It seems most people believe the Zelda theorizing community is centered on the timeline – what games go where and why – but this isn’t really the case. For years, Zelda theorists have debated the ins and outs of who (or what) exactly are the many races that make up the Zelda universe; such as the Gorons, Zoras, etc.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked branches of the Zelda universe’s intelligent species is the one that focuses on the “monsters” of Hyrule – such as the “Blin” races. It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of interesting ground to cover. As alluded to in the title, it’s really the Darknuts I’d like to write about today.
Of all the “monster races” of Hyrule, the Darknuts are quite possibly the most mysterious – and deadly. Hulking knights covered head-to-toe in shining armor, wielding weapons of fearsome size; are they unintelligent beasts? If not, then why have they chosen to side with evil throughout Hyrule’s history? Perhaps their loyalty truly lies with a different form of morality that they believe in?
This entire Darknut idea popped up in a conversation on the Zelda Informer staff chat a little while ago, in which awesome translator (and friend of the site) GlitterBerri noted an oddity in the Japanese names for “Darknut” and “Iron Knuckle” – they both end in the suffix “-nakku”, or “knuckle”. Just as bone-like enemies begin with “Stal-” and humanoid monsters hold the “-fos” subtitle, the two greatest armored enemies in the series are in a single category as denoted by name.
This really does make a lot of sense – the Iron Knuckles made their debut in Ocarina of Time and returned for Majora’s Mask; two titles without Darknuts. From a gameplay perspective, this shows that the Iron Knuckles were basically the Darknuts of those two games. From a story-based perspective, this marks a somewhat significant potential origin of the Darknuts.
The Iron Knuckles were all Gerudo warriors possessed by Ganonorf. Could the Darknuts simply be Hylian knights possessed the same way?
The idea that the Darknuts are hypnotized/possessed Hylian knights is the most common theory about them – it gives reason for their humanoid forms. We even see examples of this happening in A Link to the Past, in which the evil wizard Agahnim takes control of all the basic soldiers of Hyrule and distributes them as the common default enemies of the game.
The Iron Knuckle connection only further solidifies this theory. Too bad this entire concept falls right out the window when The Wind Waker and The Minish Cap are taken into account.
In both of those games, the Darknuts are not possessed knights or simply evil men – they’re a full-on intelligent species of canine humanoids who are exceptionally skilled with the blade and have a stratified, knight-based culture. What connection do these jackal-men have with the Darknuts of the past or on other timeline branches, if any?
The greatest riddle of the Darknuts found in The Wind Waker is the Knight’s Crests – great relics that prove one’s true power as a swordsman. The Knight’s Crests give the wearer the power to activate the legendary Hurricane Spin, one of the most powerful sword techniques developed in Hyrulean history. They are only to be worn by the greatest of knights.
If this is so, then how do the Darknuts of The Wind Waker come into their possession? Did they steal them from the Hylian Knights when Ganondorf returned to storm Hyrule (leading to the great flood)? Again, this is the most popular belief for how the Darknuts gained the Crests.
At this point, it seems as if the mystery is somewhat solved. The Iron Knuckles were the first “prototype” Darknuts crafted by Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time by using his own servants. This form of possession was then perfected and used again across the Downfall Timeline, through A Link to the Past and beyond.
Meanwhile, Ganondorf signed a pact with a beast race similar to the Lizalfos and Blins to fight for him before the goddesses flooded Hyrule on the Adult Timeline. These dog-like humanoids stole the Knight’s Crests, and so became master swordsmen.
This is more or less the generally accepted theory on the Darknuts within the theorizing community. Unfortunately, large parts of this theory don’t work, no matter how foolproof it at first seems. There are two key paradoxes that break it – the lesser one is in Twilight Princess.
The Darknuts of Twilight Princess are possibly the most ambiguous of all. It’s entirely possible (and in fact very likely) that they’re knights who were possessed by Ganondorf after Zant’s assault on Hyrule Castle shortly before the events of the game. There’s only one problem with this theory – the Guardian Darknut of the Temple of Time.
This ebon-armored warrior is a lone knight, set within the Temple of Time’s innermost sanctums to guard the sacred Dominion Rod. While it would at first seem he could simply be another one of Ganon’s monster-warriors (there are plenty of Lizalfos in the temple, and Armogohma owes its entire existence to either Ganondorf or Zant getting that deep into the temple), this doesn’t quite fit. Why is he guarding the untouched divine relic that would give its user the ability to reach the heavens?
It really is possible that he was set in that position by Ganondorf simply to make sure Link wouldn’t get his hands on the Dominion Rod. It’s also quite possible he was set there by the Sages of old to protect it from the unworthy. It’s unfortunately impossible to figure out which of these two possibilities is the correct one – but if it were to be the latter, it would destroy the possession theory (as it relates to Twilight Princess).
The other, much, much larger paradox lies far before the events of Ocarina of Time. Those canine humanoids who have mastered the blade and bear the Knight’s Crests in The Wind Waker? They were around centuries before Ganon began to work on the Iron Knuckles. The Darknuts of The Wind Waker made a dramatic appearance in The Minish Cap – Knight’s Crests and all – where they swore themselves to Vaati.
If the Knight’s Crests really did come from these Darknuts, are they the true master knights of Hyrule? Why do they always swear themselves to the side of darkness? What is their connection to the “possessed human” Darknuts of latter games, if there truly is one outside of the name? The Darknut Paradox of The Minish Cap may be the hammer that breaks the earlier-stated general theory.
But who are they? This canine knight race had to have come into real existence some point after the events of Skyward Sword and before The Minish Cap. Unless, of course, they came into existence during The Minish Cap – the final aspect of this theory.
We know the Knight’s Crests are directly connected to the art of the Hurricane Spin, that they bear a bird insignia similar to the basic Hylian one, and that they were worn by the greatest of knights. We know the greatest, oldest order of knights is that of Hyrule (descending from the Skyloft order), and that they were the creators of the Hurricane Spin (as evidenced by Swiftblade the First).
We know that Vaati likes to curse his victims by transforming them, and we know that the Darknuts make their first timeline appearance in the middle of The Minish Cap…right after Vaati takes over Hyrule Castle. All that needs to be done is to connect the dots.
In conclusion - based on the gathered evidence - the most likely possibility is that the canine humanoid Darknuts were the greatest knights of Hyrule, who were cursed into their new forms by Vaati when he took Hyrule Castle. They were forced more-or-less into exile by the games’ end, and eventually resurfaced before the events of The Wind Waker – for the sole purpose of ransacking the very same castle they were banished from.
Meanwhile, the other Darknuts throughout the series are modern-day Hylian knights possessed by either Ganon or Agahnim (or Labrynnan knights by Veran in the case of Oracle of Ages) to bulk up the armies of evil with real fighting force. The Iron Knuckles were simply the bulky prototypes used before Ganondorf mastered the art.
What do you think of this theory? Have something else to say about the Darknuts? Comment away!
Image: Heavy Metal Hanzo