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What is evil? What if some actions help one group of people but harm another? If you had the power and will to promote your downtrodden people from obscurity to a place of prominence, would you do it?
Welcome to ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, a series where I show you a different look at the villains of video games past and present. This time: Ganondorf of the Legend of Zelda series.
He is called the “Dark King of Evil” (Ocarina of Time) and thought to be a powerful sorcerer. He is blamed for everything from the flooding of the world (Wind Waker) to the corruption of the Sacred (A Link to the Past) and Twilight (Twilight Princess) Realms. But other than being the king of his people, the Gerudo, and possessing the Triforce of Power, we know very little about him in most games.
Let me paint you a picture of predestination.
He was born to a race of women. Every hundred years, the Gerudo produce a male heir who, according to their prophecy, will lead them to their next victory (Ocarina of Time). When he was born, Ganondorf was believed to be the savior of his entire race, trained to be the best warrior and then set up as the ruler of his people.
The Gerudo are a small race among the greater ones of the Zora, Gorons and even Deku in the land of Hyrule. Since they are a race of only women, they must seek out male companions in order to have children – a Gossip Stone in Ocarina of Time says as much: “Gerudos sometimes come to Hyrule Castle Town to look for boyfriends."
This fact probably does not go over well with the Hyrulian women who must compete with these exotic women for sexual partners and husbands. It is easy to imagine Hyrulian women using the term Gerudo as a synonym for husband-taker or even prostitutes – the Gerudo need males for procreation; it is easy to imagine them preying on males for money and the chance to have children.
Ganondorf was born into this situation. That fact that he waits many years before taking away a weapon of mass destruction, the Triforce of Power, from his hated neighbors, the Hylians, is a tribute to his patience as a leader. He slowly works his plans, maybe even for peace, before finally taking matters into own hands for his people. Literally, he grabs the Triforce and leaves.
This is when things go downhill for him.
He was not meant to have this power. He was brainwashed into believing that he was unstoppable and that own his will mattered from a people who thought him their savior. His innate magical abilities – most likely the result of genetics from his Hyrulian father – were strengthened by this divine artifact and he was mostly likely driven mad.
The fates seem to have a sense of humor within the Legend of Zelda series too. Link, who often naturally possesses the Triforce of Courage from birth, is put into situations where he must exercise his power. Zelda too, possessing the Triforce of Wisdom, must use her gift on a frequent basis. Is it any wonder then that Ganondorf, once the Triforce of Power bonds with him, seeks to use his power as well?
Using this newfound power, Ganondorf, now known just as Ganon, leads his people to take over the Sacred Realm but is imprisoned (A Link to the Past). Now that the Triforce of Power has bonded with him, he constantly craves more power but is immortal. Each time the world is changed, be it via the actions of the Skull Kid (Majora’s Mask) or flooding (Wind Waker), he is stuck forever – the artifact transcends time — as a facet of the Triforce itself.
Ganon might be evil but it is an evil born out of wanting good and making one fatal mistake. Ganondorf dared to touch the goddess and is now forever tied to the Sisyphean task of trying to take over the world, a goal he was fated by either his own people or even the goddess herself – it is convenient that he was able to get the Triforce of Power when, conceivably, others have tried before.