Dragon Roost Island was awash with character. The howls from above as you made your first step onto the beach, the fiery composition silenced by the calm aura of the people, and the gentle breeze of the Sky Spirit to whom the island relied upon. This was the place the Rito first appeared in the Legend of Zelda franchise, characterized by their humanoid figure, but separated by a beak above their mouth. Were the Rito on Dragon Roost Island the Watarara? Put simply, no. However, since the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, what was once a Rito is not so much anymore.
The Wind Waker provided an insight into Rito history. They supposedly evolved from the Zora that appeared in The Ocarina of Time, it is unknown why the change occurred. Evidence of the evolution is realized in the form of Medli, who shares the same bloodline as the Zora Earth Sage, Laruto. It is also worth noting the small culture similarities between the Zora and the Rito. Notably, the Zora sapphire, which is the symbol of the Zora royal family, can be seen in various places around Dragon Roost Island. This same symbol can even be seen on some of the Rito clothing.
Breath of the Wild lapidates much of this history. The appearance of both the species together in the same game is odd, but not disconcerting. The debate arises with the new appearance of the Rito and the culture differences between the Rito and the Zora. Once of the same blood, now wildly different. What remains to be known is if the Rito from Breath of the Wild are the same Rito from The Wind Waker. Or are they the Watarara?
First, it must be noted that the Watarara are not canon. They appeared in the Ocarina of Time manga and were a migratory species that appeared in Hyrule once a year on their journey. However, Eiji Aonuma has noted that they were an inspiration for the Rito. This began in The Wind Waker, with major cultural similarities. Both species have a hereditary chieftain ruling over the tribe, whilst also partaking in a coming of age ceremony; adolescents obtaining their wings. Whilst the Watarara remain unofficial, it’s quite clear that the Rito wouldn’t exist without them.
Before Breath of the Wild, the distinction was clear. One was evidently a bird, the other was almost certainly humanoid. This has evidently changed, with almost identical resemblances clearly hatching from the same egg. Whilst the Rito maintain certain anthropomorphic characteristics, the underlying truth is that they are avian in nature. Whilst the Watarara’s influence on the former was indirect, its influence on the latter version is almost biologically spurious.
The initial question becomes more complex the deeper into the franchise you go. Whilst the Watarara aren’t canon, it’s possible they have featured outside the manga. Ocarina of Time possesses a creature that creates more questions than answers. Kaepora Gaebora, that famous owl that would lend helpful advice on the way, seemed just an owl at the time, but the kooky kind of possibility is that Kaepora could have been a Watarara. Kaepora resembles a Watarara in the Ocarina of Time manga called Guufo, the attendant of Prince Rouru. Guufo, himself, resembles a character in Breath of the Wild, the Chief of the Rito Village, Kaneli.
Whether Kaepora is a Watarara or a Rito is unlikely to ever be answered. The new design of the Rito makes it possible, but it’s unlikely the species was contemplated back then. The more likely scenario has Kaepora starting a trail of thoughts and ideas, that has so far ended with the Rito we see today. The concept of an intelligent bird-like species began in Ocarina of Time and has since expanded into a whole race that has become an integral part of the storyline.
At this point the Watarara and the Rito are interchangeable. The influence the Watarara had on the design of the Rito is almost entirely the full concept. Through the Rito, the Watarara have indirectly become canon, ensuring their race into the lore of Zelda. It might just be that the Rito represent the Watarara that eventually settled in Hyrule, ending their migratory culture.
The problem now is where do the inhabitants of Dragon Roost Island fit in all of this? So far, nowhere. The concept of the Rito evolving from the Zora seems to be lost in Breath of the Wild, which quietly ignores the original lore surrounding them. The possible answer may lie in different timelines. It’s possible this is the biggest clue that Breath of the Wild doesn’t feature in the Adult Timeline. Whereas the Zora seem to be lost in the Adult Timeline, their appearance in Breath of the Wild suggests either a Child or Downfall timeline. Perhaps the Rito were always set to appear regardless of the Zora.
However they came to be, the Rito have become vastly different from their original concept. Whether this was a step away from the Zora bloodline history, or merely a design to more closely resemble the Watarara cannot be answered. In time, Eiji Aonuma might give us the answers about the Rito. Their story remains as elusive as a blupee, only a blupee rewards our endeavor. Until then, the origins of the Rito remain to our own speculation.