“It’s a Stalchild. They were the cursed soldiers of the Kingdom of Ikana…” – Tatl in ‘The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask’
Stalchildren, also known as Stalkins in Twilight Princess, are recurring enemies in The Legend of Zelda series. They are fairly common enemies found Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time and the Ikana Graveyard in Majora’s Mask, and while they tend to attack in hordes they are not notably difficult, rather they are more of a nuisance really. Although the fact that they spawn nonstop at night in Ocarina of Time can be somewhat unsettling for some players, especially since this is only when Link is a child.
Despite this they can only take, regardless of size, only two hits. If Link attacks a Stalchild from the front, it will lose its head and begin wandering around blindly without aim.
But what exactly are these skeletal enemies?
Well, in Majora’s Mask, we are made aware by Tatl that they are the “cursed soldiers of the Kingdom of Ikana“, so at the very least we are certain that they are soldiers who presumably died in combat.
The most sentient Stalchildren are the ones who were formally under the command of Captain Skull Keeta who are stationed with guarding the Ikana Graveyard.
They will easily mistake anyone that wears the Captain’s Hat for their leader Captain Keeta.
Nonetheless like the rest of their people the Stalchildren are loyal to a fault, continuing their service even in death to their monarch King Igos du Ikana.
The reason the Graveyard is so well defended is never explicitly stated, although it is reasonable to assume that it was either a matter of honour (so that enemies could not desecrate the graves of the Royal Family) or an effort to safeguard the Family’s treasures, several of which are hidden in graves.
So while we known they are soldiers there must be more to them right?
One more obvious area of interest is their name, they are Stalchildren. Emphases on the word ‘children’. Are they child soldiers?
They are small enough to suggest such, they match Young Link in height and are notably smaller than both their king and captain.
Now some may say that Captain Keeta and King Igos are taller as they are mini-bosses, suggesting that the Ikana people are a generally short and thus the Stalchildren are not children despite the name but rather adults or at the very least young adults.
But there is a problem to this viewpoint, in the existence of the Stalfos. Who are the the long-dead skeleton knights of the Ikana Kingdom, two of which are fought by Link as they guard their leader King Igos.
They are notably taller than the Stalchildren, suggesting that they are fully grown adults.
So this leaves only one simple conclusion. The Stalchildren are children as they name suggests and perhaps more horrifically they were (and continue to be in death) child soldiers.
The Ikana Kingdom used child soldiers in their wars, and considering the existence of a effectively endless army of Stalchildren coming out of the ground during the night in Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time and their guarding of the Ikana Graveyard Majora’s Mask, suggests that these children were used as a frontline infantry against the Ikana’s known enemy the Garo (also called Garo Robes or Garo Ninjas).
It is also possible that Ikana may have once fought the Hyrulean Soldiers of the Royal Family of Hyrule, considering they spawn out of the ground in Hyrule Field. Especially since it is stated that:
“Ikana Kingdom was founded on this land, stained with a history of darkness, drenched in blood… Even now it is a place where troubled, regretful spirits gather.” – Poe Collector in ‘The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask’
Nonetheless these children were massacred by their foes, to such an extent that the Ikana Kingdom is extinct (irrelevant of their undead status).
While the use of child soldiers is perhaps not that surprising considering the fact that Link while still a child has commonly fought countless threats, usually to protect the the Royal Family of Hyrule. It is still a somewhat disturbing thought that the once prosperous Ikana Kingdom either freely utilised child soldiers in their imperial expansion or were forced into such desperate measures due to their blood-soaked and merciless long-winded war with the Garo, until the eventually destruction of the Ikana Kingdom’s culture and people.
Of course this is just a theory, albite a dark one. A perfect reminder that the world crafted in The Legend of Zelda series is a notably dark one full of horror both on the surface and hidden.
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