The Multiple Ganon Theory is the theory that there exists more than one Ganon/Ganondorf in the Zelda timeline, in much the same way that Link and Princess Zelda exist as more than one person throughout the Legend of Zelda series. Variations include ideas that Ganondorf is locked in the same cycle of reincarnation as Link, or that Ganon is a malevolent demon who possesses people, Ganondorf being one such host. Supporting the reincarnation idea, it is said by the Gerudo that only a single male is born into their tribe every one hundred years. Depending on the game, he is said to be destined to become either the King of the Gerudo or the guardian of the desert and the Gerudo.
Although the theory has been around for quite some time, most modern versions of this theory stem out of Ganondorf's back-story in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, which conflicts with Ganondorf's back-story in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In Four Swords Adventures the Gerudo talk about a man named Ganondorf who had been born and lived in the Desert of Doubt with them. They mentioned that he had grown into an evil man with a lust for power and had broken their laws by stealing a Trident deep in the desert that gave him incredible powers, such as transforming him into Ganon.
This is in direct contrast to the back-story Ganon was given in Ocarina of Time, in which he is acknowledged by many as the king of the Gerudo, and does not become Ganon until acquiring the Triforce of Power. Additionally, the back-story of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which explains the actions of the Ganondorf from Ocarina of Time in an alternate timeline, says that a tribe of thieves, most likely the Gerudo, followed him in his attack on Hyrule, again showing that he was accepted as king.
There are only three logical explanations to these conflicting back-stories:
- One is that a single Ganondorf had ventured to the desert and stolen the Trident, broke out of the seal he was placed at at the end of Four Swords Adventures but was not killed by Link, turned back into Ganondorf, and returned to the Gerudo later at a time that they were willing to acknowledge him as king. This would require that Four Swords Adventures take place before Ocarina of Time.
- The second explanation is that the game is not part of the overall storyline within the series, though official statements indicate that all the games from the main series are included in the official timeline document.
- The third explanation is that the Ganondorfs from the two games are separate incarnations, much like the many Links, Zeldas, and other characters who are seen multiple times throughout the series. This theory is supported by a quote at the end of Four Swords Adventures in which Princess Zelda calls Ganon an "ancient demon reborn". This is similar language to a line in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in which Ganondorf calls the game's incarnation of Link "The Hero of Time, reborn".
Another solid point for this theory is the apparent death of Ganondorf/Ganon five separate times throughout the series. An individual Ganon is only shown to be resurrected once. Even with this resurrection, and the split timeline allowing a single individual Ganon to die twice, there would still need to be three separate Ganons in order to account for all of the presumed deaths. In order for all of the Ganons in the series to be the same, Ganon would have to have been brought back to life on two additional occasions not hinted at by any of the games, or survived at least two of his apparent deaths.
In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Demise states that his hatred will be reincarnated and attack in a cycle without end. This is often interpreted as meaning that Ganon's repeated appearances are a result of this cycle. If Ganon as we know him is a result of Demise's hatred continuously reincarnating itself, there would be further support for the idea that multiple Ganons could continue to appear even as previous ones are slain. This would support the Multiple Ganon Theory as each Ganon would be a separate incarnation in this cycle, though all of them would share the same basic origin of forming from Demise's hatred.
While the Multiple Ganon Theory has yet to gain wide spread acceptance, it has nonetheless gained the respect of some timeline theorist and fans of the series.
Shigeru Miyamoto has stated that although each Link and Zelda are reincarnations, there is "only one Ganon". However, this statement may now be outdated or may have been made based on a lack of information, as Miyamoto is no longer as involved with the Zelda storyline as he previously was.
According to the Hyrule Historia, a second Ganondorf is born during the events leading to Four Swords Adventures. The book either implies or states directly that the rest of Ganon's appearances are the same being brought back to life, or versions of him in alternate timelines.
In Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U, one of Pit's special conversions (initiated by preforming Pit's down taunt on the Palutena's Temple stage) that occurs when Pit is fighting Ganondorf, Palutena and Viridi state that there are multiple incarnations of Ganon just like there are multiple incarnations of Link and Zelda. However it should be noted that the Smash Bros. series is generally considered non-canon, thus its validity is debatable. This marks the first time the Multiple Ganon Theory has been suggested within a video game itself, even if its confirmation remains dubious.