Link's New Tears of the Kingdom Arm Connects to an Ancient Hyrule Culture
It’s all water-based Zonai magic.
Despite the hype cycle ramping up with a March 28 gameplay showcase hosted by producer Eiji Aonuma, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s story remains largely a mystery. We do know that something happens to Link’s arm after he and Zelda discover a mummified body underground, and we also know that floating islands have appeared in the skies of Hyrule. But one detail from the gameplay preview may be the clue to unlocking the entire mystery:
Roughly three minutes into the 14-minute video, Link fights a new type of enemy called a Construct while on one of these floating islands. Upon defeating it, the Construct drops a “Soldier Construct Horn” and something called a “Zonai Charge.”
With the Breath of the Wild continuity, the Zonai was a supposedly savage tribe from the jungle-like Faron Region of Hyrule, which is the southeastern coastline of the continent. Nintendo’s Creating a Champion art book, which focuses on Breath of the Wild for the Zelda series’ 30th anniversary, explains a few rumors and legends that they were “strong magic wielders” who worshipped a water dragon and “vanished suddenly thousands of years ago.” Various ruins and Zonai towers pepper the Hyrulian landscape in Breath of the Wild, and it would seem that Tears of the Kingdom is going to explore their ancient history even more.
Whereas the Sheikah Guardians function more like robots, the Constructs seem like bundles of ceramic or metal parts jumbled together with the same kind of pale blue-green energy that powers Link’s strange new arm. Princess Zelda’s magic takes on a golden hue as it’s derived from the goddess Hylia, so this greenish magic used to seal Ganon was apparently something different.
The Zonai are represented by a spiral that can be seen throughout Hyrule. And what do you know, that spiral is remarkably similar to the waves of energy coming off the magic hand Link and Zelda discover pressed into the chest of Ganondorf’s mummified corpse in a cave beneath Hyrule Castle (as seen in the E3 2019 reveal trailer).
Malice, however, still seeps out from the body, which is the same evil energy that corrupted most of Hyrule in Breath of the Wild — and which seems to infect Link’s original arm in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment from the E3 2021 teaser.
Consider this: What if it was the Zonai that originally sealed Ganon away thousands of years ago? Could that be exactly why their entire culture disappeared?
It’s clear that Link winds up wielding the same arm that is holding that body down. Most of Link’s new abilities featured in the gameplay trailer seem to associate with the element of water: Most notably, whenever Link uses Ascend to rise through a ceiling, the animation makes it look like he is swimming upward and then breaks through the surface of some water before hopping onto the above surface. (There’s also a double-helix that surrounds the passageway, which again evokes the Zonai spiral.)
At least one gamer out there also drew similarities between this animation and the column of light that sends Link to the Silent Realm, a spiritual plane of existence he enters in Skyward Sword.
Maybe Tears of the Kingdom reworks the Silent Realm to be some kind of elemental plane of water?
Some more interesting evidence: Squiggling through the skies above Hyrule during that latest Tears of the Kingdom trailer is at least one dragon. Link encountered three serpentine spirit dragons that look very similar in Breath of the Wild: Farosh, Naydra, and Dinraal who represent Lightning, Ice, and Fire, respectively. Their names and elements reflect the three progenitor Golden Goddesses in Zelda lore. So what happened to the water dragon associated with the Zonai?
Taking a deeper dive into wider Zelda lore, Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple features a number of dragon statues that we never really learn more about. More salient, Faron is the name of a water dragon that, along with two others, oversees the surface world in Skyward Sword. (Remember that Faron is also the location of the Zonai Ruins in Breath of the Wild!) Faron is roughly on par with Hylia as a deity in Skyward Sword, so it stands to reason that they could be the patron god of the Zonai while Hylia is the patron god of the Hylians.
Tears of the Kingdom may riff on Skyward Sword a lot thus far considering all the floating islands in the sky, but the titular “tears” of the kingdom just might be the biggest clue of all that the game will explore the water magic of the Zonai more than anything else.