- "Is this what happens to kids who wander into the forest? It looks like he doesn't like grownups."
- — Navi
Skull Kids (スタルキッド Stalkid?) are a recurring race in the Legend of Zelda series. They are a race of diminutive, mischievous beings that reside in forests. When non-fairy folk get lost in Lost Woods, they are cursed to become Stalfos—but Navi suggests that when children get lost in the woods, they may become Skull Kids. While Skull Kids tend to be friendly toward children, they fear adults and will attack them on sight.
The physical appearance of Skull Kids varies somewhat across games, but their childlike size, tattered, reddish garb, and wide-brimmed hats remain constant.
Skull Kids can be found in the Lost Woods, where they play flute-like instruments. Their faces are entirely black, with glowing orange eyes and large lips. While Link is a child, he can interact with them; however, they become hostile once Link is an adult, firing small projectiles at him through their instruments. Link can kill these hostile Skull Kids, most notably with the Biggoron's Sword or the Giant's Knife due to the substantial reach these provide. Doing so earns Link a huge Rupee worth 200 Rupees.
There is one Skull Kid directly to the left of the entrance to the Lost Woods who will give Link a Piece of Heart if Link plays "Saria's Song" for him. If Link pursues the Happy Mask side quest, this Skull Kid will buy the Skull Mask, but will only pay half-price.
Deeper into the Lost Woods, there are two Skull Kids on tree stumps. Link can play the ocarina notes they provide for him to obtain a Piece of Heart. Interestingly, both of these Skull Kids will wear the Skull Mask after Link sells it to the Skull Kid elsewhere in the woods. It is unknown if this is a development oversight or if the two Skull Kids are meant to be illusions.
A Skull Kid known simply as "Skull Kid" is the primary antagonist. Prior to the game's events, he steals Majora's Mask from the Happy Mask Salesman. Compelled by the evil within the mask, he uses its power to pull down the Moon and direct it toward the land of Termina, seeking to destroy the world after three days' time. At the game's end, it is heavily implied that this is the same Skull Kid Link befriended by playing "Saria's Song" in Ocarina of Time.
Unlike others of his race, the mouth of this Skull Kid is more reminiscent of a beak than lips.
After Princess Zelda heals Midna and disappears, Midna and Wolf Link head to the Faron Woods to lift the curse Zant placed on Link. In the Sacred Grove deep within the forest they find a maze, which they navigate with the help of a Skull Kid. Link uses the light of the Skull Kid's lantern and the sound of his trumpet to follow him through the woods in a game of Hide-and-Seek. The Skull Kid releases Puppets that attack Link along the way, and allows Link entrance to the area where the Master Sword lies only after Link finds and attacks him enough times.
Later in the game, Link must return to the Sacred Grove. The Skull Kid again leads him through the maze, engages him in battle, and lets him into the Sacred Grove once Link prevails. This time, the Skull Kid thanks Link for the fun and invites him to come back and play again sometime. However, the Skull Kid does not appear upon further visits to the Sacred Grove.
The song the Skull Kid plays on his trumpet is, in fact, "Saria's Song"; however, the music in the background makes the notes sound almost melancholy compared to the upbeat melody of the Ocarina of Time rendition.
In "Skull Kid and the Mask", a two-part side story from the Ocarina of Time manga, it is stated that while his family was on a picnic, a young boy ventured into the Lost Woods to catch a Fairy. As he ran into the forest, his mother yelled at him to stop because he would get lost. Ignoring his mother's advice, the child entered the forest and indeed became lost within. Breathing the air of the dark forest depths caused the boy to gradually transform into a Skull Kid, the fate that befalls Hylian children who venture into the Lost Woods.
Skull Kids slightly resemble Imp Poes, with their small shape, mischievously violent nature and (in Twilight Princess) lanterns. This could mean that Skull Kids are Imp Poes' living counterparts. Interestingly, the Happy Mask Salesman and number of other characters refer to the Skull Kid from Majora's Mask as an imp.
Template:Controversy Skull Kid's original design featuring black skin and pronounced lips are reminiscent of 'darkie iconography' or 'Golliwogs' which are regarded as racist caricatures. Other characters of iconic gaming series such as Jynx (Pokemon #124) from the Pokemon series have been accused of being similar uses of derogatory sterotypes.
It is worth noting that similar to alterations made to Jynx in the pokemon series to remove the controversy, the design of the Skull Kid race has undergone changes effectively removing potential controversy.
For example, the Skull Kid in Majora's Mask has has its dark skin replaced with a beige colour head resembling wood, straw or perhaps even fabric. The prominent lips are also replaced with a beak (complete with nostrils). This is despite the fact that this Skull Kid is heavily implied to be the same to feature in Ocarina of Time as well as the design of most other characters in Majora's Mask to be reuses of character sprites in Ocarina of Time. Template:Endcontroversy