Hyrule’s Bloody History

“Shadow Temple…
Here is gathered Hyrule’s bloody history of greed and hatred…”

This quote carries with it a good deal of weight, and events throughout Ocarina of Time hint that Hyrule is far from an idyllic wonderland sans Ganondorf. What’s surprising to me is that few Zelda games seem to have explored this possibility, and even in Ocarina of Time, it’s ambiguous; in the majority of games, Link protects Hyrule from a foreign threat, and threats from within are explored only in sidequests. Furthermore, they are usually hinted to be the result of interference from sinister outside forces.

However, Ocarina of Time suggested something far more dangerous from inside Hyrule. For the first few years I played Ocarina of Time, I assumed, based on the quotes in the Shadow Temple, the death of the royal composers, and the nature of the catacombs beneath the well, that the Royal Family–the same Royal Family that Link would put back into power–had betrayed those who served them most closely. There’s little to back this up in the game, but the question does remain, what is Hyrule’s “bloody history of greed and hatred?”

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a Zelda title in which the Royal Family, instead of being benevolent or merely incompetent, actually posed a threat to the welfare of the kingdom? They wouldn’t need to be Link’s chief adversaries, but they could hinder his quest throughout. There’s no reason to believe that a few members of the Royal Family would not get greedy with their unbridled power. Armed with the goddesses’ favor and the power of the Triforce, it would only take one corrupt king to plunge the kingdom into darkness, even without Ganon’s help.

The timeline that appears in Hyrule Historia at least provides an opportunity for this. In the “downfall” timeline which hosts the original games, there is a blank era–noted as “The Gold Era”–which mentions “The Triforce-using Monarchy” and “The Tragedy of Princess Zelda I.” These precede the original games at the end of the timeline, and at least suggest that the Royal Family’s use of the Triforce may not always have the best results.

Nintendo has not been afraid to try new angles with its stories. A Link to the Past hosted the sinister Dark World and an origin story for the main villain, establishing lore that would come to influence subsequent games. Ocarina of Time, through its use of time travel, opened up new opportunities and deepened the lore. The Wind Waker saw a postapocalyptic Hyrule that changed the nature of the timeline. Even Skyward Sword has established rich origins for the Royal Family and Zelda herself.

A dangerous internal threat may just be another step, another wrinkle to add to the series’ rich lore. It would be fun to see it in a future game.

  • War bring about the worst in people. Death, corruption, and greed are a certainty. I would be surprised if Hyrule hadn’t seen its fair share of civil and foreign conflicts.