One of the greatest mysteries of the Legend of Zelda series is that of the evolution of the Zora Tribe into the Rito tribe. In The Wind Waker, Hyrule is flooded by a torrent of rain and sealed under a fairly thick water barrier, similar to the cloud barrier in Skyward Sword. So why would the Zora have to escape if the land of Hyrule was going to be flooded by water? Couldn’t they just live in the ocean waters?
Let us first dive into how the great migration of people and creatures could have affected their life styles while transitioning to their new lives on the mountain tops.
The Zoras of Zora’s Domain were forced up to the mountains due to the impending doom of Hyrule. They walked many miles, walking through Kakariko Village and up Death Mountain. Many perished on their journey, as there was little water on the unforgiving mountain. Some survived and struggled to adapt to the new location. The great Sky Spirit Valoo had taken care of all the creatures that had taken refuge on the mountain and also helped them to further adapt. Zoras then slowly lost their gills and began to develop stronger lungs and turned into wingless bird people.
Once the flood came and covered the land of Hyrule, the new Rito people were given scales when they were of age as well as made Grappling Claws for the younglings who have yet to reach the proper age. Valoo then sat on the volcano top in order to watch over this new race. The adult Rito, unable to find food on the island and in the ocean, then flew to other nearby islands and gathered food for their race. Along the way, they met with many other races, like the humans and what little Goron population that remained, as well as the Korok, the evolved Kokiri. The races had began to take note that there were still some who survived the flood.
The last of the Zoras, Laruto, Sage of the Earth Temple, then took shelter in the highest point of the Earth Temple. Once the flood took place, much of the lower parts of the temple were flooded and then slowly the Earth Temple was drained of the excess water, allowing her to return back to the depths of the temple to pray.
I would like to now cover about why the Zoras couldn’t have stayed while the flood happened. After all, aquatic creatures should be able to live in the water, right? Why, yes, that can be correct, but there are two things that determine if a creature can live in the water or not.
In real life, we have many seas and oceans. We have the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. And which of these is the hardest to survive in? The Dead Sea. This sea contains about 3000 mg/l salinity, meaning that a third or so of a cup of water you get in that sea is salt. That amount of salt makes it fairly hard for any creatures to survive in the water.
Now look at the Great Sea. This sea is much like the Dead Sea, there are hardly any fish that live in the water. About the time of the Great Flood, Fishmen appeared and had adapted to the water, unlike the fresh water Zoras of Zora’s Domain. Because the Zoras had no way in order to adapt to the salt water of the sea, Fishmen were born by the gods in order to become the ears and eyes of the ocean. The Fishmen were also possibly guarded by the Great Water Spirit, Jabun.
Now another reasoning why the Zoras couldn’t survive is because the flood water wouldn’t have enough oxygen in the water. Fish can drown too if there is more water than there is oxygen in a body of water. Oxygen is needed in order for the fish to live and the gills filter out oxygen out of water. If there is little oxygen in the water, the fish cannot survive. The same with the Zoras. If the water had little oxygen, they wouldn’t be able to survive.
This is why the Great Sea has a small amount of fish in the sea. Sure we have Gyorgs, Sea Hats, and Octoroks littering the sea, but home many of those monsters do you think would be eatable to the races of Hyrule? Surely none.
Why the Fishmen can survive in the water and not the Zoras is that the sea possibly now has the means of sustaining a little bit of life. The amount of salt in the water could have dropped a little and the amount of oxygen could have increased just enough for a little Fishman to survive. But even then, the oxygen and saltiness of the sea could have been too much for the River Zoras of Hyrule.
The Zora race may have died off, but they adapted to their new way of life and became Ritos. In order to survive, a creature must constantly adapt to their environment in order to maintain its life.