Ocarina of Time: Why The Sages Died

    Zelda History

    The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998 to critical acclaim. It was a prequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo, and brought the series into the third dimension. Themes of the game include time travel, time paradoxes, growing up, war, friendship, hardship, and adversity. There’s not much in terms of praise that I can say about the game that hasn’t already been said.

    The game defined 3D explorative, real-time, active adventure games, and did so with an ease and flow that probably has never been repeated. In this article, I explore a controversial topic within the Zelda community. After completing the temples in the adult portion of the game, were the sages associated with each temple actually killed trying to destroy the temple’s afflictions?

    Child – Adult Transition

    As most of you will know, in Ocarina of Time the first portion of the game has the player controlling child Link, and after obtaining the three spiritual stones, Link is warped forward in time 7 years. Most of the rest of the game is played through adult Link (he’s meant to be about 17). There is a big difference in the vibe between the child and adult portions of the game. The child portions focus on organic environments such as the inside of the Deku Tree, a cavern filled with remains of giant Dodongos, the inside of Jabu Jabu, and a giant fish. These all maintain a happy, optimistic vibe.

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    This is in stark contrast to the horror of what has happened to Hyrule in the adult portion of the game. Hyrule Castle Town has been destroyed and is basically crawling with zombies. Hyrule and the whole world are filled with ghosts and monsters. It is this dichotomy that influences my opinion that the sages don’t survive their hardships in their respective temples. There is evidence for this but first, let’s look at the Temple of Light where they appear as sages after defeating the Temples.

    Temple of Light

    The Temple of Light, located in the sacred realm, is the last stronghold of the sages and ‘good’ characters in Ocarina of Time. The chamber is atmospheric and you meet the human form of Kaepora Gaebora, named Rauru, in the chamber of sages inside the Temple of Light. This area seems like a place in between dimensions and for this reason, it could be argued that the characters that appear are spirits and not physical creatures. For this reason, it is possible that the sages have been killed and it is their spirits that inhabit the Temple of Light. It is from here that the sages fight against Ganondorf (who is in Hyrule), through mysterious means that involve somehow influencing the dimension where Hyrule is located.

    Rauru official art


    Saria, one of Link’s childhood friends had a close relationship with him as a child and was involved on screen in main quests and a few cutscenes. However, as an adult, she is not seen even in the forest temple which she watches over. In my opinion, this is because the emotional impact of it being explicitly alluded to that she dies struggling through adversity in the Forest Temple, would be too much for the player to take, so she doesn’t appear at all. She only appears in the chamber of sages after the temple has been conquered. This could imply she has died at the hand of Phantom Ganon. I think Nintendo leaves the death of the sages open to interpretation, but if you agree with this interpretation, it makes the game a lot darker.

    The Key Examples of Ruto, Darunia, and Nabooru

    In the Water Temple, you meet Ruto at the start but never see her again until you are warped to the temple of light and she appears on her pedestal as a sage. To me, this indicates she died struggling through the temple or fighting against Morpha. Afterward, Sheik explicitly says that both of you conquered the temple, so why doesn’t she appear in Hyrule in physical form? Similar things occur with both Darunia and Nabooru. Darunia is even seen going to fight Volvagia and is never seen in Hyrule again. Nabooru has been enslaved by Twinrova and might have had a chance to escape but you only see her in the temple of light after the dungeon is beaten.

    These sages are found deep into the game and for this reason, the story beats around them are more implicit and interesting. The story of Nabooru could have a game built around it. *Spoiler alert* Nabooru has been brainwashed and used as Twinrova’s slave for seven years. You battle her (when she is manipulated into fighting as an Iron Knuckle) when you are an adult, and see her being swallowed by a vortex as a child (meaning she has been enslaved for the seven years that it takes Link to reach adulthood). Her ultimate fate as a physical entity is unknown, but you do see her as a sage in the chamber of sages after you beat the Spirit Temple. With this in mind, how do the sages even warp to the chamber of sages? There is no explanation given. Death could be a way that them to get there.

    It’s a Secret to Everyone

    In the case of Darunia, it is strongly implied that he has fallen in the battle against Volvagia. At the start of the dungeon, he meets Link and states that he is entering Volvagia’s chamber. He has no Megaton Hammer which is needed to kill the dragon (this is not just a technical issue, it is mentioned in the lore) and we never see him again until the chamber of sages.

    Nabooru Ocarina of Time Official Artwork

    The idea that all the sages die (even though it is subtly insinuated) is partly what makes Ocarina of Time a dark game. It is an epic struggle against evil on a similar level to The Lord of the Rings. With the sages dying you know the struggle is real. Nintendo has always been known to put dark, subtle messages in their games, and in the case of whether the sages are dead in Ocarina of Time, I think that it is open to interpretation, but if you look at the evidence, it seems that the sages are truly dead.

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