Windwaker is without a doubt a controversial game among Zelda fans, partially for its love-it-or-hate-it cel-shaded graphics, partially for the tons of repetitive sailing throughout the game, and also partly because of the ending to the story. For those of you who have not completed the game and are concerned about spoilers, stay away from this article. For the rest of you, let us explore the ending to this interesting chapter of the Zelda universe.
Ever since the game first came out, I have read numerous complaints on the Internet about Windwaker’s conclusion; specifically about how Hyrule itself is never fully recovered and left for eternity under the waves. Because of Hyrule’s soggy fate, many belive that their work throughout the game was in vain, while some feel that Ganon had actually been victorious this time because Hyrule was effectively destroyed.
My husband recently conquered the game for the first time, which made me happy because I could watch the conclusion again and we could finally discuss the ending. He was a little surprised by the Hylian King’s decision to scuttle the land, especially when the king had obtained the Triforce and could have wished for the restoration of Hyrule and for Ganondorf to be exiled (again). Such a solution would have followed the basic Zelda formula (and that solution was exactly what I expected when I first played through the game), but let’s explore the story, why Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule did what he did, and whether or not Hyrule’s destruction could be considered a victory for Ganondorf.
Within the game, it is told that when Ganondorf returned to the Hyrule and started spreading darkness and despair across the land, Daphnes alone did not have the power to stop the reign of terror. Desperate, the Hylian King begged the gods for help. The gods warned a worthy few to head for high ground and then flooded the land, sealing both Ganondorf and Hyrule under the waves for many generations. For that time, Ganondorf was defeated because not all of Hyrule was lost and there were survivors who adapted and started a new way of life. Eventually, Ganondorf returned and gained enough power to start trouble again, or at least search for the heir of Royal Family who guarded the Triforce of Wisdom.
Of course, as Ganondorf sent out the Helmaroc King to kidnap all the local blonde girls, Tetra quite literally fell into Link’s life and about ten minutes later his sister was stolen away before his very eyes. So he left his home in search of his sister, he was discovered by a talking boat, the boat turned out to be the ancient King of Hyrule, and the king was very concerned that Ganondorf would soon rise to power and taint the world once more.
By the end of the game, Ganondorf found the Triforce again and came within inches of having his wishes of Hyrule to himself granted, but the Triforce was taken from beneath his large nose. The King of Hyrule placed a hand on the Triforce’s golden surface and requested that the gods flood Hyrule forever. Link, Tetra, and Ganondorf were soon locked in mortal combat, which resulted in Ganondorf getting a sword through the head and turning into stone, while the kids were sent back up to the surface, where they could enjoy a brighter future.
It’s a bit of a downer ending because Hyrule is gone for good. In fact, when Tetra/Zelda told Daphnes her intention of finding and establishing another Hyrule, he insisted that the new land be their land, as though he wanted the shadow and memory of the ancient kingdom to fade forever; an unusual request for one who felt so “bound to Hyrule.”
So why flood the land? Why destroy its legacy? Why not boot Ganondorf out of the picture and return the world to its former glory? Why not give the people on the surface better lives, more land, greater resources, and a rich history to rediscover?
Why? Because Ganondorf would come back. As long as Hyrule existed, Ganondorf had a passion, a purpose, a goal. The island folk on the surface had no idea of the world below and lived simple, happy lives, but as long as Hyrule slept under the waves, Ganondorf would always be a threat to both worlds. By destroying the land, the King of Hyrule robbed Ganondorf of his incentive to return. Daphnes wished for hope for the future and one of the best ways to ensure that the people on the surface would be safe was to get rid of the unobtainable prize below.
So, with Hyrule destroyed, did Ganondorf “win this round?” Far from it. In his epic speech that described his motives, Ganondorf stated that he wanted Hyrule because it was better, kinder, and gentler then the deserts of the Haunted Wasteland.
According to this quote, one is led to believe that Ganondorf had no intention of destroying Hyrule at all, so much as he wanted a better home for himself and his people. Over time, his desire for the land may have turned into an unhealthy obsession and it became the goal–the haven–that he waited for centuries to obtain. By the time the world was first flooded, Ganondorf’s people were long gone and Hyrule was all he had. Bitter that the gods had betrayed him and foiled his plans for the nth time, he latched onto the goal of regaining Hyrule perhaps out of stubbornness, as well as a desire to regain the glory of the past.
When Daphnes washed away Hyrule, he defeated Ganondorf on a level that was perhaps far more devastating than any of Ganon’s previous (according to the order in which the games were published) defeats; in Windwaker, Daphnes sacrificed his beloved land (as well as himself) and in turn robbed Ganondorf of so much. As the water began to pour down and all hope of regaining Hyrule was lost, Ganondorf’s mad laughter was telling of how he had finally snapped.
Can you imagine? All that work, all that energy, all that desire for something–across hundreds of achingly long years–and then it’s gone. Forever. Some people complained that “Ganon won” in Windwaker, but Ganondorf got pwned.
I daresay that Ganondorf loved the land… too much. He wanted Hyrule so badly, yet as we’ve seen in Ocarina of Time, the land suffers under his care. Is this out of laziness on his part? Or spite? Perhaps, but I doubt it. My husband made an interesting point concerning the state of Hyrule under Ganon’s rule: what if, much as it does in the Sacred Realm/Dark World, the nature of whomever touches the Triforce reflects itself onto Hyrule? Perhaps Ganondorf’s evil nature is a curse not only to the land but also to himself–that as long as he uses the power of the Triforce to obtain Hyrule, the luscious realm will inevitably, unintentionally wilt under his reign. This, of course, is all speculation and we don’t know for sure, but I would love to hear your thoughts on that idea.
Finally, the other complaint that is common about Windwaker’s conclusion is if Link’s toils throughout the game were in vain. No, because without his help, Ganondorf would have surely obtained the Triforce, restored Hyrule, then swiftly watch the kingdom deteriorate and the people suffer. In Windwaker, Link saved his sister, maintained the status quo of the world (aka. no one on the surface aside from a few main characters ever realized there was any danger of their lives changing), helped defeat the lurking evil that haunted the realm for centuries, and helped ensure a safer tomorrow. Link is indeed a hero in this game, albeit a very short one. ^_~Follow This Entry | Read Other Posts by ShawnaDuck