Posted on November 05 2008 by Alex Plant
The following article is only a theory, and is not meant to be taken
as anything more than that. It only reflects the opinion of the writer,
and not ZeldaInformer as a whole. That said enjoy the article!
The Ancient Sages.
that title, some mystical resonance, echoes a fullness of power and
might—the same fullness of might of which those who bear the title may
boast. They control the powers of the gods, these holy prophets, and
they use those powers in their service as protectors of the sacred
lands of light and arbiters of the divine will. Theirs is a priesthood
that extends across racial limits and across the folds of time; their
deposit of fate has endured the ravages of generations and survived
within their destined blood, as the esteemed sages Laruto once imparted.
who are they, these ancient pagan clerics? How can we understand their
power and influence? What are their claims to glory? To what extent can
we trace their sagehood lineage? This article seeks to answer these
questions by looking into the pages of Hyrulean history at the sources
of their legacy.
What is a sage?
In a very
general sense, the word “sage” means simply “wise man” (or “wise
person” for you politically correct folk) from the Vulgar Latin sapere,
“to be wise.” The term is used to refer to a person revered or renowned
for his wisdom, a person sought after for a taste of his knowledge,
judgment, or experience. Examples of sages of this kind include ancient
philosophers such as Socrates or Confucius whose advice and opinions
were very often solicited for.
This same understanding can be applied to the sages of Hyrule. The Wind Waker describes Medli, the Rito earth sage, as being instructed in her duties by a mentor. In Twilight Princess, we even learn that they serve as tutors to young members of the royal family.
the Hyrulean sense, a sage is much more than a wise person who imparts
knowledge and experience, however—sages are also part of a divine
priesthood. They have the duty to pay reverence to the gods in
consecrated temples. They are stewards of magical powers which they use
for the good of Hyrule. When evil powers threaten Hyrule, they have the
responsibility to seal that evil away. Above all, it is their task to
protect the power of the gods from theft by those who seek its power
for themselves. In many ways their roles are modeled after those of the
priests of other religions, who usually are also expected to be leaders
of faith, constantly in prayer, stewards of divine power or authority,
and protectors of their people from evil influence.
What have the Hyrulean sages done?
vast majority of the sages’ doings involve aiding the legendary hero in
sealing and destroying evil, usually involving the threat of Ganon, the
King of Darkness. To reduce their history to merely this would be doing
them a disservice, however. A detailed description of each of their
prime accomplishments is outlined below.
Protection of the Triforce
The ancient sages first hit the scene long before the events of the Legend of Zelda
series. Fearing a prophecy that foretold of the potential consequences
of an evil person discovering the Sacred Realm and stealing the
Triforce, they decided to implement safeguards on the entrance to the
Sacred Realm in Hyrule to prevent such a person from using it.
someone with a righteous heart makes a wish, it will lead Hyrule to a
golden age of prosperity…If someone with an evil mind has his wish
granted, the world will be consumed by evil…That is what has been
told…So, the ancient Sages built the Temple of Time to protect the
Triforce from evil ones.
constructed the Temple of Time over the entrance to the golden land and
sealed the entrance with a stone gateway called the Door of Time. The
Door of Time could only be opened with the help of the Ocarina of Time,
and only when the three Spiritual Stones appeared on the temple altar.
The Spiritual Stones were handed to the Deku Tree, guardian of the
sacred forest, the Goron elder on the mountain of fire, and the Zoran
royal family who protected the source of Hyrule’s water. In turn, the
Ocarina of Time fell into the defense of the Hyrulean royal family.
then, it could not be assumed that only a good person would be able to
unite the Spiritual Stones and use the Ocarina of Time to open the Door
of Time, so the gods commanded that the people forge a sword with the
power to repel demonic forces. The sages crafted such a blade and
infused it with the gods’ power, the blade of evil’s bane, the sword
which evil ones may never touch, which they named the Master Sword.
They placed the Master Sword in a pedestal over the entrance to the
Sacred Realm, and it served as the final key to the Triforce’s
resting-place. Only one worthy of the title of “Hero” could draw the
sword forth from the pedestal.
Two sages took up the role of
praying to the gods to maintain the power to repel evil within the
blade of the Master Sword. Without their prayers, the blade would lose
its power and be useless against demonic powers granted by the Triforce.
In these events, the sages demonstrated three important attributes:
1) The ability to influence passage to and from the Sacred Realm;
2) To beseech the gods directly to grant them power;
3) The duty to protect the Triforce from evils
The Sages’ Seals
even with all these safeguards in place, something the sages never
could have anticipated happened: the seal on the Sacred Realm was
broken by a young boy, the Hero of Time, who drew the Master Sword from
the pedestal in an attempt to rescue the Triforce from an evil threat.
He was destined to be the Hero of Time, but he was too young to wield
the Master Sword, and so he was sealed away for seven years. In that
time, Ganondorf, the evil prince of thieves, stole the Triforce of
Power from the Sacred Realm, and darkness issued from the temples in
The King of Hyrule summoned the sages in order to
stopper the flow of darkness, but the new sages were unable to hear the
awakening call because the temples had already been engulfed in shadow.
Ganondorf moved on from the Sacred Realm to Hyrule, broke through
Hyrule Castle’s defenses, and claimed Hyrule as his own, naming himself
its king. He ruled with an iron fist for seven years, but then the Hero
of Time emerged and awakened the sages.
The sages were able to
combine their powers with that of the Master Sword in order to seal
away the darkness in the temples as well as Ganondorf himself. They
pushed back the evil power all the way into the Sacred Realm and closed
the door to seal it there.
six Sages will open the sealed door and lure Ganondorf back into the
Sacred Realm. I will then seal the door to the Sacred Realm from this
world. Thus, Ganondorf the Evil King will vanish from Hyrule.
We can learn more about the sages from these events:
1) They serve the King of Hyrule and are obliged to respond to his summons;
2) New generations of sages will awaken when their services are required;
3) They are able to seal away darkness and combine their powers with that of the Master Sword in order to do so
The Great Sea Sages
inevitably finds a way to escape his imprisonment in the Sacred Realm.
In so doing he is able to silence the prayers of the two sages who pray
for the Master Sword’s power, thus removing that enchantment from the
blade and rendering it useless. Without the Master Sword to oppose him
and perfectly poised to ambush Hyrule, he is once again able to conquer
the chosen land. The people pray for deliverance from his rule, and the
gods respond by flooding Hyrule and sealing the kingdom and Ganondorf
with it away at the bottom of an ocean. Even this seal proves
impermanent, however, and the time comes that the Master Sword must be
In order to do this, the new hero needed to awaken new
sages to take up the role of those who had fallen. The sages could only
be awakened by hearing the songs of awakening, played by the sacred
instruments used in prayer. With the Wind Waker baton, the hero taught
the holders of these instruments those sacred songs and in so doing
sparked the awakening magic in their veins.
While the events of The Wind Waker
do not reveal anything particularly new about the nature of the sages,
it does shed some light as to the details of prior discoveries:
1) The sages do not awaken innately but instead require an outside force to awaken them;
2) The sagehood is passed on through this ritualistic awakening ceremony, and not exclusively through blood relationships
The Arbiter Sages
introduces even more functions to the sagehood than its predecessors.
The Mirror of Twilight, the link between the light and shadow worlds,
is under their care and protection. They also exercise the role of
arbiters of the gods in Hyrule, sentencing criminals such as Ganondorf
to death and executing them by sending them to the shadow world with
While the latter role still falls somewhat under the
sphere of “sealing away evil,” their vocation as judges and
executioners is a long departure from their depiction in other games,
where they serve as priests and magi. Still, they are closely
associated with the protection of Hyrule and as keepers of dangerous
magic from the hands of evil.
The sages play a very minor role in the events of Twilight Princess
themselves, being only the bearers of bad news regarding Ganondorf and
the Mirror of Twilight. They are also said to have tutored both Auru
and Princess Zelda.
Thus, our understanding of the sages’ influence increases tremendously:
1) They are arbiters of the law in Hyrule, serving as judges and executioners;
2) They command and safeguard the power to banish people to the shadow world;
3) They serve as tutors to the royal family
As a collective
We can therefore understand the sages’ roles as falling under four categories:
1) Stewards of magical powers, such as those granted by the Triforce and the Master Sword and those of the Mirror of Twilight;
2) Warriors responsible for confronting and doing away with evil threats such as Ganondorf;
3) Arbiters of the law who bring justice to captured criminals;
4) Teachers and mentors who pass on their knowledge to future generations
How has the line of sages endured throughout Hyrule’s history?
From Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker all the way to Four Swords Adventures and A Link to the Past
we see that the legacy of the sages endures in many shapes and forms,
enduring across race and invariably through blood and ritual.
the sages seem to have all been members of the Hylian race, as their
depictions in stone carvings on the walls of the Temple of Time would
indicate. They probably took on forms similar to the ones seen in Twilight Princess, ethereal avatars differing only fleetingly in the emblems emblazoned on their robes.
These emblems are shared by the multi-racial sages in Ocarina of Time,
suggesting that the sage priesthood has been passed down in a spiritual
succession from the Hylians, the ruling class, to the various peoples
of Hyrule. That these sages are based in the Temple of Light, connected
to the Temple of Time built by the ancient sages, also serves to
support this conclusion. This may have happened out of the necessity
that Hyrule band together to fight the evil threat posed by Ganondorf.
It is also possible that this was due to the fact that each of the
races developed a spiritual connection to the six attributes the sages
represent, thus inheriting the stewardship of these attributes as well.
ancient sages and their descendants numbered only six, as it would
seem, with the so-called “seventh sage” being a member of the royal
family, usually Princess Zelda. The Ocarina of Time sages lack
the avatar-forms, although this may be partially a result of
Ganondorf’s evil plaguing the Sacred Realm and preventing them from
emerging completely. (More telling, though, is the fact that the
ethereal form was not conceptualized until Twilight Princess‘s release eight years later.)
again features the six sages, who identify themselves as the very
ancient sages who have served since ancient times, although it is
unknown how literally this is meant to be taken. These sages seem to
serve the sole responsibility of guarding the Mirror of Twilight during
the events of the story itself, but also were the ones who attempted to
execute Ganon years before.
The Wind Waker features only
two sages, those who are in charge of maintaining the Master Sword. As
the ancient sages are given credit for forging the Master Sword, it
will be assumed for the sake of discussion that these sages are related
to that original group, even if they are not counted among the six
active sages. These sages pass on their powers and roles by spiritual
succession, and The Wind Waker is the only story to specifically depict such a succession. The fate of the other sages is unknown.
however, suggests that they may have entered into the employ of the
Cobble Kingdom as stewards of the pyramidal temples built there. There
is a cemetery on the Isle of the Dead that houses the graves of six
sages—specifically, these sages protect the secrets of a certain
knight’s tomb, which in turn holds clues as to how to access one of the
Pure Metals. While nothing confirms their relation to the Hyrulean
sages, the Cobble people share the long ears of the Hylians, suggesting
a potential relationship. (More on this subject will be addressed in a
Three other games make specific reference to the sages.
The Adventure of Link features towns named after some of the sages from Ocarina of Time, namely Rauru, Saria, Darunia, and Ruto. The script writer for Ocarina of Time, Toru Osawa, stated the following about the towns:
in this game Zelda is now included in the Seven Sages, the other six
have the names of the town names from the Disk System edition “The
Adventure of Link.” In the SNES edition game, the story “Long ago,
there was a war called the Imprisoning War” was passed along. A name in
the Imprisoning War era is the name of a Town later. They were like
“pseudo-secrets.” We wanted to throw these out through the entirety of
the game. That thing from then is now this.
would seem these town names were later developed as the sages’ names in
order to create an intentional reference to the Adult events of Ocarina (let alone to create a bridge between that game and A Link to the Past).
Some have suggested that the wizards in each town who give you the
magic spells needed to complete the game are sages themselves, although
this is mere conjecture.
A Link to the Past
features seven maidens of apparently Hylian heritage who are descended
from the seven sages from the Imprisoning War. These maidens are part
of sage families who all gain the sage powers through blood
inheritance, showing a radical difference from the rest of the sages
who seem to pass on their powers spiritually. Since Ocarina of Time
features the story of the seven sages, but features multi-racial sages,
it would seem that at some point the sage lineages progressed from a
spiritual one to a literal one, or perhaps existed to both capacities
Four Swords Adventures also features
maidens: six “shrine maidens” who take on the roles previously reserved
for “sages,” and the Princess, Zelda. The maidens are in all likelihood
related to those in A Link to the Past, and at least one of them is shown to have her own village (after the pattern of sage villages seen in The Adventure of Link). A Link to the Past states that the maidens have lost most of their powers, while the maidens in Adventures still possess potent magical abilities. In all likelihood, Four Swords Adventures is the first of the two, if for this reason alone.
is unknown how precisely the 2D sages factor into the timelines
established by the 3D chronology. Interpretations vary, usually
depending on whether one believes Ocarina of Time to be a
fitting telling of the Imprisoning War or not. Those who do believe it
usually also swear by Toru Osawa’s reference and claim the maidens are
spiritual successors to the original sages. Others who discount it cite
Osawa’s reference as outdated and retconned and say that the maidens
are literal successors to the ancient sages, evidenced by Twilight Princess‘s
sages being racially homogeneous. Theorists of the former class often
subscribe to the Miyamoto order, while those of the latter usually
believe the SNES hit to be a prequel to the NES classics.
article while certainly influenced by my own views does not seek to
endorse either view over the other but to present a compendium of
information that summarizes the sages of the Hyrulean continuity-verse.
It is my hope that I have accomplished this end.