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Who Is the Demon King?

by Nik Cabezas

Nik explores the origin of the Demon King, Demise, and the possible reason for his existence.


Before Breath of the Wild (and, subsequently, Tears of the Kingdom) came along, I had a more difficult time choosing my favourite Zelda game. Anytime this question was brought up, I answered with either Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, or Skyward Sword, usually depending on whichever one I had played last. Out of the three, Skyward Sword tends to be the more polarizing one, but I have always loved it–so much so that I once played through it eight times back to back!

While I understand some of the criticism it gets, something that allows me to overlook its flaws is how much lore it brings to the table. As the first game in the series canon, it needs to tell some semblance of an origin story and answer a lot of questions, which I would argue it does very well. For instance, possibly the biggest question it answers is the nature of the evil that returns time after time to threaten Hyrule. Ganon, of course, is the most common example, but it all goes back to the Demon King who started it all: Demise.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love me some Ganondorf. But since we’ve seen him so much, we already know who he is, what his motivations are, and how he came to be. On the other hand, I find Demise to be so fascinating because despite how integral he is, his story is left ambiguous. For a long time, this was a question without an answer for me, but during my most recent playthrough of Skyward Sword, a thought struck me during Zelda’s big exposition speech, and a theory began to form.

Okay, let me backpedal a bit and say that it wasn’t a question totally without an answer, as there are a decent number of theories already out there as to who Demise is. Several ideas have been put forward, such as his being from Lorule, his being a former Hero who became disillusioned with the Goddesses, or even his being a former god himself who betrayed the Goddesses (or was betrayed by them). So, with that being said, I thought I would throw my two cents in.

First of all, let’s recap what we know about the Demon King. In Skyward Sword, it is explained that long before the events of the game, Demise emerged through a fissure in the earth. During his attempt to conquer the world, the Goddess Hylia and her forces fought back and eventually sealed him away, but not before sending the surviving Hylians into the sky on a floating island. He could not be sealed forever, though, and, knowing that the Triforce could not be used by the gods, Hylia decided to reincarnate herself as a human.

When Demise eventually does break free and takes the form of a giant avocado with teeth, he is destroyed when Hylia’s chosen hero wishes on the Triforce. Unfortunately, Demise’s servant Ghirahim is able to resurrect him in the past, and so Demise faces the hero in a one-on-one duel that ends ultimately in his defeat. During this brief showdown, Demise makes his disdain for the gods pretty evident. So much so that, in his final moments, he curses Link and Zelda to be forever bound to an incarnation of his hatred.

This concept struck me as odd. Seeking the power to rule over everything is one thing, but to harbour such an intense hatred shows that they have some sort of history. Of course, you could say that his hatred comes simply from Hylia opposing him, but I don’t believe that’s the case. For one thing, he seems to have some sort of admiration for Hylia, as he comments on the “magnificence of her previous form.” I admit that’s a very small detail, but it's still worth considering, I think. Maybe this is just me, but I got the feeling that he sees Hylia as more of a respectable adversary. With this in mind, when he speaks about his hatred of the gods, it may be solely directed at the three Golden Goddesses, Din, Farore, and Nayru.

After all, Demise and Hylia have quite a bit in common and are surrounded by symbols of duality. Hylia’s realm seems to be thought of as the heavens, whereas Demise emerged from beneath the ground. Hylia was charged with guarding the Triforce, while Demise’s primary goal is to claim the Triforce. Hylia reincarnated herself as a human to be able to use the Triforce, and, in the end, Demise does the same thing and becomes Ganondorf. It was while thinking of their duality that it finally hit me. Maybe it’s just that simple: Demise exists because Hylia exists.

Think about it: in Ocarina of Time, we are given the first-ever glimpse into the creation of Hyrule by the three goddesses. Din created the physical world, Farore filled it with life, and Nayru created the laws of the world. This was not the last of their works, however, as they then left behind the Triforce with Hylia to guard it. Now, as she is not mentioned with them in the creation story, and they seem to have some sort of authority over her, I think it’s safe to say that the three goddesses created Hylia as well. Unfortunately, thanks to Nayru, laws were also made to be upheld, such as the laws of balance in the universe.

So, what if that’s it? Instead of Demise’s being a scorned hero from the past or the fourth piece of the Triforce, maybe it’s much simpler. What if the second that Hylia was created with the job of keeping the Triforce safe, Demise also came into being as her opposition, purely because the laws of balance demanded it?

If this is true, it would mean that Demise began as something more similar to a force of nature, a being who existed because he had to. In that case, his hatred of the gods who wanted to destroy him for merely existing, when they practically created him in the first place, seems a bit more justified. This doesn’t make him any less evil (and I’m not saying he deserves to win), but, to me, this is a satisfying and somewhat sympathetic answer to the question,” Who is the Demon King?”

What do you think? Do you have any theories on the origins of the Demon King? I’d love to know them! Follow me on Twitter at @JustShortofHero to share your thoughts!


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