September 15, 2017
Chris Colfer once said, “A villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told.” I’ve always loved this quote, and when it comes to villains, my favorites are always the ones that have some depth. To me, it’s not enough for a villain to simply be evil, or to want to take over the world. I love when I can sympathize with a villain. It makes them so much more relatable, and in some cases even leads me to cheering for the bad guy. Villains like Mr. Freeze, Anakin Skywalker, the Joker (in some of his back stories), and even Hilda from A Link Between Worlds all had a tragic cause for their turns to evil.
And then there’s Ganondorf. Most portrayals of Ganondorf show him as a very one-dimensional villain. He only craves power, with no reason beyond being a manifestation of Demise’s hatred. Even the Triforce itself identifies this, and makes sure Ganondorf only receives that piece. To me, this has always been a flaw in the Zelda series. It’s hard to really care about a villain who is just evil for evil’s sake.
But there is one version of Ganondorf that has some depth. We only see it in a brief speech, but it was enough to make me care about him as more than just pure evil. At the end of Wind Waker, just before the final battle, Ganondorf finally gives us some insight into his motives.
Ganondorf and his people lived in a harsh, dangerous environment. The winds burned his people by day and froze them by night. The winds that blew over other parts of Hyrule, however, didn’t mark death and struggle.
Ganondorf was resentful of those parts of Hyrule and wanted them for his own people. That is part of why he has attempted to take over Hyrule time and time again.
When viewed this way, one can at least understand why Ganondorf acted the way he did. He wanted something better for himself and his people. Sure, his methods were undeniably evil, but the root of his desires was much more pure and innocent. While he ponders the nature of his actions, you can almost imagine a scenario where Ganondorf turns his back on evil and is redeemed. However, once King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule touches the Triforce and dooms Ganondorf to be sealed in the flooded Hyrule, Ganondorf snaps, and all hope for him is lost. As the Joker famously said in The Killing Joke, “All it takes is one bad day.”
For me, this reflective, deeper side of Ganondorf is why his portrayal in Wind Waker is probably my favorite in the Zelda series. It finally shows that there’s more to him than mindless evil or thirst for power. It finally shows a character who at least had a good reason for his actions. It also gives you some hope, however slim, that Ganondorf can be redeemed. And in his death, Ganondorf finally gets to feel the wind he craved so badly. Now that’s a villain I can sympathize with.