The Secret Origin of Hestu: Legend of Zelda Headcanon

by David Steffen

If you’ve played either of the two recent Nintendo Switch-based Legend of Zelda games (Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom) long enough, you know Hestu, the most distinct of the Koroks. After playing these games and other games in the Legend of Zelda series for many, many hours, I have “discovered” (developed a headcanon) that explains the secret origins of Hestu and why Hestu is different from all the other Koroks.

Who Is Hestu?

If you’re not familiar: The Koroks are forest spirits whose home is in the Korok Forest which is protected from the outside world by The Lost Woods which earns its name by being filled with a confounding fog that will take you back at the entrance if you wander from a pre-set path. Although that’s their home, they can be found all over Hyrule, approximately a thousand of them to find in little hiding spaces (plus some more that aren’t hiding). Koroks as a whole look like little roughly crafted humanoid child-like figures with a big leaf for their face. Each Korok looks a little different, from the color and shape of the leaf to the exact proportions of their body but generally they look like this. They can be found hiding under rocks, or will appear from nowhere if you win little shooting games or spatial puzzles or other little challenges. They are generally childish and fun-loving and love to play hide-and-seek. Tears of the Kingdom added a recurring new kind of Korok: the traveling Korok who is going to visit a friend but has packed such a large backpack that it has grown too tired too move. Finding or helping this multitude of Koroks will give you the reward of Korok seeds. Which is a little weird if you think about it–are those like Korok babies? Apparently the game-makers intended them to be Korok poops.

The use for poop-scooping for the Korok kids is unclear until you meet Hestu. After helping with a side quest in Breath of the Wild to recover Hestu’s magical maracas, he asks if you can help him find all the Korok seeds that the mischievous little Koroks have stolen from him, and whenever you do Hestu will perform a magical dance that will expand your weapon, bow, or shield inventory slots.

Okay, so what is Hestu’s backstory? After playing Breath of the Wild, and after playing Tears of the Kingdom for dozens of hours, I had not really given it any thought at all. Why does he need a backstory? He’s the forest spirit dude who expands your inventory and while he is likeable and funny and useful, does he really need a backstory? Until the connection spontaneously popped into my head.

Hestu’s Origin

I randomly realized where Hestu came from: Tingle finally fulfilled his greatest wish to become a fairy. Hestu is Tingle transformed!

I will go into more detail below, but even superficially they have quite a few similarities. They are both adults with facial hair (OK Hestu’s beard is a leaf, but it appears to be in the place of facial hair), taking on the appearance in some way of an adult version of the Great Deku Tree’s children. They both have a love of words they made up (“Kooloo-Limpah” vs “Shak-Shakala”, though the latter is probably onomatopoeia for the sound of maracas, it is not a common onomatopoeia as far as I am aware). They both have a preference for glitter.

Wait, Who?

OK, so if you’ve only played the Zelda games on Nintendo Switch you might not know who Tingle is.

Tingle first appeared in Majora’s Mask which was released in the year 2000. Tingle claimed to be the reincarnation of a fairy, something which has been a central part of his character in all of his appearances. He is 35 years old and his father who works at the swamp tourist center is exasperated by his son’s insistence that he is a fairy. Tingle wears a green jumpsuit with a pointy hood, presumably meant to resemble Link’s classical outfit of a green tunic with a pointy hat. He can often be found in that game floating above a scene attached to a big red balloon. If you pop the balloon he will fall to the ground and will sell you maps of different areas.

He’s appeared in several other games, most notably in The Wind Waker where he has a more prominent role, but keeps the same backstory, claiming to be a fairy.

Supporting Evidence

Bear with me, there are quite a few pieces of information I took into account for this theory.

Tingle does not directly appear in the Switch games, but he is referenced. There is a “Tingel Island” on the east coast of Hyrule. In the Breath of the Wild expansion pack, and in the regular Tears of the Kingdom game, there is a Tingle clothing set. The clothing set could be an alt universe thing, like a branched timeline–it seems like at least some of the Link-themed clothing sets come from alternate universes, so Tingle’s might be the same. But Tingel Island seems like more of a solid clue that it’s not only an alt universe reference. So I think that could be interpreted as meaning that Tingle has existed by that name in the universe.

When Tingle says he is a fairy, what does that mean? Generally when the Zelda series refers to a “fairy” it is most often referring to a tiny flying glowing creature with transparent butterfly wings. These tend to be able to heal damage to Link instantaneously, or when collected and stored in Link’s inventory may be able to revive Link from what would otherwise be fatal damage. There are also fairies with the same appearance (such as Navi, and Tatl) that help Link by helping him target or by giving him advice.

There are also the Great Fairies which tend to take the appearance of giant women who reside in pools of water and grant Link boons (enhanced clothing or better weapons or shields) in exchange for something (money or monster parts or other things).

But I don’t think Tingle is referring to either of these kinds of fairy. His wardrobe is the biggest clue. Majora’s Mask is a direct sequel to The Ocarina of Time. In The Ocarina of Time, Link has grown up in the Deku Forest. He thinks that he is a Kokiri, one of the forest children who all have fairy companions except for Link. But it turns out that Link is not a Kokiri–his lack of fairy is a clue, but the other Kokiri can also not leave the Deku Forest, and the other Kokiri do not age as Link does in Ocarina of Time. For the actual Kokiri, the fairy seems to be an intrinsic part of their existence–there is no Kokiri without a fairy. From a distance, you can’t see the childlike Kokiri, only the flying fairy companion and the Kokiri fades in as you approach. My interpretation of this is that the fairy is the more real or solid one of the pair, and the childlike form is just a projection from this particular variety of fairy. So, in my interpretation, a Kokiri not only has a fairy companion, it is a fairy and Tingle’s wardrobe is meant to show that.

The next step to understand here is that Kokiri are equivalent to Korok (I had not recalled that this detail was supported by game canon in The Wind Waker, at least according to this wiki page). They both have their primary home in a forest connected to the Lost Woods, with their guardian the Great Deku Tree. They are both childlike in both appearance and behavior (apart from Hestu who has a more adultlike proportion and size, but again Hestu appears to be anomalous). To be fair, their appearance differs, and the Koroks are not limited by the boundaries of the forest. If they are equivalent, what accounts for the differences? Apparently the great flood that caused the world to be a series of islands in The Wind Waker caused the transformation. But it’s not uncommon in the series of the games for familiar things to take very different forms from one game to another. In the original Legend of Zelda game the Zora were just another monster, popping their head out of water to shoot fireballs at Link, but through the different games we have seen that they are sentient being, so we have seen how vastly different a species or race can be from game to game. The shift between Kokiri and Korok is less far-fetched than the shift of the Zoras.

Other Theories About the Anomaly of Hestu

I have wondered since I started playing Breath of the Wild years ago, why there are approximately one-thousand childlike Koroks and then there is one adultlike Korok. What life cycle accounts for this? I wondered if the Koroks are an invasive species and the Deku Tree eats them when they get to be a certain age to avoid them crowding out all other life in Hyrule. I wondered if they are always childlike and Hestu is some kind of random genetic variation. I wondered if the Koroks have a social hierarchy like bees, where changes can be triggered by environmental factors like diet, and the Great Deku Tree is the queen, and Hestu is the queen in training meant to take over the hive when the Deku Tree dies (we know the Deku Tree can die, as it did die in Ocarina of Time).

How It Happened

My thought is: Although Tingle has declared that he is a fairy, I think some part of him realizes that he is not a fairy in any objective sense. So, knowing what he wants, he sets out to find a way to become a fairy. He can either see the Koroks, or read about them in some storybook or heard about them in some myth so he finds out where they came from and goes on a quest to find their home. He eventually finds a way through the Lost Woods and approaches the Deku Tree as a supplicant, begging the Deku Tree to make him into a Korok. The Deku Tree considers for a time, and finally agrees, with a condition. The Deku Tree will turn Tingle into a Korok, if Tingle takes responsibility for all the other Koroks. It’s hard to be a parent to something like one thousand mischievous children who won’t grow up, when you’re ancient and very tired, and also when you’re literally a tree so you can’t even chase them around. A responsible adult Korok, on the other hand, would have much more energy and mobility to caretake the Koroks. Because Tingle is an adult when he was transformed, he took the form of an adult Korok even though that was unprecedented.


Hestu may not canonically be Tingle. But, I don’t think it’s unbelievable that the writers could’ve made it a possibility on purpose. Let me know what you think of the headcanon, if you have your own headcanon. Why do you think Hestu appears to be the only adultlike Korok?

#TingleTransformed #SecretOriginsOfHestu

GAME REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

written by David Steffen

I thought it was fun to discover the circumstances of the world and Link’s situation in-game with no foreknowledge, so I don’t want to talk too much about the plot so you can discover it for yourself.  Unsurprisingly it does fit into the series’ long-term trend of using incarnations of the same three characters and building new stories around them.

As you can tell from even that brief introduction, this game does verge more into the science fictional than past entries in the series.  Ancient Sheikah devices might be powered by magic but they are more like what we would call technology, and have a fun anachronistic design that mixes the feel of old temple relics with advanced tech.

You discover the main plot of the game as you finish the first several objectives, to save a world that’s already been devastated from a continuing threat.  There are a handful of major objectives you need to do to be able to do that, which are marked on your map early on.  If you wanted to just power through the game you could aim specifically for those right away, but there’s also a wide world out there for you to explore, varied landscapes from frozen tundra to burning hot volcano.  Exploring will help you find equipment and other enhancements that will make it easier to survive your various challenges, by increasing your hearts, or finding better weapons, or better protective clothing that has special effects such as being fireproof for exploring volcanic regions.

One of the main frustrations I had early on was that the weapons are very impermanent.  I’m used to Link finding a sword and then using it forever.  But the weapons you find in this game are not very durable–odds are if you get in a fight with a few enemies you’ll probably break at least one weapon in the middle of the fight.  Early on I always thought I was going to run out of weapons in the middle of a fight, but I managed to get just enough from scavenging fallen enemies to keep going.

Much of the challenge of the game happens early on between fragile weapons and extreme temperatures that Link doesn’t have the equipment to handle.  One piece of goods news is that you get the ability early on to teleport to travel points that you have visited, so if you do get in trouble you can poof to somewhere safe instead of being stuck to meet your doom.

One of the major ongoing tasks with the biggest payoff is to find Sheikah shrines.  Foremost because each one comes with one of these waypoints for teleporting and they are scattered all over the map.  To find each one you actually have to travel on foot, but once you find them you can then teleport to that specific location at will.  So you get a major payoff for each one you find, because your practical travel time to any given point on the map shrinks because every shrine is zero travel time from anywhere else you go.  Finding all of the shrines is also one of the major extra things you can do–you don’t have to find more than a few to finish the game, but the game would be a lot harder and take a lot longer if you didn’t have them.

Many of the interesting sidequests involve collecting resources, herbs or stones or small animals, for the use in crafting equipment or elixirs.  This encourages you to explore different regions more thoroughly where you may find these, and you can just keep an eye out for them while you’re looking for more major quest things too.

The exploration and sidequests are the best part of the game.  If I had any complaints at all it would be that the main quest is kind of disappointing in comparison.  I finished it and I was like “oh, that’s it?” but then I happily went back to find more sidequests.

I haven’t found everything there is in the game yet and I plan to go back and play more.  I also plan to pick up the downloadable content with some extra quests and equipment.

Lovely, especially large scale scenery shots which this game does extroardinarily well, giving a sense of huge scale even though in-game you can traverse it much faster than in real life.  It’s a lot of fun to explore Hyrule on a larger scale than ever.

Great music in a series known for it.

Highly variable depending on exactly what you’re trying to do and how quickly you want to make it through the main quest.  I found the first part of the game the most challenging because I had only a few hearts to work with and subpar weapons and armor didn’t have the materials or know-how to properly make food or potions to compensate for my handicaps and was still figuring out how to survive cold temperatures and that sort of thing.  The rest of the gameplay was challenging enough to be fun, but that very early part was where it was the hardest, probably because I hadn’t caught up to the learning curve yet.

Plenty of story, much of it told in the form of legends about yourself.  As with most/all of Zelda games it works on a repeating cycle of incarnations of Zelda and Link and Ganon facing off against each other, always interesting to see how the timeline works, particularly since Ocarina of Time branched it.

Session Time
The nicest thing about the Nintendo Switch is that all games have a short session time, because you can put the console to sleep or wake it at any point, even during cut scenes.  So blissfully short because of excellent console design.

Reasonably simple controls, much of them similar to the control scheme that’s been used since Ocarina of Time, with the Z button used to focus on enemies so you can pivot around them easily.  There are probably less things to keep track of because Link doesn’t have the big inventory of usable tools he unlocks as in other games, though there are plenty of functionality between various weaponry and especially in being able to climb almost anything and to paraglide.  There are multiple ways to reach many goals, which makes it fun to find one that fits your playing style.

Plenty of replayability, whether you just want to explore, or if you’re a completionist who wants to find all of the shrines.  Many of them you’ll just stumble across, but to find every single one is quite a challenge (which I haven’t managed yet, I’ve still got about 15 of 120 to go).  There are also some unique armor sets that you need to complete specific missions to find to get their special powers.

There is also downloadable content to expand the game with extra quests, extra items, for another $20.  I have enjoyed the main game so much I am definitely going to download that at some point.

Of course it’s part of a long and beloved series of games, so in a lot of ways it’s familiar, but this does mark a very new direction for a Zelda game in the wide-open gameplay.  It keeps a lot of the same feel with the different fantastical races and familiar regions, but with much more emphasis on wide open exploration.  The addition of the ability to climb almost anything and to paraglide make exploring particularly fun because those open up new ways of thinking about moving around a huge map.

I finished the main quest of the game in over 100 hours (mostly in 15 minute increments).  If I had been determined to finish the main quest as fast as possible, I could certainly have done so in less time, probably half of that at most, and if someone has an idea where they’re going could probably finish it in significantly less than even that.  But the biggest strength of the game is wide world exploration, so if you’re rushing to finish it I think you’ll be disappointed.

Excellent new addition to a new longstanding popular game series that has already set a high bar.  This game is very familiar to fans of the series, but also very new in that it’s much more like an “Elder Scrolls, but in Hyrule” game (albeit without the complicated character leveling system etc).  If you’re looking for a game that will take a lot of time to fully explore for your buck, this is a great choice.  Lots of action, lots of side quests and crafting stuff, and just the fun of setting out across a completely unknown landscape to find whatever you can find.

Highly recommended, my favorite game in years. $60 for digital download from Nintendo or physical cartridge from various retailers.