What place immediately comes to mind when you hear the phrase “creepy Zelda dungeon”? It’s the Shadow Temple from Ocarina of Time isn’t it? Its image probably jumped into your head before you even finished reading that phrase. It should. The Shadow Temple was designed to be the most chilling experience of the entire game, and I’d say it’s arguable that we haven’t yet seen a Zelda dungeon that’s topped it in pure creep factor. However, while the Shadow Temple is the most overtly scary place in the game, it’s not the only location in the game that exudes a sense of the sinister. In fact, in terms of being downright foreboding, I believe that the Spirit Temple can (and does) give the Shadow Temple a run for its money.
The Spirit Temple isn’t so much scary as it is overwhelming. It makes itself known as an ancient and powerful place from the very first moment that Link enters it. The very first room hosts two towering snake statues with poems telling of the relation between past and future. Beyond that, the main chamber of the temple houses a colossal statue of the Goddess of the Sand. It’s a place that makes Link seem very small and insignificant as he makes his way through the temple; as if his efforts really don’t mean anything at all to this old and gigantic place. Beyond even that, we know that there is a powerful threat lurking somewhere inside.
After the child portion of the dungeon, we witness the witch sisters Koume and Kotake sink Nabooru into shadow and then return to the temple’s interior. Child Link certainly doesn’t have the means to confront them, and what could adult Link do in the face of such powerful magic? We know that there will be a confrontation with these witches and that knowledge changes the experience. The temple becomes a more foreboding place. It’s shadowy rooms take on a hint of the sinister, and that earlier sense of power inspires just a little bit of paranoia. We know that the confrontation with the witches won’t come until we reach the final chamber of the temple, but in the meantime we can’t help but wonder what kind of corrupting influence those witches have on such a grand place.
(Video from YouTube channel: GilvaSunner)
The Spirit Temple theme is what I think really makes this all sink in. It’s grand, but powerful. It’s reminiscent of the ancient; enduring and resolutely marching forward, uncaring in regard to the passage of time. In the latter portion of the temple, it seems to take on a hint of a lurking power, something just outside our perception. Something watching Link with passive interest, seeing him as nothing more than a curiosity. It doesn’t care about the insignificant beings that traverse its chambers. It doesn’t even care about temporary corruption and evil making a home in its spaces. It is an ancient place, one that will remain long after both the good and the evil have passed from its halls.
The Spirit temple isn’t a traditionally scary place. Its sense of menace doesn’t come from spooky visuals or a bloody history, but rather from the imaginations of those who visit it. It’s scale, song, and ancient feel are meant to overwhelm and inspire a sense of insignificance. To top it off, Twinrova’s presence builds on that feel and inspires hints of dread and paranoia in addition to anything else. It’s not the Shadow Temple, but the Spirit Temple can definitely be scary in its own right!
What sort of impression did the Spirit Temple leave you with?
Lede image is official promotional art with some adjustments made by Hatm0nster