There is a musical track from Breath of the Wild entitled “Life in Ruins.” Though it’s only three simple words, it sums up the feel of the game very succinctly. There are ruins of villages and monuments scattered across the countryside, some infested with monsters or Guardians if you’re unfortunate enough. These bring a sense of curiosity to the game, as they make you wonder what Hyrule must have looked like in its glory days, but there’s also a heavy sense of loss. There’s a sadness for a land that’s had its history washed away. I felt this often throughout the game, but for some reason, it hit me very deeply when I stumbled across the Lanayru Promenade.
Looking at the Breath of the Wild map, we can get an idea of why this promenade was built in the first place. There’s a gorge that’s been cut into the land, most likely from the waterfall located to the north of the promenade. The area is surrounded on both sides by towering cliffs, and travelers through the area would have to trek uphill and onto the surrounding plateaus in order to pass, going miles out of their way if they were trying to reach the foothills of Mount Lanayru. We can theorize the walkway was built to allow for easy passage, but it could have also been simply for grandeur as there isn’t much out this way for regular civilians.
100 years later, only shadows of the original structure are left. The walkways are all but gone. A fountain placed in the center of the lake has been destroyed. Moss-covered columns are crumbling, and any intricate designs or inscriptions carved into the stone have withered away. The water is infested with Lizalfos, while Bokoblins have made small camps along the broken pathway as you head east. The only entrance to the nearby shrine is a hidden tunnel that leads behind the waterfall. What surely took ages to build and maintain has been left to rot, seemingly abandoned in the wake of Calamity.
One could speculate that Lanayru Promenade was left to crumble long before the Calamity happened, but I don’t think so. While there aren’t any Guardians out here to indicate they were involved in its destruction, I don’t think they were needed to bring about its demise. Relics like this are often maintained by masons, and when Calamity happened, Castle Town and its residents were completely destroyed, forcing other villages to pull back within their borders to survive.
I’m sure masonry tasks for Hyrule at large fell down the importance list, and it wouldn’t take long for the frequent rains experienced in this area to wither down stone and cause the bridges to crumble. I’m guessing within a decade or two of Calamity’s arrival the Lanayru Promenade fell into ruins. There were most likely no travelers coming this way, not with the frigid temperatures on Mount Lanayru and a rampaging Lynel lurking in the mountain’s shadow. No, I suspect this area was simply abandoned, perhaps even forgotten along with so many other relics of Hyrule’s former glory.
There isn’t much for Link to do here, though there is a single shrine and two Koroks on the lake itself, with a few more scattered around the cliffs. Still, I felt drawn to this area. Maybe it’s my tendency to try and fill in the missing pieces; to figure out the story behind a location and imagine what life was like when it was whole. I imagine that, when Hyrule was a bright and bustling kingdom, this was the site of festivals, parades, or other celebratory events. Picture decorative carriages and Hylian soldiers dressed in the Royal Guard Uniforms walking along the stone pathways, surrounded by onlookers throwing confetti and flowers as they pass by.
Thinking about the area in that context brings a layer of sadness to the game. It highlights not only the immense loss Link has experienced, particularly because he would have no memory of this place or any events he may have attended, but also the loss Hyrule has experienced as a country. King Rhoam tells Link at the beginning of the game that “the kingdom of Hyrule was devastated absolutely by Calamity Ganon,” and Lanayru Promenade is one area that demonstrates this statement wholeheartedly. It reminds us that, despite the sense of adventure, Breath of the Wild is a story full of tragedy, which depicts how a culture moves on from immense loss.