The Legend Of Zelda’s Twilight Realm, Explained

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There are many facets to the lore of The Legend of Zelda series, and while there are some elements that recur throughout the series, there are others that show up less often. A new layer of added depth to the Zelda lore introduced in Twilight Princess was the Twilight Realm.


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The Twilight Realm is a mysterious parallel dimension to the nation of Hyrule that we are presented with in most Zelda games. While we learn a lot about the Twilight Realm in Twilight Princess, a lot is ambiguous, or not explicitly stated. So, what exactly is the Twilight Realm?

Spoiler Warning


What Is The Twilight Realm?

Midna standing in front of Wolf Link in Twilight Princess

The setting that most Zelda games take place in is usually referred to just as Hyrule, but the dimension the games take place in, unless stated otherwise, is the World of Light, or the Light Realm. This realm is the one that was built by the Goddesses, and where most events in the Zelda timeline take place.

The Twilight Realm is a realm that exists parallel to the World of Light, similar to many other dark realms in the Zelda timeline, like Lorule from A Link Between Worlds, or the Dark World from A Link to the Past.

Unlike these other realms, the inhabitants and purpose of the Twilight Realm seem to be a lot more intentional and get a lot of depth throughout the narrative of Twilight Princess.

The Twilight Realm is inhabited only by shadows and twilight, and the residents of the Twilight Realm are called the Twili, a species with mysterious roots linked back to the Light Realm.

Usually, the Twilight Realm is provided with light from two Sols that are kept near the Palace of Twilight; however, these Sols are displaced throughout the narrative of Twilight Princess, plunging the realm into further darkness.

We only hear about the Twilight Realm for most of Twilight Princess; however, Link does visit the realm later in the game, with the goal of taking down Zant and returning the Sols.

The location is shown to be more abstract than the Light Realm with floating structures. Outside of Twilight Princess, the Twilight Realm is also the location of a battleground in Hyrule Warriors.

While exploring the Twilight Realm might not be fully open-ended and fleshed out in Twilight Princess, the origins and the recent history of the Realm get a lot more attention.

The Origins Of The Twilight Realm

Link confronting Shadow Beasts in in The Legend Of Zelda:Twilight Princess.

Within the Zelda timeline, the origin of the Twilight Realm is intertwined with the history of the Dark Interlopers. The Dark Interlopers are introduced to Link as a group of evil Hylians who sought to steal the power of the Goddesses and gain control over the Triforce.

Like many Zelda antagonists who vied for control over the Triforce, the Dark Interlopers were doing so to gain control over the Sacred Realm, the realm that reflects the intent of those who have control over the Triforce.

The Dark Interlopers were strong magic users, and while their individual strength would not have been enough to take control of the Triforce, they combined their dark magic to create a weapon called the Fused Shadow, an item important to the events of Twilight Princess.

However, even the power of the Fused Shadow was not enough for the Dark Interlopers to be able to take control of the Triforce and its wish-granting ability.

The Goddesses ordered for the Four Light Spirits — Ordona, Faron, Eldin, and Lanayru, named after regions of Hyrule — to destroy the Fused Shadow, breaking it into four different pieces, and seal the Dark Interlopers into the Twilight Realm.

The Dark Interlopers were banished into the Twilight Realm using the Mirror of Twilight, an object that is known as the only gateway between the Twilight Realm and the Realm of Light.

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Nothing is known of the Twilight Realm before the Dark Interlopers, and while Lanayru tells Link the story of the Dark Interlopers, we do not know when these events took place in relation to other Zelda titles.

Before the Dark Interlopers were stuck in this realm, there is no information about the Twilight Realm, so it could be suspected to have been formed by the Goddesses specifically for its purpose as an interdimensional prison; however, this has not been confirmed.

The Dark Interlopers no longer reside in the Twilight Realm in their original form; instead, they developed into a more peaceful species known as the Twili.

The Twili

Midna in Imp and Twili Form from Twilight Princess

In spite of their more aggressive forefathers, the Twili are understood to be a more relaxed race within the Zelda universe, in spite of being stuck in a dimension intended to be a prison.

The group is still shown to treasure the power of magic, just like the Dark Interlopers; however, it is not used for conflict in the same way.

Instead, mastery over magic is shown to be the aspect used to judge how worthy someone is to lead the Twili. The Twili people are shown to have a form of royalty, with the central location in the Twilight Realm being the Palace of Twilight; however, instead of leaders being elected based on their bloodline, leaders are elected instead.

As mentioned, we do not know how long it has been since the time of the Dark Interlopers, who were Hylians, but since a whole new race has descended from them, and they have formed an entire leadership system, it can be assumed to have been an incredibly long time.

While the Twili are described to be naturally peaceful, throughout the events of Twilight Princess, the innocent civilians are transformed into Shadow Monsters, many of whom are used to attack Hyrule in the Light Realm.

In his Wolf Link form, Link has to destroy many Shadow Monsters, unaware that these are innocent Twili that are not in control of themselves.

Luckily, when travelling through the Twilight Realm to return the Sols, Link is able to revert any Shadow Monsters he finds back to their original form.

The Twili’s transformation is thanks to the power struggle between the two most important Twili to Zelda lore, Midna and Zant.

Midna And Zant

zant twilight princess both forms usurper king legend of zelda villains

Before the events of Twilight Princess, there was a brief period in the Twilight Realm where the throne was left empty, and a new leader needed to be selected.

A royal advisor known as Zant offered himself up for the role, but instead Midna was given the leadership role and the title of Twilight Princess.

Zant was passed up for the role because his ambitious nature was seen by the Twili as too similar to the Dark Interlopers.

Once Zant was rejected, he fled the palace, unable to do anything about his fate, but this is when he ran into Ganondorf, who was posing as a God in the Twilight Realm.

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Ganondorf managed to persuade Zant to help him, and in return for the power he needed to take over Midna, he would help Ganondorf return to the Realm of Light.

Zant used this power to turn the Twili into the shadow monsters, as well as turn Midna from her normal form into the more imp-like form she is in for most of the game.

He then takes over the throne and continues his invasion into the Realm of Light, forcing Zelda to surrender Hyrule to spare the citizens.

Zant is able to use the shadow monsters as his army throughout most of the game, which is why Link has to take down so many of them, but in the end, Midna is able to get her revenge, destroying Zant with the power of the Fused Shadow, and returns to her rightful place on the throne.

However, the events of Twilight Princess would not have taken place if it were not for Ganondorf’s presence in the realm, so if he is not a Twili, how did he get there?

Ganondorf In The Twilight Realm

Link and Ganondorf facing each other, swords drawn.

Twilight Princess is in the Young Link timeline, which is the timeline that continues after Link is sent back to his youth at the end of Ocarina of Time.

Twilight Princess follows a couple of hundred years after this, a relatively short amount of time in terms of the grand Zelda timeline, and the impact of Ocarina of Time can still be felt.

The ghostly Hero’s Spirit that teaches Link skills in Twilight Princess is actually the spirit of Link from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

However, there is one character from Ocarina of Time that actually directly appears in Twilight Princess — Ganondorf. Ganondorf was set to be executed thanks to Link foiling his plans in Ocarina of Time.

The location for his execution was supposed to be the Arbiter’s Grounds; however, he was not able to be killed thanks to his Triforce of Power.

In a panic over not being able to kill Ganondorf, an incredibly powerful threat to the peace, the Ancient Sages came up with a plan to banish Ganondorf to the Twilight Realm. This was done, and this is why Ganondorf is present, and posing as a God when Zant needs the power to rebel.

It is unknown if Gerudo men have a long lifespan, if time passes differently in the Twilight Realm, or if his Triforce of Power kept him alive, but the Ganondorf from Ocarina of Time is the same Ganondorf in Twilight Princess.

After causing havoc in the Twilight Realm and in Hyrule, Ganondorf is finally killed by the Link in Twilight Princess, facing the punishment he avoided hundreds of years before.

When telling Link and Midna about how Ganondorf ended up in the Twilight Realm, the Ancient Sages apologize to Midna for the unintended consequences of their actions.

Will The Twilight Realm Return?

twilight princess link and heros shade

At the end of Twilight Princess, in her farewell to Link, Midna destroys the Mirror of Twilight, essentially stopping any travel between the two realms again, and stopping any similar events from being able to take place.

However, just because the Mirror of Twilight has been destroyed in the Young Link timeline, does not mean that it has been in any other timeline.

Since the Mirror of Twilight was used during the events of Ocarina of Time, the point where the Zelda timeline splits, it means that the object is hypothetically present in the other two timelines as well.

The difference is that, in the Adult Timeline and the Fallen Hero timeline, Ganondorf was not sent to the Twilight Realm, so he was never able to give Zant the power he needed to cause havoc.

This means that the Dark Interlopers were still in the Twilight Realm and evolved into Twili, and there is a viable method of transport between the two realms in two Zelda timelines, as well as the origin timeline depending on when the Dark Interloper story took place.

An alternate look at the Twili and their realm from a fresh perspective, could easily make a return in the Zelda series.

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