Uncanny Accounts: The Purpose of the Shadow Temple

This month of Uncanny Accounts is all about video games and the creepy, spooky, odd or downright strange stories in and around them. While there are lesser-known tales to regale you all with, I figured the best way to kickoff a month of terrifying virtual tales is with the story behind a truly classic dungeon: The Shadow Temple from Ocarina of Time! So without further ado, I hereby present: The Tale of Hyrule’s Darkest Dungeon.

Video by YouTube channel: Saria

I’ve always found it kind of interesting that the dungeons in Ocarina of Time were called “temples.” With the exception of the Spirit Temple and maybe the Forest Temple, none these places really feel temple-like to me; They just lack the features one would expect to see in a temple. However, it cannot be denied that these are places of power, and the Shadow Temple may be foremost among them. It was the place in Hyrule dedicated to death, with absolutely every feature coming across as both sinister and strangely reverent. I’d almost be tempted to think it was just an elaborate mausoleum if it weren’t for all the torture implements, fresh blood on the ground, and vengeful spirits roaming its dark corners.

Like just about everything in Zelda, there’s very little about the Shadow Temple that’s explicitly explained in the game. All we have to go off of is the look of the temple itself, its location and the whisperings of the skulls found within. The one most players will encounter reads thusly “Shadow Temple…here is gathered Hyrule’s bloody history of greed and hatred.” This is an incredibly heavy quote and the one that gives us the clearest idea of what the “temple’s” original purpose was.

The Hyrule of young Link’s day was basically an idyllic, peaceful land. Aside from Ganondorf trying to stir up trouble, it really looks as though everybody is enjoying their lives without a single care in the world. However, the existence of the Shadow Temple and other things like the near-extinction of the Sheikah tribe heavily imply that the kingdom’s past was anything but peaceful.

Impa (and possibly Shiek) says that the Sheikah were the servants of the royal family, serving as body guards among other roles. One popular theory states that the Sheikah were basically the assassin class of Hyrule, torturing and killing anyone who posed a threat to the royal family. If that indeed was the case, then it would make sense that they’d use the underground labyrinth near their ancestral home as a prison/torture chamber. That covers the “bloody” part of the quote, but what about “greed and hatred”? Well, there’s even less to go off there.

We know there was at least one major war in the land before Hyrule was unified. We don’t know how long it lasted, nor do we know who was fighting whom. Zeldapedia calls it the “Hyrulean Civil War”, but it’s likely that three of the four major races were involved in some way, not just the Hylians. It could very well be that this war lasted for a very long time, possibly taking place over the course of an entire generation before ending in Link’s time.

That would leave plenty of time for hatreds to brew, for powerful individuals to exploit the war for profit, for the Shiekah to be all but wiped out and for the Shadow Temple to both grow to its monstrous size and accumulate its multitude of vengeful spirits. (It would also explain the world’s tiny population.) Because the Shadow Temple exists, we know that Hyrule is not the perfect world it appears to be.

Even without Ganon running around, there was enough evil in the world to warrant sealing-off the Sacred Realm. The source of that evil being just about everyone. We don’t see it in game, but perhaps that’s just because the King won the war and all races involved just couldn’t take it anymore. They’ve mellowed and forgotten their age-old hatreds because keeping them would have meant utter destruction. Who knows though? All this stuff is up for interpretation. Still, it’s a bit more interesting this way, isn’t it?

What do you think of the Shadow Temple? Got your own theory about it? Either way, stay tuned for more Uncanny Accounts!

Image edited by Hatmonster


  1. duckofindeed says:

    Nice post! The Shadow Temple was such a cool and creepy location. And if I recall correctly, the bottom of the well might have housed some possible torture devices, as well, which was pretty darn disturbing. The Zelda games have got to be one of the creepiest non-horror series ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      You’re right about the well. I wonder if it was something like a proto-Shadow Temple that was originally abandoned in favor of the larger space further out of town.


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