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Darkness,[1][name references needed] often referred to as Shadow,[2] is a pivotal element that has played a vital role in The Legend of Zelda series. It has served various purposes, both in terms of story and gameplay. Darkness has often, but not always, been depicted as a manifestation of evil.

Role in the Series

Darkness as a Symbolic Element

Of all the elemental staples in the series, such as Fire, Ice or Light, Darkness has carried over the worst reputation. This is because of its association with evil in the World of The Legend of Zelda and its frequent use by many villains who have menaced the Light World. Though the line between good and evil is not always clear, the conflict between good and evil is often represented as a battle between Light and Darkness, with Link often striving in favor of the former, while Ganon himself was known as the Prince of Darkness.[3] In addition, Darkness is frequently portrayed through a setting that is more difficult to conquer than the Light World, and it often represents the last Dungeon Link must face before the final battle. In some games, Link himself is occasionally forced to fight his dark counterpart as well.

Despite this, Darkness does not always symbolize evil. In Ocarina of Time, aside from the association with Ganondorf and his servants, Shadow is portrayed as another element alongside Light, Forest, Fire, Water, and Spirit. It is embodied by the Shadow Temple, which is guarded by the Impa, the Sage of Shadow. After she is awakened as a Sage, she grants Link the Shadow Medallion. The Nocturne of Shadow also pays homage to the element, and it allows instant transportation to the area of Kakariko Village Graveyard that leads to the Shadow Temple.

Darkness is also embodied by several benign races over the course of the series. The most famous are the Sheikah, a near-extinct race who served the Royal Family of Hyrule and founded Kakariko village.[4] Due to their existence as a subculture and tribe within the Hylian race who operate in secret, they are dubbed the "shadows of the Hylians" or "Shadow Folk.[5][6] Locations associated with the Sheikah are often guarded by shadowy magic employing the use of illusions and misdirection, which can be found throughout the Shadow Temple and the Bottom of the Well; a Kakariko resident developed the Lens of Truth to easily navigate such magic without training the mind.[7][8] Impa, one of the last surviving members of the Sheikah during the Era of the Hero of Time, awakens as the Sage of Shadow.

The Twili are the descendants of Hylians who practiced dark magic in a bid to conquer the Sacred Realm, before they were banished to the Twilight Realm for their crimes.[9] By the time of Twilight Princess, they have adapted in the Twilight to become the peaceful race they are now. The exception to this is Zant, who succumbed to his own jealousy and aligned himself with Ganondorf.[10][11]

The hero from Four Swords Adventures was sometimes known as the Hero of Darkness for his destructive tendencies.[12][13][14] He sometimes took on an appearance similar to Shadow Link, especially when traversing the Dark World.

Darkness as a Setting

In addition to the Shadow Dungeons located throughout Hyrule and other lands, there are also entire overworld locations that act as a darker version of the Light World. The Dark World from A Link to the Past mirrors many of the locations from the Light World but with a twist, often showing a more negative atmosphere. One example of this is the Village of Outcasts and Kakariko Village. To a lesser extent, this applies to the landmarks of Hyrule in Twilight Princess when covered by the influence of Twilight by Zant after the defeat of the Light Spirits who guarded the different provinces.

Darkness as Death

The Shadow Temple is referred to as a "House of the Dead" by Sheik.[15] It appropriately resembles a large tomb hidden behind the Kakariko Village Graveyard. Strewn throughout the Dungeon are torture and execution devices, and several disembodied voices within the Temple speak of Hyrule's "bloody history of greed and hatred" in regards to the Dungeon's past.[16]

The Ikana Kingdom of Termina, once a land of light, is overrun by spirits and the undead after Skull Kid thrusts open the doors of the Stone Tower Temple in Majora's Mask.[17] Igos du Ikana tasks the Hero of Time with closing these doors in order to extinguish the "dark wind" and put them to rest.[18]

The Cursed Spume in Skyward Sword is a Dark elemental variety of Spume that lives within dangerous and lethal environments, such as Lava pools and poisonous lakes.[19] Poison Pools are often found within Dark-themed areas, such as the Ancient Cistern, Royal Family's Tomb, and Bottom of the Well, and they are often accompanied by the undead.

Darkness as a Puzzle Device

Puzzles and dungeon mechanics pertaining to the element of Darkness often involve Stealth, optical illusions, and even literal shadows. In some Stealth missions, such as the Infiltration of Hyrule Castle or the Forsaken Fortress, Link is required to remain in the shadows away from roaming Searchlights, and some hunting-based Side Quests are best undertaken at night. In Spirit Tracks, some dark rooms house Cracked Walls that remain unnoticeable if there are lit candles, and Dark Ore must be transported under as little sunlight as possible.

Link using the Lens of Truth to see through an illusory wall and a fake lantern

Optical illusions are the main mechanic of the Shadow Temple, Bottom of the Well, and Ganon's Castle. They may take the form of invisible Enemies, traps, walls, and platforms, or alternatively as illusionary structures that are not actually there. The Lens of Truth greatly aids in the navigation of such obstacles, though it is not strictly necessary. Illusionary or invisible walls and platforms also appear in other Dark-themed dungeons, such as Ganon's Tower and the Palace of the Four Sword from A Link to the Past, the Dark Palace and Lorule Castle from A Link Between Worlds, and the Fire Sanctuary from Skyward Sword. Ganon in particular has a habit of using illusionary magic to become invisible during combat. In A Link to the Past, he calls this a "secret technique of darkness" and Link must illuminate the torches of the Pyramid of Power arena to render him visible again.[20]

In Skyward Sword, "Dark" variations of Enemies often fire curses at Link, such as the Cursed Spume, Dark Keese, and Dark Lizalfos. These Enemies are found in great abundance within the Fire Sanctuary. When cursed, Link oftentimes cannot use his sword or other weapons. A similar mechanic is present in the Earth Temple from The Wind Waker in the form of Paralyzing Fog and the curses dispensed by Bubbles. The fog temporarily recedes when bathed in light from Medli's harp or the Mirror Shield. A similar Dark Fog appears in the Palace of Twilight in Twilight Princess, which forces Link to transform into his Wolf form. Bosses such as Stalblind from A Link Between Worlds and Ghirahim from Skyward Sword also make use of Dark magic with their attacks, though these do not curse Link in any way.

In a more literal sense, Dark dungeons often make use of low light levels, dark bottomless pits, and Enemies that drop from the ceiling such as Wallmasters and Skulltulas. Both are often indicated by their shadow.

The Fierce Deity's Mask is by far the most renowned dark weapon usable by Link. It allows him to transform into Fierce Deity Link and unleash devastating attacks unmatched by virtually every other weapon in the series, enough to defeat bosses near instantaneously. It is hinted that the dark powers of the mask are comparable or even worse than Majora's Mask itself, but it can only be used during boss battles without glitches.

Midna using the Fused Shadow

In Twilight Princess, Midna allows Link to make use of her dark powers when transformed as wolf form. One of these abilities is creating a field of dark energy that traps foes and allows Link to perform a sweeping bite attack on them simultaneously. Link can also take advantage of the heightened senses of his wolf form to perceive otherwise invisible objects, spirits, and scents in a manner similar to the Lens of Truth. Midna can also teleport both Link and any big and heavy object from one landmark to another using Twilight magic. Finally, when Midna is in possession of the entirety of the Fused Shadow, she is able to transform into a gigantic spider-like entity with a large spear. She is notably able to resist the corrupting effects of the Fused Shadow and Mirror of Twilight shards, making her a useful ally in the quest to stop Zant.

Darkness-Based Enemies and Bosses

Darkness-based items

Dark World settings

Darkness-based areas


  1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom—The Complete Official Guide, Piggyback Interactive Limited, pg. 17
  2. "Discovery Log: Day... I've lost count.

    I can feel that I'm a hair's breadth away from unlocking the secrets hidden within the pedestal.

    I'm certain that "casting" and "cold" refer to using a specific type of shadow.

    But I've run out of food entirely, and I doubt now that I ever had the tools to do the job...whatever they might be.
    " — Mountain Peak Log (Breath of the Wild)
  4. "R.I.P. / Here lie the souls of those who swore fealty to the Royal Family of Hyrule / The Sheikah, guardians of the Royal Family and founders of Kakariko, watch over these spirits in their eternal slumber." — Tombstone (Ocarina of Time)
  5. "People: Hylian (Sheikah)" — Character Profiles (Tears of the Kingdom)
  6. "Have you heard the legend of the "Shadow Folk"? They are the Sheikah...the shadows of the Hylians. They say they swore allegiance to the King of Hyrule and guarded the Royal Family..." — Professor Shikashi (Ocarina of Time)
  7. "What is hidden in the darkness... Tricks full of ill will... You can’t see the way forward..." — N/A (Ocarina of Time)
  8. "A long time ago... There was a man in this very village who had an eye they said could see the truth! Now usually, you have to train your mind's eye most strenuously to actually see the truth... But this fella, no, they say he had a different way of doing things... His house stood where the well is now..." — Professor Shikashi (Ocarina of Time)
  9. "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." — Midna (Twilight Princess HD)
  10. "Traitors, ha! You want to know why none would call you king? It was your eyes, Zant. All saw it, a lust for power burning in your pupils... Did you think we'd forget our ancestors lost their king to such greed?" — Midna (Twilight Princess HD)
  11. "It was then, in the thrall of hatred and despair, that I turned my eyes to the heavens...and found a god." — Zant (Twilight Princess HD)
  12. "In three- or four-player games, the Heroes of Light and Darkness are determined by secret ballot on the GBA screens." (Four Swords Adventures manual, pg. 19)
  13. "...And the Hero of Darkness is the player who caused the most problems." (Four Swords Adventures manual, pg. 19)
  14. "As people vote for the Hero of Darkness, his bonus points decrease." (Four Swords Adventures manual, pg. 19)
  15. "One within the house of the dead..." — Sheik (Ocarina of Time 3D)
  16. "Shadow Temple… Here is gathered Hyrule's bloody history of greed and hatred…" — N/A (Ocarina of Time)
  17. "It all happened after somebody thrust open the doors of that Stone Tower." — Igos du Ikana (Majora's Mask 3D)
  18. "To return true light to this land, you must seal the doors of Stone Tower where the winds of darkness blow through. But Stone Tower is an impenetrable stronghold. Hundreds of soldiers from my kingdom would not even be able to topple it. It is far too reckless for one to take on such a challenge. ...And so... I grant to you a soldier who has no heart. One who will not falter in the darkness." — Igos du Ikana (Majora's Mask 3D)
  19. "Target lock: Cursed Spume

    This mysterious monster's natural habitat includes poisonous swamps and other dangerous environments. It spits evil curses that it stores up in its body.

    Cowardly by nature, it sits with its eyes just above the surface in order to detect any danger and flee if necessary.
    " — Fi (Skyward Sword HD)
  20. "You are doing well, lad. But can you break through this secret technique of Darkness? En Garde!" — Ganon (A Link to the Past)