Zelda Who Are The Zonai?
Image: Nintendo Life

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild shook things up for Zelda fans in a variety of ways. Dungeons were reduced, exploration was increased, and our vocabularies were expanded by a mysterious new word, echoes of which popped up all over Hyrule: "Zonai".

Perhaps best known for Faron's Zonai Ruins, the footprints of this mysterious tribe can be found in every corner of Breath of the Wild, and Tears of the Kingdom is no different. But despite all of the mysterious messages, it can actually be suspiciously difficult to pin down exactly who the Zonai were, and what they might have been up to.

In this guide, we will attempt to explain just that based on everything we know from Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. The first game might not have been clear in its answer, but it did leave a trail of breadcrumbs which (with some supporting information from the 'Creating a Champion' book) lets us at least begin to build up a picture of the ancient race.

This has since been expanded upon by Tears of the Kingdom, which explains a little bit more about the mysterious tribe. Most of the Zonai information comes from the early portions of the game and we will be taking a detailed look at some of the revelations. We have done our best to signpost any major spoiler discussion in the relevant sections below, but if you are still yet to begin your TOTK journey, then it might be safer to not read on until you have at least a few hours under your belt.

Spoiler goggles at the ready? Let's dive right in.

Zelda's Zonai Explained

Who Are The Zonai?

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Carving
Image: Nintendo

The Zonai are a mysterious tribe that inhabited Hyrule thousands of years before the time of Breath of the Wild.

We know the tribe's name from the Zonai Ruins area of the Faron region in BOTW, which is notably filled with intricate statues and carvings of a serpentine dragon (though owls and boars also feature prominently in the designs). The game's companion book, Creating a Champion, states that the tribe were powerful magic users, who worshipped the Triforce and structured their creations in reflection of this with the dragon symbolising courage, the owl standing for wisdom, and the boar representing power.

Many of these structures are decorated with a spiral symbol, which is generally understood to be the tribe's crest.

Much of what we know about the race can be attributed to the three descriptions that make up the BOTW's Barbarian Armor set — obtained by completing the three labyrinth structures dotted around Hyrule. Each item (helm, armour, and leg wraps) is said to have been favoured by "an ancient warlike tribe from the Faron region" and they grant Link an increased attack ability when worn.

The location of these items in the three Lomei labyrinths suggests that the Zonai were not restrained to the Faron region and in fact spread across Hyrule, potentially building the giant maze structures in the first place. This would explain why the serpentine iconography and swirl designs can be found throughout the whole kingdom in ruins, murals, and architecture.

Warning: Tears of the Kingdom spoilers follow the picture of diving Link!

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Diving
Image: Nintendo Life

Tears of the Kingdom didn't necessarily change what we knew about the Zonai from Breath of the Wild, but it certainly expanded on it.

As revealed in an early cutscene, we now know that the ancient tribe descended from the skies and in fact founded Hyrule all of those years ago, with Rauru becoming the land's first king and a Hylian — Queen Sonia — becoming his wife.

Zonai ruins have appeared all across Hyrule following The Upheaval, the events that caused Link to gain a strange new arm. There are Shrines of Light — Zonai Shrines — now spread across Hyrule, and many ruins either float in the sky or have tumbled down to earth. One of the more prominent of these is the Ring Ruins in Kakariko Village, but you'll see plenty of grey and white ruins across the Surface. If Sundelions grow near the rocks, then you can bet those are from some Zonai ruins.

The green robot-like creatures, Constructs, are also Zonai technology, Created by one particular Zonai back in Rauru's time, these Constructs were made to serve the Zonai. Now they are either in a deep slumber or are attempting to attack Link.

What Happened To The Zonai?

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Zelda Cry
Image: Nintendo

There is nothing mentioned of what happened to the Zonai in Breath of the Wild, and Creating a Champion only goes as far as to say the following: "It’s rumoured that these people disappeared suddenly thousands of years ago."

One theory suggests that the Zonai's disappearance might have something to do with the Hylian people themselves. Considering the descriptive terms "barbarian" and "warlike" that are used to refer to the tribe, we might infer that this image is one that has been retroactively applied by another tribe so as to paint the Zonai in a negative light.

We have long known that Tears of the Kingdom's title is directly entwined with the game's story, so perhaps the titular sadness could be referring to the crimes of Hyrule's past, namely in the displacement of the land's native inhabitants? That's one theory.

Although Tears of the Kingdom does shed a bit more light on this. Yep, it's time for another spoiler warning, folks. If you don't want any suggestions as to what happened to the Zonai, don't look past the below image.

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Link arm
Image: Nintendo Life


Rauru was involved in the Imprisoning War back thousands of years before the events of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. There is one other Zonai who is present with Rauru during this time — his sister, Mineru. The whereabouts of the rest of the Zonai are unknown.

What Do The Zonai Look Like?

The final Tears of the Kingdom trailer revealed a mysterious figure, seemingly of a race that we have never seen before (below). The dragon-like horns might suggest that this is the race that carved the serpentine structures all over Hyrule, but is that actually a Zonai? More Tears of the Kingdom spoilers follow the image...

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Mystery Character
Image: Nintendo

Simply put, yes. This is a Zonai.

TOTK is hardly full of these guys (we only see two in total), but we do know that these are Zonai, complete with big ears and goaty beards to match. The arm that Link has in Tears of the Kingdom is in fact a Zonai's arm — King Rauru's, even.

Are The Zonai In Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom?

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Construct
Image: Nintendo

Eiji Aonuma's 10-minute gameplay demonstration saw Link picking up a new item called a 'Zonai Charge', confirming that the tribe will have a presence (at very least in passing reference) after many had assumed as much from the first trailer's underground carvings.

But does the ancient tribe have a physical presence in the game too? For the final time, Tears of the Kingdom spoilers are ahead.

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Tower
Image: Nintendo Life

In case you hadn't guessed from our above physical description of the tribe, yes, the Zonai are in Tears of the Kingdom. They first appear in the game after Princess Zelda is left stranded in the past, helping her to make sense of new surroundings and get back to her Hyrule.

Of course, the Zonai Charge mentioned above is but one of the many Zonai items that Link comes across on his journey this time around. In Breath of the Wild, you might have been able to play the entire game without noticing the Zonai references scattered across the land, that is certainly not the case for Tears of the Kingdom...

For more help on your journey across Hyrule, check out our full Tears of the Kingdom walkthrough for more hints, tips, tricks, and maps.