Amazing Legend of Zelda Tees!!

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Are the Arbiter’s Grounds the Spirit Temple of Antiquity?

Author’s Note: I wrote this as part of a larger piece concerning the Arbiter’s Grounds that I am working on with a colleague. But, here is a tiny fragment of the whole! Enjoy it, and please spread it around. Also, feel free to comment on it, challenge it, or praise it. Most feedback is good feedback.



Are the Arbiter’s Grounds the Spirit Temple of Antiquity?

The short answer is, of course, a resounding and unequivocal, “No.”

But for those of you who remain unswayed by such a terse statement, let us take to examining several things commonly put forward in theories that seek to conflate the two structures. This is an important issue that demands clarification, so that misconceptions do not take on new life, and so that individual energies and creativities can begin work on new projects. This debate is one of the most persistent and entrenched within the Zelda community, and therefore deserves consideration.

Considering Location



While the Gerudo (Great) Desert resides in the western portion of both maps, one desert is oriented to the southwest, and the other to the northwest. The terminal structures of both deserts, the Arbiter’s Grounds and the Spirit Temple, respectively, have different axes of approach and construction; the Spirit Temple is approached from the East, and the Arbiter’s Grounds is approached from the South.

One inevitable aspect of the claim that the Arbiter’s Grounds is the Spirit Temple is that, as these buildings are both located in a desert province within Hyrule, they are therefore one and the same. As the whereabouts of the Gerudo Desert seem not to have changed that much in comparison with other realms over the course of the centuries between Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, this seems to give a degree of credibility to this theory. However, this alone does not make it valid. Looking at the approaches to both of these complexes, and the axes to which they align themselves, we can detect a clear difference. The journey to the Spirit Temple, through the Haunted Wastelands from the Gerudo Fortress, was a westerly travel, with little deviation. The Arbiter’s Grounds, however, are on a strict north-to-south axis, aligned with a path from the southern desert. Aside from this dissimilarity, we must also remember that simply because the Gerudo Desert exists within each game does not mean that the cultural artifacts are the same; location alone cannot give absolute evidence of the continuity of structures. By that strain of logic, it could be that the Zoran Shrine behind Kakariko Graveyard is, in fact, resting upon the remains of the Shadow Temple- a ridiculous idea, given the sanctity and religiosity of the Zora. And, it is all the more ridiculous because we know that this iteration of Kakariko Village is not the same as that of Ocarina of Time. While there is a certain degree of leeway concerning absolute location within the series, caused by the enormous disparities between the two iterations of Hyrule, it does not lend itself to a complete vacuum of information into which any sort of theory can be deposited. It could be that some Being terraformed Hyrule in the intermediate centuries between these two games, or perhaps the Hyrulean communities underwent vast migrations, exoduses, and building projects that are completely unknowable to us. It is certainly tempting to draw spatial clues from these worlds, but with such a volatile and changing landscape (combined with the potential incompetence of Hyrulean cartographers), such conjectures becomes moot— to assume something as fundamental as this is to set the foundation of any theory upon unstable and shifting sands.

If location fails to support such a theory, what then takes its place? It has become standard to point out the similarities in design between the two structures, and in light of these similarities, to assume that they must be the same complex. Curiously, these theories (and those who posit them) never seem to look at the dissimilarities, and though a mountain of disparity eclipses the molehill of sameness, it is nearly always believed that the Arbiter’s Grounds is the Spirit Temple of Antiquity. Following such logic, it must be that these similarities are so potent, so clear, and so unique, so as to make this argument inviolable. So, what are they?

Three aspects of design always accompany this theory, and they are as follows: the presence of Gerudo script within both dungeons, the existence of the Goddess of the Sand, and the use of mirrors within these locations. Indeed, these are the strongest three ties between the two buildings, so let us see how they stand up to the test.

The Presence of Gerudo Script



To speak briefly of history, the origins of the Spirit Temple are somewhat more clear than are those of the Arbiter’s Grounds. As stated on page 97 of Nintendo Power’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Official Nintendo Player’s Guide, the Spirit Temple is known to have been constructed by the ancient predecessors of the Gerudo people, and, in the period of the events of Ocarina of Time, it is used as a fortress by the leaders of the Gerudo tribe. But, as the name indicates, its primary function was spirituality and worship. The Arbiter’s Grounds have a much murkier history. The origins of the structure are completely unknown, and can only be guessed at; their original purpose has been swallowed by time, and the vestiges that remain visible to the eye speak of many different possibilities. Through analysis and sociohistorical insight, aspects of provenance and function can be determined, but it is clear that the primary purpose of this place, in the time of Twilight Princess, was not focused upon religion. With names such as the Executioner’s Grounds and the Arbiter’s Keep, and its reputation as a prison on the edges of the world, this complex, at some point in history, was given life as a place of incarceration and exile. When this occurred exactly is, once again, unknown, but we must view the Arbiter’s Grounds as such a location, regardless of original purpose.

The Spirit Temple was likely a sacred place of the Gerudo, constructed by their ancestors and utilized by each generation of tribeswomen. Thus, it is completely unsurprising that the Spirit Temple should have been embellished and adorned with the script of the Gerudo. The script can be found upon the gold and burgundy plaques of the temple, as well as upon the sandstone walls— most prominently in the sanctum sanctorum, in which rests the seated and meditating statue of the Goddess of the Sand. These reliefs say nothing of importance, though, and are instead a repetitious cycle of the whole Gerudo alphabet which covers the entirety of the chamber. Clearly, the Gerudo masons who constructed and embellished this space were seeking atmosphere over meaning, or were perhaps repeating a mantra of the alphabet that we cannot possibly understand.

As in the Spirit Temple, the presence of Gerudo script can also be found within the Arbiter’s Grounds, where it adorns etchings, reliefs, and other various artworks. But, it is nowhere near as prominently featured as it is within the Spirit Temple. Yet, it is there, and this seems to hint at the fact that the Gerudo were involved in some capacity, or at least their culture consulted, in the building of this monumental complex. As has been said, this is ultimately unknowable; the Gerudo could have been involved willingly in construction (doubtful), they could have been forced into indentured servitude (more likely), or those that created this space could have simply used common tropes and cultural residue left from older civilizations of the desert regions of Hyrule. It could also have been a combination of all three possibilities, but, even then, we are no closer to discovering the reason that the Gerudo Script is present in this place. Simply because the script can be found here does not mean that the Gerudo were involved, either willingly or forcibly; it could just be a matter of a newer culture building upon the artistic traditions of an older culture. And, this happens all the time. Cultures are annihilated and absorbed and created and blended in each movement of the cyclical dance of History.

It should also be pointed out in this section that the Gerudo script is not the only script present within the Arbiter’s Grounds. This fact is one of the most discomforting and confusing aspects of the entire complex for those of us seeking to truly understand its background and purpose. While the other scripts are not anything recognizable (one appears to be some form of proto-Hylian, or something within the same language family, possibly, and the other appears more angular and sharp, like a primitive Cuneiform), they do exist, which means, potentially, that other forces than the Hylians and Gerudo had a hand in the formation of this space. Certainly, these unknown peoples left their mark within the Arbiter’s Grounds, upon the walls, within the ritualistic circles upon the floor, and in the atmosphere.

So, is the presence of Gerudo script enough to draw an absolute connection between these two structures? It certainly connects them culturally, establishing them in a singular architectural tradition, but it does not mean, at all, that these two constructs are indeed the same. It is a wildly speculative claim, and is ultimately unconvincing in light of their multitudinous and enormous differences.

The Goddess of the Sand


One of the various poses of the Goddess as seen in the Arbiter’s Grounds.

The Goddess of the Sand is an utter enigma. We truly know nothing of her, except that she is, potentially, a deity of the world respected by the Gerudo. Her presence is rare within Hyrule, and seems to be connected only to the Gerudo community. The religious practices surrounding her are non-existent within The Legend of Zelda mythos, and her function in these holy spaces is all but unknown. Yet, because statues of her exist within both the Spirit Temple and the Arbiter’s Grounds, people jump to make a connection that is all-but-absolute within their heads that the two are one.

Though few buildings are tied as clearly to a people as these two buildings seem to be tied to the Gerudo, the logic which conflates the two structures due to the presence of these statues is faulty. Despite the fact that these statues are present in both structures, and I must once again make this point, this does not mean that these structures are the same historical construct.

Externally, the Desert Colossus of the Spirit Temple (being the Goddess of the Sand herself) is the most prominent aspect of the temple’s facade. She is huddled under an outcropping of stone, a massive tectonic upthrust from the heart of the desert, where she rests in its vast shade. Both statue and stone are missing completely from the Arbiter’s Grounds. Likewise, her enormous counterpart within the temple is also missing. These two statues make the Spirit Temple into one of the most instantly-recognizable places within Hyrule. So, in light of the fact that they are present in one structure but nonexistent in the other, what should we believe? Is it plausible to imagine that the statues were destroyed by time or by an invader? Yes, absolutely. Is it fair to assume that access to the Spirit Temple has been blocked off and hidden from the world? I would dare to say so, yes. Is it permissible to state that the statues found within the Arbiter’s Grounds are those selfsame statues? I do not believe so.

The statues found within the Arbiter’s Grounds are remarkably different than those found within the Spirit Temple. While the expression, meditative pose, and design of the Goddess of the Sand may have remained more-or-less the same (which is a very unsurprising and well-known phenomenon of cultural transmission), there are clear disparities between these statues. Most apparent is the difference in size. The two statues found within the Spirit Temple are, as the name Desert Colossus implies, colossal. But not so in the Arbiter’s Grounds. These statues are on a much more comfortable and personal scale- while they are still larger than any human, they do not dwarf humans to the point that an individual could rest within the palm of a statuesque hand. Furthermore, the statues of the Arbiter’s Grounds have no coloration, and are vastly different in detail than the colorful Spirit Temple iterations. The headdress is different, the serpent is different, and her clothing is different; in fact, she hardly appears to be wearing clothes, and is instead adorned with various geometric textures and designs. There is no jewel in between her breasts, and, in each pose, her hands have become torches. And while her seated posture in the Arbiter’s Grounds is a clearly traditional stance, she is also found in several different standing positions that are found nowhere within the Spirit Temple. All of this goes to show that, once again, her presence within both of these places is merely evidence of continuity in regional culture, and nothing more.

The Mirror as Thematic Continuity



This element of the argument is the weakest by far. It is only through the heavy thematic elements utilized by The Legend of Zelda series that theorists are able to posit this as a foundation to their argument.

It is unquestionable that mirrors play a pivotal and obvious role in the structure and gameplay of the Spirit Temple. They allow access to certain areas, help Link to defeat certain enemies, and play heavily into the elemental theme of light against darkness. One of the items given unto Link by the Temple is the Mirror Shield, which acts as a substitute for the many mirrors previously found within the Temple, thus adding an additional supporting element to this theme.  But, there are no mirrors within the Arbiter’s Grounds themselves. The only mirror is found above them, in a Hylian construction perched atop the remains of the Grounds below. This is the Mirror of Twilight, which, in actuality, is more a portal than a mirror. While one side contains a polished, and slightly reflective, surface, its primary role was not in reflecting light or images. It was originally used to bridge the void between the planes of light and shadow, and later used to banish those who dared to defy the gods. So, this marked absence of mirrors between the two dungeons is also something to keep in mind- especially since the only true mirror within the Arbiter’s Grounds is a relic of ancient power used to completely different ends than those mirrors of the Spirit Temple. Thematically, then, these mirrors seem entirely unrelated in both design and function.

Looking at Differences, as Opposed to Similarities

Since theme has been brought up, are the two locations similar enough thematically to warrant them being considered the same place?

To be overly brief, I do not believe so. The Spirit Temple has an atmosphere unhurried, respectful, and contemplative. It is, first and foremost, a place to meditate upon the passage of time, examine both youth and age, and a place to pay respect to the departed.

By contrast, the Arbiter’s Grounds as they are presented in Twilight Princess glorify death, damnation, and torture, and are, in theme, much more similar to the Shadow Temple of Ocarina of Time, if they are to be compared to anything at all. Undeath permeates the complex, strange creatures have crawled back from the void to wreak violence upon the living, and implements of torture and affliction are to be found many places within the Grounds.

But the biggest differences rest in structural layout.

Upon examination of the two floor plans for these complexes, it becomes increasingly evident that they are either not the same place, or that centuries of reconstruction projects have rendered them vastly different from one another. For if we just take the two prints at face value with no other considerations, there can be no doubt whatsoever that they are, in fact, not the same structure.



Discounting the external differences of the two- the presence of the Desert Colossus in one, and the overwhelming Colosseum of the other- the internal disparities quickly become apparent upon closer examination. Though each edifice has four floors, they are arranged uniquely unto themselves, and are hugely distinct in size and layout. For instance, not one of the floors contains the same number of rooms between the two architectural blueprints. Looking toward the Spirit Temple, we see a nearly symmetrical layout that centers around the sanctuary. Most rooms directly flank the sanctuary, and all major stairways flow into this room, as well. Conceptually, the rooms are all highly angular; there are no curvilinear walls, nor is there a gentle fluidity to its design. Most of these chambers are rectangular, but more than a few are octagonal. When compared to the Arbiter’s Grounds, we find that the Spirit Temple is much more rigid in nature. The Arbiter’s Grounds contain many completely circular rooms, that, in several cases, encompass multiple floors. There are no such chambers within the Spirit Temple, nor is anything the size of the boss chamber containing Stallord to be found therein. The Arbiter’s Grounds are much less focused on the horizontal axis of layout than the Spirit Temple, and the plan seems more cruciform in essence, with its four great passages extending from the central nexus along the points of the compass. Any way one looks at it, the dissimilarities are too numerous to count, as are the design features in both layout and interior embellishment.

Finally, the most damning evidence in face of this argument is this: the Arbiter’s Grounds already existed in the years immediately following the events of Ocarina of Time. The Japanese version of the Hyrule Historia, which must always take canonical precedence over other translations, on page 113, states, clearly, that, “Several years later (数年後), Ganondorf, the infamous demon thief who wielded the power of magic, was finally to be executed.” As Twilight Princess shows us through a particularly tragic cutscene, the Colosseum atop the Arbiter’s Grounds, wherein the Mirror of Twilight was located, was already in existence at this time. And, though the word several is a relatively vague word, it is generally held that it means more than two, but not much higher. In the English version of the Hyrule Historia, this line was translated using the word many, so the disparity should be quite apparent between the two translations. Given that it was only several years between Ocarina of Time and the execution of Ganondorf, it is therefore rather absurd, given all the aforementioned differences in design and concept between the two structures, to believe that the Spirit Temple was dismantled and a new structure built upon it in such a short span of years.


Even with all of these disparities, though, some still maintain that the two must be the same structure. To these people, I would like to pose a few questions. Where, in the Spirit Temple, is there evidence of any Spinner-related technology, which appears hundreds of years old, if not older? How did the structure change so greatly in layout and design in the scant years between Ocarina of Time and the execution of Ganondorf? And, finally, with all of these changes, additions, and deletions, can these two creations even be called the same structure?

Let us consider: even if this building was placed directly atop the Spirit Temple, using bits and pieces of its rubble to construct the newer project, it would be the same structure inasmuch as the Beijing Olympic Stadium was the same traditional houses (Siheyuan) upon which it was built, or that the Colosseum of Rome remained the same as Nero’s Domus Aurea. Just because elements or even actual pieces of the previous building were used in the construction of the new does not mean that the building remains the same. Function, layout, and design are all altered in order to christen these new complexes, but no one pretends that these can possibly be the same from beginning to end. In good conscience, then, it is difficult to make the statement that the Arbiter’s Grounds retain enough similarity to the Spirit Temple so as to make them the same feat of architectural engineering.

With such an unknown history in mind, to base one’s belief on such flimsy, unsupported evidence is folly. Connections can be made between the Spirit Temple and the Arbiter’s Grounds, as has been readily and eagerly admitted, but these connections simply represent cultural continuity, especially within a region as distinct as the Gerudo Desert. But, in this instance, correlation does not overcome disparity, and a fuller, more nuanced analysis has been undertaken in order to shed further light upon this most heated of topics. It is my hope that misconceptions have been deconstructed, and that the lens of history has been cleared of dust during this investigation. Finally, let us not forget to thank those who originally brought up such a theory, because the world is all the more rich due to its various controversies and dialogues. Indeed, without these theories, this response would not exist. For all my praise of dialogue, though, let us hope that this issue can finally be at rest.

"The Walking ReDead"

"The Walking ReDead"

Tread carefully in the land of Hyrule, for the ReDead have come to life!

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Amazing Zelda Tees!!

Hi, thanks for putting up this great blog! Here we just released a bunch of awesome Zelda shirts at www_unamee_com. Wondering if you can help us by linking it. You can also earn 10% commission through our affiliate program at www_shareasale_com by referring our shirts. Thanks so much! Regards, Unamee_comElf In Space

Ganon’s Tower - Wind Waker

The end dungeon of Wind Waker.

Let’s talk about that music

This is my first ever post so why not start here right? Anyway, we all know that Legend of Zelda music is probably ( the best video game soundtrack out there. But which song from which game would you say is the best? There’s only a few thousand to pick from so no pressure. 

Sheikah’s Response:

There’s only a few thousand to pick from so no pressure.  There’s only a few thousand to pick from so no pressure. 

My favorite song seems to be somewhere between Saria’s Song and the Song of Healing. I can never chose between the two. There are so many different versions of the songs through the games, too….so there’s that to pick from but I always seem to come back to the original ones. Darunia said that Saria’s Song makes depression go away and I believe him, that song always cheers me up while the Song of Healing does a very good job at calming me down.

So, everyone should talk about their favorite Zelda songs. Go on!

Sheik/Zelda Game

How awesome would it be if Nintendo made a Sheik game.  Ughhhhh I’d explode of happiness…let’s try to get Nintendo’s attention?

Sheikah’s Response:

Tbh, I’m sure Nintendo has heard some word of it, they’re not completely oblivious to what the fans say. However, I’m one of those fans that isn’t interested in this type of game at all. As much as I love Sheik, I wouldn’t even want to see him in another game. Breaks his ‘magic’ for me.

Songs from Koholint Island


My name is Ariel Bitran. I am a musician based out of Brooklyn, NY.

I have written a 15-part series of songs based on the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Some of the parts are now posted to my soundcloud including live takes of “Song of the Windfish” and “Within Range” as well as the studio version of “Deep Blue Lake”.

Hope you enjoy the music based on this inspirational game!