Link and Zelda are present in just about every game in The Legend of Zelda franchise, and they’re often facing off against the evil Ganondorf. However, unlike the two protagonists, Ganondorf sometimes goes by a second name – Ganon – and he often looks radically different depending on which game you’re playing.
So what exactly is the difference between Ganon vs Ganondorf in Zelda? Are these two villains actually one entity, or are they distinct characters with no overlap? Here’s what you need to know about Ganon and Ganondorf to help make sense of the wild Zelda lore.
What’s the difference between Ganon vs Ganondorf in 'Zelda'?
Ganon and Ganondorf are essentially two sides of the same coin. Ganondorf is the name given to the villain when he is in his humanoid form, while Ganon is his name after transforming into his beast-like form.
For example, in Breath of the Wild, you eventually face off against Calamity Ganon – a primal evil that most closely resembles a towering beast of swirling energy. In Ocarina of Time, you battle Ganondorf – a humanoid being that can ride horses, wield spears, and more closely resembles Link than he does Calamity Ganon.
You also fight Ganon in Ocarina of Time, which occurs after Ganondorf magically transforms into a boar-like creature.
In other words, Ganon and Ganondorf are largely the same character, but his name changes depending on which form he's assuming. If he looks like a human, he goes by Ganondorf. If he looks like a beast, he's called Ganon.
What is the history of Ganondorf?
Ganondorf is known as King of the Gerudo and is well-versed in physical and magical combat. His surrogate mothers are Koume and Kotake, Gerudo witches that typically serve as the Sorceress of Ice and the Sorceress of Flame.
The Gerudo race is composed almost entirely of females, although a male is born every 100 years – and immediately takes the throne as the King of the Gerudo. Depending on the game, Ganondorf may also hold the Triforce of Power, granting him enhanced abilities.
What is the history of Ganon?
Ganon’s history is a bit more nebulous than Ganondorf’s. While much of Ganondorf’s past stays consistent throughout the game – along with his humanoid appearance – Ganon looks wildly different depending on which entry you’re playing.
Ganon is sometimes viewed as the version of Ganondorf that’s been corrupted by the Triforce of Power. He often doesn’t speak, but in some titles, he talks just as much as Ganondorf. These wild inconsistencies have made it difficult for fans to pinpoint exactly "what" Ganon is.
There’s lots of speculation surrounding Ganon’s history and how he came into existence, but there’s no clear-cut answer. For now, it’s best to simply see Ganon and a monstrous form of Ganondorf – and one that will almost always make an appearance at the end of a Zelda game.