My academic background is in Japanese language and culture. I love gaming, and I particularly love "The Legend of Zelda" series.
With each subsequent release, the number of species and races that appear in the Legend of Zelda only increases. Some have been mainstays since the beginning of the series, and some are already leaving their marks as future classics. This list represents the best of the best—both old and new—and the types of people and creatures that make The Legend of Zelda the great, intriguing world that it is.
If this choice for #1 seems like a cop-out, it's because it kinda is. Quite simply, there would be no Legend of Zelda without the Hylians, the central race of the game. Both the titular character (Zelda) and the constant hero (Link) are Hylians—even after thousands of years and the near eradication of their kind due to constant wars and relocation. Aside from the boost that boasting the main characters gives the Hylians, they are also skilled at magic and descended from a Goddess.
There's also the fact that they kind of established Hyrule and run most of the show. As number one, they're pretty much a given.
The Sheikah are another ancient (and considered extinct) race of humans that have appeared in nearly every Zelda game, thanks to their most famous member (or, incarnation, really), Impa. Impa serves as a connection between Link and Zelda. Indeed, Impa is the only official Sheikah to be depicted in the entire Zelda universe, although it is implied in Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time that there are more "around." (Sheik, while posing as a Sheikah, is, of course, Princess Zelda, a Hylian, in disguise.) Other supposed Sheikah descendants are Impaz (possibly full-blooded) and Madame Fanadi, both from Twilight Princess.
The Source of Many Mysteries
But the Sheikah get such a high spot for more than just their pervasiveness (through one incarnation of a character) in the series: without them, many of the mysteries and items seen throughout the games wouldn't even exist. The Sheikah dealt in dark arts and secrecy, and although they fiercely serve the Goddesses and the Hylian Royal Family, it's implied particularly in Ocarina of Time via the Bottom of the Well and the Shadow Temple that they went to great, grotesque lengths to keep the peace in the kingdom. They are responsible for the gossip stones strewn across the land—one popular theory suggests that the gossip stones were spies on the lookout for traitors to the crown. Their famous symbol of a single eye with a teardrop also makes numerous appearances in the most random places, such as in the Twilight Realm and on various NPC's clothing, incurring heated debates throughout the fandom.
The Sheikah are also responsible for the founding of Kakariko Village, the most famous settlement in the series outside of Hyrule Castle's various settlements. Originally, it was meant to be a Sheikah exclusive village, but after their numbers drastically dwindled for unknown reasons, Impa turned it over to the humans and Hylians. The Sheikah's virtual disappearance from society early on in the timeline also contributes to their air of impenetrable mystery.
The Gerudo are without a doubt one of the most unique human races in the entire series. They are a tribe consisting only of women, though a male is born amongst them once every 100 years—who is then instantly declared their king. This led to the rise in power of Ganondorf, the Gerudo King, during the events of Ocarina of Time. (The rest of his story is, as they say, history.) Although there are many Gerudo (women) shown in the games they appear in, only a few are special enough to be given names. These include Nabooru, arguably the most famous Gerudo woman; Aveil, a pirate captain in Majora's Mask; and the witches Kotake and Koume.
A Skilled and Powerful Tribe
Their initial legacy lives through bawdy stories of food, weapons, and, ahem, "partner raids" of Hylian settlements, but the Gerudo women offer more to the series than their general lawlessness. They are a shrewd tribe with the gumption to survive in Hyrule's harshest desert landscape; they are skilled horsemen and archers, and they too have left a legacy that survives on in later games that do not even directly include them. Their signature hair, eyes, and noses can be seen in the likes of Telma from Twilight Princess and the sisters Jolene and Joanne from Phantom Hourglass.
Although the Zora have appeared as enemies (or just really antagonistic overseers) in the earliest Zelda titles, starting in Ocarina of Time, they were shown to be a civilized society with their own monarchy and history. These aquatic humanoids don't have much mystery to them, but they are charged with the overseeing of Hyrule's waterways and have thus created a close relationship with the Hylian Royal Family, bested only by the Sheikah.
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A Necessary Evolution
The Zora made their way this high up the list for one other big reason: by the time of The Wind Waker, they have completely transformed/evolved into an entirely different race—the Rito, a birdlike people with the ability to fly. This was a necessary evolution. as there were no fish in the Great Sea, and thus the Zora had to evolve in order to survive. They evolved with the help of the Great Valoo, a dragon who at the time of their coming of age ceremonies, gives young Rito one of his scales so that they may fly.
"Fish" evolving into birds is indeed a real-world phenomenon, but the Zora managed to do it in a couple hundred years. Give them a medal.
Another group to make their first appearance in Ocarina of Time (but have been in just about every other game to follow since), the Gorons are a humanoid folk who hail from the mountains (usually Death Mountain) and live off the nutritious rocks found around. Physically, they started off as bare before "evolving" to wearing loincloths and sporting intricate tattoos . . . some even grew a variant of hair. Gorons also have the unique abilities to roll themselves up into giant balls and slide down mountainsides, and climb on one another and propel each other to higher elevations.
Gorons have enjoyed a certain stability in the series that most other groups never get to see and have become a solid staple in the Zelda world. Even when Hyrule flooded, more Gorons were found hailing from far away lands, insinuating that there are Goron colonies all over the world. They've always been portrayed as helpful and friendly, if not vehemently protective of their ways of life, and loyal to points of distrust. But they are easy to get through to and once they trust, they trust for life.
Technologically and Culturally Advanced
Aside from their status in the series and their unique physical traits, Gorons have also displayed advanced technological skills in their mines and a deep spirituality perhaps only rivaled by the Hylians. In Twilight Princess, they also display an advanced civilization with magnetic tools and cultural sports, such as wrestling and boxing. They are also fierce warriors with very little fear and gumption to explore and help Link the hero whenever possible. Their knack for exploration and trade are especially showcased in Skyward Sword and The Wind Waker. Zelda would be a very different looking and feeling series without the trusty Gorons to populate it.
Like the Zora, the Kokiri are a group that started off in one form, and by the time of The Wind Waker, had completely transformed. In the beginning, they were perpetual children created by the Great Deku Tree to watch over the Kokiri Forest, the Lost Woods, and the Forest Temple. In Ocarina of Time, they were Link's companions until he ventured off and learned that he was not a Kokiri, but a Hylian—this became most evident when he stepped foot outside of the Kokiri Forest and did not die, a threat hanging over every other Kokiri.
The Kokiri often act as they look, and although some are quite clever and empathetic, overall, they live very childlike lifestyles under the guidance and tutelage of the Great Deku Tree and the fairy companions he gives them. For the most part, they don't do much in the game, but it's what happens to them after Ocarina of Time that makes them notable.
In the events preceding The Wind Waker, Hyrule was flooded and the Kokiri children were forced to leave their forest. Instead of dying, however, they were transformed into the Koroks, little wooden creatures who jingle-jangle when they move. They have a slightly larger role in The Wind Waker, and, well, look at them. They're utterly adorable.
Although thus far they've only appeared in one game (and are unlikely to appear again), the Twili from Twilight Princess made quite the splash from their one appearance, and not just for their unique, otherworldly looks.
The Twili are descended from the "Dark Interlopers" spoken of in Twilight Princess, who coveted the Triforce and were banished to the Twilight Realm, where they flourished and eventually became a peaceful people—until Zant the Usurper, with Ganondorf's power, took over and banished Princess Midna. Part of his resulting curse transformed many of the Twili into shadow monsters who, Midna says, look nothing like their original forms.
Perhaps even more mysterious than the Sheikah, the Twili have a lot of potential for expansion and development, although we'll probably never get it. But as a tribe with great magic and distinct air of mysteriousness, the Twili are one of the most intriguing groups of people in the Zelda universe.
The Minish (formerly known as the Picori) may be tiny, but they are grand in deed and thoughts. These tiny little mice-like creatures are the ones responsible for hiding money and other fun objects all across Hyrule for their larger human friends to find. It's no small (ha!) wonder that they made this list for this fact alone. But the Minish are also capable of other great (ha!) feats as well: they managed to forge a sword for the Hero of Men to use, after all. Even Vaati, the "normal"-sized villain, used to be a Minish before magicking his way to human size and attempting to control Hyrule.
Beyond that, their biggest merit is being that unseen race of creatures spread throughout Hyrule at all times, always watching the hero. Think about it: the Minish are supposedly in every game, hiding rupees and objects for the hero to find. Whether or not they will be seen again remains to be seen ( . . . ha)!
Making their debut appearance in Skyward Sword, the Kikwi nuzzled their way into fans' hearts all across the globe. From the first moment Link trips over one, a resounding "aaaww!" was heard—and that sound continues to resonate.
The Kikwi are quite adorable, and really, what more is needed? But they do have other merits, such as having very unique personalities. One Kikwi, Yerbal, is a hermit who lives up in a tree. He's a hermit because he climbed a tree and, according to Fi, Link's companion, "just never came down." The leader, Bucha, is as large as a Snorlax and fond of storing things in his back. During the course of Skyward Sword, Link speaks to all of the Kikwi, sometimes more than once, and is constantly indebted to their assistance, just as they are to his. Odds are we won't see much more of these cute creatures, but one can always hope.
If #1 was a cop-out, then #10 is probably even more so. Nonetheless, the average human (as in, not Hylian, not Sheikah, not Gerudo, etc.) is as important to the Hyrulean world as anyone else. While it's not clear as to whether or not humans are considered the base race for all other humanoids or are an offshoot of Hylians, humans are not shown much, if at all, early on in the timeline, but by the split, they are showing up in larger and larger numbers. There's a whole village of them in Twilight Princess (with more roaming the lands), islands of them in The Wind Waker, and entire nations in the Oracle series. It's shown that as time goes on, the Hylians are thinning in numbers (who can blame them, really, when Ganondorf keeps killing them all) but humans are flourishing. So, if #1 was the Hylians, it only makes sense to conclude with the humans, their new overlords.
Hyrule: An Ever-Expanding World
The land of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda is full of many kinds of people and creatures, all of which provide their own culture and means to a budding, sometimes thriving kingdom. The biggest shame of all is that many of these tribes and groups have yet to be fully expanded upon—but at the same time, that gives fans many opportunities to continue developing their theories before something canon is released.
MeMe BigBoy on July 29, 2020:
#zora on May 04, 2020:
GhostCheeks on December 18, 2018:
where are the dekus!
Slate on April 21, 2018:
WHYS DER NO DEKU?
James P on June 27, 2017:
Lets go Gerudo
Deku on April 02, 2017:
U no Deku?
Sarah Forester from Australia on September 05, 2015:
Interesting way to look at the franchise
kian on April 08, 2015:
random twili dude on May 03, 2012:
nice! i never knew LOZ had any humans until this. btw Twili are very mysterious .