“Go on, cur! Scurry away! Lest I humiliate you further!” – Zote the Mighty, Dreamnail dialogue (after the Colosseum)
Zote the Mighty is one of the few NPCs that you can meet and interact with multiple times through the course of Hollow Knight. He can be found many times throughout the metroidvania and proves to be incredibly endearing for some or relentlessly infuriating for others.
Two different achievements are specifically associated with the boss featured in this Zote Hollow Knight guide, and both of them are determined by your actions when you first come across the mighty warrior. Although he is only one of the many NPCs throughout Hallownest, his mere existence raises questions for the lore. His presence unintentionally helps in bringing more life to the decaying kingdom.
Zote the Mighty talks himself up in such a grandiose manner. Actually, he won’t stop talking. Despite his big talk, Zote is a fundamentally useless character who needs the Knight to save him constantly lest he perishes to some cruel foe.
Save him enough, and you can fight him in the Colosseum of Fools where, afterward, if Bretta has been saved, he will begin to tell her and the Knight his Fifty-Seven (worthless) Precepts. You can fight him afterward in Bretta’s basement as the Grey Prince Zote, in the Pantheon of the Sage, and in the Hall of Gods, thanks to the Godmaster DLC.
Zote the Mighty
Zote the Mighty frequently claims to be the most powerful being in the land, though his weapon (despite being named Life Ender) deals no damage, and he is, more often than not, defeated by weak enemies.
Peak Physical Prowess
Zote is the only (alive) NPC that looks eerily similar to the Knight, wearing a similar cloak and sharing a similar shape to their horns. Unlike the player character, however, Zote slouches quite a bit, and his horns don’t curve nearly as much as the Knight’s.
He also sports creases under his eyes and, like Elderbug, actually has a mouth. He isn’t very strong and, in fact, can’t deal any damage to the Knight (or anyone, for that matter, outside of Bretta’s dream), but Zote is pretty durable, able to take hit after hit without completely falling apart.
Peak Mental Prowess (personality)
He enjoys listening to himself talk and often boasts of his own power and ability, though when it boils down to it, he’s actually pretty pathetic and often gets himself captured by weaker beings. Even still, he has convinced himself thoroughly that he is unbeatable.
He is generally assumed to have come from outside of Hallownest, but debates about his origin still exist – with some even considering the theory that he, like the Knight and the Hollow Knight, is void. Some even posit that Zote the Mighty is the biological son of the Pale King and White Lady (though there isn’t much to feed this theory). In fact, there seems to be more to the theory that he came from outside of Hallownest – possibly to seek some kind of glory.
He Graces You with His Presence
Assuming you save Zote the first time you encounter him, he will probably be the NPC you (unintentionally) run into the most.
He Totally Had That
The first time you encounter Zote the Mighty, it’ll be on the way to Greenpath, where you’ll find he’s being held in the grips of the Vengefly King. You can technically leave him here, but if you grab the Mantis Claw item before saving Zote, once you return, he’ll be as dead as one can get. At that point, you can just wack his skull around like a ball.
Achievement: Neglect: Leave Zote to Die.
The Vengefly King is pretty easy to beat, though, so if you want to see Zote’s storyline through (and give Bretta a new obsession), smack away at the Vengefly King until he’s dead. At this point, Zote will stand back up and basically tell you off, insisting that he had it and there was no reason for you to intervene (he absolutely did not have it). After this, you can find him in Dirtmouth for some time.
Just what do you think you’re doing?! You dare to come between me and my prey? Is it a habit of yours to scurry about, getting in the way and causing bother?
It’s too Wet Here
If you choose to save Zote, you’ll get to see more of him (yay!). The second encounter (outside of Dirtmouth) will be in the City of Tears. In the corridor between where you find Cornifer and the City Storerooms, Zote will be standing around and complaining about how the city is too wet and he, by his own willpower, is going to stay dry.
Hoy! Watch where you’re going, you soggy vagabond! I don’t want you splashing me. I’ve had a miserable time trying to keep dry.
I am Zote the Might, a knight of great renown. If I decide that I’m going to stay dry, then that’s what’s going to happen!
His Dream Nail dialogue implies that, while he “shed his last tear long ago” (the truth of this statement is… dubious), the city is mocking him by constantly raining.
You Could Have Hit Him (Shame on You)
You don’t technically need to run into Zote in the City of Tears to activate this encounter, but it’s generally the third one you’ll have with the mighty warrior and Knight of renown. While traveling through Deepnest, you will come across an area where you will undoubtedly, hear Zote struggling to break free of his binds.
Here, you can choose to save or leave Zote for dead (although he technically cannot die in this area). Once saved, Zote will, as per usual, begin to whine and complain about how the Knight went about saving him.
Hoy! What are you doing, you clumsy little oaf?! Swinging your rusty little Nail around in the darkness?
You almost struck me! And if you had, it would have been the end of you. Trust me!
If you leave Zote, nothing happens. He remains stuck, presumably for eternity, in the web of the Deepnest creatures.
Always Win Your Battles
If Zote the Mighty is saved in time, you can face him in the Colosseum during the Trial of Warriors. First, you can find him in the Warrior’s Pit of the Colosseum, clearly bitter about how the Warrior bugs (and audience members) laugh at him and how he absolutely meant to become trapped in the cage. When he is uncaged and released into the arena to wreak havoc, the audience laughs very loudly. Afterward, when you go to fight in the Trial of Warriors, Zote the Mighty will become your final boss.
His final fight is laughable and very enjoyable. I tried to play “keep Zote from touching the floor,” which actually gave the fight a bit of a challenge.
Achievement: Rivalry: Defeat Zote in the Colosseum of Fools (Secret Achievement)
I am Zote the Mighty! And as soon as I draw my Nail, ‘Life Ender,’ your laughter will turn into terror!
After the Colosseum of Fools and after Bretta has been saved, Zote will return to Dirtmouth with a “trophy.” He takes with him the helmet of a Shielded Fool. Upon returning, Zote will begin to preach his Fifty-Seven Precepts to Bretta and slander the Knight’s name and reputation. Bretta, of course, falls madly in love with Zote and becomes hopelessly obsessed with him.
God of Gods
As Zote stands now, he does not belong in the Pantheon or the Hall of Gods. In fact, his statue even says, “Intruder amongst the Gods of Hallownest.” However, Zote has managed to make his infiltration into the Hall of Gods, where you can face off against him in the Eternal Ordeal and slay as many Zotes as you want. This is the only time Zote can deal damage to the player. However, unlike the other Godseeker fights, they cannot be bothered to watch this one.
It’s the funniest part of the game, and I love it. Getting to this part of the game is very difficult, but it is absolutely worth it. When fighting Zote, I finally feel happiness – unadulterated joy, even.
The Grey Prince Zote
The Grey Prince Zote is Zote the Mighty at his peak – his strongest, fastest, most competent. Unfortunately, that version only exists within Bretta’s mind, the Pantheon of the Sage, and the Hall of Gods. To fight the Grey Prince Zote and his many Zotelings, you must defeat him in the Pantheon and save Bretta. After this, you can enter Bretta’s basement and Dream Nail the statue.
Defeat him the first time for 300 Essence and the 10th time for the statue in the basement to turn golden.
For all he says, Zote doesn’t say very much of meaning. Even still, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t say anything entertaining. He has the most in-game dialogue, with well over 2,600 words (about 1,000 more than the Seer and Lemm, who both, admittedly, talk a lot).
Most of the advice that Zote gives is either common knowledge or bad. His precepts are no exception.
The Fifty-Seven Precepts
If you want to listen to the fifty-seven precepts of Zote the Mighty, you’re going to need to beat him in the Colosseum and save Bretta. At which point, upon returning to Dirtmouth, Zote will begin to spout all of them off to the eagerly-listening bug. Many of these precepts are contradicting, ridiculous, or kind of sad, but what follows are my favorites.
Precept 19: If You Try, Succeed
If you’re going to attempt something, make sure you achieve it. If you do not succeed, then you have actually failed! Avoid this at all costs.
Precept 25: Protect Your Own Weak Point
Be aware that your foe will try to identify your weak point, so you must protect it. The best protection? Never have a weak point in the first place.
Precept 26: Don’t Trust Your Reflection
When peering at certain shining surfaces, you may see a copy of your own face. The face will mimic your movements and seems similar to your own, but I don’t think it can be trusted.
Precept 35: Up is Up, Down is Down
If you fall over in the darkness, it can be easy to lose your bearing and forget which way is up. Keep this precept in mind!
Precept 36: Eggshells are Brittle
This precept explains itself.
Precept 18: Beware the Mysterious Force
A mysterious force bears down on us from above, pushing us downwards. If you spend too long in the air, the force will crush you against the ground and destroy you. Beware!
Precept 44: You Cannot Breathe Water
Water is refreshing, but if you try to breathe it you are in for a nasty shock.
Precept 45: One Thing is Not Another
This precept should be obvious, but I’ve had others try to argue that one thing, which is clearly what it is and not something else, is actually some other thing, which it isn’t. Stay on your guard!
Precept 56: Do Not Dream
Dreams are dangerous things. Strange ideas, not your own, can worm their way into your mind. But if you resist those ideas, sickness will wrack your body! Best not to dream at all, like me.
Precept 57: Obey All Precepts
Most importantly, you must commit all of these precepts to memory and obey them all unfailingly. Including this one!
The Many Allies of Zote
There are none. Zote is such a polarizing figure that, had the Knight a will, I’m not sure they’d want to be friends with Zote. After all, they do so much for him, and Zote talks garbage about the Knight behind their back. The only one you could consider a friend is Bretta, but that’s simply because she’s contented to listen to him blather on all day about his many inane precepts.
This lack of friends and companions, however, could be due to one of his precepts:
Precept 8: Travel Alone.
You can rely on nobody, and nobody will always be loyal. Therefore, nobody should be your constant companion.
So, Zote the Mighty experienced a severe breach of trust, or he’s always been a jerk, and nobody has liked him enough to stick around. Either way, being a jerk is not the way to deal with it.
Question: Is Zote the Mighty a vessel?
Answer: No, probably not. Aside from a vague resemblance, there’s not much that lends itself to the theory that Zote is a vessel and a sibling of the Knight. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Zote was the first go at creating the vessels, and after him, the Pale King decided that they wouldn’t talk anymore.
Question: Does Zote the Mighty die?
Answer: He doesn’t have to. Save him in Greenpath before getting the Mantis Claw, save him in Deepnest, and then battle him in the Colosseum of Fools, and you will have saved Zote’s life (though he isn’t very grateful).
Question: How to beat Zote the Mighty?
Answer: Hit him. I’m serious; Zote cannot damage you, so smack him with your Nail until the battle ends.
Zote is… a complex figure. He brings up questions of vessel experimentation and what life is like outside of Hallownest (there aren’t many hopes it’s good). And yet, at the same time, he is the most useless character to pump for information because he refuses to explore mysteries. In fact, that’s even one of his precepts. Precept 50: Don’t Linger on Mysteries. Zote refuses to look past the surface and see the deeper meaning.
He refuses to uncover the truth and discover the unknown, whether for his benefit or others. He is infuriating, and that, in itself, endears him to some players. He truly is a bug you want to shove into a jar and just shake around for a minute or two. He talks big, but when it comes down to it, Zote is fundamentally useless. And yet, the world of Hollow Knight would be a little bit bleaker without him.