As one of the five major temples explored by Link as an adult in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the Shadow Temple is known for it’s theme of death and it’s reputation as one of the creepiest locations found in the Zelda universe. The game refers to it as a crypt for the Sheikah tribe, but dark objects found within suggest the dungeon served a more sinister purpose. In this article, I will walk you through the dungeon, pointing out interesting objects and symbols, as well as giving my own personal opinion on such things. Now, without further ado, let’s get to it.
Before actually entering the temple, you come to a room with a pedestal in the center and torches all around it. Here, your objective is to use the item Din’s Fire to light all of the torches simultaneously in order to open the door. The interesting thing, however, is the symbol on the floor. At first glance it appears to be just circle made up of what Hylian text, but if compared closely enough, the marking greatly resembles the Mirror of Twilight from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. There are some theorists out there who hold the idea that the Sheikah, possibly later called the Interlopers, who are the builders and guardians of the Shadow Temple, later become the Twili, the race that Midna is from. Both of these groups practice dark magic and have similar tribal/racial symbols. This marking on the floor acts as a significant support to their theory, and we will be talking a lot more about that theory later.
Continue forward a bit and head through a fake wall (Yeah, there are a lot of those). You’ll now find yourself in a somewhat large room with a bird statue in the center. This image of a bird will come up quite a bit throughout the dungeon, yet nobody really knows the true symbolism behind it. It could very well a crow, a bird of darkness and despair, in which a flock is known as a “murder.” You will see how ironic that is in a bit. Anyway, turning the statue toward the correct direction will open “the demon’s mouth.” Quite literally, in order to proceed through the dungeon, you must cross a large chasm and enter the mouth of a monster. There are quite a few mythological creatures that this could represent, such as the Japanese Jikininki, who are spirits that feast upon human corpses, or the Egyptian Devourer of Souls, who devours the souls of the unrighteous. Either way, you’ll have to find a way to cross the gap in order to continue.
Using the Lens of Truth, a Sheikah artifact found in the well under Kakariko Village, head through a labyrinth of false walls in order to find the map and a room containing one of the scariest enemies in the Zelda series: the Dead Hand. A zombie-like creature with four to six hands and covered in blood stains, the Dead Hand tries to capture and eat Link. Yes, actually eat him. It is for this reason that some fans speculate that the Dead Hand was a form of torture and execution by the Sheikah. It could be believed that the Shadow Folk would lead their captives through the false walls and skull filled rooms in order to demoralize them, and then throw them in the room with this monster. Their blood can still be seen on its body, or so a theory can go. Defeat the Dead Hand to get the Hover Boots, another reference to mythology, this time Greek. Link now possesses the boots of the Greek god Hermes, who traveled to the Underworld in the story of Demeter and Persephone. And believe me, this temple will soon seem like hell.
Backtrack to the Mouth of the Demon and enter it with the Hover Boots. Continue forward and you’ll eventually end up in what I like to call “The Decapitation Room.” Here, it is easy to imagine multiple victims being knelt down with their necks over blocks of wood, two twin scythe blades rotating around the room to finish them off. Moving forward, you must traverse a hallway filled with dropping guillotine blades. The purpose of said hallway may have been to stop escaping victims who could not turn back due to the chasm, but that is just my speculation. The hallway eventually opens out into a larger room with what appears to be a bottomless pit below a series of platforms, called the Guillotine Cavern. The platforms eventually verge into two directions. One way just leads you to a room with another twin scythe mechanism, except this time it’s invisible, while the other way leads you to the next part of the dungeon.
Here, you must navigate through a room where spiked traps fall down on you from the ceiling. While this room only contains a small key, it offers yet another prime example of torture instruments being implicated throughout the Shadow Temple. One more interesting set of objects in this room are what appear to be statues of hell hounds. These also appear frequently in the dungeon and can be related to both the Inugami of Japanese culture and the Hell Hounds of Hades in Greek mythology.
Backtrack to the Guillotine Cavern and head north to what appears to be a dead end. Use the Lens of Truth and the Hover Boots to continue into a room with invisible spike traps on the ground. In here you will find a common enemy of the Shadow Temple that I have yet to cover: the ReDead. ReDeads, along with their sister enemy, the Gibdos, are restless souls that wander The Kakariko Well, The Shadow Temple, and the future Castle Town Market. It’s no surprise that such a creature would exist here, in this brutally gruesome environment.
Kill the ReDeads and collect the silver rupees scattered around the room to unlock a door. The following room contains a giant skull lit with a blue flame, but skulls can be seen all around the temple, so it’s nothing too special. Grab a key here and backtrack to the last area. Unlock the door and you’ll be in a room with fans blowing at you. These fans, however, happen to be shaped like pig heads, which I interpret as a symbolization of the slaughtering the Sheikah were conducting. Pigs are animals often killed for their meat, and the fans may have been built like that to send a message to victims heading down that hallway. Man, were those Sheikah sick people or what!
Advance to the next area, the epicenter of the temple. Here, you will find a large boat afloat on a still river. Hop aboard and you’ll see a Triforce symbol on the deck of the ship. This tells you that you need to play Zelda’s Lullaby to get the vessel moving, but I thought it was interesting that it even had a Triforce on it to begin with. I mean, in a building that looks like it was designed to gruesomely torture and kill people, why would the symbol of Hyrule’s cherished goddesses be there? The only answer I can come up with refers back to the theory suggested in the second paragraph. Maybe the Sheikah were the Dark Interlopers!
A little Zelda history lesson for those who haven’t played Twilight Princess, the Interlopers were a mysterious group of sorcerers that practiced dark magic and were most likely a main enemy in the Hyrulean Civil War, a power struggle for control of the Sacred Realm and the Triforce. The Interlopers are also the ancestors of the Twili race, though little more fact is known about them. But for the sake of this argument, let’s say that the Sheikah who built the Shadow Temple really were the Interlopers. Well why would the race of people chosen by the goddess Hylia to protect the royal family turn against them? One answer could be that the Interlopers didn’t consist of the entire Sheikah race, rather just a sect of Sheikah that practiced dark magic and wanted to obtain the Triforce. If you want evidence of this, look to Zant’s throne from Twilight Princess and the back of the Fused Shadow pieces. Directly linked to the Twili, these locations bare the Sheikah symbol: the teardrop eye with three lashes. So the Sheikah very well could have been the Dark Interlopers, in which case the Triforce on the boat could have symbolized their long-term goal, mocked the goddesses, contributed to their pagan rituals, or all of the above. Once again, this is all just a theory created through speculation of objects and symbols.
Back in the Shadow Temple, you’ll need to play Zelda’s Lullaby to get the ship moving down the foggy river. Here is yet another clear reference to Greek mythology. In the stories, when a mortal loses his or her life, he or she must pay the ferryman Charon to catch a ride on his boat down the River Styx. At the end of this trip lies life in the Underworld, the final destination for departed souls. I have no doubt that the end of the river in the Shadow Temple marked the final destination for the victims of whoever was running the facility, be it the Sheikah or any other group of people.
Jump off of the ship and enter the door closest to the dock. Navigate a maze of invisible walls crawling with floor masters using the Lens of Truth. There are three doors at the ends of the maze available to you. The first room contains two wooden posts crossing each other with a pool of blood on the floor. Here it is easy to imagine people being tied up and tortured. The second room contains more of those giant skulls with the blue flames we talked about earlier and not much else. Finally, the third room is equipped with a trap intended to kill Link. Two wooden walls armed with protruding spikes on either end will slowly make their way towards you. While at first it seems that you can do nothing else but kneel down and accept defeat, a quick spell of Din’s Fire will nullify any threat. Open the chest that was hidden behind the right wall to get the boss key, then make your way back to the dock.
One thing here should immediately become clear: you must proceed through the door on the other side of a daunting pit. The question at hand is how to get there, since the Hover Boots won’t carry you across the gap. Well on the other side of the pit is our good friend the bird statue, and conviently there is a set of bomb flowers just below it! Fire an area at the flowers and the statue will come tumbling down, acting as a bridge. Enter the door on the other side and make your way into the boss chamber.
It isn’t hard to guess that Nintendo created a creepy boss to finish off a creepy dungeon. Phantom Shadow Beast: Bongo Bongo is nothing less than a giant headless shadow with brutally severed hands. Prior to the events of the game, Impa, Zelda’s Sheikah guardian, sealed Bongo Bongo away at the bottom of Kakariko Well. However, once Ganondorf seized power seven years after Link entered the Temple of Time, Bongo Bongo was able to break free, set Kakariko Village on fire, and retreat to the Shadow Temple. How Bongo Bongo came to exist is unknown, but unlike other monsters and bosses found in Ocarina of Time, it is made clear that the Shadow Beast existed before Ganondorf rose to power, since Impa sealed it away. Therefore, we know that Ganondorf did not create Bongo Bongo himself. It is my personal theory that Bongo Bongo is a byproduct of the Sheikahs’, a.k.a. the Interlopers’, dark magic. Bongo Bongo was likely once a victim of the Sheikah, and through sorcerery forbidden by the rest of the country, was reanimated as a shadow beast to protect the temple. This is just a theory with no real solid evidence to back it up, but it is something to think about, isn’t it?
In conclusion, the Shadow Temple really is a dark and interesting place holding some of Hyrule’s vilest history. It contains a myriad of torture devices and strange markings possibly used in evil rituals. I do think the Sheikah used the building, or more specifically, the group of Sheikah I believe to be the Dark Interlopers, for whatever dark schemes they were conducting. The theory I try to support in this article is summarized as follows. I hope you enjoyed reading it!
Towards the beginning of Hyrule’s history, a great war broke out for control of the Triforce and the Sacred Realm. The Royal Family, whose members contained the blood of the goddess Hylia, was protected by the loyal Sheikah in their struggle against the uprising Gerudo race. Unfortunately, not all of the Sheikah were devoted to the Royal Family. Practicing dark magic and sacrificing human lives in the process from within the bowels of their Shadow Temple, this rebellious group of Sheikah became known as the Dark Interlopers. Their goal was the same as any others’: capture and control of the Triforce. Possessing great power and a relic known as the Fused Shadow, the Interlopers were on the verge of success when the three goddess sent down guardian light spirits to stop them and banish them to the Twilight Realm. Here they eventually morphed into the Twili race. Even so, the Shadow Temple still bares the scars of their malicious acts. Torture devices stand and run while a mangled shadow beast roamed the halls until Impa, a good and noble Sheikah, sealed it away to hide the dark history of her race. Again, this is all just a theory based off of in game text and speculation. You can chose to believe it or not. Either way, you’ve now seen most of what the Shadow Temple has to offer, and the darker side of the illustrious country of Hyrule.