The following article is only a theory, and is not meant to be taken as anything more than that. It only reflects the opinion of the writer, and not ZeldaInformer as a whole. That said, enjoy the article!
The Zelda Universe is, and always will be, full of mysteries. From the ways in which the lands of Termina and Hyrule are intertwined, to the question of who Link was really searching in the opening of Majora’s Mask. There’s one mystery however, that many feel is one of the biggest oddities in the history of Hyrule: what caused the Zoras to evolve into the Ritos. At first glance, it would seem likely that the Zoras, a tribe of aquatic fish-like creatures, would thrive in the environment after The Great Flood. So why would a tribe of fish change in an environment that seems to be more suitable? Moreover, what could cause such a change to occur? Before we explore too deep into this matter however, there is one thing that is needed to be made clear: the Rito did in fact evolve from the Zora.
We know this is true for several reasons, mainly a quote from Laruto, the Zora Sage:
“You must find the one who carries on
The one who holds this
The one who carries on the Zora bloodline is Medli, who is a member of the Rito tribe.
To go along with this, on the front of her clothing is the emblem of the Zoras, otherwise known as the Zora’s Sapphire.
It’s obvious that during the years between Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker, something happened causing the Zoras to take to the skies and grow wings. Was it natural? Or was it Nintendo feeling the need to add a new race to the series? If so, then why would they tie them to the Zora?
We all know from The Wind Waker that Hyrule has been extremely altered since it was last seen in Ocarina of Time. In the absence of a hero, the Gods resorted to flooding Hyrule to keep the Evil King Ganondorf away from the sacred land. In an oceanic environment, the Zoras would have easy access to such a place. It may be that the Gods felt Ganondorf might threaten the Zoras, who were capable of reaching Hyrule in its underwater state, so in turn they changed the Zoras into the Ritos, preventing the Evil King from ever doing such a thing. The fewer that know of Hyrule and its location, the safer Hyrule is.
There is a quote from Medli that some consider disproves this theory:
“It’s a device we Rito used before we
This seems to illustrate that the evolution between the two tribes was a gradual process, not an instant change suggested by the above theory. Unless of course, the Gods caused this gradual evolution to take place, and by making it seem natural, prevented anger towards the Gods. Fearing that if the Zora knew that they weren’t trusted by the Gods, this would cause outrage towards the Creators of Hyrule, which would not be needed in a time when the focus should be on ridding the land of the Evil King, Ganondorf. If you look at it that way, then Medli’s quote is meaningless.
It may be their location however, that caused the evolution to take place. In The Wind Waker, there is no sign of Zora’s Domain, as it was most likely lost in The Great Flood. Without a place to call home, the Zoras evacuated their Domain and began living on the recently abandoned Death Mountain. Remember, the mountain no longer serves as a habitat for the Gorons, as they have moved out into other regions of The Great Sea.
It’s here on Death Mountain, where the Zora people came in contact with Valoo, a close relative of sorts of Volvagia, and in turn changed the name of the island to Dragon Roost Isle. Valoo, who sits high atop this mountain, is described by the Rito as being the ‘sky spirit’, much in the same way that The Great Deku is called the spirit of the forest. We know from the he Great Deku Tree’s foretelling of Link’s heroic fate in Ocarina of Time that these spirits seem to have the ability to sense future events. With Valoo being a spirit as well, it’s likely that he also shares this ability, and by using it predicted that Ganondorf could possibly use the Zora to gain entrance to Hyrule. Now knowing this, he either changed the Zora himself, or drew help from the Goddesses of Creation in order to keep the land safe.
Both cases illustrate the evolution being a process ensued by the Gods, not by nature. If you take a moment to try and consider other reasons of the evolution, none seem to make sense. It would seem to make sense that the Zora may have evolved in order to gain benefits as hunters. Evolving into bird-like creatures is the perfect adaptation in an oceanic environment, as the oceans are full of that in which they hunt. In The Wind Waker, however, this is not the case. Despite your occasional Giant Octorock or Fishman, the sea is completely barren of fish. As quoted by the leader of the Salvage Corps:
“Lemme ask you something real quick:
who wanders around on a fishless sea?
I’ll tell you who, bub: Only pirates,
monsters, and treasure-hunters like
ourselves! And maybe some other things
that I’ve never heard of…”
Let us also take a moment to consider what has happened to the other races during the aftermath of The Great Flood. As we’ve come to learn in Phantom Hourglass, the Gorons and Gerudo are actually quite alive. You would think that the race in the most need to evolve would be the Gorons, yet they are seemingly unchanged from the events of Ocarina of Time, which took place hundreds of years earlier. If the Gorons found a way to survive, it’s reasonable to think that a tribe of what are essentially fish could find a way to live on as well.
It has come to be my opinion after gathering these facts, that the conversion of the Zoras into the Ritos was not the work of nature, but of the work of the Gods. Whether it was the work of the Creators of Hyrule―Din, Farore, and Nayru―to protect the legendary Kingdom of Hyrule, or the work of Valoo―the great Sky Spirit of Dragon Roost Isle―to protect his people from oncoming danger, I feel that these are the two strongest answers to the question of the Zora/Rito evolution.