Northeast of Hyrule Castle lies Death Mountain. It is called “death” for a reason. Consider the sweltering heat and lava that comes from the incredibly active volcano, add in the noxious, smoke-filled air and sprinkle in the lifeless rocky terrain and you get a hostile ecosystem unfit for living creatures. Unless you’re a Goron. These ancient lifeforms have evolved key adaptations that help them not only to survive in such harsh conditions, but to thrive in them.
It starts with their massive physique. Gorons are large creatures, measuring in at about two times the height of an average Hylian (the Zelda equivalent of a human) and 3-4 times the weight of an average Hylian. The majority of their body mass is composed of rock-like growths on top of huge skeletal muscle groups. The largest muscle groups in an average Goron are the abdominal muscles and the forearm muscles. The abdominal muscles; particularly the rectus abdominis, external oblique, and serratus anterior muscles, are essential for Gorons to quickly curl into a ball for locomotion and self defense. The Goron forearm muscles, combined with massive shovel-like hands roughly twice the size of a Hylian’s head, are used for digging into the mountain in search of food, shelter, and ore. Looking at the average Goron, you may be surprised to see biceps, triceps, and leg muscles (particularly the quadriceps, hamstring, and gastrocnemius muscle groups) that shrink in comparison to the abdominals and forearms. Those other muscle groups are simply not as important when it comes to Goron survival. Unless you are a Goron leader or warrior, they tend to have large biceps as well likely for combat purposes.
If you ask any random Hylian what a Goron eats, they will tell you, “that’s easy, they just eat rocks.” But in order to provide them all the essential nutrients for survival, Gorons don’t just eat any ordinary rock. There are many different kinds of rocks that contribute to their nutrition in various ways. Let’s start with the most common igneous rock found on Death Mountain: basalt.
Basalt is a silica-rich rock that forms from Death Mountain lava which rapidly cools after an eruption (called “extrusive igneous rocks”). This is a very common igneous rock that can be found all over the slope of Death Mountain and is a staple to a Goron’s daily diet. In fact, a Goron could walk right outside it’s front door and likely find good basalt to eat within minutes. The key component of basalt which the Gorons need for survival is mostly silica, but trace amounts of calcium, sodium, potassium, aluminum, and iron are also useful components of basalt. The silica will be discussed later and is used to make energy as well as the rock-hard growths that cover their bodies.
The final rock staple found in the Goron diet is limestone. Limestone is a soft sedimentary rock that forms from the accumulation of calcium carbonate that is compacted and cemented together by water and other weathering processes. Deep in the heart of Death Mountain lies a vast network of caves known by the locals as “Dodongo’s Cavern.” The calcium carbonate rich water that continues to flow through this cavern helped the form the limestone that fills every inch of the caves. Gorons regularly go to these caves to harvest limestone rock. Besides the calcium which Gorons need to keep their bodies rock-hard, limestone also contains another valuable resource which all living things need to consume daily–water. Sedimentary rocks like limestone can hold large amounts of water within their soft, porous bodies. It is very important for Gorons to eat limestone daily since liquid water is typically unavailable on the hot dry slopes of Death Mountain.
The digestion of rocks is a unique process held solely by the Gorons, no other creature in Hyrule has that ability. It starts with their big heads which contain massive mastication (chewing) muscles. In fact, their chewing muscles are 5 times the size of a Hylian’s. These muscles, combined with large calcium-fortified teeth and saliva containing highly concentrated oxalic and carbonic acid, allow the Gorons to begin breaking down rocks in their mouths. Organic acids like oxalic and carbonic acids break down rocks in the natural world and are especially effective at breaking down the softer limestone rock. This allows Gorons to digest limestone quickly to absorb water immediately after consuming the rock.
After being initially broken down in the mouth, the rock bits then travel through the Goron’s extra large esophagus. The Goron’s esophagus is lined with grooves that give it an abrasive surface. Their esophagus also contains glands that secrete more concentrated carbonic and oxalic acids. The acid covered rock bits get broken down even more as they rub up against the abrasive esophagus surface as they travel to the stomach. The Goron stomach contains highly concentrated hydrochloric acid, similar to Hylians, which finish breaking down the rock bits. As the rock sediment travels through the Goron intestines, essential molecules are absorbed like potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, silica, and water.
From their diet of rocks like basalt, granite, and limestone, Gorons utilize tons of silica and lime to build up their hard, rock-like growths found mostly along the dorsal side of their bodies. Silica, lime (ground up limestone), water, and other trace minerals like aluminum, iron, and magnesium, are transported from the digestive system to hollow pockets along the dorsal (back) side of the Goron where they can mix together and quickly solidify to form hard concrete chunks. Since exposure to air is an important part in the creation of concrete, scientists hypothesize that the Goron’s skin which covers these pockets contains soft muscle tissues which periodically open and close allowing outside air to get through the skin. Having large rocky growths has many advantages, but if the Gorons ever encounter large bodies of water, they keep their distance. The dense Gorons would sink like a rock and may never come back up again.