Tracing the tendrils of Malice from Demise through Calamity Ganon
by on March 16, 2018

Since early gameplay footage of Breath of the Wild showed us our first glimpse of the Stone Talus mini-boss, I wondered what kind of lore-based explanation we would get for the existence of giant, living rock monsters. Unfortunately for me, and others wondering the same, there was no such explanation. The question lingered and inevitably led me down a long road of research; but now, after combining several pieces of evidence from multiple theories already out there, I believe I have discovered the answer. The following will be a trip from the beginning of the timeline to the end, from Skyward Sword to Breath of the Wild, which follows each piece of evidence to the next until I was finally able to come up with a conclusion: Malice is responsible for all of the monsters and baddies in Hyrule, and it just might be rooted in the curse that Demise cast all those eons ago.

This article is a part of the series “Celebration of the Wild,” a month-long event celebrating the first anniversary of Breath of the Wild.

While researching this theory, to my surprise, Breath of the Wild was not the first time Malice has been mentioned in the Zelda franchise. In Skyward Sword, the description of the Evil Crystals mentions it: “A chunk of pure, crystallized monster malice. Often obtained from monsters who possess the power to curse.” While Malice here isn’t given its own capital M as a proper noun, this usage of the word is still significant. To avoid confusion, I refer to both ‘Malice’ and ‘malice’ as the same substance.

Skyward Sword includes such dark creatures as zombified Cursed Bokoblins, Dark Lizalfos, and Dark Keese. Since Cursed Bokoblins reappeared in Breath of the Wild, they can link the past and the present and offer some clue about how everything is connected. In Skyward Sword, it is stated that the Boko-corpses are controlled by Ghirahim and his dark magic. The Ancient Cistern boss, Koloktos, was also reanimated this way. It is feasible then that this dark magic has the power to bring inanimate objects to life — including corpses and mechanical guardians. But what exactly is this magic? I propose that Ghirahim is tapping into Demise’s dark power. Throughout Skyward Sword, Fi is revealed to be the spirit of the Goddess Sword and eventually the Master Sword, and Ghirahim is revealed to be the polar opposite, Demise’s Demon Sword. Another staple of this game is the Skyward Strike attack, where the sword is imbued with sacred light and then shot as a beam. If Fi can access Hylia’s light magic as the Goddess Sword, would it not make sense for Ghirahim to be able to access Demise’s dark magic as the Demon King’s sword? Perhaps these sword spirits are able to tap into their master’s power. Therefore, I believe that the Malice we were exposed to in Skyward Sword is the very essence of Demise, cursed to plague the bloodlines of the Hero and Goddess for eternity.

In order to find further evidence, I followed the Cursed Bokoblin’s path into Breath of the Wild. The Hyrule Compendium offers explanations for Cursed Bokoblins, Cursed Lizalfos, and Cursed Moblins. In fact, each of the three enemy bios shares one interesting tidbit of information: they all live a pitiful “sort-of life” with no intelligence whatsoever. At this point, I started to connect many dots and I hope that you are starting to as well. Besides the aforementioned monsters, what else do we know of that has a pitiful, mindless existence, with no desire other than to wreak havoc? Guardians, the Blight Ganons, and Calamity Ganon all come to mind. Guardians definitely fit the bill of reanimation, but for the Blights and Calamity Ganon, it seems that Malice was able to combine with Sheikah technology to form a functioning body.

As we saw in Skyward Sword in Ghirahim’s powers and minions, Malice has the ability to reanimate inanimate objects and corpses. Malice also acts as a virus, taking over its host and using it as a vessel to do Demise’s bidding. The reason it still exists in Breath of the Wild is that Demise’s curse at the end of Skyward Sword was Malice. His body may have been destroyed, but his will remains in the form of Malice, which will never cease to exist. While Malice-controlled monsters and mini-bosses are enough to stop the villagers that end up needing Link to complete their dungeon for them, sometimes it takes the full power of Malice to take on the Goddess’ Chosen Hero. This is when the Malice gets enraged, ditches its host, and takes on Link as the tusked Ganon, only to be stopped because he traded wits for blind, raw power. When it inevitably loses, Malice is weakened and dispersed, but never completely destroyed, as per Demise’s curse of reincarnation, until the next time it finds a worthy host.

Dark Beast Ganon himself, a being of pure Malice, is most likely the final form of Malice, so to speak. It seems that over the timeline, Malice started out as a form of magic used by Demise and Ghirahim to reanimate dead Bokoblins or to give life to inanimate objects. However, as the pattern shows, it required a host. It is also important to note that Ghirahim’s magic is closely connected to Demise, the source of all Malice in the Legend of Zelda universe. My theory is that over the thousands and thousands of years between Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild, Malice evolved out of needing a host, and started to be able to act as its own being. This is not to say it can’t take over a host anymore, as can be seen by the corrupted dragon Naydra, but that it started to gain more of its own form, as seen by the eyeballs and teeth that can be seen in/on the Divine Beasts and elsewhere.

What if, over time, Malice (properly at this point its own being) became known as Ganon? When referring to Calamity Ganon, King Rhoam states, “The demon king was born into this kingdom, but his transformation into Malice created the horror you see now.” Perhaps this entire time, Ganondorf was just a vessel for Demise’s Malice, the root of Hyrule’s evil. And in consequence, Ganon merely became the name that people associated with that evil after having long forgotten about — or perhaps were completely ignorant about — the Malice behind him.  Like Vaati or Yuga, Ganondorf was nothing more than a puppet for Malice. After all, so many times after facing Ganondorf (in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess), Vaati (in Four Swords Adventures) and Yuga (in A Link Between Worlds), you face the real Ganon. And now finally with Dark Beast Ganon, who has given up on reincarnation (having a host) and has reverted to his “pure, enraged form, he is the “Hatred and Malice Incarnate.”

Of course, the appearance of Malice doesn’t always happen. Most notably, the Malice doesn’t recur until Ocarina of Time. Encounter with Vaati in The Minish Cap and Four Swords and Ganondorf in The Wind Waker never seems to bring about Ganon or anything that resembles Demise’s Malice. I believe these non-appearances could explain why Dark Beast Ganon only comes out when his host has lost his battle: Ganon (and perhaps Vaati at first) most likely does not favor the tradeoff between physical power and brain power. When Ganon becomes enraged, he loses his mind, quite literally; when he is more calm and calculated (like in The Wind Waker), he trades power for planning. We can glean from this that Malice is the essence of Demise. It has been around since the very beginning with a hatred for the Goddess’ world and its influence on that world can help explain the Zelda universe as we know it.

While I’m sure Nintendo didn’t have in mind the concept of Malice when they first created the series or even as far into the series as Twilight Princess, that Nintendo can wrap the story on itself and potentially use references to reimagine and recreate the origin of Hyrule is impressive. While I may not have learned much more about the Stone Taluses of Breath of the Wild, my journey has certainly led me down an intriguing path that stretches throughout the entire Legend of Zelda series. This has certainly changed the way that I think about the monsters and bosses exploding into purple dust.

Luke Oprondek
Hometown: Chicago, IL Favorite Zelda game: Majora's Mask (and there's no close second.) Favorite thing about Zelda: The music! Currently saving Hyrule from the Calamity Ganon.