There are many interesting temples (dungeons) in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time with lore and side stories that add to the richness of the game’s themes and vibe. One of these Temples is the Shadow Temple, which is often the last temple that you play through during the campaign. You can either complete the Shadow Temple or the Spirit Temple last. This place has an eerie, almost horror-like atmosphere to it. It’s here where you encounter some of the game’s most grotesque, and terrifying monsters. It’s an incredibly creepy dungeon, but there’s more to it than meets the eye (sorry for the Sheikah pun). What kind of implications for the story of the game does it bring up?
There are lots of Youtube videos discussing the mysteries of this dungeon, and the Sheikah (a tribe first introduced in Ocarina of Time) plays a prominent role in this area’s backstory. This article takes a closer look at the Shadow Temple, parts of the overworld, and the characters that are associated with it.
In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Kakariko Village is located at the foot of Death Mountain. It contains the Bottom of the Well mini-dungeon and is also right next to the Graveyard where the Shadow Temple is located. It’s one of the main non-player character hubs in the game. Some of the typically Zelda, quirky individuals that reside here have interesting info regarding the Shadow Temple, and its boss, Bongo Bongo. Known only as ‘Old Man’ a blue gown wearing weary looking individual sheds some light on the origins of the classic Zelda item, the Lens of Truth.
“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…”
The Lens of Truth is picked up during the second portion of the game (as child Link). The quote alludes to abilities associated with ‘seeing the truth’ either being part of this fella’s natural powers, or the character actually possessing the same Lens of Truth that Link picks up later in the game. It could be implied that this guy, not only was the original owner of the Lens of Truth but that possibly he may have been imprisoned in the Shadow Temple. I say this because, why would his house have been removed and replaced with the well? Also, no concrete explanation for what happened to this man is ever given.
Zelda quotes are often obscure and ambiguous, and this is one of those cases, but in this case, it adds to the mystery of Kakariko Village and the Shadow Temple.
The Bottom of the Well
The Bottom of the Well is originally just a feature in Kakariko Village that child Link encounters near the start of the game. However, once you’ve beaten the Forest Temple, and can return to the child timeline within the game, then you can access it. To access it, Link initiates the windmill/Song of Storms paradox which sucks the water out of the well. The well itself is full of Poes, Like-Likes, Red-deads, and the boss of the mini-dungeon, Dead-Hand. These are some of the most disgusting (Like-Likes), and monstrous (Dead-Hand) enemies in the game. The well itself is a square path that has various traps, pitfalls, and even subtly referenced torture devices such as chains, barred cells, and a wooden cross surrounded by bloodstains.
The Bottom of the Well is technically part of the map of the Shadow Temple, although you cannot access it from the Shadow Temple or vice versa. The themes that both areas have in common point to both areas having some connection. Themes such as blood-stained walls (in the original releases at least), and death and torture imagery. The Bottom of the Well is accessed as child Link, and the Shadow Temple as adult Link, but Nintendo certainly didn’t dumb down the horror for poor child Link.
The Shadow Temple
The Shadow Temple Temple itself is a pretty straightforward dungeon in terms of gameplay. This is where you find the Hover Boots, and battle the entity that plagued Kakariko Village, Bongo Bongo. It’s not as labyrinthine as the Water Temple and is quite short because the Bottom of the Well could have originally been part of the same dungeon. However, there are some really challenging moments. These include fighting a pair of Stalfos on a ship that could be a metaphor for reaching the afterlife and some difficult wind puzzles.
Similarly to the Bottom of the Well, there is the imagery of death and torture scattered throughout the temple. The Lens of Truth is an important item to use in this dungeon, as there are numerous fake walls and floors that you can only see through with the Lens of Truth.
Impa, the Sheikah guardian of Zelda is the sage of this dungeon, but you don’t physically see her until the dungeon is complete. For me, this is an argument for the idea that she dies fighting Bongo Bongo, and it is her spirit that you see after completing the dungeon. Generally, the idea exists among fans that the Shadow Temple may have been a prison used by the Sheikah, and the Royal Family of Hyrule to punish or hold criminals. The imagery is certainly there. However, there is one character that we haven’t talked about much yet, and he’s definitely relevant to my earlier quote. I’m talking about Bongo Bongo.
You first see the boss of the Shadow Temple, Bongo Bongo, as an ethereal dark purple shadow causing fires and destruction in Kakariko Village when he attacks Sheik. While it is never specifically stated that this entity is Bongo Bongo, it is said that it is the blight of the Shadow Temple. Sheik states that Impa has gone to seal the creature in the Shadow Temple.
When you actually battle Bongo Bongo, he appears as a green, purple creature that appears to represent a person that has a grotesquely deformed body, and has had his hands and head cut off. It is heavily stylized, and his neck looks a bit like a flower (Zelda is a kid’s game, I doubt Nintendo would make things too obviously horrific). It could be that Bongo Bongo is in fact, the man with ‘the eye that could see the truth’ that the old man describes in Kakariko Village.
The man that ‘could see the truth’ had his house removed or destroyed to place the well at the location it appears at in the game. It’s not too much of a jump to suggest that this was a punishment. The character ‘that could see the truth’ may have committed some criminal act against the Royal Family, and was imprisoned and executed in the Shadow Temple. His spirit may then have emerged and caused chaos for Impa, the Sheikah, and those protecting Hyrule.
Possible Future Lore?
While we don’t know the full story of Bongo Bongo and the Shadow Temple, it’s fun to speculate. One day, if a game releases based on the Sheikah, like the one Retro Studios were developing, we could find out more about this mysterious part of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.