- "Hee-hee-ho! Hello, child. If you are attempting to fool me, it is impossible. We Keatons can recognize our own by the sheen of our tails. But you're a good child... Let me put you to a test."
- — Keaton
Keaton, also known as the Ghost Fox, is a recurring character in the Legend of Zelda series. It is a golden fox with three tails. Although it is mentioned that there is an entire race of Keaton, Link encounters only one.
Although Keaton is never encountered in-game, he is mentioned by several characters when Link wears the Keaton Mask. He is a popular character among the children in Hyrule during the events of Ocarina of Time. It seems likely that Keaton is meant to be a fictional character within the game's fictional universe.
Keaton may also be meant as a reference to Pikachu from Nintendo's Pokémon franchise. Though the Keaton Mask is recognized as a fox by some characters, it also has similar coloration to Pikachu, and both characters are very popular among children, in the Zelda universe and in the real world. Princess Zelda furthermore misidentifies the mask as a mouse, which is the type of creature Pikachu is listed as.
Keaton is a mysterious creature who plays tricks in certain areas of grass. If Link destroys a bush in a cluster which features a ring of bushes with another in the center, the remaining bushes will dance around before vanishing. If Link wears the Keaton Mask when he does this, Keaton will appear. He is not fooled by the mask, but offers Link a test, the Keaton Quiz, in which it asks five questions pertaining to people, places, and things in Termina. If Link answers Keaton’s questions correctly, he is given a Piece of Heart, or 20 Rupees if he has already received the Piece of Heart during a previous time loop. It should be noted that while there are three areas of Termina where Keaton can appear, Link can only take the quiz up to two times during the current three day cycle.
The same type of grass that moves when cut and reveals Keaton can be found in the Lost Woods and the catacombs at the beginning of the game. However, Link cannot summon Keaton in any of these places since he cannot return to them once he has entered Termina, where the Keaton Mask is found. If the player cheats to have a Keaton Mask at the beginning of the game, Keaton will not appear in any of the bushes.
Keatons are quite possibly based on the kitsune, a fox creature from Japanese mythology with multiple tails. The name Keaton itself may be a reference to kitsune, although it is never specified.
Relation to foxes
In "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild", Hyrule is shown to be home to two subspecies of fox. These foxes resemble real world foxes and lack the multiple tails, sentience, and supernatural abilities of the Keaton. However Keatons are referred to as ghost foxes and in Majora's Mask are shown to resemble japanese Kyūbi no Kitsune as they have multiple tails, are wise, and possess magical powers. However, though kitsune means fox spirit, this does not mean kitsune are ghosts, because the word spirit is used to reflect a state of knowledge or enlightenment, any long-lived foxes gain supernatural abilities according to legend, thus similarly Keatons may simply be long-lived foxes that have gained sentience and supernatural abilities. Alternately, Keaton could be supernatural subspecies of fox similar to how Stalhorse in Breath of the Wild are an undead subspecies of Horse artificially created by Calamity Ganon's power resurrecting the skeletons of dead horses. Interestingly neither subspecies resemble the Keaton though coat color differs between the two subspecies so the coloration of the Keaton may be an adaptation or a side effect of long lived foxes becoming Keatons. Interestingly the Woodland Fox subspecies inhabits Lost Woods and in Majora's Mask it is suggested Keaton inhabit the Lost Woods as moving grass that causes Keaton to appear in Termina when the Keaton Mask is wore can be encountered briefly in the Lost Woods section before Link chases Skull Kid through the portal that connects Hyrule to Termina. This indicates Keatons and Woodland Foxes may be related as Snowcoat Foxes are a breed of Grassland Fox that became adapted to cold climates.
However it is possible that Keatons are a sentient species of fox from Termina that ended up travelling to Hyrule through the Lost Woods portal which would fit with their wisdom. This would also explain why Link never encounters them in Ocarina of Time as they rarely show themselves to people even in Termina. Additionally they would have to navigate out of Lost Woods which is a natural maze which may indicate few Keaton have ever made it out into the rest of Hyrule as sightings of them may have been from travelers who entered the Lost Woods or tales of them originated from the Kokiri and/or fairies living in the woods knowledge which they eventually passed on to the Hylians which may explain Keatons popularity among Hylian children who are more likely to believe such tales and it is noted in Breath of the Wild that fairies sometimes befriend Hylian children and provide them with information about the world which most adults might tend to dismiss or would be highly sceptical of. It should also be noted that the two Keaton Masks in Ocarina of Time are received from the Happy Mask Salesman, an enigmatic fellow known to travel between Hyrule and Termina so the masks may have originated in Termina and brought to Hyrule by the Happy Mask Salesman with one being sold by Link to the Keaton Mask Soldier. In Termina, the mask is often associated with childhood due to its popularity among children as Kafei during his natural childhood and the Bombers Secret Society of Justice members are known to own them.