The Legend of Zelda: What’s With The Toilet Ghost?
When I was a small child I’d watch my sister play on our N64. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play, it was the sensation that made me too excited I couldn’t stay at the controller, I’d jump up and run around seeing the cartoon enemies run at the screen. So imagine my shock watching my sister play The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and in the dead of night, a lanky-looking arm is reaching out of the inn’s toilet. At first, we were both curiously surprised, then we were spooked that it might come after us, then we were curious again and wanted to see where this story thread would take us. Turns out this goofy toilet creature has some pretty spooky origins in Japanese ghost stories.
I’d first like to lament the absence of our friend only known by the dialogue as “???” in the continued Legend of Zelda installments. This wacky fellow was last seen in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword as a new character named “Pheoni” who had her own love story sidequest. Since then there’s been no mention of them. Now sure, it’s hard to find a place for toilet-based characters in fantasy games, and sure, it could be hard to invest in characterization without hitting content warnings BUT. Sekiro Shadows die twice introduces the likeness of the concept with the Noble Pot Merchants. Unique amongst their fishy, Gungan-looking peers these fellows are characterized by their single hand popping out the top of a large pot they inhabit. Much in the same manner as the toilet ghost. All I’m saying is that if Sekiro can bring this goober back to life then there’s no reason they can’t appear bobbing afloat in lake Hylia.
I mean no shade at Tingle fans but if Tingle can get sequel support I think there’s room for another.
Similar to the Pot Nobles the toilet hand is more of a merchant than a vengeful soul, by giving them some paper on request the player is rewarded with valuable items. On the record, Miyamoto has said that the origins of the character come from various Japanese folklore involving creatures that inhabit or come out of toilets to the occupant’s demise.
“It’s actually something from a Japanese ghost story. Not a specific ghost story. There are some ghost stories in Japan where — when you are sitting in the bathroom in the traditional style of the Japanese toilet — a hand is actually starting to grab you from beneath.”
—Shigeru Miyamoto (Shigeru Miyamoto talks ‘Legend of Zelda’,’ ‘Mariokart’)
One more modern tale is that of Hanako-san. The tales have their variations but involve a girl’s tragic death in a toilet stall and she can either mutilate her victims or pull them down to hell through the toilet based on how her encounters are handled. SO Spooky, I’m getting goosebumps. The older counterpart is the red hooded man, wearing a mask and his read hood he knocks on the stall door. When opened dispatches the victims in a similar manner, dispatching them based on their responses to an offer of toilet paper. There has been some cross-pollination between these two tales making them similar in mechanics.
There is the even older legend of the iconic yokai, Kappas. An article on Zelda Universe proposes this connection to toilet mythology. These creatures are somewhere between a frog and a beaked turtle and were said to be the culprits behind drownings. Also, they were said to feast on human liver or the soul-gem inside their lower bodies. To take it they would, um… Toilets at that time were situated near rivers so that waste is washed away as opposed to an outhouse hole. So Kappas would reach into that end of the human to pull their guts out. Or so it’s said.
I don’t think anyone wants a toilet-related spiritual encounter of any kind. Ok, there’s a niche, not getting into that.
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