For a long time I thought very little about the Kokiri race, all tucked away within their exclusive forest in Ocarina of Time. It wasn’t until The Wind Waker and the appearance of the Koroks that the Kokiri appealed to me as being more than meets the eye at first glance. Ever since then, it is often a struggle to get past the early stages of Ocarina of Time without stopping, investigating, and considering the possibilities.
What possibilities are there? What clues hidden away within Kokiri Forest’s foliage? Why are they a forever childish race who wear green tunics like they’re Peter Pan? Of course there are no concrete answers to such questions, but that won’t stop this theorist from exploring the possibilities!
Who, What and Where?
There isn’t a better place to start our Kokiri analyses than with the three questions that give us the facts – who, what and where? The questions that we can answer, and ensure that we’re all on the same page when it comes to knowing the Kokiri basics. It may be a teacher’s favorite throwaway line, but you can’t dive straight into the more complex stuff without having covered the basics. Let’s get started.
Ocarina of Time is the only game where the Kokiri appear, living in the secluded Kokiri Forest in east Hyrule. The Forest is located between the Lost Woods and the Great Deku Tree. One must come through the Lost Woods to reach the village-like civilization that is Kokiri Forest.
While outwardly a very simple society of tree houses, it is surprisingly more complex – especially for a village operated by children. There is both the economic side with its shop, and an established hierarchy with the snide Mido leading the Kokiri, under the rule of their guardian deity – the Deku Tree.
The Kokiri forever remain as children, and do not grow up. Each has his or her own fairy companion, which was a gift to them from the Deku Tree. The forest is the home to 16 Kokiri, with seven females and nine males. All wear the customary green garb, but with a distinct difference between genders. Males wear pointed hats, whereas females have headbands. Variation in the garments are common from one individual to another.
The guardian deity of the forest, the Deku Tree, is said to be the Kokiri’s father who gave life to them all – according to the Kokiri girl Fado. He looks over them, and is revered by all of the Kokiri. To be summoned by him is an enormous honor. Due to a warning from the Deku Tree, the Kokiri believe that if they leave the forest they will die, so remain happily and safely in their contradictory mature, yet childish, abode.
The Hero of Time, Link, was entrusted to the Deku Tree by his mother. She fled into the woods to escape a war, and it was her dying wish for the Deku Tree to protect and raise Link. So it was – Link was raised as a Kokiri before he left to live up to his heroic destiny and learned of his true identity as a Hylian. He comes and goes from the forest several times throughout his quest, and in the game’s credit sequence we see the Kokiri have left the forest to join the celebration of Ganon’s defeat at Lon Lon Ranch. Everybody’s favorite character, Tingle, believes himself to be a Kokiri, or “fairy child” as they are also known, but that is a matter for another time.
In The Wind Waker there is much more to be learned about the Kokiri from their post-flood counterparts, the Koroks. These little “children of the woods” are a race of little wooden trees, who are later revealed to have once taken on human forms. They dwell within the Forest Haven, which is appropriately to the east side of the Great Sea – corresponding with Kokiri Forest. Here, they are protected by the Deku Tree, who is generally assumed to be the fully grown Deku Tree Sprout from Ocarina of Time.
After having died due to a curse from Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time, the original or “Great” Deku Tree left the Deku Tree Sprout to take over for him. By this time in The Wind Waker the number of Koroks has dwindled to 10, six less than there had been Kokiri. However, we are also introduced to another Kokiri who was not present in Ocarina of Time. That is, of course, the Wind Sage Fado, who is not to be confused with the female Kokiri with blonde pig-tails in Ocarina of Time, also known as Fado.
A careful look at the Koroks show that they are genderless which is fitting due to them ultimately being small tree- creatures. Once a year they host a ceremony where the Deku Tree sprouts new seeds, which the Koroks gather up and fly to locations around the Great Sea. They plant the seeds in the hope of expanding the forest, and solid land itself, to join the islands of the Great Sea together again.
Hopefully the Kokiri in Ocarina of Time are still all fresh in your mind due to the recent release of Ocarina of Time 3D, and this recap has re-sparked that and your memory of the Koroks in The Wind Waker. We covered the who (Kokiri and Koroks), the where (Kokiri Forest and the Forest Haven), and the what (their society, lifestyle, and hierarchy). With the ground work done and the seeds planted, we can get into the more interesting questions.
How and Why?
No doubt, how and why are questions just as common as the earlier three, however they are much harder to answer. We can understand what has been done, who did it and where they did it, but still be entirely clueless as to how, or why. This analogy is befitting of the Kokiri, because all we really know about them is the solid facts. We know little about why they are the way they are, and perhaps even less about how it all holds together. These two questions are exactly what the following theory addresses.
The “how” part of the question pertains to how the whole transformation process, from Kokiri to Korok occurs. What is the difference between a Kokiri and a Korok? The “why” simply asks what the reason for it was. As the case seems often to be, the how is very intricately related to the why. We can ask why the Kokiri changed into Koroks, and we can ask how. This theory answers both questions by saying they were only returning to their natural form. The way they were originally, before Link came along.
According to this theory, the true original creation forms of the Kokiri are the Koroks. They were the life form created by Farore, with the Kokiri just being a temporary form. The Great Deku Tree getting credit for giving life to the Kokiri can be attributed to him simply creating the Kokiri form of the Koroks. Of course, the very simple answer may be that Kokiri and Koroks are just alternative forms – but that is borderline cop-out! Looking at the circumstances, there is a very good reason for them to change forms. That reason was Link – The Hero of Time.
Jumping, for a brief moment, to look at the characteristics of the Koroks in The Wind Waker, we can see that their characteristics seem perfectly fitting for the Kokiri before Link came along. They are like spirits of the forest, who dwell with the Deku Tree planting trees, and expanding their bounds. On the Great Sea they live in the protected Forest Haven where the fear humans, and in Ocarina of Time they live in a “forbidden” forest, away from any human contact.
It is Link’s mortally wounded mother that stumbles into the woods and entrusts Link to the Deku Tree. As the story goes, the Great Deku Tree agreed to look after Link because he sensed that he was a “child of destiny, whose fate would affect the entire world”. From there Link was raised as a Kokiri, but it is possible that until then there hadn’t been such a thing as a Kokiri.
The Deku Tree’s servants, followers, subjects, “children” – whatever you call them – transformed from the wood-spirit Koroks into the humanoid-Kokiris. They would help the Deku Tree at his mere asking, although it seems like he also gave them the companionship of their fairy buddies, perhaps because they would not be as close to the Deku Tree as they were as Koroks. They distanced themselves, and established the village, where Link would grow up.
So far there have been lots of claims, but little to answer how, and why, doing all of this is beneficial for Link. First of all, the Kokiri are forever children. We can take that to mean that they took on the shape of human children, so that Link would fit in. He would have a more normal childhood, than if he lived out with some trees. Although many of us know of the infamous “Link is a Tree” theory, we know it is nothing more than satire with no real weight. Link needed human companionship to grow up like a normal child. The transformed Kokiri provided that.
It was both a childish abode to keep Link safe, but also a training ground. Maybe the forbidding of Kokiri’s leaving the forest was more of a rule to keep Link from leaving and being harmed, rather than actual truth. The ending sequence certainly suggests that the rule was protective and not straight out-fact. Within the world created for him by the Kokiri Link had a more normal upbringing.
He had a close friend in Saria, and the schoolyard-bully in Mido. Simultaneously, he learned responsibility at a young age, having to live interdependently in the village – using the shops, maintaining his own house and wellbeing while the Kokiri and Deku Tree watched him. Could Mido’s harsh nature have been due to being annoyed at having to take on human form, and watch his friend Saria get closer to the outsider, Link, than he was to her? Regardless, Mido stuck to the plan due to his respect for the Deku Tree.
Link was raised surrounded by humans so that he knew emotions- love, friendship, sadness – all human emotions. He needed to know such things to become the hero that he did. It is thanks to the Kokiri, who also ironically are alike to Link after returning to being a child at the end of Ocarina of Time. They are mature minds trapped in childish bodies, as Link inevitably becomes in Majora’s Mask.
Until Skyward Sword was announced as the prequel to Ocarina of Time, most Zelda fans had assumed that the Hero’s tunic of the series is always a green garb because the first hero was a Kokiri. From then onwards it was always the green tunic – chronology wise, not release date wise. Those who place The Minish Cap prior to Ocarina of Time for their own reasons must have other explanations. Nevertheless, we now know for sure that the Hero’s tunic is worn in Skyward Sword – before the Hero of Time.
No longer is the Hero’s tunic green because Kokiri tunics were, but Kokiri tunics are green because the original Hero’s tunic was. The Deku Tree specifically modeled the Kokiri outfit after the Hero’s garb, as yet another subtle way to prepare Link for his destiny.
There also comes the matter of Link’s lack of a fairy, which would no doubt have given him the inclination in his mind that he didn’t truly belong. It also made him especially open to receiving the companion who he would need for his quest. It’s nice to think that there’s also a lot more to Navi than once thought (See Navi: The Guiding Spirit).
When asked why the Kokiri changed forms into the Koroks this theory answers that they were merely returning to their intended original form, their task of raising Link done. When asked how, it was simply a matter of the Great Deku Tree’s power to create the Kokiri, or bestow that form upon them. The Kokiri leave Kokiri Forest, which is likely where they took the name for their race from to be synonymous, in the game’s ending sequence. This is on the adult timeline, where eventually they become the Koroks.
What of the child timeline? Could it be that Link returns to the forest after being sent back in time by Zelda, only to find that the village is gone? He had been raised and fulfilled his heroic purpose, once Ganondorf on the child timeline is sealed, and the forest had no need for him. He had graduated, so to speak. That is why he goes searching for Navi and finds himself in Termina. It is an interesting thought, and the one that I will leave you with here.
There is so much more depth to what can be analyzed of the Kokiri. We can question what the significance of the connection between the Wind Sage Fado and Makar is, as well as how they are even portrayed to be one and the same. We can question Eiji Aonuma’s quote on how the Koroks are the Kokiri in a different shape, but with the same “blood”. It can all lead to wild theories of reincarnation and immortal wood spirits.
We can waste away the hours theorizing the cause of the Kokiri’s dwindling numbers during the period of the Great Flood. How it maybe have to do with Ganon attacking the Wind Temple and killing Fado the Wind Sage, amongst others.
Perhaps more time has not been given out of all of these topics to what happens to Kokiri when they leave the forest, or get lost in the Lost Woods. What is the real story behind Skull Kids and Stalfos? There are so many possibilities and so many wild thoughts, of which most are far too ridiculous to even warrant attempting to evidence as a theory.
Nevertheless, the more you think about the Kokiri, the more mysteries there seem to be. Time provided us with more of an insight into the Kokiri with the release of the Wind Waker, and years later we now await Skyward Sword, Ocarina of Time’s prequel. It doesn’t seem like there could be more of a perfect time for Nintendo to finally let us fans know the earlier tales in the story of the Kokiri race!
Perhaps some of the points raised in this piece have merit, potential, and even glimpses of developer’s intent. Within the world of Zelda, they have their bearings as a theory – but those who seek answers will be asking many questions more than answers can match. Questions much deeper than who, what, where, how or why – but answers more definitive than speculative will not be found. At least, not yet!
Many of us may not have given the Kokiri a second thought at first, but the Kokiri have staked their claim as one of Hyrule’s more mysterious races. Not quite like the Sheikah, but much more than the Gerudo, Zora, or Gorons, to name a few. Whatever your own theories are on the Kokiri, and whether they are in support or not with what this article puts forth, you cannot doubt the initial contention: that there is much more to the Kokiri than once thought.