceptable and “sage” was restored in the GBA redux of the SNES entry. But just as the word “demon” was left out, really no characters who could be considered to be Demons exist in any of the first games. So why the sudden physical appearance?
[Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for Skyward Sword. If you haven’t finished the game, you are hereby forewarned.]
Demons tend to share similar characteristics. All but Chancellor Cole are, especially when compared to Link, very large in size, usually with bulging and dangerous muscles. Every Demon character design prominently features vibrant reds and/or oranges. Yet despite similar physical attributes, their personality traits vary wildly. Some are stoically sinister; others are flamboyantly disturbing. Some are silent and others talkative; some are poetic in word choice, while others are terse. While widely accepted by negative connotation to be evil beings, not all Demons wish harm upon the world.
Going by the timeline set forth in Hyrule Historia, the participation of Demise, Ghirahim, and Batreaux in the events of Skyward Sword marks the first recorded encounter with Demons in Hylrule’s history. Batreaux is a rarity among Demons, genuinely liking humans and wishing more than anything else to be a part of their society. The fact that he is the only known Demon who is sympathetic towards the Hyrule we know and love as well as his placement on Skyloft could demonstrate that he really is the only one with this unique view. After all, Hylia would never have let him on the outcropping of Skyloft if he were a threat to the people and the Triforce. Perhaps there are other “good” Demons we have not yet met, or perhaps Batreaux is the only one that ever existed and his becoming human ended any hope of positive association between the two races.
Certainly Demise and Ghirahim are the opposite of Batreaux in regards to their relationship with the humans; Ghirahim, the “Demon Lord” plots against Link and Zelda in order to revive his master Demise. Demise, the “Demon King,” seeks to cast the land of Hylia into chaos and darkness and, in effect, kill all humans. Being some of the first foes, both of these “bad” Demons are extremely powerful. Fi at one point during the adventure indicates that all evils emanate from Demise as aforementioned, which strongly suggests that perhaps all Demons in Hyrule are born from his hatred.
If, in fact, all Demons come from Demise, it would make sense that none of this limited race take part in “The Failure of the Hero of Time” section of the timeline. At the end of Skyward Sword, Demise utters a foreboding promise to Link with the words, “Those like you… Those who share the blood of the goddess and the spirit of the hero… They are eternally bound to this curse. An incarnation of my hatred shall ever follow your kind, dooming them to wander a blood-soaked sea of darkness for all time!” Therefore, as long as there is a reincarnation of courage and wisdom to fight, a foe (being more than likely a Demon) will appear.
The split in the timeline with the events of Ocarina of Time posed a problem to this cycle though. In one of the breaks, Ganondorf, a reincarnation of Demise also officially with the title of “Demon King,” kills Link. With the spirit of the hero broken in a sense, there would be no more hero directly related to the original that would act against Demise. The hero out of the equation, the curse changed.
“There were many who knew of the existence of the Triforce and the entrance to the Sacred Realm because of the events set in motion by Ganondorf. Their lust aroused, they rushed to gain access to the holy land in their quest to obtain the power of the gods… the kingdom fell into ruin… and the bloodline of the Hylians weakened with the ages, until their existence was naught but a thing of the past. The sages’ power also waned, and Hyrule, once called the Kingdom of the Gods, became nothing more than an ancient legend” (Hyrule Historia, pg 93).
The curse, it seems, manifested itself not in the physical form of a new Demon like it had in the past, but rather inside the hearts of the people themselves. By creating a greed so great that the kingdom consumed itself, the curse strongly diluted the bloodline of Princess Zelda and therefore the blood of the goddess. It worked so effectively without a physical form that there was no need for a new Demon born from Demise’s hatred to act against the realm. If fact, in what is now known of this timeline, Demons really only appear in A Link to the Past and the Oracle games; both appearances are Ganondorf, which indicates that the Demon King, sensing a different hero, rose up only in a rage left over from Ocarina of Time.
Those games that came out before Ocarina of Time‘s release all take place in the part of the timeline containing the Hero of Time’s failure. No new Demons were created during that time, which may explain why the series had already been popular for over a decade before we were even introduced to the race.
Yet the Demons are not only limited to Hyrule. The early years of Spirit Track‘s New Hyrule are eerily familiar. Before settlers landed, a great war ensued between the sage Lokomos and Malladus, the “Demon King.” The Lokomos barely succeeded, and Malladus was cast underneath the altar of the Tower of Spirits. One hundred years passed before he escaped to once again threaten the land. With a plot extremely similar to the clash between Hylia and Demise, the more recently discovered land’s tale indicates that its own Demon King is parallel to that of Hyrule; Demise and Malladus probably were dominant at around the same time, they both commanded large forces of evil, and their physical appearances have much in common.
Despite being transcontinental, Demons still only exist in small numbers gathering at the world’s beginnings. As a result, very little is known about their kind. Much remains to be discovered; we can only hope that Miyamoto and the Zelda team will see fit to introduce us to more of this race so we can learn if these primal beings really are the source of all evils.