Note: This article, while entirely based on facts, contains the personal ideas and theories of the writer about the Sacred Realm, and is not implied to be canon fact, or the opinion of ZeldaInformer as a whole. That said, enjoy the article.

The Zelda franchise boasts some of the most impressive locales in all of fantasy. Whether it be the fiery heights of Death Mountain, the breathtaking sights from the City in the Sky, or the peaceful serenity of the Deku Forest, Zelda games do not disappoint in creating unique and mysterious places to explore. While each and every one of these legendary environments has its highlights, perhaps none is greater than the Sacred Realm.

A staple in the legends of Hyrulean history since the world’s very creation, it has played a major role in some of the most prominent games in the series. However, it seems every time the subject of the Sacred Realm is approached in Zelda, we are given a new viewpoint. Some believe that the various accounts cannot be brought together in perfect harmony. Whether the stories of the Sacred Realm are meant to be distorted legends rather than historical documentation, or whether the directors of the Zelda series simply changed their minds, the Sacred Realm cannot fit all the descriptions it has received over the ages.

Is this perception true, or is there truly a way for the Sacred Realm to be everything it is believed to be? To piece together the story of the Sacred Realm, one must know all its legends, and like any other story, the best place to start is at the beginning.

The Origins of the Sacred Realm

And golden sacred triangles remained at the point where the goddesses left the world.
And, the resting place of the triangles has become the Sacred Realm.
~Origins of the Sacred Realm as told in Ocarina of Time

the triforce of ocarina of time.png

The birth of the Sacred Realm

After creating the world, the three golden goddesses, Din, Nayru, and Farore departed for the heavens. The “golden sacred triangle”, also known as the Triforce, remained at the point where the goddesses left the world. This resting place for the Triforce became the Sacred Realm. When telling of Hyrule’s creation in the game Twilight Princess, Lanayru, one of the four light spirits, echoes this in saying “the lands where the goddesses descended came to be known as the Sacred Realm”. While the account of this story in A Link to the Past doesn’t explicitly state this, it notes that the Sacred Realm exists somewhere in this world. All of these accounts imply that, in the beginning, the Sacred Realm existed as a physical part of Hyrule.

The Search for the Sacred Realm

The Imprisoning War

But soon, word of the Sacred Realm spread through Hyrule, and a great battle ensued…

Lust for power has a tendency to corrupt, and the Zelda series is no exception to that. Capable of granting the wishes of those who touch it, the Triforce became the object of the Hyrulean peoples’ greed, and so the search for the Sacred Realm began. Lanayru refers to this as a battle, while the account told in A Link to the Past references the spilling of blood in exchange for information. It is safe to assume these are the same events, given that both are told in pairing with the story of the creation of Hyrule, and both are stated to happen as a result of the Sacred Realm becoming known.

Though these stories start out near identical, Lanayru’s version of the tale contains a story absent from the account in A Link to the Past.

Among those living in the light, interlopers who excelled at magic appeared.
Wielding powerful sorcery, they tried to establish dominion over the Sacred Realm.
It was then that the goddesses ordered us three light spirits to intervene.
We sealed away the great magic those individuals had mastered.

Twilight Princess took the liberty of fleshing out the story of the search for the Sacred Realm by chronicling the actions of a specific group of people who attempted to conquer it. While we don’t know how close these magic wielders actually got to dominating the Sacred Realm, it would appear that the Sacred Realm was quite vulnerable at this point in history. If the Sacred Realm was not easily accessible, there would be no reason for the goddesses and light spirits to intervene. Later, Midna adds a little more to this story.

What do you think happened to the magic wielders who tried to rule the Sacred Realm?
They were banished. They were chased across the sacred lands of Hyrule and driven into another realm by the goddesses.

This quote has become a constant source of controversy in the Zelda theorizing community. The phrase used for “sacred lands” of Hyrule in the original Japanese is the same as Sacred Realm. Literally meaning “holy land”, it’s likely that in the third sentence Hyrule itself is being referred to as a sacred place. However, because of this, many believe that “Sacred Realm” in the first sentence, as well as everywhere else in Twilight Princess, is merely a reference to Hyrule.

If this is true, that would mean that the people of Hyrule, as well as the magic wielders, were attempting to conquer Hyrule itself, and not the Sacred Realm. However, this is not the case. As previously quoted, Lanayru’s story specifically says “word of the Sacred Realm spread through Hyrule”. A clear distinction is made here between the Sacred Realm, and Hyrule as a “sacred land”; both are part of Lanayru’s story. Thus, it still holds true to A Link to the Past‘s account, as it was the Sacred Realm, not just Hyrule, that the magic wielders were after. This is important, because it again makes note of the apparent existence of the Sacred Realm in Hyrule. Though they were trying to rule the Sacred Realm, they were still in Hyrule itself.

Protecting the Sacred Realm

That is, until one day, completely by chance, the entrance to the Sacred Realm was opened by by a certain group of thieves. It was a world different from our own.
~A Link to the Past manual, original Japanese

While the Sacred Realm seems to have been part of Hyrule at the time of the magic wielders’ attempts at domination, when entered by a group of thieves later in the manual of A Link to the Past, it was a different world. The same manual which earlier described the Sacred Realm as being “somewhere in this world” now states that it is “a world different from our own”. Unless there is an inconsistency in the account, then at some point after the magic wielders were banished, but before the group of thieves entered the Sacred Realm, it was separated from Hyrule to the extent that it became its own world, or dimension. How and when could this have occurred?

So, the ancient Sages built the Temple of Time to protect the Triforce from evil ones.
~Zelda in Ocarina of Time

The vulnerability of the Sacred Realm and the Triforce must have become apparent with the efforts of the magic wielders coming close enough that divine intervention was required. In prevention of future attempts at domination of the Sacred Realm, the ancient Sages built the Temple of Time. The Japanese text of A Link to the Past states that at some point in Hylian history, the people were warned by the gods to forge a sword to repel any evil that may kidnap the Triforce: the Master Sword. It is therefore likely that both the forging of the Master Sword and the construction of the Temple of Time were at the requests of the goddesses, and in response to the actions of the magic wielders.

If the Sacred Realm was still a physical part of Hyrule at this point, how could the construction of one Temple, and the forging of one blade, protect a vulnerable land? There must have been a change in the state and location of the Sacred Realm.

My name is Rauru. Long ago I built the Temple of Time… And connected the path to the Sacred Realm.
~Rauru in Ocarina of Time

Rauru gives a little more insight into the construction of the Temple of Time. Since we know Rauru had to connect a path between the Sacred Realm and the Temple of Time, the Sacred Realm must have already been separated at this point; a world different from their own. If Rauru is capable of connecting a path between two separate dimensions, it stands to reason that he was the one who created the segregation in the first place. Warned by the goddesses to protect the Sacred Realm, Rauru and the other Sages used their powers to remove it from Hyrule completely.

However, A Link to the Past states that the Triforce, containing the very essence of the gods, was left behind to govern this land. For that reason, Rauru created one path by which the two worlds would remain connected. Over this pathway the Temple of Time was built, with the evil-repelling Master Sword serving as the key to entering the Sacred Realm. As if that wasn’t enough, the chamber in which the Master Sword was located was sealed off by the Door of Time, which could only be opened when the three Spiritual Stones and the Ocarina of Time were brought together, and the Song of Time was played. These four relics were distributed amongst the races of Hyrule, so that no one group of people could have all the keys necessary to reach the Triforce. Heeding the warnings of the goddesses, the Sages took every precaution to preserve the safety of the Sacred Realm.

The Corruption of the Sacred Realm

…the Sacred Realm, is a mirror that reflects what is in the heart… the heart of one who enters it…
If an evil heart, the Realm will become full of evil; if pure, the Realm will become a paradise.
~Sheik in Ocarina of Time

A legend passed down by the Sheikah warns of what will happen should an evil one manage to enter the Sacred Realm. The greedy people, the magic wielders, and the group of thieves all sought not only the power of the Triforce, but to establish dominion over the Sacred Realm by the power of their evil hearts. Despite the valiant efforts of the Sages, the fortifications of the Temple of Time simply could not prevail forever.

In Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf, the King of the Gerudos, hatches a plan to invade the Sacred Realm and claim the Triforce. Link, discovering Ganondorf’s intentions, foolishly gathers the Spiritual Stones and the Ocarina himself, in in an attempt to reach the Sacred Realm first and protect the Triforce. Meanwhile Ganondorf is lurking in the shadows, waiting for his chance to reap the benefits of Link’s work.

Ganondorf Sacred Realm

Ganondorf’s infiltration of the Sacred Realm

When Link, being of pure heart, pulls the Master Sword, he is too young to properly wield it, and as such, is sealed way in the Chamber of Sages in the Sacred Realm until he is old enough to be deserving of the title Hero of Time. With all of the defenses of the Sacred Realm removed, and Link sealed away, Ganondorf effortlessly enters and claims the Triforce.

…and then the Triforce fell into Ganondorf’s hands. He went on to invade the Sacred Realm…
Ganondorf had become the Evil King, and the Sacred Realm became a world of evil.
~Zelda in Ocarina of Time

Just as the Sheikah legends had predicted, Ganondorf’s evil heart transformed the Sacred Realm. Thoroughly corrupted, the Sacred Realm became a “world of evil”, or “Dark World1


At the time of Ocarina of Time‘s release, this event was stated by Character Designer Satoru Takizawa and Script Director Toru Osawa to be the Imprisoning War, or Seal War, spoken of in A Link to the Past. The account of the event in the A Link to the Past manual states that Ganondorf, who was the leader of the group of thieves that infiltrated the Sacred Realm, killed his followers and claimed the Triforce for himself. After making an unknown wish upon the Triforce, his evil power flowed into Hyrule, threatening even the royal palace. At the command of the King of Hyrule, the Hylian Knights and the Seven Sages attempted to seal off the Sacred Realm and the evil which it was producing. The Knights perished in the fierce battle that ensued, but the Sages succeeded in completing their seal.

While there are some key differences between the account told in A Link to the Past and the actual happenings of Ocarina of Time, it was clear at the time that they were meant to be the same event. However, with the release of Wind Waker, it is no longer possible for there to be a direct continuity between Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past. In order for Ocarina of Time to still serve as the Seal War, it has to be assumed that Ganondorf was resurrected or reincarnated sometime after Wind Waker, and re-entered the Sacred Realm. While the current intent for the Seal War is in question, there is one thing for certain: the Sacred Realm has been corrupted more than once.

The Second Corruption

For those who no longer believe that Ocarina of Time serves as the Seal War, there must be a separate infiltration, corruption, and sealing of the Sacred Realm taking place at a different time. For those who believe Ocarina of Time to still be the Seal War, the conditions set in the game for Ganondorf’s corruption of the Sacred Realm do not match Ocarina of Time. While the re-release of A Link to the Past for the GBA contained a shortened, less-specific manual, which some believed was for the purpose of making it easier to keep Ocarina of Time as the Seal War, the in-game description of the time and origin of the corruption is the same, and it does not match Ocarina of Time.

The Triforce will grant the wishes of whoever touches it, as long as that person lives…
That is why it was hidden in the Golden Land (Sacred Realm). Only a select few were told of its location, but at some point that knowledge was lost…
The one who rediscovered the Golden Land (Sacred Realm) was an evil thief named Ganondorf.
~Swamp Maiden in A Link to the Past

Ganondorf’s entry into the Sacred Realm prior to A Link to the Past occurred at a point in time when all knowledge of its location had been lost. Throughout history, only a few select people ever knew of its entrance, but according to the Swamp Maiden, even those people had lost that knowledge when Ganondorf found it. This is not concurrent with Ocarina of Time, where Princess Zelda knows of its whereabouts, and even a gossip stone states that it’s rumored that the Temple of Time is the entrance to the Sacred Realm.

Even more important than that is the means by which the Sacred Realm became corrupted, and as a result, the differences in the resulting Dark Worlds. As Sheik reveals near the end of Ocarina of Time , because of the imbalance in his heart, Ganondorf was not able to control all three Triforce pieces, and only one remained in his possession. Control of all three Triforce pieces is required to have a wish granted, so it’s safe to assume Ganondorf was not granted a wish. Thus, the Sacred Realm was corrupted merely by Ganondorf entering it and touching the Triforce with an impure heart. This also conflicts with A Link to the Past.

Ganon’s wish was to conquer the world. That wish changed the Golden Land into the Dark World.
~The Essence of the Triforce in A Link to the Past

As told to Link by the Triforce itself, prior to A Link to the Past, Ganondorf was granted a wish upon the Triforce, and it was specifically that wish which created the Dark World. The presence of Ganondorf in the Sacred Realm alone was not the cause of the corruption. These different methods of corruption likely led to different manifestations of the Dark World.

In A Link to the Past the Dark World is a tainted mirror of Hyrule. Everything in the land of Hyrule has an evil, twisted counterpart in the Dark World. As the Triforce explains in the game’s ending, the expression of a wish made on the Triforce directly affects the fulfillment of that wish. That is why Ganon’s wish to rule the world resulted in the Sacred Realm becoming not only full of evil, but a mirror of the real world.

A Link to the Past Dark World

Hyrule mirrored in the form of the Dark World

Ganon was granted the corrupted Sacred Realm as his own world as a result of his wish. However, no wish was made upon the Triforce in Ocarina of Time, so there’s no reason to believe that the corrupted Sacred Realm mirrored Hyrule in that game. Whatever the intent for the Seal War, Ocarina of Time cannot completely set the stage for A Link to the Past.

The Purification of the Sacred Realm

A Link to the Past Triforce

Link claims the Triforce

But now that Ganon has been destroyed, his Dark World will surely vanish.
The Triforce is waiting for a new master. Its Golden Power is in your hands…
Now, touch it and think of the wish in your heart.
~The Essence of the Triforce in A Link to the Past

Thankfully for the people of Hyrule, the story of the Sacred Realm has a happy ending. Though evil ones have a way of rising to power, good triumphs in the end. With the defeat of Ganon at the hands of Link, the Dark World vanished, and the Triforce had a new, pure-hearted master. Just as prophesied in the Sheikah legends, the Sacred Realm was to become a paradise.


Since its origins as the very land upon which the three golden goddesses descended until its purification at the hands of Link, the Sacred Realm has been an incredible source of contention. Sought after throughout the ages by both those with pure intentions and those with only greed and evil in their hearts, it has played a major role in the history of Hyrule since its very creation. Undoubtedly, the intrigue and importance of its story are unmatched by any other locale in all of Zelda. The story may not be complete though, because as history has shown, there is always something new to be learned about the mysterious Sacred Realm. There is always room in the pages of Hyrulean history for another chapter in the story of the Sacred Realm.

1Literally “demon world” in the Japanese. For more information on the “Dark World” see my previous article “A New Perspective: The Nature of the Dark Realm”

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