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. It speculates that all things bearing the name “Dark World” or “Dark Realm” are the same, and this is unconfirmed. That said, enjoy the article!
The Sacred Realm is one of the most important locales in the Legend of Zelda series. As the resting place of the Triforce, one of the most prominent objects in the series, it is featured all across the timeline. It was not always a sacred place though, as it became corrupted by the vile heart of Ganon. It changed into a twisted version of Hyrule, a somber mirror that took on the name “Dark World”.
The origins of the Sacred Realm date back to the creation of the world Hyrule is a part of, with it being crafted as a resting place for the symbol of the Gods, the Triforce
The Triforce, being a symbol of the gods, was incredibly powerful, so it was hidden from the mortals who might seek it. Its location eventually did become known, and as can could be expected people fought over it, so the entrance was protected. This protection did not last though, and one man gained entrance to the holy land. This man was Ganondorf, King of Thieves, and he would rule it as his domain.
The Sacred Realm, in combination with the Triforce, casts a reflection of the heart and mind of the one who commands it across the land. The very world will transform to suit the needs of the one who enters it.
“The resting place of the sacred triangle, the Sacred Realm, is a mirror that reflects what is in the heart” – Sheik/Zelda , Ocarina of Time
Ganondorf, being consumed by greed and anger, created a world based on evil and malice. It was a realm were darkness reigned, and it even spilled out on to the World of Light, Hyrule. This “Dark World” stood as a source of evil all across the timeline. Though this is not to say that the gates to the realm were merely left open.
The Seven Sages were able to act in time and cast a Seal upon the Sacred Realm, locking Ganondorf in as well.
While the specifics of the Seal are not clarified, it seems to hold in a great deal of the evil power that Ganondorf had created. Thus leaving him all but powerless at the time. The Seal was not perfect though, and through its cracks evil flowed, and passages in and out of it were discovered.
Take the events of The Wind Waker for example. It is common knowledge that this follows Ganondorf’s sealing into the Sacred Realm, yet he escaped. The Seal was not destroyed, but Ganon found a way around it, and in that way the Seal failed.
“He is the very same Ganon… The emperor of the dark realm the ancient legends speak of… I do not know why the seal of the gods has failed, but now that Ganon has returned, the world is once again being threatened by his evil magic.” – Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule, The Wind Waker
It even perplexed those who would be most knowledgeable on the subject. Yet while he did escape, a majority of his power seemed to remain sealed, as he is never shown to command the forces that he does in Ocarina of Time, and in that way the Seal remains somewhat successful.
Other things, other creatures have been known to escape the Dark World as well. Take the antagonists from the Oracle Series: Onox and Veran. Onox himself is directly stated as being summoned from the Dark World.
“I was summoned from the Dark Realm by Twinrova. See my true form! Feel the might of a dark dragon! “ – Onox, Oracle of Seasons
Veran is a bit more of a mystery. While it is stated that she does have connections with the Dark World, her origins are still unknown.
“By extending the reach of the Dark Realm, Veran has spread sorrow across the land. Soon, the Flame of Sorrow will ignite!” – Twinrova, Oracle of Ages
Seeing as she has the ability to spread the influence of the Dark World into the normal world, it isn’t too much of a stretch to assume she originated there as well.
Another small and easily missed mention of the Evil Realm takes place in the back story of The Adventure of Link.
“At that moment, Ganon’s underlings were calling up new allies from the realm of evil” – Manual Introduction, The Adventure of Link
Here monsters seemingly loyal to Ganon are being brought from the Dark World to the Light World after his defeat. Once again the exact methods of how this is done is left unknown, and what exactly was brought is also a mystery, but it once again shows a way around the seal.
Further trouble bleeds out of the Dark World during the events of Four Swords Adventures. The problems stem mostly from an object known as the Dark Mirror, which seems to completely bypass the Sages’ Seal in its operation.
“That mirror reveals the wickedness within a person and brings it to life. It’s an item of terrible, dark power.” – White Maiden, Four Swords Adventures
This mirror appears to grant the user power of the Dark World and its ability to reflect a person’s heart, albeit in a twisted way, as is the case with Dark Link. Gateways to the Dark World are then opened up across Hyrule, allowing for the capture and corruption of even the noblest souls, as the brave Knights of Hyrule are transformed into monstrous Stalfos. Eventually the Dark Mirror is retrieved, and its evil doings are put to rest.
Another world of darkness appears in the title Twilight Princess, here it is called the Twilight Realm. While this realm takes on the aspects of other mentions of the Dark World, it is difficult to determine if it is actually the same. It has the power to transform people into beasts and spirits, and contains a tribe of banished interlopers, the Twili. The darkness can also spread into the world of light, making this place very similar to the Dark Realm as shown in Four Swords Adventures, yet somehow different. While it may never truly be known if they are one in the same, they are undeniably similar.
The final timeline appearance of the Dark World is in A Link to the Past. It is here that Ganon is bound, yet still he holds influence in the Light World. This is shown in the form of the wizard Agahnim, who acts on Ganon’s behalf in Hyrule. Using the descendants of the Sages who originally sealed the Dark World, he attempts to destroy that which keeps him from conquering Hyrule.
“He cast spells on the soldiers and kidnapped young maidens descended from the sages in order to break the seal…” – A Link to the Past Introduction
This does not come to be though, as the Hero intervenes, and in doing so reveals a great deal about the realm.
A Link to the Past demonstrates more about the Dark World then any title, as it actively shows its attributes in action. Take the Dark World’s effect on a person’s outward appearance. When the Hero first enters a portal to the realm, he is transformed into the shape of a rabbit, representing (among things) an overall purity.
“And everyone who wanders into this land is changed to a shape that reflects his true nature.” The Ball Person, A Link to the Past
This is also shown in others, such as the devilish bully and his indecisive friend, and many others who inhabit the Dark World. This mirror-like quality does not only apply to the people, but the formation of the world itself.
Places and structures in the Dark World correspond to those in the Light World, and can change if there counter-parts do.
While this may imply that changing something in the Dark World will affect Hyrule, it does not. While the Village of Outcast’s seems all but destroyed, Kakariko Village is fine. While one lake may nearly freeze over, the other is unchanged. Dark World objects do still mimic Light World objects, as is shown in the flooding of Swamp Palace. So this mirror effect seems to be one way, with the Dark World mirroring Hyrule, with its geography being a twisted copy.
The final characteristic of the Evil Realm is shown in its destruction, though it might be more accurate to label it a transformation. This happens when the Hero does finally destroy the master of the realm, Ganon.
“But now that Ganon has been destroyed, his Dark World will surely vanish.” – The Essence of the Triforce, A Link to the Past
With that the Triforce is left without a master, and the Hero immediately claims it, and proceeds to wish upon it, causing peace to reign in Hyrule and creating a paradise in the once Dark Realm.
With that the Dark World and all its evil are no more, replaced by a Golden Paradise.