- "The people of our tribe...a tribe that mastered the arts of magic...were locked away in this world like insects in a cage. In the shadows we regressed, so much so that we soon knew neither anger nor hatred...nor even the faintest bloom of desire. And all of it was the fault of a useless, do-nothing royal family that had resigned itself to this miserable half-existence!"
- — Zant
The Twili (トワイライトの民 Towairaito no Tami?) are a race from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. This peaceful race of Twilight beings resides within the Twilight Realm. Descendants of a group known simply as the Interlopers, there are many theories as to who this group is.
The Twili descended from a tribe of sorcerers known only as the Interlopers, who attempted to seize control of the Sacred Realm after the creation of the Triforce. However, their efforts failed, and they were seized by the three Goddesses, Din, Nayru, and Farore. With the aid of the Light Spirits, the Interlopers were banished to a land known as the Twilight Realm. Over a long period of time, because of the vastly different environment within the Twilight Realm, the interlopers evolved from their original forms to a unique, black and white, gentle-looking race, namely the Twili. Eventually, they abandoned their plans to rule the Sacred Realm and Hyrule and became peacefully adapted to their new lifestyle in the Twilight Realm. Ganondorf, who was going to face execution, regained his strength from the anguish and hatred of the Twili (despite supposedly losing such feelings after their banishment) upon his execution.
At one point in their history, Ganondorf was banished to the Twilight Realm. and he met a young servant of the Twili Royal Family and nominee for King, Zant. Zant, believing Ganondorf to be a god, was granted exceptional magical powers and used these to usurp the throne of Midna, who was chosen as Twilight Ruler over him, and declared himself king. Firmly in command, he transformed Midna into an imp-like creature and his fellow Twili into Shadow Beasts, and, planning to engulf the entire land in Twilight, launched an invasion of the peaceful land of Hyrule.
Eventually, Link, the hero, and Midna, the former Princess of Twilight whom Zant betrayed, restore the Mirror of Twilight and enter the Twilight Realm. They restore the Twili to their original forms and defeat Zant, who vows to return as long as his master, Ganondorf, lives. Link and Midna defeat Ganondorf, and Midna is returned to her original state. As she travels back to the Twilight Realm, she destroys the Mirror of Twilight, sealing the only entrance between Hyrule and her homeland forever.
The Twili have a stretched, elongated appearance, with long limbs, necks, and heads, and great variances in overall height and girth (although the shorter Twili could just be children, which would also explain their girth). It also appears that common Twili are incapable of speaking the Hylian Language and appear to be able to utter only a moan when Link draws near, which may be their own language. If this is the case, those moans may possibly be speeches that sound like moans because Link does not understand the language. Though, their moaning may also be caused by shyness or fear that they feel toward Link.
Theories on Twili Oddities
Zant and Midna are notably different in behavior and appearance to other Twili encountered; however, Midna is cursed throughout the majority of the game, which could be an explanation of this. While it is unknown why the two look different, there are several different theories that could be made. The dissimilarity in behavior could be explained by the fact that Zant is apparently insane, and Midna displays awareness over her current situation, unlike the other Twili. Their status as upper-class Twili could also be an explanation, since Midna's imp form resembles the Twili seen within the Palace in terms of clothing, height and girth, it is possible that the ruler of the Twili looks differently from the others, and Midna turned into her imp form because Zant's curse removed her authority as leader of the Twili. Midna's appearance may also differ due to the fact that she is female, and the rest of the Twili appear to be male.
Zant also resembles the Twili found around the Palace, except that he is taller. Another explanation for this could be that the class system of the Twili is based on how humanoid they look. Noble born Twili may look like Midna and Zant while common Twili are similar to humans only in terms of basic physical characteristics. Midna's different skin tone and distinctly humanoid appearance in comparison to Zant whilst in her true form, may be because of her gender, but there is no way of telling.
The few Twili in the game who displayed the above mentioned form reverted to their small, imp-like forms (having been originally non-attacking Shadow Beasts) after being exposed to the light of a Sol. Despite their odd behavior and blank stares and moans, it is unlikely that the forms are a kind of half stage, as Midna herself says that the Shadow Beasts have turned back to their original forms. As stated before, their moans may just be a way of speaking, since they may not know the Hylian language and instead communicate in a different language.
The Twili and the Shadows are the only creatures that can enter areas of Twilight or bring anything into it. They also seem to possess great magical skill, some examples being levitation, telekinesis, portal creation, object manipulation, and the ability to hide in human shadows. It is unknown if all Twili can perform these abilities, since only two Twili, Zant and Midna, are seen using magic in the game.
Sensitivity to Light
Twili cannot exist directly in the Realm of Light, and Midna did so only by hiding in Link's shadow. While the light of the Sols cleansed them of the corrupting magic Zant placed on them, being exposed to light from the Light World is fatal, as when Zant did so against Midna, she nearly died, and her life continued to wane until Zelda saved the Twili by seemingly sacrificing herself. Zant was also an exception to this weakness, as the magic Ganondorf granted him provided him immunity from the light, and he could exist in the light of the outside world without hiding in the shadows. Later on, Midna showed the ability to exist in the light after she was revived, despite Zelda herself being full present as well. This could actually be due to the Light Spirit's, since they were the ones that revived her in the first place.
The Twili appear to possess many strange technologies that are seemingly more advanced than that of the Hylians, and even more advanced than technology from Termina. One example would be their use of teleportation through the use of Twilight Portals. In the Twilight Realm, the Twili use platforms for transportation that appeared from nowhere and were completely transparent, except for the glowing green shapes seen all around anything that is of Twilight origin (portals, Sols, etc.). Another example is the doors that open by themselves. These doors have only one green shape when inactive, but when opened, the green shape extends, highlighting more details. Another, more likely possibility, however, is that the many wonders of the Twilight Realm are caused by the magic of their ancestors put to a more peaceful use.
The Twili are ruled by a single person who rules from the palace of Twilight. Despite being a monarchy, comments by Zant and Midna would suggest that theirs is not hereditary, but an elective monarchy, which is to say that the new king or queen is chosen from either the general populace by a consent of the people, or there are many royal houses and each has a turn of a potential monarch being elected from a parliament. This could explain how Zant had been a servant of the rulers of the Twilight for many years but was still applicable for being voted for king. The rulers are granted the title Twilight King (male) or Twilight Princess (female) after being elected. They are the only ones capable of destroying the Mirror of Twilight.
It is said in-game that the Twili descended from the Interlopers, though the race of these interlopers is never revealed. All of the following are reasonable candidates due to the fact that none of them are ever seen in game (thus supporting the story that they were banished) and that there are some physical or cultural similarities.
The Twili are notably similar to the Sheikah, as both are described as wielders of Dark magic, have red irises and dwell in the shadows (even being referred to as 'the shadow folk'). Additionally, the symbol of the Sheikah, a stylized eye with a teardrop, is present on both Zant's throne and on the back of the Fused Shadow. The rendition of this emblem on Zant's throne appears several times throughout the Twilight and on the black walls separating the Twilit areas of Hyrule from the rest. Notably, in the Twili version of the eye is smaller and rounder, and missing the three-triangle eyebrow. The Twili and Sheikah could possibly have been the same race, with the future Sheikah defending the Royal Family of Hyrule, and rest becoming the Interlopers and evolving into the Twili.
This is possibly further evidenced by the similar stylistic patterns seen between the two races. The bright neon blue patterns seen covering Sheikah technology in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild bear a heavy resemblance to the otherworldly designs of Twili technology, and the many Twilit creatures seen in Twilight Princess.
Another race known as the Ancient Ones, though not featured in the series and is only briefly mentioned in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, are those that used Majora's Mask in their 'hexing rituals'. There are many similarities between the Twili and Majora's Mask itself, which implies that the Twili could be the very race that created it or used it in their rituals.
The similarities involve some shapes featured on Majora's Mask being present on Midna's helmet, the Fused Shadow (specifically the eye). Zant's behavior is very similar to creatures specific to Majora's Mask and the Mask itself, such as his screeching in a similar fashion to Majora's Mask. During the mention of those who used the Mask, the Happy Mask Salesman mentions that the mask was hidden in shadows; the Twilight Realm is sometimes referred to as "The Realm of Shadows". Additionally, the entrance to Stone Tower Temple in Majora's Mask appears to be a large face with its tongue sticking out. Zant's helmet also resembles a face with its tongue out, which would lead to the belief that the race that built the tower (sometimes believed to be the same race as the race who made the mask) could be the Twili. However, as it is implied that Termina, the land in which the events of Majora's Mask take place, is in another realm entirely, it is unlikely that they would be the same specific people, though it is still possible that they are of the same species. Of course, it is possible that the Ancient Ones could be the Terminan counterparts of either the Interlopers and/or Twili.
Another possibility is that at least a portion of the Gerudo tribe were the people who gained the mysterious power of the Fused Shadows and were cast into the Twilight Realm. Midna's story that the Twili race were originally a tribe of thieves, her mention that the Twili's ancestors "lost their king to greed", and why the entrance to the Twilight Realm is located in the Gerudo Desert, all point to this.
As for appearance, Midna does have similar hair to that of the Gerudo and her true form is tall and slender, just as the Gerudo women once were. However, the other Twili, including Zant, seem to have sandy blond hair. Also, there is a Gerudo pattern and converted Gerudo symbol on the front of Zant's robe, which he wore even before his encounter with Ganondorf, whom he worshiped as a god. Additionally, the Gerudo, too, worship Ganondorf as a god, which a Gossip Stone tells Link in Ocarina of Time. This also could mean that Zant is a Gerudo man that is born every 100 years, except within the Twilight Realm, and is one of the reasons Zant is so obsessed with Ganondorf and being King.
If the Twili were once Gerudos, it would explain the lack of Gerudos in Twilight Princess.
Finally, there remains the possibility that the Interlopers were not of any one race or tribe, but were a cult of people made up of several different races and cultures. Evidence to support this is Lanayru's vision where Link kills his closest friend to seek after the Triforce, only to become an Interloper himself. It can be interpreted that several people throughout Hyrule betrayed their fellow countrymen to obtain the Triforce and eventually united as the Interlopers. Once sealed in the Twilight Realm, the long-term effect of the Twilight on them could have transformed them into one single race, and may explain the large differences in appearance that some Twili have from others.
One interesting theory is that the Interlopers may have been a tribe/race related both the Sheikah and the Gerudo. It should be noted that all the known true Sheikah (as Sheik is an alter-ego taken by Princess Zelda) such as the incarnations of Impa and Impaz have been female (male Sheikah do exist in the Ocarina of Time manga but it is generally considered non-canon). This could mean that the Sheikah are a predominately female race like the Gerudo, which may explain why the number of Sheikah encountered in The Legend of Zelda series is relatively low (as usually only a single member of the tribe appears) possibly due to a combination of low birth rates and members dying in service to Hylia in Skyward Sword and the Royal Family of Hyrule. Another possibility is that while male Sheikah are rare, they may not be as rare as male Gerudo. It is possible that the Interlopers descended from the Sheikah (as their race predates the founding of Hyrule), possibly either an early tribe of Gerudo or the race that proceeded them. Another possibility is that the Interlopers' tribe were the offspring of Sheikah and early Gerudo. Either of these theories could explain the Sheikah and Gerudo symbols, as the lost tribe may have inherited the Sheikah symbol from their Sheikah ancestors and the Gerudo symbol either originated among the tribe or was adopted from their Gerudo relatives. The Interlopers knowledge of the Triforce would have been inherited from their Sheikah relatives and their inclination towards thievery likely came from their Gerudo relatives. If true, this would indicate that the Gerudo and Sheikah may have close ties in the past, but following the banishment of the Interlopers, relations between the two tribes became strained to the point they split and remained separate, while the Interlopers evolved into the Twili, who continued to use the symbols of both the Sheikah & Gerudo.