Strong, fierce, desert, thief. These are all terms that come to mind when we think of the Gerudo tribe that was first introduced to us as far back as A Link to the Past. These descriptions only scratch the surface of their incredible culture. Let’s scrape away the dirt, part the sands, and explore the history of the Gerudo.
The origin of the Gerudo is surrounded in mystery, but their creation may not be that different from the Hylians. In Legend of Zelda lore, Hyrule was created at the beginning of time by the goddesses Din, Farore, and Nayru. They entrusted another goddess, Hylia, with protecting their essence: the Triforce. The entire series is based on the conflict surrounding the Triforce, so it wasn’t long before an evil deity sought to claim it as his own and conquer the world. Hylia saved any surviving Hylians by sending them into the sky, and then sacrificed her divinity to be born mortal and one day use the Triforce to defeat Demise. The Gerudo are rumored to worship a less common deity known as the Goddess of the Sand. We have seen her featured as the face of the Desert Colossus, a grand statue within the Spirit Temple, and in Arbiter’s Grounds. Not much is known about her, but that could be a result of her service to Demise when he first tried to capture the Triforce. The possibility exists that Demise created her to be his devoted warrior. After his defeat at the hands of Fi and Hylia’s chosen hero, the Goddess of the Sand birthed the Gerudo.
Now we have a firm foundation for their origin, so let’s take a look at their culture. As a goddess, she would have created the Gerudo in her own image, possibly even taking some traits from Demise. Their main features include varying shades of brown skin, red hair, and yellow eyes. They are considered to possess exotic beauty, and as such are referred to as brilliant, vigilant, and resilient desert flowers in Breath of the Wild. The Gerudo were thieves, and lived almost like outcasts in the desert, at least in Ocarina of Time. This could be in part because of the goddess they worshiped, or simply the result of another dispute started by the royal family of Hyrule. Life in the desert was a test of strength all on its own. The scorching heat seared the day, while a frigid wind froze the night. Surviving the extreme elements alone is difficult enough, but the Gerudo did it on a bare minimum with precious little food and water, all of the clothes made with stolen cloth and needle, and trained with borrowed horses and weapons. Imagine being a proud people, but the only way to live was by taking what belonged to others. That didn’t stop them from taking pride in the spoils they reaped from the theft they committed. No doubt, death always followed them: starvation, dehydration, untreatable illnesses, so only the strongest could ever endure. Perhaps the Goddess of the Sand chose the desert as their home for this reason.
Along with being thieves, Gerudo prided themselves on their skills in archery, equestrianism, and the sword. This brings me back to Demise. The Goddess of the Sand created her people and charged them with becoming the strongest warriors to serve their king and worship him as a god, the single male born every one hundred years. Based on this information, we can make an assumption on a range for the Gerudo lifespan. What if the Goddess of the Sand was trying to revive her king, and failed until Ganondorf was born? Well, at long last, she succeeded, and despite the failures of the kings before him, Ganondorf was ready to bring the Gerudo the life they deserved. Only in Wind Waker do we learn that liberating his people from poverty fueled his endeavor for the Triforce, but in the end greed certainly corrupted him.
Not all saw Ganondorf as a god. Some questioned his motives, and the means in which he went about achieving the power that would bring prosperity to the Gerudo. The most notable being the Sage of Spirit, the exalted Nabooru, from Ocarina of Time. There’s plenty of speculation around how or why she became the second in command, so we won’t dwell on that. Let us, however, explore the way she shook the sands beneath the Gerudo by defying their culture, their way of life for hundreds of years, maybe a millenia. As a Sage, Nabooru saw the King of Thieves for the monster he was and did what no Gerudo had done before, betray their king. Her kin, even though some might have agreed that action was necessary, would have viewed her as a traitor and considered her acts to be blasphemous. Regardless, Nabooru’s bravery would be written into the bloody history of Hyrule.
Then what happened? The infamous Legend of Zelda timeline splits, but what was the fate of the Gerudo? Ultimately, it’s safe to say they learned humility and were truly welcomed, even befriended, by the royal family of Hyrule. Whether the Gerudo faced a devastating flood, escape the desert that shared their namesake, or were almost entirely slaughtered by Ganon, we know the Gerudo are survivors. Thousands of years later, they built a bizarre to expand their trade with both genders, have become close friends with Zelda and her family, and Nabooru’s legend is remembered through a Divine Beast named Vah Naboris.
The Gerudo are quite obviously my favorite race of the Legend of Zelda series. Seeing their glorious return in Breath of the Wild and their culture expanded was a dream come true. Although, in my opinion, Urbosa’s loyalties are misplaced, she is my favorite vai. Proud, strong, and honorable, this is what it means to be Gerudo, no matter which king they pledge their allegiance.