New Tears of the Kingdom trailer has reignited the Zonai Zelda theory

Image: Nintendo
In 2023, Polygon is embarking on a Zeldathon. Join us on our journey through The Legend of Zelda series, from the original 1986 game to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and beyond.

The Floria River gently winds around the Faron Grasslands, a watery chasm that must be crossed before reaching the Zonai Ruins. Said ruins are tucked inside the dense forests of the area, where monoliths built by the Zonai still stand despite the centuries that have passed. Perhaps they were built even before Hyrule existed.

For most The Legend of Zelda: Breath of Wild players, it’s nothing more than a piece of land on Hyrule’s massive map, with some structures, mysterious runes, and a few questlines. You may have also picked up Breath of the Wild’s Barbarian Armor in Faron — the item description nods once more to the “ancient warlike tribe” that lived in this area — and moved on.

But there’s a group of Zelda theorists expecting the Zonai to play a bigger part in the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. And they’ve finally got their undeniable proof.

The mystery of the Zonai Ruins and the prehistoric tribe, separate from the Sheikah, that inhabited this area has intrigued Zelda fans for years. Twitter and Reddit have been overwhelmed with analysis, and YouTube creators have been roused by any nod from Nintendo that furthers the theory. Some believe the Zonai are connected to the powers of the Triforce and its gods: power, courage, and wisdom. There’s a potential theory that’s hinted at in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, too, another game that’s been theorized to be connected to Tears of the Kingdom. Zonai theories have been talked about so much that the tribe has almost become a meme; where there are Zonai theorists, there are always naysayers telling the analysts to shut up already.

As of Tuesday, however, the Zonai enthusiasts have been vindicated: While some fans have thought there was Zonai symbolism in earlier trailers, the March gameplay presentation with producer Eiji Aonuma has confirmed the tie-in for the first time. It’s a small moment, really. Link is up on a sky island battling a Construct with several sticks; once he defeats the new enemy, he picks up a few of its leftover pieces, one of which is called a “Zonai Charge.”

The inclusion of those two little words lends credence to earlier theories about more esoteric clues of the Zonai’s influence; Breath of the Wild includes lots of ancient architecture depicting different creatures, like serpents and dragons, with a specifically styled rune carving. Some theorists thought they recognized those carvings in Tears of the Kingdom’s marketing material, including the game’s very logo.

The Zonai Charge item doesn’t really answer any questions about the Zonai, though. Who are they? Where did they go? Are they really extinct? Are they connected to the gods? What are Zonai Charges used for? But it does suggest that Tears of the Kingdom might have some answers. Personally, I think the Zonai Charge might be connected to those little green vials that hang from Link’s belt — maybe they even power some of his new abilities. The Construct was shown on the sky islands specifically, and perhaps there’s a connection there.

Or maybe these aren’t even important details at all, and Nintendo’s thrown us a red herring. Tears of the Kingdom’s release date is May 12, so we’ve got just over a month to stew on it.

Read more
Back to top ↑