Twilight Princess is very indirect in the way that it presents its storyline. Instead of explaining a definite series of events, it gives us various pieces of the story, often out of order and without reference to other parts of the story. However, from what I have seen from various forums, it appears that there is a general consensus amongst players about what actually took place.
This explanation is that the gods granted Ganondorf the Triforce of Power shortly after the Sages stabbed him with their blade of light, in order to destroy his evil magic. With the strength granted to him by the Triforce of Power, Ganondorf broke free from his chains and killed one of the Sages. The other Sages then sealed Ganondorf into the Twilight Realm, in their haste to save themselves and Hyrule from his destruction. This sealing then weakened Ganondorf, but he became empowered again in the presence of Zant's malice and used Zant to break back into the Light World.
Although I once believed this explanation myself, I found something in the script which made no sense (I will explain this further in the article). Since then, I have questioned what we see and read in the game, and there are many other things that tell us the explanation is wrong. Furthermore, I have found a lot of information that support a consistent alternative. In this article, I will explain my entire reasoning and provide all the evidence to support it.
The inconsistencies with the myth
1) The first inconsistency is the quote that Ganondorf tells Midna in Hyrule Castle:
Your people have always amused me, Midna. To defy the gods with such petty magic, only to be cast aside… How very pathetic. Pathetic as they were, though, they served me well. Their anguish was my nourishment. Their hatred bled across the void and awakened me. I drew deep of it and grew strong again.Although the term “your people” can apply to both Midna's current tribe and her ancestors, Ganondorf refers to the tribe “ defying the gods with petty magic ” and tells us that he had “ always ” been amused by them. This tells us that he is more specifically referring to the Twili's ancestors, who would have been sealed away at least before Ganondorf reached adulthood, since the war began with rumours of the Sacred Realm's existence; something that the people in OoT, such as Ganondorf, already knew.
The problem with this information is that, according to the myth, Ganondorf was empowered by Zant's malice. If Zant was the source of the malice, then why did Ganondorf refer to the Twili's ancestors? To argue that Zant's malice is somehow the malice of his ancestors is somewhat farfetched when you consider that all malice is an indiscriminate emotion. Furthermore, we are told by both Midna and Zant that the current Twili became peaceful, forgetting the malice of their ancestors. So unless we speculate they had somehow all gained malice without real cause (unlike Zant who wanted to be King), Ganondorf could not have been empowered by them either.
It was a peaceful place… until Zant took control of the Twilight Realm and transformed all the Twili into shadow beasts.In conclusion, I don't believe that Zant did empower Ganondorf; in fact there is something else in Twilight Princess which actually did possess the malice of the Twili's ancestors and was in Ganondorf's presence during an empowerment (which I will reveal in the next section of this article).
Some call our realm a world of shadows, but that makes it sound so unpleasant… The twilight there holds a serene beauty… You have seen it yourself as the sun sets on this world. Bathed in that light, all people were pure and gentle…
In the shadows we regressed, so much so that we soon knew neither anger nor hatred… nor even the faintest bloom of desire.
2) The second inconsistency is the entire scene where Ganondorf meets Zant. According to the myth, Zant gave power to Ganondorf through his malice. Yet the scene shows us the complete opposite; Ganondorf gave his power to Zant.
I shall house my power in you… If there is anything you desire, then I shall desire it, too.Zelda veterans will notice that the second part of this quote was taken directly from A Link to the Past's manual, where the Essence of the Triforce told Ganondorf the exact same line. Just as the Triforce represented absolute power to Ganondorf, Ganondorf represented absolute power to Zant; Zant truly believed that Ganondorf was a god.
This power is granted to me by my god! It is the magic of the King of Twilight, and you WILL respect it!So if that scene was meant to directly establish how and why Zant came to receive Ganondorf's magic (the corrupting effect of power is a constant theme in the game), then what evidence is there that the scene was meant to show Ganondorf's own empowerment? I see nothing visually and nothing in the text that he was empowered at that time.
Furthermore, there is the question as to how and why Ganondorf should have become weak upon entering the Twilight Realm, when he had just been empowered during the Sages' attempt to execute him. The disembodied form that he takes in the cutscene was powerful enough to defeat the Fused Shadows, so we cannot argue he was disembodied because he was weak. In other words, why are we discussing a second empowerment in the Twilight Realm, if we have absolutely no evidence that one took place?
3) The third inconsistency is the Sages' reaction to Ganondorf's empowerment in the execution scene.
He was known as a demon thief, an evil-magic wielder renowned for his ruthlessness… But he was blind… In all of his fury and might, he was blind to any danger, and thus was he exposed, subdued, and brought to justice. Yet… By some divine prank, he, too, had been blessed with the chosen power of the gods. His abiding lust for power turned to purest malice… Perhaps that evil power has been passed down to Zant…The reference to a “divine prank” comes at the same time that we see the Triforce of Power resonate on Ganondorf's hand. According to the myth, this shows that the gods granted Ganondorf the Triforce of Power at that specific time, for an unexplained reason (some people view it literally as a prank by the goddesses). I have two reasons why this is a misinterpretation; one is personal interpretation of the Zelda series as a whole, but the other is properly supported in the game.
My personal reason is that the goddesses, according to every other account that they appear, favour the Light in defeating Darkness (or at the least favoured the ideals of Light). Not once have they ever favoured or given power to Darkness in the Zelda series, hence I believe them to be benevolent. For example:
According to Lanayru in Twilight Princess, the gods made a world in which all people possessed equal power. This is contrasted with evil hearts, such as Ganondorf and Zant, who lust for and are ultimately corrupted by power.
Lanayru also tells us that the goddesses ordered the Light Spirits to seal the “dark power” known as the Fused Shadows that had corrupted the Twili's ancestors.
When all was chaos, the goddesses descended and gave order and life to the world. They granted power equally to all who dwelt in the light, and then returned to the heavens. The lands where the goddesses descended came to be known as the Sacred Realm. For ages, the people lived at ease, content in mind and body…
Princess Zelda in Twilight Princess tells us that the Mirror of Twilight was left behind to provide a standard of peace and coexistence.
Among those living in the light, interlopers who excelled at magic appeared. Wielding powerful sorcery, they tried to establish dominion over the Sacred Realm. It was then that the goddesses ordered us three light spirits to intervene. We sealed away the great magic those individuals had mastered. You know this magic… It is the dark power you seek… the Fused Shadow. O hero chosen by the goddesses… Beware… Those who do not know the danger of wielding power will, before long, be ruled by it. Never forget that…
In The Wind Waker, the King of Hyrule tells us that the power of Light that the Master Sword possesses is “the gods' power”. In short, the power to repel the powers of Darkness was made by the gods themselves, which suggests they are benevolent in their actions.
Shadow and light are two sides of the same coin… One cannot exist without the other. I know now the reason the goddesses left the Mirror of Twilight in this world… They left it because it was their design that we should meet… Yes… That is what I believe.
This is supported by A Link to the Past's Japanese manual, which tells us that the gods themselves ordered the forging of the Master Sword to repel evil.
The fact that the Master Sword lost the power to repel evil suggests to me that something has happened to the sages who infused the blade with the gods' power.
~Daphnes Nohanson Hyrule
For that reason, the people of Hyrule were told by the gods to make something that would repulse any evil that may kidnap the Triforce: the blade of evil's bane.Also in The Wind Waker, we are told by various characters that the gods answered the prayers of the Hylians by sealing away Ganondorf and his evil magic, that they ordered the King of Hyrule to find the next Hero and that the Hylians were returned to the surface so that they could reawaken Hyrule.
~A Link to the Past's Japanese Manual
When the gods heard our pleas, they chose to seal away not only Ganon, but Hyrule itself...and so, with a torrential downpour of rains from the heavens... Our fair kingdom was soon buried beneath the waves, forgotten at the bottom of the ocean. Yet all was not lost. For the gods knew that to seal the people away with the kingdom would be to grant Ganon's wish for the destruction of the land. So, before the sealing of the kingdom, the gods chose those who would build a new country and commanded them to take refuge on the mountaintops.Finally, we are told that Link is “the hero chosen by the gods”. With that in mind, I find it very hard to accept that the goddesses would go against everything they've worked for and provide Darkness with the power to conquer Hyrule.
~Daphnes Nohanson Hyrule
When the worst of all possible events comes to pass, and Ganon is revived once again... One shall seek the hero who is destined to defeat the great evil... That is the destiny the goddesses have placed upon the King of Red Lions.
~Great Deku Tree
What did the King of Hyrule say? ...That the gods sealed Hyrule away? And they left behind people who would one day awaken Hyrule?!
Now, the actual evidence that tells us that the goddesses were not responsible for Ganondorf's possession of the Triforce of Power was that in a subsequent scene, the Sages held themselves to account for Ganondorf's escape, not the goddesses.
It was all our doing… We overestimated our abilities as sages and attempted to put an end to Ganondorf's evil magic… I hope you can find it in yourself to forgive our carelessness… O Twilight Princess.What is interesting about this quote is that the Sages didn't even verbally recognise an empowerment. It's as if they had come to the conclusion that Ganondorf was always that powerful and that their attempt to destroy him was simply a futile effort that they failed to recognise, hence “overestimating their own abilities”. If the Sages thought that the gods had given Ganondorf the Triforce of Power, then they would not have considered themselves “careless” for not foreseeing events that they had no control over.
Alternative to this explanation, the Sages did understand how Ganondorf was empowered, but were careless in bringing Ganondorf into the presence of malice for his execution (I will elaborate this evidence in the following section).
In conclusion, the bewilderment of the Sages at Ganondorf's possession of the Triforce of Power was simply that he had managed to maintain such absolute power at all, not specifically at the moment of his execution. The term “divine prank” does not even need to refer to the gods, since it also acts as a commonly-used metaphor for an unexplainable, yet ironic, reason. Hence, the Sages only account for the power that Ganondorf already possesses.
The alternative to the myth
Ganondorf's only empowerment in Twilight Princess took place during the Sages' attempt to execute him. Although the Triforce of Power was a source of Ganondorf's power , it was not the source of Ganondorf's empowerment . As revealed by Ganondorf, it was malice of the Twili's ancestors that had empowered him, and as Auru tells us, this malice was preserved in the Gerudo Desert.
The desert at world's end… It still holds the cursed mirror and the malice of its doomed inmates… These old bones know that the evil currently plaguing Hyrule is related to this wicked place.Auru later tells us in Telma's Bar that the Sages themselves provided him with this information (which is where we can infer that the Sages realised their own mistake in bringing Ganondorf to the desert).
The sages… Those sages once served the royal family, actually. They were appointed as tutors to the young Princess Zelda. It was from them that I first heard tales of the accursed mirror in the Arbiter's Grounds.This scene also fits with what Ganondorf tells Midna:
Their hatred bled across the void and awakened me.During the execution scene, Ganondorf was in a state of sleep before the Triforce of Power resonated to show he was empowered, at which point he then awakened. The void itself could also realistically (but also speculatively) be referring to a gap between the living world and the afterlife or the past era when the tribe were sealed.
One thing that needs to be emphasised is that the first quote provided by Auru can be interpreted in two different, yet completely valid, ways. The first interpretation is that the “cursed mirror” and the “malice” were held in the desert as unrelated entities (one theory is that the malice was simply preserved in the corpses that haunt the Arbiter's Grounds). The second interpretation is that the desert only held malice as a consequence of holding the Twilight Mirror, which acted as the source of the malice.
In my opinion, the correct answer is the second interpretation. The Twilight Mirror is the exact source of the tribe's malice (although the malice could have spread to the rest of the Arbiter's Grounds). This then explains how the Twilight Mirror came to possess evil power. Midna suggests that it was not Zant who gave the mirror its evil power, since she appears to blame nature itself.
The evil within the shards is more powerful than you can imagine… You know, we could be assembling something truly terrible here… It could be something that we'll ultimately have to destroy…We also have evidence that malice is evil power in itself. The Sages not only state this, but Auru connects the evil around Hyrule to the malice in the Arbiter's Grounds.
To think the Mirror of Twilight has the power to change people like that… This world… ALL worlds… can be cruel…
His abiding lust for power turned to purest malice… Perhaps that evil power has been passed down to Zant…The only real problem that players may have with this explanation is how Ganondorf was able to be weak enough to get captured by the Sages, when he was in possession of the Triforce of Power. The answer to this is equally simple.
The desert at world's end… It still holds the cursed mirror and the malice of its doomed inmates… Those old bones know that the evil currently plaguing Hyrule is related to this wicked place.
The object of Ganondorf's power is his evil magic (the power of Darkness). This was the magic that he wielded before he took the Triforce of Power in OoT (we see him attack Link with it in the scene where he was chasing Princess Zelda). It was also the magic that the TP Sages said that he wielded before attacking Hyrule, the magic that the Sages said they tried to destroy, and the magic that was given to Zant so that he could help Ganondorf return to the Light World.
You seek it, but the Mirror of Twilight has been fragmented by mighty magic. That magic is a dark power that only he possesses. His name is… Ganondorf. He was once the leader of a band of thieves who invaded Hyrule in the hopes of establishing dominion over the Sacred Realm. He was known as a demon thief, an evil-magic wielder renowned for his ruthlessness…Although most people assume that the Triforce of Power provides Ganondorf with power as a physical entity, it is more accurate to say that it empowers the evil magic that Ganondorf inherently possesses. This is supported by the fact that Ganondorf wields his evil magic before and after he takes the Triforce of Power.
It was all our doing… We overestimated our abilities as sages and attempted to put an end to Ganondorf's evil magic…
This power is granted to me by my god! It is the magic of the King of Twilight, and you WILL respect it!
This is where I, admittedly, use speculation to explain events. If Ganondorf had lost most of his evil magic thanks to the Sages who had captured him, then the Triforce of Power would not have anything to actually empower. When Ganondorf was able to “draw deep” from the malice of the Twilight Mirror and restore his evil magic, the Triforce of Power resonated with the ability to empower his evil magic once again. Thus, the Sages see it resonate and apply blame for Ganondorf's escape on their inability to match Ganondorf's power.
And that is all the evidence that I can currently use to explain why the concept of Zant empowering Ganondorf is wrong. Whether or not you consider it the simplest explanation, remember that consistency and truth is more important. I do not consider this explanation a ‘theory'; I think it was what the developers intended the players to see. However, the execution of the storyline in Twilight Princess is generally unobvious and misleading, so hopefully you will take something away with this article.