In the games, however, Link spends almost as much time in frigid temperatures as around flame.
I wanted to make a few low-temperature pictures to reflect this, but in the games icy bad guys are in surprisingly short supply.
In Ocarina of Time there’s an ice cavern, but it only has a White Wolfos as a mini boss, and I’d used Wolfos before in another picture.
In Twilight Princess, there’s Blizzeta at the end of the Snowpeak ruins, but that boss is basically just a bunch of floating blocks of ice which might not be recognizable if I Photoshopped it to life.
Skyward sword doesn’t even have a snowy area, which left me at a bit of a loss. So, since I couldn’t find a good ice boss, I decided to build one of the other baddies: Freezard.
Creating the Freezard
Like lizalfos, stalfos, and many others, freezards are recurring baddies in the Legend of Zelda franchise.
That meant that I had a couple of prior freezard interpretations to draw from in creating my own.
In the Ocarina of Time, freezards appear in the ice cavern as horny ice statues with a vaguely humanoid face. They move about a room blowing frigid cloudy breath which can freeze Link in place. In some places, they are almost invisible against their frozen surroundings, making them effective ambush hunters.
In Twilight Princess, the freezards are found in the Snowpeak ruins. They are much larger than in Ocarina of Time but do not move, except to while they breathe their chilling fog. They are clearly visible, and their appearance is quite frightening, like a carnivorous ice cave. They can be broken by a ball and chain or other heavy weapon, and then each black crystalline eye becomes its own miniature freezard.
Rather than pick one version or the other, I combined elements of both these designs in my final image.
For the background, I chose to go with Ocarina of Time’s ice cavern.
There are plenty of real life ice caverns that are pretty beautiful. The one I chose is on Lake Superior’s Apostle island.
These lovely ice formations are visible for only a short time each winter, but during that period they perfectly resemble the frozen Zora realm.
The Apostle Island ice caves were also the perfect background for some icy camouflage. In imitation of Ocarina of Time’s invisible freezards, I decided to create a creature which looked almost as though he was emerging from the frozen walls themselves.
Once I had the setting and basic idea for the picture, I started to create a monster that focused on the wide icy maw of a Twilight Princess-esque freezard.
I built almost the entire freezard out of actual icicle pictures. The upper and lower teeth were from sheets of ice hanging over small caves. The eyes and nose were also simply shadowy points on the ceilings of such caves.
This made the freezard look very cool and believable, but actually introduced a design challenge because if I overdid the realism then it would wind up simply looking like a creepy cave rather than an actual monster.
For example, I tried several times to create the multi-eyed look seen in Twilight Princess, but this made the “face” less recognizable. In the end, I had to stick to two black eyes and a nose, which kept the appearance anthropomorphic, like some ghastly snowman. Since the Ocarina of Time freezards have only two eyes, I figured this was a reasonable concession to make.
Another feature I modified to look more un-natural was the throat. I painted rows of icicles stretching backward, arranged in circles around the maw.
Since icicles don’t, you know, grow counter to gravity, this helped to create the feeling that the creature couldn’t simply be another ice flow.
The final touch I added to the creature was its freezing breath. It needed to look cold and dense, so I used Photoshop brushes of dry ice fog.
This effect can be difficult to see in the final picture. Everything’s so white that it sort of starts to look like a polar bear drinking milk in a snow storm. Still, you can tell when the fog is absent.
The picture of Link which I chose features a fur-lined quiver which gives the feeling that he is in cold-weather gear.
I considered giving Link the heavy ball and chain that he uses against freezards in Twilight Princess, but placing it in his arms like in the game looked silly, and if he dragged it on the ground then it would fall below the fog line and wouldn’t register visually. So, I decided to go with the simpler sword approach used in the Ocarina of Time.
In the end, the scene turned out as the chilliest of the whole project, with Link squaring off against an ice elemental so at home in his surroundings that if it weren’t for his eyes and mouth he’d be practically invisible.
So, the next time you’re walking through a winter wonderland, remember to watch your back. You never know when one of these guys might attack!