The black people of 'Zelda': A running list of people of color in 'Breath of the Wild'
When you think about the Legend of Zelda series, diversity isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind. Pretty much every game in the franchise features a blonde-hair, blue-eyed hero tasked with saving the blonde, blue-eyed princess. It often feels like the only prominent person of color in Hyrule is Ganon — aka the embodiment of pure evil.
Zelda games like Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess depict the Ganon character, Ganondorf, as a huge, dark-skinned villain. Breath of the Wild skirts this issue by imagining Ganon as more of an evil spirit. The newest Zelda title also features an impressive array of non-playable black and brown characters, which makes sense when you consider just how massive this version of Hyrule really is.
After my first encounter with a black Hyrulian in Breath of the Wild, I decided to chronicle all the people of color I could find in the game. Most of them are pretty straightforward, while others may be a little problematic.
Of course, I'll probably never meet every character in the game, but I'll continue to update the list below. So far, here are my findings:
People of color in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Gerudo: The dark-skinned Amazons
The Gerudo are the one recurring race in Zelda that's not just nonwhite, but also pretty badass. The desert-based society is made up almost exclusively of dark-skinned warriors. In Breath of the Wild, the game's creators continue to add depth to the series' resident brown people by giving them their own language. Hints of this are seen in words like "vasaaq" and "sav'otta" (meaning hello) and "voe" and "vai" (male and female).
While all Gerudo are characters of color, their identity lies less within race and more in gender. The Gerudo reside in Gerudo Town, where no men are allowed entry. In Breath of the Wild, Link is tasked with visiting Gerudo Town, but is required to cross-dress to do so. Changing Link out of his disguise results in being immediately thrown out of the town.
From the guards at the town's gates, to the average Jane Schmoe's walking around, nearly every single Gerudo looks ready for battle. The same cannot be said of lanky white guy characters like Beedle. Link is the hero of the series and I doubt even he could take one of them in a fight. Though one Gerudo is noticeably smaller than the others...
Riju: Bad Gal Riri
The Gerudo Chief Riju may not have the standard six-pack abs, but she more than makes up for it with her resourcefulness and commitment to her people. Riju isn't as carefree as the real Rihanna — to be fair, she's focused on saving her city. One Gerudo soldier wisely warns Link about trying to come for Chief Riju.
Rihanna stans couldn't have said it better themselves.
Urbosa: Queen Bey
If Riju is the Rihanna of the Gerudo, Urbosa is so clearly their Beyoncé. Urbosa is the Champion of Gerudo, much like Link is the Champion of Hyrule. She's a legendary fighter with personality to spare.
We don't see much of Urbosa's skills in battle, but the respect she garners hints at someone very skilled.
The Gerudo are fascinating. And they're not new: Zelda games have had Gerudo even back in the '90s in Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. With their own fully fleshed out backstory and a focus separate from forwarding the goals of the white male character, the Gerudo are people of color done right. As for examples of people of color done wrong ...
Regan: Blatant Stereotype Man
This guy doesn't get a cool celebrity counterpart and we think you know why. If you're new to stereotypes you may not realize that black people can't swim — it's just not possible. Ignore Simone Manuel and her gold Olympic medal. Black people can't operate in the water.
Were African-Americans barred from many swimming pools during segregation? Are things, even to this day, problematic for black swimmers in many states? Is the problem less about skin tone and more about access to programs? All negligible, because black people can't swim.
It would be weird enough if Blatant Stereotype Man mentioned not being able to swim in passing with the same delivery used to say everything else. But there's an extra emphasis placed on not knowing how to swim. It's not devastatingly offensive, but it is questionable.
OK, now back to the light stuff.
King Rhoam: Rachel Dolezal
Above is King Rhoam, the fearless leader of Hyrule. But when you first Rhoam, he hides his identity. Here's how he looks initially:
It's almost as if King Rhoam pulls a Michael Jackson in between the time you meet him and when you've completed the four starting shrines on the Great Plateau. If you're about to argue that he just looks that way because he's wearing a hood let us stop you right there. No, people don't suddenly become black people when they put on a hood.
We're pretty sure King Rhoam isn't black but light-skinned either. If Hyrule pulled a Barack Obama on us and elected a black man, we'd know about it. It would be the talk of the town. Not only would it be the talk of the town, it would probably be what the entire game would be about. Legend of Zelda: Rhoaming for Inclusion. At the very least, we'd get an involved side quest: Southside of Hyrule With You, about Rhoam's first date with the queen, obviously.
If you think about it, King Rhoam is actually more like a reverse-Rachel Dolezal. As a dark-skinned man, he's just some old guy living off the land, but as soon as he removes his hoodie to reveal his pale complexion and all of a sudden he's king of the entire land. Be grateful you didn't run into any altercations with the Hyrule authorities in that hoodie, black Rhoam.
Rex - 1995 Dennis Rodman/2017 Kanye West
Not every character of color has to be Amazon royalty or a white man in disguise. Some are just your average traveler visiting a stable. Such is the case for the blonde-haired Rex, who is literally a black man with blonde hair named "Rex." If that doesn't shout Dennis Rodman or the off-the-rails, 2017 version of Kanye, I don't know what does.
Kanye Rex, like many in the game, will take note of your Master Sword, equipped or not. Without saying a word, it seems Link's deafening silence is just enough to put Dennis Rexman in a bad mood.
Spinch - YOLO, but the person
Ever meet a person who's the pure embodiment of the phrase "You Only Live Once"? Yeah, that's Spinch. You have to be a certain kind of crazy to give your horse the same name as you. Either you don't think too highly of yourself or maybe, just maybe, you know that horse is destined for some really great things. We may never know, but we're anxious to find out what Spinch and Spinch accomplish.
Lurelin Village - Our new home, probably
We've come a long way since spotting our first person of color in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We went from one sighting to multiple and now this: an entire town of black people! In the southeast corner Hyrule you'll find the small beach town of Lurelin Village.
Lurelin is less integral to the world of Zelda than other areas like Kakariko Village or Hateno Village. In a world as vast as Breath of the Wild, however, it makes sense that there would be an area like this. Of course, that doesn't mean it exists any less, and Lurelin Village is a great place to relaxot stock up on fish.
Even so, the town is so small and so quaint that it has some players asking why Lurelin Village even exists. Because representation is important, that's why. Live on, brown people, and forget the Lurelin Village haters.
We're just getting started and we'll continue to update this list as our adventures through Hyrule continue. Stay tuned.
Check out more Zelda: Breath of the Wild news and coverage
Find out all there is to know about Zelda: Breath of the Wild, including how to preserve your items, how to beat bosses like the Stone Talus and Lynel, the best recipes for Link and how to take on the game's shrines. If you're looking to snag a giant horse with little stamina, here's you accomplish that. You'll also want to find out where all the great fairies are in the game, how to use amiibo with your version of Zelda and what went into making Breath of the Wild.