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How a video game recipe from Zelda turned up to poison Attila the Hun in a historical fiction novel

By Benjamin Bullard
Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Well, this is one way to bring the power of Hyrule into our Earthly realm. A hasty search engine hunt led author John Boyne to inadvertently include exotic Hylian morsels like Octorok eyeball and red lizalfos tail — required ingredients for making red dye in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — in a chapter of his historical fiction novel describing a plot to poison ruthless real-world conqueror Attila the Hun.

Spotted by a Rito-eyed Reddit user, the BOTW items appear in A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom, Boyne’s latest historical fiction novel. Evidently on the hunt for killer-sounding ingredients to punch up his character’s devious dose, Boyne took a cue from the top Google search results for making red clothes dye — which just so happened, at the time, to feature BOTW guides showing players where to source in-game materials. 

Picked up by writer Dana Schwartz and subsequently confirmed by Boyne himself on Twitter, the cursory online hunt for dye-making items put Boyne off the track of finding real-world resources. Instead, as he gamely admits in the tweet below, it led him to tidbits that BOTW players pick up in Hyrule, all parts of the recipe required by the Kochi Dye Shop in Hateno Village for changing the color of Link’s armor. 

In addition to Octorok eye and lizalfos tail, poisoning a historical figure as powerful as Attila also requires a Triforce-worthy scavenging list including keese wing, spicy pepper, hightail lizard, and the notoriously hard to collect swift violet — a key ingredient not for making dye or poison, but for crafting Hasty Elixirs and maxing out your Level-4 climbing gear.

While Boyne’s good-nature confession seems to indicate the BOTW crossover was a simple mistake rather than an homage to Nintendo’s classic game franchise, the Irish author said he thinks it’s a fun bit of trivia, and has no plans to remove the reference in any of the book’s future paperback runs. 

“Yeah, I'll leave it as it is,” he tweeted. “I actually think it's quite funny and you're totally right. I don't remember but I must have just googled it. Hey, sometimes you just gotta throw your hands up and say ‘yup! My bad!’”

What’s not so bad is how smoothly the ingredients seem to fit into Boyne’s description of devising a malicious potion for doing away with fifth-century chieftans. Reading the passage, it sounds exactly like the kind of stuff we’d want in our regime-ending toxic concoction…if, that is, we were aspiring assassins of old, looking to add a little Hylian spice to our next stealthy takedown.