The Hylian Civil War: Sheikah, the Interlopers, and the Twili
by on April 13, 2017

In the wake of one of the most critically acclaimed Zelda games of all time, I think it is more than appropriate to dive into some of the more Sheikah-centric lore that is available to us.  Early on we learned that the story of Breath of the Wild would be oriented around the Sheikah.  This news was incredibly exciting because, until now, we have only been given limited knowledge about the mysterious tribe despite the fact that they have been an integral part of so many games.

In fact, one of the many mysteries surrounding the Sheikah comes from another critically acclaimed Zelda game, namely Ocarina of Time. It bears looking deeper into the brutal Hylian Civil War mentioned during the game’s prologue, a story that we know close to nothing about, as well as the ramifications of that war. In doing so, I think I can propose that the Sheikah were among the key players within the war.

A not-so-civil war

The Hylian Civil War isn’t the part of Ocarina of Time‘s backstory that gets told the most, so let’s first look back at the references that mention the circumstances of the Hylian Civil War. The first reference to the war came from the Great Deku Tree Sprout in Ocarina of Time.

“Some time ago, before the King of Hyrule unified this country, there was a fierce war in our world.  One day, to escape from the fires of the war, a Hylian mother and her baby boy entered this forbidden forest.  The mother was gravely injured… Her only choice was to entrust the child to the Deku Tree, the guardian spirit of the forest.  The Deku Tree could sense that this was a child of destiny, whose fate would affect the entire world, so he took him into the forest.  After the mother passed away, the baby was raised as a Kokiri.  And now, finally, the day of destiny has come!” — Deku Tree Sprout

We also know from Hyrule Historia states that “the war in Hyrule raged unabated for countless eras.”

So we know that the war was long and brutal, and that the mother of Link in Ocarina of Time was killed as a result of it. That is how Link came to grow up a Kokiri.  However, for the purposes of this article, what’s important is that it happened over a long period of time and ended a few years before the events of Ocarina of Time, as evidenced by Link being a young child in the game.

The greed for the Triforce

So what were the combatants of this civil war fighting for? It’s the story of the Golden Goddesses — especially as told in both Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time — that makes it very plain. When the Earth was created, before returning to the heavens, the three Golden Goddesses entrusted the Triforce to the Goddess Hylia. It was at this point where the Goddesses introduced different peoples and races to the land of Hyrule. However, with such a great power left in the care of Hylia, the Golden Goddesses saw the need for a race of protectors of the Goddess and the Triforce as well. Thus, the Sheikah tribe was created, and their sworn duty was to protect Hylia and the Triforce.  The Sheikah race is a human-like race with almost no differences to the Hylians except for the distinctive red irises in their eyes (though this detail seems to be mostly absent in the recent Breath of the Wild). They also have pointed ears, just like Hylians.

According to Hyrule Historia, after the events of Skyward Sword, the land of Hyrule lived in what is known as the Era of Prosperity.  The Triforce remained safe in the Sacred Realm, and the Sheikah tribe founded Kakariko Village in Ocarina of Time.  Then, as the Light Spirit Lanayru recounts in Twilight Princess:

“Word of the Sacred Realm spread through Hyrule, and a great battle ensued…Among those living in the light, interlopers who excelled at magic appeared.  Wielding powerful sorcery, they tried to establish dominion over the Sacred Realm.  It was then that the goddesses ordered us three light spirits to intervene.  We sealed away the great magic those individuals had mastered.  You know this magic… It is the dark power you seek… the Fused Shadow.”

I want to claim that the Hylian Civil War is the “great battle” that Lanayru speaks of; after all, since the events of Ocarina of Time didn’t come to pass in Twilight Princess given the Child Timeline-ending, this battle must have taken place before the early portion of Ocarina of Time. So the war was started over two factions of the Hylian people searching for the Triforce and the entrance to the Sacred Realm, which sounds eerily familiar to the story of Ocarina of Time itself.

I can assume one group was those who wanted to wield its power, and the other the group that wanted to keep it out of the latter’s hands. I also think that it is safe to assume that the Hylian Royal Family was leading the side of protecting the Triforce. Therefore, as loyal guards, the Sheikah would fall on this side as well.

But perhaps not all of the Sheikah… and this is where my own speculation begins.

Enter the Interlopers, the Twili’s predecessors

Obviously, one faction of the Sheikah tribe was loyal to the Royal Family; I’ll refer to them as the Loyalist Sheikah. I speculate that there was another faction of Sheikah that sought the power of the gods, betraying their very reason for existing, whom I claim are the Interlopers from Twilight Princess, those now-Twili that had been banished to the Twilight Realm before Ganondorf’s own banishment.

Now, these Interlopers are similar in nature to the Yiga Clan from Breath of the Wild in the way that they are Sheikah defectors who turned their backs on their sworn duty of protecting the Royal Family. However, these Sheikah had also mastered the art of dark magic as well.  I believe it is possible that the Interlopers that Lanayru spoke of are the members of the Sheikah who were out to get the location of the Sacred Realm.

In order to establish their power, they crafted and used the Fused Shadow, which makes sense given how their descendant, Midna, is now the owner of the artifact. (They possibly created Majora’s Mask also, but that is a theory for another time.) It is important to note that over time, the Twili became a peaceful people, and stopped using the dark magic with ill intent. Furthermore, they either created or co-opted the Shadow Temple and the Bottom of the Well as torture chambers.

I think this because Impa is the founder of Kakariko Village, which is also the home of the Graveyard, the Shadow Temple, and the Bottom of the Well, where the the Lens of Truth rests. Since we know that Sheikah tribe members dwelled here, I think it is possible that the Interlopers and the Loyalist Sheikah fought amongst themselves in this village. The Interlopers used their dark magic to gain control of the village and turned the once peaceful town into a massive interrogation chamber, killing those Loyalist Sheikah who refused to betray the Goddesses. That would explain why there seems to be torture devices in the Bottom of the Well and why there are guillotines in the Shadow Temple.

Also the line “Here is gathered Hyrule’s bloody history of greed and hatred…” that is uttered by the fake walls in the Shadow Temple could be referencing that it was in fact used as part of the Hylian Civil War, not to mention the piles of bones located all over the well and the temple.

Once the Light Spirits got involved and banished the Interlopers to the Twilight Realm, as Lanayru explained, the war slowly eased down to an end, and that is when peace returned to Hyrule.  Hyrule Historia states, “The fighting was eventually quelled by the king of Hyrule, and the entire land was unified under his kingdom.” So with the war over, the traitorous Sheikah became the Twili, and this is further evidenced by the fact that we can see the Sheikah eye behind Zant’s throne in the Twili Palace.

As for what was left of the loyal Sheikah after the war, we only really have Impa and Sheik left, unless we don’t count Sheik because it was is just a disguise. It isn’t known for certain if Impa is the last of the Sheikah, but a Gossip Stone certainly indicates that many thought that the Sheikah had died out, indicating that Impa’s presence in Hyrule is a rather rare sight. Somehow, after the events of Ocarina of Time, the Sheikah must have reproduced in order for Impaz to be around in Twilight Princess in the Hidden Village, and/or for there to be so many of them in the confirmed-post-Ocarina, Breath of the Wild.
(That is, unless Ocarina of Time Impa became Impaz… but that is another theory for another time.)

And then Hyrule lived in peace and harmony until Ganondorf put his plan into motion and the events of Ocarina of Time ensued, and the rest is history.

Do you agree? Disagree?  Feel free to give us your thoughts in the comments.

Luke Oprondek
Hometown: Chicago, IL Favorite Zelda game: Majora's Mask (and there's no close second.) Favorite thing about Zelda: The music! Currently saving Hyrule from the Calamity Ganon.