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Will ‘The Legend of Zelda’s Demise Come Back To Haunt ‘Tears of the Kingdom’?

Demise in 'The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword'

Every story has a beginning. In the case of The Legend of Zelda, that beginning would need to explain why the poor people of Hyrule are beset with ridiculous disaster upon ridiculous disaster throughout the ages. In 2011, Nintendo actually gave us this origin story in the form of Skyward Sword, never mind that it came 25 years after the release of the first Zelda game. (The Hyrule Historia book released in the aftermath of Skyward Sword is how we found out there was an official timeline in the first place.)

While the most famous villain (and cause of ridiculous disasters) in the series is Ganon / Ganondorf, Ganondorf is surprisingly not the origin of this story. That honor goes to the Demon King, Demise, who has only been seen in Skyward Sword—so far. A popular theory holds that Demise may return in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and that he’s actually the final form of Ganon / Ganondorf. So who the hell is this guy, and why is this one-hit wonder the villain who walked so Ganondorf could run?

Okay, so what’s Demise’s deal?

Demise goes back almost as far as The Legend of Zelda‘s creation myth. Three goddesses—Din, Farore, and Nayru—create the world out of chaos. When they peace out, they leave the Triforce behind. And they ask the goddess friend they ditch, Hylia, to look after both their new world and the Triforce. Real nice. The subsequent time period is called the Era of Hylia, and to be frank, we have absolutely no idea how long that lasts.

We do know that things go great until Demise shows up. He enters the scene out of nowhere and with the highest possible drama: “The earth cracked wide and malevolent forces rushed forth from the fissure.” I guess that’s what you get for crafting your world out of chaos? Demise is the Demon King and the head of these new forces. Because he is a bad guy (he just is), he wants to steal the Triforce from Hylia and use its power to rule the world himself.

Spoilers for Skyward Sword from here on out!

Demise and his forces immediately start killing everyone and burning everything they see. It gets real bad, real fast. To both protect the Triforce and at least some of the surface inhabitants, Hylia gathers all the humans on one piece of land, hides the Triforce within it, and sends it up into the sky. She and the five remaining tribes on the surface—including Gorons and friends—wage an all-out war on Demise. Hylia is gravely wounded, but her forces succeed. (This is the point where Hylia makes all her moves, including reincarnating herself as a human, but this story is about Demise, dammit.)

Demise is sealed within the appropriately named Sealed Grounds, outside of what will eventually become the Temple of Time. Either from the effects of the seal or from the corrosive effects of his own power, Demise takes on a monstrous, bestial form known as the Imprisoned. Throughout the next hundreds or thousands of years, the Imprisoned will continually break the seal, attempt escape, and need to be re-sealed.

That’s nice, but what’s that got to do with The Legend of Zelda series as a whole?

Demise in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Eventually, Demise’s servant and sword-turned-sexy-queer-coded-humanoid, Ghirahim, enacts a plan to resurrect Demise. This plan entails Ghirahim traveling into the past and performing a ritual to suck Zelda’s (i.e., Hylia’s) soul of out her body and into the Imprisoned, thereby making him Demise again. And so it comes to be that Link and Demise have an epic battle.

Of course, Link wins. A what initially appears to be a compliment becomes a curse that places over 35 years’ worth of games on a single timeline and causes an awful lot of woe to an awful lot of innocent fictional characters. Here’s what Demise says when you defeat him, right before he dies; note that this line has no accompanying music and virtually no sound effects:

“Extraordinary. You stand as a paragon of your kind, human. You fight like no man or demon I have ever known. Though this is not the end. My hate … never perishes. It is born anew in a cycle with no end! I will rise again! (dramatic pointing finger) 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 will forever follow your kind, dooming them to wander blood-soaked in a sea of darkness for all time!”

Extremely relaxed, on all fronts. “Incarnation” is bolded in the game. Nintendo is inviting the player to think of all the big baddies they’ve faced in the Zelda series: Ganon / Ganondorf, Vaati, Agahnim, etc. They all pop up because of this guy and this curse. It sends a chill down your spine when you play it.

So yes, Demise is dead (ostensibly), but has he ever really gone?

(featured image: Nintendo)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.